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re: The Four Noble Truths » habbyshabit

Posted by lil' jimi on July 3, 2003, at 12:13:39

In reply to Re: The Four Noble Truths » lil' jimi, posted by habbyshabit on July 1, 2003, at 4:02:36

> Hi Jim,

hi Habby!

> Your revision of the Four Noble Truths for the CNS challenged was interesting and brought up a number of thoughts.

excellent ... !

> First let me say that while I am not a Buddhist, I have studied a lot of the Tibetan variety and am a fan of the Dalai Lama, Chogyam Trungpa, and the Karmapa, what an amazing story his is.

i am a Buddhist, although my Buddhism may not be any officially recognized orthodoxy ... ... or it may .... i have devoted most of my study to the writings of Nagarjuna and his interpretation of dependent origination as well as the Tibetan schools of Buddhism ... ... i revere the Karmapa, Chogyam Trungpa and His Holiness The Dalai Lama ... ... as well as Gautama Siddhartha ... and especially Bodhisattva Manjushri .

> I also read your post with the article recounting the studies that showed Buddhists as more serene in general. The theory being stated that it must be the meditation giving this group of people such an easy going mindset.

... indeed that does seem to be the implication being focused upon and promoted ... ...

> So...what comes first? The neurotransmitter deficiency or the psychological suffering. If I meditate, do I change my neurology and so my psychology - or do I need a drug first to get my chemistry on target so meditation will work better?

excellent questions!

certainly in the naturalistic scientific view, we would look at this study and have to ask:

“Are neurotransmitter deficiency and psychological suffering co-related variables?”
and the article suggests the study answers this with a conclusive “Yes”,
but given that co-relation does not prove causation, then the scientist would ask:

“Do neurotransmitter deficiency and psychological suffering have a casual relationship?”
and the article seems to say the answer to this questions is “Yes” also .... ....
which should bring our putative scientist to your chicken-or-the-egg question:

“Which causes which?”
... i think that the implicit materialist presumptions in scientific naturalism would mitigate in favor the “harder” states causing the “softer” ones, i.e. neurotransmitters causing psychology ... ... which would ignore the possibility of ‘downward’ causation, which you have inquired about ... after all ...

1) “Why Can’t psychological states cause neurotransmitter effects?”
... and by extension, 2) “Can psychological suffering (“PS”) cause neurotransmitter deficits (“ND”)?”
... and for as little value as i assign it, my own opinion is that 1) they can and do and 2) yes; PS can cause ND ...
... but, i don’t believe this can eliminate ND from being considered as causing PS ...

Alternatively, looking at these variables from a broader, more non-dualistic perspective can bring a more Buddhist view to bear.
Nagarjuna teaches us that everything arises from mutually interdependent co-origination, together as a vast woven web of interactions ... ... the experience of cause and effect are the consequence of the limited particular perspective of the self.

... which is Not to say that cause and effect are not useful parts of worldly practical analysis ...

you have asked:
... “If I meditate, do I change my neurology and so my psychology?” (aka “first question”)
... "Or do I need a drug first to get my chemistry on target so meditation will work better?” (aka “second question”)
... (i was ecstatic when i read these questions! ... they are so practical ... so relevant! .... so interesting!)

... evidence suggests how much the medical establishment in the west answers ‘Yes’ to the second question to the neglect of the first question ...
... yet we can see (have experienced?) that the answer to your first question must also be ‘Yes’ ... in as much as meditation has been shown (by other studies) to be of psychological benefit and in as much as the study in the article seeks to validate this theory ... ... not to mention the evidence from first hand experience ... ...

... .. i would be inclined to answer your first question, “Yes”
your second question with , “It depends on the state of the individual’s neurochemistry.”
..... ..... and even with these answers i would be equivocal:
... given bad enough neurochemistry, deficient enough neurotransmitters, a patient may well be incapable of beneficial meditation and this would compromise my “Yes” to your first question (and compel a “Maybe”) and force an unequivocal “Yes” to your second question ... ... i believe ... ...
... and more than a little practical experience, as well as reading the powerful anecdotal accounts here at pBabble, support this approach as well ... ...

..for my part, i would have us look at both sides of these questions case-by-case .... ... if only because the situational influences can easily overwhelm any metaphysical ‘certainties’ .... ... i would not want to have to subscribe to a mutually exclusion of the answers to your two question, either ...

... if only because psychology and neurology also originate interdependently, so that it may (should?) be possible to use both approaches and be mutually reinforcing ... we might hope ...

> What the author of that study didn't mention is that Buddhist tenets are larger then just a meditation practice. Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism, is a psychology in it's own right, and much more successful, it would seem, then our western psychology.

... point well taken! ... it opens the consideration to the psychological/neurological benefits of Buddhism beyond just meditation ... Buddhism as a way of life and as a cosmology may be salubrious independent of the healthy effects of meditative practices ... ... there is much missing information in the Reuters article ...

> The web site calls Tibetan Buddhism a science of mind. There is much more to finding that inner peace then sitting on a pillow and saying mantras all day. It's a taming of the 'wild horse' that is our thought processes.

... excellent point! ... so that would be .... right?... an excellent site

> Also, regarding your first revised Truth - "Psychological suffering exists". To that I just wanted to add, ALL suffering is psychological. Suffering is only in the mind, including physical pain. We increase of diminish that suffering with the thoughts we have about it.

... “Yea, verily ...” ... i could not agree more ... and it makes my point that The First Noble Truth is the same as my first noble CNS truth ... ..

> While psychological suffering always has a cause, it is not always about dysfunctional neurotransmitters. Sometimes those transmitters are doing just what they are supposed to be doing, reminding us of our environment.

... and another point very well taken ... thank you!

in my (small) view, The Four Noble Truths imply the practical view of causation,
whereas Gautama Siddhartha alluded and Nagarjuna articulated that suffering also originates interdependently ... ...

.. ... in my attempt at ‘4 noble CNS truths’, it seems i was avoiding the pejorative phrase “mental illness” and reached out to “psychological suffering” ... ... which you have shown me is too broad ... ... i still do not like “mental illness”, but i would offer it as being “about neurotransmitter dysfunction”, or at least more so than “psychological suffering” ... ... maybe?

> Just some thoughts. This isn't meant to be a rebuttal.

... .. you know how i feel about your thoughts .. .. ... and i thank you again!

> May peace of mind find you where you sit,
> Habby

.. ... .. and may peace of mind find our neurotransmitters harmonious ... ...

~ jim

P.S. i have e-mailed the professors quoted in the article and, so far, prof ekman has directed me to prof. davidson at the univ. of wisconsin ... .. . i hope to share any further information i may recieve. ... ~ j




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