Question about "location of mind"

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Question about "location of mind"

Postby rachmiel » Thu May 23, 2013 1:58 pm

In the book Vivid Awareness, it is asserted that one cannot know the location of one's mind. Is it in the head? No. In the heart? No. Inside? No. Outside? No. And so on.

But science has clearly shown us that the brain is the seat of the mind. It all happens there: logic, feeling, intuition, memory. Without brain, mind goes bye-bye. This is not true for any other organ. (You could argue that without heart, mind ends, but that's because brain ends.)

So, yes, when I touch the sole of my foot, my mind (as consciousness) "goes" there. But I know that what really happens is a nerve in my foot transmits a message to my brain, and the feeling of sole being touched and bodily location ... is created right up there in me little gray cells. In fact *everything* I think/experience is an electrochemical process in my brain. So the location of mind seems clear: brain. The *exact* nature of mind is a mystery, of course, how a pudding of neurons can do the mind miracles it can do. But this is functionality, not location.

Normally I'd just let this go. But the author of the book says that being 100% certain one cannot know the location of one's mind is a prerequisite for experiencing vivid awareness.

I'd appreciate some help understanding all of this.

Thanks!

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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby 5heaps » Thu May 23, 2013 3:22 pm

when you examine your "feeling" of being touched, or what is better described as your 1st person experience of an event, called qualia in philosophy, do you discern physicality in that event?
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Astus » Thu May 23, 2013 3:25 pm

Not knowing the location of the mind means that if you search in your personal experience for something that is your mind you don't find such a thing. This is first hand experience.

The scientific theories about how the brain functions and what is its relation to the mind is irrelevant here. Still, if you want to go into that area in the proper way, you should look at what is called the mind-body problem in Western philosophy. No final answers are promised.

You should also know that the mind-body problem doesn't actually exist in Buddhism because it is resolved from the beginning by the Buddha teaching the five aggregates.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby rachmiel » Thu May 23, 2013 4:02 pm

5heaps wrote:when you examine your "feeling" of being touched, or what is better described as your 1st person experience of an event, called qualia in philosophy, do you discern physicality in that event?

It depends what you mean by "discern."

If I touch my forearm, I subjectively experience a location (forearm) and I intellectually know a location (nerve/brain).

Do you mean something else?
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby rachmiel » Thu May 23, 2013 4:12 pm

Astus wrote:Not knowing the location of the mind means that if you search in your personal experience for something that is your mind you don't find such a thing. This is first hand experience.

The scientific theories about how the brain functions and what is its relation to the mind is irrelevant here.

So what the author of Vivid Awareness is talking about when he says "one cannot locate one's mind" has nothing to do with an intellectual process, a locating based on knowing? It's 100% based on personal (gut) feeling/experience? As if I were looking for this thing called "mind" without knowing anything about the functioning of the brain and nervous system?

If this is what is meant in the book ... how can one go full-on "tabula rasa" and forget what one knows? I *know* brain is the seat of mind. When I search for mind, that knowing is part of the process.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Astus » Thu May 23, 2013 4:31 pm

You are trying to fit a meditation instruction into a scientific idea. If you put aside your previous concepts about human biology and follow the steps as given, it works just fine. On the other hand, if you first want to engage in an intellectual investigation of the nature of mind, that's also possible, but not through Dzogchen teachings. Supposing that you want to stay in the Tibetan Buddhist structure, you should start with studying a lamrim text as an introduction and then go for learning pramana (epistemology). You may also just visit any qualified lama and debate about the matter.

For example, Shantarakshita's Tattvasamgraha deals with the problem of mind and matter to some extent. One of his reasoning is that unless direct correlation can be shown between physical and mental phenomena it cannot be established that mind is based on matter. Since the scientific research of the brain has not established that, there is no actual proof for the brain being the same as the mind.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu May 23, 2013 4:33 pm

rachmiel wrote:In the book Vivid Awareness, it is asserted that one cannot know the location of one's mind. Is it in the head? No. In the heart? No. Inside? No. Outside? No. And so on.

But science has clearly shown us that the brain is the seat of the mind. It all happens there: logic, feeling, intuition, memory. Without brain, mind goes bye-bye. This is not true for any other organ. (You could argue that without heart, mind ends, but that's because brain ends.)


That is an excellent question, and Vivid Awareness is a great book.

The human brain is:
Water 77 to 78 %
fats 10 to 12 %
Protein 8%
Carbohydrate 1%
Soluble organic substances 2%
Inorganic salts 1%

---none of that stuff, together or separately, thinks.

Science argues that the mind is produced by the activity of the brain.
This is not entirely correct.
the brain provides the physical environment for the processing of sensory data
but that is all.
It does not provide a 'witness' (awareness) of that data.

If you say. "I am me" and "this is my brain"
yet you also say that all notions of "me" or "mine' are produced by the brain
then this is like saying you have a computer that produces its user
or a chicken that lays the egg from which it hatches.

Consider sound, for example.
A tree falls, it creates vibrations in the air, those vibrations vibrate parts of the ear, the ear converts those vibrations into electrical impulses and those electrical impulses flow into the brain. But the brain doesn't "know" anything. Doesn't "hear' anything.

It is awareness that experiences that electricity as "tree falling noise".
Awareness is absolute. Nobody can deny it.
Awareness has no characteristics of its own. It's like the space between two objects.

When awareness encounters phenomena,
if the environmental ( physical conditions )are there, meaning a functioning brain,
then the experience will reflect those conditions.
So, a dog will have a different experience than a human.
Mind arises as the meeting of awareness and phenomena.

It is actually more accurate to say that awareness produces
the experience of brain activity,
and not the other way around.

.
.
.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby MalaBeads » Thu May 23, 2013 4:41 pm

The brain may be the seat of an individual's perception but it is not necessarily the location of the mind.

Mind is an interconnected phenomena.

Suzuki-Roshi used to make a distinction between "little mind" and "Big Mind". That's helpful I think. Its not there are two minds but more like our perception can only speak about it that way.

Beyond that I cant say much because i don't understand much more than that.

I am interested in brain studies but in think it is a big mistake to reduce mind to brain function. It just ain't so.

To be continued.....
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 23, 2013 4:44 pm

rachmiel wrote:
Astus wrote:Not knowing the location of the mind means that if you search in your personal experience for something that is your mind you don't find such a thing. This is first hand experience.

The scientific theories about how the brain functions and what is its relation to the mind is irrelevant here.

So what the author of Vivid Awareness is talking about when he says "one cannot locate one's mind" has nothing to do with an intellectual process, a locating based on knowing? It's 100% based on personal (gut) feeling/experience? As if I were looking for this thing called "mind" without knowing anything about the functioning of the brain and nervous system?

If this is what is meant in the book ... how can one go full-on "tabula rasa" and forget what one knows? I *know* brain is the seat of mind. When I search for mind, that knowing is part of the process.



I really think you should start by questioning whether you actually "know" that brain is the seat of mind, and how you know that. It's of course known what the brain does physically and whatnot, and none of that can be denied. However, as the others pointed out eloquently, the reductionism of "Mind=Brain" is quite a leap from that, and it might be worth questioning materialist assumptions like that to move forward in meditation. What does meditation mean to you if all phenomena you experience are reducible to physical action within the brain?
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby justsit » Thu May 23, 2013 5:16 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:That is an excellent question, and Vivid Awareness is a great book.

The human brain is:
Water 77 to 78 %
fats 10 to 12 %
Protein 8%
Carbohydrate 1%
Soluble organic substances 2%
Inorganic salts 1%

---none of that stuff, together or separately, thinks.

Science argues that the mind is produced by the activity of the brain.
This is not entirely correct.
the brain provides the physical environment for the processing of sensory data
but that is all.
It does not provide a 'witness' (awareness) of that data.

If you say. "I am me" and "this is my brain"
yet you also say that all notions of "me" or "mine' are produced by the brain
then this is like saying you have a computer that produces its user
or a chicken that lays the egg from which it hatches.

Consider sound, for example.
A tree falls, it creates vibrations in the air, those vibrations vibrate parts of the ear, the ear converts those vibrations into electrical impulses and those electrical impulses flow into the brain. But the brain doesn't "know" anything. Doesn't "hear' anything.

It is awareness that experiences that electricity as "tree falling noise".
Awareness is absolute. Nobody can deny it.
Awareness has no characteristics of its own. It's like the space between two objects.

When awareness encounters phenomena,
if the environmental ( physical conditions )are there, meaning a functioning brain,
then the experience will reflect those conditions.
So, a dog will have a different experience than a human.
Mind arises as the meeting of awareness and phenomena.

It is actually more accurate to say that awareness produces
the experience of brain activity,
and not the other way around.


This. :twothumbsup:
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby MalaBeads » Thu May 23, 2013 5:20 pm

justsit wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:That is an excellent question, and Vivid Awareness is a great book.

The human brain is:
Water 77 to 78 %
fats 10 to 12 %
Protein 8%
Carbohydrate 1%
Soluble organic substances 2%
Inorganic salts 1%

---none of that stuff, together or separately, thinks.

Science argues that the mind is produced by the activity of the brain.
This is not entirely correct.
the brain provides the physical environment for the processing of sensory data
but that is all.
It does not provide a 'witness' (awareness) of that data.

If you say. "I am me" and "this is my brain"
yet you also say that all notions of "me" or "mine' are produced by the brain
then this is like saying you have a computer that produces its user
or a chicken that lays the egg from which it hatches.

Consider sound, for example.
A tree falls, it creates vibrations in the air, those vibrations vibrate parts of the ear, the ear converts those vibrations into electrical impulses and those electrical impulses flow into the brain. But the brain doesn't "know" anything. Doesn't "hear' anything.

It is awareness that experiences that electricity as "tree falling noise".
Awareness is absolute. Nobody can deny it.
Awareness has no characteristics of its own. It's like the space between two objects.

When awareness encounters phenomena,
if the environmental ( physical conditions )are there, meaning a functioning brain,
then the experience will reflect those conditions.
So, a dog will have a different experience than a human.
Mind arises as the meeting of awareness and phenomena.

It is actually more accurate to say that awareness produces
the experience of brain activity,
and not the other way around.


This. :twothumbsup:


Yeah, definitely.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby rachmiel » Thu May 23, 2013 5:48 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Science argues that the mind is produced by the activity of the brain.
This is not entirely correct.
the brain provides the physical environment for the processing of sensory data
but that is all.
It does not provide a 'witness' (awareness) of that data.

If you say. "I am me" and "this is my brain"
yet you also say that all notions of "me" or "mine' are produced by the brain
then this is like saying you have a computer that produces its user
or a chicken that lays the egg from which it hatches.

I say neither "I am me" nor "This is my brain" because I find no concrete/real "I" to be am-ing or is-ing. My reflexive way of looking at things is: the brain in this head is "feeling/thinking" _________ (whatever) due to the way patterns of neurons are firing within it.

Consider sound, for example.
A tree falls, it creates vibrations in the air, those vibrations vibrate parts of the ear, the ear converts those vibrations into electrical impulses and those electrical impulses flow into the brain. But the brain doesn't "know" anything. Doesn't "hear' anything.

"Knowing" and "hearing" are concepts created by the brain. The experience that we describe as "knowing" or "hearing" is dependent on brain, ear, nerve connection. No brain, damaged brain: no/damaged knowing or hearing. So, yes, the lump of organic matter that is the brain doesn't *do* anything but conduct electricity and move around chemicals. But without it, there would be no reception/interpretation of sensory data.

It is awareness that experiences that electricity as "tree falling noise".
Awareness is absolute. Nobody can deny it.
Awareness has no characteristics of its own. It's like the space between two objects.

When awareness encounters phenomena,
if the environmental ( physical conditions )are there, meaning a functioning brain,
then the experience will reflect those conditions.
So, a dog will have a different experience than a human.
Mind arises as the meeting of awareness and phenomena.

It is actually more accurate to say that awareness produces
the experience of brain activity,
and not the other way around.

I know the awareness gives rise to ____________ (everything) argument well, have grappled with it for years. It just doesn't click for me, never has. It's what turned me off to Advaita (awareness in this case being brahman).

As I see it, consciousness/awareness and brain give rise to each other, a grand collaboration. I'm not claiming to be right (or wrong) ... just stating my strongly considered/felt take.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby undefineable » Thu May 23, 2013 5:55 pm

rachmiel wrote:
5heaps wrote:when you examine your "feeling" of being touched, or what is better described as your 1st person experience of an event, called qualia in philosophy, do you discern physicality in that event?

It depends what you mean by "discern."

If I touch my forearm, I subjectively experience a location (forearm) and I intellectually know a location (nerve/brain).

Do you mean something else?


By definition, there is no physical location within the subjective experience itself, just as there is no physical location within the number one or the law of gravity. Your 'touch' is a sensation as well as a sense of a location that's mapped to that sensation, otherwise there would be nothing to sense.

The exact makeup of subjective experiences is of course determined -in an immediate sense- by the brain. {Even in the Buddhist model, there would otherwise be no reason for one mental event to occur over and above any of the infinite number of alternatives.} This is a long way from claiming that the experiences literally *are* physical processes occurring in the brain.

So as to remain consistent, philosophical materialism must claim that subjective experience itself is either completely nonexistent (as in Logical Positivism) or simply something other than itself. So subjective experience is either an invalid concept like rabbit's horns (no mentioning jackalopes :jumping: ) -in which case we wouldn't see it at all (let alone continuously)- or else 'a' (subjective experience) is not equal to 'a' and is in fact something completely unlike 'a' - in which case the rules of logic that science uses to make sense of empirical evidence fly out of the window. Given the western inheritance of 'revelation' and 'theory' that contradict the way we naturally experience reality without explaining how the contradiction is resolved, none of this can -or should- make much difference to people's beliefs.
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu May 23, 2013 5:57 pm

If the brain is the mind then what happens in the formless realms (God, Asura, Hell Beings, Hungry Ghosts) ? Or do we just ignore those since science tends to focus solely on matter/form? What happens with sentient beings that have form but do not have a brain as such? Insects, Jelly fish, protozoa etc...
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby MalaBeads » Thu May 23, 2013 6:00 pm

Rachmiel,

I can see from your posts that you have indeed grappled with this question for a long time.

Have you ever had an introduction to the nature of mind from a qualified dzogchen master?
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby rachmiel » Thu May 23, 2013 6:02 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I really think you should start by questioning whether you actually "know" that brain is the seat of mind, and how you know that. It's of course known what the brain does physically and whatnot, and none of that can be denied. However, as the others pointed out eloquently, the reductionism of "Mind=Brain" is quite a leap from that, and it might be worth questioning materialist assumptions like that to move forward in meditation.

I wouldn't say Mind=Brain, rather: brain gives rise to mind. Though I can't prove this, I'd wager that: If all five classic senses were turned off but the brain were functional (as in an isolation tank), there would be mind; but if all senses were 100% and the brain were turned off, there would be no mind.

What does meditation mean to you if all phenomena you experience are reducible to physical action within the brain?

Meditation means to me: To see things as they are, not as "I" am. If the way things are is that brain (neuron firings) gives rise to what is called mind, I want to see this, clearly, fearlessly, without any need to create exalted conceptual structures around it. Likewise, if brain does not give rise to mind, I want to know this.

I suspect (see below) that this can never be known with certainty, at least not as we use the term "know with certainty" in our empirical 21st century.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu May 23, 2013 6:02 pm

rachmiel wrote: "Knowing" and "hearing" are concepts created by the brain.

The terms "Knowing" and "hearing" are concepts. But they are concepts that arise as mind which is the result of the interaction of awareness and material phenomena.

rachmiel wrote:The experience that we describe as "knowing" or "hearing" is dependent on brain, ear, nerve connection. No brain, damaged brain: no/damaged knowing or hearing.

True. It's what I said before, the brain provides the physical conditions for the experience. In fact, you can even map out where in the brain certain activities take place. But that's all it does.
It may provide the conditions for the experience, but it doesn't provide the experiencer.
This is getting back to your original question.

In this sense, the brain is like a mirror. The mirror does not create the objects that are reflected in it. But it does provide the physical conditions necessary for a reflection to occur. A broken mirror or a fun-house mirror provide the conditions for distorted reflections, likewise a brain with a defect provides the conditions for a distorted experience of whatever input it receives.

rachmiel wrote:But without it, there would be no reception/interpretation of sensory data.

there would be no reception/interpretation of sensory data to be experienced as mind (as the arising of thoughts and feelings) by awareness.
.
.
.
Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Thu May 23, 2013 6:07 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 23, 2013 6:04 pm

Also on the subject, i'm familiar with two "location of mind" meditations..one is what you describe, tying to find mind "physically", the other is trying to find where mind existentially comes from, where it rests, and where it goes.

If you have the belief that mind is basically only an extension of physical phenomenon though, i'm not sure how either of the meditations would be of use for you, since the decision has already been made both meditations will be viewed as nonsense, because they are only illusions of something which you believe can be reduced to ultimately simply being physical happenings within the brain.

What do you think of the concept of Rigpa regarding your idea about what happens to mind when the senses cease? How do dream and sleep fit into this model?

Obviously in Buddhism Mind is considered to have ontological reality beyond the senses..so if you cannot agree with that, maybe that's the place to focus on, it doesn't seem like meditations like this will do anything for you until you have some certainty on the subject of what mind is.

Just remembered, there is a blurb in this book http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywor ... e7dcybl4_e

About this subject, regrettably I don't remember it well, but I do remember it being good - lol.
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Thu May 23, 2013 6:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby rachmiel » Thu May 23, 2013 6:10 pm

undefineable wrote:
rachmiel wrote:If I touch my forearm, I subjectively experience a location (forearm) and I intellectually know a location (nerve/brain).

By definition, there is no physical location within the subjective experience itself, just as there is no physical location within the number one or the law of gravity.

I understand and agree.

The exact makeup of subjective experiences is of course determined -in an immediate sense- by the brain. {Even in the Buddhist model, there would otherwise be no reason for one mental event to occur over and above any of the infinite number of alternatives.} This is a long way from claiming that the experiences literally *are* physical processes occurring in the brain.

Again, what I'm saying is that: brain gives rise to mind. Rose petal is not red; red is how brain interprets photons bouncing off rose petal to retina.

So maybe my next step is to inquire: If brain gives rise to mind but is not identical to mind ... then what is the difference? What is mind that brain is not? What is brain that mind is not? Sound like a useful inquiry?
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby undefineable » Thu May 23, 2013 6:12 pm

rachmiel wrote:My reflexive way of looking at things is: the brain in this head is "feeling/thinking" _________ (whatever) due to the way patterns of neurons are firing within it.

The pattern of neuron-firing within the brain corresponds as code to '"feeling/thinking" _________ (whatever)', but while we agree that the brain is undergoing the firing, I'd nit-pick about making the brain the subject of any verbs that imply a mind.
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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