Six sense base question

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Six sense base question

Postby Reductor » Sat May 08, 2010 12:37 pm

appicchato wrote:
...feel both index fingers tingling...then focusing on two feelings at once...


That, and three bucks, will get you a cup of coffee...


Interestingly, I didn't raise the discussion about fingers.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Six sense base question

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sat May 08, 2010 6:39 pm

The "data rate" of consciousness is quite slow. I would have to dig in my library to find my books, but I recall one by a chap named Walker, who was a physics teacher at the same college Robert Anton Wilson taught. I think his book was called The Physics of Consciousness, but would have to check to make sure. He calculated the data rate of consciousness and it came out much slower than we would suspect. He said no one believed him, but experiments much later proved he was not far off. One of his conclusions was that when we're driving a car at 65 MPH, we're actually 12 feet further along than we "think" we are.

One experiment was pretty much common sense and demonstrated a quality of the human mind that I found fascinating. The time for nerve impulses to travel the length of the human body to the brain and back again is pretty slow. People were stuck in the big toe with pins and of course, they registered pain, yelped, and pulled their foot away. They said the pain sensation was simultaneous to the pin prick. But when they were blindfolded, there was a noticeable delay between the pinprick and the yell-and-recoil. So the conclusion was the person's mind was editing reality to make sense of it, in other words, correlating the visual input with the input of the nerves!

Other studies indicated our minds do this quite often, dropping out points of time here and there to make senses of the different "lags" in out various sensory inputs so everything correlates. Otherwise, we would walk around with various conflicting signals due to the inefficient nature of our sense-organs. So there are "gaps" in reality we simply do not remember. Therefore, if this research is valid, it is not possible even on a coarse level for our minds to process all sense-data simultaneously, not to mention on the near-microscopic citta-level described by the abhidhamma.

There is also a phenomenon called selective amnesia, often experienced by people texting or talking on the cell phone wile driving. You actually do not see some things while involved in multitasking complicated procedures, your brain edits them out. Driving simulations demonstrate this. I've also recreated this in my hypnosis demonstrations. I tell the subjects the hypnotist is invisible, but anything I'm holding is visible. Their eyes do not register me, but will dilate when I bring the objects into view. Eye dilation is controlled partially by autonomous and autonomous systems so I find this fascinating. The mind can truly edit reality.

So I have reason to believe the "serial processing" model of citta presented by the Theravada abhidhamma has some validity to it.

Oh yeah--it's also a lot more complex than just the six sense cittas, there are other cittas that precede the sense cittas, follow them when they pass away, and there's also the bvangha-citta which conditions everything. :juggling:

I hope this helps cast some light on the subject from another point of view. If not, ignore . :P

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Re: Six sense base question

Postby Kenshou » Sat May 08, 2010 7:01 pm

Therefore, if this research is valid, it is not possible even on a coarse level for our minds to process all sense-data simultaneously


I can believe that there's a degree of lag, however I don't quite see how what you've posted has to do with how much sense data can be processed at one time potentially, though experience will show that it is certainly possible to be focused on one thing enough to block out others, so maybe you're right on the -all- part. Who knows.

Playing around with all this, I've noticed that the very act of focusing in and attempting to pinpoint discreet moments of consciousness is what seems to create the feeling of attention jumping from one place to the other. When I try to be more relaxed about it, it's much easier to be aware of multiple points with out the jumpy-feeling. But maybe all I'm doing is blurring the focus so that the little jumps of attention aren't registered.

Also, I'm not sure if the Abhidhammic stance is that each citta can take only one object at a time or can only have one object of consciousness at a time, or if there is a difference. Thing is, experience shows that pretty much all sensations are really sort of an effervescent mist of little points, the faculty of saññá helps create the sense of discreet objects, nevertheless in reality things are not so clear cut. If the mind can truly only be aware of one thing at a time, then it must be asked how do we define "one thing"? Am I entirely absorbed in the act of being aware of whatever the smallest unit of experience is, nevertheless so quickly that I'm not aware of it? I'm skeptical, but that certainly would require a ridiculously fast citta-rate.
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Re: Six sense base question

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sat May 08, 2010 7:32 pm

The abhidhammic stance (at least Thera abhidhma) is that there is one discrete citta at a time, and these citta moments are incredibly fast. "Normal" cognition/attention cannot perceive them. It takes a very advanced meditator to perceive these discrete states.

Venerable Dhamannando could weigh in here as he is expert in these matters.

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Re: Six sense base question

Postby acinteyyo » Sat May 08, 2010 9:37 pm

What does this mean "there can only be one citta at a time"? What is meant by "one citta" and "at a time"?
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.

:anjali:
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Re: Six sense base question

Postby Ben » Sat May 08, 2010 9:59 pm

Hi acinteyyo
acinteyyo wrote:What does this mean "there can only be one citta at a time"? What is meant by "one citta" and "at a time"?


One citta rises and falls before another rises and falls. in the same way, a fluorescent light tube flickers one burst of light at a time.
kind regards

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Re: Six sense base question

Postby acinteyyo » Sat May 08, 2010 10:43 pm

Ben wrote:Hi acinteyyo
acinteyyo wrote:What does this mean "there can only be one citta at a time"? What is meant by "one citta" and "at a time"?


One citta rises and falls before another rises and falls. in the same way, a fluorescent light tube flickers one burst of light at a time.
kind regards

Ben

Sorry Ben but I still don't understand. What is "one citta"?
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.

:anjali:
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Re: Six sense base question

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 08, 2010 11:14 pm

Greetings acinteyyo,

See CITTA

"Citta" (as interpreted nowadays at least, since most people learn Abhidhamma via commentarial compendiums) effectively takes us back to the momentariness discussions that we've been having in other topics. Whether citta was intended to be momentary (i.e. in a moment of time) rather than structural (vis a vis other cittas) in the Abhidhamma Pitaka itself, I don't know.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Six sense base question

Postby appicchato » Sun May 09, 2010 12:20 am

thereductor wrote:Interestingly, I didn't raise the discussion about fingers.


And (not so interestingly), I wasn't quoting you... :smile:
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Re: Six sense base question

Postby Reductor » Sun May 09, 2010 12:44 am

appicchato wrote:
thereductor wrote:Interestingly, I didn't raise the discussion about fingers.


And (not so interestingly), I wasn't quoting you... :smile:


Are you sure?

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=4297&start=20#p64516
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Six sense base question

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 09, 2010 1:11 am

Greetings Bubbabuddhist,

Thank you for sharing those scientific findings.

It reminds me of a reflex testing machine at Scienceworks (the local childrens' interactive 'museum') where a red light would come on and as soon as it did you had to press a button. The machine would then tell you, to the hundredth of a second, how long you took to react to the red light. Now, generally speaking I think my reflexes are pretty good, but there was a certain threshold of time for which it seemed impossible to beat, even when you were "in the zone"... the only way it could be beaten was by pre-emptively guessing when the light would go and to get in with the button press before you had actually cognised the red light. From memory, that threshold (when not pre-emptively cheating) was about 0.3x seconds, but I can't be sure. Either way it was, as you indicate in your post, far cruder than that required to disseminate microscopic 'cittas' which (if the commentaries were to be accepted) are measured in billionths of seconds, let alone hundredths.

With such limits to human observation imposed by biology (can impulses travel faster than the speed of light... would the speed of light even make it viable? Does anyone fancy doing the maths?), and with the Buddha not mentioning it in the suttas, I would assume the critical mind would naturally question the origins of the teaching of cittas, and the practical benefit they possess. If we accept they cannot be observed discretely, they would be a pedagogical device, at best. I guess it's for each to determine, in accordance with their own reasoning, intelligence and experience, based on the available information. What else can be done?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Six sense base question

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 09, 2010 2:53 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:With such limits to human observation imposed by biology (can impulses travel faster than the speed of light... would the speed of light even make it viable? Does anyone fancy doing the maths?)

I think that the biology of working the brain actually involves chemical reactions that impose a much lower limit than the speed of light.

But, since you asked, light travels about 30cm (one foot for the Americans :) in one nanosecond (one billionth of a second). The average modern computer has a clock rate of about 1gigahertz, i.e. one billion cittas (errr... operations) per second. If it didn't fit in a small box, then the speed of light would be a problem.

But is this relevant? Is "mind" just biology?

But while we are at it, in computer terms the original question is whether "mind" has multiples cpus or a single processor. A single processor gives the impression of multi-tasking by working on one program for a while, then on another, then on a third...

Mike



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Re: Six sense base question

Postby tiltbillings » Sun May 09, 2010 4:17 am

mikenz66 wrote:
But is this relevant? Is "mind" just biology?
Biology is certainly the medium through which the mind/body process functions, which is why the notion of billions of mind moments in an eye's blink is just one of those Indian numerical exaggerations, having not a thing to to with the actual experience, nor was it taught by the Buddha, whose teachings reflect a far more naturalistic, empirical experience. At best the billions of mind moments indicates that the mind moves with remarkable rapidity.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
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Re: Six sense base question

Postby appicchato » Sun May 09, 2010 5:11 am

thereductor wrote:Are you sure?

Pretty much...I purposely didn't attribute the words to anyone... :coffee:
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Re: Six sense base question

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 09, 2010 8:31 am

Greetings,

Here are some words from the Buddha...

SN 33.46 (Bhikkhu Bodhi translation)

The Blessed One wrote:At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, all is to be directly known. And what, bhikkhus, is the all that is to be directly known? The eye is to be directly known. Forms are to be directly known. Eye-consciousness is to be directly known. Eye-contact is to be directly known. Whatever feelings arise with eye-contact as condition... that too is to be directly known.

The ear... The tongue... The body... The mind... Whatever feelings are with mind-contact as condition... that too is to be directly known.

Seeing thus, bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple experiences revulsion towards the eye, towards forms, towards eye-consciousness, towards eye-contact... He understands:'... there is no more for this state of being."


SN 33.50 (Bhikkhu Bodhi translation)

The Blessed One wrote:At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, all is to be fully understood through direct knowledge. And what, bhikkhus, is the all that is to be fully understood through direct knowledge? The eye is to be fully understood through direct knowledge. Forms are to be fully understood through direct knowledge. Eye-consciousness is to be fully understood through direct knowledge. Eye-contact is to be fully understood through direct knowledge. Whatever feelings arise with eye-contact as condition... that too is to be fully understood through direct knowledge.

The ear... The tongue... The body... The mind... Whatever feelings are with mind-contact as condition... that too is to be fully understood through direct knowledge.

Seeing thus, bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple experiences revulsion towards the eye, towards forms, towards eye-consciousness, towards eye-contact... He understands:'... there is no more for this state of being."

The Buddha was direct (and cool). 8-)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Six sense base question

Postby acinteyyo » Sun May 09, 2010 8:58 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings acinteyyo,

See CITTA

"Citta" (as interpreted nowadays at least, since most people learn Abhidhamma via commentarial compendiums) effectively takes us back to the momentariness discussions that we've been having in other topics. Whether citta was intended to be momentary (i.e. in a moment of time) rather than structural (vis a vis other cittas) in the Abhidhamma Pitaka itself, I don't know.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Hi retro,

I already know this link. That's why I ask. My understanding of citta seems to be completely different from what it seems to mean in Abhidhamma teachings. I'm going to open another thread in the Abhidhamma section.
Thanks, best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.

:anjali:
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Re: Six sense base question

Postby adosa » Sun May 09, 2010 1:20 pm

Well, after playing around with this a bit, in my experience it's all a matter of the intensity of focus, at least on a macro-citta level (if that is a term). In meditation, when I'm very focused on a sense base I don't notice the others. When driving, I can hear sounds and also see the road at the same time. I even see some around here texting, smoking, putting on make-up, listening to music, and "seeing" the road at the same time.......I hope......so something must be happening simultaneously.


Thanks for the discussion. Looking back on the question it was more a theoretically one than practical I suppose.


adosa :smile:
Last edited by adosa on Sun May 09, 2010 5:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Six sense base question

Postby Reductor » Sun May 09, 2010 4:09 pm

appicchato wrote:
thereductor wrote:Are you sure?

Pretty much...I purposely didn't attribute the words to anyone... :coffee:


Ahhh.... I get it.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Six sense base question

Postby Freawaru » Mon May 10, 2010 9:09 am

Hi adosa,

adosa wrote:Can eye-consciousness arise at the same time as say nose-consciousness or is it one at a time?
adosa :smile:


In my experience the higher the vipassana level and the temporal resolution the more I actually become aware of the simultaneousness of mind processes. The spot light of attention (manashikhara if I understand acinteyyo correctly) can either widen it's range or even split into several "beams". The mind seems even to work on several time-scales at once. I recall an incident involving a car and a bike crashing. I saw the external world in slow-motion (like in some movie), my physical body felt like moving through water even slower than the slow-motion of the physical sight. In addition to the physical sight was a 360 degree sight all around me at the level of my eyes (dunno what to make of this, yet, at the time it happened it felt like "well, while I am at it I can check this, too"). Then there was the mind working on a solution to keep the physical body (and, oddly, the personality) alive - it succeeded nicely, when it was over and I was absorbed in the personality again the bike was a wreck but I - having jumped down from it like some stuntman (and believe me, I am NOT a stuntman) - was standing next to it without even a scratch. The whole incident lasted maybe a second, the time from my initial realisation that there was no way to keep me from crashing into that car to me standing next to both bike and car, calm as you please.

I don't recall anything from the nose-sense during that time but eye and tactile sense worked on different time scales and mind much faster than either. And simultaneously. Naturally, after that accident I became more interested in the workings of the mind. Scientifically, it seems that the nervous system can work on different time scales. The optimisation of the Myelin sheath plays an important role in the speed of impulse propagation ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myelin ), also the brain seems to slow itself down to the sense impulses naturally - small mammals like mice see the world in slow motion all the time, thus their fast reactions.

I don't know why the mind tends to slow itself down if not absolutely necessary, maybe more energy is required for the high temporal resolution. In any case the high temporal discernment is possible and at least on that time-scale there was multi-tasking: no switching between different mind states or from one sense to the next but all simultaneously. I believe this is as fast as my discernment ever went during some kind of verification - I mean during sittings it is difficult to know the elapsed time with some kind of precision.

I think there are (at least) three possibilities why my experience does not agree with the Abhidhammic rule of "one citta at a time": Abhidhamma is wrong, the temporal resolution was not high enough yet, or there is some misinterpretation regarding Abhidhamma scripture. As I am not yet able to repeat this kind of experience to make a thorough investigation I guess I just leave the answer open for now. :popcorn:
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