Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

The Science Of Meditation

By Ryanshelton7 @LivingVipassana

I can’t decide whether Vipassana research would benefit or hurt the spread of this tradition. With the mind of a western scientist my initial thought is that meditation should prove any benefits it claims. If a regular practice truly helps with certain mental illnesses why not demonstrate it in a series of controlled experiments? A growing volume of scientific papers is supporting the benefits of meditation but there are few papers based on this tradition. While I didn’t need it, reading some sound papers could inspire many people to investigate a 10-day course that would have missed it otherwise. Some good evidence would also make it easier to bring meditation into public arenas such as schools and prisons. I also fear that if Vipassana chooses not participate in more research that a growing population might question what secrets Goenka is trying to hide.

I also share the concern that promoting research may also promote the marketable product of meditation. Western society has already transformed many eastern practices like acupuncture, yoga, and many medicines into products sold to cure ills. Instead of these tradition encouraging proactive sustained health we’ve reduced them to reactive cures to various illnesses. By letting the medical world get its hands on Vipassana there is a danger that they’ll also mutate this tradition into a new item for sale.

While I see the importance of protecting the pure intention of Vipassana, it’s also difficult for me to accept withholding a technique that can alleviate so much suffering of mental illnesses from the public. Part of my original attraction to this tradition was the sustained growth without the need to sell their technique but I still think this tradition could develop some stronger legs with some more scientific evidence of its true benefits. I just don’t know how to obtain the evidence without exposing the tradition to sources of corruption. Maybe time will tell. Time to meditate.

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