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Buddhists 'really are happier'

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Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
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Reported by the "New Scientist":

Tests carried out in the United States reveal that areas of their brain associated with good mood and positive feelings are more active. The findings come as another study suggests that Buddhist meditation can help to calm people. Researchers at University of California San Francisco Medical Centre have found the practise can tame the amygdala, an area of the brain which is the hub of fear memory. They found that experienced Buddhists, who meditate regularly, were less likely to be shocked, flustered, surprised or as angry compared to other people. Paul Ekman, who carried out the study, said: "The most reasonable hypothesis is that there is something about conscientious Buddhist practice that results in the kind of happiness we all seek."

In a separate study, scientists at the University of Wisconsin at Madison used new scanning techniques to examine brain activity in a group of Buddhists. Their tests revealed activity in the left prefrontal lobes of experienced Buddhist practitioners. This area is linked to positive emotions, self-control and temperament. Their tests showed this area of the Buddhists' brains are constantly lit up and not just when they are meditating. This, the scientists said, suggests they are more likely to experience positive emotions and be in good mood.

=> BBC NEWS | Health | Buddhists 'really are happier'
Yes, but they're talking about western Buddhism. The western way to approach religion is totally different from the eastern way. In the west, one has to practice a religion because most western (lets include most of the midwestern ones as well) are constraining. One must pray, one must not sin, one must beg for forgiveness, one must go to temple or church...

While I do not doubt that "practicing" Buddhists in the United States or elsewhere may be happier, I don't think it has the same effect in Asian Buddhist countries where one simply IS a Buddhist, as opposed to a "practicing" Buddhist. From my experience here, I would say that religion has little or no impact on people as people do not feel compelled to obey the creeds of this faith. When they do, they do so of their own volition.

Thus, I would stipulate that instead of Buddhism making people happier, religions bent on the domination of their followers (Christianity, etc.) stresses them out, contrtibuting to their overall unhappiness.

Funny how a change of perspective can adjust ones views of the world...
I agree with you Tasuki. One's view of the world is what makes all the difference in being happy, stressed, etc. But it also depends on practice. When I did meditation myself (not really Buddhist, but based on my own philosophy) I was hardly ever angry, affraid or shocked. People just need to relativise their "problems" to the infinity of the universe. Our existence and worries seem so insignificant in comparison that we feel much more peaceful emotionally at once.

I have not meditated at all since my coming to Japan and I feel a big difference. I tend to get much more flustered or angry now than before. I also believe that leading a hectic life creates automatically more tension, and a Buddhist monk will always be more relaxed than someone who works and do lots of things - and has to support other people's stress, anger and moodiness.
Actually, the studies were done using people who practice Tibetan Buddhist meditation as their subjects. They have been doing these sorts of studies on Tibetan Monks for many years now and have come up with some pretty interesting theories thus far. However, to boldly state that people who practice Tibetan Buddhist style meditation are "happier" than people who don't, is quite speculative to say the least. Don't get me wrong... I have years of practice behind me and support Buddhist forms of meditation. I have seen the positive change in my own life. Yet happiness, like every other emotion, is impermanent. The Buddha taught that we should not attach to such things; just remain aware of them as they flow through us naturally.
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