I don't mean disrespect to anyone else with this question, I'm asking on my own behalf as someone with neurological & psychological problems caused by a brain injury at a young age. I know all brain injuries etc are different too, and I guess this question also relates to neurodivergent people.

My injury affects my memory, ability to concentrate, intrusive thoughts, emotional stability, ability to hear, and also makes it much more difficult to hold good posture for any length of time (15 mins is the best I can do after practicing for years)- having (or not having) these things are required to meditate properly, right?

Can someone with normal intelligence, but whose brain is injured, practice meditation effectively? Or will I hit a "glass ceiling" where my missing function limits my ability to progress? I've seen some benefits from meditation in the long term, but I worry that only someone with a healthy brain can meditate "properly".

Did Buddha say anything about practicing while disabled?


2 Answers 2


Thank you for this question.

First of all - meditation is not depend on intelligence - actually there's a verse in the Dhammapada (sorry, I forgot which one, will add it when I find it) which tells about 2 brothers, one of low intelligence and one of high intelligence. The brother with low intelligence progresses faster in meditation practice due to not having too many thoughts and reflections. Intellectual thinking has nothing to do with meditation and won't get you anywhere.

It's about passive, impartial observation of the mind and it's habitual tendencies and reactions (Vipassana meditation). That will lead to understanding and insights, namely into the Three Marks of Existence which is the gateway to Liberation.

What kind of meditation are you practicing now? Do you have a teacher? I highly recommend finding a teacher that can guide you one-on-one either in person or via the internet. Please see Ruben's post for info on the Buddhist monk Ven. Yuttadhammo.

Now regarding the brain injury and the challenges you face - that's not really a problem as long as you can practice a little. You mention 15 minutes - that's great! Maybe start with 5 minutes and try to keep your posture. Posture is not that important you just shouldn't be slouching too much or sitting too straight. Somewhere in between. The Buddha said that even a moment of mindfulness is better than 100 years of mindlessness. What that means is that it's not important how long you meditate - what's important is the quality of the mind. One can meditate for 2 hours but only be mindful for 30 minutes of that time. That's not useful. So try to think of it as quality over quantity.

Again, I highly recommend finding a teacher to guide on the path.

Lastly, don't be too hard on yourself. You have a good Karma by being able to be born as a human being (very rare) and to meet with the Dhamma in this life and being able to practice. Right now you are laying the foundation blocks for future lives. Enlightenment is something that takes many lifetimes for the majority of people. So don't bother with results or how long you can sit for. Just do what you can now and be happy with it.

Also you can be mindful in daily life when going about your day. The formal practice (cushion practice) is meant to bridge mindfulness into your daily life. It's not useful if you are only mindful on the cushion but unmindful in daily life. Try to be mindful when doing the dishes, taking a shower, brushing your teeth etc. That's where the real practice lies.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any questions.


Bhikkhus, possessing three qualities, a bhikkhu is practicing the unmistaken way and has laid the groundwork for the destruction of the taints. What three? Here, a bhikkhu guards the doors of the sense faculties, observes moderation in eating, and is intent on wakefulness.

You shouldn't chase after the past or place expectations on the future. What is past is left behind. The future is as yet unreached. Whatever quality is present you clearly see right there, right there. Not taken in, unshaken, that's how you develop...

Clearly seeing that which is present without grasping with wrong view.

One should use that very intelligence to think good thoughts

According to theravadin comy: a good thought deserves to be distinguished [as a good state] on three grounds; For it fabricates a good state; from the maturity of the faculties it involves; and from the remoteness of mental and moral infirmity which it implies.

The power of concentration is supported by the other 4 spiritual faculties

  • wisdom which is knowledge, understanding, right views, non confusion, etc
  • effort which is striving, exertion of effort and non complacency
  • mindfulness which is rememberence, the opposite of obliviousness
  • conviction which is the approving and being agreement

A person has some dominant faculties and some need more work.

Also take for instance a sotapanna, his wisdom faculty is fully developed but he has work to do in regards to concentration, he becomes distracted due to his conditioning and has work to do in regards to that heedlessness.

My advice is to focus on the basics and build on that rather than trying to do some special meditative absorbtions for a start.

I don't think anybody knows what you can and can't achieve but i think we will agree that you can do good for yourself and grow in that.

I would also advise to learn a lot and try developing many practices outlined in the texts; this will make your training versatile and easier to balance. Then you could ie train short sessions of this or that contemplation development & often reflect on healthy themes.

Eventually due to that frequent giving of attention your mind will be inclined to think along those lines and the wrong thought pathways will eventually get the atrophy.

My opinion is that having strong good wits is more important that meditative absorbtion in general.

Sir, I’m not all right, I’m not getting by. My pain is terrible and growing, not fading, its growing is evident, not its fading.”

“I hope you don’t have any remorse or regret?”

“Indeed, sir, I have no little remorse and regret.”

“I hope you have no reason to blame yourself when it comes to ethical conduct?”

“No sir, I have no reason to blame myself when it comes to ethical conduct.”

“In that case, Assaji, why do you have remorse and regret?”

“Sir, before my time of illness I meditated having completely stilled the physical process. But now I can’t get immersion. Since I can’t get immersion, I think: ‘May I not decline!’”

“Assaji, there are ascetics and brahmins for whom samādhi is the essence, equating immersion with the ascetic life. They think: ‘May we not decline!’

What do you think, Assaji? Is form permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, sir.” …

“Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?” …

“So you should truly see … Seeing this … They understand: ‘… there is no return to any state of existence.’

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