Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Science assisted enlightenment

Buddhist texts have it that Buddha instructed monks that they could achieve advanced states of awareness through meditative practise that achieves a mental state sometimes described with the term single-pointedness - often achieved by focusing on the sensation of air currents on the nostril area (in Hinduism this is called anapana sati and is said to be able to provide liberation or moksha to the practitioner).

At present humans can use fMRI technology to image the area of the brain that is firing when we experience a particular sensation like moving a finger or seeing a particular image. The Dalai Lama has cooperated with Western scientists to map the areas of the brain that activate when a monk is in an advanced state of awareness. It stands to reason that if we can image ourselves feeling a particular sensation, that one day we will be able to force ourselves to experience that particular sensation with an advanced machine (without having to stick a probe inside our heads) . If such an invention were to exist it could be used to provide enlightenment to anyone and everyone.
I found this cartoon and thought of how many people in the Western world might first ask the way to Vegas before a question that might lead them to enlightenment. However, I think all Westerners would be quite interested in having a device with a button that immediately provides a state of mental calm.