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Thread: dependent origination

  1. #1

    dependent origination

    Found this interesting article by a Harvard neurosurgeon who went into a coma for a while.

    http://bit.ly/QCvB5C

    Also there's Jill Bolte Taylor's TED 2008 talk in a similar vein

    http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_...f_insight.html

  2. #2
    No left hemisphere=Enlightenment! Eureka! Really good vid
    Gassho,
    Onken

  3. #3
    Senior Member pinoybuddhist's Avatar
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    Hmmm... if that's the case then why don't we all just remove our left hemispheres? Or go into a coma and hope we come back? I mean, I think it's great that they had these profound life-changing experiences and that they both survived to tell the tale (actually, I'm more impressed and glad with the fact that they survived). I'm just not... impressed (?). Not exactly the word I'm going for. I'll try again by recounting one of the very first Zen stories I've ever encountered (still my favorite, btw):

    Two monks from different Buddhist schools were talking. One monk said, my master can stand on one side of the river with a pen and ink and write on the air and letters will appear on a scroll held by a monk standing on the other side of the river. And he goes on to talk about other miracles his master can do. Then he asks the other monk: What miracles do you have in Zen?

    The other monk replied: When tired, I sleep. When hungry, I eat.


    I'm not trying to discount their experiences, I just think it would be very easy to put these experiences on a pedestal and say: yeah, look at that! That's IT!


    Raffy

  4. #4
    Hi,

    What Dr. Alexander writes "could be" ... ...

    But I am not particularly impressed by what I have read of Dr. Alexanders' "proof" for his "journey into the afterlife". His story seems to boil down to "I had a very strange experience when severe illness altered my perceptions and it was very convincing therefore I believe it". Neuro-surgeon or not, he seems to blithely ignores certain very basic and well understood facts about the brain and the unreliability of our perceptual experiences, especially in times of severe brain trauma. He seems to overlook several very plausible (and reasonably well understood) physiological explanations. One does not need to be a neurosurgeon to know that he was not "dead", just very sick ... that even the deepest comas and "vegetative states" can come in various depths, impacting only parts and certain functions of the brain (even if his "entire neo-cortex was completely shut down" as he describes ... an explanation that seem rather unscientific given his seemingly full recovery as treatment progressed and the functions of the neo-cortex gradually returned), letting other parts function on. Here is a very good discussion of possible other causes of "afterlife" and "near death experiences" ...

    http://www.ukskeptics.com/the-dying-brain.php

    He will, however, certainly sell a lot of books ...

    http://www.amazon.com/Proof-Heaven-N...&linkCode=as2&

    He had a dream I think. Or, perhaps (although I doubt), he actually visited some other real realm. But even if what he saw was absolutely real beyond his own little head ... what should we do? Fetch water, chop wood, get on with it. Live this life now, and live well, whatever the case.

    Jill Bolte Taylor's explanation of her stroke seems much more grounded and concrete in her attempt to explain the neurological reasons she felt as she did. From Dr. Taylor's description, when her brain was stroked, she lost a sense of self, her sense of judging and categorizing the world was left behind (she had no names for anyone or anything), she lost sense of the borders where her body began and ended, her sense of a past history and all the emotional "baggage" she was carrying was left behind ... and a great peace and freshness filled her. Of course, she was also left in a near vegetative state in bed at the time.

    As Pinoy says so well above, in our Zen Practice (Rinzai or Soto, all the same) we treat all such experiences as not a place where we can live, but more a vantage point. We welcome them, learn from them, neither run towards them nor push them away, cherish them when they occur ... then get on with fetching water and chopping wood.

    Yes, it is a glimpse into "Reality" of "no self/non-judgment/timelessness/interconnectedness" etc. ... and we need such insights. But chopping wood is also Reality once we have had the insight (much as Dr. Taylor recovered her health and came back to ordinary life).

    The real "goal" of Practice (Rinzai and Soto, no difference here) is to incorporate simultaneously both the "real" of ordinary life and the "real" of experiencing "no self/non-judgment/timelessness/interconnectedness" etc. so that both can be tasted together or by "switching back and forth" ... much as Dr. Taylor now says in her interview that she can experience both vantage points at once.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS -- As to the title of this thread "dependent origination" ... I don't really see a connection beyond the fact that "dependent origination" is one traditional Buddhist explanation for how the sense of a separate self develops in the human mind, something that may have been altered by Dr. Taylor's stroke. Here is my little take on the topic ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...lve-Fold-Chain

    PPS -- A little doubtful of some scientists today, even if they have all the degrees. In the very same week that one Japanese Stem Cell researcher won the Noble Prize, this news about another ...

    Moriguchi admits to lying about stem cell trial
    Kyodo
    — Hisashi Moriguchi, a Japanese researcher who had said he implemented the world's first clinical trial using a trailblazing stem cell technology, admitted Saturday most of what he claimed in an academic conference presentation about the procedure was false.

    At a news conference in New York, Moriguchi said, "... At the end of the day, I lied."


    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121015a1.html
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-15-2012 at 08:29 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    I'm sorry to say, but the article is too much personal believe. And believing destroys the purpose of science.

    I found about 3 logical fallacies that make it sound like a serious research, and that makes it fishy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

    BTW the cover of the magazine is wonderfully designed with a killer title. No doubt they will sell a lot of copies.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  6. #6
    disastermouse
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    Sam Harris pretty much destroys this article.

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/this-must-be-heaven

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Sam Harris is an amazing author. Thank you for pointing this out, Chet.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  8. #8
    Jundo,

    Your scientific explanation of Dr. Alexander's experience makes sense to me. I am a psychiatrist by day.
    治 Ji
    心​ Shin
    #SatToday

  9. #9
    It seems to me that the "scientific explanation" can so easily tip from helpful description/handle into unhelpful reductionism. The "interior" and "exterior" or mind-brain discussion tends to always collapse everything into one side or the other. But, mind does not arise from brain, and brain does not arise from mind, they co-arise. The brain-ground view entails a trainload of stealthy metaphysical assumptions, no less than any other ground-view...

    ..and that is about as much energy this brain has for mind-brain discussion.

    Gassho, kojip
    Last edited by Daizan; 10-16-2012 at 10:42 AM.
    大山

  10. #10
    On a macroscopic level and using an electrical circuit analogy, I view the brain as a simple ball of rolled up wire in which electricity runs through it. Physicians are simple mechanics of the body, but some focus on the electrical circuit. Neurologists are diagnosticians, they point to which wires may be cut and impeding proper flow of electricity. Brain surgeons try to add or subtract to the electrical circuit by taking out defective parts such as cancer or adding things to it such as a stent that might increase electricity to a certain region of the electrical system. A psychiatrist is one that tries to regulate the proper flow of electricity via medications or with talk therapy. If electricity is to fast, we have anxiety or other states of brain. Too slow, maybe depression. A psychologist would try to regulate electricity with talk therapy only. A physiologist would look at the electrical system with a more focused interest on the microscopic parts of the system

    I offer the above to maybe provide a general understanding as to where a given mental health professional my be forming their opinion regarding the brain.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by John C. View Post
    On a macroscopic level and using an electrical circuit analogy, I view the brain as a simple ball of rolled up wire in which electricity runs through it. Physicians are simple mechanics of the body, but some focus on the electrical circuit. Neurologists are diagnosticians, they point to which wires may be cut and impeding proper flow of electricity. Brain surgeons try to add or subtract to the electrical circuit by taking out defective parts such as cancer or adding things to it such as a stent that might increase electricity to a certain region of the electrical system. A psychiatrist is one that tries to regulate the proper flow of electricity via medications or with talk therapy. If electricity is to fast, we have anxiety or other states of brain. Too slow, maybe depression. A psychologist would try to regulate electricity with talk therapy only. A physiologist would look at the electrical system with a more focused interest on the microscopic parts of the system

    I offer the above to maybe provide a general understanding as to where a given mental health professional my be forming their opinion regarding the brain.
    Hi John. That is the basic view I have heard from other mental health professionals. The subjective/objective discussion... mind as epiphenomena and so forth, is in my experience a frustrating one to have with both positivists and idealists. There can be a real lock-down, and sometimes it seems like Buddhism has trouble disentangling from either view, but IMHO it is where practice leads. I feel tired just entertaining the subject.

    Nice to meet you. Gassho, Kojip
    大山

  12. #12
    Hi Kojip,

    Let me make my view a little clearer.

    In my post critical of Dr. Alexander's claims, I was not discussing whether the "mind" is merely the product of the physical brain or not. My point was only that Dr. Alexander's claims about what a traumatized brain such as his would be capable of experiencing or imagining ... and that he thus necessarily made an actual visit to the "afterlife" ... seem far fetched. The Sam Harris article does an excellent job of explaining why.

    By the way, science has not yet explained the origin of consciousness. Is it only the physical brain? Is there instead some "cosmic consciousness" being tuned into beyond our little heads? Something else going on? Buddhists over the centuries have been divided on such questions themselves. It does not really matter though, because many old Buddhist teachers did find a clear way to resolve the question by side-stepping the question a bit.

    How?

    Well, many Zen Buddhists, for example, spoke of our Capital 'M' "Mind" or "Big Mind" or "True Mind". Now, that sounds like it is talking about some mystical "Cosmic Consciousness" or the like. It could be. But from another perspective, it also simply points out the fact that our "inner" mental world cannot exist in isolation from its encounter with the "outer" world via the senses, and that the encounter is so intimately interconnected and tied together, that all cannot be separated into independent things. In other words, the mountain "out there", the light from the mountain, the eyes and other optical sense organs that receive and process the light, the brain that processes the incoming signal, your inner image and appraisal and reactions to the mountain coming therefrom ... are really one single thing. Even if consciousness is "just the brain", a brain does not work in isolation. Your experience of life is inside your head and outside you ... so much so that your "mind" is truly both inside and outside you in the most intimate sense.

    Thus, your "mind" is transcendent of "inside and outside" ... and, from another perspective, so are "you". In other words, the mountain is "you" too, as much as "you" who sees the mountain are "you". A key aspect of Zen Practice is the transcending of these "inner/outer" and "self vs. other" divisions.

    As we have been discussing on another thread, Mahayana Buddhists resolved the question of an afterlife ... also by side-stepping the question in the very same way.

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ll=1#post87708

    How?

    By allowing you to experience that "you" are not just "you" ... but the mountains, the whole world, all Reality too. That is "you" too in the most intimate sense when the "inner/outer" and "self vs. other" categories are dropped from mind. Thus, for example, Uchiyama Roshi can write his death poems as quoted on the other thread, such as ...

    The life of the whole Universe has been ladled into the hardened "idea" called "I"
    Life does not disappear because a person dies
    Simply, the life of the whole Universe has been poured out of this hardened "idea" of "I" back into the universe
    ...
    The Reality prior to the division into two
    ...
    Though dying, never dying
    Reality prior to division---


    So, even if there is no "afterlife" ... even if the mind is based wholly on the physical brain, and when the brain dies, we are just dead dead dead ... even if that is the end, finished, kaput ...

    ... yet, simultaneously, it is not "the end" because (dropping self/other) that was not only who "you" are in the most intimate sense.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-17-2012 at 02:07 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  13. #13
    Yes, (inter-)dependant (co-)arising!
    Just like a wooden table is not separate from/could not exist without the sun that helped grow the tree or the carpenter who put together the pieces of wood, mind cannot exist as a separate entity. The mind is dependant on the brain. But the brain is also dependant on the mind. Without mind, there is no brain. What is a brain outside of the mind? In my view, they can only arise together.

    Gassho,
    Pontus
    In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
    you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
    now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
    the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

  14. #14
    I don't doubt that "inner life" and "outer life" exist like left and right. No brain, no thinking, in fact the whole modernist identification of our subtle inner life with physical processes seems fair . They are "not two". This rich inner mental\emotional life is the complex iteration of a very simple elemental sensitivity. I think it was Teilhard de Chardin who coined to term "mentation" to describe it. Also.. "Life after death" is maybe a bit like "before the big bang" . There was no "before", time belongs to the big bang. In the same way "after" does not apply to life.. whether a nothing or a something. Life turns back on life, belongs to life. "Afterlife" It is just an imaginary leap, like Wile. E. Coyote. running of a cliff edge and remaining suspended.

    Anyway.. over thinking today. Gassho.





    Gassho, kojip.
    大山

  15. #15
    disastermouse
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    Who can say if afterlife is real or not? I just don't like dishonest attempts to 'scientize' what has thus far eluded science. I resist attempts to reduce mind to an epiphenomenon of brain (because it can't actually be done - some reference to the subjective must always be made, it's just usually ignored) just as I resist attempts to dislocate personal identity from brain processes.

    Chet

  16. #16
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John C. View Post
    Jundo,

    Your scientific explanation of Dr. Alexander's experience makes sense to me. I am a psychiatrist by day.
    Welcome John. Would be great if you could introduce yourself in our new members' section

  17. #17
    Given the brief talk Jundo gave during Zazenkai, and the issues touched upon in this thread, I just wanted to toss in the work of Julian Jaynes on the identity of consciousness/language and its emergence with the loss of the iron age gods . It is a controversial theory, but not whacky, and interesting.

    http://www.julianjaynes.org/julian-j...y-overview.php

    Gassho, kojip.
    大山

  18. #18
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    I must agree with Chet...don't try to prove the existence of the afterlife. Yes, you may feel that you observed it with a near death experience, but the conducting the peer review may be problematic!

    Gassho,
    Dosho
    Last edited by Dosho; 10-21-2012 at 07:00 PM.
    Ordained Priest -In-Training & Shuso (Head Seat) for November - Ango 2014
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  19. #19
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    No thoughts of afterlife. No thoughts of no afterlife. Just football.
    迎 Geika

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia View Post
    No thoughts of afterlife. No thoughts of no afterlife. Just football.
    Ha! So, maybe rebirth is like next season? Heaven is half time? Karma like your past team record? Where is the concession stand?

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  21. #21
    disastermouse
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    Karma is an echo across a vast chasm,
    Does it reach the other side?
    (This IS the other side.)

  22. #22
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Ha! So, maybe rebirth is like next season? Heaven is half time? Karma like your past team record? Where is the concession stand?

    Gassho, J
    The concession stand may be dukkha.
    迎 Geika

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