Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Buddhism


Buddhist-derived meditation practices are currently being employed as a popular form of health promotion. While meditation programs draw inspiration from Buddhist textual sources for the benefits of meditation, these sources also acknowledge a wide range of other effects beyond health-related outcomes. The Varieties of Contemplative Experience study investigates meditation-related experiences that are typically underreported, particularly experiences that are described as challenging, difficult, distressing, functionally impairing, and/or requiring additional support. A mixed-methods approach featured qualitative interviews with Western Buddhist meditation practitioners and experts in Theravāda, Zen, and Tibetan traditions. Interview questions probed meditation experiences and influencing factors, including interpretations and management strategies. A follow-up survey provided quantitative assessments of causality, impairment and other demographic and practice-related variables. The content-driven thematic analysis of interviews yielded a taxonomy of 59 meditation-related experiences across 7 domains: cognitive, perceptual, affective, somatic, conative, sense of self, and social. Even in cases where the phenomenology was similar across participants, interpretations of and responses to the experiences differed considerably. The associated valence ranged from very positive to very negative, and the associated level of distress and functional impairment ranged from minimal and transient to severe and enduring. In order to determine what factors may influence the valence, impact, and response to any given experience, the study also identified 26 categories of influencing factors across 4 domains: practitioner-level factors, practice-level factors, relationships, and health behaviors. By identifying a broader range of experiences associated with meditation, along with the factors that contribute to the presence and management of experiences reported as challenging, difficult, distressing or functionally impairing, this study aims to increase our understanding of the effects of contemplative practices and to provide resources for mediators, clinicians, meditation researchers, and meditation teachers.

Concepts: Buddhism and psychology, Experience, Psychology, Anapanasati, Zen, Buddhist meditation, Meditation, Buddhism


Zen Buddhist meditative practices emphasize the long-term, mindful training of attention and awareness during one’s ordinary daily-life activities, the shedding of egocentric behaviors, and the skillful application of one’s innate compassionate resources of insight-wisdom toward others and oneself. This review focuses on how such a comprehensive approach to training the brain could relate to a distinctive flavor of Zen: its emphasis on direct experience, with special reference to those major acute states of awakening that create deep transformations of consciousness and behavior. In Japanese, these advanced states are called kensho and satori. Ten key concepts are reviewed. They begin by distinguishing between the concentrative and receptive forms of meditation, noticing the complementary ways that they each train our normal “top-down” and “bottom-up” modes of attentive processing. Additional concepts distinguish between our two major processing pathways. The self-centered, egocentric frame of reference processes information in relation to our body (our soma) or to our mental functions (our psyche). The other-centered frame of reference processes information anonymously. Its prefix, allo- simply means “other” in Greek. Subsequent concepts consider how these useful Greek words-ego/allo, soma/psyche-correlate with the normal functional anatomy of important thalamo ↔ cortical connections. A plausible model then envisions how a triggering stimulus that captures attention could prompt the reticular nucleus to release GABA; how its selective inhibition of the dorsal thalamus could then block both our higher somatic and psychic cortical functions; so as to: (a) delete the maladaptive aspects of selfhood, while also (b) releasing the direct, all-inclusive, globally-unified experience of other. Two final concepts consider how the long-term meditative training of intuitive functions relates to certain kinds of word-free spatial tasks that involve insightful creative problem-solving.

Concepts: Buddhism, Psychology, Kensho, Buddhist meditation, Satori, Cerebral cortex, Meditation, Zen


Early or timely initiation of breastfeeding is crucial in preventing newborn deaths and influences childhood nutrition however remains low in South Asia and the factors and barriers warrant greater consideration for improved action. This review synthesises the evidence on factors and barriers to initiation of breastfeeding within 1 h of birth in South Asia encompassing Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Concepts: Buddhism, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, India, South Asia


Vegetarian diets are inversely associated with diabetes in Westerners but their impact on Asians-whose pathophysiology differ from Westerners-is unknown. We aim to investigate the association between a vegetarian diet, change in dietary patterns and diabetes risk in a Taiwanese Buddhist population.

Concepts: Taiwan, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Vegetarianism, Diabetic diet, Nutrition, Diets


Whether fishes are sentient beings remains an unresolved and controversial question. Among characteristics thought to reflect a low level of sentience in fishes is an inability to show stress-induced hyperthermia (SIH), a transient rise in body temperature shown in response to a variety of stressors. This is a real fever response, so is often referred to as ‘emotional fever’. It has been suggested that the capacity for emotional fever evolved only in amniotes (mammals, birds and reptiles), in association with the evolution of consciousness in these groups. According to this view, lack of emotional fever in fishes reflects a lack of consciousness. We report here on a study in which six zebrafish groups with access to a temperature gradient were either left as undisturbed controls or subjected to a short period of confinement. The results were striking: compared to controls, stressed zebrafish spent significantly more time at higher temperatures, achieving an estimated rise in body temperature of about 2-4°C. Thus, zebrafish clearly have the capacity to show emotional fever. While the link between emotion and consciousness is still debated, this finding removes a key argument for lack of consciousness in fishes.

Concepts: Temperature, Thermoregulation, Hyperthermia, Buddhism, Fever, Fish, Bird, Mind


The incidence of dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades worldwide, especially in Southeast Asia and the Americas with substantial transmission in 2014-2015. Yet the mechanisms underlying the spatio-temporal circulation of dengue virus (DENV) serotypes at large geographical scales remain elusive. Here we investigate the co-circulation in Asia of DENV serotypes 1-3 from 1956 to 2015, using a statistical framework that jointly estimates migration history and quantifies potential predictors of viral spatial diffusion, including socio-economic, air transportation and maritime mobility data. We find that the spread of DENV-1, -2 and -3 lineages in Asia is significantly associated with air traffic. Our analyses suggest the network centrality of air traffic hubs such as Thailand and India contribute to seeding dengue epidemics, whilst China, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Singapore may establish viral diffusion links with multiple countries in Asia. Phylogeographic reconstructions help to explain how growing air transportation networks could influence the dynamics of DENV circulation.

Concepts: Islam, Buddhism, Dengue fever, Indonesia, Thailand, Asia, Vietnam, Southeast Asia


Modern exponents of mindfulness meditation promote the therapeutic effects of “bare attention”-a sort of non-judgmental, non-discursive attending to the moment-to-moment flow of consciousness. This approach to Buddhist meditation can be traced to Burmese Buddhist reform movements of the first half of the 20th century, and is arguably at odds with more traditional Theravāda Buddhist doctrine and meditative practices. But the cultivation of present-centered awareness is not without precedent in Buddhist history; similar innovations arose in medieval Chinese Zen (Chan) and Tibetan Dzogchen. These movements have several things in common. In each case the reforms were, in part, attempts to render Buddhist practice and insight accessible to laypersons unfamiliar with Buddhist philosophy and/or unwilling to adopt a renunciatory lifestyle. In addition, these movements all promised astonishingly quick results. And finally, the innovations in practice were met with suspicion and criticism from traditional Buddhist quarters. Those interested in the therapeutic effects of mindfulness and bare attention are often not aware of the existence, much less the content, of the controversies surrounding these practices in Asian Buddhist history.

Concepts: Anapanasati, Mahayana, 20th century, Buddhist philosophy, Buddhism, Zen, Buddhist meditation, Meditation


Demographic and socioeconomic changes and the availability of health care resources were collected to examine the impacts on life expectancy in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.

Concepts: Socioeconomics, Buddhism, Laos, Industrial Revolution, Southeast Asia, Thailand, Health care, Demography


People tend to exhibit a leftward bias in posing. Various studies suggest that posing to the left portrays a stronger emotion, whereas posing to the right portrays a more neutral emotion. Religions such as Christianity emphasize the role of strong emotions in religious experience, whereas religions such as Buddhism emphasize the calming of emotions as being important. In the present study, we investigated if the emphasis on emotionality of a religion influences the depiction of their religious figures. Specifically, we coded 484 paintings of Jesus and Buddha from online art databases for whether the deity exhibited a left bias, right bias, or central face presentation. The posing biases were analysed to discover whether paintings of Jesus would more frequently depict a leftward bias than paintings of Buddha. Jesus is more commonly depicted with a leftward bias than Buddha, and Buddha is more commonly depicted with a central face presentation than Jesus. These findings support the idea that the amount of emotionality that is to be conveyed in artwork influences the whether the subject is posed with a leftward bias.

Concepts: Political spectrum, God, French Revolution, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Left-wing politics, Religion


This paper explores a debate that took place in Japan in the early twentieth century over the comparability of hypnosis and Zen. The debate was among the first exchanges between psychology and Buddhism in Japan, and it cast doubt on previous assumptions that a clear boundary existed between the two fields. In the debate, we find that contemporaries readily incorporated ideas from psychology and Buddhism to reconstruct the experiences and concepts of hypnosis and Buddhist nothingness. The resulting new theories and techniques of nothingness were fruits of a fairly fluid boundary between the two fields. The debate, moreover, reveals that psychology tried to address the challenges and possibilities posed by religious introspective meditation and intuitive experiences in a positive way. In the end, however, psychology no longer regarded them as viable experimental or psychotherapeutic tools but merely as particular subjective experiences to be investigated and explained.

Concepts: Psychotherapy, China, Philosophy of science, Japan, 20th century, Buddhism, Meditation, Zen