Wednesday, May 20, 2020

How science / Buddhism study consciousness

To say what "consciousness" is, science explores where it isn't
Who needs a brain, eh Gazoo?
In 2014, a month-long bout of dizziness and vomiting brought a 24-year-old woman in China to the hospital. She was no stranger to these symptoms: She’d never been able to walk steadily and suffered from dizziness nearly her whole life. These were serious, debilitating symptoms.

Yet, they might have seemed almost mild once CT ("cat scan") and MRI scans presented a diagnosis: The woman was missing the majority of her brain. Most of the parts of her brain were present:
  • cerebral cortex, the largest, outermost part of the brain responsible for most of our thinking and cognition,
  • subcortex and the midbrain, with their myriad functions involving movement, memory, and body regulation,
  • brainstem, essential for controlling breathing, sleep, and communicating with the rest of the body.
Dr. Joel Frohlich, Ph.D., UCLA post doc
But none of these areas hold the majority of the brain’s currency, neurons, the cells that fire impulses to transmit information or relay motor commands.

This distinction goes to the cerebellum, a structure situated behind the brainstem and below the cerebral cortex. Latin for "little brain," the highly compact cerebellum occupies only 10 per cent of the brain’s volume yet contains somewhere between 50 and 80 per cent of the brain’s neurons.
Neurons are the "currency" of the brain (wiki).
It was in this sense that the hospitalized Chinese woman was missing the majority of her brain.

Incredibly, she had been born without a cerebellum, but she had made it through nearly two and a half decades of life without even knowing it was missing.

The crude instruments of science chasing blood
Compare that with strokes and lesions of the cerebral cortex, whose neuron-count is a fraction of the cerebellum’s. These patients can lose the ability to recognize colors or faces and to comprehend language -- or they might develop what’s known as a "disorder of consciousness," a condition resulting in loss of responsiveness or any conscious awareness at all.

Understanding consciousness might be the greatest scientific challenge of our time [the hard problem of consciousness].
How can physical stuff like electrical impulses explain mental stuff like dreams or the sense of self? Why does a network of neurons in the brain feel like an experience when a network of computers or a network of people does not? More
  • Dr. Joel Frohlich is a postdoctoral researcher studying consciousness in the laboratory of Prof. Martin Monti at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Department of Psychology. He is also a content producer at "Knowing Neurons," an partner.
Does Buddhism have a better way to study consciousness?
Dhr. Seven, Sayalay Aloka, Wisdom Quarterly, May 20, 2020
The "mind door" is in the heart not head.
The massive collection (pitaka) of Buddhist literature known as the Abhidharma ("Higher Doctrine" or the "teaching in ultimate terms," which means all things explained not in the conventional language of the discourses or sutras but in ultimate technical terms) explains consciousness in excruciating detail.

One does not embark upon an intellectual study of it if one hopes to really directly understand consciousness.

Many scholar-monks waste their time commenting and splitting hairs. But practitioners come to know-and-see these things.

The Buddha (Gandhara)
That is the purpose of Buddhism, to directly see mind-and-body (nama-rupa, defined as the Five Aggregates clung to as "self"), by Buddhist physics and psychology, to let go and awaken to reality.

This is done through a process (path) of mental purification first, to strengthen the medium through which this understanding will arise.

Scientists should take a cue from this and abstain from alcohol and obtunding drugs, junk foods, toxins, distractions, sleep deprivation, rushing and hurrying, and ego inflation before doing their science of experimental design, research execution, and honest reporting of results. The process purifies:
It is not empirical and objective to prove what is true to everyone else, but personal and subjective to prove what is true to oneself.

Man, this is cool, all scientifical like Spock!
Meditators realizing enlightenment (awakening) know-and-see four things and are thereby liberated by wisdom. It becomes possible to let go and make a complete end of suffering.

Scientists, on the other hand, are likely to be karmically destroyed by their discoveries and inventions, the knowledge they develop that then gets out of their control and abused, or the technology and weapons that are then developed based on their basic research.

Ah, this is much better. The Buddha was right!
Where does psychology ("the study of mind") go? To help increase sales, control people, get them addicted to gambling and other things, develop dangerous pharmaceuticals, public relations, and so on. Where does enlightenment ("personal realization") go? To complete peace, to the marriage of wisdom and compassion, to the end of all suffering. It's good that we have both science and Buddhist practice in the world.

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