She presented an overview of meditation and a variety of meditative practices and highlighted that the term meditation is very loosely used to cover very different practices (ranging from focus on breathing to exercises to dhikr chanting of Sufis) that have correspondingly different effects on the body and mind.
Jyothi then introduced the basic concepts of Buddhism and considered the connections between Sila (moral excellence), Samadhi or Bhavana (meditation) and Prajna (wisdom) as connected to mental evolution. She discussed about Buddhist meditative practices of Samatha, Vipasyana and Maithri that are being studied in our department.
The principle underlying Buddhist contemplative practices is the notion that 'mind is malleable'. Emotions and mental qualities can be modified and trained just like any other skill. In this respect the Buddhist principles resonate with current cognitive models of Neurosciences and hence with the theme of neuroplasticity.
She gave an overview of some of the scientific studies on meditation (there are more than 2500 entries on pubmed and almost 300 studies published in 2012). Generally these studies can be classified based on their effect on neuroplasticity, autonomic function and immune function.
She concluded her seminar with a discussion on what meditation is not (it is not just relaxation or an escapism etc).