Question about "location of mind"

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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby rachmiel » Thu May 23, 2013 9:55 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:"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?

As I see it, there is no one who is aware. There is awareness, with no owner. And that awareness arises in the neorochemistry of the brain.

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"

In fact I would, do think the latter. Who am "I?" A fictional character created by my brain in cahoots with my sensory organs and nervous system.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby rachmiel » Thu May 23, 2013 10:04 pm

Much of what I've been inquiring into here is more in the realm of subjective direct experience than objective/scientific thought. So here's what I'm gonna do:

Take this inquiry to the subjective arena it belongs in, meditation. I'll put my doubts about the nature of mind aside and dive into the kusulu meditation described in Vivid Awareness and see what I see ...

Thanks for your helpful insights, everyone!
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 23, 2013 10:16 pm

rachmiel wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:"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?

As I see it, there is no one who is aware. There is awareness, with no owner. And that awareness arises in the neorochemistry of the brain.



If awareness arises from the brain causally, how is it that the brain is also casually effected by awareness?
"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 rachmiel » Thu May 23, 2013 10:19 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
rachmiel wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:"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?

As I see it, there is no one who is aware. There is awareness, with no owner. And that awareness arises in the neorochemistry of the brain.



If awareness arises from the brain causally, how is it that the brain is also casually effected by awareness?

Feedback loop? Waddo I know? ;-)
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Jnana » Thu May 23, 2013 10:23 pm

rachmiel wrote:I *know* brain is the seat of mind. When I search for mind, that knowing is part of the process.

It might be worth investigating how you think you know this.

rachmiel wrote: 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?

I'd suggest that it would be useful to inquire whether or not you can establish with epistemic certainty that the "brain gives rise to mind."

rachmiel wrote:As I see it, there is no one who is aware. There is awareness, with no owner. And that awareness arises in the neorochemistry of the brain.

Taken together with your previous statements implying causation, this assumes physicalism, which is a metaphysical view that hasn't been established by modern science or philosophy. There are both traditional Buddhist arguments against physicalism (an example of which has already been provided by Astus in this thread) as well as modern arguments against physicalism. Exploring these arguments can expose the untenability of physicalist assumptions.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 23, 2013 10:27 pm

rachmiel wrote:

Feedback loop? Waddo I know? ;-)


Maybe, but this would mean that brain was basically a "first cause" for awareness/mind/whatever seemingly indicating that it exists from it's own side causally, how can it then can it be essentially "re-created" (something which is happening to the brain constantly) by the thing it supposedly gave rise to in the first place.

You can even take evolutionary theory, the evolution of the brain..and see that it kinds of flies in the face of the idea that physical brain was a first cause of consciousness, or so it seems to me, since consciousness/awareness/whatever is in large part responsible for what the brain is.

Alternatively,if you don't accept that brain is a first cause, but still accept the feedback loop model, it must have always existed..else the loop would make no sense, what starts the loop?
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Thu May 23, 2013 10:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"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 5heaps » Thu May 23, 2013 10:37 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?

If I touch my forearm, I subjectively experience a location (forearm)

yes, and is that 1st person experience a conglomeration of moving particles? can you break "red" with a hammer?
you can break your monitor with a hammer but can you also break your subjective experience of it?
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Wayfarer » Thu May 23, 2013 10:48 pm

I agree with the statements in the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad about the unknowability of mind. Briefly this is that you cannot know the knower of knowing, you cannot see the seer of seeing. The hand cannot grasp itself nor the eye see itself. Therefore any 'theory of mind' tries to locate the seer or knower amongst the objects of perception, but it is never there. Mind is furthermore epistemologically prior to every type of theory about where or what mind is or where it is located. So the appropriate response to this is to adopt what Zen calls the 'don't know' mind. We really don't know what mind is or for that matter what we are, what is the nature of being itself. I think we are continuously trying to escape from the discomfort of that not-knowing by identifying ourselves with something concrete, something knowable, through the sciences and by other means. That is the dynamic as far as I am concerned.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Astus » Thu May 23, 2013 11:14 pm

jeeprs wrote:I agree with the statements in the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad about the unknowability of mind. Briefly this is that you cannot know the knower of knowing, you cannot see the seer of seeing. The hand cannot grasp itself nor the eye see itself.


Unless you are putting this argument forward as a skilful means to ease the frantic search, stating that the mind cannot be known is contrary to both Zen and Dzogchen. There is a form of self-awareness that is denied in Buddhism, but there is another kind that is affirmed.
"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 Wayfarer » Thu May 23, 2013 11:23 pm

The eye not being able to see itself is axiomatic as far as I am concerned, and it has many implications. That is why meditation proceeds through un-knowing or self-emptying or negation. We don't have 'a theory of mind' about the nature of the 'unborn self'. The 'unborn self' precedes all theories. Theories of mind themselves are only skillful means to lead you to the point where you see you don't know the nature of mind. And the nature of mind is not something that admits of further explanation, it is the source of explanation, not the object of explanation. That is why, in many schools of Mahayana Buddhism, 'knowing the mind' is actually the culmination of the whole method.

Read your own signature.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Astus » Fri May 24, 2013 12:05 am

Zhihua Yao: The Buddhist Theory of Self-Cognition - discusses self-awareness (svasamvedana) from the early schools up to yogacara.
Paul Williams: The Reflexive Nature of Awareness - looks into Shantarakshita's and Mipham's arguments

Also, Brunnhölzl's "In Praise of Dharmadhatu" contains good sources and explanations about the different ways self-awarenss is used.
"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 Wayfarer » Fri May 24, 2013 12:33 am

I am familiar with some of those discussions. They don't contradict what I said. You can't make mind an object of cognition in any sense other than the allegorical, for the simple reason that you're never apart from it. You won't find anything in those texts that states otherwise. As you yourself said:

Astus wrote: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.


Anyway the OP says '...science has clearly shown us that the brain is the seat of the mind.' This is not true, as you argued in the same post. So I don't know why you're taking issue with what I have said here, as far as I am concerned it is totally orthodox.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Wayfarer » Fri May 24, 2013 12:48 am

Bodhidharma sits facing the wall. His future successor stands in the snow and presents his severed arm to Bodhidharma. He cries 'My mind is not pacified, pacify my mind'.

Bodhidharma says: 'If you bring me that mind, I will pacify it for you'.

The successor says: 'When I search my mind, I cannot hold it'.

Bodhidharma says: 'Then your mind is pacified already'.

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones,, Paul Reps, p 125.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby rachmiel » Fri May 24, 2013 1:00 am

jeeprs wrote:So the appropriate response to this is to adopt what Zen calls the 'don't know' mind. We really don't know what mind is or for that matter what we are, what is the nature of being itself. I think we are continuously trying to escape from the discomfort of that not-knowing by identifying ourselves with something concrete, something knowable, through the sciences and by other means. That is the dynamic as far as I am concerned.

This makes sense to me: The exact nature of the relationship between brain and mind is unknowable. So why bother getting all riled up about it? It is what it is, regardless of what you or I might think it is.

I think it's really important to recognize when one runs up against the mystery ... and to act accordingly, i.e. not to get all bent out of shape searching for a non-existent answer.

But what do I know? ;-)
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby undefineable » Fri May 24, 2013 1:26 am

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.

This was pretty much the 'official position of science' last time I checked.
rachmiel wrote: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.

As far as your distinction between sentience and consciousness goes, Wikipedia also makes one:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentience wrote:In the philosophy of consciousness, "sentience" can refer to the ability of any entity to have subjective perceptual experiences, or as some philosophers refer to them, "qualia".[1] This is distinct from other aspects of the mind and consciousness, such as creativity, intelligence, sapience, self-awareness, and intentionality (the ability to have thoughts that mean something or are "about" something). Sentience is a minimalistic way of defining "consciousness", which is otherwise commonly used to collectively describe sentience plus other characteristics of the mind.
{My emphasis}
I suspect, then, that Buddhist philosophy's claim is actually similar to your own, i.e. it's that sentient awareness precedes conscious activity and not the other way around. I wonder how many translators of Eastern philosophy in general have used the term 'consciousness' generically to cover any and all awareness - as well as, say, the fifth skandha (i.e. 'consciousness proper'). Semantics are annoying (unless you're technically-minded I suppose), but untying them does tend to resolve a lot of apparent disagreement.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby undefineable » Fri May 24, 2013 1:53 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote: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.

The difficulty with this approach is that we naturally assume that if we relax enough to loosen our grip on such a disjointed collection together, then it will naturally fall apart and we will be left with nothing - just a bereft sentience drifting in mind-resistant nothingness :jawdrop: {Ego might act out this scenario as a way of apparently proving its necessity, of course ;) }

Something I'm coming to understand about sunyata, though, is that it leaves things without their needing to work that way - The space between things is enough to connect them, since there's nothing inside the 'things' to separate them at a fundamental level, or to subject them to any kind of metaphysical gravity by which they'd quickly fall apart. For that reason, only the most basic, unintentional level of subjective tension (i.e. samsara) is needed to keep all our 'garbage' together, to the point that it couldn't be prized apart.

Unless this kind of perspective is applied, it's hard to explain how our minds could hold together in the absence of either a God or a superhuman force of will.

From an everyday point of view outside this kind of insight, though, the claim that the different kinds of garbage have nothing to do with each other (in either nature or origins) sounds odd, since -for the unenlightened- 'the fact that it all arrived in one truck' is the fact that we're apparently all individual beings. That's not irrelevant yet, though we can always aspire to greater things _ _
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Jnana » Fri May 24, 2013 2:45 am

jeeprs wrote:I agree with the statements in the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad about the unknowability of mind. Briefly this is that you cannot know the knower of knowing, you cannot see the seer of seeing. The hand cannot grasp itself nor the eye see itself. Therefore any 'theory of mind' tries to locate the seer or knower amongst the objects of perception, but it is never there. Mind is furthermore epistemologically prior to every type of theory about where or what mind is or where it is located. So the appropriate response to this is to adopt what Zen calls the 'don't know' mind. We really don't know what mind is or for that matter what we are, what is the nature of being itself.

The Upaniṣads are not a valid authority when it comes to Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen meditation and realization. Nor is Zen. Nor is Descartes or Husserl.

jeeprs wrote:You can't make mind an object of cognition in any sense other than the allegorical, for the simple reason that you're never apart from it.

In epistemological terms, we can use direct perception of the mind in order to recognize its nature. Thrangu Rinpoche discusses this in Vivid Awareness:

    When we look at the nature of the mind, we can use inference, or instead we can use direct perception: we can experience this through the wisdom of self-awareness. We can actually come to an experience of the empty nature of the mind....

    When we say that the mind is self-aware, this means that we know what we are aware of. Self-awareness knows whatever the eye sees. Self-awareness knows whatever the sixth consciousness is thinking of....

    Here, in the mind instructions, we do not examine the mind from afar with logical analysis. We instead look directly at it and take direct perception as the path.

And direct perception can lead to yogic perception. The employment of direct perception (also translated as direct valid cognition) is further explained by Thrangu Rinpoche in his commentary on Tilopa's Mahāmudrā Upadeśa:

    [ I]n the generation of the uncommon view, one simply looks directly at things or directly at one's own mind to determine its nature. This is using direct experience and direct valid cognition in order to arrive at the view, and that is the special characteristic of the view of mahāmudrā....

    Sometimes you may think, "I cannot look at my mind. How can my mind look at itself? Something cannot look at itself." But your mind can look at your mind. If I were to ask you to look at somebody else's mind, then that would be difficult. You cannot do that. But your mind is your mind. You can look at it any time you want to.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Jnana » Fri May 24, 2013 2:49 am

rachmiel wrote:The exact nature of the relationship between brain and mind is unknowable. So why bother getting all riled up about it? It is what it is, regardless of what you or I might think it is.

I think it's really important to recognize when one runs up against the mystery ... and to act accordingly, i.e. not to get all bent out of shape searching for a non-existent answer.

But what do I know?

Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen require instruction from a qualified teacher.
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Wayfarer » Fri May 24, 2013 3:05 am

Jnana wrote:But your mind is your mind. You can look at it any time you want to.


Well, I disagree with that approach and that method. It is the fact that you *can't* 'look at it' that makes it such an interesting question. 'Looking at mind' is an allegory. You might say 'look directly at mind' but that is an allegorical method. There is nothing to look at.

Furthermore if this were true:

But your mind is your mind. You can look at it any time you want to.


How would delusion be possible? How could it be that the great majority of beings are deluded? They too can 'look at their minds' anytime they want to, but it doesn't seem to make any difference to their behaviour. If you want to train yourself in awareness of mind, why is it often a matter of constant application for many years? If the mind was obvious to anyone who looked, that would not be necessary.

I didn't quote the Upanisad as an authority with reference to Buddhism in particular, but only as the source of the insight that 'the eye cannot see itself'.

I think the real motivation behind the 'search for the seat of consciousness' is actually rooted in the fear of the unconscious. I have debated this issue on many secular philosophy forums. If you suggest for a minute that mind is anything other than material, the reaction verges on hysterical. The word that is constantly used is 'woo', as in 'you're talking woo'. 'Woo' is the generic forum term for anything that sounds spiritual or metaphysical.

So this idea that the search to understand the mind through the neurosciences is like 'the last frontier' is actually a manifestation of what I regard as 'bad faith'. 'Bad faith (from French, mauvaise foi) is a philosophical concept used by existentialist philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir to describe the phenomenon where a human being under pressure from societal forces adopts false values and disowns his/her innate freedom to act authentically.' The 'authentic' response to 'the mystery of being' ought actually to be a realization of the mystery of our own being. And a lot of people can't handle that: hence the call it 'woo'. :woohoo:
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Re: Question about "location of mind"

Postby Jnana » Fri May 24, 2013 3:24 am

jeeprs wrote:
Jnana wrote:But your mind is your mind. You can look at it any time you want to.


Well, I disagree with that approach and that method. It is the fact that you *can't* 'look at it' that makes it such an interesting question. 'Looking at mind' is an allegory. You might say 'look directly at mind' but that is an allegorical method. There is nothing to look at.

Respectfully, this only illustrates your lack of understanding about how direct perception is used in Mahāmudrā.

jeeprs wrote:Furthermore if this were true:

But your mind is your mind. You can look at it any time you want to.


How would delusion be possible? How could it be that the great majority of beings are deluded? They too can 'look at their minds' anytime they want to, but it doesn't seem to make any difference to their behaviour.

Human beings with unimpaired faculties have the capacity for direct perception. But direct perception isn't equivalent to the recognition of the mind's nature. Recognition also requires vipaśyanā. And within the context of Mahāmudrā or Dzogchen, recognition also requires direct introduction from a qualified teacher.

jeeprs wrote:If you want to train yourself in awareness of mind, why is it often a matter of constant application for many years? If the mind was obvious to anyone who looked, that would not be necessary.

If someone wants to train in Mahāmudrā or Dzogchen, then they need to (1) find a qualified teacher, and (2) follow their instructions.

jeeprs wrote:I think the real motivation behind the 'search for the seat of consciousness' is actually rooted in the fear of the unconscious. I have debated this issue on many secular philosophy forums. If you suggest for a minute that mind is anything other than material, the reaction verges on hysterical. The word that is constantly used is 'woo', as in 'you're talking woo'. 'Woo' is the generic forum term for anything that sounds spiritual or metaphysical.

So this idea that the search to understand the mind through the neurosciences is like 'the last frontier' is actually a manifestation of what I regard as 'bad faith'. 'Bad faith (from French, mauvaise foi) is a philosophical concept used by existentialist philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir to describe the phenomenon where a human being under pressure from societal forces adopts false values and disowns his/her innate freedom to act authentically.' The 'authentic' response to 'the mystery of being' ought actually to be a realization of the mystery of our own being. And a lot of people can't handle that: hence the call it 'woo'. :woohoo:

Well, this isn't a secular philosophy forum.
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