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On Our Sense of Self, Buddhism and Science Agree

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Hands held together in prayer, a Buddhist monk elder wearing bright orange robes meditates in the lotus position amid the temple ruins at Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia. (Timothy Allen/Creative RM/Getty Images)
Buddhist monk elder meditates amid the temple ruins at Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia. (Timothy Allen/Creative RM/Getty Images)

 

When it comes to science—particularly, health—Western ideology is often portrayed as being at odds with Eastern beliefs. One point of agreement is the state of human consciousness. David Barash, who wrote Buddhist Biology, explains Buddhism’s notion if impermanence as it relates to human consciousness: “Attempting to cling to a solid, immutable core of a self is a fool’s errand because time not only creates anarchy, it provides the unavoidable matrix within which everything—animate and inanimate, sentient and insensate—ebbs and flows.”

Buddhist monks praying in Thailand. (Creative RF/Getty Images)
Buddhist monks praying in Thailand. (Creative RF/Getty Images)

 

Apply this concept to human consciousness, and neuroscientists agree with Buddhists. A recent study by University of Wisconsin-Madison professors connect self-awareness not to one particular region of the brain, but to various fluctuating neural processes that form a relationship. Our consciousness is constantly being reshaped by our own brain.

That’s not the only connection between neuroscience and Buddhist philosophy. The same study argues that cognitive faculties—such as perception, inuition, and reasoning—can be controlled by meditation. To learn more about the relationship between Buddhism and neuroscience, read Barash’s full take, published on Nautilus, here.