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 Post subject: Questions
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:47 pm 
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I have a few quick questions that I am seeking answers too and I hope all the wisdom and knowledge here can help show me the right direction.

1. What exactly is mind/consciousness. It is obviously not physical, it encompasses all thay we think and feel and even more. But what is it really and how did it comes to be if it isnt a result of physical existence such as the brain.

2. What is emptiness. I understand all things are interdependent and cant exist by itself. It is impermanent and changing. But what does Buddha means by emptiness?

3. What is the state of enlightenment. What does it means to be enlightened. I was to understand it means fully awaken and free of attachments, delusions or sufferings. It is the perfect mind. But what do we really refer to when we say attaining/realizing enlightenment

4. What causes the beginning of the existence of our mind? (similar to question 1 but I just want to emphasize it)

Thank you
Loving Kindness

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 Post subject: Re: Questions
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 8:05 pm 
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Bodhi wrote:
I have a few quick questions that I am seeking answers too and I hope all the wisdom and knowledge here can help show me the right direction.

1. What exactly is mind/consciousness. It is obviously not physical, it encompasses all thay we think and feel and even more. But what is it really and how did it comes to be if it isnt a result of physical existence such as the brain.

2. What is emptiness. I understand all things are interdependent and cant exist by itself. It is impermanent and changing. But what does Buddha means by emptiness?

3. What is the state of enlightenment. What does it means to be enlightened. I was to understand it means fully awaken and free of attachments, delusions or sufferings. It is the perfect mind. But what do we really refer to when we say attaining/realizing enlightenment

4. What causes the beginning of the existence of our mind? (similar to question 1 but I just want to emphasize it)

Thank you
Loving Kindness


Gonna try this not because I think I have any expertise, but just for my own practice in thinking about it, so take with a liberal dose of salt:

Far as what mind is, I think that's part of the puzzle, one thing for sure, it cannot be only physical property, because the existence of responses within the brain is just a reaction to what is "outside" of it, without the things that cause the actions within the brain, the whole thing wouldn't be there. Viewing it only as physical happenings seem absurd to me for this reason.


Some of this is covered under the unaswerables:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteen_u ... _questions

It's also stated in some Sutta that a beginning of samsaric existence is not be found.

Enlightment cannot really be described (though everyone tries) because it is thoroughly outside of conditions, it can only be pointed to, and it is not a thing, so we can't describe it as though it is.

The standard explanation for emptiness is to take something, say a car, then take it apart and see if there is anything called a "car" to be found among it's parts, there isn't. It is the same with those parts, whatever they are, there is no such things as their "partness". So, the very thing that defines them is the fact that there is no existing part outside the parts that make it up.

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 Post subject: Re: Questions
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 8:16 pm 
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Bodhi wrote:
I have a few quick questions that I am seeking answers too and I hope all the wisdom and knowledge here can help show me the right direction.

1. What exactly is mind/consciousness. It is obviously not physical, it encompasses all thay we think and feel and even more. But what is it really and how did it comes to be if it isnt a result of physical existence such as the brain.

2. What is emptiness. I understand all things are interdependent and cant exist by itself. It is impermanent and changing. But what does Buddha means by emptiness?

3. What is the state of enlightenment. What does it means to be enlightened. I was to understand it means fully awaken and free of attachments, delusions or sufferings. It is the perfect mind. But what do we really refer to when we say attaining/realizing enlightenment

4. What causes the beginning of the existence of our mind? (similar to question 1 but I just want to emphasize it)

Thank you
Loving Kindness


I suggest a reading of this book: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/wings/index.html it covers a lot of the Pali literature on what the mind consists of, how it operates, emptiness, and even enlightenment. You can download a PDF of it from the site and put it on an e-reader as well if you don't like reading on your computer.

Also I would contemplate what you mean by physical. We assume things are physical because thats what we are used it, its what our experience tells us is real. But its only a relative truth. There are particles passing through us right now as though we are empty air, passing through the earth too. We pass through the air and yet the air is physical, its just very refined. Water is physical but we can pass through that too. There are stories of monks who could pass through solid rock, who knows if its true but obviously we think of rocks as physical.

As for the brain, the brain is not our mind. If the brain was our mind then when we died we would continue to exist until our brain decayed. We would be trapped in the physical matter of the brain and would undergo all of its transformations as it grew cold, as the blood settled to the back of the brain, as it began to rot in our skulls. Rather the brain is the support for the physical existence of our mind. Our mind is measured as electrical currents and wavelengths by science. Although these things also are physical in their own way, we are not the organic matter of our brain itself.


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 Post subject: Re: Questions
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:49 pm 
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They are not 'quick questions' and don't have easy answers. I fact they many not be answerable in any straightforward way. I would suggest they are topics for meditation and contemplation, not puzzles to be solved.

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 Post subject: Re: Questions
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 10:01 pm 
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These are some tough questions for sure. I can't claim to know the answers, but I do think I can point to some answers that others have given.

I'm going to defer here to Alexander Berzin, because some of his answers have helped my mind in dealing with these types of questions and because I like the way in which he has introduced a complete set of definitions and uses these definitions when talking about various points of doctrine. It is important to note that these answers are coming from a Tibetan Gelugpa background. The definitions and words used for these concepts sometimes vary by tradition and without knowing what context the answer is given I've found it can get confusing when comparing to the words given by other traditions.

Like many systems for knowing, understanding definitions and jargon can be very important to avoid confusion. The word 'energy' as used by a theoretical physicist can be very different from the word 'energy' as used by a reiki practioner for instance. If we learn all of our lives to use the word 'energy' in the way a theoretical physicist uses it and then talk to someone with a background in reiki we might get very confused if we don't first come to understand the differences in the way they use this word.

Bodhi wrote:
1. What exactly is mind/consciousness. It is obviously not physical, it encompasses all thay we think and feel and even more. But what is it really and how did it comes to be if it isnt a result of physical existence such as the brain.


Mind and Mental Factors: - "According to the Buddhist definition, mind (sems) is mere clarity and awareness (gsal-rig-tsam) and refers to the individual, subjective mental activity of experiencing things (myong-ba)."

I will also add that from what I understand the mind is not, "a result of physical existence such as the brain." Rather, maybe it would be better to say that the physical body is a condition for mind arising.

Bodhi wrote:
2. What is emptiness. I understand all things are interdependent and cant exist by itself. It is impermanent and changing. But what does Buddha means by emptiness?


English Glossary of Buddhist Terms - voidness - "An absence of an impossible way of existing. The impossible way of existing has never existed at all. Translators often render the term as 'emptiness.'"

Bodhi wrote:
3. What is the state of enlightenment. What does it means to be enlightened. I was to understand it means fully awaken and free of attachments, delusions or sufferings. It is the perfect mind. But what do we really refer to when we say attaining/realizing enlightenment


English Glossary of Buddhist Terms - nirvana - "An extinguished state of release -- either an acquired one, in which all samsaric sufferings and their causes have been removed, or a naturally occurring one, in which all stains of impossible existence have always been removed. The Tibetan term means, literally, 'a state beyond sorrow.'"

Bodhi wrote:
4. What causes the beginning of the existence of our mind? (similar to question 1 but I just want to emphasize it)


English Glossary of Buddhist Terms - mental continuum - "The stream of continuity of mental activity (mind, awareness) of an individual being, which has no beginning, which continues even into Buddhahood, and, according to Mahayana, has no end. According to the Hinayana tenets, it comes to an end when an arhat or Buddha dies at the end of the lifetime in which the person attains liberation or enlightenment. Also called a 'mind-stream.'"

Emphasis is mine. I hope this is of some benefit.


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 Post subject: Re: Questions
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 10:35 pm 
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Bodhi wrote:
1. What exactly is mind/consciousness. It is obviously not physical, it encompasses all thay we think and feel and even more. But what is it really and how did it comes to be if it isnt a result of physical existence such as the brain.


mind is which thinks and grasps-this is the deluded mind. The mind is not physical in that it cannot be touched, heard, tasted, smelled, and seen.

Watch this video


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2. What is emptiness. I understand all things are interdependent and cant exist by itself. It is impermanent and changing. But what does Buddha means by emptiness?


Emptiness means beyond concepts and mental grasping.

Quote:
3. What is the state of enlightenment. What does it means to be enlightened. I was to understand it means fully awaken and free of attachments, delusions or sufferings. It is the perfect mind. But what do we really refer to when we say attaining/realizing enlightenment


I don't know what it means to be enlightened. But sometimes I can be very focused and clear at the moment. I guess that is a moment of enlightenment. I imagine Buddha is very focused, clear and illuminating all the time.

Quote:
4. What causes the beginning of the existence of our mind? (similar to question 1 but I just want to emphasize it)


The existence of our deluded mind was due to a arising thought.

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NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

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―Listen! Those of you who devote yourselves to the Dharma
must not be afraid of losing your bodies and your lives―


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 Post subject: Re: Questions
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:34 am 
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Good video! :twothumbsup:

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Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas


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 Post subject: Re: Questions
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:30 am 
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bodhi wrote:
What exactly is mind/consciousness. It is obviously not physical, it encompasses all thay we think and feel and even more. But what is it really and how did it come to be if it isnt a result of physical existence such as the brain.


I will try and answer this in more detail. I have debated this topic at great length on Philosophy forums, mainly against those who believe that "mind is an output of the physical brain", in other words, philosophical materialists, with whom I generally disagree. These debates lead to my reading quite a bit on the subject of 'philosophy of mind'. I have also studied the question via psychology and cognitive science, and of course also through Buddhist philosophy and meditation.

So, my approach to the question is as follows. Clearly in modern thinking, the criterion of objectivity and understanding a subject in terms of what can be measured and assessed in objective terms, is accorded great importance. Through the physical sciences we have come to understand an amazing range of phenomena through the objective sciences using such methods. I don't think that can be disputed.

However the nature of mind is a different kind of question, to the kinds of questions which the objective sciences usually investigate. And I think this is where the materialist approach is unsuitable. They wish to apply the same methodology, to the question of the nature of mind itself. But, whatever else mind might be, it is not really an object of cognition. An 'object of cognitiion' is any kind of object which we can perceive either through the senses, or even via the imagination, through concepts and mental imagery. An object of cognition is something that exists in relation to us; so it is an object in relation to the subject who observes.

In some fundamental way, 'mind' is never in that kind of relationship with us, because 'mind' is always 'that which is looking', not 'that which is observed'. So the first thing that the materialist needs to do is to deny this fact, and say that it is no different from an object, like the brain, or neurochemistry, or something of that kind. And that is generally what they do - they try and objectify the question, even to the point of convincing themselves that this is something that can be done. :rolling:

So even to say 'what is that?' or 'what is mind?' is really to ask an unanswerable question. It is precisely never a 'that' - or not fully a 'that', anyway. We can know our own minds to the extent of having insights into why we think as we do and understanding our habitual patterns of reaction and so on. A large part of meditation is getting clear about that. And if you study cognitive science, you can also become aware of the ways in which the mind automatically creates certain patterns which you know are actually illusory in reality (though for example visual illusions). So there are some things we can know about mental operations and cognition. But there is still always a sense in which the mind is irreducibly subjective, 'that which knows', and never an object in any ultimate sense. It is never fully disclosed by any act of observation.

(In fact there is a school of modern philosophy, rather quirkily named 'the new mysterians', (see here) which makes a somewhat similar point. However my understanding of this unknowable aspect of mind comes more from Buddhist philosophy.)

Another point, however, is that just because the true nature of mind is not something that can be objectively specified, does not mean it is not something real. HH The Dalai Lama said in September 2011 (see here,) on the nature of mind, in the context of understanding the mind-stream that underlies the process of re-birth:

Quote:
There are many different logical arguments given in the words of the Buddha and subsequent commentaries to prove the existence of past and future lives. In brief, they come down to four points: the logic that things are preceded by things of a similar type, the logic that things are preceded by a substantial cause, the logic that the mind has gained familiarity with things in the past, and the logic of having gained experience of things in the past.

Ultimately all these arguments are based on the idea that the nature of the mind, its clarity and awareness, must have clarity and awareness as its substantial cause. It cannot have any other entity such as an inanimate object as its substantial cause. This is self-evident. Through logical analysis we infer that a new stream of clarity and awareness cannot come about without causes or from unrelated causes. While we observe that mind cannot be produced in a laboratory, we also infer that nothing can eliminate the continuity of subtle clarity and awareness.

As far as I know, no modern psychologist, physicist, or neuroscientist has been able to observe or predict the production of mind either from matter or without cause.


So my interpretation of this point is that 'like comes from like'. First, things arise from causes; but the cause must be commensurate with the effect. So 'mind' which is inherently 'clear and aware' - that is, awareness is its basic nature - cannot have come about from causes which do not in themselves possess these attributes.

Obviously this is a very deep topic and one that is not easy to grasp. However questions such as 'the nature of mind' are like that! So in some ways, that is why it is best to approach such a question with a sense of its mystery, rather than a sense that it is something that has an easy answer, some problem that can be resolved or explained. It most certainly is not that! It is a case where 'to know it, is to know it not'.

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Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas


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 Post subject: Re: Questions
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:24 am 
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What exactly is mind/consciousness. It is obviously not physical, it encompasses all thay we think and feel and even more. But what is it really and how did it comes to be if it isnt a result of physical existence such as the brain.


Mind is nature, the components other than the physical body which combine with the body to make the up the entity known as a living being.

In Buddhism mind and body are not distinct phenomena; to even say they are interdependent isn't quite right, they are "two but not two" (two in terms of observable phenomena, but not two in terms of noumenon, or essential reality).



2. What is emptiness. I understand all things are interdependent and cant exist by itself. It is impermanent and changing. But what does Buddha means by emptiness?
Emptiness is a word used in the Buddha's teachings to explain in a small way the the true nature of existence, "things as they really are."
Unobstructed perception of emptiness isn't enlightenment, but it's a very high state of consciousness and encouraged in some the Buddha's highest teachings.
"Place themselves in quiet surroundings
learn to still their minds
remain tranquil, unmoving
Look upon all phenomena
as having no existence
like empty space
as without firmness or hardness,
not born, not emerging,
not moving, not regressing


What is the state of enlightenment?
Enlightenment is the destruction of all ignorance, which is the root cause of all the other poisons and obstacles.
It's the realization by direct perception that the mind of the living being who experiences birth and death, moves, regresses...is identical with the true aspect of all phenomena, which constantly abides in an unchanging aspect.
----------------
If that helps even a little bit, I'm glad. If it doesn't please ignore it completely. Either way, they're very good questions, and I salute your seeking mind.


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 Post subject: Re: Questions
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:25 am 
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What causes the beginning of the existence of our mind? (similar to question 1 but I just want to emphasize it)

Ignorance


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