The Smile of the Monk The Smile of the Monk
Photo by Raphaele Demandre/Opale/East News
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The Smile of the Monk

How Meditation Influences the Brain
Marcin Kozłowski
time 4 minutes

Meditation based on compassion can bring miracles to the brain–this was the conclusion made by scientists researching the brains of Buddhist monks. Publications on this subject wouldn’t have become widely known if it hadn’t been for Matthieu Ricard, who became the favourite subject of the researchers and then a world media star.

“The happiest man in the world” was the way the media described Matthieu Ricard, a 75-year-old Frenchman and PhD holder in molecular genetics, who in the late 1970s became a monk and has since practised Tibetan Buddhism.

Day-to-day, Ricard lives in the Himalayas, but he travels around the world, gives lectures and writes books. He is involved in the work of the Mind and Life Institute, which was founded in 1980s and is supported, among others, by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. The scientists associated with the Institute deal with a relatively new discipline: contemplative neuroscience. It is based on analysing the effects of meditation using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures oxygenation in the active areas of the brain.

One of the most renowned people in the field of contemplative neuroscience is the psychologist and psychiatrist Richard J. Davidson (in private life a friend of the Dalai


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Also read:

Monks on Ice Monks on Ice
Illustration by Mieczysław Wasilewski

Monks on Ice

The Miracle of Yogic Heat
Tomasz Wiśniewski

Some treat extreme cold as an opportunity to test their mental strength, while others derive their mental strength from contact with extreme cold.

It’s hard to confirm that Alexandra David-Néel really was the first European woman to reach Tibet. But she was definitely the first significant promoter of Tibetan spirituality and the mysterious culture of the roof of the world. Quite clever (let’s recall that she arrived in Lhasa disguised as a beggar – a man) and truly fascinated with Buddhism, more than 100 years ago David-Néel visited Tibet’s capital and the monasteries, where she met lamas and yogis who were intriguing, to say the least. It is thanks to this incredible traveller that the West learned for the first time of the unique qualities of this country, surrounded by mountains. One such quality, which readers could find out about from the book Magic and Mystery in Tibet, published in 1929 in France, is tummo.

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