KevinSolway wrote:My main points again:
1. Consciousness cannot be independent of the physical world, otherwise it could never be aware of the physical world. In addition, if consciousness were independent of the physical world then it would be unnaffected by lack of sleep, drugs, lack of oxygen, and brain damage. Since we all observe that consciousness is indeed affected by these things, then consciousness can't be independent of these things.
Just as a car depends on wheels, engine, etc, and if you take these things away then there is no car, in the same way consciousness depends on things like memory, perception, etc, and if you take these things away then there is no consciousness.
I think first we should find some common ground so that we can discuss in a meaningful fashion. It would be important for me to know what your operative definition of consciousness is. Are you using the term consciousness as an umbrella for all mental phenomena? For instance, is a reflex part of it? Are sensations part of it? Only feelings and ideas? Plain awareness? All of this?
It would be helpful to know how do you define consciousness, if you find it has different levels or layers, etc. Do you see it in terms of it being a state, a content, a process, a system, some other thing?
For now I’ll use the word loosely, as you seem to do. So you say “consciousness” is affected by the physical. Let’s rephrase this and be more precise. We can say that at least some mental phenomena are influenced by physical events. I add what we already know, that mental events also influence physical phenomena. For instance you can induce certain mental phenomena (i.e., a sensation) if you stimulate certain parts of the brain. Likewise you can induce the functioning of certain parts of the brain by means of a mental stimulus. So whether it’s all mental or physical would be a matter of predilection according to such argument. Note that all we can really experience are mental phenomena. We don’t experience anything without the mediation of the mind. There are philosophers and scientists who claim that this whole experience of the universe has the bearing signs of a simulation, a sort of virtual reality. I don’t happen to agree, but their argumentation is sound.
You can try to claim that the burden of proof of the non-physical nature of the mind rests on me and it should be I the one to provide evidence to that effect. However I have to remind you that introspective observation of mental phenomena doesn’t suggest at all their physical nature. If I observe mental phenomena I gather no knowledge whatsoever about brain. Similarly, the study of neural events alone doesn’t provide any knowledge about the mind. The fact remains that we never see any mental events in the brain. What we observe and measures are but electrochemical events and nothing else. This is what Chalmers coined as the hard problem of consciousness. So it’s a matter of faith believing that mental events are brain functions viewed from a subjective perspective. Generally speaking, if one believes that two types of phenomena that appear to be radically different are in fact identical, the burden of proof lies in demonstrating their equivalence. Such has never been accomplished. This is why the hard problem of consciousness remains unsolved. The theory of the epiphenomena breaks apart when one realizes that all epiphenomena known to us are of the same nature. Yet, this is not the case for mental events and their neural correlates.
2. The 12 links of dependent origination happen on a moment-by-moment basis. They do not refer to physical birth and death, but to the birth of the false "I", which repeatedly arises in non-Buddhas. "Ageing and death" does not refer to physical ageing and death, but refers to the ending of happiness that is associated with attachment. Buddhas physically experience ageing and death, but they do not experience samsara. They do not experience the 12 links.
This is your idea. You are entitled to it. However it's not how mainstream Buddhists see it.
3. Buddhism is not a physical science, but is a philosophy and a psychology. Buddhism does not speculate as to whether one of the consequences of a person's life involves the formation of, say, a physical frog. Such questions are a matter for science, and such scientific questions can never be answered with certainty.
Another very personal idea of what is and isn't Buddhadharma. Again, you are entitled to it, but it's not mainstream.
The consequences of one's actions after death are by no means a matter of science, at least in the current state of affairs of scientific knowledge.
4. Cause and effect doesn't work in a narrow, linear manner, even though it is serial in nature, with actions being followed by consequences. One cause can have many, simultaneous effects. And just as a candle can light many other candles, which burn simultaneously, in the same way we have many rebirths, which exist simultaneously.
It's quite an imaginative interpretation.
5. The realms of existence are not physical places, but are realms of experience, here-and now.
I believe that Namdrol concedes that the hell realms are not physical places. The same goes for all the other realms.
6. Each physical human body is a vehicle for many different minds. This is something we can each know by experience. We all have minds that are competing, and we speak of our having a mind to do such-and-such, as well as having a mind to do something else.
I'll leave you a small text for you to ponder. Obviously I'm not asking you to agree with any of it. But it's informative and quite challenging, I think.
Alan Wallace in Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1989 wrote:According to Tibetan Buddhist contemplatives, there is an unbroken continuum of consciousness throughout life, the death process, an intermediate state, and on to the next life.
These transitions are ordinarily so traumatic, however, that the individual quickly loses any recollection of this experience; and by the time an infant can speak, memory of its time in the womb and before then may be inaccessible. This should hardly come as a surprise, since most adults can remember very little even of their early childhood. The more recent events of one’s life intervene, and earlier memories withdraw into a latent state.
The continuum of consciousness itself flows on, unbroken, but because one’s memory is lost at these crucial transitions, one loses this sense of continuity. On what, then, do Buddhist contemplatives base their highly detailed accounts of the sequence of death, intermediate state, and rebirth?
These contemplatives employ ancient meditative practices that enable the adept to refine and stabilize the mind so that an unbroken clarity of awareness is maintained throughout all these events. Here is a mode of research that could hardly differ more drastically from the methods of modern Western science. The observed events, too, are bound to be profoundly different from those known by Western science. The events witnessed by a Buddhist contemplative, however, are no more intrinsically real than those observed by a neuroscientist.
Nor do Buddhist, any more than scientific, theories describe the way things really are, unrelated to the mode of research upon which those theories are based.
Tibetan contemplatives also create facsimiles of the death, intermediate state, and rebirth process through their powers of meditation, enabling them to transform these actual experiences to the enhancement of their spiritual growth. It is believed that such advanced contemplatives die, take rebirth, and as young children often remember many of the events of their previous lives as well as experiences following their recent deaths. Such children are called tulkus in Tibetan, and for centuries it has been the tradition in that culture to seek out such spiritually advanced children so that they can quickly recommence their contemplative training.
Other young children, often up to the age of four or five, may also recall events in their previous life, particularly if they had died in a sudden, violent way. There are numerous documented cases of this occurrence on several continents, and the most plausible explanation seems to be the simplest: for each individual there exists a continuum of life, intermediate state, and rebirth.
Tibetan Buddhism asserts that our experiences of our environment come about as manifestations (might one say emergent properties?) of imprints placed upon our mental continua due to previous actions. Such imprints are sometimes called karmic seeds, and the world that each of us experiences arises from those seeds. Some of our actions are committed in relative isolation, while others are committed in participation with others. As the imprints from those actions manifest, we experience events individually and in common with others, respectively. In short, participatory action yields participatory experience, while solitary individual action yields solitary experience.
According to this view, multiple worlds coexist in an interpenetrating fashion. One might liken this to different frequencies of electromagnetic energy occupying the same space: the band of frequencies that one detects depends upon how one’s receiver is tuned. This allows for a tremendous malleability of experience for a single individual, depending on how the mind is transformed. The type of events that we experience is a function of our conceptual conditioning. And numerous Buddhist contemplatives have verified that in the utter absence of even the most subtle conceptualization all appearances vanish, and only emptiness is experienced. The theory of emptiness is relatively simple, whereas the Buddhist theory of karma, or of actions and their results from life to life, is extremely complex. A satisfactory understanding of the process underlying the commonality of our experience and of the causal interactions among phenomena can be gained only through prolonged study and contemplative inquiry. As one's insight into emptiness deepens, understanding of the interdependent nature of events is enhanced. And as one investigates more closely the interactions among phenomena, their lack of inherent existence becomes increasingly apparent.