Monks and Clicks Habituation

Although the many psychophysiological studies have drawn a fairly consistent portrait of the physiology during some meditative states, in our opinion they have contributed relatively little to a meaningful understanding of states of consciousness during meditation. The statement above is an accurate interpretation of the literature. Why do we still know so little about meditative states To understand, it helps to begin with a specific issue in research the way normal subjects respond when they...

The Other Side of

Eastern enlightenment is the full and perfect understanding that the stupidity, vulgarity and hypocrisy of this world is quite all right just as it is. . . This enlightenment is found in Christianity also it is, Thy will be done in infinitely meaningless inanity. I suspect every European attempt at detachment of being mere liberation from moral considerations. Tough words from critics. But the full moon of enlightenment does have its dark side. What else could be said against Zen To Blyth, Zen...

The Power ofSilence

I swear I will never henceforth have to do with the faith that tells the best I will have to do only with that faith that leaves the best untold. If I were to demonstrate the Great Matter in strict keeping with the teaching of the Patriarchal School, I simply couldn't open my mouth. A blank page. The best truths untold. Mouths unopened . . . Are the advocates of silence engaged in a cop-out No. It just seems to them that mere words on paper about Buddhist or other experiences of enlightenment...

Transcendent Hippocampus

The hippocampus has become of further interest to Zen, because transcendent states of consciousness have been ascribed to discrete changes postulated to take place in certain of its CA cells.28 Is the hypothesis valid To begin to evaluate it further takes some persistence. We will need to pick up the trail of the impulses we have just seen enter the hippocampus, then stick with them on their way out through the rest of its circuitry. The spoor is somewhat easier to follow, because the major...

Acetylcholine Systems

It is easy to ascribe a cholinergic basis to just about any CNS phenomenon. The ponto-mesencephalic cholinergic system, via its widespread connections with the diencephalon and cholinergic basal forebrain, is anatomically and electrophysiologi-cally suited to modulate the cognitive processing of sensory information. N. Woolf, J. Harrison, and J. Buchwald2 One could not chose a more appropriate transmitter than acetylcholine to start the discussion of messenger systems. It was the first...

Authentic Meanings within Wide Open Boundaries

Bad indeed the mind that says so The perennial questions are simple Where do we come from What are we Where are we going 2 Paul Gauguin's brush would add them to one of his Tahiti paintings. Each of us asks, in his or her own way Does my life really have meaning Does the universe have meaning and purpose Broadly speaking, our answers fall into one of three categories.3 Physicalism holds that there are only physical entities in the universe, not values. Idealism...

Bridging the Two Hemispheres

Subcortical structures do not serve simply as pathways linking the two hemispheres but play an essential coordinating role in the integration of hemispheric activity. Since the conscious properties of the left hemisphere are obvious through a subject's verbal behavior, our main concern has been with the silent inhabitant of the right side of the cranium. J. LeDoux, D. Wilson, and M. Gazzaniga2 Silent, but influential. How much the right hemisphere contributes became clear only after...

Bright Lights and Blank Vision

Wisdom excels folly, as far as light excels darkness. Many persons have had similar, striking experiences of being enveloped by a blinding light. Brighter than sunshine, it comes from all sides. Sometimes it emanates from a diffuse source directly in front. It is less well appreciated that such a light may occur as an isolated, entirely independent phenomenon, and take the form of a fragment as in the event just described. If asleep, the person wakes with the impression that an intense light...

Directional Preferences

To begin to answer, it may help to ask, Do any of these coded messages pass more easily in one direction across the subcortical bridge Yes, some do.15 Some messages move more readily from right to left. These are hotline messages, alarms. These emotionally linked messages convey impressions of danger, sudden movements, and potential violence. But certain other concepts do not pass easily from right to left. Their associative codes rank low on the scale of emotionality. What do these cooler...

Emotionalized Awareness without Sensate Loss

Seeing is believing, but feeling's the naked truth. It is the seventh and final day of the early winter Rohatsu sesshin.2 It is 11 30 a.m., and I am standing quietly outdoors, basking in the warm sunshine, waiting in the lunch line, bowl in hand. Abruptly, the sacred quality of all life overcomes me. Tears of gratitude and pure joy well up into my eyes, and my breathing becomes all choked up. Tears flow repeatedly over the next ten minutes, associated with the feeling that all tensions have...

Faces in the Fire Illusions and Hallucinations

The electrical stimulation can call back a sequence of past experience a previous experience its sights and sounds and thoughts seems to pass through the mind of the patient on the operating table he re-experiences some period from his past while still retaining his hold on the present. . . The re-experience seems to be more real, the voices heard are more acute, and the objects or people seen are more vivid than when the event actually happened. Hughlings Jackson believed one image was as...

Gateway to Paradox

Sitting on a stone, a cloud materializes in the monk's garment. Only later will the moon appear in his jug of spring water. When does a paradox occur When elements are valid individually but incompatible together. Absorption baptizes the person in a sea of paradox. A vacuum of space It holds fullness in abundance. Does it shed even the physical self Yes, but it is a plenum of intimate and private awareness. Silent, it hears the sound of silence. Pitch-black, it is seen into. Internal absorption...

Habituation and Sensitization in Humans

In simpler systems, whether those of mollusk or rabbit, habituation means that repeated stimuli yield a decreasing response. Sensitization implies that responses increase when stronger stimuli are repeated.3 While the simple models are excellent examples, they can only tell us about the elementary categories of learning. Higher forms of learning require more than several dozen neurons in a special reflex arc. Higher-order learning needs a very large network of associative nerve cells. Only such...

High Spots

We take up again the kind of episode that many persons enter for a fleeting instant an experience which confers at least the surface layer of such a major insight into reality. After this, relatively few go on to fully actualize this moment of insight-wisdom. Actualizing means putting one's insight-wisdom consistently into practice in everyday life. Maslow interviewed several dozen well-known self-actualizing people, conducting what he called a Pre-scientific, freewheeling reconnaissance.22 He...

Laboratory Correlates of Awareness Attention Novelty and Surprise

Is it a fact or have I dreamt it that by means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time Step by step, throughout part III, we have been describing the functional anatomical substrate on which psychophysiology is based. Until recent decades, researchers had no practical ways to define the dynamic functions of these regions in human subjects. Now many tests are available to clarify the kinds of functions of special...

Lucid Dreaming

On lucid dreams The union of separate elements, dreaming and consciousness. Sometimes, while dreaming, we realize it is only a dream. And when the term lucid is applied to dreaming, it refers to just these moments. Lucid, then, simply means that the dreamer has become conscious of dreaming. A few persons become skilled lucid dreamers, so adept that they attain much of the same clarity and coherence as they did during the waking state. Moreover, strange as it may seem, these exceptional...

Meditation and Sleep Cycles Continued

Some meditators fall into deeper levels of sleep, especially when they are sleep-deprived, tired, or bored. In one study, a third of the EEG samples showed the characteristic stages of sleep 1, 2, and 3.18 These meditators slept overtly and in brief microsleep episodes. One other study followed the EEG in subjects who had practiced the Jacobson form of progressive relaxation for six years. They spent 52 percent of their time in stage 1 (transitional) sleep and in stage 2 (light) sleep. In...

Meditation and Sleep Cycles

The relationships between meditation and sleep cycles are very important. For one thing, meditators take naps, as do people in general. In fact, as many as 61 percent of normal people nap more than once a week and for over an hour.21 People tend to take naps at either of two times when the body temperatures are higher, or between 2 and 4 P.M.22 Naps are physiologically restorative. For ex ample, healthy male college students were studied who habitually took naps lasting from half an hour up to...

Meditation and Tests of Performance

Many claims are made that meditation improves personal health, well-being, and performance. Even twenty-minute TM meditation periods are said to improve the condition of hospitalized psychiatric patients.26 Relatively short periods are also purported to show beneficial effects on health, perceptual ability, athletic performance, learning abilities, academic performance, anxiety, creativity, and substance As a generalization, Zen moves out toward a flexible interrelatedness and away from a...

Near Death Experiences Far Death Attitudes

No choice is uninfluenced by the way in which the personality regards its destiny, and the body its death. In the last analysis, it is our conception of death which decides or answers to all the questions that life puts to us Hence, too, the necessity of preparing for it. Does our concept of death influence the way we live If Hammarskjold is correct, then it's about time each of us developed some valid concepts about death, and started to prepare for it. Easier said than done. A century ago,...

Original Salience

Suppose we begin to answer by returning to simpler visual steps (as outlined in chapter 54). We went through the same steps each time we recognized that the fruit was an apple. We recognized the apple by pulling together the many threads of our prior relationships with it. The word explains itself re-cognition. And when the unknown fruit matched all those old patterns in our recognition memory, the apple emerged into consciousness, fleshed out with all its familiar dimensions of meaning....

Outer World

Stimuli enter from the outside world and from internal proprioceptive events. The blend seems to contribute to a central thinking self. Figure 1 diagrams the kinds of l-Me-Mine constructs which further constitute this self' (see chapter 9). internal absorption with sensate loss can be represented schematically by the second diagram, figure 16. Note how much stops during internal absorption. The person's mental field lacks sensations of vision, hearing, and touch. Something stops them from...

Turning In The Absorptions

108 Vacuum Plenum Kyoto, December 1974 111 The Vacuum Plenum of Absorption An Agenda of Events to Explained 112 The Plunge Blankness, Then Blackness 115 The Ascent of Charles Lindbergh Ambient Vision 116 The Ambient Vision of Meditative Absorption 118 The Loss of the Self in Clear, Held Awareness 120 Motor and Other Residues of Internal Absorption

Problems with Words Mind

When use a word, Humpty Dumpty said . . . It means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less. The question is, said Alice, whether you can make words mean so many different things. The question is, said Humpty Dumpty, which is to be master that's all. Anyone who probes states of consciousness soon runs into the word mind. No such word captures the object it tries to describe. Shakespeare settled this issue for all time when he observed What's in a name That which we call a rose by any...

Rhythms and Triggers

When is kensho most likely to strike Was it sheer coincidence that my taste of kensho came in the morning What is morning It is the time when our peaks and troughs of vigilance are most likely to fluctuate.6 Each such wave carries the potential remote though it may be to break through into a sudden peak experience. Add stressful circumstances, and they can further increase the amplitudes of the morning's physiological oscillations. Next superimpose a trigger, and it could lend an extra jolt to...

Ripening and Pruning

Does wisdom ripen only because one modifies a few thoughts, and merely thinks along different lines Unless we shed this canard, our understanding of the Way of Zen will remain as superficial and fleeting as word-thoughts themselves. During the lifelong process of aging, the brain of any species is constantly revising much of its cellular and neurochemical architecture.5 At any age, countless nerve cells are dying because they lose either their presynaptic input or their neuro-trophic proteins....

Serotonin Systems

The third group of biogenic amine nerve cells releases serotonin (ST). These ST cells are buried deep along the midline core of the brain stem. Here, they cluster into a series of structures known as the raphe nuclei (see figure 7). Raphe cells synthesize ST using the following reactions Tryptophan -> 5-hydroxytryptophan - 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) In the brief account that follows, we will discover how ST subtly influences functions as vital as sleep, vision, mood, social behaviors,...

T

Figure 16 The mental field of internal absorption with sensate loss (State Vl-B) A major absorption vanishes the bodily self and effaces the ordinary physical boundaries of the l-Me-Mirie. Here, the dotted lines serve only to indicate its former boundaries. What remains is a witnessed, silent, heightened clear ambient awareness. Note that sensations are blocked. This block shuts off not only the outer world but also proprioceptive information from the head and body. Aside from a pervasive...

The Attentive Art of Meditation

The whole point of Buddhism may be summed up as living in the present. Living in the present moment. This is a short working definition of meditation. A longer one is also useful a family of techniques which have in common a conscious attempt to focus attention in a non-analytical way, and an attempt not to dwell on discursive, ruminating thought.2 Why does conscious belong in the definition For two reasons. First, because it reminds us that, at its beginnings, meditation is self-initiated....

The Attentive

Believe in the simple magic of life, in service in the universe, and the meaning of that waiting, that alertness, that craning of the neck in creatures, will dawn upon you. The cat lies in wait, alert, by the mouse hole.2 She is Buddha nature, and her nervous system is totally in service in the universe. More so than she knows, for she is also being studied in the laboratory. There, alert human beings are craning their own necks to watch her. They are researchers. The service they perform for...

The Awakeningfrom Hibernation

Toward the anterior part of the aqueduct of Sylvius and the side of the floor of the third ventricle, there exist. . . centers of slowing and acceleration on which hypothermia and re-heating, torpor and wakefulness, depend equally. Woodchucks, marmots, and ground squirrels hibernate during the cold winter months.2 And some Russian researchers also hole up in Siberia during its long winter to study these animals intensively.3 But are ground squirrels relevant to those of us who live in more...

The Brains Own Opioids

Among the remedies which it has pleased Almighty God to give to man to relieve his sufferings, none is so universal and so efficacious as opium. In Russia religion is the opium of the people in China opium is the religion of the people. Consider three items. Opiates have relieved suffering for ages. Marx is passe, but his dictum lingers religion is the opium of the people. Finally, the Buddha's central message, as summed up in the key phrase, Suffering do I teach, and the way out of suffering....

The Colliculi

Our two superior colliculi are indeed little hills, as their Latin name suggests. Of ancient lineage, their bumps serve as vantage points, surveying the scene with great sophistication, if unconsciously. For the superior colliculus represents First and Second Visual Systems* First and Second Visual Systems* *The systems are generalizations, Primates, for example, also send important input down from the visual cortex both to the pulvinar and to the superior colliculus,1 *The systems are...

The Construction of Time

In rivers the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes So with time present. for it is not so much to know the self as to know it as it is known by galaxy and cedar cone, as if birth had never found it and death could never end it It was a fact of personal experience that time disappeared during absorption and kensho. Why did time change, in each instance If we could clarify this, it would help resolve two related issues. First, how we construct time...

The EEG in Meditation

One might conclude either the process of meditation is unique to the meditator or that the essential information is not carried by the frequency component of the EEG. We know that people's EEGs differ, that an individual's EEGs vary, and that meditation is not one state but a series of dynamic physiological changes. So it comes as no surprise to find that many different EEG changes have been recorded during meditation, and that most studies are open to criticism.2-3 Griffith concluded, from...

The Effects ofSensorimotor Deprivation

When the senses and thought are annihilated, all the passages to Mind are blocked, and no entrance then becomes possible. The original mind is to be recognized along with the working of the senses and thoughts, only it does not belong to them, nor is it independent of them. Do not build up your views on your senses and thoughts . but at the same time do not seek the Mind away from your senses and thoughts. These early words of caution from Huang-po are not doubletalk. Back in the Tang dynasty,...

The Large Visual Brain

The things we see are the mind's best bet as to what is out in front. A large compound eye nicely serves the dragonfly's modest visual needs. We have a relatively small eye. Social animals that we are, what humans need is a very large visual brain. Without it, how could we possibly make sense of all the complex situations we register visually In Japan for example, a high-school student must recognize a minimum of 1800 separate idiographic kanji characters on sight even to become barely...

The Leaf Coda

It is a longer story than one might suppose, this account of letting go, of yielding, and of seeing that red Japanese maple leaf in a void of space. Two months have passed. I now have in my hand the latest batch of 35-mm color transparencies. Taken in Japan, they have been processed in the United States and just forwarded to me in the mail to Sweden. I am looking, astounded, at one set of photographs. They do more than remind me about that leaf I had hallucinated while meditating. They prove...

The Light

The light shined in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not. Bright light bathes me on all sides, intense as the midday sun. Its dazzling brightness extends far behind my head and upper back. Instantly I am wide awake. Lying quietly, with eyelids still closed, I quickly run through the possibilities. Much too bright for the bedroom light, or for a flashlight. Not a white beach in the sunshine in a dream. I'm wide awake, very clear about the time and place. Clear about the fact that...

The Reticular Nucleus

The whole of the dorsal thalamus appears to be surrounded by a sheet of acetylcho-line inhibited neurons. It did not even look like a nucleus. At first, it seemed to be merely a thin, inconspicuous sheet of nerve cells that capped the contours of the thalamus (see figure 11). And so, because these nerve cells formed an interlacing network, the earlier anatomists called it reticular, meaning netlike.* But looks were deceiving. It took a long time to realize which kind of nerve cells were in...

The Tachistoscope

Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter. It happens during the final evening sitting in the zendo, around 9 p.m. Very calm, quiet, relaxed eyes half-open. Abruptly, a run of images starts just below the center of gaze in front of me. Each is a snapshot, seen as if one were flipping through an album of old, faded color prints. It snaps in with a faint, almost physical impact, stays in view for the same fraction of a second as the...

The Thalamus

Experience is never limited it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue. Thalamus is an old word. It arose from ancient Egyptian or Greek roots which referred variously to an anteroom or to a bridal chamber. When the early anatomists traced the optic tracts back into it, they came to the correct conclusion its large gray masses were the chambers which received...

The Warm Affective Tone

Exultation is the going of an inland soul to sea. Past the houses, past the headlands, into deep eternity Bred as we, among the mountains, can the sailor understand The Divine intoxication of the first league out from land Two waves of feeling swept into absorption. First came cool clear enchantment, next a cozy blissful affect. Each phase entered involuntarily. In retrospect, neither feeling seemed attributable solely to the rest of the content of that moment. The sense was of being entranced...

Ways to Influence Memory

Specialists who study memory need a thicket of complicated wiring diagrams even to begin to explain ordinary memories.9 The more so if one insists that their diagrams must also account for four sets of observations such as the following (1) Certain drugs, higher arousal levels, novelty, and motivational factors can be used to enhance the laying down and retrieval of memories. (2) One can replay memories at will. (3) Memories also retrieve themselves spontaneously. This occurs either during...

What could prompt the heightened awareness of internal absorption to occur in the evening as compared with the morning

The alertness cycle reaches its peak later than one might think, not until around 9 to 10 P.M. Next comes a dynamic interval, the transition period which usually ushers in the person's drowsy descent into slow-wave sleep. But this trendline of S-sleep is not smooth, nor does it necessarily drop straight down. Indeed, it can be interrupted when two kinds of desynchro-nized microepisodes are thrust into this interval. One is sleep-onset REM. The other is brief awakenings. This dynamic setting is...

What Is It The Temporal Lobe Pathway

While with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things. That spherical object over there Wliat is it A fruit Much of our answer springs from the frames of reference within our lower visual pathway' (see table 6, at left). Its impulses stream forward from the occipital cortex to reach the tip of the temporal lobe2-3 (see figure 2). Along the way, its channels interact with the limbic cortex, the parietal and orbitofrontal cortex, and the...

Why are states of internal absorption and kensho so different yet each so memorable

It is being proposed that many of their properties arise in association with extra firing activity, along different acetylcholine and glutamate pathways, involving different regions of the brain. For example, extra firing of cells along the perforant path could enhance long-term potentiation within the hippocampus. This could help to heighten the subject's ongoing memory of each event. Some peptides may also be released, as part of the basic mechanisms of these states. And peptides could also...

Why is insightwisdom so far removed from the wordthoughts of our ordinary language

Insight-wisdom yields instant, syncretic comprehensibilities. These idea-messages and impressions convey understanding, but this arrives with no words attached. The brain has many networks for wordless comprehension. They link all four of its lobes with related regions in the subcortex farther below. Here, circuits operate with the most ancient of codes, and some will cross the deep midline bridge more readily than others. The kinds of word language found in our dictionaries cannot decipher...

Word Problems Oneness and Unity

The best things can't be told the second best are misunderstood. Zen has no words when you have satori, you have everything. Surely, oneness ought to be indivisible. But is it Unity should mean only one thing. Does it Within the moment of insight-wisdom, yes. Outside, not so. The problem begins with not being able to communicate from one state into another. But misunderstandings abound for other reasons. One major difficulty, as Stace observed, is that mystics in general do not distinguish...

How Often Does Enlightenment Occur

Of a thousand or ten thousand attempting to only three or perhaps five pass through. Huang-po had rigorous criteria. In 1975, Greeley published a national survey of 1460 Americans.2 One questionnaire item was Have you ever felt as though you were very close to a powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift you outside of yourself Eighteen percent of the respondents reported that they had such mystical experiences once or twice, and 12 percent said several times. What does it imply when this...

Preludes with Potential Dark Nights and Depressions

The steep path of self-development is as mournful and gloomy as the path to Hell. Mysteriously, in ways difficult to accept by those who have never suffered it, depression comes to resemble physical anguish. Such anguish can become every bit as excruciating as the pain of a fractured limb, migraine or heart attack. Do hills get higher when valleys sink deeper Periods of depression and despair commonly occur before religious experiences, as was confirmed in Hardy's sur-vey.3 Indeed, many...

The Dissolution of Time

One instant is ten thousand years. . . for it is neither of the past, present, nor future. Master Seng-ts'an, Affirming Faith in Mind Nothing hinders the soul's knowledge of God as much as time and space, for time and space are fragments, whereas God is one. Therefore, if the soul were to know God, it must know him above time and outside space. Time seemed to disappear, in different ways, in kensho and absorption. In each case we want to know where did time go For its disappearance is more than...

An Ethical Base of

Self-nature is without error, disturbance, and ignorance. This teaching spreads Enlightenment as with the Buddha of old, by the transference of truth from one man to another. In the matter of religious discipline, it practices the true method of the wise men of old. Thus, it teaches Enlightenment, in substance as in semblance, and perfects the relationship between master and discipline. In its rules of conduct and discipline, there is no confusion between good and evil. It was a good time to...

Zen and the Subcortical Bridge

Why do the split-brain patients still behave in a unified manner during their everyday activities How can they be unified after their main transcortical bridge has been cut To Sperry this behavior suggested that our system of consciousness is shaped like a Y. True, the system is bifurcated above, up there in the hemispheres. But it remains undivided below.14 Unified behavior strongly implies that the patients are using other major avenues to exchange messages between the two sides of the brain....

Introduction to the Heart Sutra

The earlier Sanskrit versions of the Prajna Paramita Sutra were translated into Chinese as early as the year 172 of the Christian era.1 In this sutra, Buddhism forged an irrevocable link between the direct experience of emptiness, sunyata, and prajna, the basic insight of indivisible oneness. Fortunately, the sutra's long early versions were later condensed. In English, the short form can be entitled The Heart of Great Wisdom Sutra. It has also been called The Sutra of the Great Wisdom Gone...

Reducers and Augmenters

Researchers blindfold their subjects when they test for these opposing tendencies. First, each subject estimates how wide a block is, focusing on the width of the gap between thumb and forefinger of the right hand. Then, with the left thumb and forefinger, the subject next feels along a long, tapered measuring bar. The question Where on this separate measuring bar lies that very same width which had been perceived earlier with the fingers of the right hand Thereafter, the right thumb and finger...

Zazen at Ryokoin

In this world of ours, who lasts forever Today let us cross the last mountain range of life's illusions. No longer to dream shallow dreams nor succumb to stupor. Our first two long interviews are highly stimulating. But the roshi has given no hint of an invitation to join the Zen group. Our third interview is blessed by the weather. It is such a beautiful, clear summer day that we dwell first on the seasons. Kobori-roshi explains that Japan has many seasons. Even if one starts with the four...

Conditioning Learning and Unlearning

If we could look through the skull into the brain of a consciously thinking person, and if the place of optimal excitability were luminous, then we should see playing over the cerebral surface a bright spot with fantastic waving borders, constantly fluctuating in size and form, and surrounded by a darkness, more or less deep, covering the rest of the hemispheres. In the pursuit of knowledge, everyday something is added. In the practice of the Tao, everyday something is dropped. Those outside...

Gaba

Glutamate is a key excitatory amino acid transmitter. It is converted to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory transmitter, with the aid of the enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD). be some afterthought. For here is the simple demonstration that unity prevails whenever two naturally opposing processes each depend on, and counterbalance, the other. How do GABA and glutamate serve the nervous system As yin and yang. Some would estimate that GABA is involved in one third of all the...

The Death of Fear

When you were born, all you had was the unborn Buddha-mind. There wasn't any fear. Your fear is an illusion or figment of thought that you have created on your own after Every little yielding to anxiety is a step away from the natural heart of man. Bad things do happen in life, and people find reasons to fear what is loosely called bad karma. Karma is the subtotal of cause-and-effect relationships. It begins with the events which caused us to be born with certain kinds of DNA. Soon, it includes...

The Mondo

Meanwhile, one reads about the old masters' many bizarre answers and behaviors. We encounter the story about the earnest young monk who asks old Joshu about the real meaning of Buddhism. And promptly hears this non sequitur The Cyprus tree in the courtyard. What is one to make of these old, incomprehensible replies Such questions, and answers, are termed mondo. If we permit them to, they can help us interpret where the masters of old and the roshi of today are coming from. One begins by...

The Unified Field of Distributed Functions

Let us suppose, further to illustrate the point above, that the attributes of all things can be assigned into the ancient yin and yang categories of opposites. So any pair might stand for good and bad, warts and beauty, hot and cold, high and low, whatever. Humans have been conditioned to go one step further. We polarize our two conceptual extremes. Therefore, let us represent such symbols as now bearing a charge, either positive ( + ) or negative (-). What does our usual discriminating brain...

Tidal Rhythms and Biological Clocks

Everything passes Everything ends After every December There's always a May. Once every eleven years in the solar cycle, sunspots reach their peak. When their high-energy particles finally reach our atmosphere, we witness the luminous bands of the aurora borealis, or northern lights. Living things also undergo cycles of illuminating activity. These cycles are as regular as clockwork, as dramatic as hibernation. A century and a half ago, Linnaeus found that certain flowers open, and close, at...

The Orienting Reflex and Activation

All the quadrupeds emphasize their direct forward gaze by a corresponding movement of the ears, as if to supplement and aid one sense with another. Our spaniel dozes on the rug, muzzle between forepaws. A footstep falls outside, and his head lifts. Pointing toward the noise, his eyes open wide, his nostrils flare, and his ears prick up. Watching his own dogs orient, Pavlov discerned that this reflex went beyond the simple act of being startled. He thought the brain was asking a more basic...

Ryokoin Kyoto 1974

Don't worry about attaining perfect knowledge. This summer, I have come to Kyoto on sabbatical leave. My project is to study the brain with my friend and colleague Professor Shuji Takaori. Shuji acquired his fluent English when he trained at the University of Michigan for his doctorate in neuropharmacology. His major research interest is the locus ceruleus. This fascinating group of nerve cells releases norepinephrine throughout the brain (see figure 9). The question we are asking seems...

Reflections on Kensho Personal and Neurological

In this non-dual world all is one, nothing left out. In this unmeasurable truth one instant is ten thousand years. Master Seng-ts'an, Affirming Faith in Mind Zen Master Sengai (1750-1837) was famed for his calligraphy.1 Once, stroking boldly with only one brushload of ink, he drew three simple symbols. First came the circle, then a triangle, finally a square. They are abstractions, interpretable at many levels, like old rocks rising from the raked gravel at Ryoan-ji in Kyoto. Some might...

The Miracle of Marsh Chapel

We may be trying against insurmountable odds to communicate what is incommunicable and requires to be experienced. The question now to be addressed is, What effects do psychedelic drugs have, not in some artificial laboratory or other setting, but in religious rituals In keeping with a new field which seemed already to have mushroomed overnight, Hof-mann went on to make his second chemical contribution. He purified psilocybin, and then identified it as the active agent of the special magic...

Physiological Changes during Meditation

All that is clearly established by the data on autonomic-metabolic measurements during meditation is the hardly surprising conclusion that meditators are in a state of relaxation. Many reviews have now clarified what kinds of changes meditation produces in the body.18 The consensus meditation causes secondary physiological and biochemical changes that are appropriate to how much relaxation is involved.8-9 Readers interested in the secondary changes can find a four-page list of them in Shapiro's...

How Do Psychedelic Drugs Affect Amine Receptors

It is not easy to establish relationships among psychedelic drugs, neurotransmitters, brain activity and states of consciousness. The brain is complex and inaccessible to delicate experimental manipulation by chemical means. A true statement. But the normal brain can function well only when its own chemical signals are being delivered by the most delicate means available. This leads us to consider receptors. A receptor is a long chain of many peptides which loops repeatedly in and out of the...

Is Mysticism a Kind of Schizophrenia in Disguise

All power of fancy over reason is a degree of insanity. True, the chapter title may seem to have put the question too bluntly. But laypersons and professionals will become concerned when Harry or Jane develops hallucinations and delusional preoccupations about religion. Yes, a few otherwise normal persons do forge useful insights during intense periods of psychic crisis, and they can go on later to adapt and to mature. But still other disturbed individuals descend into what William James called...

Desynchronized Sleep

Don't tell me what you dreamed last night, for I've been reading Freud. Dreams are mere productions of the brain, and fools consult interpreters in vain. This chapter emphasizes not the content of dreams, but what our capacity to dream implies. Dreaming means that, while still sleeping, we reactivate many of the mechanisms of awakening. In overview, desynchronized sleep, D-sleep, enables our brain (a) to reactivate itself during its otherwise drugged stupor of slow-wave sleep, but (b) to...

The Ambient Vision of Meditative Absorption

Above, there is not a tile to cover his head below, there is not an inch of ground for him to stand on This is that state of total empty solidity, without sound and without odor, like a bottomless, clear pool. It is as if every fleck of cloud had been wiped from the vast sky. Considering how much ambient vision implies about the brain, it is curious how little scientific attention it has drawn. Yet many meditators have certainly experienced unbounded circumspatial sight when they entered an...

Lateralizable Functions and the EEG

When we are in our usual resting state, the EEG amplitudes on the two sides of the brain resemble each other. But when one hemisphere becomes more activated, it adds more low voltage fast-wave frequencies. Now, its average EEG amplitude is reduced. And at that same moment, the EEG amplitude on the opposite side also decreases some 70 percent of the time. However, if you deprive human subjects of sensory input for only twenty to thirty minutes, the brain waves of their two hemispheres become...

Promethean Hyperpraxia

The sole reason for introducing this new phrase is to focus attention on an aspect of Zen which has been relatively unappreciated in the literature of the neurosciences. A person's normal ability to perform skilled movements is called praxis. A very few patients, when they lose this ability, do so for reasons which truly justify the diagnosis of apraxia. In the hospital, you don't require elaborate equipment to test for a disorder of skilled movements. You can hand an apraxic...

Major Characteristics of Insight Wisdom in Kensho

I saw and heard, and knew at last The How and Why of all things, past, And present, and forevermore. Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)1 One can now begin to define Zen enlightenment, kensho. It is an expanded, wnself-consciousness. The word kensho means seeing into one's true nature. Ken is seeing into something sho means one's true nature. It is a term derived from the Chinese, chien-hsing, to see the essence.2 What is a person's true nature To Sekida, it is the living realization that You...

Opioid Types and Their Receptors

Why do poppy plants make opiates Who knows But many simple creatures were also manufacturing opioids and using them to their advantage millions of years before humans learned how to extract opium from poppies. The brain's own opioids are called endogenous opioids. Even as far back as the earthworm, nerve cells were making two different classes of them.5 They are the two peptides called beta-endorphin and leu-enkephalin. Perhaps, it is speculated, these opioids were released during times of...

Absolute Blackness

Suppose you enter a lighttight closet and close your eyes. In the dark, you'll still see some grayness. Grayness represents the background noise in the visual system. One might think of it as comparable to the faint hum in the background of your hearing. Internalized absorption penetrates beyond this, reaching absolute blackness. Absolute blackness is eye-catching, and it commands attention in itself. The Apollo astronauts, in their quest for the moon, looked out and were awestruck by the...

Taste of Kensho London 1982

Master Hakuin, Chant in Praise of Zazen It is the next sabbatical, from 1981 to 1982. My wife and I are spending most of the year in London, at the cradle of British neurology, the National Hospital, Queen Square. I have joined the London Zen Centre led by Irmgard Schloegl, known now by her Buddhist name, Myokyo-ni. Having trained for 12 years in Japan, she is genuinely wise in the ways of Zen and is a most effective teacher. The event now recounted takes place on the second morning of a...

Lower and Upper ACH Cell Clusters

The lowermost grouping of ACH nerve cells extends throughout the brain stem. It is called the caudal ACH column figure 5 .3 7 In a book about Zen, there are several reasons for considering it first, even though it is lower anatomically. For these ACH cells of the brain stem, through their long axons, play vital roles in governing our levels of consciousness and in shaping our sensory perceptions.7 The top of this lower ACH cell column begins where the midbrain joins the pons.2 Here, in one...

The Zen Mirror Beyond Narcissism and Depersonalization

Human understanding is like an irregular mirror, which distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it. The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection. The water has no mind to receive their message. A mirror reflects. Water reflects the geese flying overhead. Instantly, unsentimentally. Reflection does not change the mirror, the water surface, or the geese. It is an optical process, a fact of life. When waves no longer ripple the water's surface, it...

Brief Outline of Zen History

The nature of Zen does not lie in scholarship, philosophy, in the Buddhist Doctrine, and not even in zazen It lies in one thing alone, namely seeing into the Buddha nature that is in each person. The power of true center must be the most frequently mislaid artifact of human wisdom. It is as if the same message keeps washing ashore, and no one breaks the bottles, much less the code. When I first encountered Zen in Kyoto, I understood little about its origins. Buddhism goes back a long way, two...