Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

⊙ Fimbul ⊙
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by ⊙ Fimbul ⊙ »

Sounds like you are looking for something "eternal" out there. Bad luck, you won't find it.
Actually this is exactly what I was trying to avoid, the movement from one 'object' that occupies one mental event to another 'object' that was not 'within' the previous mental event, but is now is.

My main confusion is this notion of an 'object'. What counts as something 'singular' in this sense? Something that is utterly simple? Devoid of multiple parts and structured complexity? Would a single unextended point of 'redness' count? But if it was devoid of extension, how could it have a quality like redness, since that seems to require space and extension to my mind (am I wrong here?).

However, if it is extended, if it does have a structured shape, what makes it count as 'one'? Do we just mean something 'marked off' by a single concept? Like a cup or a chair? If that is the case, can't we arbitrarily make the conceptual division wherever we please? Perhaps I focus on the chair as a whole, or maybe just a single leg.

Maybe it is a waste of time to bounce around from concept to concept trying to make sense of this if I lack the meditative experience of such single pointedness, but it does seem like some kind of continuity of awareness from one moment to the next, from one 'object-cognition' to the next, is presupposed if I am even becoming confused about this point (since I am already talking about 'this and that', 'before and after', relating things to one another).

How can the nature of conventional reality consist purely of relations, and reality itself consist purely of mental events, if a mental event can only consist of a singular, self-contained 'object-cognition' at any given moment? Doesn't that object itself, insofar as I conceptually grasp it, have to be composed of 'relations' and already be 'multiple' in some sense (again, sorry for the term since it often implies discrete units rather than mere a 'extension of relations')?
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by ⊙ Fimbul ⊙ »

This seems relevant:
24
The color white, you say, and other features
Consciousness cognizes step by step,
But owing to the speed with which this happens,
Foolish people think that they are known at once.

25
But when cognitions such as those of words like lata
Are produced at extreme speed,
And therefore seem to be perceived at once,
How is it that such words do not correctly manifest?

26
In the mind that is exclusively conceptual,
There is no sequence of cognition either.
Since none of them remains for very long,
Cognitions are alike by virtue of their swift arising.

27
Accordingly, there are no objects
That are grasped sequentially.
But like their different aspects, it is thus
That objects are perceived—grasped all at once.

28
Since it is the firebrand itself
(Mistaken, in the instant, as a wheel of fire)
That clearly is perceived by visual consciousness,
It’s not the latter that connects the separate instants.

29
Thus the joining of these moments
Is the work of memory.
The visual sense does not accomplish it,
For sight does not perceive the object that has passed.

30
All that is the object of our memory
Is dead and gone; it is not manifest.
Thus what is now appearing as a wheel of flame
Should not indeed be clearly seen.

31
And if the claim is made
That when a painting is beheld,
The many mental states that apprehend its aspects
Arise together, all at once,

32
In that case, even the cognition
Of a single aspect such as “white”
Becomes a manifold array,
With up and down and middle parts distinct!

33
The finest particle of something white
That’s one by nature and devoid of parts,
Appearing as it is, to consciousness—
That’s something I have surely never seen!
How do I put a source into a quote? This is from Shantarakshita's Madhyamakalankara.
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by Ayu »

⊙ Fimbul ⊙ wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 3:59 am...
How do I put a source into a quote? This is from Shantarakshita's Madhyamakalankara.
You copy the address-link of the source and paste it into your post.
For the benefit and ease of all sentient beings. :heart:
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by heart »

⊙ Fimbul ⊙ wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 3:59 am This seems relevant:
24
The color white, you say, and other features
Consciousness cognizes step by step,
But owing to the speed with which this happens,
Foolish people think that they are known at once.
This is exactly the point.

/magnus
"We are all here to help each other go through this thing, whatever it is."
~Kurt Vonnegut

"The principal practice is Guruyoga. But we need to understand that any secondary practice combined with Guruyoga becomes a principal practice." ChNNR (Teachings on Thun and Ganapuja)
fckw
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by fckw »

⊙ Fimbul ⊙ wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 2:31 am
Sounds like you are looking for something "eternal" out there. Bad luck, you won't find it.
Actually this is exactly what I was trying to avoid, the movement from one 'object' that occupies one mental event to another 'object' that was not 'within' the previous mental event, but is now is.

My main confusion is this notion of an 'object'. What counts as something 'singular' in this sense? Something that is utterly simple? Devoid of multiple parts and structured complexity? Would a single unextended point of 'redness' count? But if it was devoid of extension, how could it have a quality like redness, since that seems to require space and extension to my mind (am I wrong here?).

However, if it is extended, if it does have a structured shape, what makes it count as 'one'? Do we just mean something 'marked off' by a single concept? Like a cup or a chair? If that is the case, can't we arbitrarily make the conceptual division wherever we please? Perhaps I focus on the chair as a whole, or maybe just a single leg.

Maybe it is a waste of time to bounce around from concept to concept trying to make sense of this if I lack the meditative experience of such single pointedness, but it does seem like some kind of continuity of awareness from one moment to the next, from one 'object-cognition' to the next, is presupposed if I am even becoming confused about this point (since I am already talking about 'this and that', 'before and after', relating things to one another).

How can the nature of conventional reality consist purely of relations, and reality itself consist purely of mental events, if a mental event can only consist of a singular, self-contained 'object-cognition' at any given moment? Doesn't that object itself, insofar as I conceptually grasp it, have to be composed of 'relations' and already be 'multiple' in some sense (again, sorry for the term since it often implies discrete units rather than mere a 'extension of relations')?
The question whether there is or is not continuity of awareness between mind events is something that Buddhists have not entirely settled themselves neither. (And the question does not apply in the same form for vehicles such as dzogchen and mahamudra, because the view is already that of "beyond-time" or however you want to name it. Not so with Therevada Vipassana practice.) In the Therevada school the majority seems to hold the view that there is nothing between mind events, they just arise in succession, that's it. However, there exist(ed) at least some Therevada schools who posited the idea of a "substrate" in the sense of an underlying awareness. Not that it's meant to be a "thing", but still a lower level than mind events themselves.

Also, to experientally confirm/reject you'd have to train rather mindfulness than single-pointedness of mind. As said before, this is exactly that you're training in Therevada Vipassana training.
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by ⊙ Fimbul ⊙ »

I guess I should be very specific and try not to say too much at one. It is certainly the case that sensory perceptions only happen 'one frame at a time', and that I do not literally 'see' movement happen. I do not need much focus to see that, I can just carefully observe my own perceptions. My issue is the joining together of these moments to form a sequence the creates the illusion of motion, which seems like it requires the mind to retain an 'afterimage', for lack of a better term, of the pervious moment in the next one:
28
Since it is the firebrand itself
(Mistaken, in the instant, as a wheel of fire)
That clearly is perceived by visual consciousness,
It’s not the latter that connects the separate instants.

29
Thus the joining of these moments
Is the work of memory.
The visual sense does not accomplish it,
For sight does not perceive the object that has passed.
And the other issue is the notion of what counts as an object, which nobody seems to be able to answer or address directly. Does it have to be utterly simple, like the classic notion of an atom? Is it just anything marked off by a single concept? So complex things with many parts might still count as 'one thing'?
33
The finest particle of something white
That’s one by nature and devoid of parts,
Appearing as it is, to consciousness—
That’s something I have surely never seen!
Everything else I have said is really just besides the main point, and I think the main point of alot of the confusion that has appeared in this thread. Sorry if my posting was somewhat unclear.
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by fckw »

There are really only 3 basic positions that I personally know of. What I'm saying is not so much a philosophical description (there might exist many more detailed philosophical descriptions) but rather an empirical, i.e. based on what you actually "perceive" during mind training.

In the Therevada schools mind events arise in succession, i.e. they are discrete and there is no continuity among them. Each mind moment has its own consciousness. The idea of a "stream" is imputed in retrospective, as has been pointed out above.

In certain Hindu schools such as Patanjali Yogasutras mind itself is a continuum only, i.e. one single "amorphous mind mass" continuously transmorphing into just the next form. Here, it cannot be said that the mind holds a single object at a time, because according to this view there really are no distinct mind moments holding objects at all. It's one single, eternal, ever changing mind moment, with one single ever-changing object, so to say. (Needless to say that Buddhist practitioners typically are not familiar with corresponding meditative practices and would reject this view, as it is exclusively "Hindu".)

What both the Therevada Vipassana and Patanjali Yogasutra system of practice have in common is that neither has practices to reach beyond time and space.

In the dzogchen/mahamudra school the practice goes beyond time (and space), so to say. Therefore, the idea of a succession in the sense of a stream of mind moments or one "mind mass transmorphing continuously" does not apply. Mind moments, as they arise, can by definition not be in succession. There is equally no possibility for one thing transmorphing into something else, because this presumes the existence of time as well. In these systems, mind moments arise "all at once" so to say, or "beyond time", or however you want to phrase it. Therefore, stating that anything happens "at a time" in the sense of "in one instant" simply is meaningless here.

So, you see, in none of the three systems the idea of a "stream of successive objects" that appear to a subject really applies.

So, your issue seems to simply be: How do we construct the idea of coherence then? Well, as it was nicely said:
All that is the object of our memory
You could now ask: And where does memory come from?

I have no idea how Buddhists or Hindus generally explain that, and I personally don't care a lot neither. You could equally raise the question: If there is no stream of mind events really, how can there exist such a thing as karma? Or rather: Where is this karma then being stored? Well, there are elaborate philosophical treaties on this topic, feel free to work through any of them. In the end, and I've had discussions on this topic with others here before, you won't manage to find a logically 100% conclusive coherent explanation. It's one of the big jokes about all those systems that they try to impress you with long and highly elaborated philosophical treatises, and when you do some digging you realize that they are all full of logical holes. For example, positing something that cannot by definition be derived logically from anything.
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by Malcolm »

fckw wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 4:02 pm There are really only 3 basic positions that I personally know of. What I'm saying is not so much a philosophical description (there might exist many more detailed philosophical descriptions) but rather an empirical, i.e. based on what you actually "perceive" during mind training.

In the Therevada schools mind events arise in succession, i.e. they are discrete and there is no continuity among them. Each mind moment has its own consciousness. The idea of a "stream" is imputed in retrospective, as has been pointed out above.

In certain Hindu schools such as Patanjali Yogasutras mind itself is a continuum only, i.e. one single "amorphous mind mass" continuously transmorphing into just the next form. Here, it cannot be said that the mind holds a single object at a time, because according to this view there really are no distinct mind moments holding objects at all. It's one single, eternal, ever changing mind moment, with one single ever-changing object, so to say. (Needless to say that Buddhist practitioners typically are not familiar with corresponding meditative practices and would reject this view, as it is exclusively "Hindu".)
Purusha is eternal and static. Prakriti undergoes transformations but not Purusha—it is a passive, eternal witness and when one attains kaivalya one no longer bothers with prakrit's transformations.
What both the Therevada Vipassana and Patanjali Yogasutra system of practice have in common is that neither has practices to reach beyond time and space.

In the dzogchen/mahamudra school the practice goes beyond time (and space), so to say. Therefore, the idea of a succession in the sense of a stream of mind moments or one "mind mass transmorphing continuously" does not apply. Mind moments, as they arise, can by definition not be in succession.
Also not true. Dzogchen does not negate momentariness, for example in the Self-Arisen Vidyā Tantra:

When there is no movement in the mind,
the essence of a single moment of consciousness
is said to be momentarily without concepts.


Or the commentary on the Tantra Without Syllables:

Since those appearances were recognized as one’s own appearances,
(1) there are no stages and paths to traverse, (2) there is no accomplishment
through effort, and (3) [those appearances] revert automatically in
three moments into the original basis.


Or the commentary on the Blazing Lamp:

...after a person of the highest capacity exhausts the vāyu of the karma of concepts,
the first bardo is made a momentary object, and [94b] one attains buddhahood in three moments.

It's one of the big jokes about all those systems that they try to impress you with long and highly elaborated philosophical treatises, and when you do some digging you realize that they are all full of logical holes. For example, positing something that cannot by definition be derived logically from anything.
This represents a fault in your understanding, not a fault in Dzogchen teachings.
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by heart »

⊙ Fimbul ⊙ wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 12:36 pm And the other issue is the notion of what counts as an object, which nobody seems to be able to answer or address directly. Does it have to be utterly simple, like the classic notion of an atom? Is it just anything marked off by a single concept? So complex things with many parts might still count as 'one thing'?
It is not a philosophical question. We are talking about our ordinary deluded mind. An object It is anything that you consider an object.

/magnus
"We are all here to help each other go through this thing, whatever it is."
~Kurt Vonnegut

"The principal practice is Guruyoga. But we need to understand that any secondary practice combined with Guruyoga becomes a principal practice." ChNNR (Teachings on Thun and Ganapuja)
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by ⊙ Fimbul ⊙ »

Thank you, that actually clarifies alot. So the mind can only cognize a single object at a time beacuse the term 'mind', in the sense that we are using it here, specifically refers to the confused attempt to grasp experience as an object? As something 'over there' with a particular identity? So what counts as an object is determined by my own personal conceptual fixations?
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by heart »

⊙ Fimbul ⊙ wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 7:11 pm Thank you, that actually clarifies alot. So the mind can only cognize a single object at a time beacuse the term 'mind', in the sense that we are using it here, specifically refers to the confused attempt to grasp experience as an object? As something 'over there' with a particular identity? So what counts as an object is determined by my own personal conceptual fixations?
Only you can answer that, a cup, a cat, a sunset a post in the Dzogchen forum.

/magnus
"We are all here to help each other go through this thing, whatever it is."
~Kurt Vonnegut

"The principal practice is Guruyoga. But we need to understand that any secondary practice combined with Guruyoga becomes a principal practice." ChNNR (Teachings on Thun and Ganapuja)
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by fckw »

Malcolm wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 4:56 pm
It's one of the big jokes about all those systems that they try to impress you with long and highly elaborated philosophical treatises, and when you do some digging you realize that they are all full of logical holes. For example, positing something that cannot by definition be derived logically from anything.
This represents a fault in your understanding, not a fault in Dzogchen teachings.
This is a nice article making a point: https://aeon.co/essays/the-logic-of-bud ... mple-truth. The author is in need of something called plurivalent logic developed in the 1980s to formally cover some of the holes I was referring to. There is no way any traditional Buddhist logician could possibly have had access to such advanced stuff, it simply did not exist back then. Not in India, nor Tibet, nor Greece, nor China, nor anywhere around the world. Hence, the claim that dzogchen teachings are without logical holes is, well, a charming yet quite baseless attempt to appear authoritative, to state it nicely. By the way, Western or Chinese or any other logicians struggled with exactly the same problems quite a bit, and failed to solve many of them for the same reasons.

Having that said, this does not mean in any way those Buddhist logicians were stupid in any way, on the contrary, there is a long lineage of genius Buddhist thinkers like Nagarjuna and others. But even being a genius did not help you a thousand years ago to overcome some of the logical holes left in your reasoning, because as stated already the required advanced formalisms were simply not available back then, and many of them were only invented in the 19th and 20th century by mathematicians and logicians - certainly not at the time, when the authoritative dzogchen texts were written.

And then there is of course the infamous incompleteness theorem of Gödel to consider, which has been devastating to all logicians everywhere. Which also, at least for me, put an end to all metaphysical speculation. If after studying it you still believe that Buddhist logic in general and dzogchen logic in particular is flawless, then you obviously did not understand it.

Coming back to dzogchen in particular: I am still waiting for someone to apply Gotthard Günthers polycontextural logic to dzogchen, particulary the possibility of an "as" operator.
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by Malcolm »

fckw wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 9:23 pm
Malcolm wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 4:56 pm
It's one of the big jokes about all those systems that they try to impress you with long and highly elaborated philosophical treatises, and when you do some digging you realize that they are all full of logical holes. For example, positing something that cannot by definition be derived logically from anything.
This represents a fault in your understanding, not a fault in Dzogchen teachings.
If after studying it you still believe that Buddhist logic in general and dzogchen logic in particular is flawless, then you obviously did not understand it.
Which logic are you referring to? The caturskoti? This is the most misunderstood idea in all of Buddhism.

Taken at face value, it makes no sense in formal logic. Gee, maybe it is not meant to be a logical proposition. Maybe, just maybe, the fourfold negation by Nāgārjuna actually represent positions his contemporaries held.

There are four possible states proposed in Ancient India for any given thing. It exists. It does not exist. It both exists and does not exist. It neither exists nor does not exist. Nāgārjuna, etc., are refuting these four possibilities because they contradict dependent origination.

Likewise, Dzogchen "logic" similarly does not really depart from Nāgārjuna in this case. Dzogchen negates the positions of others without advancing its own position. Dzogchen, like "Prasangika," has no position of its own.

As Rongzom points out, Dzogchen cannot be negated through logic, nor can it be proven through logic.
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
fckw
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by fckw »

Malcolm wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 9:31 pm As Rongzom points out, Dzogchen cannot be negated through logic, nor can it be proven through logic.
Which is the same as stating: "Abandon hope all ye who enter here."

Geez, why then the whole fuzz about "correctness" of any of those systems - other than "fun play"?
In the end, and I've had discussions on this topic with others here before, you won't manage to find a logically 100% conclusive coherent explanation. It's one of the big jokes about all those systems that they try to impress you with long and highly elaborated philosophical treatises, and when you do some digging you realize that they are all full of logical holes. For example, positing something that cannot by definition be derived logically from anything.
Rongzom's conclusion is really not very far from what I stated, yet my line of argumentation was different from his, me arguing it's not possible to build an entirely coherent explanation system completely without logical holes, which however leads to the same conclusion as Rongzom: "It cannot be negated through logic, nor proven through logic."
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Re: Can the mind only hold a single object at a time?

Post by Malcolm »

fckw wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 9:56 pm Geez, why then the whole fuzz about "correctness" of any of those systems - other than "fun play"?
One studies tenet systems to eliminate concepts, not to become expert in concepts.
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
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