How the brain learns according to Buddhism

by L&D05 Dec 2016
Despite being divided by a gulf of more than two millennia, ancient Buddhism and modern neuroscience have reached strikingly similar conclusions about the way the human mind operates.
 
One of the core doctrines of ancient Buddhism is the concept that nothing is permanent, and that the universe is on a state of incessant change.
 
This includes the minds of human beings themselves, which according to Buddhist doctrine are in a state of constant flux and thus devoid of a permanent self.
 
The latest research from the field of neuroscience is in increasing agreement with these insights reached by the Buddha roughly two thousand five hundred years ago.
 
A neuroscience paper recently published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences points to the affinity between Buddhist doctrine and what science tells us about the human brain.
 
According to the paper’s authors “self-processing in the brain is not instantiated in a particular region or network, but rather extends to a broad range of fluctuating neutral processes that do not appear to be self specific.”
 
Another neuroscience concept that also concurs with the Buddhist notion of constant change is neuroplasticity, which asserts that cognitive functions are highly alterable, in some cases even well into adulthood. 
 
These conclusions about the changeable nature of the brain have profound implications for understanding how people acquire new knowledge and abilities, as well as how to best teach or train them.
 
If both Buddhism and neuroscience are correct in asserting that the mind is in a state of constant flux, coaches and trainers should realize that when teaching students they’re not just imparting new skills, they’re also fundamentally changing the way their brains operate.
 

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