Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Wed Apr 09, 2014 9:23 pm

Andrew108 wrote:
monktastic wrote:Thanks, PadmaVonSamba. It is, of course, obvious to anyone who has realized it. To those who insist that this "awareness" comes from physical reality, sometimes various thought experiments can be helpful.
Well you have those that think reality is created by consciousness and those who see reality as the progenitor of consciousness. Most of the arguments you have put forward are idealist in that the underlying assumption is that reality is made by consciousness.
One's own personal experience is a projection of their own mind, and this includes the six realms.
For example, what we call sound is merely waves of vibrating air molecules hitting the eardrum.
Those molecules do not become sound until the "signal" to the brain from that vibrating eardrum is experienced by the mind as sound.
. . .
Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Wed Apr 09, 2014 9:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Wed Apr 09, 2014 9:24 pm

Andrew108 wrote: Non-material beings have no measurable value. Material beings, non-material things and material things do have a measurable value.
Do you regard "yourself' as a material being, or as a non-material being?
If you answer "material" then what part of who you are is material?
If you say "my body", then you are using a possessive ("my").
is the one "who's body it is" material or non-material?
. . .
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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by monktastic » Thu Apr 10, 2014 1:24 am

Edit: never mind.
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa

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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by pueraeternus » Thu Apr 10, 2014 1:51 am

monktastic wrote:Edit: never mind.
Best answer so far!
"Men must want to do things out of their own innermost drives. People, not commercial organizations or chains of command, are what make great civilizations work. Every civilization depends upon the quality of the individuals it produces. If you over-organize humans, over-legalize them, suppress their urge to greatness - they cannot work and their civilization collapses."
- A letter to CHOAM, attributed to the Preacher

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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:35 am

This may be
:offtopic:
...or maybe not. It seems to relate to the conversation
although perhaps the conversation itself has gotten...
:offtopic:
But it is a very cool peek at
THE HIDDEN LIFE IN POND WATER
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIMJWWpO ... e=youtu.be
.
.
.
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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by Wayfarer » Thu Apr 10, 2014 4:07 am

I don't think it's off-topic. The question it raises for me is, why is the Universe such that, given the right circumstances, living things form.

Here's Alan Watt's idiosyncratic take:

phpBB [video]
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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by Andrew108 » Thu Apr 10, 2014 5:26 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Andrew108 wrote:
monktastic wrote:Thanks, PadmaVonSamba. It is, of course, obvious to anyone who has realized it. To those who insist that this "awareness" comes from physical reality, sometimes various thought experiments can be helpful.
Well you have those that think reality is created by consciousness and those who see reality as the progenitor of consciousness. Most of the arguments you have put forward are idealist in that the underlying assumption is that reality is made by consciousness.
One's own personal experience is a projection of their own mind, and this includes the six realms.
For example, what we call sound is merely waves of vibrating air molecules hitting the eardrum.
Those molecules do not become sound until the "signal" to the brain from that vibrating eardrum is experienced by the mind as sound.
. . .
The signal to the brain from the vibrating eardrum is not intercepted by mind and then experienced. The signal from the eardrum goes to the areas of the brain that function as an auditory cortex. If the auditory cortex area is damaged then a person can no longer hear. If the mind were responsible for hearing then even though the brain was damaged the person would still be able to hear. If we say that we like a sound or dislike a sound then this might be said to be the 'minds' work. But we also need to know that liking and disliking has a chemical basis.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.

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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by Andrew108 » Thu Apr 10, 2014 5:44 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Andrew108 wrote: Non-material beings have no measurable value. Material beings, non-material things and material things do have a measurable value.
Do you regard "yourself' as a material being, or as a non-material being?
If you answer "material" then what part of who you are is material?
If you say "my body", then you are using a possessive ("my").
is the one "who's body it is" material or non-material?
. . .
I regard myself as a part of reality. In that I am material and non-material. I know for example that all the material cells in my body are different from 10 years ago. I know that this process of change is non-material. I know that I have thoughts and symbols which are non-material, even though they are based on a material substance.

Going back to the original topic, I don't see any problem at all with identifying the brain as the place where mental consciousness gets done. No problem at all. As long as one is not assuming that the mental consciousness is a 'thing' by itself then there is no problem.

Back on topic with a more practical focus - When you drink coffee the effects are felt by the body and you feel different for a while. The effects pass and later you feel you might want another coffee. You see how coffee addiction is both due to the properties of coffee and the properties of your body. You notice that the effects pass. The same is true of desire. Or anger. Or jealousy. All are related to physical occurrences within the brain and the presence of a cause. Naturally it all passes. It needn't be purified. In fact, what meditators are purifying are habitual tendencies which have a physical basis. They are re-organizing the brain so that the brain no longer reacts as it did (neuroplasticity). But you don't need to re-organize your brain. You just need to have knowledge of how the whole thing is working and then trust reality. Non-fixation is a major characteristic of reality. So how can you get addicted when reality is so good at purification?
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.

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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by Andrew108 » Thu Apr 10, 2014 5:46 am

monktastic wrote:Edit: never mind.
These things should be discussed. Why not?
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.

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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by Wayfarer » Thu Apr 10, 2014 6:41 am

Andrew108 wrote:All are related to physical occurrences within the brain
I don't agree they have a physical basis. They have a physical correlate. But they are not caused in terms that can be understood solely physically. To say they are is physicalism.

Take the case of the sound. Certainly there are vibrations, the organs react and the brain assimilates the sensations into a sound. But the perception of sound - for it to be a sound, and not simply vibrations, it is synthesised and comprehended by the hearing subject. That element is not given anywhere in the physical domain, it is irreducibly subjective.

In the case of neuro-plasticity, you see 'downward causation', that is, the act of thinking has physical consequences. Downward causation is not supposed to be allowed by physicalists, because all causation is supposed to flow 'up' from the material substrate. But as psychosomatic medicine, the placebo effect, and other such phenomena show, in fact an idea or belief can have physical consequences. And ideas, as such, are not physical objects, even though they may be represented physically.

In fact, there is nothing that is purely physical, or simply physical, or can be explained in wholly physical terms. The nature of plain old physical matter is immensely complicated - the most complex apparatus in history has been built to investigate it (and already they are saying a bigger one is needed.) In any case, the reality of experience has a physical side or aspect, but the physical aspect need not be considered the fundamental one.

IN the passage below, the Dalai Lama is writing about his involvement with scientific efforts to measure the changes in brain-states associated with meditation. To this end, he encouraged hermits and long-term practitioners to co-operate with research carried about at Harvard Medical school, and elsewhere, which he felt could contribute to a greater understanding of the benefits of meditation. However he also makes the following comment:
All this work can illuminate one side of the picture of consciousness. But unlike the study of three-dimensional material objects in space, the study of consciousenss, including the entire range of its phenomena and everything that falls under the rubric of subjective experience, has two components. One is what happens in the brain and to the behaviour of the individual (what brain science and behavioural psychology are equipped to explore), but the other is the phenomenological experience of the cognitve, emotional and psychological states themselves. It is for this latter element that the application of the first-person method is essential. To put it another way, although the experience of happiness may conicide with certain chemical reactions in the brain, such as an increase in serotonin, no amount of biochemical and neurobiological description of this brain change can explain what happiness is.
The Universe in a Single Atom, H. H. The Dalai Lama, p153.

He goes on to mention the discovery of neuro-plasticity, which is a subject that the Mind-Life Institute, of which he is Patron, has studied at some length.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by Andrew108 » Thu Apr 10, 2014 11:28 am

jeeprs wrote:
Andrew108 wrote:All are related to physical occurrences within the brain
I don't agree they have a physical basis.
You can see that I didn't say they have a physical basis entirely. Just that they are related to physical occurrences within the brain. As for the rest of your post I am mostly in agreement. Except for this:
jeeprs wrote: .....but the physical aspect need not be considered the fundamental one.
Who is trying to establish that the physical aspect is fundamental? Scientists aren't. What is established is that an objective condition (with universal laws) exists prior to the being that perceives it. Reality was there before me and will continue after me. The sun is distant and provides energy for the earth and so on....Just basic facts that people with idealist positions find somehow difficult to swallow.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.

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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Thu Apr 10, 2014 1:41 pm

Andrew108 wrote: The signal to the brain from the vibrating eardrum is not intercepted by mind and then experienced. The signal from the eardrum goes to the areas of the brain that function as an auditory cortex. If the auditory cortex area is damaged then a person can no longer hear. If the mind were responsible for hearing then even though the brain was damaged the person would still be able to hear. If we say that we like a sound or dislike a sound then this might be said to be the 'minds' work. But we also need to know that liking and disliking has a chemical basis.
Well, I was giving a rather simplified description. I said the signal goes to the brain but I didn't specify what region!
Nonetheless, nowhere in any of that brain activity is sound. in other words, yes, you can map out all sorts of specific areas where various things take place in the brain itself, where stuff is processed, but all you are talking about is neurons firing inside of a dark, wet, silent ball of mostly water and fat. The question is, "who or what experiences that neuoro-electric-chemical activity --not as as neuoro-electric-chemical activity---but as ...a bird chirping...a train whistle?"

So, I am not saying that mind alone can hear, that there doesn't need to be some physiological apparatus in order for that to happen. Of course there does. Likewise, what we experience as fear and what we experience as anger are two very similar molecular structures pumped into the blood stream by the adrenal system. When those molecules hit the brain, the palms sweat, hairs stand on end, the heart beats faster and there is an experience of anxiety. But again, these are just chemical interactions. But those chemical interactions are impersonal. They have no more ability to experience fear or anger than a light bulb has of personally "experiencing" its own luminosity.

If you say it is 100% t the purely "mechanical" activity of the brain, and there is no other awareness of that activity,
then what you are saying is that the physical brain alone creates its owner, the one who says "my brain".

It may very well be true that the brain alone does this. I am completely open to that. But so far, brain science has only been able to show where and what is experienced as mental activity (both voluntary and involuntary) but has not been able to demonstrate that the physical brain alone is aware of its own existence.

Tell me, does your brain know it's a brain?
. . .
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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by Andrew108 » Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:20 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:The question is, "who or what experiences that neuoro-electric-chemical activity --not as as neuoro-electric-chemical activity---but as ...a bird chirping...a train whistle?"
This is the function of the mental consciousness. To give a coherent result. To give a summary of all information that has been processed in order to act/or not act. I think that this mental consciousness isn't that different from the other senses. Just higher order. One might say that the processing of sensory data also requires the organisation of that data into a useable form. Duality has an evolutionary basis? I don't doubt it.
PadmaVonSamba wrote: If you say it is 100% t the purely "mechanical" activity of the brain, and there is no other awareness of that activity,
then what you are saying is that the physical brain alone creates its owner, the one who says "my brain".
Well mechanical activity seems to suggest simplicity. It's far from simple. I would say that it is more dynamic then mechanic. Very complex indeed. We are talking about order and change. Why some things stay the same and why some things change. The brain is a complex dynamic 'system' of order and change, processing an external reality of order and change. Awareness, as far as I can see, is a property of that activity.
PadmaVonSamba wrote:It may very well be true that the brain alone does this. I am completely open to that. But so far, brain science has only been able to show where and what is experienced as mental activity (both voluntary and involuntary) but has not been able to demonstrate that the physical brain alone is aware of its own existence.

Tell me, does your brain know it's a brain?
. . .
The brain can't perceive itself because the senses are directed outward. Natural selection would be unkind to those organisms whose senses pointed inward at their brains. Perhaps at some point in the future we will have inward and outward facing senses. Although these days we can use deductive logic and neuroimaging that allow our brain know that it is a brain and not something else.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.

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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Thu Apr 10, 2014 11:01 pm

Andrew108 wrote: I think that this mental consciousness isn't that different from the other senses. Just higher order.
So, you are saying that an eye doesn't "know" there is a flower in front of it, but the brain "knows". But nothing has ever been demonstrated to show this. Maybe we are talking about two different meanings to the term "knowing".

If you say it is 100% the purely "mechanical" activity of the brain, and there is no other awareness of that activity,
then what you are saying is that the physical brain alone creates its owner, the one who says "my brain".
Andrew108 wrote:Well mechanical activity seems to suggest simplicity. It's far from simple.
That's why I put the term in quotes. I didn't mean it was a mechanical thing literally. The point I was making was that given that the brain is made of things such as water, salts and acids, in that respect it is no different from a machine that is made of metal or plastic, because: none of the component parts, separately or together, can be shown to actually engage in cognition. They can only be shown to create the conditions for neuor-chemical events which can be experienced as cognition. You are saying that neurochmical events, by themselves are cognition. i am saying that they are not by themselves cognition, because none of them has the ability to experience what is taking place.

Compare the brain to a car battery, which also functions because of the interactions of water, acids and minerals. The battery provides the conditions for electricity to occur, but it does not use the electricity itself.
PadmaVonSamba wrote: Tell me, does your brain know it's a brain?
Andrew108 wrote:The brain can't perceive itself because the senses are directed outward. ....these days we can use deductive logic and neuroimaging that allow our brain know that it is a brain and not something else.

If , though various secondary means, the brain can know it is a brain and not something else, then there is no "our" brain, no "my" brain, no "your" brain ...
You are saying then, that a person does not have a brain...it is the other way around...the brain has a person.
That's very interesting!

You are still asserting that the physical brain itself "knows".
That essentially means that it if you think you are a sentient being, that this is incorrect.
Rather, the brain itself is the sentient being.
So, you can't say "my brain" because there is no you, which of course fits in very nicely with Buddhist teachings that there is nothing that can be called "me' or "mine" (but it isn't an exact fit).

Does the skull, which holds the brain, thus belong to the brain?
Then, by extension, wouldn't the whole body actually belong to the brain?
or does the brain produce the user of the brain (the person the brain imagines you to be)
...who then in turn owns the body which holds the brain?
. . .
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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by conebeckham » Fri Apr 11, 2014 12:01 am

Andrew108 wrote:The signal to the brain from the vibrating eardrum is not intercepted by mind and then experienced. The signal from the eardrum goes to the areas of the brain that function as an auditory cortex. If the auditory cortex area is damaged then a person can no longer hear. If the mind were responsible for hearing then even though the brain was damaged the person would still be able to hear. If we say that we like a sound or dislike a sound then this might be said to be the 'minds' work. But we also need to know that liking and disliking has a chemical basis.
This differs from the classical Buddhist understanding, of course.

The assertion is made that all sensory data is not "experienced" except by the mental consciousness. This is really the crux of Yogacara/Cittamatra.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by monktastic » Fri Apr 11, 2014 12:06 am

Andrew108 wrote:
monktastic wrote:Edit: never mind.
These things should be discussed. Why not?
I didn't feel my post added value. I'll summarize my position once more. If it's useful, great.

All the evidence we ever have for anything exists only in this moment. Which is great news, because as you may have noticed, we only have this moment. All the scientific evidence you've read, experiments you've done yourself, inferences you've made, etc., exist in the form of recollection in this moment.

In a dream, it's easy to have a moment in which you're certain that X is caused by Y -- and even have "solid evidence" for it. Whether you're still convinced of the evidence while awake is irrelevant. In that moment, you have certainty. And that certainty is indistinguishable from whatever certainty you have in this moment, about the causes or existence of anything. You think a sun exists "out there"? Great, that's a useful thought to have. It makes conversations more pleasant. It's also just a thought.

I'm not saying that "this is a dream," or "everything is in your mind" or "experience comes first." In brief, I mean that I no longer have faith in conceptual mind as an arbiter of Truth (e.g., that "physical reality" is or is not "real", whatever meaning those words have for me at any given time).
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa

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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by Wayfarer » Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:22 am

I think that most Buddhist schools of thought reject the idea that mind is something that can be undersood in terms of the material substrate, i.e. that mind is the 'result' of or 'caused' by physical organs. That includes evolutionary accounts. It doesn't mean that the evolutionary account of the development of intelligence is not valid as biological theory, but the biological theory does not provide a phenomenological account of the nature of mind, based on seeing mind 'as it is''.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Fri Apr 11, 2014 3:02 am

the brain occurs in areas of space. thoughts occur in durations of time.
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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by Wayfarer » Fri Apr 11, 2014 4:56 am

But that is still a category error when applied to the question of 'the nature of mind'. It is the attempt to 'objectify' mind, isn't it? That is the underlying problem in these discussions. It is true that thoughts have a material aspect but there is another sense in which they don't. Where is an idea located? It doesn't really make a lot of sense to ask that. I suppose you might say 'the original idea of evolution was found in Aristotle' but even then, you're not really talking about a location in a three-dimensional sense. To find it you would have to read literature, not excavate relics.

What about this: consider abstract entities such as number. Actually there is no consensus on whether numbers exist, or the sense in which they can be said to exist. But here is one thing I think you can say: a number can only be grasped by an intelligence capable of counting. And for any such intelligence, a real number is the same, regardless of the notational system. So, mind is capable of grasping abstract entities, such as numbers and rules. And only a mind can do that. That is because they exist on a different level to material objects, like physical lettering and numbering.

That is not a particularly Buddhist line of analysis, but I think it holds water regardless.
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Re: Mahamudra meditation problem: locating the mind

Post by Andrew108 » Fri Apr 11, 2014 5:23 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:So, you are saying that an eye doesn't "know" there is a flower in front of it, but the brain "knows". But nothing has ever been demonstrated to show this. Maybe we are talking about two different meanings to the term "knowing".
Well the eye does not know. It collects information which the brain (visual cortex) then processes into useful knowledge. Selective attention shows that the brain filters the information coming from the eye. We don't actually see everything that the eye captures.
PadmaVonSamba wrote: If you say it is 100% the purely "mechanical" activity of the brain, and there is no other awareness of that activity,
then what you are saying is that the physical brain alone creates its owner, the one who says "my brain".
I don't really understand this notion of ownership as though the brain were somehow a separate being that had taken ownership of a body. The brain and body are part of an objective condition. [/quote]
PadmaVonSamba wrote: The point I was making was that given that the brain is made of things such as water, salts and acids, in that respect it is no different from a machine that is made of metal or plastic, because: none of the component parts, separately or together, can be shown to actually engage in cognition. They can only be shown to create the conditions for neuor-chemical events which can be experienced as cognition. You are saying that neurochmical events, by themselves are cognition. i am saying that they are not by themselves cognition, because none of them has the ability to experience what is taking place.
The average human brain has over 80 billion neurons. That is a huge number. All of these neurons can function. Cognition requires billions of these neurons being active. A simple thought such as 'this is now' requires an amazing amount of information processing. The field of neuroscience is a very active field. There are thousands of scientists working in the area. They are open to what the data shows. You don't have to believe their findings that point to cognition being based in the brain.
PadmaVonSamba wrote:Compare the brain to a car battery, which also functions because of the interactions of water, acids and minerals. The battery provides the conditions for electricity to occur, but it does not use the electricity itself.
I can't compare the brain to a car battery.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:You are still asserting that the physical brain itself "knows". .
Yes knowing is happening in the brain. But knowing is a single thing. It is the function of billions of other functions.
PadmaVonSamba wrote:That essentially means that it if you think you are a sentient being, that this is incorrect.
Rather, the brain itself is the sentient being.
The brain is not a being inhabiting a body. The body and the brain together make the being.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.

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