Science

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    Daily Dharma: Does Compassion Come Naturally? Paid Member

    Q: Doesn’t it come to us naturally that it’s in our self-interest to extend compassion to those beyond our local groups? A: No, it doesn't. Because to worry about what some disenchanted Muslim teenager in Pakistan is feeling right now does not come naturally in the sense of visceral response. It does, however, make intellectual sense; the world is moving to a point where, if only out of self-interest, we need to think about that person. One virtue of some of the religious traditions is that they have well-worked-out procedures for assisting this intellectual process. In other words, it's one thing to realize logically that my fate is intertwined with the fate of Muslims around the world: If they're unhappy, they'll eventually make me unhappy. But it's another to feel it, to look at someone and get a deep sense of fraternity with them. That's where religious practice plays an important role. More »
  • Can Buddhism Save the Planet? Paid Member

    Can a bodhisattva vow for the earth help to halt or reverse manmade climate change? Two articles make the case for the dharma helping us restore balance to the planet. How? It starts within each of us: In the Bangkok Post, Chompoo Trakullertsathien says that as the world heats up, so do our minds. Cooling our anger, greed, and delusions can't help but lead to good things for the earth. John Guerrerio writes that the current environmental crisis offers us a chance to overcome our dualistic view of Economy vs. More »
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    We're All Wired to Be Seekers Paid Member

    Ever find yourself using the internet to look up one edifying fact—and not emerging from an exhausting round of follow-the-link until hours later? You're not alone. Dopamine may be to blame, or, as University of Michigan professor of psychology Kent Berridge says, wanting: Our brains are designed to more easily be stimulated than satisfied. "The brain seems to be more stingy with mechanisms for pleasure than for desire," Berridge has said. This makes evolutionary sense. Creatures that lack motivation, that find it easy to slip into oblivious rapture, are likely to lead short (if happy) lives. So nature imbued us with an unquenchable drive to discover, to explore. Stanford University neuroscientist Brian Knutson has been putting people in MRI scanners and looking inside their brains as they play an investing game. More »
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    What if money can make you happy after all? Paid Member

    We hear again and again that money can't make you happy. But maybe it can after all. “Just because money doesn’t buy happiness doesn’t mean money cannot buy happiness,” says Elizabeth Dunn, a social psychologist and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, in tomorrow's Boston Globe. According to Dunn and her fellow researchers, it all depends on how you spend it. If you spend money "prosocially"—that is, if you spend it on others—you're likelier to add to your purchase a lasting sense of well-being. More »
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    From Guantanamo to Shangri-La Paid Member

    Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God, is heading off to a meditation retreat tomorrow. He describes his feelings about the upcoming retreat and a silent retreat he attended five years ago)in The New York Times: So with the retreat approaching, I should be as eager as a kid on Christmas Eve, right? Well, no. Meditation retreats — at this place, at least — are no picnic. You don’t follow your bliss. You learn not to follow your bliss, to let your bliss follow you. And you learn this arduously. If at the end you feel like you’re leaving Shangri-La, that’s because the beginning felt like Guantanamo. You can find the rest here. And you can also read Tricycle's interview with Wright, from our Spring 2003 issue. More »
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    Brain activity in nondual meditators and Alzheimer's sufferers "strikingly similar" Paid Member

    "[S]tudies suggest that there could be a striking similarity between the brains of meditators and those of people with dementia or depression." It's true, but it's not quite what it sounds like. While ordinary brains switch between two neural networks—one externally focused and the other internally focused—skilled meditators who reach "a state of oneness" seem to keep both networks going at once. Surprisingly, the same holds true for and those suffering from dementia, depression, or Alzheimer's. More »