Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What is mind? What is consciousness?

Amber Larson and Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly (COMMENTARY)
No one has to lose his or her head wondering where "mind" is (MaretH/
"God made Man, but he used a Monkey to do it. Apes in the plan, we're all here to prove it"
The brain starts at the base of the spine
Does Buddhism have an answer? The Dharmic religions are very interested in "mind," which is roughly the equivalent of heart, the seat of consciousness. We think the brain is the mind, but it is not. The base of physical base of consciousness was not spelled out by the Buddha precisely the way the other senses were. Buddhism acknowledges six senses, mind being the sixth.
Mike, a living headless chicken (MTHC)
But it is pretty certain, and individually verifiable, that the "mind door" is near the are of the physical heart not up in the head. If anyone considers the matter for a moment, it becomes obvious that the entire body is conscious -- informed by a gut feeling, a broken heart, a mild headache, a strange tingling feeling, and so on -- all playing a part in what we are conscious of at any moment and what we feel about it; "thought" is a minor part.

A powerful placebo
For example, few people have been told that there are many neurons -- "brain" cells -- in the lining of the gut and in the heart. But we walk around all "scientifically minded" thinking neurons are somehow exclusive to the brain, up in the head, limited to the cranium. Neurons, ganglia, axons, and all that hardware extends down the brainstem into the spine innervating every part of the conscious body. We don't need a brain to live; a brainstem is enough -- ask anyone with microencephaly. We sure do need a heart. Some cruel/greedy humans chop off the head of chickens to sell their bodies and are surprised that they live on. Ask Mike, you know, Mike the Headless Chicken.

I'm not a monkey! My doctor takes them, too!
We are all taught, mostly by long winded drug commercials that depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are due to "imbalances" in our neurotransmitters (actually, that's at least as much of an effect as a cause in the feedback loop of the body), but what we are rarely if ever told is that most of these transmitters are in other parts of the body. Case in point, if one has a section of the colon removed for whatever reason, one is almost certain to come down with severe clinical depression. Yet, look how we treat our beautiful colons. Why would that be? It's the brain in the gut, the brain in the heart, the brain in the glands -- the rolled up gut, which is 23 feet long, has a lot of braincells.

However, of all the sages of India and Vedic Indus Valley Civilization, no one went further in detailing the "mind," consciousness, software, mental processes, and mental concomitants (cittas and cetasikas) than the Buddha. It is what the entire Abhidharma (the "Higher or Ultimate Teachings") is about -- one third of the Dharma alongside the conventional sutras and the monastic disciplinary code.
Mind is more complicated than a clock.
So what is "monkey mind"? Try to meditate and you, too, will find out in about a minute. But, first of all, What is MIND?

The individual (let's say the gandhabba or Sanskrit gandharva) is body and mind, the physical-psychological process of becoming, of phenomenal conditioned-existence, the world, the process of perception. The Buddha outlined this as a conglomeration of eight impersonal heaps called the Five Aggregates. (I thought you said eight? Yes, the first four are collapsed into one category simply called "form").

"Mind" in Buddhism is defined as the remaining four categories: feelings, perceptions, formations, and consciousnesses (viññāna). All of these are plural because they are heaps, aggregates, countless discrete units within each category, always changing, always impersonal, always unsatisfactory.
Clinging -- to ego, notions of self, soul, eternal existence, selfishness, possessions, likes and dislikes, strong preferences, sensual pleasures, and so on -- occurs because of this illusory separate "being" or personality which arises dependent on causes and conditions, nutriments. What are the causes and conditions? They are explained in the meditation on Dependent Origination as 12 causal links to be contemplated, penetrated, and experienced for liberation.

Shut up, monkeys are cool! - the Beebs
Traditionally, in Buddhist instruction, early teachers noted that just as a monkey going wild in a tree grasps one branch and before letting go of it is grasping at another so, too, the meditator barely gets done with one line of thought and s/he's onto another. This is called discursive thinking, a great impediment to calm and insight IF we identify with it. Just let it be. There is no reason to try to stop it; it is usually enough to detach enough by becoming an observer. It really is ridiculous and like a chattering, clambering, confused monkey, full of frenzy, restless, and craving constant stimulation and/or entertainment.

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