The Power of Mind; The Power of Intention
“This Mind has immeasurable capacity…this Mind has unlimited Power.”
– Excerpt from ‘The Buddha Path’ by H.E. Dzogchen Khenpo Choga Rinpoche
In our culture, the conventional view is that thinking is not that important … whatever you think. It is “only in your mind’. Supposedly, it is only through our actions, including the action of speech, that we can affect the outside world of people and things.
Buddhists will, first of all, point out that it is only thinking that gives rise to action. (I’m using the word “thinking” in a wider sense: “all activities of mind.” Buddhism asserts that mind has a power far beyond the simple ability to trigger physical actions. Mind completely shapes our experience and hence our world. Our thinking creates conditions throughout the world. Of course, we can definitely influence people we know or with whom we communicate, and this is obviously important. However, Buddhism asserts that beyond this, the power of our thinking can directly affect other people, even people with whom we’ve never communicated, or met. In this article, we’ll look at how the power of thinking, particularly the power of intention, extends outside our own minds and bodies.
What does science have to say about the power of thinking? Contemporary science is producing overwhelming evidence that every thought is a tangible energy as the ability to transform. Hundreds of scientists have conducted experiments measuring energies that are emitted by human beings –energies that are controlled by thinking.
Elmer Green, a pioneer of biofeedback, found that a person standing still letting their mind wander emits 10-15 thousandths of a volt of electrostatic energy. When meditating or concentrating, a person emits hundreds of times more energy. One of the highest levels of brain wave activity scientifically measured was recorded while Buddhist monks from Dharamsala, India were performing a compassion meditation while wearing EEG detectors.
Especially talented healers have been measured emitting 190 volts of electrostatic energy (100,000x the normal amount). Most of these healers’ energy was radiating from the area of the solar plexus. William Tiller of Stanford University verified that untrained people can increase the amount of electromagnetic energy streaming out from their body at will. Schwartz and Conner of the University of Arizona have detected strong changes in the magnetic fields around persons focusing their thinking. Many other researchers have verified these findings that humans radiate mental energy out into the world, and that stronger intention intensifies these energies.
In the previous paragraphs, we looked only at energies that science has learned how to detect and measure. However, there is a growing consensus among astrophysicists that the universe contains vast amounts of energy that Science cannot yet directly detect and measure. This mysterious energy is being referred to as “dark energy’ (not to be confused with dark matter).
Quantum physicists are realizing that there is a kind of pervasive background energy that underlies all space. This is referred to as “the Zero-Point Field” or “Vacuum Fluctuation”. Mathematics equations show that this energy is billions of billions of times more prevalent than the energies that Science knows how to directly detect and measure.
Whether these two energies are related or not, it is increasingly clear that there are vast energies operating in the universe that are beyond current scientific understanding. Perhaps the power of mind – the power of thinking, has some relation to these mysterious energies.
Let’s return to what Science does understand. It has been established that there are tangible energies controlled by thinking that are transmitted beyond the body. But what effect does this mental energy have? Many scientists working at respected institutions are building evidence that the power of thinking, particularly the power of focused intention, definitely affects other persons and objects.
One line of research involves devices called Random Event Generators. REG’s are very simple electronic random number generators. They generate up to thousands of random numbers per second. In most tests only zeros and ones are generated. The process is similar to flipping a coin over and over– there are two possible outcomes. Researchers have asked test subjects to intend, to will, that one particular number comes up. Dozens of experiments of this type have been carried out.
At Princeton University, professors Jahn and Dunne found that two-thirds of all people can intentionally affect REG results. Sixty-eight different investigators replicated these results independently. Researchers have noted that couples and small groups have more success influencing REG machines than individuals. An overall review of all well-designed REG experiments found that the probability that REG test results were due to chance is one in a trillion.
Other laboratory experiments have shown that purely through the power of thinking; humans can alter matter. Water is a uniquely sensitive medium. At McGill University, individuals attempted to instill healing energy into containers of water they held in their hands. These test subjects, who were respected healers, succeeded in altering the molecular structure of the water. They loosened the hydrogen bonds of the water molecules. This is similar to what occurs when water is exposed to a strong magnet. Plants given this water grew considerably better than control plants. Dr. Masaru Emoto of Japan has achieved a degree of fame for producing an impressive body of research that shows people can affect the structure of water through their thoughts.
Evidence is building that thinking can affect other people across considerable distances. Over 150, studies have produced evidence that the power of thinking can heal from a distance.
Perhaps the most impressive healing experiment was a double-blind study conducted during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Elisabeth Targ recruited 40 healers from various traditions, including Buddhism. All forty healers were given photos, names, and T-cell counts of patients. They attempted remote healing of ten patients suffering from end-stage AIDS. Ten similar AIDS patients were selected as a control group who received no distant healing. Both groups received the conventional treatments then prevalent. By the end of six months, four of the patients within the control group died. None of those within the group treated remotely by the healers died. All ten of the treated group were medically evaluated as being in significantly better health than at the beginning of the study and compared to those within the control group.
Another line of research examines telepathy and remote viewing. A prominent physicist named Hal Puthoff, conducted a series of experiments at Stanford Research Institute with individuals who purportedly possess abnormal abilities. In one set of tests, a researcher randomly selected a San Francisco Bay Area location and drove there. A participating psychic remained in a Stanford office. Over half the time, the psychics could describe the location at which the researcher was present with a high degree of accuracy. Puthoff and his collaborators next conducted experiments where in average people attempted ‘remote viewing’ of a distant location.
The results were judged by impartial judges who were presented with transcripts of the ‘viewers’ statements describing the sites, along with with a set of photos of each site selected for remote viewing. The judges were asked to match them. The successful results went far beyond chance. When researchers at Princeton repeated this experiment, they obtained similar results. Controlled scientific experiments along these lines have been conducted for over forty years with impressive results, providing another line of evidence that the power of mind can extend far beyond the immediate vicinity of our body.
Taking a quick look at miscellaneous research, we see that average test subjects have shown an ability to calm other people remotely. Trained mediators have shown an even greater ability to calm people remotely. Average individuals have demonstrated an ability to influence fish to swim in a particular direction, to cause gerbils to run faster in a tread wheel, and to increase the survival rate of red blood cells when exposed to harmful substances. The Transcendental Meditation organization has published studies in reviewed journals. They presented findings that when more than 1% of a town or city’s population regularly practices meditation; the crime rate goes down significantly in that area.
When one looks at the details of all these experiments, one sees there is strong scientific evidence, perhaps even proof, that the power of thinking effects other living creatures and inanimate matter.
A large number of scientific studies show that the power of focused intention is real. Of course, it is true that often the effect of this power is small, and it doesn’t work 100% of the time. This is consistent with the Buddhist view that our own thinking and actions are influential conditions for other people, but that it is a person’s own thinking that is the crucial causal factor in what they actually experience. Our mental activity, even our fervent intentions, cannot absolutely determine what other people do or perceive. It is that other person’s thinking which is the much stronger factor in what they will experience. However, our thinking can make a difference for other people. In many cases, we can be the force that ‘tips the scales’ in a positive direction.
The growing body of scientific research agrees with the Buddhist view that individuals who train their minds will increase their ability to beneficially affect the world. This scientific evidence can encourage us in our efforts to improve our moment-to-moment mindfulness and improve our ability to focus. This scientific evidence shows that with the power of focused intention, we can become a greater positive influence in this world.
I welcome your feedback and questions. I am curious which topics are of particular interest to our readers within the field where Buddhism and Science meet.
~ Kyle Kosup
Kyle Kosup has been a student of Khenpo Choga since 2005, and has been studying Vajrayana since 1997. Kyle is a credentialed teacher with experience teaching both children and adults. Over the past 20 years he has been helping create educational media, including such projects as feature documentary films, museum installations and college course CD-ROMs and websites. During these projects he has worked with scientists in various fields, together transforming scientific concepts into images, animations, and interactive experiences.