Narayanan Srinivasan, Ph.D., is currently Professor and Head at the Centre of Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences (CBCS), University of Allahabad. Dr. Srinivasan was a visiting scientist at the Riken Brain Science Institute from 2006-2012. He has a Master degree in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Science and PhD in Psychology from University of Georgia. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Louisville. He also worked at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore for two years before joining one of the first centres for Cognitive Science in India. He has been working at CBCS for the past fourteen years. He is interested in understanding mental processes, especially attention, emotions, consciousness and meditation using multiple methodologies. Dr. Srinivasan has edited seven books and three special issues. He has more than hundred and forty publications. Dr. Srinivasan is a fellow of Association for Psychological Science. He was the Editor-in-chief of International Journal of Mind, Brain, and Cognition. He is currently an associate editor of Neuroscience of Consciousness, Royal Society Open Science, Frontiers in Cognitive Science, PsyCh journal, and Cognitive Processing and a member of the editorial board of Connection Science and Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science.
In Zen-Brain Horizons, James Austin draws on his decades of experience as a neurologist and Zen practitioner to clarify the benefits of meditative training. Austin integrates classical Buddhist literature with modern brain research, exploring the horizons of a living, neural Zen.
When viewed in the light of today, the timeless wisdom of some Zen masters seems almost to have anticipated recent research in the neurosciences. The keen attentiveness and awareness that we cultivate during meditative practices becomes the leading edge of our subsequent mental processing. Austin explains how our covert, involuntary functions can make crucial contributions to the subtle ways we learn, intuit, and engage in creative activities. He demonstrates why living Zen means much more than sitting quietly indoors on a cushion, and provides simplified advice that helps guide readers to the most important points.
Meditation research is a new discipline that shows new inroads into the study of consciousness. If a meditative practice changes brain structure itself this is direct proof of the causal influence of consciousness onto its substrate. If different states of consciousness can be linked with properties and states of the brain this can be used to study consciousness more directly. If the sense of self is modifiable through meditative techniques and this can be objectively shown through neuro-imaging, this has profound implications for our understanding of who we are. Can consciousness, in deep states of meditative absorption, actually access some aspect of reality which we normally don't? Meditation research can potentially foster us with a new access to the phenomenological method in general. This has even been branded with a new catch-phrase: Contemplative Science. It brings together the most modern neuroscientific approach and the most advanced phenomenological methodology of studying the mind from within, through highly skilled self-observation that has gone through many thousand hours of honing the capacity to look carefully, without distraction.
This book addresses these issues by bringing together some of the leading researchers and thinkers in the field. The scope of the volume reaches from first person neuroscience to Indian philosophy, from pedagogic applications to epistemological aspects and from compassion meditation to the study of brain activity.
The science of consciousness introduces first-person methods of investigating the mind through Buddhist contemplative techniques, such as samatha, an organized, detailed system of training the attention. Just as scientists make observations and conduct experiments with the aid of technology, contemplatives have long tested their own theories with the help of highly developed meditative skills of observation and experimentation. Contemplative science allows for a deeper knowledge of mental phenomena, including a wide range of states of consciousness, and its emphasis on strict mental discipline counteracts the effects of conative (intention and desire), attentional, cognitive, and affective imbalances.
Just as behaviorism, psychology, and neuroscience have all shed light on the cognitive processes that enable us to survive and flourish, contemplative science offers a groundbreaking perspective for expanding our capacity to realize genuine well-being. It also forges a link between the material world and the realm of the subconscious that transcends the traditional science-based understanding of the self.
This is a book for readers who want to probe more deeply into mindfulness. It goes beyond the casual, once-in-awhile meditation in popular culture, grounding mindfulness in daily practice, Zen teachings, and recent research in neuroscience. In Living Zen Remindfully, James Austin, author of the groundbreaking Zen and the Brain, describes authentic Zen training—the commitment to a process of regular, ongoing daily life practice. This training process enables us to unlearn unfruitful habits, develop more wholesome ones, and lead a more genuinely creative life.
Austin shows that mindfulness can mean more than our being conscious of the immediate “now.” It can extend into the subconscious, where most of our brain's activities take place, invisibly. Austin suggests ways that long-term meditative training helps cultivate the hidden, affirmative resource of our unconscious memory. Remindfulness, as Austin terms it, can help us to adapt more effectively and to live more authentic lives.
Austin discusses different types of meditation, meditation and problem-solving, and the meaning of enlightenment. He addresses egocentrism (self-centeredness) and allocentrism (other-centeredness), and the blending of focal and global attention. He explains the remarkable processes that encode, store, and retrieve our memories, focusing on the covert, helpful remindful processes incubating at subconscious levels. And he considers the illuminating confluence of Zen, clinical neurology, and neuroscience. Finally, he describes an everyday life of “living Zen,” drawing on the poetry of Basho, the seventeenth-century haiku master.
Language scientists have traditionally considered language in isolation from other cognitive and perceptual systems such as attention, vision and memory. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly clear that language comprehension must be studied within interaction contexts. The study of multimodal interactions and attentional processes during language processing has thus become an important theoretical focus that guides many research programs in psycholinguistics and related fields.