Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Moderator: Tibetan Buddhism moderators

Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby padma norbu » Sat Jun 11, 2011 10:07 pm

I used to drive myself crazy trying to imagine the origins of consciousness. Like, where does an idea come from? How does the meat in the skull ever "imagine" anything?

I gave up this sort of thinking a long time ago when I decided that consciousness was an innate part of reality. I still don't really understand the Buddhist or Dzogchen concept of it, though.

Awareness and thinking are different things to an extent, although awareness is necessary for thinking to occur, even if one is oblivious and thoughts are just coming and going between the fried braincells still left twitching in the head of a crack addict at the last moments of his life, for example.

For theists, this is a pretty easy riddle to solve; they just say that the universe resides in the consciousness of God, which is so vast and complex it is well beyond our comprehension. This explains where intelligence comes from and explains away any misunderstandings or doubts because you can always just fall back on the idea that it is all beyond our comprehension.

But, for we atheists, what do we think?

As far as Dzogchen is concerned, consciousness and awareness and the ability to think are all innate parts of our real nature, yes? Our real nature is responsible for all sorts of thinking/thoughts, but is this seemingly miraculous process just relative relationships of samsaric dualistic thinking? Beyond knowledge is Wisdom, but I do not expect that Buddhas are incapable of thoughts or thinking. Like Namkhai Norbu has said, without thoughts, we are like a rock and this state is like the state of "great meditators" who have become petrified. There were stories of such meditators who were chopped up by the Chinese and inside their organs were still pink and warm, not rotten, even though they had not moved in years to eat or anything. So becoming in such a frozen state is obviously not good.

So, thinking is natural... but will we ever really understand it beyond the ability to learn to control our thoughts and see beyond them? Or do we just have to accept that it is a natural, incomprehensible function of our real nature that we will perhaps only ever understand when we become enlightened?

Because... let's forget for a moment how our karmic vision creates such a seemingly solid reality around us that we can stub our toe in the middle of the night when we're barely awake and have blood spurt out everywhere and fall down clutching our toe screaming curses and in the process land on the pet hamster and kill it and cause our children to cry and the wife to yell at us for killing the hamster and making the children cry and drive ourselves to the hospital in the middle of the night to the ER room to get our toe looked at... let's forget all that for just a moment and just consider a single thought. I would like to know from where a thought comes. It is a mind-f'er for sure. Thoughts seem to only exist in relation to dualism. If there is only awareness of nonduality, what is there to think about? Not point A or point B or the relation of the two.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
User avatar
padma norbu
 
Posts: 1999
Joined: Sun May 29, 2011 1:10 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sat Jun 11, 2011 10:41 pm

The scientific explanation and the buddhist understanding mesh well. Consciousness evolves from the elements and is just part of how our universe developed. I would say that what is regarded as the indestructible clear light mind and such is not like a permanent soul that pre-dated the universe. Pre-universe really was a non-existent void. But exactly because it is a void, all possible formations are possible. Once consciousness emerges from the elements, then this "indestructible clear light of mind" emerges too. That it is indestructible is just a name. It won't survive the complete destruction of the universe. It continues on from life to life as long as the universe is around, something like a karmic dust bunny. The way to understand Nirvana, buddha-nature or the pure clear light and all it's qualities is totally beyond explanation, existence and non-existence, etc. While the elements and the universe are by nature impermanent, the dharmakaya is not impermanent. It is completely beyond time, and calling it "permanent" is just a name juxtaposed to "impermanent," because it is not "impermanent."

There was an Oxford cosmologist said something interesting about how the universe expands and dissolves. He said, when the universe expansion speeds up beyond the speed of light, it will rip apart. All mater will become nothing. With nothing in it, there is no relativity, because it takes two or more objects to relate. Without relativity, there is no space or time. Without space or time, there is no large or small. Infinitely large and infinitesimally small would be indistinguishable. Thus, all the potential energy spread out across the vast cosmos is no more than a tiny point. As a tiny point, infinite potential energy becomes infinitely tight, and boom, big bang. At that point, before the big bang, energy basically doesn't know if it is potential or real. This is the trippiest part of the explanation. This is a very nice juncture between science of the real, and the buddhist understanding of illusory existence. All the heat and motion that ensues is like a mistake that arises from the confusion of what state the cosmos is in, huge or tiny. It also shows there is a mind-like quality to this void. It is not thinking or feeling or conscious, but it is like the crystal that grows or responds to its environment. It is mind-like in that it is responsive.

In this way one can understand the Dzogchen teaching of all-pervasive empty rigpa which is naturally responsive, is totally free, and when seen in its actuality, has energetic qualities.
CAW!
User avatar
adinatha
 
Posts: 886
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:07 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jun 11, 2011 11:20 pm

adinatha wrote:The scientific explanation and the buddhist understanding mesh well. Consciousness evolves from the elements...


Actually, it is the opposite, matter comes from mind...
http://www.atikosha.org
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://www.sakyapa.net
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

How can you not practice the highest Dharma
at this time of obtaining a perfect human body?

-- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen
User avatar
Malcolm
 
Posts: 12733
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby padma norbu » Sat Jun 11, 2011 11:42 pm

Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:The scientific explanation and the buddhist understanding mesh well. Consciousness evolves from the elements...


Actually, it is the opposite, matter comes from mind...

That's what I thought, no pun intended.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
User avatar
padma norbu
 
Posts: 1999
Joined: Sun May 29, 2011 1:10 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:01 am

Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:The scientific explanation and the buddhist understanding mesh well. Consciousness evolves from the elements...


Actually, it is the opposite, matter comes from mind...


Nope.

Wind doesn't come from wind. Wind is an emergent property.
CAW!
User avatar
adinatha
 
Posts: 886
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:07 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby padma norbu » Sun Jun 12, 2011 1:01 am

adinatha wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:The scientific explanation and the buddhist understanding mesh well. Consciousness evolves from the elements...


Actually, it is the opposite, matter comes from mind...


Nope.

Wind doesn't come from wind. Wind is an emergent property.


Citations to back up your claim? Science is very interesting, but it changes quite a bit every 50 years, so I am referring to Buddhist or Dzogchen citations, actually. As for your Oxford guy's theory, that's nice, but actually just recently new speculation made international headlines when scientists said that they believe the universe will just keep expanding forever. So, I don't really take theoretical physics and cosmologies that seriously; I do take more seriously the instruction from enlightened beings.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
User avatar
padma norbu
 
Posts: 1999
Joined: Sun May 29, 2011 1:10 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 1:24 am

It is an illustration. I don't have time for quotes right now, but lemme just throw out some basics. There are five basic elements. These are interdependent arising. And hence, ultimately non-arising. This is the physical side. On the mind side we have five poisons. How the five elements and five poisons relate is interdependent origination. These don't have independent existence. It is the same with space and ignorance. These two are interdependently originated. These are not one or separate. Ignorance is not an existent, that's why when we see the nature of mind as space-like, there's no space or mind. There's nothing, not even nothingness. People will say the five wisdom lights are self-existing, but that's not true. The five lights are the essence of the elements, the essence of five lights is five wisdoms. When we say this is the essence of that, what are we saying? They are co-emergent. Take the wisdom of accomplishment. This wisdom arises in dependence on externals. There has to be something to accomplish and someone to accomplish it for for there to be a wisdom of accomplishing. The same goes for all the buddha activities, etc. Light, form and motion are also emptiness which is interdependence. The five wisdom lights are self-arising. What does this mean? It means they are co-emergent and interdependent. Consciousness and mind is a label we give to the co-emergence of ignorance, attraction and repulsion. The dharmadhatu is not consciousness or mind. It is beyond everything. Whatever is not interdependent is the dharmadhatu; beyond the interdependent is impossible to find. Not seeing anything is the dharmadhatu. We call it "immutable cognitive lucidity," Osel Dorje, but it's not even that in the slightest.
CAW!
User avatar
adinatha
 
Posts: 886
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:07 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby padma norbu » Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:35 am

adinatha, if they are co-emergent, that is different than what you said before, which was that consciousness evolves from the elements. Co-emergent means like it says in prajnaparamita, for example, that where there is need for eyes, there are eyes and where there is need for ears, there are ears, etc. but in reality there is no eyes, no ears, etc. and in reality, also, there is no object being seen or heard. So. That doesn't really answer my question except to suggest that perhaps we can not really ever understand consciousness (ie. where a thought comes from). Stating that it arises with something else is not much of an answer at all because then we just ask, okay, well where does that something else come from and then we have circular reasoning because we say, "well, that arises with the thought."
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
User avatar
padma norbu
 
Posts: 1999
Joined: Sun May 29, 2011 1:10 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:53 am

padma norbu wrote:adinatha, if they are co-emergent, that is different than what you said before, which was that consciousness evolves from the elements. Co-emergent means like it says in prajnaparamita, for example, that where there is need for eyes, there are eyes and where there is need for ears, there are ears, etc. but in reality there is no eyes, no ears, etc. and in reality, also, there is no object being seen or heard. So. That doesn't really answer my question except to suggest that perhaps we can not really ever understand consciousness (ie. where a thought comes from). Stating that it arises with something else is not much of an answer at all because then we just ask, okay, well where does that something else come from and then we have circular reasoning because we say, "well, that arises with the thought."


Evolved from the elements and co-emergent means the same thing. One the one had I'm speaking from a scientific angle, and on the other from a dharma standpoint. You are confabulating ultimate and relative realities. Consciousness is dependently originated as one of the five elements, five skandhas, five poisons and twelve links. There's really not much more to it than that. Prajnaparamita is emptiness. Of course, emptiness and dependent origination are two sides of the same coin. That's why there is an eye and no eye, beings and no beings, buddhas and no buddhas, etc., etc., etc. A thought is consciousness because the three times are its object arising together with an imputation of a subject. When an imputed subject sees an object, light and eye gives rise to eye consciousness when the three poisons arise with the object. This is how consciousness is co-emergent with objects. The body and consciousness evolved from the elements. Namdrol mentioned that the universe arose due to ignorance. But that is a grand oversimplification. It's true, but that is does not mean the universe arose from mind, as if we are all in the dream of a great being like the Hindu myth of Brahma falling asleep and the universe rising up from a lotus in his navel. This level of ignorance is extremely primitive and not even close to what one would call a sentient being. It is basically a timeless void, and the universe burst open from basically nothing.
CAW!
User avatar
adinatha
 
Posts: 886
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:07 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby 5heaps » Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:56 pm

padma norbu wrote:I used to drive myself crazy trying to imagine the origins of consciousness. Like, where does an idea come from? How does the meat in the skull ever "imagine" anything?
this is a topic called 'pramana'..perceptual theory. very interesting but complicated topic
adinatha wrote:The body and consciousness evolved from the elements.
not in buddhism or any of the other half-decent meditative traditions...that the mind is nonphysical is directly perceivable on the 2nd dhyana, where the mental consciousness has been pacified sufficiently. prior to this the mind is of course appearing but we are incapable of ascertaining all of its qualities, and so we can have misconceptions about it (ie. we can even think it doesnt exist)
5heaps
 
Posts: 432
Joined: Tue Apr 06, 2010 6:09 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby padma norbu » Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:56 pm

adinatha wrote:
padma norbu wrote:adinatha, if they are co-emergent, that is different than what you said before, which was that consciousness evolves from the elements. Co-emergent means like it says in prajnaparamita, for example, that where there is need for eyes, there are eyes and where there is need for ears, there are ears, etc. but in reality there is no eyes, no ears, etc. and in reality, also, there is no object being seen or heard. So. That doesn't really answer my question except to suggest that perhaps we can not really ever understand consciousness (ie. where a thought comes from). Stating that it arises with something else is not much of an answer at all because then we just ask, okay, well where does that something else come from and then we have circular reasoning because we say, "well, that arises with the thought."


Evolved from the elements and co-emergent means the same thing.
Nope.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
User avatar
padma norbu
 
Posts: 1999
Joined: Sun May 29, 2011 1:10 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby padma norbu » Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:07 pm

5heaps wrote:
padma norbu wrote:I used to drive myself crazy trying to imagine the origins of consciousness. Like, where does an idea come from? How does the meat in the skull ever "imagine" anything?
this is a topic called 'pramana'..perceptual theory. very interesting but complicated topic
Do you know where I could read more about this?
5heaps wrote:
adinatha wrote:The body and consciousness evolved from the elements.
not in buddhism or any of the other half-decent meditative traditions...that the mind is nonphysical is directly perceivable on the 2nd dhyana, where the mental consciousness has been pacified sufficiently. prior to this the mind is of course appearing but we are incapable of ascertaining all of its qualities, and so we can have misconceptions about it (ie. we can even think it doesnt exist)
Thanks, over the years I have read a lot about this kind of thing and generally knew what you and Namdrol have said here, but I am definitely not one for remembering specifics. I am lucky to be part of the internet generation.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
User avatar
padma norbu
 
Posts: 1999
Joined: Sun May 29, 2011 1:10 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:20 pm

adinatha wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:The scientific explanation and the buddhist understanding mesh well. Consciousness evolves from the elements...


Actually, it is the opposite, matter comes from mind...


Nope.



You need to read Abhidharma, where this is explained very clearly.

But more importantly the evolution of the six dhātus occurs in the following order: consciousness, space, air, fire, water and earth. Their dissolution happens in reverse order.
http://www.atikosha.org
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://www.sakyapa.net
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

How can you not practice the highest Dharma
at this time of obtaining a perfect human body?

-- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen
User avatar
Malcolm
 
Posts: 12733
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:34 pm

adinatha wrote: It's true, but that is does not mean the universe arose from mind...


That is not what I meant. I.e. some sort of Advaita idea.

When we say that matter comes from mind, it is very simple: physical matter arises due to the traces of action and affliction collectively aggregated in all minds every time the container universe forms.

N
http://www.atikosha.org
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://www.sakyapa.net
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

How can you not practice the highest Dharma
at this time of obtaining a perfect human body?

-- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen
User avatar
Malcolm
 
Posts: 12733
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby alpha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:06 pm

is mind creating matter continously?
if so, some examples would be great since i don't really understand what exactly is created

consciousness, space, air, fire, water ,earth.....I am this...

since the above elements are always present presumably there is a perpetual creation of matter.As to what that matter is at the moment of writing this ,i dont know...
AOM
alpha
 
Posts: 600
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 12:05 pm
Location: kent

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby padma norbu » Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:09 pm

Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:Nope.

You need to read Abhidharma, where this is explained very clearly.

But more importantly the evolution of the six dhātus occurs in the following order: consciousness, space, air, fire, water and earth. Their dissolution happens in reverse order.


It's funny because that IS exactly the order of the elements in creation in the Kabballist Tree of Life and probably Hinduism, too...

Namdrol wrote:That is not what I meant. I.e. some sort of Advaita idea.

When we say that matter comes from mind, it is very simple: physical matter arises due to the traces of action and affliction collectively aggregated in all minds every time the container universe forms.


Yes, it's funny how subtle this point is and that has something to do with my question. Where do the traces of the "collectively aggregated" action and affliction come from, originally? Does this "thinking energy" just fizz off our basic awareness like some kind of radiation which is simply inherently a part of our basic nature which we quickly and easily get lost in? In both Advaita and Kabballah, we can fall into the idea that it all comes from a divine source beyond our comprehension of which we have a little spark of consciousness that gives us our own awareness and willpower and that we can only fully understand it upon achieving union with that source.

I wouldn't mind actually reading a Namkhai Norbu overview of the evolution of the dhatus if there is one, rather than trying to wade through Abhidarma, but if I have to seek out a good expiation, would this be the section to read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhatukatha

I think I have a digital version of all of it on my iPhone actually, but I'm not in a position to read ALL of it at the moment.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
User avatar
padma norbu
 
Posts: 1999
Joined: Sun May 29, 2011 1:10 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:18 pm

Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote: It's true, but that is does not mean the universe arose from mind...


That is not what I meant. I.e. some sort of Advaita idea.

When we say that matter comes from mind, it is very simple: physical matter arises due to the traces of action and affliction collectively aggregated in all minds every time the container universe forms.

N


I get that. This explanation doesn't work for me. In the situation of a vacuum, there are no minds. From Abhidharma, mind of retribution belongs to the grasper. There's no substrate field where these retribution minds stay. The Alayavijnana is not like Brahman, not a common field.
CAW!
User avatar
adinatha
 
Posts: 886
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:07 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:38 pm

5heaps wrote:
adinatha wrote:The body and consciousness evolved from the elements.
not in buddhism or any of the other half-decent meditative traditions...that the mind is nonphysical is directly perceivable on the 2nd dhyana, where the mental consciousness has been pacified sufficiently. prior to this the mind is of course appearing but we are incapable of ascertaining all of its qualities, and so we can have misconceptions about it (ie. we can even think it doesnt exist)


I didn't say the mind is physical. You all don't understand the nature of interdependence. Take five rectangular mirrors of equal size and place them into a pentagon, plus one pentagon roof. The interior will not seem hollow until the sixth mirror is in place. The interior will seem as if it goes on forever. But it is the illusion of space. Consciousness is just like this. That spaciousness is not physical, but it's not space either.
CAW!
User avatar
adinatha
 
Posts: 886
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:07 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:46 pm

padma norbu wrote:
adinatha wrote:
padma norbu wrote:adinatha, if they are co-emergent, that is different than what you said before, which was that consciousness evolves from the elements. Co-emergent means like it says in prajnaparamita, for example, that where there is need for eyes, there are eyes and where there is need for ears, there are ears, etc. but in reality there is no eyes, no ears, etc. and in reality, also, there is no object being seen or heard. So. That doesn't really answer my question except to suggest that perhaps we can not really ever understand consciousness (ie. where a thought comes from). Stating that it arises with something else is not much of an answer at all because then we just ask, okay, well where does that something else come from and then we have circular reasoning because we say, "well, that arises with the thought."


Evolved from the elements and co-emergent means the same thing.
Nope.


Ohhh... yes it does... Because consciousness is not a thing. It is not an element, it is a relationship, an aggregate. When the universe is in a formative stage, not all the aggregate elements are in place. When the oceans were populated by aminos, which are just crystals, there is not yet enough stuff to make a living thing. These aminos have to develop a level of complexity over time. Then, life emerges, then consciousness. But when a hungry little prokaryote comes out, we can't say it is conscious. But it is responding. Also, the aminos were also responding, and changing in response to the environment. This responsiveness is similar to consciousness. It is a very primitive form of awareness. It is the mirror-like awareness. Down to the subtlest forms of matter, there is attraction and repulsion. These are responses. The five wisdoms are not consciousness. These are fundamental and very very primitive awareness-like functions of physical matter. Again, I'm not saying the mind is physical. The mind is a relationship. Attraction and repulsion are not things, but relationships. The awareness-like attractions and repulsions are co-emergent with each other and so physical energy co-emerges. You string trillions of these functions together and you get a conscious being. A buddha is not a conscious, i.e., sentient being.
CAW!
User avatar
adinatha
 
Posts: 886
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:07 am

Re: Can we ever really understand consciousness?

Postby adinatha » Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:54 pm

padma norbu wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:Nope.

You need to read Abhidharma, where this is explained very clearly.

But more importantly the evolution of the six dhātus occurs in the following order: consciousness, space, air, fire, water and earth. Their dissolution happens in reverse order.


It's funny because that IS exactly the order of the elements in creation in the Kabballist Tree of Life and probably Hinduism, too...


And this is exactly why it can't be true.

Namdrol wrote:That is not what I meant. I.e. some sort of Advaita idea.

When we say that matter comes from mind, it is very simple: physical matter arises due to the traces of action and affliction collectively aggregated in all minds every time the container universe forms.


Yes, it's funny how subtle this point is and that has something to do with my question. Where do the traces of the "collectively aggregated" action and affliction come from, originally?


The past. There is no origin. The buddha was specific about no origins. If you need a quote search around http://www.accesstoinsight.org. To really and truly understand no origins you have to understand the nonarising nature of interdependent relations.

Does this "thinking energy" just fizz off our basic awareness like some kind of radiation which is simply inherently a part of our basic nature which we quickly and easily get lost in? In both Advaita and Kabballah, we can fall into the idea that it all comes from a divine source beyond our comprehension of which we have a little spark of consciousness that gives us our own awareness and willpower and that we can only fully understand it upon achieving union with that source.


There are three poisons, ignorance, attachment and aversion. There are three fundamental states of matter neutral, attraction and repulsion. Why is it that these three things appear to be exactly aligned? What if there is no answer? Perhaps it's because they are the same thing, and asking what comes from what is pointless. Like looking at a bucket and asking what came first the hole or the circle? They all arrive at the same time.
CAW!
User avatar
adinatha
 
Posts: 886
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:07 am

Next

Return to Dzogchen

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: AdsBot [Google], ned51 and 17 guests

>