Donnerstag, 21. Mai 2020

Awakening and brain research

he awakening in Buddhism is sometimes explained as if you wake up from the nocturnal "unspiritual" sleep of the night and as only then the mind can awaken to consciousness and contribute important things. So the mind was as if passed out or dead when sleeping or would only wake up afterwards from unreal dreams. The mind could not contribute anything meaningful in sleep. According to reliable results of brain research, this is completely wrong!

For our brain is highly active during sleep and performs great things: for example, it organizes new information from the day into the existing knowledge and ability and works to combine non-networked details into a harmonious whole. To do this, the short-term memory networks with our entire brain and mind, especially during the sleep phase in a very dynamic way. And we do not mind voluntary or doctrinal thinking while we sleep! The unconscious knowledge is often wiser, more sensible and more comprehensive than the intellectual conscious knowledge. So consciousness can learn from this. In my opinion, this is a very important contribution to Buddhist emptiness: to develop well and positively without doctrines, prejudices or other obstacles. So sleep is inherently smart and very effective for awakening. Would you have thought that? But we should wake up from the unnatural ideologies, prejudices, distortions and illusions that are driven by greed, hatred, vanity and ego stress.

The Buddhist wisdom and exercises develop positively and reliably our conscious, non-conscious and their interaction as a whole. This enables the true self to liberate itself and we actualize good new areas of life of joy, peace, balance and new life energies, so probably areas of great peace. I can confirm this through the experience of my own life.

And we know very well that conscious thinking, planning, remembering, acting, etc. in the so-called frontal brain is only a very small part of the entire brain and mind: the ratio of conscious to unconscious is about one in two hundred thousand. This means that we can only recognize and improve important relationships, important knowledge and important skills through the interaction of the conscious and the unconscious. This is the only way we can really develop healthily. This is the great intuitive spirit of Zen: thinking also from unconscious thinking. And this clarity can and should be practiced and trained.

What does my teacher, the Zen-Master Nishijima say about this? He uses the term intuition for this important mental and psychological fact. Intuitive clarity is especially developed in zazen meditation and in stress-free healthy sleep. So Master Dogen says: "Zazen is thinking out of non-thinking". That is our great comprehensive mind. It has a lot more opportunities and potential than most people think.

Intellectual thinking and compulsive thoughts prevent clear, intuitive thinking and understanding of important life relationships - and the  mutual interacting causes. Therefore, this urgent request to our own narrow, doctrinal thinking:

"Please don't bother me on the way to clarity in my life".

But this is not a fundamental rejection of thinking, but a fundamental and necessary expansion of thinking on the path to awakening and thus happiness in life.

We will experience again and again certain problems and the associated suffering. They can be solved more easily than you think, when you are caught in the vicious circle of narrowed thinking. You can leave the vicious circle. Brooding is a waste of time! And Zen is about action. According to Buddha, intuitive, clear knowledge and skills of practice enable a good life, so that unnecessary suffering dissolves and comes to rest. Ideologies, prejudices and, above all, greed and hatred prevent this intuitive, comprehensive ability and knowledge. These ideologies are unfree and are typical of delusion and thus of pain and suffering.

Back to waking up in the morning: At such moments, there are often clear effective solutions to psychologically knotted and complex problems. You have probably already experienced this! The same applies to zazen meditation, it loosens knotted feelings and thoughts. In this way, good solutions for our life can ripen in the mutual interaction of the conscious and the not-conscious (pratitya samutpada) and bring new clarity. But please no hectic, no stress, no sensually exaggerated will, no wanting of evil, no sluggishness and no compulsive doubt. Together with intellectualism, these are the obstacles on the way to awakening, as Buddha clearly recognized. [1] Such barriers prevent a full life and create suffering. They are completely unnecessary.

Deepening for those interested

[1] Gäng, Peter: Meditationstexte des Pali-Buddhismus I, S.39 f