Question about "location of mind"

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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu May 23, 2013 6:23 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.

One can certainly know the location of brain activity,
just as one can know where all the mirrors are located in one's house.
But physical brain activity isn't what that statement refers to.

When phenomena occurs in the space (context) of awareness, mind arises.
where there is no awareness, even if phenomena occur, there is no arising of mind.
Where there is awareness, of there in no object of awareness, mind does not arise.

The physical brain produces the mans of cognition.
"awareness" meaning cognition, such as "I am aware of that thing"
is not the same meaning as
primordial or fundamental awareness, or "the ground of awareness".

cognitive awareness of things has many causes and factors. It is, as you say, dependent on a brain.

"awareness" , when referred to as the existent context in which all thought arises is something else.

The reason you cannot find mind anywhere inside or outside the body
is because the physical body exists in space
and thoughts only occur in time.
So, it's like looking into a saxophone to see where the notes are kept.

You can't locate mind because mind isn't an existent thing in itself.
Like a mirror's reflections, it only arises due to conditions.
So, what Khenpo Gangshar is saying is that clinging to it as though it exists somewhere is futile.
.
.
.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby undefineable » Thu May 23, 2013 6:29 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:What happens with sentient beings that have form but do not have a brain as such? Insects, Jelly fish, protozoa etc...

If they have no brain, but instead function by means of the same simple, chemical processes that power all matter, then why should we assume they're sentient?
rachmiel wrote: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.

You're a true philosopher :twothumbsup: Mind has been proven (and the results are not hard to find) to give rise to changes in the brain in the case of meditation, being as it is a lifestyle choice. This suggests the possibility of minds developing enough to lose the need for bodies, as in the formless god realm.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu May 23, 2013 6:29 pm

rachmiel wrote:
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?


That's a very useful inquiry.
But the assumption (brain gives rise to mind) is wrong,
which is why, using this assumption, no satisfactory answer can be reached.
Mind gives rise to brain for the exact reasons you describe the perception of the rose.
The chemicals in the rose petal..the chemicals in the brain...
all means the same thing, all experienced as the arising of mind by awareness.

What is mind that brain is not?
Mind is half brain activity, half awareness of brain activity.
Brain activity, like a rose, is also just phenomena.
the difference is that the garden we call the brain is kept inside of a dark, round little calcium box.

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

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu May 23, 2013 6:31 pm

Is this a rose petal?
(actual photo of neurons firing)
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby rachmiel » Thu May 23, 2013 7:06 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:You can't locate mind because mind isn't an existent thing in itself.
Like a mirror's reflections, it only arises due to conditions.
So, what Khenpo Gangshar is saying is that clinging to it as though it exists somewhere is futile.

This is helpful, thanks.

Mind is like any other phenomenon, a "product" of codependent arising. Thus it has no essence, thus no location.

Is that correct?
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu May 23, 2013 7:13 pm

undefineable wrote:If they have no brain, but instead function by means of the same simple, chemical processes that power all matter, then why should we assume they're sentient?
Humans also seem to physically function by the "same, simple, chemical processes that power all matter", why do we assume humans are sentient?
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby rachmiel » Thu May 23, 2013 7:16 pm

undefineable wrote:
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.

I'm realizing I don't have anywhere near a clear understanding of what the Vivid Awareness author means by: mind. I might have missed it when reading the book, but my feeling is that the reader is assumed to already know what mind means.

How could I find out what mind means in this context?
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby undefineable » Thu May 23, 2013 7:31 pm

rachmiel wrote:Rose petal is not red; red is how brain interprets photons bouncing off rose petal to retina.

Again, this seems a stretch - The subjective experience of 'red' is how awareness further interprets what the brain ends up with.
rachmiel wrote:If brain gives rise to mind but is not identical to mind ... then what is the difference?

I was trying to explain that there's not even an overlap, ontologically speaking, in the case of how we generally experience mind. As a thought experiment, imagine two sentient beings who for some reason shared a single body and a single brain - Since their lives and experiences couldn't be different to each other, the two beings would be completely identical, but this doesn't mean there wouldn't be two of them.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby heart » Thu May 23, 2013 7:32 pm

rachmiel wrote:
undefineable wrote:
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.

I'm realizing I don't have anywhere near a clear understanding of what the Vivid Awareness author means by: mind. I might have missed it when reading the book, but my feeling is that the reader is assumed to already know what mind means.

How could I find out what mind means in this context?


You can study the other books by Thrangu Rinpoche, it will give a quite clear picture of the Dharma. "Vivid awareness" is actually a teaching that is delivered together with a so called pointing-out instruction which gives a direct experience of the nature of mind in the student. In this kind of teaching there is a huge difference between mind and nature of mind and this understanding is quite crucial.

/magnus
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby MalaBeads » Thu May 23, 2013 7:44 pm

heart wrote:
You can study the other books by Thrangu Rinpoche, it will give a quite clear picture of the Dharma. "Vivid awareness" is actually a teaching that is delivered together with a so called pointing-out instruction which gives a direct experience of the nature of mind in the student. In this kind of teaching there is a huge difference between mind and nature of mind and this understanding is quite crucial.

/magnus


Exactly, Magnus, which is why I asked Rachmiel if he/she had ever received direct introduction to the nature of mind from a qualified dzogchen master.

This understanding will never be obtained by reading books. Or in a laboratory. The best we can do with our intellectual faculties is refine the language we use to talk about these things. And then only after we have integrated the experience of them.

I think PadmaVon has given some pretty good explanations here but that will never be enough if you don't know how to rest your own mind in its nature. Why? Because the intellectualizing aspect of mind always wants "more". This is just ego but I'm going to stop now.

Cheers.

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

Postby undefineable » Thu May 23, 2013 7:54 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
undefineable wrote:If they have no brain, but instead function by means of the same simple, chemical processes that power all matter, then why should we assume they're sentient?
Humans also seem to physically function by the "same, simple, chemical processes that power all matter", why do we assume humans are sentient?

:applause: I understand there's something of an observable range of complexity involving the electrical communication of nerve cells at the 'higher' end :tongue:

Who knows what the Buddha had to say about microbes :shrug: , but none of us would want to see Buddhist monks happily slaughtering jellyfish out of the belief that since they lack brains they must be insentient :toilet:
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby undefineable » Thu May 23, 2013 7:55 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote: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.

Are you saying that there's a 'correct' and 'incorrect' way to experience sensory input, or that there's a gap between the fully-processed input and the mind's experience of it?

The rose petal example of rachmiel's that I've quoted above sounds like Kant's insight that mind itself is a barrier to any likeness of the world as it is, if indeed it can have a likeness _ {Go easy on me here - I only found out what the guy actually thought a couple of days ago :emb: :P .} Someone with normal vision, then, is perceiving things no more 'as they are' than someone who's colour-blind.

So, a 'defective person' (sounds a bit fascist, but our brains do define us up to a point) is such not because of distortion, but because the sensory and mental processes involved in decoding and converting input into perceptions are incomplete or divergent - by comparison with what's going on in the brains most humans. With diagnosable delusions or hallucinations, something is being added that's not warranted by the 'data'.

I'm skeptical that there are many people whose input-processing is completely 'divergent' rather than just 'incomplete' (albeit probably sloshing around in 'divergent' ways), but we would of course expect to find such differences in comparisons of species, and wouldn't use terms like 'defect' in those cases.

Sorry about the 'divergence' here ( :focus: ), but an obvious alternative to all this would be to see directly that there's no solid, definite world 'out there' or 'in here' that could be either distorted or faithfully reflected :buddha1: . Maybe this was one point of the argument from 'Vivid Awareness' described in the opening post :thinking:
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby wisdom » Thu May 23, 2013 8:11 pm

You have to establish for yourself that the mind does not exist dependent upon the body. If it did and it merely vanished at death, then the universal truth is Nihilism. In that case the Buddha Dharma is a pointless endeavor, we may as well all be hedonists and when we are sick of worldly pleasure, we should kill ourselves because suicide will be the most effective and fastest way to eliminate suffering.

How do you establish for yourself that the mind is not dependent upon the body? You could study the numerous accounts of brain dead people who have had out of body experiences, recounting the events that transpired with startling accuracy despite being clinically dead. You could study the numerous accounts of people who had loved ones who passed away or were in an accident and somehow knew that an accident had happened despite being hundreds or thousands of miles apart, indicating that the mind can transcend physical limitations of brain and body. You could examine the numerous accounts of people who have had dreams or visions of future events that they otherwise should have had no knowledge of.

If these things are not enough to engender faith, then you could pray to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for a sign of the minds insubstantial nature, a sign that the mind is not only within the brain and that after death, the karmic impressions developed in this life will determine where your mind goes in the future. If that does not work and you still do not have faith, you could even go so far as to learn to project your consciousness outside of your body such as in Astral Projection, but ideally you will not have to do that because it will take up a lot of time and energy.

Once you believe the mind is not part of the body, then examine the constituent parts of the body and brain and determine for yourself whether or not a thing called "mind" is to be found in them. You say that its in the brain, but the brain is nothing but chemical reactions and electrical signals. Examining these, we find nothing called the mind. If we could, we would be able to isolate an electric current in a wire and examine it and learn about the mind, or we could experiment with chemical reactions and bonding and thereby come to see the mind. Yet although these perceptions would all be generated by our minds, and take place within our mind, nevertheless those chemicals are compounded phenomena, as is the electric activity. We can reduce the elements of all compounded phenomena into complete emptiness, and therefore no mind is to be found anywhere in any compounded phenomena whatsoever. Beyond this conditioned phenomenal universe there is our primordial awareness, this primordial awareness that is beyond causality is experienced as "Vivid Awareness". In order to reach Vivid Awareness, we must establish the non-existence of the mind and the non-existence of the contents of that mind, because otherwise we become trapped in dualistic perceptions and mental projections and we are never able to free ourselves from our delusions, because we believe them to be real when they are nothing more than a compounded entity.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Astus » Thu May 23, 2013 8:15 pm

To show that the problem of mind being the body and the body producing the mind has been known before, here are some stanzas from the Tattvasangraha, ch. 22 (tr. Ganganatha Jha). Of course, the reasoning might seem strange, because on one hand it is Indian, and on the other because it was written in the 8th century.

Some arguments of the Lokayatikas (i.e. materialists):

The body, the cognition, the sense-organs and the rest being destroyed every moment, they could not pertain to the other world ; and there is nothing else that is admitted (by you, Buddhists). Hence consciousness must be regarded as produced from, or manifested by, certain material substances, just like fermented acids, liquors and such things.

The names 'body', 'sense-organ' and so on are applied to particular combinations of earth and other material substances; there is no other reality than these.

...

From this it follows that the right view is that consciousness proceeds from the body itself which is equipped with the five life-breaths prana, apana and the rest; as has been declared by Kambalashvatara.

To assert that consciousness resides in the foetus, etc. Is sheer audacity; nothing can be cognised at that stage, as the sense-organs are not there ; and consciousness can have no form other than the cognition of things ; it is for this same reason that there is no consciousness in the state of swoon, nor can consciousness exist there in the form of a latent potency ; because no potencies can exist without a substratum; and as there is no soul that could be that substratum of consciousness, the body is the only substratum possible fob it. So that at the end, when the body has ceased to exist, wherein could the consciousness subsist ?


Some refutations from the Buddhist point of view:

The idea of the body being the cause (of cognition) has been already discarded, on the ground of its involving the possibility of all cognitions appearing simultaneously, on account of there being no other (contributory) causes. As a matter of fact, it is found that cognition in the form of remembrance, affection and so forth (which are cognitions) actually proceeds from pleasurable experiences and pleasant reminiscences of the same [which also are cognitions] ; and this cannot be denied. Then again, it is also seen that deterioration and improvement in one's later cognitions are brought about by deterioration and improvement in the practice of the learning and arts. It is also seen that when the functioning of the mind is defective, there is no apprehension of other things. On account of all these facts, the idea of cognition proceeding from cognition cannot be objected to.

...

If the cognition is of the same nature as the body, then why is not the consciousness (cognition) of love, hatred, etc. Not perceived by others as clearly as the body is ? In fact, cognition is cognised by the cogniser himself alone, while the body is cognised by himself as well as by others. Things that are so cognised are always distinct, e.G. Colic pain and the dramatic actor.

This reason is not admissible against the doctrine that * cognition (consciousness) alone exists ' ; as (under that view) what is cognised (by the cognition) is the appearance of itself ; as in the case of the man with defective vision. Further, cognition is always found to be destroyed immediately after appearance ; if then, the body with the cognition is of the same nature as the cognition, why is it not regarded as momentary ?

...

There is no audacity in asserting that there is consciousness in the foetus ; even though the sense-organs have not appeared in it, why cannot cognition be there in fact the assertion that does involve audacity is that all cognition proceeds from sense-organs and objects; because the contrary is found to be the case during dreams. In reality, cognition is apprehended also in a form which is distinct from that of the object, as is found in the case of swoon. From this it is clear that consciousness can be there in the foetus.

Consciousness is not present in the foetus merely in the form of a potency ; the view held is that consciousnesses are present there in their actual form. Whence do you derive the idea that there is no consciousness during sleep and swoon and such other conditions ? If it be argued that " the idea is obtained from the absence of consciousness ", then, the question is how has this absence been cognised ? In case your idea proceeds thus " we do not cognise any consciousness at the time ", then that itself proves the presence of consciousness at the time. It might be argued that " if consciousness is present during the said states, then why is there no remembrance of it on awakening, etc. ? " this fact (of non-remembrance) is not effective (in refuting our view) j the absence of remembrance is due to the absence of vividness and other conditions (in the consciousness) as in the case of the consciousness of the newborn infant.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu May 23, 2013 8:20 pm

undefineable wrote:Who knows what the Buddha had to say about microbes :shrug: , but none of us would want to see Buddhist monks happily slaughtering jellyfish out of the belief that since they lack brains they must be insentient :toilet:
Hence not having a brain does not mean you do not have a mind.
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 23, 2013 8:24 pm

These are just some simple inferences that have always made me start to question the "mind = brain" idea, hope this isn't too rambl-y:

1) Children - do you have kids? Watching kids grow up is almost a ringing endorsement for something other than the reductionist model of "genetics and environment" that we use to explain what someone is, this is actually one of the things that really got me considering Karma and mind more fully, in particular Alaya-Vijnana. Watching a kid grow up a bit personally left me without doubt that our existential model of what and how people come to "be" in terms of the gestalt of personality is reductionist in the extreme, and not big enough to hold the truth. Of course, that doesn't mean necessarily that I am convinced that all Buddhist doctrine is perfect and unquestionable on the subject, only that Buddhist doctrine has explanations where the materialist reductions simply come up short.

2) What someone else mentioned about the brain being physically altered by actions, this seems to indicate that we cannot reduce mind to brain, whatever their relationship, if the physical properties can be altered by behavior and things "outside" the brain, then brain is not synonymous with mind.

3) Completely subjective, but like #1), a few years of meditation have given me experiences of "mind" that simply are not explainable by the reductionist model of all of this only being the result of either "inner" physical things - essentially brain as determined by genetics, and physical development or of "outer" things - i.e. the environment and it's effects on the "inner" environment. More accurately, it's given me reason to think the standard model presents an inner vs. outer dichotomy which misses the fundamental basis of both - which is mind. Here, I am not sure anything other than an affirmative feeling of experiencing this non-duality is sufficient.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu May 23, 2013 8:40 pm

rachmiel wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:You can't locate mind because mind isn't an existent thing in itself.
Like a mirror's reflections, it only arises due to conditions.
So, what Khenpo Gangshar is saying is that clinging to it as though it exists somewhere is futile.

This is helpful, thanks.

Mind is like any other phenomenon, a "product" of codependent arising. Thus it has no essence, thus no location.

Is that correct?

That is, I think, correct.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby rachmiel » Thu May 23, 2013 8:54 pm

MalaBeads wrote:
heart wrote:You can study the other books by Thrangu Rinpoche, it will give a quite clear picture of the Dharma. "Vivid awareness" is actually a teaching that is delivered together with a so called pointing-out instruction which gives a direct experience of the nature of mind in the student. In this kind of teaching there is a huge difference between mind and nature of mind and this understanding is quite crucial.
/magnus

Exactly, Magnus, which is why I asked Rachmiel if he/she had ever received direct introduction to the nature of mind from a qualified dzogchen master.

No. I've attended a couple of retreats by Anam Thubten in which he used the term rigpa a lot -- Rigpa! Rigpa! -- but he never much talked about what rigpa actually is. My Krishnamurti and Advaita/non-dualistic readings went quite deeply into awareness, but every school of Eastern thought seems to have a slightly different take on what awareness means.

My personal take, for what it's worth, is that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon that arose and evolved into its current complexity with the evolution of living sentient thinking/feeling organisms. As I see it, brain/sentience preceded and gave rise to consciousness. The belief that consciousness precedes brain/sentience is one of my main obstacles to fully buying into most Eastern philosophies.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu May 23, 2013 9:22 pm

rachmiel wrote:
My personal take, for what it's worth, is that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon that arose and evolved into its current complexity with the evolution of living sentient thinking/feeling organisms. As I see it, brain/sentience preceded and gave rise to consciousness. The belief that consciousness precedes brain/sentience is one of my main obstacles to fully buying into most Eastern philosophies.


Consider consciousness as perhaps not a single thing at all, but as a series of separate events, lots and lots of separate events all moving together at once, like a garbage truck unloading a big haul of trash into a landfill. From a distance, all that garbage looks like one big mass of stuff. All connected. This is usually the way we perceive the activity of the mind. But upon closer scrutiny we see that the garbage comes from all different places, is made up of all different stuff, lots of things that actually don't have anything to do with each other at all, and the fact that it all arrived in one truck turns out really to be irrelevant.

So, when we look at what we perceive (from a 'distance') as a single truckload of "consciousness" naturally we wonder what this the nature of this single thing. But the problem is that this perception is faulty. Consciousness isn't one thing. So, it doesn't have a single nature or characteristic.

"Consciousness", meaning some level of cognition or response to stimulus, doesn't precede brain/sentience. it is a result of awareness+ object of awareness. But the ground of awareness does precede cognition. Otherwise, you could have a brain thinking up things, but nobody aware that is is thinking up things. But how could that be?

Suppose a great idea for a movie suddenly occurs.
You might think,
"I just had a great idea for a movie"
but you probably wouldn't think,
"my brain just thought of a great idea for a movie"
Yet, if you say "I had this idea for a movie" then where did that "I" come from?
And if you assert that this "I" is produced by the physical brain only,
then again, you have a brain that essentially manufactures the one who owns it.
And that doesn't make any sense.

Of course, there are all kinds of brain activities that we are not cognitively aware of. But they aren't thoughts.

In Tibetan there is a term for this "ground of awareness", maybe many terms depending on its application.
I forget what it is. "Tapedeck" or "Gumdrop" or something like that.
.
.
.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby asunthatneversets » Thu May 23, 2013 9:38 pm

Honestly the entire 'brain based' model can be disregarded entirely when it comes to dharma inquiry and practice. The brain and body of course do have conventional relevance, however if one insists that the scientific theories are inherently and ultimately true, all that is accomplished is the championing of a materialist/physicalist view. A view which is extremely defeating when it comes to the ways in which the dharma can liberate one from all of our misconceptions. The brain and it's supremacy is relatively valid when it comes to our physiological functioning, but always remember it is something you learned, and therefore it is a notion you hold onto and have to conjure up to explain away experience. It is nothing but a thought, and you do not experience thought, located in a brain, in your direct experience. The brain is never experienced in your direct experience.
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