Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
User avatar
Beautiful Breath
Posts: 162
Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 10:25 am
Location: South West England, UK
Contact:

Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by Beautiful Breath » Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:30 pm

Hi all,

I am halfway through Stephen Batchelors book "Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist" - a good and honest read.

Something has jumped out at me and i would dearly like to hear others take on the matter. His contention is effectively this:

If the mind is a formless phenomena how then does it interact with the brain.

If the mind is merely an emergent property of the brain then there is nothing to be re-born nor is there anything to receive the (potentially negative) consequences of this life.

I have always struggled with the Mind/Body issue and have't visited it again up until reading this...

...as ever all responses welcome - if I don't reply straight away I will as soon as I can.

Cheers,

BB

nameless
Posts: 164
Joined: Tue Jul 27, 2010 2:25 pm

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by nameless » Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:50 pm

I think the concept of 'formless' needs to be examined further. For example, at some point in history, things like radiation, gravity, magnetism might as well have been 'formless'; they have only been given 'form' when someone somewhere found a way to measure them. Nevertheless despite their lack of solidity, and our natural lack of senses that can sense them without machinery, they affect solid things and things that we do sense. Just because we haven't found a way to measure 'mind' doesn't mean it is 'formless' and can't affect the brain.

Another point is that Buddhist reality consists of the 5 aggregates, which have a variety of translations, and I suppose if one were to use the word 'mind', there would be a variety of ideas of which aggregate or combination of aggregates the mind consists of. So by using the word 'mind' in those arguments, there is a lack of clear definition of what he is actually referring to in a Buddhist context.

Finally I think the problem of "if there is no self, then what is being reborn" is a deep question that only advanced practitioners would be able to answer. It requires a deep understanding of the reality (or lack thereof) of one's self. I can't help you there. But the issue is not "If the mind is merely an emergent property of the brain then there is nothing to be re-born", but "If the mind is merely an emergent property of the brain and can't be re-born, then what is it that is being reborn?". He is assuming that it has to be mind that is reborn and if the mind is not reborn it can't be anything else. There's no further investigation about if not the mind, then what? Keeping in mind the point above that his using of the word 'mind' is not well-defined in Buddhist terms.

User avatar
kirk5a
Posts: 1959
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2010 1:51 pm

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by kirk5a » Mon Dec 05, 2011 2:15 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:Hi all,

I am halfway through Stephen Batchelors book "Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist" - a good and honest read.

Something has jumped out at me and i would dearly like to hear others take on the matter. His contention is effectively this:

If the mind is a formless phenomena how then does it interact with the brain.

If the mind is merely an emergent property of the brain then there is nothing to be re-born nor is there anything to receive the (potentially negative) consequences of this life.

I have always struggled with the Mind/Body issue and have't visited it again up until reading this...

...as ever all responses welcome - if I don't reply straight away I will as soon as I can.

Cheers,

BB
That is how thinking smugly locks itself in its own box. It supposes it has surveyed the totally of what is possible and confined it to the choices of a dilemma. The Buddha's response:
When there is the view that the life-principle is the same as the body, there is no leading the holy life. And when there is the view that the life-principle is one thing and the body another, there is no leading the holy life. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata points out the Dhamma in between: From ignorance as requisite condition come fabrications. Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance, every one of these writhings & wrigglings & wigglings — 'Which aging & death? And whose is this aging & death?' or 'Is aging & death one thing, and is this the aging & death of someone/something else?' or 'The soul is the same as the body,' or 'The soul is one thing and the body another' — are abandoned, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by daverupa » Mon Dec 05, 2011 2:19 pm

kirk5a wrote:
When there is the view that the life-principle is the same as the body, there is no leading the holy life. And when there is the view that the life-principle is one thing and the body another, there is no leading the holy life. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata points out the Dhamma in between: From ignorance as requisite condition come fabrications. Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance, every one of these writhings & wrigglings & wigglings — 'Which aging & death? And whose is this aging & death?' or 'Is aging & death one thing, and is this the aging & death of someone/something else?' or 'The soul is the same as the body,' or 'The soul is one thing and the body another' — are abandoned, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
This.

:heart:
  • "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]

User avatar
Alex123
Posts: 3476
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by Alex123 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:50 pm

nameless wrote:I think the concept of 'formless' needs to be examined further. For example, at some point in history, things like radiation, gravity, magnetism
These things are found in certain places, and have a certain range of action, so they do have location. They can be measured and shown to exist.
nameless wrote: Finally I think the problem of "if there is no self, then what is being reborn" is a deep question that only advanced practitioners would be able to answer. It requires a deep understanding of the reality (or lack thereof) of one's self. I can't help you there. But the issue is not "If the mind is merely an emergent property of the brain then there is nothing to be re-born", but "If the mind is merely an emergent property of the brain and can't be re-born, then what is it that is being reborn?". He is assuming that it has to be mind that is reborn and if the mind is not reborn it can't be anything else. There's no further investigation about if not the mind, then what? Keeping in mind the point above that his using of the word 'mind' is not well-defined in Buddhist terms.
The question is not about a Self.

Here is a very difficult question. How do two separate in space and time bodies relate to each other? How does consciousness at the moment of death in one body transfer or condition the consciousness in a body that is just born? Why doesn't the consciousness cease when the body dies? Why does it have to "jump", and only at death and not during life?

When an old person dies, s/he has specific memories, worldly skills, personality, developed lots of lust, etc. The baby that is born, seems to require to learn all the worldly skills, language, etc again as if one never knew them. Young baby/child does not seem to experience lust yet. Only around puberty one can become lustful. If lust only depends upon the mind and its previous conditioning, then why can't a little child experience the same lust that was developed in previous lives?
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

User avatar
m0rl0ck
Posts: 1193
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:51 am

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by m0rl0ck » Mon Dec 05, 2011 6:35 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:Hi all,

I am halfway through Stephen Batchelors book "Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist" - a good and honest read.

Something has jumped out at me and i would dearly like to hear others take on the matter. His contention is effectively this:

If the mind is a formless phenomena how then does it interact with the brain.

If the mind is merely an emergent property of the brain then there is nothing to be re-born nor is there anything to receive the (potentially negative) consequences of this life.

I have always struggled with the Mind/Body issue and have't visited it again up until reading this...

...as ever all responses welcome - if I don't reply straight away I will as soon as I can.

Cheers,

BB
Batchelors philosophy fails to qualify as buddhism on a couple of respects, one being what you have just spotted. Batchelor is a materialist and seems to identify the self as the brain. For the sake of clarity maybe he should have titled his book "A guide to buddhist-materialism".
If you want to find out about buddhism, buy a book about buddhism and not a book about Stephen Batchelor.
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

befriend
Posts: 1415
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:39 am

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by befriend » Mon Dec 05, 2011 9:18 pm

scientifically proven that frowning is linked with skepticism. buddhism was not taught to alleviate like stress induced head aches and social anxiety. not that it cant help that. it was taught to turn humans into yogagatigas (one who has broken the rounds of birth and death). with all buddhas power and virtue, how can someone think he didnt have gnosis of the workings of the universe? like why there is suffering and where we came from and where we go when we die. why obsess over your own skepticism why not just practice like your putting the fire out in your hair.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

Dan74
Posts: 3146
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by Dan74 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 9:26 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:Hi all,

I am halfway through Stephen Batchelors book "Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist" - a good and honest read.

Something has jumped out at me and i would dearly like to hear others take on the matter. His contention is effectively this:

If the mind is a formless phenomena how then does it interact with the brain.

If the mind is merely an emergent property of the brain then there is nothing to be re-born nor is there anything to receive the (potentially negative) consequences of this life.

I have always struggled with the Mind/Body issue and have't visited it again up until reading this...

...as ever all responses welcome - if I don't reply straight away I will as soon as I can.

Cheers,

BB
Another possibility is that the brain is an emergent property of the mind.
_/|\_

User avatar
m0rl0ck
Posts: 1193
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:51 am

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by m0rl0ck » Mon Dec 05, 2011 9:34 pm

Dan74 wrote:
Another possibility is that the brain is an emergent property of the mind.
Oooh! i like that idea much better :clap:
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

User avatar
Alex123
Posts: 3476
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by Alex123 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 10:05 pm

Dan74 wrote: Another possibility is that the brain is an emergent property of the mind.
And why is it when one damages the brain, the mind gets damaged? If consciousness is not caused by the brain, then why do almost every (if not every) function of consciousness alters when brain is altered?


With best wishes,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

perkele
Posts: 942
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2011 2:37 pm

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by perkele » Mon Dec 05, 2011 10:19 pm

Alex123 wrote:
Dan74 wrote: Another possibility is that the brain is an emergent property of the mind.
And why is it when one damages the brain, the mind gets damaged? If consciousness is not caused by the brain, then why do almost every (if not every) function of consciousness alters when brain is altered?


With best wishes,

Alex
What do you mean by "the mind gets damaged"? You don't see "the mind". You can't say that it's damaged.
Some cognitive abilities may be compromised. Maybe that's easier to argue and show sound evidence for. But still it's not to say that "the mind" is damaged when cognition is damaged.

daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by daverupa » Mon Dec 05, 2011 10:25 pm

...writhings & wrigglings & wigglings...

:anjali:
  • "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]

User avatar
Alex123
Posts: 3476
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by Alex123 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 11:25 pm

perkele wrote: What do you mean by "the mind gets damaged"? You don't see "the mind". You can't say that it's damaged.
Some cognitive abilities may be compromised. Maybe that's easier to argue and show sound evidence for. But still it's not to say that "the mind" is damaged when cognition is damaged.
When you take alcohol or drugs, the consciousness gets altered because the functioning of the brain changes. If temporal lobe gets damaged than one loses long term memory. If seizure in temporal lobe occurs one's personality changes, one becomes paranoid and aggressive . If left temporal lobe is damaged, one loses the ability to understand words and language. If right temporal lobe is damaged, one can lose the inhibition to talk. Alzheimer disease seems to have a basis in the malfunction of the brain. There are areas of the brain responsible for judgement (ex: prefrontal cortex). If frontal lobe is damaged one can become emotionally labile and loose ability of sequential thinking. Every aspect of personality and behavior is affected by the brain. I've read somewhere that there is even an area responsible for "Self Perception". It is not that consciousness and thinking is intact and one simply cannot get them out, the consciousness it altered if the brain is altered. Not just expression of it.

The most typical psychological term for functions carried out by the prefrontal cortex area is executive function. Executive function relates to abilities to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, future consequences of current activities, working toward a defined goal, prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and social "control" (the ability to suppress urges that, if not suppressed, could lead to socially unacceptable outcomes).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prefrontal_cortex" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

It is also important for the processing of semantics in both speech and vision. The temporal lobe contains the hippocampus and plays a key role in the formation of long-term memory.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temporal_lobe" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Language can be affected by temporal lobe damage. Left temporal lesions disturb recognition of words. Right temporal damage can cause a loss of inhibition of talking.

Seizures of the temporal lobe can have dramatic effects on an individual's personality. Temporal lobe epilepsy can cause perseverative speech, paranoia and aggressive rages (Blumer and Benson, 1975). Severe damage to the temporal lobes can also alter sexual behavior (e.g. increase in activity) (Blumer and Walker, 1975).
http://www.neuroskills.com/brain-injury ... -lobes.php" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Frontal Lobe- associated with reasoning, planning, parts of speech, movement, emotions, and problem solving
Temporal Lobe- associated with perception and recognition of auditory stimuli, memory, and speech

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/kinser/Structure1.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

If frontal lobe is damaged, some problems that emerge are:
Inability to plan a sequence of complex movements needed to complete multi-stepped tasks, such as making coffee (Sequencing)
Loss of spontaneity in interacting with others. Loss of flexibility in thinking
Persistence of a single thought (Perseveration)
Inability to focus on task (Attending)
Mood changes (Emotionally Labile)
Changes in social behavior. Changes in personality
Difficulty with problem solving
Inablility to express language (Broca's Aphasia)

http://www.neuroskills.com/brain-injury ... nction.php" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Тhe brain has many parts including the cerebral cortex, brain stem and cerebellum. The brain is a very complex organ, it regulates every aspect of human behavior. Everything about ourselves and the environment is experienced through the brain. It has been described as a three pound universe. It is thought to house the seat of the self, the place where the sense of self resides.

Damage to the hippocampus interferes with the ability to store
new memories. Likewise, the ability to use language recognize familiar faces, to count, read and many other higher functions are depemdamt on intact memory functions.Impairments in such basic functions are fundamental to personal identity.

Wipe out one part of the brain and the person speaks fluent giberish; other damage interferes with the ability to recognize familiar faces.

http://www.headinjury.com/brainmap.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Last edited by Alex123 on Mon Dec 05, 2011 11:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by Ben » Mon Dec 05, 2011 11:34 pm

Greetings BB,
When a group of skeptics came to the Buddha and expressed their disbelief in rebirth the Buddha didn't try to convert them. Instead, through reasoning he coached them to the understanding that the great benefit of practicing Dhamma is available to anyone regardless of whether they accepted rebirth or not. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; (MN60 Apannaka Sutta).
Knowledge is not about belief in something or other - or having a view based on intellectual understanding. Knowledge is derived from directly perceiving the nature of reality, as it is, within the framework of our mind and body.

Despite what some other people have to say, I have a great deal of respect for Bachelor who has presented a secular interpretation of the Dhamma and has opened the door for those who may not have had the kamma or paramis to be positively inclined towards Dhamma in a non-secular form.
kind regards,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

Dan74
Posts: 3146
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Post by Dan74 » Tue Dec 06, 2011 12:27 am

Alex123 wrote:
perkele wrote: What do you mean by "the mind gets damaged"? You don't see "the mind". You can't say that it's damaged.
Some cognitive abilities may be compromised. Maybe that's easier to argue and show sound evidence for. But still it's not to say that "the mind" is damaged when cognition is damaged.
When you take alcohol or drugs, the consciousness gets altered because the functioning of the brain changes. If temporal lobe gets damaged than one loses long

[...]
And yet, there are many confirmed out of body experiences while in coma, Ajahn Chah reportedly briefly woke up several times from his coma too ( a medical impossibility) and many other "exceptions to the rule".

:shrug:

Yes, I also respect Batchelor, though I don't really agree with him.
_/|\_

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Alīno, Bing [Bot], gonflable, thepea and 202 guests