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It strikes me that it is very fortunate that meditation can be pleasurable. If there was no fairly immediate rewards then surely hardly anyone would make any kind of progress towards enlightenment. It almost like it is designed to have little pleasant staging posts where the practitioner can rest before continuing onward with the journey.

But why is meditation pleasurable? Could it be insightful but barren or is there something inherent in the practice that is pleasant and the pleasant quality of meditation is a necessary quality? What do the texts say about the pleasant qualities of meditation? Is there any accounts about why it is pleasant perhaps mythic accounts or explanations?

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    path of least resistance :) – Ryan Jul 13 '15 at 20:38
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    my experience was one of relief I guess. I ran high levels of anxiety that dissipated quickly. But strangely I had the strongest and longest experience of bliss early on but that is probably just me – Crab Bucket Jul 14 '15 at 5:42
  • A counter question: why is it pleasurable to stretch and bend your bones in the morning after sleep? But more seriously: isn't it simply part of your very personal body/mind-experiences to feel pleasured? So some people might feel like you (because they and you are similar by genom...or so...) and others might feel different. What about the size of that two groups? For me, meditation has various levels and in the basic ones I just connect to a happy/content state like I know from childhood, and in the more advanced ones I feel happy because I seem to be a researcher/pioneer by my heart... – Gottfried Helms Jul 14 '15 at 6:27
  • What meditation are you practicing? Sounds like fun :) – Lowbrow Sep 25 '17 at 15:05
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When I took the course Buddhism and Modern Psychology, the lecture delved into the neurobiology behind meditation. Material was presented that breaks up the conscious mind into 8 centers competing to be at the forefront of awareness. When meditating, the Default Mode Network(DMN) in the mind shows less activity in fMRI scans in studies led by Judson Brewer who himself used meditation as a coping mechanism during medical school.

The DMN is the center of the mind thought to be responsible for daydreaming. The exact mechanism between meditation and pleasure in the mind is not known, but I speculate that a sort of rhythm develops between these competing centers and other parts of the brain that leads to decreased levels of cortisol and increase in pleasure neurotransmitters such as dopamine.

A point to note: Suzuki Roshi mentions in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, that the purpose of meditation is not too feel good or become a better person rather the purpose of meditation is to meditate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Default_mode_network

https://www.coursera.org/course/psychbuddhism

http://www.yalescientific.org/2012/05/the-healing-art-of-meditation/

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When the mind becomes still and rests in the present it gradually becomes more and more free of hindrances and conditioned phenomena. Naturally it moves closer to Nibbana and begins to experience the bliss of freedom from samsaric winds.

I have tried to make a drawing of it. You might have to zoom in to see it.

What it shows is Nibbana in the bottom. Nibbana is perfect peace, bliss and happiness. As we move further away from Nibbana, i.e. towards the top we move through the different realms of existence. Next stop from Nibbana we have Arupa-Loka (the formless realms) which holds the "next-best" peace, bliss and happiness. As we move towards Rupa-Loka (fine-material world), Kama-loka (sensuous plane) and Apaya (deprivation realms) the mind will experience less and less peace, bliss and happiness.

The arrow on the right side shows the degree of peace, bliss and happiness that the mind experiences when moving through the different planes of existence.

When moving away from complexity and towards greater and greater simplicity the mind becomes more and more quiet and less disturbance will be experienced. That naturally results in a more peaceful and blissful mind.

Another way to explain it is that the mind becomes less and less scattered when moving towards unity, i.e. Liberation.

Hope this helps. If you have any questions to the drawing let me know.

enter image description here

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If you're practising samatha meditation, you can get pleasurable feelings of piti (ecstasy) and sukha (joy) on entering the first jhana state.

In the article entitled "Entering the Jhanas", Leigh Brasington described the first jhana:

In this altered state of consciousness, you will be overcome with rapture, euphoria, ecstasy, delight. These are all English words that are used to translate the Pali word piti. Perhaps the best English word for piti is “glee.” Piti is a primarily physical sensation that sweeps you powerfully into an altered state. But piti is not solely physical; as the suttas say, “On account of the presence of piti, there is mental exhilaration.” In addition to the physical energy and mental exhilaration, the piti will be accompanied by an emotional sensation of joy and happiness. The Pali word for this joy/happiness is sukha, the opposite of dukkha (pain, suffering). And if you can remain undistractedly focused on this experience of piti and sukha, that is the first jhana.

Please read the article for further information on the jhanas, including quotes from the Pali Canon.

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