Neuroscience Backs Up A Crucial Buddhist Belief Regarding The Self
It is unlikely that you can remember your life as a toddler. Even so, it is just as likely that your essential being has remained unchanged from then to now. Or at least, this is something that you have always suspected.
Yet such a belief goes against one of the core principles of Buddhism. It is believed by Buddhists that this concept of our selfhood is merely an illusion. While it is easy to dismiss such a notion, particularly if it flies in the face of something you truly believe to be the case, neuroscience and recent studies suggest that you may want to reconsider this cornerstone of the Buddhist faith. An increasing number of studies are beginning to suggest that this notion of selfhood is in fact a falsehood.
Not surprisingly, there is a great deal to this subject that is worth studying in greater detail.
What Does Science Have To Say About The State Of The Self?
One of the main arguments of Buddhism is the idea that nothing is in fact constant. Everything is capable of changing through time. Your consciousness is a constantly moving, constantly evolving stream that drives not only your reality, but your perception of your reality. From the perspective of neuroscience, our brains and bodies are in a constant state of flux. Nothing in its principles contradicts the idea of the ever-changing state of selfhood.
While scientists in the West and Buddhism obviously reached these conclusions in profoundly different ways, using profoundly paths to reach their respective conclusions, it is fascinating nonetheless to see these two different entities meet at a corner of cooperation. Theories put forth by Buddhists thousands of years ago are now being embraced and utilized by scientific research. Studies suggest that self-processing within our brains is not merely limited to one area or network. On the other hand, these studies indicate that all of this can be extended towards a wide assortment of fluctuating neuro processes. Furthermore, these do not appear to be self-specific.
For example, research suggests that our cognitive capabilities are not static. Quite the contrary, this research strongly points to the possibility that these capabilities can be trained through things like meditation.
Does Consciousness Extend Into Deep Sleep?
Buddhists believe profoundly in the idea that our consciousness extends into the act of deep sleep. For a long time, scientists have held on to the notion that our brains enter a blackout state during the act of deep sleep. However, recent studies are beginning to suggest that this is not in fact the case. Some research suggests that meditation impacts our electro-physical brain patterns while we sleep. These studies further suggest that at least some awareness can be carried over into deep sleep.
At the same time, don’t expect Buddhism and the lab coats to exist in perfect harmony anytime soon. There are still a number of topics, including deeper aspects of this subject, in which the two efforts to better understand ourselves can differ greatly. For example, Buddhists believe that there is a form of consciousness that is not dependent upon the body in any form or fashion. Neuroscience disagrees – at least for now.
Still, the relationship between consciousness and the brain is something that remains shrouded in mystery. Neither modern science nor Buddhism have clear answers on the subject. What they do have is a desire to dig deeper, and to understand more. On that front, you will find that both Buddhism and modern science trends have much to discuss with one another. Perhaps by combining the two, as many are beginning to do, we will get closer to finding the answers that will give us a greater understanding of ourselves.