Physiology of the States of Jhāna
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We have seen that the different states of Jhāna are induced by drugs, the very ones that the brain generates, and that as it deepens in them, from the first to the fourth, the necessary number of these drugs diminishes, which seems strange, but is not.
What most astonishes both those who practice it and those who witness it is that the state is established for an interval of not less than five minutes and not more than fifteen, where eight minutes is the usual average, and during that time you breathe, you stay in cerebral anoxia (lack of oxygen).
If we review absolutely all the literature of neurological research it indicates that after four or five minutes the affectations in the neurons that many die causing permanent sequelae and even death. There is no study that contradicts the above, and the scientific literature drifts towards the possible cognitive rehabilitation treatments.
There is only one study done in young rats in which it has been determined that the endogenous drugs, in this case supplied directly in the brain, had a protective function of the neurons, so, according to this study, the rats could be longer in anoxia without apparent sequelae.
The state of Jhāna functionally involves the almost total disconnection of brain functions leaving only the sense of the ear attenuated but active. It is interesting to note this, because the ear, unlike the rest of the senses, does not go first to the limbic system but to the neocortex, because a high level evaluation is necessary to know if a sound represents a serious and imminent threat. To determine the size of a possible nearby animal and its aggressiveness, it is necessary to process a lot of data. In the case that this evaluation is positive, it launches the alert to the amygdala, placing the limbic system on alert and with it the rest of the body.
The rest of the senses, such as sight or smell first go to the amygdala and immediately respond if necessary, and subsequently the signal is sent to the neocortex to reevaluate the situation … but we will be on alert.
This can indicate to us that in the state of Jhāna the limbic system is turned off.
It also happens with speech centers and conceptualization. This is seen when leaving the Jhāna the meditator can not articulate words and it is very difficult for him to conceptualize.
The number of active cerebral areas is very small because, apart from the ear, there is no apparent activity for the meditator and for the observer, being very different from the state of deep sleep in which, if we compare them, it has a lot of activity.
The first Jhāna requires five drugs, dopamine, serotonin, anandamide, epinephrine and enkephalin, apart from performing the corresponding exercise. However, the second differs from the first in that there is no exercise. The second is achieved after repeating the first regularly for a while. As there is no exercise to be done, one can not practice this Jhāna because there is nothing to do.
The brain is predisposing itself to enter Jhāna without the need for exercise, but with the drugs described.
The third Jhāna does not use dopamine, and the fourth of none.
If we integrate this information with the above we can deduce that each state being deeper requires less protection of neurotransmitters, so if possible doing the fourth without training could cause the brain damage described or even death.
Disconnecting the brain, and the most interesting thing, which is to restart it, has an enormous utility not only in the field of the domain of the mind but in neurology, since it is possible to stop its activity without the need of oxygen consumption to be able to make operations with the awake patient .
When the brain is restarted, it is when the meditator verifies that he has been cleansed of reactive thoughts and that he only thinks if he wants to think, exactly as the Buddha describes it.
It is evident that, if we want to dominate the limbic system, our amphibian brain, we have to do it in a physical-chemical way, turning it off. Trying to reason with him, from a neocórtex that is dominated by the frog is as stupid as wanting to reason with a crocodile that is hungry and has you trapped.