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

Concept: Gautama Buddha


In India, quality surveillance for acute encephalitis syndrome (AES), including laboratory testing, is necessary for understanding the epidemiology and etiology of AES, planning interventions, and developing policy. We reviewed AES surveillance data for January 2011-June 2012 from Kushinagar District, Uttar Pradesh, India. Data were cleaned, incidence was determined, and demographic characteristics of cases and data quality were analyzed. A total of 812 AES case records were identified, of which 23% had illogical entries. AES incidence was highest among boys <6 years of age, and cases peaked during monsoon season. Records for laboratory results (available for Japanese encephalitis but not AES) and vaccination history were largely incomplete, so inferences about the epidemiology and etiology of AES could not be made. The low-quality AES/Japanese encephalitis surveillance data in this area provide little evidence to support development of prevention and control measures, estimate the effect of interventions, and avoid the waste of public health resources.

Concepts: Public health, Epidemiology, Greek loanwords, Encephalitis, States and territories of India, Uttar Pradesh, Gautama Buddha, Kushinagar


Scientific research highlights the central role of specific psychological processes, in particular those related to the self, in various forms of human suffering and flourishing. This view is shared by Buddhism and other contemplative and humanistic traditions, which have developed meditation practices to regulate these processes. Building on a previous paper in this journal, we propose a novel classification system that categorizes specific styles of meditation into attentional, constructive, and deconstructive families based on their primary cognitive mechanisms. We suggest that meta-awareness, perspective taking and cognitive reappraisal, and self-inquiry may be important mechanisms in specific families of meditation and that alterations in these processes may be used to target states of experiential fusion, maladaptive self-schema, and cognitive reification.

Concepts: Research, Suffering, Meditation, Buddhism, Self, Buddhist meditation, Spirituality, Gautama Buddha


It is an old philosophical idea that if the future self is literally different from the current self, one should be less concerned with the death of the future self (Parfit, ). This paper examines the relation between attitudes about death and the self among Hindus, Westerners, and three Buddhist populations (Lay Tibetan, Lay Bhutanese, and monastic Tibetans). Compared with other groups, monastic Tibetans gave particularly strong denials of the continuity of self, across several measures. We predicted that the denial of self would be associated with a lower fear of death and greater generosity toward others. To our surprise, we found the opposite. Monastic Tibetan Buddhists showed significantly greater fear of death than any other group. The monastics were also less generous than any other group about the prospect of giving up a slightly longer life in order to extend the life of another.

Concepts: Future, Buddhism, Tibet, Defence mechanism, Gautama Buddha, Tibetan Buddhism, Mahayana, Vajrayana


Buddhist meditation practices have become a topic of widespread interest in both science and medicine. Traditional Buddhist formulations describe meditation as a state of relaxed alertness that must guard against both excessive hyperarousal (restlessness) and excessive hypoarousal (drowsiness, sleep). Modern applications of meditation have emphasized the hypoarousing and relaxing effects without as much emphasis on the arousing or alertness-promoting effects. In an attempt to counterbalance the plethora of data demonstrating the relaxing and hypoarousing effects of Buddhist meditation, this interdisciplinary review aims to provide evidence of meditation’s arousing or wake-promoting effects by drawing both from Buddhist textual sources and from scientific studies, including subjective, behavioral, and neuroimaging studies during wakefulness, meditation, and sleep. Factors that may influence whether meditation increases or decreases arousal are discussed, with particular emphasis on dose, expertise, and contemplative trajectory. The course of meditative progress suggests a nonlinear multiphasic trajectory, such that early phases that are more effortful may produce more fatigue and sleep propensity, while later stages produce greater wakefulness as a result of neuroplastic changes and more efficient processing.

Concepts: Sleep, Science, Meditation, Buddhism, Zen, Buddhist meditation, Gautama Buddha, Anapanasati


Architecture represents key evidence of dynastic practice and change in the archaeological world. Chronologies for many important buildings and sequences, including the iconic temples of medieval Angkor in Cambodia, are based solely on indirect associations from inscriptions and architectural styles. The Baphuon temple, one of the last major buildings in Angkor without textual or scientifically-derived chronological evidence, is crucial both for the context and date of its construction and the period when its western façade was modified into a unique, gigantic Reclining Buddha. Its construction was part of a major dynastic change and florescence of the Hindu-Mahayana Buddhist state and the modification is the key evidence of Theravada Buddhist power after Angkor’s decline in the 15th century. Using a newly-developed approach based on AMS radiocarbon dating to directly date four iron crampons integrated into the structure we present the first direct evidence for the history of the Baphuon. Comprehensive study of ferrous elements shows that both construction and modification were critically earlier than expected. The Baphuon can now be considered as the major temple associated with the imperial reformations and territorial consolidation of Suryavarman I (1010-1050 AD) for whom no previous building to legitimize his reign could be identified. The Theravada Buddhist modification is a hundred years prior to the conventional 16th century estimation and is not associated with renewed use of Angkor. Instead it relates to the enigmatic Ayutthayan occupation of Angkor in the 1430s and 40s during a major period of climatic instability. Accurately dating iron with relatively low carbon content is a decisive step to test long-standing assumptions about architectural histories and political processes for states that incorporated iron into buildings (e.g., Ancient Greece, medieval India). Furthermore, this new approach has the potential to revise chronologies related to iron consumption practices since the origins of ferrous metallurgy three millennia ago.

Concepts: Carbon, Architecture, Cambodia, Radiocarbon dating, Angkor, Angkor Wat, Gautama Buddha, Theravada


India is committed to improving maternal and newborn health in order to achieve the targets for India’s Millennium Development Goal 4. Considering their role as a link between community and health systems, frontline workers (FLWs) can be effectively utilized in strengthening maternal and newborn care. In this paper, we set out to examine the effect of intensity of contact with FLWs on key maternal and newborn health behaviors and to determine if this association varies by status of Self Help Group (SHG) membership.

Concepts: Millennium Development Goals, States and territories of India, Urdu, Delhi, Bihar, Haryana, Gautama Buddha, Yamuna


The scientific study of Buddhist meditation has proceeded without much attention to Buddhist literature that details the range of psychological and physiological changes thought to occur during meditation. This paper presents reports of various meditation-induced light experiences derived from American Buddhist practitioners. The reports of light experiences are classified into two main types: discrete lightforms and patterned or diffuse lights. Similar phenomena are well documented in traditional Buddhist texts but are virtually undocumented in scientific literature on meditation. Within Buddhist traditions, these phenomena are attributed a range of interpretations. However, because it is insufficient and problematic to rely solely upon the textual sources as a means of investigating the cause or significance of these phenomena, these qualitative reports are also considered in relation to scientific research on light-related experiences in the context of sensory deprivation, perceptual isolation, and clinical disorders of the visual system. The typologies derived from these studies also rely upon reports of experiences and closely match typologies derived from the qualitative study of contemporary practitioners and typologies found in Buddhist literary traditions. Taken together, these studies also provide evidence in support of the hypothesis that certain meditative practices - especially those that deliberately decrease social, kinesthetic, and sensory stimulation and emphasize focused attention - have perceptual and cognitive outcomes similar to sensory deprivation. Given that sensory deprivation increases neuroplasticity, meditation may also have an enhanced neuroplastic potential beyond ordinary experience-dependent changes. By providing and contextualizing these reports of meditation-induced light experiences, scientists, clinicians, and meditators gain a more informed view of the range of experiences that can be elicited by contemplative practices.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Science, Sensory system, Meditation, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Gautama Buddha


Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and other “mindfulness”-based techniques have rapidly gained a significant presence within contemporary society. Clearly these techniques, which derive or are claimed to derive from Buddhist meditational practices, meet genuine human needs. However, questions are increasingly raised regarding what these techniques meant in their original context(s), how they have been transformed in relation to their new Western and global field of activity, what might have been lost (or gained) on the way, and how the entire contemporary mindfulness phenomenon might be understood. The article points out that first-generation mindfulness practices, such as MBSR and MBCT, derive from modernist versions of Buddhism, and omit or minimize key aspects of the Buddhist tradition, including the central Buddhist philosophical emphasis on the deconstruction of the self. Nonself (or no self) fits poorly into the contemporary therapeutic context, but is at the core of the Buddhist enterprise from which contemporary “mindfulness” has been abstracted. Instead of focussing narrowly on the practical efficacy of the first generation of mindfulness techniques, we might see them as an invitation to explore the much wider range of practices available in the traditions from which they originate. Rather, too, than simplifying and reducing these practices to fit current Western conceptions of knowledge, we might seek to incorporate more of their philosophical basis into our Western adaptations. This might lead to a genuine and productive expansion of both scientific knowledge and therapeutic possibilities.

Concepts: Clinical psychology, Major depressive disorder, Cognitive therapy, Buddhism, Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, Gautama Buddha, Dukkha, Anatta


For the first time, aerosol optical properties are measured over Lumbini, Nepal, with CIMEL sunphotometer of the Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) program. Lumbini is a sacred place as the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and thus a UNESCO world heritage site, located near the northern edge of the central Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) and before the Himalayan foothills (and Himalayas) to its north. Average aerosol optical depth (AOD) is found to be 0.64 ± 0.38 (0.06-3.28) over the sampling period (January 2013-December 2014), with the highest seasonal AOD during the post-monsoon season (0.72 ± 0.44). More than 80% of the daily averaged AOD values, during the monitoring period, are above 0.3, indicating polluted conditions in the region. The levels of aerosol load observed over Lumbini are comparable to those observed at several heavily polluted sites in the IGP. Based on the relationship between AOD and Ångstrom exponent (α), anthropogenic, biomass burning, and mixed aerosols are found to be the most prevalent aerosol types. The aerosol volume-size distribution is bi-modal during all four seasons with modes centered at 0.1-0.3 and 3-4 μm. For both fine and coarse modes, the highest volumetric concentration of ~ 0.08 μm-3 μm-2is observed during the post-monsoon and pre-monsoon seasons. As revealed by the single-scattering albedo (SSA), asymmetry parameter (AP), and refractive index (RI) analyses, aerosol loading over Lumbini is dominated by absorbing, urban-industrial, and biomass burning aerosols.

Concepts: Optics, UNESCO, India, Buddhism, Nepal, World Heritage Site, Gautama Buddha, Lumbini


Three studies investigated the effects of meditation on responses to reminders of death. Study 1 took a quasi-experimental approach, comparing defensive responses to mortality salience (MS) of South Korean participants with varying levels of experience with Buddhism and meditation. Whereas non-Buddhists without meditation showed the typical increase in worldview defense after mortality salience (MS), this effect was not found among non-Buddhists immediately after an initial meditation experience, nor among lay Buddhists who meditated regularly or Buddhist monks with intensive meditation experience. Study 2, a fully randomized experiment, showed that MS increased worldview defense among South Koreans at a meditation training who were assessed before meditating but not among participants assessed after their first meditation experience. Study 3 showed that whereas American students without prior meditation experience showed increased worldview defense and suppression of death-related thoughts after MS, these effects were eliminated immediately after an initial meditation experience. Death thought accessibility mediated the effect of MS on worldview defense without meditation, but meditation eliminated this mediation. (PsycINFO Database Record

Concepts: South Korea, Korea, Meditation, Buddhism, Zen, Hinduism, Gautama Buddha, Mantra