Is Space Conscious?

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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:36 pm

Aemilius wrote:If you are aware of a tree in front of you, then your mind or your consciousness goes out to that tree. Similarly with all other objects of attention. This is how perception, and awareness of objects, is viewed normally in buddhist psychology. And there is a lot about this theme of mind and perception in buddhism.


Consciousness does not literally project from you, like a beam of light from a flashlight
illuminating one thing or another.
This is a means of understanding the nature of mind and of cognition
but otherwise, there is no basis for such an assertion.

When you think you see a tree,
you actually see light reflected off the tree.
In fact, "you" do not see it at all.
(if you did, that would assert the existence of a self).
the brain processes incoming light.
it is only in the mind, that this information becomes a tree.
The same mind might perceive that information as a tall person.
Or to use a famous Buddhist reference,
might perceive a rope to be a snake.

So, the term "a projection of your own mind" is used
but this doesn't mean that the mind is operating like a movie projector.
It means that when we see something
we are really only seeing our own mental interpretation of it.

But if you think otherwise,
I won't argue differently.
There would be no point in doing so.
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby Matt J » Thu Sep 12, 2013 1:03 pm

I think that this is a cultural assumption. If we lived in a pantheistic culture, we would probably not think that strange at all.

Ultimately, I'm not sure this question CAN be answered. Everything we experience is our own mental perceptions. What and whether there is anything outside of experience we cannot completely know.

When I am faced with another human being, I assume that they are conscious because of the ability to communicate and because they act like I do. In other words, I make an inference based on a similarity.

I often further assume that if things lack a nervous system, they cannot be conscious. But a nervous system may be necessary only to communicate or manifest consciousness. Why do we assume that it therefore has a role in creating it? Because that is what scientists currently believe. My tongue is necessary to communicate my thoughts, but it would be a mistake to think that without my tongue, there are no thoughts.

Consciousness may inhere in the universe like a Higgs field. Why do we believe that it doesn't?




Sherab Dorje wrote:
Jikan wrote:TienTai doctrine would say yes (because the teaching of "emptiness" is regarded as a true teaching but not the last or most complete teaching, not the final answer if you will, but Buddhahood is, and since all that is empty is also characterized by the capacity for Buddhahood, then...). &c.
So Tien tai says that all phenomena: cinder blocks, fence rails, stone walls, garbage pails... (I'm looking out my window and listing the various phenomena I see) are sentient/conscious and/or have Buddha Nature??? :shrug: Why do I find that hard to believe?
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Sep 12, 2013 1:05 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:
Aemilius wrote:If you are aware of a tree in front of you, then your mind or your consciousness goes out to that tree. Similarly with all other objects of attention. This is how perception, and awareness of objects, is viewed normally in buddhist psychology. And there is a lot about this theme of mind and perception in buddhism.
r does the tree project out from your consciousness? According to your model there is an actual existing (of its own accord) tree out there. Is there?
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Sep 12, 2013 1:17 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:
Aemilius wrote:If you are aware of a tree in front of you, then your mind or your consciousness goes out to that tree. Similarly with all other objects of attention. This is how perception, and awareness of objects, is viewed normally in buddhist psychology. And there is a lot about this theme of mind and perception in buddhism.
Or does the tree project out from your consciousness? According to your model there is an actual existing (of its own accord) tree out there. Is there?


What is there are the conditions for awareness to arise as the concept of "tree".

Some of these conditions are external, the object growing in the woods, which is in fact a series of very slowly occurring and constantly changing (which we only perceive as motionless) events that we call "trees", and not really solid objects at all.

And some of the conditions are internal, meaning that we already have preconceived notions about the concept of "tree" and we match our perceptions of the external world to that. If you were to find something that you never saw before, perhaps a machine part or something you could not identify specifically, you would still perceive it as an object, but you wouldn't match it up to anything.

Likewise, if you are hallucinating, or dreaming, and objects appear as being outside of you, in front of you or behind you or whatever, this is completely a projection of the mind, and they vanish when you wake up. This is the simile used when describing awakened mind. We no longer take the appearances of things as intrinsically real.

The things themselves (cinderblocks0 may be "real" in the casual sense, just like this post that you are reading on your computer screen, but the appearances are only the play of the mind.
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby Sherab » Thu Sep 12, 2013 2:09 pm

Matt J wrote:Consciousness may inhere in the universe like a Higgs field. Why do we believe that it doesn't?

All phenomena that we, conscious beings experience, are emergent properties or in Buddhist terms, causally produced or more subtly, dependently arisen.

I would speculate that we can group phenomena that we experience into three categories: physical, mental and something that bridges between the two.

A Higgs field is already something emergent from the Planck scale and I would group it under physical phenomena.

All bets are off if we are to talk about where phenomena (physical, mental and the physical-mental) emerges from and space is not where all phenomena emerges from, at least not in Dzogchen.
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby undefineable » Thu Sep 12, 2013 3:24 pm

Aemilius wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Aemilius wrote: If consciousness is infinite, where does it extend itself if not in space?

Thoughts do not occupy space.
They only last for durations of time
and really, not even that.


That is one possible experience, I believe, of you own mind. Others may experience it differently.
When you are aware of your thoughts, what takes place? I mean, how do you see your thoughts?

If you are aware of a tree in front of you, then your mind or your consciousness goes out to that tree.
I find it hard to believe that others experience thoughts as taking place within physical space, as opposed to believing it to be so based on the kind of habitual assumption you describe (in relation to the tree) backed up by a straightforward understanding of scientific findings or by other culture-specific assumptions. Certainly, I've never heard anyone claim to 'feel' thoughts as having any particular location in space - either in their bodies or anywhere else. {After all, before the brain was revealed as the locus of mental activity, most cultures held that some other organ -or even a 'soul'- fulfilled that role.}

On the other hand, the difference between 'experience' and 'belief (based on perspective)' in Buddhism is something that's really still beyond me at present, and I merely have 'faith' that the (crude) 'emptiness' that scientific findings (e.g. by the apparently indecipherable nature of 'quantum foam' or by the uncertainty that still surrounds the concept of fundamental particles) and psychological investigations suggest is the nature of all things really is the nature of all things, and is therefore the only perspective that can reflected by 'personal experience'.
Aemilius wrote: If you are aware of a tree in front of you, then your mind or your consciousness goes out to that tree. Similarly with all other objects of attention. This is how perception, and awareness of objects, is viewed normally in buddhist psychology. And there is a lot about this theme of mind and perception in buddhism.
I don't get the impression that Mahayana Buddhist philosophy/psychology asserts this. Even a basic understanding of shunyata (on the level at which it's just a hypothesis) suggests an assertion that there is no essential tree out there for consciousness to go to, no essential physical space for it to go via, and no essential being for it to originate in. {I.e. the suggestion is that there are no mental or physical objects existing independently of constantly-fluctuating bases -fabricated collectively from the minds of sentient beings- for particular perspectives that appear as perceptions.} Although I'm aware that Therevada Buddhist philosophy/psychology asserts anatman of 'sentient beings' rather than shunyata of 'all things', does it really actively assert the essential/independent existence of physical objects and thoughts (i.e.) that would, after all, be necessary in order to make a valid claim that mental phenomena 'go' anywhere in space.[i]?
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby undefineable » Thu Sep 12, 2013 4:50 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:If you are talking in the context of relative truth,
and the topic of this thread includes space,
then which is greater,
the difference between the buddha and the brick
or the difference between those two objects,
and the space around and between those two objects?
I would say the difference between the objects and the space is greater than
the difference between the two objects themselves.
Not sure I understand how this isn't a reification of emptiness as separate from the things that are designated as 'empty'. Where you mentioned first 'objects' and 'space', were you actually referring respectively to the an ob/sub-ject's apparent existence and the true nature of that apparent existence? And then, where you go on to to make a comparison, were you in fact suggesting that those former (deluded) appearances all point to phenomena that are fundamentally similar in the same way that different points on one side of a coin are similar - whereas the former (deluded) and the latter (valid) appearances are different in the same way that two sides of a coin are different? :?

If so, I prefer your 'pithier' (one of many slightly-irritating dharma-in-established-English-translation cliches :roll:) version, though if anyone can understand my analysis/commentary (:emb:), then there's hopefully less room for an interpretation that contradicts an orthodox understanding of shunyata.
PadmaVonSamba wrote:But, relative truth is relative. it's subjective,
so, you might see things otherwise.
Well yeah, I guess we're still at the conceptual level -where there's room for varying degrees and types of correspondence to reality- rather than the actual (non-conceptual) level of Reality itself :shrug:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:So, if you are talking about phenomena,
you have to consider it as space and awareness, which are the basis,
arising only very briefly as a buddha, a brick, a watermelon, and so forth
I think this just gave me a first insight /inkling of a nondual view of mind and matter :twothumbsup: :cheers:
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby undefineable » Thu Sep 12, 2013 4:58 pm

Edit of last paragraph of penultimate post - Sorry :emb: :

I don't get the impression that Mahayana Buddhist philosophy/psychology asserts this. Even a basic understanding of shunyata (on the level at which it's just a hypothesis) suggests an assertion that there is no essential tree out there for consciousness to go to, no essential physical space for it to go through, and no essential being for it to originate in. {I.e. the suggestion is that there are no mental or physical objects existing independently of constantly-fluctuating bases -fabricated collectively from the minds of sentient beings- for particular perspectives which appear as perceptions.} Although I'm aware that Therevada Buddhist philosophy/psychology asserts anatman (of 'sentient beings') rather than shunyata (of 'all things'), does it really actively assert the essential/independent existence of physical objects and thoughts (i.e. instances of skandha activity) that would after all be necessary in order to make a valid claim that mental phenomena exist, come, or go anywhere in space?

{I should have split the middle para into 2 sentences and all!}
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:48 pm

undefineable wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:If you are talking in the context of relative truth,
and the topic of this thread includes space,
then which is greater,
the difference between the buddha and the brick
or the difference between those two objects,
and the space around and between those two objects?
I would say the difference between the objects and the space is greater than
the difference between the two objects themselves.
Not sure I understand how this isn't a reification of emptiness as separate from the things that are designated as 'empty'. Where you mentioned first 'objects' and 'space', were you actually referring respectively to the an ob/sub-ject's apparent existence and the true nature of that apparent existence? And then, where you go on to to make a comparison, were you in fact suggesting that those former (deluded) appearances all point to phenomena that are fundamentally similar in the same way that different points on one side of a coin are similar - whereas the former (deluded) and the latter (valid) appearances are different in the same way that two sides of a coin are different? :?


I don't know. you lost me.
I think maybe you are trying too hard.
What i meant was that,
in terms of relative truth,
the difference between a {brick} and a {buddha}
is less than the difference between
{brick and buddha}and the {space} around them.
I was responding specifically to the "spot the difference" caption.
You may see the difference as being between the two objects shown
whereas I see the difference as being between the objects, and the black area around them.
Thus, the conditionality of relative truth.
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby undefineable » Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:13 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I don't know. you lost me.
I think maybe you are trying too hard.
Well I try to put into words what I think conceptually, having put into conceptual thoughts the logically/empirically-demonstrable part of what I sense intuitively, I guess. {I dunno if philosophy need amount to much more than this :tongue: } Of course this will hinder meditation if left to leap ahead (of what one knows through experience) and fixate - In any case, experience has a habit of disproving much of what one merely suspects
PadmaVonSamba wrote:in terms of relative truth,
the difference between a {brick} and a {buddha}
is less than the difference between
{brick and buddha}and the {space} around them.
I was responding specifically to the "spot the difference" caption.
You may see the difference as being between the two objects shown
whereas I see the difference as being between the objects, and the black area around them.
Thus, the conditionality of relative truth.
So yeah, it's all subjective/relative _ _ Of course the two objects fall within the same space :P

Anyway, :focus:
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby takso » Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:14 am

In the dependent nature, there are elements of energy, matter, space and time. Thus, there are activities of rising and falling in continuum i.e. the beginning and ending processes. Space is merely a place for the arising activities in the nature and activities are mainly comprised with stream of consciousness. In other words, without consciousness, there can be no space and vice versa. Both space and consciousness are inter-dependent, inter-related and inter-woven with each other - this is how the conventional reality works.
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Sep 13, 2013 3:24 pm

takso wrote: In other words, without consciousness, there can be no space and vice versa.


What about the space inside of an empty box, where there is no consciousness (whatever that means) inside the box?
If there is consciousness inside the box, it isn't empty.
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby Nothing » Fri Sep 13, 2013 4:43 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:If there is consciousness inside the box, it isn't empty.
Yet.....how is this different to the human beings: "If there is consciousness inside the brain/mind of a human body, it isn't empty.".....we keep hearing that we are empty!
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby Matt J » Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:13 pm

One might say that if there is space in the box, it isn't empty either.

Oddly, both ancient India and modern physics agree on one thing: that empty space is not a mere absence. http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/theres-no-such-thing-as-empty-space/article2638724.ece

In ancient India, space is akasha, a primordial element from which other elements emerge. According to modern physics, space is quite productive, perhaps even producing the whole universe.

But this is sort of beside the point. I think the point is more that what we call "space" is actually the experience of space. And to say that there can be an experience of space without consciousness doesn't make sense.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
takso wrote: In other words, without consciousness, there can be no space and vice versa.


What about the space inside of an empty box, where there is no consciousness (whatever that means) inside the box?
If there is consciousness inside the box, it isn't empty.
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:58 pm

Actually, I am not refuting either of the last 2 posts.
But space and consciousness, while concurrent,
do not rely on each other.
"physical" space and (ground of) awareness both occur
regardless of whether there is cognition or not.
Also, I am sure everyone here understands that "emptiness" meaning, say, a box with nothing in it
is not the same thing as 'emptiness' meanning sunyata.
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:30 pm

"Consciousness" is a vague, and (at this level of analysis) meaningless term.
What is it?
The thing that is experienced when one is not unconscious? Not being in a coma?
So, let's please be specific about terms.

If we are talking about cognition, meaning the sensation that one is experiencing or witnessing phenomena,
this depends on two things:

First, there has to be the ground of awareness because (unless one assumes otherwise), physical matter
(for example, an electrified combination of Water, fat, protein, carbohydrate, soluble organic substances,
and inorganic salts a lightproof container)
cannot spontaneously witness its own existence.

In other words, the hardware of a computer cannot spontaneously manufacture the person using the computer.
at least there is nothing that would suggest such a possibility
other than randomly making up such a scenario.

We can reason by deduction that awareness is a primary cause,
because it is detectible through cognition and cannot be denied.
awareness itself has no characteristics,
but manifests as cognition under the right circumstances.

The other thing that is required is the set of conditions through which awareness can manifest as cognition.
in humans, this set of conditions is
an electrified combination of Water, fat, protein, carbohydrate, soluble organic substances,
and inorganic salts a lightproof container.

Space can occur without this set of conditions.
thus, space can occur without any cognitive witnessing of it.

the witnessing of space and of cognition is the result of
awareness, the causes of awareness manifesting as cognition, and space arising simultaneously,
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby padma norbu » Sat Sep 14, 2013 11:04 pm

I think space is one of the elements, no? None of the elements are consciousness. They are space, air, water, fire and earth.

I think it becomes very difficult to talk about because awareness is space-like, but how is it different from space? We only are familiar with the world around us. I think space is one of the "symbols" consciousness utilizes in reification, similar to the way we use numbers for computation. Math itself is interdependent with the various numbers and symbols, but theoretically exists without them, too. Awareness strikes me as something similar in that it exists regardless of whether or not we have any understanding of it, either self-awareness or awareness beyond self. Awareness is the ability to perceive even without thought; adding anything to it (like a body and brain) gets in the way of pure awareness by limiting it to a form. Similarly, the infinite potential of mathematics is limited by a specific equation in that particular equation. Similar to an equation, human consciousness is not anything but the processing of interdependent relationships of subject-object symbols. Our "real world" examples are more complex and filled with more kinds of knowledge than just math; e.g. 2 apples is more than the number 2, it is also everything sensory about apples. But, consciousness of the apple would disappear if there were no such thing as apples. Hmmm... so how did apples come to be? If the source of all things is ultimately mind, how does mind come to be aware of things that didn't previously exist? Good question! I'm glad I asked. Somebody will surely educate me shortly...

I think awareness is nonlocal and space-like, but individuated consciousness is an interdependent process of subject-object duality. For most people, I think we can only catch glimpses of what nonlocal awareness really means while we are alive in a body because sensory data keeps pouring in and solidifying the subject-object duality. To a non-enlightened person, the following question is a perfectly sensible thing to ask: "Would consciousness disappear overall if there were no things to perceive and evaluate?"

It seems like meditative practices are utilized to slip out of that individuated consciousness perspective and bypass the illusory self long enough to catch a little glimpse of nonlocal awareness. As far as spiritual visions and siddhis, I haven't figured out what that's all about; I'm not sure why sneaking past the "psychic censor" to catch a glimpse of the nonlocal awareness would cause visions of spiritual realms or result in miraculous powers unless the realization that everything is illusory somehow pierces all veils to all illusionary realms and beings and simultaneously grants us the power to control our own illusions. If this is the case, sudden enlightenment could be quite a mind-screw.
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby padma norbu » Sun Sep 15, 2013 12:38 am

Something related to the topic which I find interesting are the following facts:
- seratonin - general happiness
- dopamine - being in love
- oxytocin - the morality molecule

Too much seratonin interferes with your ability to fall in love and kills your sex drive.
Too much dopamine can interfere with your general happiness by producing a perpetual craving that is never satisfied. Hungry ghosts apparently have too much dopamine, eh? [1]
Different levels of oxytocin give you a different sense of right and wrong, trust and sharing.

How much of our experience that makes up our "consciousness" really has anything to do with us? Therefore, how responsible are we, really, for our actions? Whatever our awareness might experience in the bardo, it's quite interesting to consider that there is no process of any of these molecules occurring. At least not in a physical brain.

[1] This reminds me of something the Dalai Lama has said many times... if science shows what we believe to be wrong, then we have to adjust our beliefs accordingly. I'm not saying it's wrong, but seems weird that all these emotional states have physical molecular reasons behind them. Are the other worlds like the Hungry Ghost realm and the Hell Realms which we can't see made up of other molecules or the same molecules but we just can't see them? Seems a bit underdeveloped once you consider the fact that our emotions are chemical reactions in a physical brain and we can fix the "hungry ghost"-ness or "hell being"-ness of human existence with some pills that regulate brain chemistry
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby Koji » Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:29 am

The materialist philosopher Daniel Dennett wrote a book called Consciousness Explained (1991) and said it basically doesn't exist. But if we assume that all self-organizing systems, like a universe, are conscious, maybe Dennett is dead wrong.
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Re: Is Space Conscious?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:57 am

padma norbu wrote:seems weird that all these emotional states have physical molecular reasons behind them.

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The molecular construction that is experienced as anger
is only slightly different than the moiecular construction that is experienced as fear.
It's just chemistry, as you say. It's like shooting up (a drug with a needle).
Juice rushing through your blood into your brain.
So, the question comes down to: "who is experiencing the experience?"
According to the Dharma, ultimately there is no who that can be found.
So, we have to examine what is the nature of the experience.
It is awareness.
The first question most people will ask, then is,
"Aaaaaaaah yes, but who is experiencing awareness?"
And that is where the snag is. That is where people get it backwards.
the person doesn't experience awareness.
Just the other way around.
Awareness experiences the person, so to speak.
Or, to put it more succinctly, the illusion of a self (that experiences) emerges from awareness
arising with various conditions.
That is samsara. That's where all the realms come into it.
When awareness, which has no characteristics of its own, arises with various conditions
that awareness manifests, or you might say, reflects the nature of those conditions
just as water goes from being liquid to frozen to vapor, depending on the conditions.
Thus, when awareness arises concurrently with the conditions of a dog,
it becomes the awareness of a dog.
(the physiological conditions of a dog brain in a bog's body, with a raised sense of hearing, smell, and so on).

When it arises with the conditions of a human, it becomes the awareness of a human
and so forth, with all living beings. Hungry ghosts ,hell beings, jealous gods, whetever you can imagine,
because in a sense, it is all just imagined (meaning it is merely the interaction of awareness with conditions).
Even though the experience is, undeniably, one of solid reality
and of a solidly real self experiencing that solid reality.

And, when awareness arises with conditions that are free of confusion: a buddha.
The various realms are simply awareness arising with the conditions experienced as hells, or hungry ghosts or whatever.

Human neurological chemistry doesn't have to be a factor in rebirth, except as a human.
Just as humans do not need fish gills in order to breathe on land.
Attending to (and eliminating) the karma
that causes awareness to arise with various (confused) conditions
is the activity of Dharma practice.
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Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
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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PadmaVonSamba
 
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