Mind-streams: Separate?

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Matt J
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Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Matt J » Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:41 am

Buddhist teachings often state that each sentient being is a separate, distinct mind-stream. This is in contrast to Vedanta/Tantra, which states that all sentient beings, including God, are one consciousness. These traditions rely on at least three claims to support its contention: 1) that consciousness, stripped of all bliss, mental, energetic, and physical bodies, has no distinguishable characteristics; 2) the scriptures say so; and 3) you can know this intuitively or through yogic insight.

One clear drawback to the Vedanta view is the common experience of people having their own thoughts, feelings, etc. and a lack of access to other people's thoughts, feelings, etc. The second draw back is that qualitative indistinguishability is not the same as identity. For instance, the clear sky over my house is indistinguishable from the clear sky over a house in Japan, but they are not identical. The third draw back is that the "one consciousness" view is supposed to be a fixed established truth--- yet it is not found by Buddhist yogis, or even mystics of other traditions who train in calming and focusing their minds. A Vedantin would likely agree that minds appear to be distinct, and this is at least partially established by different yogis.

The issue with the Buddhist view is that the mind is not physical, so what keeps minds apart? If the mind is bound or bordered in some way, this boundary or border should be discoverable within the mind.
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

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takso
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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by takso » Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:27 am

Mind and body are simply two aspects of the same thing. So long as we are imprisoned within the realm of existence, we would continue to assume the separation of things.

‘Life itself is prison,
The instincts are prisons,
The senses are prisons,
Superstition is prison,
Sacred institutions are prisons,
Teachers are prisons,
Holy things are prisons,
Goodness is prison,
Views are prisons,
Purity is the highest prison,
Voidness is not prison,
Freedom is salvation from prison.’

~ Buddhadāsa ~
~ Ignorance triumphs when wise men do nothing ~

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Astus » Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:33 am

Matt J wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:41 am
These traditions rely on at least three claims to support its contention: 1) that consciousness, stripped of all bliss, mental, energetic, and physical bodies, has no distinguishable characteristics;
If one removes all characteristics, clearly there are no characteristics left. The difference between substantialists (e.g. Vedanta) and insubstantialists (Buddhists), is that the latter does not assume an invisible essence once the onion layers (pancakosa/panca(upadana)skandha) are gone.
The issue with the Buddhist view is that the mind is not physical, so what keeps minds apart? If the mind is bound or bordered in some way, this boundary or border should be discoverable within the mind.
What keeps thoughts apart? Does being apart make any sense without spatial dimensions? In any case, minds have different causes and conditions.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Grigoris » Tue Mar 27, 2018 11:35 am

Matt J wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:41 am
The issue with the Buddhist view is that the mind is not physical, so what keeps minds apart?
Sense of self
If the mind is bound or bordered in some way, this boundary or border should be discoverable within the mind.
Yup, and the fact that a boundary/border it not discoverable means that...
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Matt J
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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Matt J » Tue Mar 27, 2018 1:53 pm

Astus wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:33 am
What keeps thoughts apart? Does being apart make any sense without spatial dimensions? In any case, minds have different causes and conditions.
Good point. It is hard to escape physicalist metaphors.
Grigoris wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 11:35 am
Matt J wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:41 am
The issue with the Buddhist view is that the mind is not physical, so what keeps minds apart?
Sense of self
So if one loses the sense of self, does that mean mind streams are no longer distinguishable?
If the mind is bound or bordered in some way, this boundary or border should be discoverable within the mind.
Yup, and the fact that a boundary/border it not discoverable means that...
NOOOOO!!!! :rolling:
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Grigoris » Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:14 pm

Matt J wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 1:53 pm
So if one loses the sense of self, does that mean mind streams are no longer distinguishable?
Good question. First I would say that there are degrees of selflessness. It is a little difficult for us to completely abandon a sense of self centeredness, so I cannot say what happens then. I can say that we have all experienced at some time a degree of bonding to somebody where we can sometimes share thoughts/feelings. I think that empathy is an example of this. Sympathy is too, but to a lesser degree.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Rick » Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:19 pm

Astus wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:33 am
The difference between substantialists (e.g. Vedanta) and insubstantialists (Buddhists), is that the latter does not assume an invisible essence once the onion layers (pancakosa/panca(upadana)skandha) are gone.
To call Brahman an "invisible essence" is to impute attributes to attributelessness. At lower levels of instruction, Brahman is named and described. At higher levels not. As I wrote a while back in this forum, is there an essential difference between:

Buddhism = peel all the onion layers away and nothing remains (except perhaps tathata)
Advaita = peel all the layers away and no-thing remains (attributelessness, the mystery, the unknowable)

?
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Vasana » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:23 pm

There was a thread on Dzogchen view and 'shakti'ism' somewhere and this question was looked at in more depth by Malcolm and others towards it's end.

It would be good to see it looked at in terms of common Mahayana view of the basis and whether or not it is appropriate to call it transpersonal.

Afaik, since the aggregates, elements and sense feilds are not a homogenous entity, mindstreams are neither seperate nor indivisible so nor nor can the sattva-dhatu or dharmadhatu be refered as singular or plural nor giving rise to other individual streams. Yet evidently there is a conventional relationship between the mindstreams of beings...or so it would seem to appear!

If clairvoyance and telepathy and the various powers are possible on the path and as fruition qualities then it would follow that the borders of self-contained mindstreams is an imputation born of beings ignorance and the rest of the 12 links of dependend origination.

If minds are insubstantial and are just a series of continuously unfolding mental events then it's not really legitimate to say that substantial or insubstantial things called mind-streams interact with other things called mindstreams but rather the continuously unfolding karmic 'ripening effects' on the aggregates and enviroment is experienced as these false dichotomies and appearances of self, other, unity and plurality.

Yet the karma of each sentient being is clearly unique and distinct so there is a conventional relationship but that's about as far as it goes. What we call personal experience is just ongoing karmic ripening.

To throw another spanner in the works is then contrasting what the relationship between the mindstream of a Buddha and another Buddha or between 2 seperate Bodhisattvas abiding in prajnaparamita.
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Malcolm » Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:13 pm

Matt J wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:41 am
The issue with the Buddhist view is that the mind is not physical, so what keeps minds apart?
Minds are instantiated in bodies, that's what keeps them apart.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Astus » Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:41 pm

Rick wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:19 pm
To call Brahman an "invisible essence" is to impute attributes to attributelessness.
As long as it is assumed to exist, (not to mention being conscious and blissful), there is an assumption of essence. But if it is not considered existent, then there is nothing to talk about.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Grigoris » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:08 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:13 pm
Matt J wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:41 am
The issue with the Buddhist view is that the mind is not physical, so what keeps minds apart?
Minds are instantiated in bodies, that's what keeps them apart.
So what keeps them "apart" in formless realms?

What would happen in the case of a virus, where they become a part of the entity they invade?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Malcolm » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:15 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:08 pm
Malcolm wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:13 pm
Matt J wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:41 am
The issue with the Buddhist view is that the mind is not physical, so what keeps minds apart?
Minds are instantiated in bodies, that's what keeps them apart.
So what keeps them "apart" in formless realms?

What would happen in the case of a virus, where they become a part of the entity they invade?
also in the formless there are indriyas supports the mind, such as lifeforce etc.

do viruses have minds?
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Grigoris » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:24 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:15 pm
also in the formless there are indriyas supports the mind, such as lifeforce etc.
Sure. But you said the delineating quality is the body/form. Or were you speaking about the animal/human realm specifically?
do viruses have minds?
I would say that they have a degree of sentience and thus have some sort of mind. A pretty basic mind, but a mind nonetheless.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Queequeg » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:27 pm

Astus wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:33 am
the latter does not assume an invisible essence once the onion layers (pancakosa/panca(upadana)skandha) are gone.
The onion (or plantain tree) metaphor seems deficient in some respects in that it suggests that it is possible to peel the layers back and get to some "zero". It occurred to me that this approach actually is not effective because it assumes characteristics to peel back, suggestive of a process replete with all manner of concepts - one utilizes concepts to remove concepts... in practice it would seem this would just lead to infinite regression.

If I'm conceptualizing, I prefer the idea of a nexus of causes and conditions to illustrate the nature of self. One can leave the causes and conditions in place, without peeling them back, and still get some notion of the "self" to be some meta effect of these intersecting causes and conditions.

Incidentally, I think the concept of a nexus of causes and conditions very aptly illustrates how discrete mindstreams can be posited while also illustrating how such mindstreams can relate to each other. All while being empty.

Use of the concept is a work in progress.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Rick » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:30 pm

Astus wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:41 pm
Rick wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:19 pm
To call Brahman an "invisible essence" is to impute attributes to attributelessness.
As long as it is assumed to exist, (not to mention being conscious and blissful), there is an assumption of essence. But if it is not considered existent, then there is nothing to talk about.
Existence is an attribute, Brahman is attributeless. So, shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ... and smoke yer cigar. ;-)
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Grigoris » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:32 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:27 pm
The onion (or plantain tree) metaphor seems deficient in some respects in that it suggests that it is possible to peel the layers back and get to some "zero".
Well, if there is not a "zero" under all the layers, if there is no lack of an inherent characteristic, then what is there?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Queequeg » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:34 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:32 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:27 pm
The onion (or plantain tree) metaphor seems deficient in some respects in that it suggests that it is possible to peel the layers back and get to some "zero".
Well, if there is not a "zero" under all the layers, if there is no lack of an inherent characteristic, then what is there?
Vimalakirti's silence?

The problem I see with the onion/plantain metaphor is that the "zero" that we have after pulling all the layers back is separate and distinct from the layers that were removed - a duality.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
-Jerry Garcia

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Malcolm » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:35 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:24 pm
Malcolm wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:15 pm
also in the formless there are indriyas supports the mind, such as lifeforce etc.
Sure. But you said the delineating quality is the body/form. Or were you speaking about the animal/human realm specifically?
do viruses have minds?
I would say that they have a degree of sentience and thus have some sort of mind. A pretty basic mind, but a mind nonetheless.
We can also say that formless beings have form, it is just very subtle.

As to your second statement, I cannot confirm this or deny it. I simple don't know.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Mantrik » Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:23 pm

Surely the simplest measure is an awareness of 'self' and 'other'.
Organisms so small as to simply be components of a larger being which does have that sense, do not have separate mind-streams themselves.

Another measure may be that of acting resulting from individual choice. There is ongoing research into the 'second brain' in humans which governs digestion etc. and may appear to be capable of acting independently. Perhaps within our bodies we have more mind-streams operating than we realise.
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Re: Mind-streams: Separate?

Post by Astus » Tue Mar 27, 2018 8:41 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:27 pm
it suggests that it is possible to peel the layers back and get to some "zero".
In a way it is possible, and that is the standard analysis performed in vipasyana.

"when they are broken into subtle particles and the nature of the parts of these subtle particles is individually examined, no definite identity can be found."
(Bhavanakrama, in Stages of Meditation, p 129)
one utilizes concepts to remove concepts... in practice it would seem this would just lead to infinite regression
Not at all. One first has to eliminate wrong views with the right view, then it is possible to become free from views.

"Remedying illusion by means of an illusion is like rubbing sticks together to make fire: with the two sticks serving as cause to one another, flames burst forth, the sticks are consumed, their ashes fly away, and the smoke disappears, [leaving nothing behind]."
(Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, ch 2, in Apocryphal Scriptures, BDK ed, p 62)
If I'm conceptualizing, I prefer the idea of a nexus of causes and conditions to illustrate the nature of self. One can leave the causes and conditions in place, without peeling them back, and still get some notion of the "self" to be some meta effect of these intersecting causes and conditions.
Either by contemplating the elements or dependent origination, in both cases one looks into how experiences lack an enduring essence.

"If a bodhisattva attains a fixed mind, he should observe that the twelve links are empty and without a proprietor. Ignorance does not perceive that it creates conduct. Conduct does not perceive that it has arisen from ignorance. Conduct simply arises conditioned by ignorance. It is just like a sprout arising from the seed of a plant. The seed does not perceive that it produces the sprout. Nor does the sprout perceive that it has arisen from the seed. Likewise up to old age and death. [The bodhisattva] observes and realizes that each of these twelve links has neither proprietor nor self. It is just like plants of the external [world] that have no proprietor. Merely out of wrong views one misconceives that there is self."
(Sutra on the Concentration of Sitting Meditation, BDK ed, p 74)
Incidentally, I think the concept of a nexus of causes and conditions very aptly illustrates how discrete mindstreams can be posited while also illustrating how such mindstreams can relate to each other.
Minds cannot intersect, nor relate to each other directly.

"The conscious construction of the difference between oneself and others is engendered from the seminal permeation of belief in self."
(Summary of the Great Vehicle, BDK ed, p 37)

And,

"Knowledge of those,
[Who claim] to know other minds,
Is unreal,
Just as one’s knowledge of one’s own mind
[Is unreal]."

(Vimsatika, v 21, in A Buddhist Doctrine of Experience, p 274)
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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