Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

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Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby gavesako » Sun Oct 14, 2012 9:52 am

A recent article from Newsweek (despite the theistic interpretation of "God" and "Heaven" and "angels", the experience itself is very interesting and can be interpreted in a Buddhist way):

Proof of Heaven - by Dr. Eben Alexander
When a neurosurgeon found himself in a coma, he experienced things he never thought possible—a journey to the afterlife.


In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.
There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility. But that dimension—in rough outline, the same one described by countless subjects of near-death experiences and other mystical states—is there. It exists, and what I saw and learned there has placed me quite literally in a new world: a world where we are much more than our brains and bodies, and where death is not the end of consciousness but rather a chapter in a vast, and incalculably positive, journey. As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. I grew up in a scientific world, the son of a neurosurgeon. I followed my father’s path and became an academic neurosurgeon, teaching at Harvard Medical School and other universities. I understand what happens to the brain when people are near death, and I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death.
I’m not the first person to have discovered evidence that consciousness exists beyond the body. Brief, wonderful glimpses of this realm are as old as human history. But as far as I know, no one before me has ever traveled to this dimension (a) while their cortex was completely shut down, and (b) while their body was under minute medical observation, as mine was for the full seven days of my coma.
But I now understand that such a view is far too simple. The plain fact is that the materialist picture of the body and brain as the producers, rather than the vehicles, of human consciousness is doomed. In its place a new view of mind and body will emerge, and in fact is emerging already. This view is scientific and spiritual in equal measure and will value what the greatest scientists of history themselves always valued above all: truth.
(read more:)
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2 ... rlife.html


Some of his descriptions of the vast dark space and the light orb and a female devata communicating with him would be worth comparing with the Suttas.

Regarding Rebirth Transmigration:
http://what-buddha-said.net/drops/Rebirth.htm

An exploration of the Buddha's teaching on rebirth by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... birth.html
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Ben » Sun Oct 14, 2012 10:55 am

Thanks Bhante,

The response by Neuroscientist, Sam Harris, is worth reading.

And, unlike many neuroscientists and philosophers, I remain agnostic on the question of how consciousness is related to the physical world. There are, of course, very good reasons to believe that it is an emergent property of brain activity, just as the rest of the human mind obviously is. But we know nothing about how such a miracle of emergence might occur. And if consciousness were, in fact, irreducible—or even separable from the brain in a way that would give comfort to Saint Augustine—my worldview would not be overturned. I know that we do not understand consciousness, and nothing that I think I know about the cosmos, or about the patent falsity of most religious beliefs, requires that I deny this. So, although I am an atheist who can be expected to be unforgiving of religious dogma, I am not reflexively hostile to claims of the sort Alexander has made. In principle, my mind is open. (It really is.)

The rest is here: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/this-must-be-heaven
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Aloka » Sun Oct 14, 2012 10:59 am

.

There was also a recent article by a neuroscientist in the UK press about it:

"Is the afterlife full of fluffy clouds and angels?

What does the neuroscientist Colin Blakemore make of an American neurosurgeon’s account of the afterlife? "

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9598971/Is-the-afterlife-full-of-fluffy-clouds-and-angels.html

kind regards

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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:10 am

Really great read thanks for the link :)
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:21 am

Aloka wrote:.



What does the neuroscientist Colin Blakemore make of an American neurosurgeon’s account of the afterlife? "

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9598971/Is-the-afterlife-full-of-fluffy-clouds-and-angels.html

kind regards

Aloka


What i find interesting about this is that when materialists discount these kinds of experiences, they quite often do it with venom and ridicule. I for one would find a less colorful discussion of the original article more worthy of consideration, but i suppose those most likely to reply to such an article are those most threatened by the possibilities and hyperbole of some sort is probably inevitable for that reason.
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Mal » Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:24 am

Blakemore is more dogmatic than Harris. He states bluntly:

"The odd perceptions are just the consequences of confused activity in the temporal lobes."

How can he say this? The "hard problem of consciousness" is far from solved so he can't delineate a causal link between the temporal lobes and conscious experience. He can, perhaps, say the experience happens at the same time as a certain kind of activity - but that's all.

Thanks for the quote from Sam Harris, Ben, it seems like a balanced view to me.

On the positive side, I like the way Blakemore ends his article with a good Zen story:

“What happens to the enlightened man at death?”
“Why ask me?” said Hakuin.
“Because you’re a Zen master.”
“Yes, but not a dead one.” :jumping:
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Ben » Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:29 am

m0rl0ck wrote:i suppose those most likely to reply to such an article are those most threatened by the possibilities

not at all.
I am, and I am sure so are many people, completely open to the idea of an afterlife. However, the sorts of claims that Alexander makes should be examined very carefully.
"Only those who take to meditation with good intentions can be assured of success. With the development of the purity and the power of the mind backed by the insight into the ultimate truth of nature, one might be able to do a lot of things in the right direction for the benefit of mankind."

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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby helparcfun » Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:31 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:
What i find interesting about this is that when materialists discount these kinds of experiences, they quite often do it with venom and ridicule.


This should not be surprising at all because, as has been pointed out by Sam Harris...."The evidence he provides for this claim is not only inadequate—it suggests that he doesn’t know anything about the relevant brain science."

It's the same with that other so called scientist (he's not really a scientist, he has a PhD in mechanical engineering), Walt Brown, who has written a book about the evidence for the biblical flood. He's, surprise surprise, already a creationist! http://www.creationscience.com/onlinebook/index.html

Ian Stevenson is yet another one who has made some preposterous claims about re-incarnation. And he was only a psychiatrist!

These people, in my opinion, should know when to stop! Religious people like this should shy away from trying to "prove" scientifically things which they more than likely already believe anyway. I doubt very much that there has ever, or ever will be, a scientist who can credibly "prove" anything of the nature that Alexander was trying to prove.
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby gavesako » Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:02 pm

As far as I can remember, Ian Stevenson only collected data about some "cases suggestive of reincarnation" following the scientific (statistical) method and filtering out those cases which were not very clear or the evidence was obscure. Going further than this, in his day, would mean being called a "bogus scientist".

Ajahn Jayasaro (a Western monk in Thailand) has talked about this issue. He said that given so many cases which suggest something like rebirth taking place (e.g. very small children remembering things they could not have learnt in this life), a true scientist who does not think that rebirth is a plausible explanation would have to come up with an alternative theory which should be at least as good as rebirth is. Is that what happens usually? No, those cases which have been described and recorded are merely ... ignored.
:shrug:
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:13 pm

Ben wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote:i suppose those most likely to reply to such an article are those most threatened by the possibilities

not at all.
I am, and I am sure so are many people, completely open to the idea of an afterlife. However, the sorts of claims that Alexander makes should be examined very carefully.


I agree, thats why less ridicule would serve better. Pointing and laughing are not an argument.
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby helparcfun » Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:49 pm

gavesako wrote:As far as I can remember, Ian Stevenson only collected data about some "cases suggestive of reincarnation" following the scientific (statistical) method and filtering out those cases which were not very clear or the evidence was obscure. Going further than this, in his day, would mean being called a "bogus scientist".


Here's some more info re Ian Stevenson: From the article..."Stevenson himself admitted that he hadn't provided compelling evidence for reincarnation. What might be of some value, however, is to examine his data for recurrent features." http://www.skepdic.com/stevenson.html

Just like Sam Harris, I too have an open mind concerning these issues. What I find unpalatable sometimes is the religious people who accuse the non-religious of having a closed mind on these issues when in fact I often find the reverse is true. History seems to be littered with examples of religious people finding so called "evidence" for one thing or another. Even the Pope apparently once proclaimed that the Big Bang theory was evidence of God's work!!
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Mal » Sun Oct 14, 2012 2:11 pm

gavesako wrote:Ajahn Jayasaro (a Western monk in Thailand) has talked about this issue. He said that given so many cases which suggest something like rebirth taking place (e.g. very small children remembering things they could not have learnt in this life), a true scientist who does not think that rebirth is a plausible explanation would have to come up with an alternative theory which should be at least as good as rebirth is. Is that what happens usually? No, those cases which have been described and recorded are merely ... ignored.
:shrug:


Place them on the web and provide links?

What good examples are there of things they could not have learnt in this life?

Two of my favourite Buddhist authors are Ajahn Brahm and Matthieu Ricard. I find them incredibly strong and inspirational writers on meditation and Buddhism in general. But one place where they are very weak is on "Rebirth". Neither have had memories of previous lives. They both believe in it, but their books provide incredibly unconvincing examples.

Ajahn Brahm's example, in "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond" comes down to "students have told me they have remembered things". Ricard's example, In "Monk & Philosopher" is of a young child who "remembered" an old retainer in a "rebirth search party". Hardly convincing! For example, ambitious parents could have prompted the child.

So if there are better examples, please point them out.
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Alex123 » Sun Oct 14, 2012 2:28 pm

gavesako wrote:When a neurosurgeon found himself in a coma, he experienced things he never thought possible—a journey to the afterlife.


It is interesting that these "journeys" tend to occur in hospital when a person is pumped with drugs or when brain malfunctions...

How do we know that these memories are not by-product of the brain and/or its malfunction?
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sun Oct 14, 2012 3:26 pm

I used to be very troubled by these discussions. I've come to realise that whether there is an afterlife or not, whether consciousness is brain-made or not, whether rebirth occurs or not, I am still going to die. Regardless of my beliefs or otherwise, death will take me.

I'm coming to terms with that now. Nothing I have yet perceived is eternal or permanent.
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:16 pm

gavesako wrote: ...a true scientist who does not think that rebirth is a plausible explanation would have to come up with an alternative theory which should be at least as good as rebirth is.


Not necessarily. Richard Carrier humorously debunked this in Proving a Negative. A child can claim belief in God or Santa Claus, but an alternative proof is not required to dismiss these according to their logical fallacies.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:27 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:Not necessarily. Richard Carrier humorously debunked this in Proving a Negative. A child can claim belief in God or Santa Claus, but an alternative proof is not required to dismiss these according to their logical fallacies.

The problem is that unlike Santa Clause or God, something is obviously happening here. We're observing a phenomenon (near death experiences and such, but also just emergent consciousness in general) and we're positing a logically consistent, reasoned, and parsimonious explanation that is attacked by those whose own theories are failing to explain such things.

If I posit simply that there is Santa Clause, and you never see him, then you can disprove that. But if presents appear under the tree, and no one can deny that they're there, then I would definitely consider it a better bet to side with the ones who have a reasonable explanation that fits with the observed data and not just the ones who say little more than, "We have no idea, but I'm going to assume it's not that."
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Alex123 » Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:34 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:The problem is that unlike Santa Clause or God, something is obviously happening here. "


Of course something is happening. One is pumped full of pain killers, tranquillizers, or whatever happens when brain malfunctions (lack of oxygen, perhaps)...
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby gavesako » Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:45 pm

Mal wrote:
gavesako wrote:Ajahn Jayasaro (a Western monk in Thailand) has talked about this issue. He said that given so many cases which suggest something like rebirth taking place (e.g. very small children remembering things they could not have learnt in this life), a true scientist who does not think that rebirth is a plausible explanation would have to come up with an alternative theory which should be at least as good as rebirth is. Is that what happens usually? No, those cases which have been described and recorded are merely ... ignored.
:shrug:


Place them on the web and provide links?

What good examples are there of things they could not have learnt in this life?

Two of my favourite Buddhist authors are Ajahn Brahm and Matthieu Ricard. I find them incredibly strong and inspirational writers on meditation and Buddhism in general. But one place where they are very weak is on "Rebirth". Neither have had memories of previous lives. They both believe in it, but their books provide incredibly unconvincing examples.

Ajahn Brahm's example, in "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond" comes down to "students have told me they have remembered things". Ricard's example, In "Monk & Philosopher" is of a young child who "remembered" an old retainer in a "rebirth search party". Hardly convincing! For example, ambitious parents could have prompted the child.

So if there are better examples, please point them out.



I have started a separate thread about the cases of young children who remember and talk about their past lives specifically as Buddhist monks:

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=12832


Then there are other well-documented cases in the West which involve young children, consider for example the boy who remembered details of his past life as a fighter pilot shot down in WWII:

http://www.reversespins.com/proofofreincarnation.html

And this little boy in England:

http://www.reversespins.com/The_Boy_Who ... efore.html

Here are some documentaries about cases of reincarnation:

http://inwardpathpublisher.blogspot.co. ... ation.html


Someone who does not accept rebirth as the most obvious explanation should at least suggest some other way how all that information "got inside their brain" and how they acquired the special abilities which they display at a very young age.
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby daverupa » Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:51 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:positing a logically consistent, reasoned, and parsimonious explanation


Fairly useless without experimental design and predictive ability, thereby failing to distinguish itself from any other speculation.

The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby helparcfun » Sun Oct 14, 2012 9:01 pm

gavesako wrote:Someone who does not accept rebirth as the most obvious explanation should at least suggest some other way how all that information "got inside their brain" and how they acquired the special abilities which they display at a very young age.


It may be the most obvious exlanation for those who have a propensity to believe in rebirth anyway, but as has been pointed out many times in other religions, this is simply an 'argument from ignorance'. Simply stating that there is no other explanation doesn't mean that there may not be one at some point in the future. Sometimes the best explanation is simply that there is no explanation - we do not have to default to some supernatural explanation. There are many things in the universe that are unexplained just as there were in the past. We now have answers to some of those things but there is still a long way to go.
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