Can Science Study the Nature of Consciousness during Meditation

  • The prime purpose of this paper is to shortlist a few issues in current meditation research and emphasise that meditation has a very deeper purpose and it is not a mere tool to heal nor for enhancing cognitive faculties.

Key Excerpts

“Recently science ventured itself into studying and understanding the nature of consciousness.

Having progressed on this line, science realised that it is fruitful not only to study the normal states of consciousness in a healthy subject, but also the perturbations in consciousness; the various altered states resulting from different health conditions and neural disorders.

In this context, it is truly important to use the potential of science in devising novel meditation-based practices and interventions to help people with such health conditions.

In this regard, the prime purpose of this paper is to shortlist a few issues in meditation research and emphasise that the purpose of meditation is not for material gains and cognitive enhancement alone, but for a higher purpose; which is generally neglected by many present-day practitioners.

In the context of scientific studies, as of today, we have been able only to understand the neural mechanisms underlying different practices of meditation across traditions, but not about the stages of meditation.

Still we are not certain, if science will ever be able to indicate the live experience of a person in meditation, in terms of the spiritual states of consciousness, because spiritual traditions often talk and indicate a state of no-experience as one of the highest states of meditative experience.

Moreover, as discussed above, they also indicated that there exists a different state of consciousness called TURIYA, which occurs beyond and underlies the known three states of consciousness.

Swamiji said: ‘Anyone and everyone cannot be an Acharya (teacher of mankind), but many may become Mukta (liberated).’

In the scientific studies of meditation, there seems to be some discrepancy in the participation of a spiritual teacher or practitioner oneself as a co-author of the study.

Here the main focus is to understand, what makes a meditation practice complete. Most of the

traditions suggest multiple techniques to follow.

The article is originally titled, ‘The Difference in Traditional and Contemporary Pathways’. 

To read article in PDF format.

Authors are J Shashi Kiran Reddy and Sisir Roy. Shri Reddy is a research scholar on the phenomenon of life and consciousness. Prof Roy is a Senior Homi Bhabha Fellow and Visiting Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science, India.

This article was first published in the January 2019 issue (titled ‘Thoughts on Yoga’) of Prabuddha Bharata, monthly journal of The Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896. This article is courtesy and copyright Prabuddha Bharata. I have been reading the Prabuddha Bharata for years and found it enlightening. Cost is Rs 180/ for one year, Rs 475/ for three years, Rs 2100/ for twenty years. To subscribe https://shop.advaitaashrama.org/subscribe/