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Cindy Maddera

Last week the Dalai Lama spoke at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in Washington D.C. I found this to be very fitting considering that during the same meeting researchers announced that daily meditation may aid in brain function. Sara Lazar of Harvard Medical School studied Westerners who meditated every day for twenty minutes (but not necessarily Buddhists) and used MRI to look at their brains. She found that meditators had increased thickness in regions of the brain involved in memory and attention. Those areas tend to shrink as we get older. The study also found that older meditators were able to ward off some of the shrinkage.

Bruce O’Hara and colleagues from the University of Kentucky have studies that suggest meditation improves performances on tests that measure attention, even on the sleep deprived.

So, you would think that with both of these studies being presented at the meeting, that it would just make sense to have the Dalai Lama as a guest speaker. I would consider him to be one of the most knowledgeable people on meditation. Apparently not everyone thinks so because about 600 SFN members signed a petition to keep His Holiness from speaking. They said that scientific society meetings were no place for religious figures, particularly those who believe in reincarnation.

The Dalai Lama is not your average religious figure; at least I’ve never considered him to be. He spoke on how he became interested in science as boy and how the shadows and craters in the moon he viewed through his telescope convinced him that the sun illuminated the moon which violated a long-held Buddhist belief. His Holiness said that “a good Buddhist should embrace clear-cut scientific evidenceâ€?.

I wonder if Pat Robertson would say the same.