Can we ever really understand consciousness?

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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:10 pm

adinatha wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote: It's true, but that is does not mean the universe arose from mind...


That is not what I meant. I.e. some sort of Advaita idea.

When we say that matter comes from mind, it is very simple: physical matter arises due to the traces of action and affliction collectively aggregated in all minds every time the container universe forms.

N


I get that. This explanation doesn't work for me. In the situation of a vacuum, there are no minds. From Abhidharma, mind of retribution belongs to the grasper. There's no substrate field where these retribution minds stay. The Alayavijnana is not like Brahman, not a common field.



Minds (plural) don't need a material substrate. They are not, from a common Buddhist point of view dependent on matter -- for this reason in Abhidharma through anuttarayoga tantra formless realm beings have no location and are really without material attributes of any kind.
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:13 pm

adinatha wrote:And this is exactly why it can't be true.



The tree of life thing is just a theosophical crib. The genesis of the elements and their order is a Pan-indian concept, not confined to Buddhism per se.



The past. There is no origin. The buddha was specific about no origins. If you need a quote search around http://www.accesstoinsight.org. To really and truly understand no origins you have to understand the nonarising nature of interdependent relations.


Correct. There is no origin -- cosmic cycles have no origin and no end.

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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:42 pm

Namdrol wrote:You need to read Abhidharma, where this is explained very clearly.


BTW, Abhidharma, for me is not a valid source, because the way it describes atoms is wrong. It says atoms are partless. HH the Dalai Lama has admitted this and says there must be room for buddhism to accept its own limitations and incorporate the findings of hard science. To the extent the Abhidharma sought to show that atoms have no inherent existence it is on the right track. But its error in facts shows that it did not originate in an omniscient mind.
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:05 pm

Namdrol wrote:[Minds (plural) don't need a material substrate. They are not, from a common Buddhist point of view dependent on matter -- for this reason in Abhidharma through anuttarayoga tantra formless realm beings have no location and are really without material attributes of any kind.


The formless realms are what a yogi errantly enters; they depend on a yogi. This is going to get me into something we have discussed before, that the material is not what it appears. Physical and mental have no discrete boundaries. The formless realm beings do have attributes of attachment, an attraction to and grasping of the formless realm state and are thus temporal-spatial and impermanent. Space has no location, so all sentient beings fall into the category of no location. Abhidharma says many useful things, but I don't think it is always authoritative.
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:05 pm

adinatha wrote:
Namdrol wrote:You need to read Abhidharma, where this is explained very clearly.


BTW, Abhidharma, for me is not a valid source, because the way it describes atoms is wrong. It says atoms are partless. HH the Dalai Lama has admitted this and says there must be room for buddhism to accept its own limitations and incorporate the findings of hard science. To the extent the Abhidharma sought to show that atoms have no inherent existence it is on the right track. But its error in facts shows that it did not originate in an omniscient mind.



Nevertheless, there are assumptions present in Abhidharma texts which are present even in Dzogchen texts, things like the structure of atoms, Sumeru cosmology, etc.

Don't confuse evolving conventional descriptions with a limitation on omniscience.

Abhidharma is extremely important for understanding the context of wide variety of concepts in Buddhism, including, for example the two truths, afflictions, karma etc.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:08 pm

adinatha wrote:
Namdrol wrote:[Minds (plural) don't need a material substrate. They are not, from a common Buddhist point of view dependent on matter -- for this reason in Abhidharma through anuttarayoga tantra formless realm beings have no location and are really without material attributes of any kind.


The formless realms are what a yogi errantly enters; they depend on a yogi. This is going to get me into something we have discussed before, that the material is not what it appears. Physical and mental have no discrete boundaries. The formless realm beings do have attributes of attachment, an attraction to and grasping of the formless realm state and are thus temporal-spatial and impermanent. Space has no location, so all sentient beings fall into the category of no location. Abhidharma says many useful things, but I don't think it is always authoritative.


It it is not authoritative, but it is foundational. It provides the basic definitions that inform many assumptions that inform all the so called higher yānas. The extent to which people do not actually grasp those definitions and the assumptions which they spawn lead many people to grossly misunderstand things like Dzogchen and Dzogchen cosmology, Madhyamaka, Perfection of Wisdom etc.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:08 pm

Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:And this is exactly why it can't be true.



The tree of life thing is just a theosophical crib. The genesis of the elements and their order is a Pan-indian concept, not confined to Buddhism per se.


Which is why I feel, in many ways, the Buddha was just using it as a convenience, but not according it truth value.
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:14 pm

Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:
Namdrol wrote:You need to read Abhidharma, where this is explained very clearly.


BTW, Abhidharma, for me is not a valid source, because the way it describes atoms is wrong. It says atoms are partless. HH the Dalai Lama has admitted this and says there must be room for buddhism to accept its own limitations and incorporate the findings of hard science. To the extent the Abhidharma sought to show that atoms have no inherent existence it is on the right track. But its error in facts shows that it did not originate in an omniscient mind.



Nevertheless, there are assumptions present in Abhidharma texts which are present even in Dzogchen texts, things like the structure of atoms, Sumeru cosmology, etc.

Don't confuse evolving conventional descriptions with a limitation on omniscience.

Abhidharma is extremely important for understanding the context of wide variety of concepts in Buddhism, including, for example the two truths, afflictions, karma etc.


Granted. It is helpful for many things. Partless atoms is just wrong, not an evolving conventional description where the Abhidharma description is also true in a sense. It is not true in any way. The truth is more Buddhist. Electrons are just an energy cloud giving rise to the illusion of a surface. And atoms are dependently originated down to the subatomic structures.
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:34 pm

Namdrol wrote:It it is not authoritative, but it is foundational. It provides the basic definitions that inform many assumptions that inform all the so called higher yānas. The extent to which people do not actually grasp those definitions and the assumptions which they spawn lead many people to grossly misunderstand things like Dzogchen and Dzogchen cosmology, Madhyamaka, Perfection of Wisdom etc.


If Dzogchen is as you say, an advancement to a higher level that came later, I'm inclined to think this whole dharma thing could still be evolving. Just as Aristotle and Plato still influence a broad swath of Western disciplines, all these old Buddhism texts still influence the science of liberation of material existence. I don't have an opinion about who, where or when the tantras originated. At some level, these questions are subsidiary to whether the methods work as described in the manuals. I have experienced some of the effects promised in the texts, so I believe they probably do work all the way. In science, sometimes we can have working definitions that are not 100% right and we know that. But it won't matter because working from that definition yields the desired results any way. Like quantum is barely understood, but the basic function of a quantum computer has been demonstrated in the lab. We really don't know that much about subatomic, but we can go to the next level of atoms and we have a pretty sound grasp of it and can do so many things. Our ignorance of the subatomic has no real impact on what we can do with the atomic. So we can have all kinds of nutty and plausible theories about quantum and subatomic and still be able to make dishes, clothes, explosives, etc. The Abhidharma and Dzogchen is like this to me. That doesn't mean we can invent all kinds of things. We have to maintain those working definitions that are necessary for the system to work. But we are not wedded to those definitions and assumptions that are not important for the system. Dzogchen cosmology falls into this category for me.
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby 5heaps » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:35 pm

adinatha wrote:I didn't say the mind is physical. You all don't understand the nature of interdependence. Take five rectangular mirrors of equal size and place them into a pentagon, plus one pentagon roof. The interior will not seem hollow until the sixth mirror is in place. The interior will seem as if it goes on forever. But it is the illusion of space. Consciousness is just like this. That spaciousness is not physical, but it's not space either.
ok youre not saying its physical. but youre saying that its unchanging, which is even worse, and which tends to be the whole problem with emergent property theory in general.

you think that if theres something wrong with the space in the pentagon mirror room, in order to solve that problem, you must fix something in the mirrors themselves, not the space itself. or put in another way, an apple is an emergent property of all of the physical parts in a certain location. but you could never cut the apple in half..what you would have to do is cut the physical collection in half and then there would emerge 2 halves of an apple. likewise if you want to remove suffering you would have to look at its parts, fix the parts, and there would emerge nirvana. but its not like that...you fix the mind itself--this is uncontestable.
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:47 pm

adinatha wrote: The Abhidharma and Dzogchen is like this to me. That doesn't mean we can invent all kinds of things. We have to maintain those working definitions that are necessary for the system to work. But we are not wedded to those definitions and assumptions that are not important for the system. Dzogchen cosmology falls into this category for me.


The point is that in Buddhism in general, matter comes from mind. Not the other way around.

N
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby padma norbu » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:09 pm

adinatha wrote:
padma norbu wrote:
It's funny because that IS exactly the order of the elements in creation in the Kabballist Tree of Life and probably Hinduism, too...


And this is exactly why it can't be true.


Nope. The point is not the order of the elements, but ultimately the explanation arrived at. It's just an interesting observation with two completely different explanations.

adinatha wrote:The past. There is no origin. The buddha was specific about no origins. If you need a quote search around http://www.accesstoinsight.org. To really and truly understand no origins you have to understand the nonarising nature of interdependent relations.

I'm aware of dependent origination, which is why the question at the top of the page you see here and subsequent explanation of what I mean by that question.

There are three poisons, ignorance, attachment and aversion. There are three fundamental states of matter neutral, attraction and repulsion. Why is it that these three things appear to be exactly aligned? What if there is no answer? Perhaps it's because they are the same thing, and asking what comes from what is pointless. Like looking at a bucket and asking what came first the hole or the circle? They all arrive at the same time.


Yeah. So, why all that stuff about the mind evolving from elements and materialist theoretical science?
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby padma norbu » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:11 pm

Thanks, Namdrol. I appreciate the way you have made your points very succinctly and I am happy to say you've clarified the issue for me quite well already. :thanks:
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby padma norbu » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:15 pm

adinatha wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:And this is exactly why it can't be true.



The tree of life thing is just a theosophical crib. The genesis of the elements and their order is a Pan-indian concept, not confined to Buddhism per se.


Which is why I feel, in many ways, the Buddha was just using it as a convenience, but not according it truth value.


Well, that's weird because then you would be saying the experience with the lights in thogyal are not really true experiences, wouldn't you? After all, aren't the essences of the elements the lights which we can experience and know firsthand in order to get a grasp on this kind of thing and validate it through our own experiential awareness? Or does this experience not exactly clarify the elemental nature of material reality... in which case I am wondering what knowledge one would gain from such an experience.
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:20 pm

padma norbu wrote:
Yeah. So, why all that stuff about the mind evolving from elements and materialist theoretical science?


Because mind in Dzogchen comes from vāyu's interaction with the energy of the noetic principle we term vidyā.

One important point I forgot to mention is that consciousness in the scheme of the six dhātus refers to contaminated or impure consciousnesses. The consciousnesses of buddhas and arhats are outside of the six dhatus.

N
Last edited by Malcolm on Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:25 pm

5heaps wrote:
adinatha wrote:I didn't say the mind is physical. You all don't understand the nature of interdependence. Take five rectangular mirrors of equal size and place them into a pentagon, plus one pentagon roof. The interior will not seem hollow until the sixth mirror is in place. The interior will seem as if it goes on forever. But it is the illusion of space. Consciousness is just like this. That spaciousness is not physical, but it's not space either.
ok youre not saying its physical. but youre saying that its unchanging, which is even worse, and which tends to be the whole problem with emergent property theory in general.


I'm not saying it is unchanging at all.

you think that if theres something wrong with the space in the pentagon mirror room, in order to solve that problem, you must fix something in the mirrors themselves, not the space itself.


That's not what I think. You are putting words in my mouth.

or put in another way, an apple is an emergent property of all of the physical parts in a certain location. but you could never cut the apple in half..what you would have to do is cut the physical collection in half and then there would emerge 2 halves of an apple. likewise if you want to remove suffering you would have to look at its parts, fix the parts, and there would emerge nirvana. but its not like that...you fix the mind itself--this is uncontestable.


An apple is not an emergent property of a certain location. An apple is an evolved living organism. You can easily cut an apple in half, like with a knife. And you are cutting a collection of apple cells, water, fructose, etc. And yes, then you would have to halves. What's so hard about this?

If you want to remove suffering you remove attachment, aversion and ignorance, those are the parts that compose suffering. Then, nirvana "emerges." Yes this is exactly how it works. But you have to have a bigger understanding of emerges; doesn't mean created anew. It's a now you don't see it, now you do situation.
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:30 pm

Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote: The Abhidharma and Dzogchen is like this to me. That doesn't mean we can invent all kinds of things. We have to maintain those working definitions that are necessary for the system to work. But we are not wedded to those definitions and assumptions that are not important for the system. Dzogchen cosmology falls into this category for me.


The point is that in Buddhism in general, matter comes from mind. Not the other way around.

N


But doesn't explain where beginningless minds come from. That's the question. Actually, there's no this before that. This before that is just by way of explanation to neophytes. It creates the semblance of order, generates confidence and one enters the path. The path itself, none of this applies.
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:32 pm

padma norbu wrote:Yeah. So, why all that stuff about the mind evolving from elements and materialist theoretical science?


Because the two explanatory traditions mesh well if you throw out the dogma and adherence to mere tradition.
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:33 pm

adinatha wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote: The Abhidharma and Dzogchen is like this to me. That doesn't mean we can invent all kinds of things. We have to maintain those working definitions that are necessary for the system to work. But we are not wedded to those definitions and assumptions that are not important for the system. Dzogchen cosmology falls into this category for me.


The point is that in Buddhism in general, matter comes from mind. Not the other way around.

N


But doesn't explain where beginningless minds come from. That's the question. Actually, there's no this before that. This before that is just by way of explanation to neophytes. It creates the semblance of order, generates confidence and one enters the path. The path itself, none of this applies.


The logic of dependent origination forbids beginnings, as you know.

N
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby padma norbu » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:46 pm

adinatha wrote:Evolved from the elements and co-emergent means the same thing.
padma norbu wrote:Nope.


Ohhh... yes it does... Because consciousness is not a thing. It is not an element, it is a relationship, an aggregate. When the universe is in a formative stage, not all the aggregate elements are in place. When the oceans were populated by aminos, which are just crystals, there is not yet enough stuff to make a living thing. These aminos have to develop a level of complexity over time. Then, life emerges, then consciousness. But when a hungry little prokaryote comes out, we can't say it is conscious. But it is responding. Also, the aminos were also responding, and changing in response to the environment. This responsiveness is similar to consciousness. It is a very primitive form of awareness. It is the mirror-like awareness. Down to the subtlest forms of matter, there is attraction and repulsion. These are responses. The five wisdoms are not consciousness. These are fundamental and very very primitive awareness-like functions of physical matter. Again, I'm not saying the mind is physical. The mind is a relationship. Attraction and repulsion are not things, but relationships. The awareness-like attractions and repulsions are co-emergent with each other and so physical energy co-emerges. You string trillions of these functions together and you get a conscious being. A buddha is not a conscious, i.e., sentient being.


First all, your explanation sounds more Kabballist and Aleister Crowley-ish than any Buddhist or Dzogchen text I've ever read. Crowley said the same thing about consciousness; giving the example of the attraction and repulsion in molecular structures being very primitive aspects of awareness and evolving to great complexity. In fact, I can't see any difference in what you're saying because the Kabballist/Crowleyan perspective is that all wisdom exists in potential form only until it is manifested through the elements and made real at the earth/physical level of Malkuth through which we accumulate Knowledge which is eventually surpassed when we gain Wisdom and Understanding which essentially occurs simultaneously with the recognition of The Source, which is simultaneously our real nature and beyond egoist concerns or duality misperception. Prior to manifestation, however, it all exists as possibilities and potential only; there is no manifestation, no knowledge, no wisdom and no understanding... and so, The Source, never knows itself.

But, I am not putting words in your mouth. I realize that you didn't say all of that. What you did say is that consciousness evolves from physical interactions: "The awareness-like attractions and repulsions are co-emergent with each other and so physical energy co-emerges. You string trillions of these functions together and you get a conscious being. A buddha is not a conscious."

Secondly, if a buddha is not conscious, not sentient, then how can Amithaba or Tara help us? How can Manjushri impart any wisdom to us when we do Mo divination, for example? What does Namkhai Norbu mean when he says that being in our real nature does not mean we will not have any thoughts?

You see? If consciousness evolves from complex "trillions" of tiny awareness-like attractions and repulsions, as you are saying, than how does any of this make sense? We are not shooting for the consciousness of a rock. We are not losing our ability to think. Namkhai Norbu has made this point many times as have other teachers. So then, am I to believe based on what you've said that Buddhas are not conscious, not sentient, but based on what these teachers have said that I will eventually obtain Buddhahood while remaining conscious and sentient? Because we still have thoughts; the point is not to lose thoughts, we always have thoughts.

That is what this thread is about, actually. That is the entire point of this thread is examining this teaching that I have heard several times: we will always have thoughts, we are not trying to stop thoughts. The mind has rest and movement and both are natural. We do not want to become like the frozen monks with their rock consciousness that the Chinese slashed up while they sat there frozen in meditation.
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