Can samadhi make you stupid?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby Individual » Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:50 pm

That's a rhetorical question for the sake of discussion and the obvious answer is no. But let me describe what I mean by that question.

I've found a way of thinking lately by which to find happiness and escape suffering, but it involves something like shutting off the mind through deep reflection on either notself, one's own true nature, the unconditioned, or the luminous mind (doesn't matter what you use to describe it). If I kept it up forever (which would take time and perseverence), it would be great for me (but not others, because I'd have no way of communicating what I did and how I did it) and it can cause problems, because it feels like a form of mental dullness. For instance, the other day I was driving along and a car slammed on its brakes in front of me: I should've noticed sooner, but I didn't because I was spacing out. Fortunately, by the time I did notice, I was able to slam on my own brakes and swerve. Today, I went to the store and forgot where I parked. My initial guess was right, but I second-guessed myself and went the wrong direction, and ended up walking through the whole parking lot to find my car. I also left a bag at the store and drove home without noticing it. Later, when I was recounting to my mom a conversation I had with a person at the store, I said, "the other day," and then suddenly remembered, "Wait. That happened earlier today."

You know the pleasant afterglow after a good 30 minutes of sitting meditation? I feel that almost all the time now, more or less (mornings tend to be dark and it fluctuates throughout the day). It is a source of great power because through it, I have the virtually limitless capacity to carry out new actions, regardless of how I acted in the past and regardless of how I'm feeling right now. Because of this, when I think this way, every conceivable virtue is present (because I want to be a better person and if I am unhindered mentally, a better person is something that naturally arises). I am in constant contact with the flux of momentary consciousness more so than I have ever been in my life. The result is that my senses are sharper and overall, I am more aware of what I am doing. But because my brain feels like it's running on over-drive, sometimes there are these huge lapses in consciousness and memory. I frequently feel pressure in my eyes, in my skull, and tingling in my skull. I am more sensitive to subtle feelings of pain and pleasure throughout the body, such as feeling pain in my finger, then looking down to see tiny flecks of glass (not grains or pieces of glass, but pieces of glass dust smaller than a grain of sand) embedded in my finger, tearing up the tissue. I was worried about chest pain, but am not so worried now, because I sometimes feel pleasure in my chest too, so I think it is that I am simply paying more attention to my body. Sometimes, I also have moments where my entire body is bathed in warm pleasure. And it seems much easier to study stuff for school, as I can imprint stuff on memory more quickly and efficiently, because my mind is relaxed and very clearly focused. This type of concentration goes away when I entertain unwholesome thoughts or actions, when I entertain self-reflexive thoughts (thinking about the self merely for its own sake, without regard to intention or purpose), when I engage in sensual pleasure (pornography, television, videogames -- music doesn't affect it so much, perhaps it's a small effect on restlessness\excitement that I can't yet see), and when I use intoxicants. With regard to memory, I have more frequent bouts of forgetfulness, but I am also more intimately aware of the story of my life as it happens. So the memory thing is a trade-off. If I sat down right now, I could give you a pretty crystal clear picture of my entire day the day before (perhaps the last several days, actually), but throughout the day, I'm like an airhead.

So, I've noticed that I need to have a balance samadhi. Concentrating too hard, too much, too forcefully, can create a headache, anxiety, make you feel like you're going crazy, and simply doesn't work. But this too relaxed concentration of simply developing a dullness to the senses and suffering is equally problematic. Overall, I feel I am making long-term progress, but I need to develop the capacity to move in and out of this kind of thinking when it's useful, so that I am able to remember stuff, use words, and think normally, but also capable of developing an imperturbable mind, immune to suffering and fetters.

Any helpful thoughts on this?
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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby christopher::: » Thu Oct 28, 2010 12:13 am

It sounds like you may be endangering yourself by putting too much emphasis on meditation and not maintaining mindful awareness of what you are doing (actions) throughout the day. Balance is needed in our practice, otherwise one can end up driving off the road into ditches, even hitting trees. In your case this sounds like both a literal and metaphorical danger.

Also, as far as i understand it the goal isn't to develop an "imperturbable mind, immune to suffering and fetters." The goal of practice is to develop insight into our minds, the fetters and suffering.

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby Alex123 » Thu Oct 28, 2010 12:30 am

I think that what is important is to develop wisdom, and use right samadhi as a tool for wisdom. That way a permanent change can occur.

Samadhi by itself will only bring temporary results (and it is very probable to fall into wrong samadhi).
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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby Kenshou » Thu Oct 28, 2010 12:38 am

I think I know what you mean, more or less.

First off, the glow will pass. But hopefully the insight into yourself you've gotten will stick. You seem to already understand the need for balance. It's easy to drift into a happy haze (once you know how) if you're too lax, and that just doesn't accomplish anything, does it?

Secondly, maybe you ought to spend some time understanding the impermanence of your samadhi (and it's happy side-effects). When you're like that, the mind sure can seem imperturbable, but it's still fettered to that meditative calm and not truly imperturbable. That too is not fit to be clung to.

(We kind of sound like a broken record here, don't we)
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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby Viscid » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:56 am

The 'happy airhead' state is obtained much more conveniently by smoking pot.

Things like this come and go. Eventually you're going to have a crap day and you'll lose it for a while. Then another day it'll come back. Just remember to stay grounded rather than being enveloped by happy headedness, lest you become a bliss ninny.

(Getting on the broken record train, woo-woo!)
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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby 5heaps » Thu Oct 28, 2010 8:41 am

Individual wrote:because it feels like a form of mental dullness.
thats exactly what it is. when it occurs, get out of it and return to the object. its important not to dwell with it, but to return back to cultivating concentration using your meditation object. dwelling with it will make you duller and forgetful.


basically what is happening is youre getting somewhat used to keeping the body still and turning the mind inwardly, but all this lack of activity is making you very prone to gross dullness. people who spend a lot of time on computers and drugs suffer a great deal with this. you have to work through it and once you do you will gain a consistent lucidity on a low level.

what this will feel like is rather than being forgetful, you will be able to cast your mind back down the stream of mental experience and observe each segment. for example you might wonder 'oh, what was i thinking about 30 minutes ago?' and you will be able to send your mind backwards segment by segment in a coherent manner. this kind of simple conceptual lucidity happens a long time before shamata.

then there are other detailed steps of instructions about what to do and what to watch out for, the signs of accomplishment, and the fruits you gain from them. another cool fruit which happens early on is when this gross dullness is overcome completely. the body becomes peaceful and unmoving for longer durations of time. a peaceful body is a very pleasant thing. this in turn spurns on mental serenity, since the mind no longer has to deal with dead weight so much. this in turns spurns on greater concentration, which in turn confronts you with subtler obstacles to perfect concentration, namely the subtle forms of dullness and excitement.
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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby Individual » Thu Oct 28, 2010 1:27 pm

5heaps wrote:basically what is happening is youre getting somewhat used to keeping the body still and turning the mind inwardly, but all this lack of activity is making you very prone to gross dullness. people who spend a lot of time on computers and drugs suffer a great deal with this. you have to work through it and once you do you will gain a consistent lucidity on a low level.

Very insightful.
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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby Individual » Thu Oct 28, 2010 9:08 pm

When one craves sensual pleasure, they must withdraw from the senses. When one craves the withdrawal of the senses, they must return and investigate.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Oct 28, 2010 9:34 pm

Hi Individual

You have quite rightly come to an understanding that you must balance your samadhi faculty. Incidentally your samadhi is coming along well- people who do not understand this will suggest you stop etc but that is not the solution.

Whith the development of samadhi there is sometimes a tendency to suppress thoughts memories etc, along with its ability to suppress defilements.

The way around this is to develop good mindfulness on the things around you. That is be aware, but with understanding of the implication of what you are observing. This will kick start the processes in your mind which are required to respond intelligently to the environment around you. When you balance you samadhi faculty with more intelligent mindfulness you will find that the problem resolves with time. I had the same problem, and now it is not there any more.

Incidentally there are no inherently Buddhist faculties, except perhaps the path of insight knowledges, so we need to fine tune other faculties like samadhi into a way which is useful for us on the path- ie they need some guidance in their development. There is no point having a dull heavy knife, but we need a sharp mindful knife but with the strength to cut through.

If you have any problems please do post on this site if you do not have a teacher, as you are going through a stage where some guidance is helpful, and your samadhi is growing.

with metta

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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby Individual » Fri Dec 03, 2010 12:35 am

I've noticed a trade-off:

  • A narrow focus on conscious or existential reflection (what could simply be called mindfulness) leads to a deficit in automatic processing (the natural, automatic memory imprints and recalls, just how the brain works; like a machine, like clockwork)
  • A narrow focus on continous processing (watching the flow of stuff as it happens, like a story or a stream) leads to a deficit in categorical processing (the ability to name things and form words, thinking linguistically)
  • In correct reflection, there is a greater unity of consciousness than what we normally refer to as "sentience," because of the dissolution of self-other distinction, past-future distinction, action-inaction distinction, etc; everything is simply a crystal unity that flows. In this unity, all the distinctions we might dispute over are irrelevant, but the higher sentience or conscious unity is not necessarily "desirable," just different, like a human's sentience isn't really superior to an animal's. It is more powerful and can do more stuff, but this does not make it a higher or entirely new form of consciousness, just a more complex form of consciousness with greater unity.
From mindfulness, I seem to have greatly improved my conscious mental abilities -- like charisma, mental exertion, emotional control, and conscious memorization -- but at the same time (also due to marijuana use) my unconscious mental processes are in steady decline. My typing ability has gotten worse and I forget things a lot.

As it seems to me, there are discrete limitations in the brain's processing ability. To improve something like conscious\continuous reflection\processing takes mental currency away from the old program of thinking automatically in terms of moments and names.
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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby m0rl0ck » Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:32 am

Individual wrote:(also due to marijuana use)



There may be some kinds of samadhi that will make you stupid* , but all kinds of pot will.




*tho i actually dont know of any, all the data suggests that meditation improves cognition
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby Guy » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:01 am

Hi Individual,

If you are serious about bhavana, I would recommended getting off the pot ASAP (if you have not done so already). I used to smoke it too, sometimes I'd try to meditate while high. It's not a good combination.

Metta,

Guy
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1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby Individual » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:05 am

Guy wrote:Hi Individual,

If you are serious about bhavana, I would recommended getting off the pot ASAP (if you have not done so already). I used to smoke it too, sometimes I'd try to meditate while high. It's not a good combination.

Metta,

Guy

It's a funny coincidence that nobody on Dhammawheel ever tells me to get off of marijuana except after I've already decided (and started -- AGAIN) to be abstinent from it. :)
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby Guy » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:58 am

Good onya mate. :thumbsup:
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Dec 08, 2010 12:47 pm

Hi Individual

You might want to visit the 5 precepts and work on those first. There can be no samadhi, without sila.

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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby zavk » Wed Dec 08, 2010 10:29 pm

Hi Individual

Haha... I must say I was attracted to this thread by title. In any case, this may not tell you anything new, but I thought I'd share a conversation I had with the Bhante at Dhammagiri Forest Hermitage (http://www.dhammagiri.org.au/) where I visit for short retreats sometimes. During one of our morning conversations, and I can't quite remember what prompted the topic, the Bhante mentioned that with too much samadhi practice, one can find it hard to negotiate so-called regular everyday reality which can come across as rather 'coarse' compared to the 'finer' realities that one experiences in deep samadhi. He related to me how in his early monastic days, he would sometimes observe fellow monks who appear to be very disciplined meditators. In community activities some of these monks would somehow appear out of sync with others. And he would wonder why...

So he reminded me that there is right and wrong, or rather, wholesome and unwholesome samadhi. He even jokingly mentioned that he still sometimes find it hard to deal with the day to day administrative duties of the hermitage if he is deep in practice. Oh, I remember now, the point of the conversation was about how I could relate to my retreat experience and practice with a greater sense of ease. He reminded me that even though Ajahn Chah (the Bhante is from the forest tradition) placed quite a bit of emphasis on meditation, he also repeatedly reminded his students to bring an attitude of ease to their practice--that all aspects of their day to day life is a form of practice, not just formal meditation.

Just something that came to mind. Hopefully my recollection of the conversation (not too flawed, I hope, as memories can be sometimes) was of some relevance.

:anjali: :smile:
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Re: Can samadhi make you stupid?

Postby Individual » Wed Dec 08, 2010 11:50 pm

Guy wrote:Good onya mate. :thumbsup:

Yeah. It's only been three days and already, it feels great to be able to remember stuff again. :)

Being mindful of drug-use is also different from mindless drug-use. If one is mindful, then one can study how it alters cognition and benefit from that.

Also, some people find it charming when you act like you have alzheimer's.

zavk wrote:He even jokingly mentioned that he still sometimes find it hard to deal with the day to day administrative duties of the hermitage if he is deep in practice.

And that is a wrong samadhi. It can be bewildering in the process of moving from the conscious naming process to cultivating the dhammakaya. But if he finds it hard to deal with day-to-day activities, what samadhi is that? Right samadhi is that which makes these things easier. Because we observe them dispassionately, as impermanent and notself. :)
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