Neuroscience and The Circle Time Parade of Changes

Dogen, the 13th century Zen master, said, “Impermanence is a fact before our eyes.” All things in the universe are a temporary combination of elements and they are transitory, constantly changing. Because of impermanence (anicca), and interdependence, Buddhism says there is no inherently existent self (anatman), a soul or own-being (svabhava) that is independent and permanent.

With regard to the mind, we see that thoughts come and go; they are neither stable nor lasting. As far as the body is concerned, it is obvious that it changes with time and many other factors, for these changes are most definately before our eyes.  It is irrational then to stand upon notions such as “I, Me, Mine” for it is so difficult to determine what “I” or “Me” is, or what can be “Mine”, belong to something that in the ultimate sense is an illusion.

Beyond what is obvious, or theoretical, there is scientific evidence which shows that the body-mind is ever changing.

An academic journal, CellPress, published a new research paper that found as people change, their brain undergoes physical changes and that there is no one location in the brain that is responsible for the ability to change what we call our ‘self’.

The paper says,

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.”

The digital news outlet, Quartz, reporting on the new paper noted,

Neuroscience and Buddhism came to these ideas independently, but some scientific researchers have recently started to reference and draw on the Eastern religion in their work—and have come to accept theories that were first posited by Buddhist monks thousands of years ago.”

Some readers will find the paper interesting, particularly since it focuses a great deal on Buddhist meditation.

As all things are changing, they are ultimately unreal, including our own minds and bodies. The Buddha taught impermanence to awaken people to the folly of seizing and clinging to transient things, the root of human suffering.

Green leaves of summer turn red in the fall
To brown and to yellow, they fade
And then they have to die
Trapped within the circle time parade of changes

Phil Ochs, Changes

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