# Shamil Chandaria - The Bayesian Brain and Meditation - Summary ðŸ”—

Below is my summary of the video ‘The Bayesian Brain and Meditation’ by Shamil Chandaria.

The real title is in the subtitle: A predictive processing account of radical changes in the character of phenomenal experience. Experiences of awakening, enlightenment, liberation.

When we perceive something we have to infer what is going on, we act as scientists or statisticians.

## Bayesian Perception Problem ðŸ”—

The World

• causes of perception `v`

The Agent

• input sensory data `u`
• recognition density `P(v|u)`

Bayes Theorem

• Mathematically optimal solution that maximizes the value of all the information
• `P(v|u) = P(u|v)P(v)/P(u)`
• `P(v|u)` is the best hypothesis of what is going on in the world given my sensory data
• `P(v)` is how likely each state of the world is
• `P(u|v)` is how likely to have this sensory data given each state of the world
• `P(u)` is how likely to see this sensory data in general
• `P(u) = sum_i P(u|v_i)P(v_i)` is computationally explosive

## Bayesian Brain Model ðŸ”—

• Recognition Model: Encoder from actual sensory data to feature (the code)
• Generative Model: Decoder from feature (the code) to predicted sensory data
• Priors from higher levels (beliefs) influence lower level predictive models
• Higher level priors are higher level beliefs

## The Variational Algorithm ðŸ”—

Minimize Free Energy:

• Surprise in the sensory data
• Distance between hypothesis and prior

Active Inference:

• Goal States are embedded into priors
• Action also minimizes free energy

## Precision Weighting & Attention ðŸ”—

• Posterior belief = weighted average of prior belief and sensory evidence
• Weights influence the balance of higher level prior models and the bottom up data in the perceived gestalt

## Phenomenal Self-Model ðŸ”—

Bodily foundation of Minimal Phenomenal Self:

• multisensory integration
• the sense of agency
• the experience of mineness
• perspectivity
• phenomenal transparency

“if … the self-model of a conscious system would become fully opaque, then the phenomenal target property of experiential ‘selfhood’ would disappear” (Metzinger)

## Families of Meditations ðŸ”—

Attentional family

• Focused Attention
• breath counting (Zen)
• body awareness practices (Zen / Tibetan)
• Shamatha / calm abiding with support (Tibetan)
• Open Monitoring (Object-Orientation)
• cultivation of attention (Greco-Roman philosophy)
• choiceless awareness (Tibetan)
• mindfulness-based stress reduction (clinical)
• dialectical behavior therapy - mindfulness component (clinical)
• mindfulness-based cognitive therapy - mindfulness component (clinical)
• acceptance and commitment therapy - mindfulness component (clinical)
• Open Monitoring (Subject-Orientation)
• Samatha / calm abiding without support (Tibetan)

Deconstructive family

• Object-Oriented Insight
• mindfulness-based cognitive therapy - cognitive component (clinical)
• First and Second Foundations of Mindfulness (Theravada, Tibetan)
• analytical meditation (Tibetan)
• Koan practice (Zen)
• Subject-Oriented Insight
• cognitive behavior therapy (clinical)
• Third and Fourth Foundations of Mindfulness (Theravada, Tibetan)
• Mahamudra Analytical Meditation (Tibetan)
• Dzogchen Analytical Meditation (Tibetan)
• Koan practice (Zen)
• Non-Dual-Oriented Insight
• Muraqaba (Sufi)
• Mahamudra (Tibetan)
• Dzogchen (Tibetan)
• Shikantaza (Zen)

Constructive family

• Relation Orientation
• loving-kindness and compassion (Theravada, Tibetan)
• Bodhichitta / Bodhisattva Vow (Tibetan / Zen)
• centering prayer (Christian)
• CCARE compassion cultivation training (clinical)
• cognitively-based compassion training - compassion component (clinical)
• Values Orientation
• The Four Thoughts (Tibetan)
• contemplations of mortality (Theravada, Tibetan, Zen, Greco-Roman philosophy)
• well-being therapy (clinical)
• Perception Orientation
• development stage (Tibetan)

## Focused Attention Meditation ðŸ”—

• Attention: increased precision weighting on object of meditation
• Increased skill at attention – training effect
• Increased skill at meta-awareness / meta-cognition: where is the attention? Am I mind wandering?
• Decreased precision on other objects, higher level priors, sense of self. Decrease in the phenomenology of ‘monkey mind’. Quieting of the mind. Calming. More Peace.
• Object of Attention can be narrow or broad.

## Deconstruction, Vipassana, Mindfulness Meditation ðŸ”—

• de-reification
• ’emptiness’
• opacification
• descending the cortical fabrication hierarchy

Examples:

• It’s just a thought
• It’s just a mental construction
• It’s just made of fleeting sensations
• Judgements are also fabrications

## Non-Dual Awareness (NDA) ðŸ”—

• Recognizing the empty space of phenomenal experience
• The substrate on which the generative model arises – awareness

Metaphors

• A mirror (and reflections)
• The screen (on which the movie is playing)
• The sky (and clouds)
• The ocean (and the waves)

Names

• Consciousness-as-such
• Pure consciousness
• Pure awareness
• Rigpa (Tibetan)
• Timeless awereness
• Being-Consciousness-Bliss (Vedanta)
• The Self
• The Fourth (Turiya)
• Brahman
• Buddha-Nature
• Clear Light (Tibetan)
• Ground of Being
• Groundless Ground
• Emptiness
• Deathless
• The Peace that passeth understanding

Dimensions

• presence of being
• emptiness
• inherent reflexivity
• luminosity
• bliss
• singularity

## Phenomenological Dimensions of Meditation ðŸ”—

Axes:

• x: deconstruction, de-reification, ’emptiness’, opacification, descending the cortical fabrication hierarchy
• y: concentration, quieting the contents of awareness, calmind the mind, reduced phenomenal content
• z: non-dual awareness, recognizing the empty space of phenomenal experience

Points:

• Typical Non-meditative Mind: (0, 0, 0)
• Novice Focused Attention: (0, 1, 1)
• Expert Focused Attention: (0, 2, 2)
• Novice Deconstruction Mindfulness Vipassana: (2, 2, 2)
• Expert Deconstruction Mindfulness Vipassana: (3, 3, 3)
• Deep Non-dual absorption state - Minimal Phenomenal Awareness (MPE): (9, 9, 9)
• Non-dual meditation with phenomena arising: (4, 1, 8)

The 8 Jhanas also go up in y, x and z:

1. Energy, physical pleasure, rapture
2. Joy, mental pleasure, energy
3. Serene contentedness, quiet, peace
4. Deep peace, stillness
5. Infinite space, boundless body map
6. Infinite consciousness
7. Infinite nothingness, void
8. Neither perception nor non-perception

## After Deconstructing Yourself, Reconstructing Yourself ðŸ”—

• Through meditation and other practices (including psychedelics) the strength / weight of higher level priors, beliefs, models, assumptions or attitudes are attenuated
• At this stage these higher level priors are more amenable to be changed (reprogramming mode)
• New priors and beliefs may more easily be formed (update operating system)
• Loving kindness meditation can be seen as a constructive practice to re-weight priors
• Skillful fabrication, Yidam practice and Soulmaking

## Dependent Co-Arising As Bayesian Inference ðŸ”—

• The experience of the world is a construction, but a constrained construction
• Constrained by external data and internal beliefs, priors and assumptions
• The trick is to make it beautiful

Ways of looking:

• A depressed person thinks the world is a terrible place, looks at the world through that lens and experiences a terrible world
• A different person thinks the world is an amazing place, looks at the world through that lens and experiences an amazing world

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