[Buddha-l] Abdhidharma vindicated once again
jkirk at spro.net
Thu Mar 3 10:51:42 MST 2011
"namely that anesthesia allows surgery to be painless, with the
person in a coma-like condition (not asleep), not by shutting
down all the brain processes, but rather by *activating* certain
functions which then *block* normal pathways, "
isn't this wehat successful hypnosis does? A collague ofmine
dating back to being fellow Tas at UCB once told me that he could
visit thr dentist for surgery without anesthetic because he
leanred how to hypnotise himself. He went on to other voices
other rooms, a different research area and I lost track until
recently saw that he had died of cancer. I sent his wife a
sympathy note and mentioned how impressed I had been (me being a
wuss about dentistry) when he said he could hypnotise himself
against pain. She replied that he was able to do this while he
was in hospice as well, with nothing stronger than Tylenol for
Quite possibly self-hypnosis is analogous to nirodha-samapatti.
A NYTimes interview with a major researcher on anesthesia.
The interesting portion, from a Buddhist-historical perspective,
is what his current research is showing, namely that anesthesia
allows surgery to be painless, with the person in a coma-like
condition (not asleep), not by shutting down all the brain
processes, but rather by *activating* certain functions which
then *block* normal pathways, and the coma is maintained by an
ongoing activity that blocks or jams the transmissions. The brain
is running interference. This "Blocking" method is EXACTLY how
Vasubandhu explained nirodha-samapatti (a kind of coma-like
considered one of the highest attainments available, penultimate
to full awakening, but something Buddha himself continued to
engage in after
Awakening) in the Abhidharmakosa-bhasya.
Q. What has your research shown so far?
A. Under general anesthesia, the brain is not entirely shut down.
Certain parts are turned off; others are quite active - not only
"active," but there is a level of activity that is quite regular.
Our observation is that it is this regular activity prevents the
brain from transmitting information and contributes to a state of
unconsciousness. It's analogous to stopping communication down a
phone line when transmission is blocked. You could block
transmission another way: by sending a loud signal down the line
so that that signal was the only thing you hear. So in some parts
what we see is that activity is turned off, leading to
unconsciousness. In other parts, we see activity that is more
active than normal. This also leads to unconsciousness. In sum:
the drugs alter the way the brain transmits information.
So when Vasubandhu said that while most conscious mental
activities shut down during nirodha-samapatti, but a
kaaya-saak.sin, "bodiy witness", continued to operate during the
samapatti's duration, what he said now has an attested
For Yogacara, the curiosity would go toward those operations that
continue during coma, since that is where they located the
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