Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dalai Lama - Meditation, and Clinical Evidence of Consciousness During Sleep

Here is this week's Dalai Lama quote from Snow Lion Publications.

Conversations with the Dalai Lama
on Brain Science and Buddhism
edited by Zara Houshmand,
Robert B. Livingston, and B. Alan Wallace

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

[discussion of meditation, and clinical evidence of consciousness during sleep]

Allan Hobson: nontrained subjects, when we perform awakenings in the various stages of sleep, we get less and less evidence of conscious experience. In other words, the deepest stage of nondreaming sleep, defined physiologically, is associated in our untrained subjects with very low levels of consciousness. And in fifty percent of the awakenings there is no evidence of consciousness at all.

Thubten Jinpa: I think there is a certain misunderstanding of this term "consciousness." In the Western philosophical or psychological term, consciousness is conscious, whereas, when Buddhist translators use the term, it has a wider meaning. It includes both the subconscious and unconscious levels as well.

Alan Wallace: The terms "conscious" and "unconscious" are not used in Buddhism. Rather, one speaks of differing degrees of clarity and subtlety of awareness. Even when someone has fainted, for example, and is regarded, in Western terms, as unconscious, from a Buddhist perspective a subtle level of consciousness is still present.

Dalai Lama: As early as the seventh stage [of the eight stages of sleep,] approaching deep sleep, you would say that your awareness has declined. That is, the mind is not clearly apprehending anything.

In Buddhist psychology, we refer to sleep as one of many mental factors. There are fifty-one mental factors, among which sleep is one. But it is said that the mental factor of sleep precedes the deep sleep state, meaning the nondreaming state, just as fear may proceed fainting without going into it. Consider an analogy: Once you have fainted, you feel no fear. However, it can be fear that leads to your fainting. So the fear doesn't go with you into the fainting. Thus, analogously, in the nondreaming deep sleep state, the mental factor of sleep has already passed.

--from Consciousness at the Crossroads: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Brain Science and Buddhism edited by Zara Houshmand, Robert B. Livingston, and B. Alan Wallace, published by Snow Lion Publications

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2009 Mind and Life Conference

The Dalai Lama will be participating in the upcoming Mind and Life Conference in Washington, DC October 8-9, 2009. Find more information at:

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