Importance of Science in Understanding the Yoga!

The timeless and infinite Truth remains the same, but its interpretation differs according to the time and culture. We constantly need to reinterpret the Truth to make it contemporary.

In ancient times, Truth was described through the metaphors of the Earth and body (Earth religions). In the Middle Ages, it was expressed through the concept of God, angels, and deities (faith-based religions). But in our time, those symbols and metaphors are slowly disappearing. The modern era needs another interpretation of Truth urgently.

For the first time in human history, a world culture is emerging that is based on reason, science, academic education, material well-being, democracy, and the rights of the individual. As the old faiths are fading, many people are feeling a void in their lives and are looking for new paths to fill the emptiness. They are interested in self-inquiry and aspire to self-knowledge that can connect to their day-to-day life.

In the last few decades, science has become an important and integral part of education worldwide. In order for young minds to understand the sacredness of the Truth and to integrate it into daily life, Truth has to be interpreted from a scientific perspective. Myth and scripture-based interpretations are not enough to satisfy them.

Dalai Lama’s statement in this context is particularly relevant: “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.” 

In the last decade, Yoga and meditation became popular all over the world because science was able to demonstrate how they work on the body, emotions, and thoughts and help in restoring health.

Scientific research found evidence that the practice of Yoga and meditation can reduce a person’s blood pressure, decreases the level of stress hormones, and improves the functioning of the endocrine glands and immune system. They confirmed that, through meditation, the brain’s structure and physiology can be altered, leading to the experience of peace, positive emotions, and compassion.

Through consistent practice, old harmful patterns of thoughts and emotions can be unlearned and new positive behavior can be learned.

Andrew Newberg showed that during meditation, the brain’s parietal lobe (responsible for the sense of the restricted self and the body’s boundaries) can be bypassed. The person will experience the dissolution of the individual boundary from the surrounding world and the universe and will feel one with them. Yoga and meditation can desensitize the Amygdala, a small almond-shaped structure in the brain responsible for the perception of fear, anger and stress, to relieve or cure the problems of anxiety, aggression, and emotional turmoil.

Richard Davidson discovered that Yoga and meditation can take advantage of the neuroplastic feature of the brain to change it.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change according to new experiences. Such changes can heal old traumas and emotional scars in a person, make the mind-body more functional and compensate for the lost functions in cases of stroke, brain injuries, and aging brain. Enlightenment or Samadhi is nothing else but the radical transformation of the brain.

The Shamatha meditation research project demonstrated that meditation can slow down, stop or even reverse the degenerative changes in the cells of the aging brain. It’s good news for those who are living longer and concerned about developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

In keeping with the above development our approach to Truth in our era can be through:

  1. Self-Inquiry, Self-Knowledge, and Self-Expression as the processes on the path
  2. Synthesis of Faith and reason
  3. Integration of evolution, brain sciences, psychology, and physics to understand the wholeness and sacredness of existence
  4. Affirming the fluid student-teacher relationship and dialogue, rather than the rigid guru-disciple hierarchy

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