Brain Basis of Samadhi: The Neuroscience of Meditative Absorption

Jeremy Yamashiro


Scientific and clinical interest in mindfulness has seen a dramatic increase in the past ten years, but there has as yet been surprisingly little deep engagement with the traditional Buddhist literature by contemporary clinical and scientific proponents of mindfulness. This literature review summarizes a classical Theravada Buddhist framework describing samadhi, a state of consciousness often translated as meditative absorption. Following the discussion of the stages of samadhi from the traditional phenomenological perspective is a review of the cognitive, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological literature that has begun to explore the brain bases of the subjective experience of samadhi during deep meditation. Due to the incipient nature of this literature, the review makes suggestions for interpretations and future directions of empirical research. Finally, the long term effects of meditation practice are discussed.

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