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Meditation Stimulates the Brain

Buddhism was officially introduced to Japan in the sixth century after the Common Era, and was absorbed into Japanese culture and reconstituted as Japanese Buddhism. Thus, it is impossible to separate Japanese Buddhism from the nation’s cultural matrix, or to explicate the one without understanding the other.

Japanese Buddhists practice in temples, recite Namu Amida Butsu (I take refuge in Amida Buddha) and chant Buddhist scriptures (Sutra) every day. The  invocation Namu Amida Butsu (Nenbutsu), voices the hope of rebirth into Amida’s Pure Land. In the Nenbutsu, Buddhists imagine that they are absorbed into Amida’s Pure Land. Therefore, we decided that the Nenbutsu is a form of meditation. Meditation is one technique which induces the relaxation response.

The invocation Namu Amida Butsu (Nembutsu), voices the hope of rebirth into Amida’s Pure Land. In the Nembutsu, Buddhists imagine that they are absorbed into Amida’s Pure Land. Shiritori, a Japanese word chain game, is a common task used to activate language related regions in Japanese, have shown that meditation is associated with increased brain activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal lobe and the parietal regions, which are wellestablished components of distributed attention networks.

Meditation is also associated with increased brain activity related to the autonomic system in the anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala, midbrain and hypothalamus. The sutras are scriptures, in which are compiled the teachings of the Buddha, gathered by his disciples, and which lead people toward a supposed truth. It can be said that they are the words the Buddha . 

The sutra is similar to the New Testament of the Bible, which is said to have been composed by the disciples of Christ after his death, and contains the teachings of Christ while he was alive. Whereas priests and ministers read the Bible quietly, Japanese Buddhists chant the sutras rhythmically, like singing songs learned by heart, in the various rituals. Therefore, the recitation of sutras requires little concentration.

Shiritori, a Japanese word chain game, is a common task used to activate language related regions in Japanese. Shiritori activates the left lateral prefrontal
cortices and the medial frontal cortex. In the present study, functional MRI was used to identify the regions activated by the Nenbutsu, the Sutra and the Shiritori in eight highly trained Japanese monks. 

We anticipated that the Nenbutsu-activated areas would be related to the concentration and spatial attention regions, such as the cingulate cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal and parietal cortices. We also anticipated that the Sutra would activate areas related to music or singing, such as the right temporal cortices and the right prefrontal cortex. The Shiritori should activate the left lateral prefrontal cortices and the medial frontal cortex, which were described in previous reports.

The fundamental findings in this manuscript contribute not only clinical neuroscience, but also to the neurosurgical field. Understanding different fMRI activation patterns in identical groups (Japanese monks) could be of practical help for neurosurgical planning. Moreover, interpretation of fMRI result on the basis of clinical neuroscience is getting more important in current clinical neurosurgical situations.

CONCLUSION
The Nenbutsu task rapidly activated the medial prefrontal cortex, which is related to visuospatial attention. The Sutra task activated the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the right angular gyrus, and the right supramarginal gyrus, which is also related to visuospatial attention. These activated areas were involved with those activated by meditation, which were reported previously. The Nenbutsu and the Sutra are different forms of meditation.

This is an edited extract from Functional Brain Mapping During Recitation of Buddhist Scriptures and Repetition of the Namu Amida Butsu; a Study in Experienced Japanese Monks by Deneyimli Budist ,Keflifllerin Budist ,Dualar Ezberden, Okurken ve Nembutsu, Dualar Tekrar, Ederlerken Aktive, Olan Beyin Bölgeleri appearing in Turkish Neurosurgery 2008, Vol: 18, No: 2, 134-141








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