Brain vs. mind

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Brain vs. mind

Postby Lazy_eye » Sun Apr 03, 2011 1:36 pm

Here is a clip of Sam Harris presenting one of the standard arguments against dualism -- namely, that physical damage to the brain is known to affect practically every function of consciousness, so therefore we have good reason to view consciousness as inseparable from (and probably originating in) the brain.



The argument obviously poses a problem for religions that teach eternalism -- i.e. that there is some sort of permanent soul which leaves the body at death and goes to heaven, limbo or hell, or into a new body. My question: is it also a problem for Buddhism?

Yes, it poses a problem

Buddhism teaches that consciousness is one of five aggregates. If consciousness originates in the brain then it is really just a byproduct of the form aggregate. Indeed, so are the remaining three (sensation, perception, formations). Moreover, the Buddha clearly taught that the mind is capable of entering "formless states" which would be impossible unless it can operate independently of the brain.

No, it does not pose a problem

Buddhism doesn't teach eternalism. Instead, it posits an ongoing process of dependent origination. Even if Harris is correct, there is no logical objection to the process of consciousness arising again and again, driven by karma. Buddhadharma can therefore neither be classified as materialism nor Cartesian (substance) dualism. It is perhaps closer to property dualism.

The formless realms remain problematic, but a) they are a holdover from the sravaka movement, and b) they are not essential. Indeed, from the Buddhist point of view one wants to avoid these realms because no progress can be made while in them.

Buddhism teaches that a given mindstream (rearising via D.O.) can transmigrate into the animal realm, where there is a loss of cognitive functionality as well. Therefore, the argument from brain damage is already anticipated.

How would you respond to Harris?
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Sun Apr 03, 2011 3:11 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Apr 03, 2011 3:02 pm

Sorry to be the one to tell you this but physical damage to any part of the body causes a change in consciousness.
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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby Lazy_eye » Sun Apr 03, 2011 3:07 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Sorry to be the one to tell you this but physical damage to any part of the body causes a change in consciousness.
:namaste:


Sure, but that just restates the question in broader terms.
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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby Malcolm » Sun Apr 03, 2011 4:23 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:Sorry to be the one to tell you this but physical damage to any part of the body causes a change in consciousness.
:namaste:


Sure, but that just restates the question in broader terms.



From a Vajrayana perspective, mind and body are inseparable, so no dualism.
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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby LastLegend » Sun Apr 03, 2011 4:59 pm

Let me take a jab: For example, eyes are merely tissues without Mind (or its effects known as consciousnesses).

Where is Mind and where are the effects (consciousnesses) of Mind? Buddha asked Ananda where is Mind? Buddha did not say self. Buddha did not say small mind (of 6th consciousness thinking). Buddha did not say consciousnesses.

Buddhism teaches that consciousness is one of five aggregates. If consciousness originates in the brain then it is really just a byproduct of the form aggregate. Indeed, so are the remaining three (sensation, perception, formations). Moreover, the Buddha clearly taught that the mind is capable of entering "formless states" which would be impossible unless it can operate independently of the brain.


This is the empirical approach.

The example of self versus others-this dualism exists because of disturbed Mind of all sentient beings. Now Buddhism teaches compassion to correct this false thinking and that Buddha Nature is one out of many (inseparable). That's why said all the Buddhas have one Dharma body is meant by that. So in theory and practice, body and Mind are inseparable. This does not mean body is Mind. But body is an effect of Mind when Mind is disturbed. When Mind is concentrated, there is Bodhisattva and Buddha.

Without Mind, the aggregates would be no difference than rocks.
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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby LastLegend » Sun Apr 03, 2011 5:43 pm

So in theory and practice, body and Mind are inseparable.

To further elaborate on this statement above: body is form and Mind is emptiness. A Buddhist practitioner has to cultivate both. Form being anything you see. In other words, form is everyday life. So practice is in everyday life in every aspect. Practice form is to practice that and to cultivate the body, detaching (on the inside) from bodily pleasures for example. As you can also see through example just mentioned, practicing form (body stays away from pleasures) involving practicing Mind (detachment on the inside).To cultivate emptiness is to cultivate Mind. For example, I practice Pure Land. Others practice Tantra. Others practice Chan or (Thien in Vietnamese).



When Mind is concentrated, there is Bodhisattva and Buddha.


Whether one practices Pure Land, Tantra, Chan all will lead to Concentration as in Conduct/Concentration/Wisdom. As you can see the practice is wholesome just like the teachings.

Practicing form involving practicing Mind and vice versa

If you extend this understanding to karma you will see that our present now is the seed for the next result. In other words, an orange seed will give an orange tree with many oranges and in these oranges there are seeds for the next results. So seed is result and result is seed.
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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby LastLegend » Sun Apr 03, 2011 6:15 pm

Again as you can see everything is inseparable starting from Buddha Nature to practice...More examples: Buddha/Dharma/Sangha or "Awakened/Truth/Purity" (not separable) and Conduct/Concentration/Wisdom (not separable).

If we practice separable (in aspects I talked about), then it is not Buddhism.
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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby Malcolm » Sun Apr 03, 2011 6:41 pm

LastLegend wrote:
If we practice separable (in aspects I talked about), then it is not Buddhism.


For Mahayana and Hinayana, nama and rūpa are a substance dualism.

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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby Sherab » Mon Apr 04, 2011 12:53 am

Namdrol wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:Sorry to be the one to tell you this but physical damage to any part of the body causes a change in consciousness.
:namaste:


Sure, but that just restates the question in broader terms.



From a Vajrayana perspective, mind and body are inseparable, so no dualism.

The ordinary body is left behind at the time of death. So are we leaving behind a part of our mind when we die?
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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby Malcolm » Mon Apr 04, 2011 12:58 am

Sherab wrote:

From a Vajrayana perspective, mind and body are inseparable, so no dualism.

The ordinary body is left behind at the time of death. So are we leaving behind a part of our mind when we die?[/quote]

No, we are taking part of the rūpa aggregate when we go, namely the pranavāyu.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby Sherab » Mon Apr 04, 2011 12:58 am

My problem with mind arising from matter is that mind has the aspect of knowing (clarity) as well as the aspect of knowing of the knowing, ie., reflexivity (luminous). Try to simulate reflexivity in the manner of a computer program and you'll end up in an infinite loop.
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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby Sherab » Mon Apr 04, 2011 1:01 am

Namdrol wrote:
Sherab wrote:

From a Vajrayana perspective, mind and body are inseparable, so no dualism.

The ordinary body is left behind at the time of death. So are we leaving behind a part of our mind when we die?


No, we are taking part of the rūpa aggregate when we go, namely the pranavāyu.[/quote]
So mind and certain part of the body are inseparable?
This would allow for the possibility of an aspect of mind that is directly connected with the brain and another aspect that is independent of the brain. This is my preferred view at the moment.
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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby Malcolm » Mon Apr 04, 2011 1:05 am

Sherab wrote:So mind and certain part of the body are inseparable?
This would allow for the possibility of an aspect of mind that is directly connected with the brain and another aspect that is independent of the brain. This is my preferred view at the moment.


Mind and vāyu, the air element are inseparable. In turn, as long as the life organ is function, the vāyu pervades the entire body. Thus, when you damage nerves, the vāyu can no longer travel in those regions of body, and one has no sensation, etc.
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http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: Brain vs. mind

Postby Sherab » Mon Apr 04, 2011 1:31 am

Namdrol wrote:
Sherab wrote:So mind and certain part of the body are inseparable?
This would allow for the possibility of an aspect of mind that is directly connected with the brain and another aspect that is independent of the brain. This is my preferred view at the moment.


Mind and vāyu, the air element are inseparable. In turn, as long as the life organ is function, the vāyu pervades the entire body. Thus, when you damage nerves, the vāyu can no longer travel in those regions of body, and one has no sensation, etc.

I am not too sure. During the death process, there is the dissolution of the elements from earth to water and so on and finally into consciousness. So is there something special about the air element? Or perhaps, the term air element has another meaning, like a form of energy that is still unknown to science?

Also, electrical impulses are not the only form of communication within the body. There are chemical signals as well. Does the air element pervades these too?
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