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The cognitive process of meditation : a comparative study of early Buddhism, neuroscience, and quantum mechanics

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Author

Kim, Hyun Hee

Date

2010

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies

Committee

Lancaster, Lewis R.
Long, Darui
Jang, Kisang

Abstract

The objective of this dissertation lies in comparing the cognitive process, investigated from the Buddhist perspective and the scientific aspect. The six sense organs and their mechanism in early Buddhism, scientific information on each stage of cognitive process, and the interpretation on temporal process of cognition in quantum field are studied. The thought process by the Five Khandhas is aligned with the neural circuits from neuroscience research, whereby similar features from the two disciplines do not conflict with one another, In the context of samatha meditation, the sequence of cognitive process by the Five Khandhas is compared to the mode in which visual representation of neural circuit is engaged. According to scientific evidence, Buddhist meditation practice is a powerful tool to improve mental health and transforms emotions from negative to positive. Inwardly contemplating meditation subjects by vipassana meditation signifies the act of observation, which can be considered an impact on the system of quantum state, resulting in an alteration of cognitive process in terms of temporal duration. Defining time as “slow” or “fast” depends upon our conceptualization, because consciousness creates time. Comprehending the temporal aspect of cognition in quantum mechanics provides a congruent idea for supporting the interpretation on the specialized cognitive process, Buddhist meditation. Thus, the temporal principle of the Sarvastivada school is reexamined in the context of meditation supported by quantum theory. The uncertainty of predicting phenomena in the context of quantum mechanics drives the cognitive process as the core teaching of Buddhism on the grounds that Buddhism describes ordinary as well as extraordinary sense experience attained by meditation practice. This research based on the Dignaga’s logical position that valid knowledge can be attained by perception (anumana), leads to the conclusion of how the cognitive process can influence perception. An overall comparison about the cognitive process between the Buddhist interpretation and the scientific understanding is attempted to locate the similarities and differences between the two fields. This approach provides evidence for promoting human well-being and attaining Enlightenment through the valid knowledge that comes from the cognitive process.

Degree Granter

University of the West

Library Holding