Remembrance of things to come: a conversation between Zen and neuroscience on the predictive nature of the mind
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The notion of the brain as a predictive organ following Bayesian principles has been steadily gaining favor in neuroscience. This perspective, which has broad theoretical and applicative consequences, suggests also a novel way to look at the mind-body processes mobilized by meditative practices. In this article, the topic is introduced and subsequently explored as a conversation between a neuroscientist (GP) and the abbot of a Zen Sōtō monastery (FTG). We believe that such ‘mutual perturbations’ between the third-person descriptions provided by scientific research and the phenomenological depth of Buddhist lore have a great potential for advancing our understanding of both brain function and meditation.
KeywordsPredictive coding Meditation Bayes Free energy Autopoiesis Neurophenomenology Zen Zazen
The authors would like to express their gratitude to Tiziana Verde and Omar T. Khachouf for joining the original conversations from which the present article was produced, and for providing their insightful feedback on the early draft of the manuscript. GP would also like to thank Wendy Hasenkamp for her collaboration on an editorial piece for the Mind & Life Institute, where some of these ideas presented here were first discussed.
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