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  #391  
Old 11-09-2011, 06:50 AM
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I'm not convinced that the mystic can gain any insights that are not available through conventional methods of inquiry....

Name a single spiritual insight concerning the nature of reality available to the mystic via conventional methods.
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  #392  
Old 11-19-2011, 03:02 PM
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The truth is that the mystic sees into the nature of reality prior to the knowing of any facts about it, which, if you really think about it, is the way it should be. But we in the West have been taught just the exact opposite: to accumulate factual data first as a means of determining what reality is, which cannot work simply because the method employed, ie; logic, reason, analysis, etc., are divisive. We think that by dissection we will somehow then be able to create a picture of reality, when all that we will really be able to do is to acquire more factual knowledge. We call the kind of knowledge the mind sees and understands prior to the formation of any concepts, metaphysic* [not metaphysics].

By gaining an understanding of the nature of reality first, facts can then be interpreted correctly.


'Before I became enlightened, mountains were just mountains, and trees were just trees. During my study, mountains were no longer mountains, and trees no longer trees. After my enlightenment, mountains were once again mountains, and trees once again trees'

A Zen aphorism

* METAPHYSIC: The indefinable basis of knowledge. Metapysical knowledge or ‘realization’ is an intense clarity of attention to that indefinable and immediate ‘point’ of knowledge which is always ‘now’, and from which all other knowledge is elaborated by reflective thought. A consciousness of ‘life’ in which the mind is not trying to grasp or define what it knows.


from: Myth and Ritual in Christianity, by Alan Watts

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  #393  
Old 11-20-2011, 04:21 AM
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The truth is that the mystic sees into the nature of reality prior to the knowing of any facts about it, which, if you really think about it, is the way it should be. But we in the West have been taught just the exact opposite: to accumulate factual data first as a means of determining what reality is, which cannot work simply because the method employed, ie; logic, reason, analysis, etc., are divisive. We think that by dissection we will somehow then be able to create a picture of reality, when all that we will really be able to do is to acquire more factual knowledge. We call the kind of knowledge the mind sees and understands prior to the formation of any concepts, metaphysic* [not metaphysics].

By gaining an understanding of the nature of reality first, facts can then be interpreted correctly.


'Before I became enlightened, mountains were just mountains, and trees were just trees. During my study, mountains were no longer mountains, and trees no longer trees. After my enlightenment, mountains were once again mountains, and trees once again trees'

A Zen aphorism

* METAPHYSIC: The indefinable basis of knowledge. Metapysical knowledge or ‘realization’ is an intense clarity of attention to that indefinable and immediate ‘point’ of knowledge which is always ‘now’, and from which all other knowledge is elaborated by reflective thought. A consciousness of ‘life’ in which the mind is not trying to grasp or define what it knows.


from: Myth and Ritual in Christianity, by Alan Watts

I knew there was a thread I lost track of!

From a skeptical perspective, to see "into the nature of reality prior to the knowing of any facts about it" cannot be done without first believing that one can have the ability to be free of illusions and misperceptions.

Metaphysical knowledge might be direct awareness, or it might simply be a matter of tripping a little understood neurochemical reward sensation that's intended to motivate the quest for discovery and new information. We know this happens as a result of certain drugs; how do we know the same thing is not induced through mental efforts including long meditative practice?
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Old 11-20-2011, 02:44 PM
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I knew there was a thread I lost track of!

From a skeptical perspective, to see "into the nature of reality prior to the knowing of any facts about it" cannot be done without first believing that one can have the ability to be free of illusions and misperceptions.

Metaphysical knowledge might be direct awareness, or it might simply be a matter of tripping a little understood neurochemical reward sensation that's intended to motivate the quest for discovery and new information. We know this happens as a result of certain drugs; how do we know the same thing is not induced through mental efforts including long meditative practice?
You still want to look at the facts about reality, rather than reality itself. It signifies that your discriminating mind is working overtime.

You say 'from a skeptical perspective'....not realizing, perhaps, that you have already formed a preconceived notion about the way things are. In order for correct seeing to occur, the mind must first be emptied of all conceptual thought. Therefore, the approach, in terms of what you are suggesting, is to think neither skeptic nor non-skeptic. Otherwise, you are still going round and round within the dual, that is to say, the relative world, and not connecting with that of the Absolute, even though you can never be separated from it.

Re: 'first believing that one can have the ability to be free of illusions and misperceptions.'.....

The spiritual experience never occurs as a planned, preconceived event. It is completely spontaneous and unexpected, occuring outside the limitations of time or space, belief or thought, even though one has previously formed beliefs or notions about it. Belief and concept are not part of the experience itself. What is most important are the conditions surrounding the event. You do not determine when or where it is to occur; IT just happens. In fact, it happens many times when the thinking mind has completely broken down, as when a koan has 'burst its bag', so to speak. In meditative sessions, all one does is to create condtitions concucive to the experience, which largely involves the cessation of all thought, which includes belief, since belief is a product of thought. One initially pursues the path of liberation simply because one has experienced the suffering that the clinging to illusions and misperceptions brings about. One naturally wants a more positive experience, but a belief in something one has zero experience of has nothing to do with the actual reality of the experience itself.

Metaphysic is always present, but is clouded by the discriminating mind. When the processes of the discriminating mind are subdued, one sees that one has never been outside of Absolute Reality. That one thinks so is a delusion of the mind.

As for the experience being similar to drug-induced quests for knowledge, no, it is the opposite, since the spiritual experience demands that one surrenders all desires for what is termed a 'gaining idea'. Any system of Reward and Punishment is inoperative. The mind is brought to a complete standstill.

Long meditative practice merely involves the gradual dropping away of all concepts and beliefs, until one arrives at nothing...complete emptiness....kenosis. So there is nothing there to induce anything; it is the condition of being completely open and unattached that is conducive to the experience. In this moment, there is no idea of reward; no belief; not even the idea of mind itself. The experience is beyond all ideas about it.
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  #395  
Old 11-22-2011, 01:47 AM
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You still want to look at the facts about reality, rather than reality itself. It signifies that your discriminating mind is working overtime.

You say 'from a skeptical perspective'....not realizing, perhaps, that you have already formed a preconceived notion about the way things are.


I don't believe it is even possible not to have preconceived ways of approaching issues. Many people adopt the skeptical outlook from a previous history of being fooled and/or let down more than a few times, and are suspicious of things that out of the ordinary, or sounding too good to be true.....and that's why I am a sales reps. nightmare.

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In order for correct seeing to occur, the mind must first be emptied of all conceptual thought. Therefore, the approach, in terms of what you are suggesting, is to think neither skeptic nor non-skeptic. Otherwise, you are still going round and round within the dual, that is to say, the relative world, and not connecting with that of the Absolute, even though you can never be separated from it.
And what exactly are we emptying, when we empty the mind? Our brains are our minds, our minds are what appear to make decisions, our brains are subject to the laws of physics. So, "emptying the mind of conceptual thought" could be a description of how the experience feels afterwards....since it would appear a contradiction in terms to have an "empty" mind, and be aware of having an empty mind at the time.



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Re: 'first believing that one can have the ability to be free of illusions and misperceptions.'.....

The spiritual experience never occurs as a planned, preconceived event. It is completely spontaneous and unexpected, occuring outside the limitations of time or space, belief or thought, even though one has previously formed beliefs or notions about it. Belief and concept are not part of the experience itself. What is most important are the conditions surrounding the event. You do not determine when or where it is to occur; IT just happens. In fact, it happens many times when the thinking mind has completely broken down, as when a koan has 'burst its bag', so to speak. In meditative sessions, all one does is to create condtitions concucive to the experience, which largely involves the cessation of all thought, which includes belief, since belief is a product of thought. One initially pursues the path of liberation simply because one has experienced the suffering that the clinging to illusions and misperceptions brings about. One naturally wants a more positive experience, but a belief in something one has zero experience of has nothing to do with the actual reality of the experience itself.

As for the experience being similar to drug-induced quests for knowledge, no, it is the opposite, since the spiritual experience demands that one surrenders all desires for what is termed a 'gaining idea'. Any system of Reward and Punishment is inoperative. The mind is brought to a complete standstill.
I still work from the perspective that the mind is a manifestation of brain activity, and as such, since we often feel a sense of pleasure from the feeling of having gained some particular insight, or knowledge, that feeling has to be understood from the standpoint of brain chemistry. And a spiritual experience that is described as a moment of profound understanding that cannot be described in mere words, is also declared by many who have induced that feeling of knowing from a deliberate drug induced state.

Our mental states and emotions are correlated with neurochemical releases to various receptors in the brain. Some day we will have a more detailed understanding of how these systems function; but for now, we have seen enough to conclude that no mental state can be divorced from the physical functions going on in the brain.


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Long meditative practice merely involves the gradual dropping away of all concepts and beliefs, until one arrives at nothing...complete emptiness....kenosis. So there is nothing there to induce anything; it is the condition of being completely open and unattached that is conducive to the experience. In this moment, there is no idea of reward; no belief; not even the idea of mind itself. The experience is beyond all ideas about it.
Again, I'm not saying that there isn't value in this, just that it is not necessarily what everyone needs or wants to aspire towards. Again, I am reminded that traditionally, most Eastern religions did not offer spiritual training such as meditation to the masses. The general approach was that those who desired to learn, had to approach the monasteries or convents and prove themselves worthy of being accepted as an initiate. The modern approach of offering some meditation and martial arts training for the masses, is new and did not exist until it was brought back to the West. Nothing wrong with making meditation more widely available to people; but it's an over-reach to believe that it's something that everyone needs and should be doing every day.

My sense of spirituality is quite limited....I think I mentioned previously that the slow steady rush of endorphins during a long run along a good trail on a nice sunny day, can take on a feeling of being other-worldly....after a long time your body can start to feel like it's moving itself, without your direct control....sort of like feeling like being a spectator along for the ride. But, I still recognize that the feeling is an illusion of perceptions, and my body isn't just moving itself.
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Old 11-23-2011, 10:25 AM
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I still work from the perspective that the mind is a manifestation of brain activity, and as such, since we often feel a sense of pleasure from the feeling of having gained some particular insight, or knowledge, that feeling has to be understood from the standpoint of brain chemistry. And a spiritual experience that is described as a moment of profound understanding that cannot be described in mere words, is also declared by many who have induced that feeling of knowing from a deliberate drug induced state.

Our mental states and emotions are correlated with neurochemical releases to various receptors in the brain. Some day we will have a more detailed understanding of how these systems function; but for now, we have seen enough to conclude that no mental state can be divorced from the physical functions going on in the brain.
I believe you are what is termed a 'materialist', wherein your 'mind' is merely the product of a set of neurochemical reactions.

Here is Deepak Chopra on the subject from his new book together with physicist Leonard Mlodinow:


War of the Worldviews: Let’s Talk Brain and Mind

People are surprised and often offended to discover that the truth is shifting, and yet a shift always happens at the moment of greatest uncertainty. If you canvassed a hundred neuroscientists about where the mind comes from, it would be a good bet that 99 would say the brain. There’s a solid wall of certainty there, which would automatically indicate that a new answer is ready to emerge, toppling all conventional wisdom.

I argue this new idea in War of the Worldviews, a new book co-authored with Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow. Taking the scientific side of the debate, Leonard supports the brain-is-mind position that has been forced upon brain scientists. I say forced, because neuroscience studies physical processes, and with sophisticated imaging technology, those processes are understood with great specificity in the brain. But physicality is the wrong place to look for mind. By analogy, you can study a piano down to its atoms and molecules, but that won’t tell you anything about how composers create music.

Likewise, studying the firing of synapses in the brain tells us nothing about where thoughts arise. My role in our book is to defend the spiritual position, and here mind gets tricky. In one way or another, every spiritual tradition believes in an invisible reality, and mind–meaning all the traits of intelligence, creativity, order, harmony, etc.–is embedded in that reality. It isn’t necessary to use God as a creator. The spiritual position counters the scientific one in a simple assertion: mind created the brain, not the other way around. We live in a conscious universe, and the reason we humans are conscious is that Nature is imbued with consciousness to begin with.
There are many arguments for such a position, which goes back to Plato in the West and much further back to the ancient philosophers of Vedic India. Let me give a sketch of how the argument goes.

1. There is no way to physically observe consciousness. We know that we are conscious, but awareness cannot be found physically in the brain. Science infers that the brain creates mind, and inference isn’t proof.

2. All of the basic materials of the brain, primarily water and organic chemicals, are not conscious. The sugar in a sugar bowl can’t think, but the glucose in the brain is part of thinking. Does glucose think? That seems unbelievable yet science cannot show us the point at which chemicals learn to think.

3. Science reduces all physical phenomena, ultimately, to mathematics, which explains the basic laws of nature. Mathematics is a mystery. No one knows if it exists in nature without human existence, yet it seems improbable that math had to wait around for humans to invent it. Let’s say that mathematics exists beyond the physical universe, as many theorists believe. If math is transcendent, it is woven into the invisible fabric of reality. Math is more than numbers. It is also order, harmony, balance, and rigor. These are all qualities of mind, which implies that mathematics and mind have the same universal status.

4. Using much the same argument, Plato declared that all the other qualities of mind–love, beauty, truth, etc.–must be embedded in nature, also. Higher values of mind did not have to wait for the human brain to evolve. They exist at our source, woven into the fabric of creation, which is why among spiritual visionaries, there is always an intense experience of truth, love, and beauty.

Trying to settle these kinds of arguments belongs not just philosophy and religion. Neuroscience faces “the hard problem,” a term arose the tough question of where consciousness comes from. The value of solving the hard problem isn’t merely theoretical; it has huge practical implications. Consider the following riddles:

Can you think yourself sick?
Can you think yourself well again? Are emotions linked to cancer?
Is depression best treated with drugs or talk therapy?
Are psychics real?
Can we communicate with the dead?
How do geniuses and savants get their extraordinary abilities?
Can you boost your mental potential?

These aren’t frivolous questions. If we knew which came first–mind or brain–we’d have the key to the right answers. Science operates as if the issue is already settled: brain comes first and then creates mind. But if you survey working neuroscientists and ask them basic questions like “How is memory stored in the brain?” no one knows; they only know which part of the brain lights up to indicate where memory is stored. This is like saying that if you find the transistor in a radio that produces the sound of words, you know how language works.

In fact, the brain poses the same mystery. There is no sound in the brain, yet we hear sounds. There is no light in the utter darkness of the brain, yet we see light. The entire world is evoked in the brain, but you will search in vain for any sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell in the brain. When you look at a rose, there is no image of the rose once one travels past the retina at the back of the eye. The rose is turned into pure signals of electricity and chemical firings across synapses. Science cannot approach an explanation for how the real world emerges, and therefore the spiritual position–that the real world is created in consciousness–has great weight and significance.

The reason that science can’t find–and will never find–consciousness in the brain is that it isn’t there. Experience exists in consciousness first and foremost. Nothing is real unless you are conscious of it. There is no red in nature, for example. There is only a wavelength of light associated with red. The color red needs consciousness to exist. The term of the flavors of experience, meaning, color, texture, taste, smell, and all the other aspects of reality, is qualia.

Red is qualia. If you have a human nervous system, you perceive the world as pure qualia, such is the richness of experience. Science doesn’t deal in experience; it deals in data. So we find two contending ways to look at red, either as a vibration that can be expressed as a number, or directly as a color. It’s obvious that without the experience, the number can’t exist. And to reverse the situation, with only the number at your disposal, the color cannot be produced. Qualia are primary, data are secondary.

What will topple our current scientific theories isn’t the return of God. Spirituality is now totally about consciousness, at least when we come to answering the hard problem. In our book, Leonard concedes that science has serious limitations when it comes to solving the riddle of mind and brain, but he argues that one day, with more research, neuroscience will find that the brain is the source of consciousness. Which of us is right? The debate swirls in and around many field of inquiry. Nothing is settled, and yet I’d wager that the future is likely to arrive at a place where science will only succeed if it takes the spiritual argument seriously and begins to explore domains of reality beyond materialism.

War of the Worldviews: Let’s Talk Brain and Mind - Deepak Chopra and Intent

In addition, Chopra often argues that consciousness is non-local, implying that there is no such thing as 'mind' at all. In other words, what we call 'mind' is a self-created illusion. If this is the case, Zen asks, then who, or what, is it that is seemingly sitting at the computer 'thinking'? That is to say, does thinking require a thinker, an agent of thought, or can thinking occur without an 'I', the 'I' merely being an illusion?

As for mind and brain, it has now been demonstrated, in a study of long-time meditating Buddhist monks, that their cerebral cortexes are thicker than those of ordinary people. In other words, their brains have grown as a result of deliberately focused conscious attention.
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Old 11-25-2011, 01:26 AM
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I believe you are what is termed a 'materialist', wherein your 'mind' is merely the product of a set of neurochemical reactions.

Here is Deepak Chopra on the subject from his new book together with physicist Leonard Mlodinow:


War of the Worldviews: Let’s Talk Brain and Mind

People are surprised and often offended to discover that the truth is shifting, and yet a shift always happens at the moment of greatest uncertainty. If you canvassed a hundred neuroscientists about where the mind comes from, it would be a good bet that 99 would say the brain. There’s a solid wall of certainty there, which would automatically indicate that a new answer is ready to emerge, toppling all conventional wisdom.
And where does Chopra get the idea that the growing knowledge about the brain means that conventional wisdom will be overthrown....and by what?


Quote:
I argue this new idea in War of the Worldviews, a new book co-authored with Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow. Taking the scientific side of the debate, Leonard supports the brain-is-mind position that has been forced upon brain scientists. I say forced, because neuroscience studies physical processes, and with sophisticated imaging technology, those processes are understood with great specificity in the brain. But physicality is the wrong place to look for mind. By analogy, you can study a piano down to its atoms and molecules, but that won’t tell you anything about how composers create music.
And would he argue that the piano has nothing to do with music, and the music can be created without the piano? That's what he's asking for by claiming mind exists independent of the brain.

Quote:
The spiritual position counters the scientific one in a simple assertion: mind created the brain, not the other way around. We live in a conscious universe, and the reason we humans are conscious is that Nature is imbued with consciousness to begin with.
There are many arguments for such a position, which goes back to Plato in the West and much further back to the ancient philosophers of Vedic India. Let me give a sketch of how the argument goes.
He can't support the assertion that "mind created brain" (whatever that means) any better than he can back the claim that the universe is conscious. Appeals to ancient tradition are not evidence, since they did not have an understanding of the physical brain to begin with, and could only understand the mind from an experiential basis, and assume that there must be unseen life forces animating living things.

Quote:
1. There is no way to physically observe consciousness. We know that we are conscious, but awareness cannot be found physically in the brain. Science infers that the brain creates mind, and inference isn’t proof.
We also know that we can't trust our self-perceptions about our conscious minds, since we now have a mountain of evidence that physical actions occur in the brain prior to our awareness of making decisions. We are also likely being misled by our perceptions of unity of mind and continuity of a self or ego.

Quote:
2. All of the basic materials of the brain, primarily water and organic chemicals, are not conscious. The sugar in a sugar bowl can’t think, but the glucose in the brain is part of thinking. Does glucose think? That seems unbelievable yet science cannot show us the point at which chemicals learn to think.
How does he know that the basic materials are not conscious? This doesn't exactly make sense, when he claims previously that the universe is conscious. That would mean the stuff of the universe has conscious properties. He is trying to breath life into what is now a completely unsupportable view of consciousness -- substance dualism -- where an immaterial force of mind acts in a dead, lifeless universe. The other version of dualism are the categories of property dualism, such as panpsychism and pantheism. These versions claim that mind and consciousness cannot be separated from the stuff of the universe. So a unique mind would depend on an organization of material properties (mostly in the brain), and would no longer exist after that brain has ceased to exist.


Quote:
3. Science reduces all physical phenomena, ultimately, to mathematics, which explains the basic laws of nature. Mathematics is a mystery. No one knows if it exists in nature without human existence,
There is a field of philosophy of mathematics where they are still debating the reality of mathematical terms, and it's not a subject that I can offer anything to.

Quote:
Trying to settle these kinds of arguments belongs not just philosophy and religion. Neuroscience faces “the hard problem,” a term arose the tough question of where consciousness comes from.
Since our sense of self is so chock full of illusions and misperceptions, we can't declare that the hard problem really is a dilemma. And, the philosopher of mind who advanced the Hard Problem of Consciousness -- David Chalmers, is not trying to advance any sort of dualistic ideas that people like Deepak Chopra are pushing. Chalmers is a property dualist, and is just proposing that the sense of self, or the personal feeling of being conscious means that the particles or atoms that make up the neurons in our brain, must in turn have some rudimentary capacity for awareness to make this possible. But this sort of dualism can be in harmony with the research on mind/brain because property dualism doesn't make any claims of mind acting separately from the brain, as we have with substance dualism.

Quote:
These aren’t frivolous questions. If we knew which came first–mind or brain–we’d have the key to the right answers. Science operates as if the issue is already settled: brain comes first and then creates mind. But if you survey working neuroscientists and ask them basic questions like “How is memory stored in the brain?” no one knows; they only know which part of the brain lights up to indicate where memory is stored. This is like saying that if you find the transistor in a radio that produces the sound of words, you know how language works.
Another lame argument; and judging from this, I wonder if he's even bothered to keep up to date with the field of neuroscience that he is trying to critique! In recent years, neuroscience has learned enough about how memory works to determine that memories are not stored like files on a computer. There are bits and pieces of an experience that are retained in several brain systems, and when the signal is given for memory recall, a complex memory -- such as recalling witnessing an accident, is a matter of building a new narrative each time a person is asked for their recollections! They retrieve data from visual memory, and other sensory data to put the picture back together. Has Deepak Chopra even bothered to read about it?


Quote:
In fact, the brain poses the same mystery. There is no sound in the brain, yet we hear sounds. There is no light in the utter darkness of the brain, yet we see light. The entire world is evoked in the brain, but you will search in vain for any sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell in the brain. When you look at a rose, there is no image of the rose once one travels past the retina at the back of the eye. The rose is turned into pure signals of electricity and chemical firings across synapses. Science cannot approach an explanation for how the real world emerges, and therefore the spiritual position–that the real world is created in consciousness–has great weight and significance.

The reason that science can’t find–and will never find–consciousness in the brain is that it isn’t there. Experience exists in consciousness first and foremost. Nothing is real unless you are conscious of it. There is no red in nature, for example. There is only a wavelength of light associated with red. The color red needs consciousness to exist. The term of the flavors of experience, meaning, color, texture, taste, smell, and all the other aspects of reality, is qualia.
This is about as much as I can take of Deepak right now. His argument seems to be little more than mysteries of the mind and brain somehow open the door for him to push his dualistic notions as equally valid. We know that the sights and sounds we see are the product of sensory maps created by the brain....nobody knows exactly how this works, but when it doesn't work, Chopra's magical thinking has no means to explain why a brain disorder would cause blindness or alter their vision. Same with consciousness -- our sights and sounds are sensory maps of the outside world, and our sense of consciousness and who we are, is also put together by the brain for very functional reasons -- so the body can act with a united purpose and have a deep emotional interest in self-preservation.
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Old 11-25-2011, 02:27 AM
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And would he argue that the piano has nothing to do with music, and the music can be created without the piano? That's what he's asking for by claiming mind exists independent of the brain.

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Your analogy and logic are faulty:


You said earlier that brain equates to mind, essentially.

Chopra is using the metaphor of an instrument that is utilized to portray a musical idea, but is not music itself, in the same way that the brain is not the mind. The brain is merely an instrument utilized by consciousness, but is not consciousness or mind itself. To assert that it is, is equivalent to saying that the description of reality is reality itself.

And, no, he is not saying that the piano has nothing to do with music. Of course it does. He is merely making the observation that, search as you may, you will not find the source of music within the component parts of a piano. Music is much more than the instrument that makes music possible. Consciousness is much more than the instrument which consciousness uses in its service.


Jesus made the same argument to the Jews when he told them that, though they search the scriptures, they will not find eternal life within them.
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Old 11-25-2011, 02:51 AM
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And where does Chopra get the idea that the growing knowledge about the brain means that conventional wisdom will be overthrown....and by what?


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Because that has been the established pattern within science throughout its history.

The mystic, on the other hand, sees and understands the nature of reality once, so there is no need of revision, since the nature of reality is absolute. The 'discoveries' of science over the years only confirm what the mystic already knows on a deeper level.
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Old 11-25-2011, 03:05 AM
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He can't support the assertion that "mind created brain" (whatever that means) any better than he can back the claim that the universe is conscious. Appeals to ancient tradition are not evidence, since they did not have an understanding of the physical brain to begin with, and could only understand the mind from an experiential basis, and assume that there must be unseen life forces animating living things.

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You are misunderstanding: he is not making the claim that, just because the idea he proposes is an already established one, it means it is true; he is merely saying that it is not some new and novel idea; it has been around a long time already. The ancients did not require a biological understanding of the workings of the brain to understand what consciousness is. that is how science embarks upon the question, and Chopra is saying it is the wrong approach, and so am I. One is looking at the outcome of what consciousness has produced and then asserting that it is responsible for consciousness! The point here is that consciousness does not require a brain. Consciousness is independent of the phenomenal world. The brain is not the only region of the body in which consciousness is apparent; In fact, the area just below the navel, the hara, is more the center of consciousness in the East than the brain.

As for the universe being conscious: are you not an intelligent, conscious entity? Did you not emerge, in your entirety, from the universe itself? Why do you allow yourself intellect and awareness and deny it to the source of your own being? That is like a wave on the surface of the ocean suddenly asserting that it is alive and independent of the ocean from which it just emerged and to which it must return, and that the ocean has no bearing on its existence.

Why is it so difficult to understand that invisible forces can animate living things? TV signals are invisible, and yet produce moving images on a tv set. Most of us believe we are a separate self acting upon the world, when an invisible force behind the manifested world may, in fact, be what is moving us, and that to continue to believe in the former is nothing more than the result of a substantive but thoroughly delusive idea.

Much of your activity as a living being is not determined by your will. Ordinarily, you do not beat your own heart, flow your own blood, grow your own skin, breath your own breath when you are asleep, etc, although you can be instrumental in changing the way these functions operate, but that requires conscious attention, which is also an invisible force. In fact, everything you imagine you do as an independent self which acts upon the world is determined by the invisible force of conscious awareness. The problem is that we firmly believe we are an entity called "I" which is responsible for such activity, when in reality, no such "I" can be found. In fact, it is the illusory and fraudulent "I" itself which claims it absolutely exists!

Rather than the trite existentialist "I think, therefore, I am", perhaps it should be: "When nothing is Special, everything can be"
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