Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby monktastic » Mon Mar 18, 2013 12:15 am

I'll make my comment more directly applicable to the question at hand.

My claim (for which I have no real basis) is that, to the degree that one perceives emptiness directly, one is less able to claim confidently that matter gives rise to mind.

An "argument" I use with my reductionist friends goes something like this. Can you be sure that this isn't all just a dream? (No). So can you be confident about the actual existence or nature of any of the contents of the dream? What is a brain but a particular content (or more specifically, set of contents -- colors, textures, etc.) of this dream? But aren't you sure that awareness itself exists? Or if you'd prefer, equivalently, that something seems to be happening? So how can you be so utterly sure that something whose very existence is questionable is caused by something whose existence is not questionable?

The more astute amongst them might ask me to define "dream" or "illusion" at this point (since the common definition assumes that it's something caused by a brain), but of course this was never meant to be an analytical argument. The whole point was to get them to deeply probe the nature of experience directly -- sometimes for the first time. And when it becomes clear what it means for conventional reality to be an illusion (or like one, or potentially one), the arguing stops for a little while.

(That said, I don't know whether anything I've said has any basis in Buddhism. But I feel the Buddha would approve, in that it relies primarily on one's own direct investigation.)
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby jeeprs » Mon Mar 18, 2013 12:29 am

Monktastic wrote:I'm curious, however, what effect a sudden "bolt" of rigpa would have on their (physicalist) position, if any.


It does happen! There is a physicist by the name of Richard Conn Henry, perfectly respectable astrophysicist academic at one of the US universities, who came to a realization awfully close to 'mind-only' purely on the basis of reflection on the logical implications of quantum mechanics. He published a provocative opinion piece in Nature - which is the No 1 science journal! - in 2005 called 'The Mental Universe', which argued that observation was not ultimately not of 'things'.

But I suspect that whenever this kind of 'conversion' occurs, the authors risk ostracism. There is a furious culture-war swirling around this topic at this time.

I think that physics itself actually moved well beyond materialism, but this actually hasn't been understood by a lot of people yet.
There was a Special Edition in New Scientist of October 2 last year, called What Is Reality? I must admit I expected it to have a materialistic bias, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the lead article was by a young, up-and-coming philosopher called Jan Westerhoff, who has written several well-regarded recent books on Madhyamika (see here. I have only dipped into one of these so far but several of his books are on my 'definitely must read' list.) If you click the video on that link to the New Scientist page, it will give you an idea of the general argument of Westerhoff's article.

Monktastic wrote:So how can you be so utterly sure that something whose very existence is questionable is caused by something whose existence is not questionable?


That post touches on a number of really foundational philosophical problems concerning nature of mind and the reality of the external world. I think such questions are definitely addressed especially by Yogacara/Vijnavada, but it is a deep area of philosophical investigation. One of the problems in debating such questions, is that as soon as you approach such topics, materialists will cry 'woo!', which is their way of dismissing anything they deem 'metaphysical'. But, fortunately, within the Buddhist milieu there is a coherent framework for conducting such discussions.
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 18, 2013 12:34 am

monktastic wrote: An "argument" I use with my reductionist friends goes something like this. Can you be sure that this isn't all just a dream? (No). So can you be confident about the actual existence or nature of any of the contents of the dream?

What you can be absolutely, positively confident about is that there is awareness.
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby jeeprs » Mon Mar 18, 2013 12:42 am

Isn't that basically what Rene Descartes was expressing in his famous cogito ergo sum? That is lterally translated as 'I think therefore I am'. I suppose a Buddhist philosopher might then ask 'who or what is this 'I' that says it is thinking?' But the basic point still holds, and is one of the reasons why Descartes remains part of the philosophy curriculum.
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 18, 2013 1:13 am

jeeprs wrote:Isn't that basically what Rene Descartes was expressing in his famous cogito ergo sum? That is lterally translated as 'I think therefore I am'. I suppose a Buddhist philosopher might then ask 'who or what is this 'I' that says it is thinking?' But the basic point still holds, and is one of the reasons why Descartes remains part of the philosophy curriculum.


Sort of.
Not exactly.
The Buddhist take on this, I think , is that

For Descartes,
the very act of thinking proves there is "I".

For Buddha,
The experience of "I" proves only that there is awareness,
and within the context of that awareness
arises the 5 skandhas
ultimately resulting in
that very experience of "I" .
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 18, 2013 1:20 am

jeeprs wrote:Isn't that basically what Rene Descartes was expressing in his famous cogito ergo sum? That is lterally translated as 'I think therefore I am'. I suppose a Buddhist philosopher might then ask 'who or what is this 'I' that says it is thinking?' But the basic point still holds, and is one of the reasons why Descartes remains part of the philosophy curriculum.


Sort of.
Not exactly.
The Buddhist take on this, I think , is that

For Descartes,
the very act of thinking proves there is "I".

For Buddha,
The experience of "I" proves only that there is awareness,
and within the context of that awareness
arises the 5 skandhas
(which includes a variety of thinking)
ultimately resulting in
that very experience of "I" .

Awareness cannot be refuted.
Even if you say, "maybe this is all just a dream...
maybe I am only dreaming that I am aware..."
there is still awareness of that dream itself.

If you say "awareness does not exist"
how can you prove that you ever said it?

So, I say that awareness can be regarded as an absolute.
.
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby monktastic » Mon Mar 18, 2013 2:51 am

jeeprs wrote:I think that physics itself actually moved well beyond materialism, but this actually hasn't been understood by a lot of people yet.
There was a Special Edition in New Scientist of October 2 last year, called What Is Reality? I must admit I expected it to have a materialistic bias, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the lead article was by a young, up-and-coming philosopher called Jan Westerhoff, who has written several well-regarded recent books on Madhyamika (see here. I have only dipped into one of these so far but several of his books are on my 'definitely must read' list.)


Yes! I had the same expectation when I heard about that issue and I, too, was pleasantly surprised. Didn't realize that Jan Westerhoff had written about Madhyamika though! I'll have to check that out.

One of the problems in debating such questions, is that as soon as you approach such topics, materialists will cry 'woo!', which is their way of dismissing anything they deem 'metaphysical'.


Indeed. I come from a technical background myself, which helps to some degree. But most useful of all, I find, is finding a way to relate on the level of direct experience. When they catch a small glimpse of what it means to experience, a little crack seems to open up. And then it's usually covered right back up with more concepts :)
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby _username_ » Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:26 pm

The mind is the vehicle component of the brain which is used to interpret thoughts,feelings,and emotions.
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:48 pm

_username_ wrote:The mind is the vehicle component of the brain which is used to interpret thoughts,feelings,and emotions.




I'm just a little wet sponge
full of electricity
living inside of a small round box
made of calcium.
I live in complete darkness,
in the tower of a castle
made of meat.
I have no eyes or ears or anything
so I must employ these things
to do all of my research for me.
No one owns me
unless I imagine them into existence.
But how can I do this?
And why should I bother?
I am much too smart for that.
.
.
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby Remain » Sat Mar 23, 2013 3:01 pm

I have thought about this for a long time. An analogy: karma is the broadcasting signal, the transmitter. Brain is the radio, the receiver. Mind is the sinal. Karma and mind being subtle and infinite, brain being gross and worldly.
Keep mediating as will I :-)

Kindest regards
The influxes of passion disappear in those who are ever vigilant, who are absorbed day and night in spiritual studies and who are bent on realisation of nirvana ~ Dhammapada: canto 226 on anger.
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby _username_ » Sun Mar 24, 2013 12:45 am

Mind is producing a visual of Planet Earth?...
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Mar 24, 2013 12:53 am

_username_ wrote:Mind is producing a visual of Planet Earth?...

When you stare at a tree, do you see the leaves changing color?
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Mar 24, 2013 12:58 am

A friend sent this to me.
He said, "the idea that your mind/consciousness
is somehow separate from the physical world
just took another big hit."

Brain Researchers Can Detect Who We Are Thinking About
http://www.scientificamerican.com/artic ... king-about


I suggested to him that this doesn't disprove that
something other than the physical brain (awareness) acts as an observer,
interpreting chemical brain activity as personal experience
but merely that technology has developed
a means of replicating that awareness.
Read the article.
What do you think?
.
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Mar 24, 2013 1:09 am

_username_ wrote:Mind is producing a visual of Planet Earth?...

Mind produces what you experience.
Or, to be precise,
awareness of an object (Earth)
arises as mind.
It arises as the experiencer of what is seen.
.
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby Matt J » Sun Mar 24, 2013 2:39 am

What about during sleep?

PadmaVonSamba wrote:What you can be absolutely, positively confident about is that there is awareness.
.
.
.
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming

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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:24 am

Matt J wrote:What about during sleep?
PadmaVonSamba wrote:What you can be absolutely, positively confident about is that there is awareness.

Or, what about during a coma?
In sleep, when you are dreaming, there is awareness of that dream.
But awareness also refers to what is sometimes referred to as the ground of awareness, or as "dharmata". What this refers to is that all beings "have" what you might say is the context in which mind and consciousness arise.

I put "have' in quotation marks, because this is actually putting the cart before the horse.
it isn't that a "being" (or the illusory experience of a self) has awareness, but it's really the other way around. Awarenss comes first, and the notion of a "self' that "possesses" that awareness follows.

Awareness can be compared to an allergy to strawberries,
and mind arising as compared to the allergic reaction itself.
As long as there are no strawberries,
no reaction occurs.
But the allergy itself is still there.
The allergy itself has the potential to be experienced as a food reaction,
as soon as it meets with strawberries.

Likewise, the ground of awareness is what has the potential to be experienced as mind,
when confronted with an object of that awareness.
For example, your hearing is operating.
That's awareness, even if there is nothing to hear.
and if you suddenly a dog barks,
then awareness has an object, something to be aware of
and as a result, mind arises as the barking of a dog.
The sensation of a "me" hearing a dog barking also arises.

When you are asleep and not dreaming, or when you are in a coma,
if there is no object to be aware of, if there is nothing to experience as a dream,
meaning that neurons are not firing in the right location of the brain or something like that,
then no mind arises. But the ground of awareness is still there.
another word to describe this is latent.
.
.
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:37 am

.
Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:40 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:38 am

Matt J wrote:What about during sleep?

Xin Xin Ming (which I noticed you quote in your signature line) expresses this perfectly:

Abide not with dualism,
Carefully avoid pursuing it;
As soon as you have right and wrong,
Confusion ensues, and Mind is lost.

The two exist because of the One,
But hold not even to this One;
When a mind is not disturbed,
The ten thousand things offer no offence.

No offence offered, and no ten thousand things;
No disturbance going, and no mind set up to work:
The subject is quieted when the object ceases,
The object ceases when the subject is quieted.

The object is an object for the subject,
The subject is a subject for the object:
Know that the relativity of the two
Rests ultimately on one Emptiness.
.
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby Matt J » Sun Mar 24, 2013 1:11 pm

Two things about this: if there is a prior to awareness, then awareness is not absolute.

Foyan said:

People nowadays take the immediate mirroring awareness to be the ultimate principle. This is why Xuansha said to people, 'Tell me, does it still exist in remote uninhabited places deep in the mountains?'


In relation to this topic: How can one rule out the brain as "the ground of awareness"?

PadmaVonSamba wrote: But the ground of awareness is still there.
another word to describe this is latent
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming

http://zenanddao.blogspot.com/
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Re: Mind Is Brain!! Is Mind Is Brain??

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Mar 24, 2013 1:50 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote: But the ground of awareness is still there.
another word to describe this is latent

Matt J wrote:Two things about this: if there is a prior to awareness, then awareness is not absolute.
In relation to this topic: How can one rule out the brain as "the ground of awareness"?

I am not sure if your question was in response to my sytatement or to the other statement,
but I'm going to run with it.


First, it may in fact be the case, and some day proven (to my satisfaction, anyway) that the ground of awareness itself is rooted in brain activity. After all, what we call 'life" seems to be composed completely out of non-living elements...molecules of carbon, water, salts, acids, and so on. So, if this stuff can pull itself together and regenerate, I suppose it is possible that it can start thinking, all on its own, as well. But so far, I don't know that this has been established, and from the Buddhist view, doesn't make sense:

All arguments I have encountered, or articles on the subject, never quite escape the loop. They only point to new findings on brain activity, but never quite explain how the "who" appears out of that brain activity, that imagines "I am thinking with my brain"

If you argue that everything a person "is" , meaning their cognitive being, is generated out of the brain,
then whatever constitutes or defines that person must exist as a subset of brain activity.
You could even go as far as to say it is a figment of the imagination.

So, among other functions, it is argued that the brain creates a "person"which bears witness to its own activity.
Somewhat like a fiction writer inventing a literary critic to review his or her work.
But the thing is, that personification, that character that has been conjured up by the brain,
turns around and says "my brain".
If we regard the brain as a computer,
Its a case of the computer creating its own user.
Why would it do that?
(Wouldn't a brain be much too smart for that?)


In Buddhist thinking, this is unworkable.
Buddhist thinking would argue ("thinking would argue?")
that because the brain is composed of a constantly changing stream of component elements,
and is not a singular thing itself,
no single the source of awareness can be found in it.

This doesn't mean that the arising of mind doesn't depend on the brain,
even on a constantly changing physical brain
or on constantly changing activity of the brain
just as a constantly changing, flowing stream powers a water-wheel.
But Buddhist thinking regards mind as an arising event, a result, rather than as a cause.

So, I am suggesting that there is no prior to awareness
and, while this may be cheating a little,
I am saying that simply because awareness is self-evident and cannot be denied,
it needs no other, prior cause.
You don't have to find something that "causes the ground of awareness"
exactly as you don't have to find what causes the space between two trees to occur.
Two trees grow in a field, in the space that is already there.
the space between them is the same space, only we can define that chunk of it with a yard stick
and say these two trees are so many feet apart.
Likewise, physical brain activity, molecules buzzing around, occur is space that is already there
and that molecular activity becomes, in awareness, the experience of "thoughts".

The field of awareness, is already present in all beings.
Inside them, outside them, it's all the same. Just like space.
"being", meaning all sense of personal cognitive experience, arises out of awareness.
If we say that being produces awareness,
this doesn't make sense. It's putting the cart before the horse.
.
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