Meditation for Study

Here’s an academic literature review that looks at whether meditation is helpful in an academic environment. It concludes that there is substantial evidence that meditation is useful for the student in general, and little or no evidence that it is not. However, it also says that there has not yet been enough studies to conclude that meditation will directly improve test results.

This is interesting in the context of our current situation regarding teaching Buddhism in schools in NSW.

More fundamentally, however, it speaks to the basic Buddhist tenet that meditation leads to wisdom. Most of our scientific study of meditation to date has focussed on the emotional side – meditation leads to peace and happiness. The Buddha was perhaps the first teacher to stress how the emotions and intelligence were interconnected and needed to support each other. This contrasts with the tendency in western thought to make ‘emotion’ and ‘reason’ into enemies.

Strangely enough, this dichotomy has been imported into modernist Buddhism as the split between samatha and vipassana, a split which, I believe, was a product of traditional Buddhist cultures’ response to the western colonial influence.

Recent psychology has moved away from this, and now it is generally accepted that emotion and reason support each other. Or at least, they do in a healthy mind: an opposition or disconnect between the two is a sign of illness.

Studies like this one show that a peaceful, happy mind from meditation helps develop and support essential cognitive functions: memory, clear thinking, imagination. And we could all do with a bit more of that!

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48 thoughts on “Meditation for Study

  1. Not only do the cognitive functions benefit, Bhante. Harrison alludes to the deautomatisation of behavioural responses to stimuli, suggesting that parents too will be doing their kids a favour if they signed up for BPT.

    I mention this especially, because I’m a little puzzled by and very curious about the space occupied by “emotions” in the 5 Aggregates schema. Ven Analayo packages “emotions” into citta, but I have to confess that I really cannot understand what citta means other than its English translation as Mind (which is equally mysterious).

    Would it be outrageous if I read “emotions” as alluding to what the Sallatha Sutta SN 36.6 calls the “cetasika vedana” that are the sequel to the kayika vedana which are pleasant/unpleasant/neutral feelings? SN 36.6 uses 3 standard pericopes to describe these “cetasika vedana”. Taking just one example-

    “sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught”

    ie domanassa consequent to a dukkha vedana arising.

    Where exactly can we slot these emotions in the 5 Aggregates scheme, or was the 5 Aggregates scheme intended for a different soteriological purpose?

    Thanks in advance!

    (and I’ll try to read your White Bones essay)

    • Dear Sylvester,
      I’m not Bhante, but anyway, I share some ideas with you (& whoever are interested in study the five aggregates scheme).
      In this scheme, emotion is a part of Vedana & sankharakkhandha. Vedana including sensations (kayika-belong to body that originated from sense-contacts) and feelings (cetasika- belong to mind such as domanassa-sadness or piti-joy). In some other suttas, it is classified as samisa (material) and nirsamisa (non-material or spiritual). Sankharakkhadha is an even more complicated stuff including interpretation, reaction, will, determination, etc.

    • Thank you Ayya.

      I’m just not sure if I can agree with the way you have sought to distinguish the kayika vedana (“bodily” feelings) from the cetasika vedana (mental “feelings”). It certainly does seem to be a very standard distinction (even Ven Analayo subscribes to this) but perhaps you could give me your views about how the Sallathena Sutta SN 36.6 treats domanassa as a cetasika vedana in light of suttas such as MN 137 and MN 148.

      MN 137 uses the technical term “domanassa” whereas MN 148 is more to the point when it uses the same stock formula for domanassa that is used in SN 36.6. Both SN 36.6 and MN 148 use “sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught” to denote domanassa.

      Very pointedly, suttas such as MN 137 and MN 148 assert that domanassa flow, not just from dukkha vedana based on kayasamphassa (contact based on the 5 senses) but includes manosamphassa dukkha vedana. Here is how it is presented in MN 148 –

      (following the same five-fold analysis with forms, sounds, smells, tastes and tactility…)

      “Dependent on the mano & dhamma there arises consciousness at the mano. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as condition, there arises what is felt either as pleasure (sukha), pain (dukkha), or neither pleasure nor pain (adukkhamasukha). If, when touched by a feeling of pleasure, one relishes it, welcomes it, or remains fastened to it, then one’s raganusaya underlies. If, when touched by a feeling of pain, one sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats one’s breast, becomes distraught, then one’s patighanusaya underlies etc….”

      So, it does seem that domanassa as an emotion is something subsequent to vedana per se.

      But, this does not entail a denial that “cetasika vedana” as a dhamma is not itself capable of establishing manosamphassa, which then gives rise to the experience of another vedana.

      I have always been very tempted to throw into the sankharakhandha all dhammas that don’t fit neatly into the other 4 khandhas. Which is why I’m puzzled Ven Analayo lumps “emotion” under “citta” (From Craving to Liberation, p77).

      With metta

      P.S. if I’m correct, there’s a most unusual result in the understanding of “kayika”, ie it cannot mean the “physical” body but must include the mind. This may clarify what “body” is being permeated with Jhanic sukha in those standard similes for the Jhanas.

    • Poor ol’ sankhara, it’s like the trash can of the khandhas. What did it do to deserve that?

      If anyone can find a Sutta passage that states or suggests that the five khandha were meant to be a scheme in which any kind of mental phenomena could be neatly classified I’d love to see it. Until then, I’ll leave that project to the people who, I believe, invented it – the Abhidhammikas. In the Suttas, the khandha are meant as a framework for investigating not-self.

  2. Hello Bhante,

    I was actually wondering about the opposite effect. It may be taboo, but I don’t have a study that I can quote. However, it seems to me that there can be a case made for the oppisite position.

    There seems to be a great deal of people who show incredible intelligence, not necessarily wisdom, but who exhibit clinical depression. This is true often of writers and public intellectuals. One example that comes to mind is Stephen Fry.

    Though wisdom leads to happiness, or at least that is the position of Buddhism, intelligence doesn’t seem to. Is there any disconnect here?

    Thank you for your blog. My searches for Truth have lead me to this blog and “Sects and Sectarianism”, so, again, thank you!

    Sheridan

    • Hi Sheridan,

      Interesting point! I think of it like this. In mental development, there are many different aspects, which all of us develop to different degrees. Some are good at maths, some a literature, some at drawing, and so on. What we tend to do is to focus on those qualities that we’re good at and neglect others. This is fine and natural to a degree, but there are limits to our mind’s resilince. If we develop one side of our minds to an extreme degree, it suggests that we may have neglected other aspects.

      For example, a student might throw themselves into study to compensate for underdeveloped social skills; because they like study, because they get praise, and because they don’t have to think about their problems. This might work for a while, but in the end it will undermine the intellectual development. To use the same example, much of our stimulus, new ways of seeing, and the passion for our work comes out of social interactions, and if these are lacking then one’s intellectual efforts will tend to become sterile.

      So it is certainly possible to develop any one aspect of personality in a one-sided manner, but this tends to be fragile, and in the end, self-defeating.

      I think of this in my own life in terms of when I decided to give up music. I was practicing very hard, and getting better as a guitarist. But I was already good enough – I could play anything except the most demanding virtuoso pieces. Was i to spend the rest of my life, so that in ten years time i could play them, too? How would that enrich me or others? I came naturally to the end of that line of development, and realized that it was through meditation and Dhamma that I was to grow.

    • Sheridan A. Smith :

      There seems to be a great deal of people who show incredible intelligence, not necessarily wisdom, but who exhibit clinical depression. This is true often of writers and public intellectuals.

      Apparently, a study of Nobel Prize winners showed that their IQ tended to be between 110 and 130, with none (or very few) above 130. It would seem, that once a person gets too intelligent, they start to lose the ability to get things done!

      Intelligent people can, I think, easily slide into nihilism or existential angst. This is because even a casual study of the world, if actually done, will show it to be largely pointless. This easily leads to depression and outside of the dhamma it’s hard to find a cure for that depression.

      But in any case, what is the relationship between intelligence and wisdom?
      I tend to relate intelligence to cleverness, the ability to solve problems and devise solutions – noting these solutions may not actually work…
      I tend to relate wisdom to compassion, compassion is the will to relieve suffering, while wisdom relieves suffering (if wisdom caused suffering, it would be called “stupidity”).
      In the traditional western way of thinking, intelligence is a quality of the head while wisdom is a quality of the heart.

      A very simple-minded person can be wise. That is, they have an approach which cuts through the suffering and misery of life.

  3. Nice post Bhante- something a little ‘close to home’ for me. I have been doing neuroscience research for 5 years before coming across Buddhism and I totally agree with you.

    Antonio Damasio, a well known and respected neurologist and neuroscientist has revolutionized modern psychology and neuroscience with his work on how emotions are an integral part in decision making and reason. His famous and well respected book “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain” fundamentally changed the way scientists and students of psychology now understand cognitive processes and his research is now even part of most university curriculum.

    So science already passed the ‘pure reason’ phase decades ago. Perhaps this will encourage some Buddhist practitioners to realize that pure insight cannot exist alone nor through ‘noting’ or any other mental activity. Something more is needed here and that is the Buddhist Eightfold path including the Eight factor of Jhanas. I still am amazed how people who call themselves Buddhist never opened the suttas and see how meditation was basically synonymous with jhanas.

    My first exposure to meditation was through ‘vipassana’, however even though it was initially helpful, it was obvious after the end of the retreat and even more so after a few retreats that this alone does not lead to any full liberation or release from suffering and it was still too coarse and too much mental activity. Buddha even said that mental activity is suffering. Then I opened the Digha Nikaya and it described the whole path to freedom with jhanas on nearly every other page or so. I was amazed how people can ignore certain parts of the teachings.

    • Dear Bhante,

      Dania raised a point about jhana practise. I have searched the web for some specific resources that would help me understand how to make the transition from samatha to jhana. I have read Ajahn Brahm’s book on the subject as well as Bhante Gunaratana’s. I still feel in the dark.

      When your time permits, would it be possible for you to address some specific measures that would cast the light of understanding on this important yet much obscured aspect of the Buddha’s teaching.

      Thank you

      S

    • Dear Sudarsha

      While we await Bhante’s response, perhaps you may like to clarify your doubts over some of the perennial controversies around Jhana, very neatly summarised by Piya Tan here –

      http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/33.1b-Buddha-discovers-dhyana.-piya.pdf

      Very briefly, Piya goes straight into the nub of the debate presented by the “absorption” model of Jhana versus the “discursive” model of Jhana advocated by Bhante G et al. The issues covered are –

      1. pre-Buddha meditation;
      2. the problem of Alara’s and Rama’s attainments (why they did not lead to enlightenment);
      3. the meanings of the word “Jhana” (and its verbs) in the suttas;
      4. a survey of the 2 models;
      5. the present tense in Pali and how it is misapplied in reading the “insight” passages;
      6. an alternative rendering of the Anupada Sutta, MN 111;
      7. the post-Jhana upacara samadhi in the suttas.

      You can also refer to Ven Analayo’s very insightful analyses of several modern misconceptions of Jhana. He gives his view on one of the jhana-factors “vitakka-vicara” here –

      http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/fileadmin/pdf/analayo/FromGrasping.pdf

      at pages 64 to 66.

      He’s also devoted a whole section on Samadhi and the idea of “absorption”.

      These don’t address your query directly, but I thought it would be a helpful prelude to a description of the method to drop into jhana.

    • Thank you, Sylvester. For some reason, I am having difficulty opening the two pdf’s you have referenced. I think there’s some gizmo in my firewall I need to attend to. But I have bookmarked the two sites and will get someone to help me figure out what my machine is doing/not doing.

      Something to work on and mull over whilst we await Bhante’s response.

      Again, many thanks

      S

    • All the best!

      While modern Buddhist studies have shown the differences between the 4 Nikayas versus the Abhidhamma/Commentarial treatments of doctrinal categories, I’ve noticed an indiscriminate rejection of traditional descriptions of Jhana, just because those pithy descriptions are found in the Commentaries. It’s almost as if anything related to Jhana that is advanced in the Abhidhamma/Commentaries is immediately suspect, without a deeper inquiry as to whether the suttas themselves speak of such states.

      Writers such as Shankman and Brasington simply do not do justice to the subject by throwing out the baby with the bathwater, all the while blithely remarking, “Oh well, it’s just Commentarial”.

      The Commentarial and Abhidhamma treatment of Jhana may seem too neat (to the point of looking contrived), compared to the messiness of the subject in the suttas. Nevertheless, I try not to get hung-up on the absence of the Abhidhamma jargon for jhanas in the suttas. Forget the “names” and look out instead for the phenomena that are being described.

      Trying to understand the Jhanas vide the suttas is not an easy task (except perhaps for the famous kāmā seclusion formula). All the other signs/predicates of jhana need to be teased out from various doctrinal statements scattered all over the suttas.

      The problem with the modernist/anti-classical interpretations of jhana is pressing enough that Ven Analayo addresses it in his “Satipatthna – The Direct Path to Realization”. He summarises the issue succintly –

      “This point is of considerable relevance to an understanding of the nature of
      absorption. The issue at stake, simply stated, is whether the first absorption is a deep state of concentration, achieved only after a prolonged period of practice and seclusion, or a stage of relaxed happy reflection within easy reach of anyone and without much need for
      meditative proficiency.”

      at p.76.

      I’ve not seen a single Jhana-lite advocate address any of the doctrinal problems posed to their model by the suttas discussed by Piya or Ven Analayo. It also strikes me as bizarre why these chaps insist on reading English translations of Pali without regard to how the Pali text functions under native grammatical rules.

      I suspect many are just too uncomfortable with the idea that from 2nd Jhana upwards, there is TOTAL loss of control over these sublime states. Clinging perhaps to a “self” in the sankharakhandha?

    • Sylvester!

      Thank you for your attention to my less than enriched computer and meditation understanding. This is very helpful. Very helpful indeed. It is obvious, to me at least, that what I need is “Jhana for Dummies”. Hopefully it will appear on local bookshelves soon! 8-)

      Piya Tan’s section on Dhyana (at Dharmafarer) is very exciting. I will begin by trying to understand as much as I am able there and from that basis, if possible, move on.

      S

    • Hi Sudarsha, why don’t you just follow the teachings (Eightfold Path) and meditate until Jhana happens- then all you’ll doubts will be cleared.

    • Thank you, Bhante, thank you, Dania

      Yes, I have been delightfully surprised by the wonderful output of Piya Tan. A Gem, indeed. As always, Dania, the 8-fold path is the key.

      Thank you

      S

    • Hi Sudarsha,

      I’m not sure what you mean by the ‘transition from samatha to jhana’. Jhana is samatha, or at least a part of it. Perhaps we might say that, within samatha as a whole, there is satipatthana, which is the course of meditation leading to profound stillness, and then jhana, which is that profound stillness itself.

    • Thank you for response, Bhante

      Apparently I am in some kind of perplexity where the obvious is obvious to all but myself. It seems one starts with observing the breath, this leads to quiet/samatha, but the deeper levels of samatha, jhana, allude me. Is there some special something I am supposed to do as the mind and body become increasingly quiet? Something that leads to something I will know is jhana?

      S

    • Dear Sudarsha,
      As your Dhamma friend I have, as usual, only my experience to offer. I cannot claim to know anything of Jhana. But I can claim to know different qualities of stillness. I know that under the right conditions, when I clock a certain number of hours in a relatively small time frame, under quiet and otherwise conducive conditions, the quality of stillness deepens. The quality of that stillness deepens with time (I would say consecutive hours, consecutive days) and commitment, and you will notice it. There is a point where one could say it grows solid, as a rock. It is a very different quality from the initial stillng of mind and body chatter. Deeper, more unshakeable. Unmistakable. I am not saying this is Jhana. But deepening stillness is available with commitment and time and of course no expectations whatsoever. One just keeps at it. IMHO, don’t bother with knowing this is Jhana or one is this Jhana or that Jhana. Just keep at it. And recognize the qualities, the changes that come about, the relationship between this and your practice of sila, how you are living your life and panna, what is changing in you, in your heart, your habit patterns and your relationship with people around you and yourself.
      I found Straight from the Heart by Venerable Maha Boowa to be useful at the time. I had heard so much about Jhana and had no wish to have some kind of attainment, yet I did not want to discount that reaching at least the first Jhana is available to all of us, which I very firmly believe. Sometimes all the talk outside makes us think we are not capable. At times it is good to have some references- especially when we are not close to Sangha. I liked that book because there were some markers in his experience that he described (regarding his very early stages) that I found helpful. He describes quite wonderfully how he kept at it. Also – how it can advance and regress. Doesn’t have to mean this or that or anything. Just to keep at it. And you will see the benefits.
      (You know this already no doubt. I share anyways. It has been a good reminder to me at least!)
      _/\_

    • Of course, living the 5 Precepts in everyday life is important.
      Just being a decent human being to others. Not lying, not taking from others what is not freely offered, not maliciously gossiping about others, being able to take the perspective of others and empathising with them, having insight into ones own bad behavoiur, helping others, not being deceitful, having the moral strength to apologize when you are wrong or have harmed another person, not drinking alcohol or taking drugs, and so on.

    • Thank you, Lisa and Metta, and, of course, Bhante — my Dharma friends, YOU, have given me such valuable assistance.

      And, many thanks to our Dharma friend Sylvester for alerting me to Piya Tan’s excellent material on Dhyana.

      Now, to do the work.

      A thousand thankyous.

      S

  4. Dear Sheridan and Dania,
    May I suggest, along the “…modern psychology and neuroscience…” / “…incredible intelligence, not necessarily wisdom…” lines, the recent publication ‘The Moral Landscape’ by Sam Harris. He makes some interesting observations.
    With metta
    BC

    • Dear Ven. Chalawano,

      Ven. chalawano wrote: “…incredible intelligence, not necessarily wisdom…”

      I was about to say the same thing. Intelligence relies on mental activities , whereas wisdom comes from stilling the mind or going beyond noisy mind (ie..in meditation practice). The mental activities of an intelligent person that can solve a difficult math problem can also carry thoughts that generate negative emotions. For example, if these thoughts go towards unpleasant past memories then that can lead to unhappy feelings.

    • Dear Peter,

      Peter wrote: “So somebody who doesn’t meditate cannot be wise?”

      I don’t think it is a good idea to make that generalization. Just as I wouldn’t generalize that someone who meditate cannot be intelligent. Intelligence and wisdom are distinctive yet they can co-exist. The degree varies from person to person.

      There are more than one way to wisdom , meditation is but one example . That is why I put ” .ie” in front of “in meditation practice” to indicate that it is one example instead of just ( in meditation practice).

    • iMeditation

      I think some confusion may have arisen from your us of “i.e.” (which stands for the Latin “id est” and means “that is” in English) rather than “e.g.” (which stands for the Latin “exempli gratia” and means “for example.

      What you wrote really did seem to make the generalisation that meditation is the only way to “still the mind or go beyond noisy mind” (I don’t think it is) which is where wisdom “comes from” (and nowhere else).

      It’s obviously not what you meant, but it’s what you inadvertently wrote.

      Regards

      David

    • Dear David,

      Thanks David, I meant “for example”. The practice of meditation is one example of ways in to still the mind. It does not implies that meditation is the only way to still the mind or go beyond the mind. I am sure you or someone else might know some other ways that are not widely known.

      When speaking about the potential wisdom that may arise in meditation, I don’t think the text is referring to the intellect that people often use in studying.

    • On the contrary, it means exactly that! There’s a Sutta where a brahman asks the Buddha why sometimes he can’t remember the mantras, i.e. he can’t do his studies. The Buddha says its because the five hindrances are there, i.e. he has to do some meditation to clear his mind. This is precisely the same thing we are addressing in talking about meditation in the context of education. Of course, the kind of wisdom the Buddha was talking about is not limited to study, but neither is it separated from it.

      The three kinds of paññā, wisdom of learning, reflection, and meditation, are all aspects of wisdom leading to liberation. They build on and support each other, and are not in opposition.

      I’m afraid the idea that ‘intelligence’ and ‘wisdom’ are somehow different things is yet another modernist Buddhist construct, an attempt by the native traditions to hit back at the colonialists superior education and learning – ‘You might have intelligence, but we’ve got wisdom!’ The problem is that it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump away from the worship of ignorance as a sign of real wisdom. I’ve seen too much of this as a monk….

      You never find this kind of contrast in ancient texts. Of course, some people, though intelligent, are criticized for their arrogance or whatever, but in such cases it is not intelligence as such, but the way it is used that is the problem.

    • Dear Ajahn Sujato,

      Ajahn Sujato wrote: ” The Buddha says its because the five hindrances are there, i.e. he has to do some meditation to clear his mind. This is precisely the same thing we are addressing in talking about meditation in the context of education. ”

      It is possible to see that anger or aversion (Hindrance 2) clouds the mind and get in the way of memorizing a chapter or solving a difficult math problem. For example , right after someone had a fight with a partner. The same goes with sleepiness / torpor ( Hindrance 3). And when someone is agitated and restlessly worry ( Hindrance 4) about something (such as an HIV test result), it is difficult to study for an exam. We can see that the presence of these hindrances could indeed hinder study. And that the lessening of these hindrances might improve their study or at least allow them to study as usual. For example, by taking a walking in nature might help to ease the hindrances, taking a hot bath or go for a swim, or getting a massage at the spa, do some meditation. There is no denying that the lessening of these hindrances through various means can enable a the person to study as they normally do when not so agitated by the hindrances . However, it is possible to somewhat improve the quality of study without increasing wisdom. A person can somewhat lessen the hindrances to be able to study, but the arising of wisdom from within requires the lessening of the hindrances to a higher degree if not the absence of hindrances.

      Ajahn Sujato wrote:”Yes, in general terms what you say is true, but I get nervous when i see such a hard distinction between the two.”
      “Of course, the kind of wisdom the Buddha was talking about is not limited to study, but neither is it separated from it.”

      When highlighting the differences between intelligence and wisdom , I don’t mean that there is no connection or relationship between the two whatsoever, or that one doesn’t have any effect on the other, nor do I mean that they are not complimentary or correlate in any way. In fact, there is some relationship. But that doesn’t mean that they are synonymous. There are differences between the wisdom that arise in deep meditation and the thinking process of intelligence. Improvement in Classroom study is not an adequate indication of whether jhana lead to wisdom or not, or measure the degree of wisdom that can arise from jhana by looking at how much it improves people’s study in a classroom. A person can be very intelligent and have little wisdom. Intelligence is not an adequate scale to measure or predict wisdom. A person can be extremely intelligent and yet still be capable of creating things that are harmful to himself / herself and people around . For example, creating bombs and weapons, authoring pyramid schemes that could eventually lead to their own imprisonment and financial loss among other people. It is possible to be intelligent and not wise.

      It is also possible to become wise without having intelligence in the first place. For example, in the jataka Little Wayman was admitted into the sangha. But he was a dullard who could not even learn a single four lines stanza in four whole months. The Buddha gave him a perfectly clean cloth which he had supernaturally created to meditate on. Soon he had a breakthrough in wisdom and became an Arahant with all its supernatural knowledge. And by that knowledge he grasped the whole of the sacred texts.

      But note that this comes for Little Wayman after having a breakthrough in wisdom and Arahantship . It is not the same when we take a number of students who haven’t had a breakthrough in wisdom with meditation practice and measure their improvement in study to determine the degree in which meditation can gives rise to wisdom. One can measure how meditation effect the quality of study . But it can’t be used to determine the possible amount of increase in wisdom through meditation by looking at how much meditation can improve classroom study. Perhaps if we measure a group before having developed wisdom and measure again after they have developed a breakthrough in wisdom.

      If we measure Little Wayman’s studying ability 1 day after he ordained until the end of the first month. Then have him meditate from the second to the fourth month and measure his studying progress during that period when he haven’t had a break through in wisdom . Would we see that much improvement in his studying ability ? I would say not that much. But if we compare the data we collected during the the first month with the data collected after his break through in wisdom then we might see a higher level of improvement.

      Of course, that is not to say that reaching step 4-6 ( of Ajahn Brahm’s 7 steps to Jhana) doesn’t enhance the mind in any way.

      With Metta,

    • The Buddha would say ‘that’s right’!

      Buddha says that you can’t have wisdom without jhana so we better sit on our buts and be still:)

      The famous Dhammapada Verse 372, (Pali)

      “Natthi jhanam apannassa

      panna natthi ajhayato

      yamhi jhananca panna ca

      sa ve nibbanasantike.”

    • Hi iMeditation,

      I don’t quite agree here. Yes, in general terms what you say is true, but I get nervous when i see such a hard distinction between the two. Actually, in Thailand, for example, the same word is used, paññā, for both ‘intelligence’ and wisdom, and I think this reflects the broader Indic tradition as well.

      If you look in some of the Jātakas, you see this notion of paññā as ‘cleverness’, even ‘cunning’. The Bodhisatta’s paññāpāramī is completed in the Maha Ummagga Jātaka, which is full of riddles, even large-scale use of technological trickery. The broad tradition saw the liberating wisdom of the Buddha as maturing from and developing out of such intelligence, rather than a different thing based, as you describe, on quite different activities of the mind.

  5. Bhante wrote: “More fundamentally, however, it speaks to the basic Buddhist tenet that meditation leads to wisdom. Most of our scientific study of meditation to date has focussed on the emotional side – meditation leads to peace and happiness.”

    How about this quote:
    “There is a development of concentration that leads to a pleasant dwelling here and now; there is a development of concentration that leads to obtaining knowledge and vision; there is a development of concentration that leads to mindfulness and clear comprehension; and there is a development of concentration that leads to the destruction of the taints.” (A.IV. 41: Catasso imaṃ, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā. Katamā catasso? Atthi, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā diṭṭhadhammasukhavihārāya saṃvattati; atthi, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulikatā ñāṇadassanappaṭilābhāya saṃvattati; atthi, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā satisampajaññāya saṃvattati; atthi, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā āsavānaṃ khayāya saṃvattati.)
    In many discourses, the training in meditation is elaborated in a systematic application to alter one’s consciousness or to enable the purposeful evolution of consciousness. The higher training of the mind is a process of purification of the mind from mental defilements (kilesas), and this process is compared to a gold-smith refining the gold by filtering it out from the dirt by passing it through water. Similarly, the art of refinement of the mind in the Noble Teaching is a gradual training passing through many stages. The text reads:
    “It is similar, monks, a practitioner who devotes himself to the training in the higher mind (knows that): there are (in his personality) gross impurities such as bad conduct of the body, speech and mind. Such conduct an earnest, capable practitioner abandons, dispels, eliminates and abolishes.
    When s/he has abandoned these, there are still impurities of a moderate degree that cling to him, such are sensual thoughts, thoughts of ill-will, and violent thoughts. Such thought an earnest, capable practitioner abandons, dispels, eliminates and abolishes.
    When s/he has abandoned these, there are still subtle impurities that cling to him, such are thoughts about his relatives, his home country, and his reputation. Such thought an earnest, capable practitioner abandons, dispels, eliminates and abolishes.
    When s/he has abandoned these, there are still remaining thoughts of higher mental states experienced in meditation. That concentration is not yet peaceful and sublime; it has not attained to full tranquillity, nor has it achieved mental unification; it is maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements.”
    The commentary on the passage (AA) explains that the agitation or expectation in practice that described as “thoughts of higher mental states experienced in meditation” as quoted in the above text is a kind of subtle defilements (upa-kilesa). Accordingly, these discursive thoughts, although not unwholesome, might stir up the mind, like a lake being touched by breezes causing small ripples on the surface. The training is further carried on until the cultivation reaches concentration as described in the text thus:
    “There comes a time when his mind becomes inwardly steadied, composed, unified and concentrated. That concentration is then calm and refined; it has attained to full tranquillity and achieved mental unification; it is not maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements.”

  6. Peter Durham :
    So somebody who doesn’t meditate cannot be wise?

    Dear Peter

    My father was, in my humble opinion, both very intelligent and very wise. As far as I’m aware though, he never practiced meditation.

    Exceptions and anomalies to many ideas/perceptions/facts etc are abundant.

    With metta
    BC

    • Your father is the norm not the exception. I think for wisdom to arise through formal meditation would actually be more the exception. Formal meditation is certainly not without benefit though, in my opinion.

      Buddhism has mushroomed in the last 30 odd years in the west and although it may have bought benefit to many…..

    • Hi Peter,

      Buddha said you can’t have wisdom without jhana

      wisdom is defined as knowing the four noble truths, so many people think themselves as wise but just deluding themselves since they still get born and suffer endlessly.

      Dhammapada Verse 372, (Pali)

      “Natthi jhanam apannassa

      panna natthi ajhayato

      yamhi jhananca panna ca

      sa ve nibbanasantike.”

  7. “Buddha said you can’t have wisdom without jhana”. Buddha also said “Monks, there are these five dangers of a black snake.”.

    So from your post we can conclude that it is your opinion that there is no wisdom outside of Buddhism?

    How many times have you been reborn so far?

    • Dear Peter,

      Peter wrote: “Your father is the norm not the exception. I think for wisdom to arise through formal meditation would actually be more the exception. Formal meditation is certainly not without benefit though, in my opinion.”

      You mentioned that having wisdom is the norm. In that case, what are you referring to when using the word ” wisdom”. Is it referring to the same kind of wisdom relating to liberation the Buddha is referring to in the above verse and elsewhere in the text, or do you mean something else. And since it is the norm , or commonly found, what is the technique many people use to develop this wisdom that is the norm.

    • Okay, my comment was in relation to the post by Bhikkhu Chalawano in which he said that his father was both wise and intelligent although he didn’t practice meditation. My point was that actually wisdom occurs for most without meditation.

      When I use the word wisdom I am using it in it’s common English meaning. I wasn’t referring to the transcendental understanding of a mythical superman.

      For many people wisdom occurs naturally with the passing of time.

    • So we are not referring to the same type of wisdom that the Buddha is referring to in the Dhammapada Verse 372 and various other suttas.

    • The post with the Dhammapada verse was subsequent to my post in response to the post by Bhikkhu Chalawano. So I was certainly not referring to that verse then.

      How many types of wisdom do you have iMeditation?

    • Dear Peter,
      Peter wrote: “Buddha said you can’t have wisdom without jhana”. Buddha also said “Monks, there are these five dangers of a black snake.”.

      The discussions of whether ” Monks, there are these five dangers of a black snake.” are actually the words of the Buddha can be found in another discussion.
      Because a few insignificant sutta might not be the words of the Buddha, does that mean that all suttas are not the words of the Buddha ? If not, then are there any evidence suggesting that this Dhammapada Verse 372 in particular was not spoken by the Buddha ? Or if you are saying that these are the words of the Buddha but it is incorrect, then how is it so ?

    • iMeditation I accept Dhammapada Verse 372 as part of the Buddhist scripture. I don’t think it is a verbatim quote but that is neither here nor there (maybe it is?).

      iMeditation do you think there can be wisdom without Jhana? Do you think that there can be Jhana without wisdom?

    • Dear Peter ,

      Peter wrote: “iMeditation do you think there can be wisdom without Jhana?”
      It depends

      Peter wrote: ” Do you think that there can be Jhana without wisdom? ”
      This was discussed in great length and detail previously on this blog. It is still on the site.

      Peter wrote: ” I was certainly not referring to that verse then…How many types of wisdom do you have iMeditation?”
      Different people refer to different things when speaking about wisdom. That’s why I wanted to be clear about what each person is referring to .

  8. Are there side benefits of meditation that can be measured for the early stages , such as steps 1-4 ( of 7) ? If we look at the researches done on meditation, they indicate that there are many positive effects on the physical and emotional level. Results show that indeed meditation does change the body in significant ways which are being scientifically demonstrated using state-of-the-art measuring techniques, such as fMRI and EEG. Below are a few examples:

    – There is growing agreement in the medical community that mental factors such as stress significantly contribute to a lack of physical health. As a method of stress reduction, meditation has been used in hospitals in cases of chronic or terminal illness to reduce complications associated with increased stress that include depressed immune systems. Research shows that meditation induces a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body collectively referred to as the “relaxation response.” The relaxation response includes changes in metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain chemistry.

    – Diagnoses for which MBSR was found to be helpful included chronic pain, fibromyalgia, cancer patients and coronary artery disease. Improvements were noted for both physical and mental health measures.

    – Research from Harvard medical school also shows that during meditation, physiological signals show that there is a decrease in respiration and increase in heart rate and blood oxygen saturation levels.

    -According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “Practicing meditation has been shown to induce some changes in the body…Some types of meditation might work by affecting the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system.”

    – “Studies done by Yale, Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital have shown that meditation increases gray matter in the brain and slows down the deterioration of the brain as a part of the natural aging process. The brain scan revealed that those who meditated have an increased thickness of gray matter in parts of the brain that are responsible for attention and processing sensory input.

    -“Dr. James Austin, a neurophysiologist at the University of Colorado, reported that meditation in Zen “rewires the circuitry” of the brain in his book Zen and the Brain (Austin, 1999). This has been confirmed using functional MRI imaging, a brain scanning technique that measures blood flow in the brain.”

    – “Studies have shown that meditation has both short-term and long-term effects on various perceptual faculties.”

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