Consciousness On/Off Switch

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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Queequeg
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Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Queequeg » Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:08 am

Meditators, what do you make of this?
phpBB [video]
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

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

dreambow
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by dreambow » Thu Dec 10, 2015 6:47 am

These sort of scientific experiments are always devoid of humanity or compassion and greedy for results so some scientist can make a name for himself. The way the scientist behaved in regard to the woman....well she may as well have been an insect. "The claustrum may be involved in widespread coordination of the cerebral cortex, using synchronization to achieve a seamless timescale between both the two cortical hemispheres and between cortical regions within the same hemisphere, resulting in the seamless quality of conscious experience"
Even though he's happily messing with her mind and the woman stopped reading, she may have been very much aware but unable to communicate it.

tingdzin
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by tingdzin » Thu Dec 10, 2015 9:54 am

Just getting a black box. I'll try again later, but is there text somewhere for us dinosaurs?

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Queequeg
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Queequeg » Thu Dec 10, 2015 12:39 pm

Try this article: superhub of consciousness
electrically stimulating a single site with a fairly large current abruptly impaired consciousness in 10 out of 10 trials—the patient stared blankly ahead, became unresponsive to commands and stopped reading. As soon as the stimulation stopped, consciousness returned, without the patient recalling any events during the period when she was out. Note that she did not become unconscious in the usual sense, because she could still continue to carry out simple behaviors for a few seconds if these were initiated before the stimulation started—behaviors such as making repetitive tongue or hand movements or repeating a word. Koubeissi was careful to monitor electrical activity throughout her brain to confirm that episodes of loss of consciousness did not accompany a seizure.
Basically, shocking a specific area of the brain seems to pause consciousness.
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

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

Jesse
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Jesse » Thu Dec 10, 2015 1:01 pm

Seem's stupid to me. Of course if you disrupt the function of the brain it will cause problems. Like someone else pointed out, they can't prove they are 'unconscious', merely that they have interupted some functions required for speach/motion/gestures/etc. Same appplies to the area of the brain they are shocking, there have no idea if it's an area nessecary for consciousness, or just some area responsible for motor skills, memory, etc.

You can achieve the same thing by hitting someone in the head with a stick. This research doesn't seem much more advanced honestly, but they guy seems quite pleased with himself.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

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Queequeg
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Queequeg » Thu Dec 10, 2015 1:03 pm

dreambow wrote:These sort of scientific experiments are always devoid of humanity or compassion and greedy for results so some scientist can make a name for himself. The way the scientist behaved in regard to the woman....well she may as well have been an insect. "The claustrum may be involved in widespread coordination of the cerebral cortex, using synchronization to achieve a seamless timescale between both the two cortical hemispheres and between cortical regions within the same hemisphere, resulting in the seamless quality of conscious experience"
Even though he's happily messing with her mind and the woman stopped reading, she may have been very much aware but unable to communicate it.
The seeking of fame and glory has indeed been a great force in the history of humanity, but human beings are complicated, confused creatures. To reduce an actor to a single motivation is almost always a mistake. I am confident that the researchers believe that their contributions are humane and compassionate at least on some level. At some future time, our descendants will look back on our activities and think us barbaric. I hope our species evolves to be blameless.

The subject has no recollection while the claustrum is stimulated. The subject is unresponsive as well. If there is consciousness, it doesn't look like what we generally understand to be consciousness.
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

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Queequeg
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Queequeg » Thu Dec 10, 2015 1:05 pm

Jesse wrote:Seem's stupid to me. Of course if you disrupt the function of the brain it will cause problems. Like someone else pointed out, they can't prove they are 'unconscious', merely that they have interupted some functions required for speach/motion/gestures/etc. Same appplies to the area of the brain they are shocking, there have no idea if it's an area nessecary for consciousness, or just some area responsible for motor skills, memory, etc.

You can achieve the same thing by hitting someone in the head with a stick. This research doesn't seem much more advanced honestly, but they guy seems quite pleased with himself.
Well. That's insightful. :smile:
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

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Queequeg
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Queequeg » Thu Dec 10, 2015 1:12 pm

What's most curious to me is that the woman basically stops mid sentence when shocked, becomes unresponsive, then when the stimulation is suspended, picks up where she left off without any apparent disorientation. If you bother to actually look into this subject, they offer some really interesting theories on how consciousness actually works.

My intension is to see how the Buddhist 'science' of the mind can integrate this sort of insight. I'm not trying to blow up people's notions of what they're engaged in during their meditation practice.
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

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

Jesse
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Jesse » Thu Dec 10, 2015 1:45 pm

Reading the article, it's hard to compare with buddhist philosophy in some ways. When they say consciousness I think they mean self-awareness. In buddhism consciousness are objects of awareness, sight, sound, touch, etc.

I've thought alot about the subject, *mixing western neuroscience with buddhism*. I can really only say I don't think awareness is generated in the brain. I think the brain generates objects of awareness, including memory which allows for self-awareness.

Awareness without a stream of experiences to be aware of, can never be self-aware. But when something has the capacity to bring up past objects of experience, and past experiences (the brain and memory), awareness has a constant reference point that allows us to be self-aware.

Of course this is just my personal theory. In this theory, interupting the brain's functioning would only interupt our self-awareness in different ways. In their mindset, interupting the brain shuts awareness itself, off and on.

Personally, I think there has to be a better way to investigate the brain, than sending jolts of electricity into different regions to probe them. I think this method is sloppy, prone to error (interpretation), etc.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

tingdzin
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by tingdzin » Thu Dec 10, 2015 3:31 pm

Thanks for the text link, Queequeg. There are several issues involved here, so I'll have to brood on them a bit.

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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by jake » Thu Dec 10, 2015 4:24 pm

Queequeg wrote:My intension is to see how the Buddhist 'science' of the mind can integrate this sort of insight. I'm not trying to blow up people's notions of what they're engaged in during their meditation practice.
Do you see a conflict with what this experiment appears to demonstrate with Buddhist hypothesis on the nature of mind? (small m mind). I'm not an expert on either side of this but don't see too much at the moment that I think conflicts with what I've read. The experiment seems to illustrate the working of the "sixth consciousness."
“The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in the red zone."

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Queequeg
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Queequeg » Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:27 pm

I don't see this experiment as conflicting with basic Buddhism - Consciousness arises in the meeting of sense apparatus with an object it is adapted to sense, ie. when the eye is stimulated by light, visual consciousness arises.

Like Jake suggested, this experiment seems to disrupt the interaction between the apparatus of the sixth sense, the mind, and its object - ie. the 5 other consciousnesses. The researchers have an idea how this happens, and the implications are really interesting.
Awareness without a stream of experiences to be aware of, can never be self-aware. But when something has the capacity to bring up past objects of experience, and past experiences (the brain and memory), awareness has a constant reference point that allows us to be self-aware.
Isn't this one of the problems Buddhism addresses? Its that awareness of self, or better described as the misapprehension of self based on the aggregate impression of past experiences, that causes us to suffer. The constant reference point we naively construct is the genesis of all of our problems. This experiment serves to support this insight, doesn't it?
In this theory, interupting the brain's functioning would only interupt our self-awareness in different ways. In their mindset, interupting the brain shuts awareness itself, off and on.
But, by all observations, it is shutting awareness off. We have to deal with this.

If Buddhism is going to be compelling to beings arising now who are informed by experiments like this, it will have to be accounted for and integrated into the teachings. I don't think its an impossible task, but we, as Buddhists, are going to have to update the Abhidharma to account for the observations from these sorts of experiments.
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

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

Jesse
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Jesse » Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:53 pm

Queequeg wrote:I don't see this experiment as conflicting with basic Buddhism - Consciousness arises in the meeting of sense apparatus with an object it is adapted to sense, ie. when the eye is stimulated by light, visual consciousness arises.

Like Jake suggested, this experiment seems to disrupt the interaction between the apparatus of the sixth sense, the mind, and its object - ie. the 5 other consciousnesses. The researchers have an idea how this happens, and the implications are really interesting.
Awareness without a stream of experiences to be aware of, can never be self-aware. But when something has the capacity to bring up past objects of experience, and past experiences (the brain and memory), awareness has a constant reference point that allows us to be self-aware.
Isn't this one of the problems Buddhism addresses? Its that awareness of self, or better described as the misapprehension of self based on the aggregate impression of past experiences, that causes us to suffer. The constant reference point we naively construct is the genesis of all of our problems. This experiment serves to support this insight, doesn't it?
In this theory, interupting the brain's functioning would only interupt our self-awareness in different ways. In their mindset, interupting the brain shuts awareness itself, off and on.
But, by all observations, it is shutting awareness off. We have to deal with this.

If Buddhism is going to be compelling to beings arising now who are informed by experiments like this, it will have to be accounted for and integrated into the teachings. I don't think its an impossible task, but we, as Buddhists, are going to have to update the Abhidharma to account for the observations from these sorts of experiments.
Awareness exists despite a human body, imo. Though, it's impossible at this point in history to test the origin of awareness in any objective way.

Imo, even when our bodies fade away awareness continues despite it. There is simply no longer a body generating memories, thoughts, perceptions, feelings or consciousness to be aware of. In this sense, awareness is the basis of everything that arises, rather than an emergent property of arisen phenomena. When awareness takes the form of a human body, with a functioning brain, there are sufficient conditions for self-awareness to arise.

When self-awareness fades due to something going amis with the human brain, it doesn't mean awareness no longer exists. it only means we are not currently aware of our awareness.

Either way, as it's currently impossible to prove the source of human awareness etc, any studies done will obviously be framed in a theory the scientist subscribes to. Materialistic or not. So a simple study like this is totally insufficient to come to any conclusions about the brain and consciousness/awareness.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Queequeg » Thu Dec 10, 2015 6:19 pm

Jesse wrote:Awareness exists despite a human body, imo. Though, it's impossible at this point in history to test the origin of awareness in any objective way.

Imo, even when our bodies fade away awareness continues despite it. There is simply no longer a body generating memories, thoughts, perceptions, feelings or consciousness to be aware of. In this sense, awareness is the basis of everything that arises, rather than an emergent property of arisen phenomena. When awareness takes the form of a human body, with a functioning brain, there are sufficient conditions for self-awareness to arise.

When self-awareness fades due to something going amis with the human brain, it doesn't mean awareness no longer exists. it only means we are not currently aware of our awareness.

Either way, as it's currently impossible to prove the source of human awareness etc, any studies done will obviously be framed in a theory the scientist subscribes to. Materialistic or not. So a simple study like this is totally insufficient to come to any conclusions about the brain and consciousness/awareness.
Can you explain more precisely what you mean by "awareness"?
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

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by undefineable » Thu Dec 10, 2015 8:12 pm

Queequeg wrote:But, by all observations, it is shutting awareness off. We have to deal with this.

If Buddhism is going to be compelling to beings arising now who are informed by experiments like this, it will have to be accounted for and integrated into the teachings. I don't think its an impossible task, but we, as Buddhists, are going to have to update the Abhidharma to account for the observations from these sorts of experiments.
Are there any Abhidharma passages that the results of this experiment can show to be false? Are post-ers aware that four of the five ordinary senses (or five if -like my fiancee- you are unable to close your eyes) remain up and running during sleep, but lack full integration with awareness given the reduction in the latter-?

Am I missing something, or is all of Buddhism proven false here? Surely some might interpret the results as proof of a soul, and that the claustrum is the new pineal (c.f. Descartes) _ _ :shrug:

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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Queequeg » Thu Dec 10, 2015 8:46 pm

undefineable wrote: Are there any Abhidharma passages that the results of this experiment can show to be false? Are post-ers aware that four of the five ordinary senses (or five if -like my fiancee- you are unable to close your eyes) remain up and running during sleep, but lack full integration with awareness given the reduction in the latter-?

Am I missing something, or is all of Buddhism proven false here? Surely some might interpret the results as proof of a soul, and that the claustrum is the new pineal (c.f. Descartes) _ _ :shrug:
I don't think anything is proven false. However, being able to explain the wiring of the brain and how it gives rise to consciousness is more than what the Abhidharma can explain. The observations of the abhidharma seem more or less to still ring true, though they don't explain what is happening at the cellular and molecular level. I mean, those monks were not examining the peculiar effects that electrodes implanted in the brain of an epileptic can cause. Still they seem to have gotten it right from the experiential perspective.

I have a concern for my positivist non-Buddhist fellows, however, who fall into the pit of wrong views because they assume studies like this mean more than they do, namely, someone who might out of hand dismiss things like Abhidharma because they don't explain how the firing of neurons gives rise to consciousness. If Buddhism is going to be part of the modern discourse, it needs to do what it has repeatedly done in the past, which is be translated into the language of our contemporaries, which language is informed by, among many other things happening now that were not in ancient India, neuroscience.

I am sure there are my dharma brothers and sisters who will insist that everyone understand Buddhism on its own (archaic *yikes*) terms, but I'm afraid they are not only condemning Buddhism to obscurity, but failing to live up to the Buddha's MO who went to great lengths to make dharma intelligible to people as they are. The Buddha makes every effort to extend the rope; not grasping the rope is another separate equation which the Buddha still keeps trying to figure out.

There's also going to be the contingent of our brothers and sisters who insist on some aspect of our being that transcends our present material bodies. Actually, I'd like to hear from this contingent...
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

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

Jesse
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Jesse » Thu Dec 10, 2015 9:40 pm

I'm talking about awareness as we experience it. I don't know what definition you are looking for.

Just normal everyday awareness. You can't really describe it because we are simply aware, awareness is not an object or thing that has any characteristics. Unless you are describing objects as awareness. haha.

Here is a thread dedicated to your question, actually:

http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... =awareness
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

Myoho-Nameless
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Myoho-Nameless » Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:45 pm

Yikes, quite a ghoulish experiment. That lady has bigger balls than I do.

but so was dissecting bodies for medical purposes at one point in history. A taboo that the Tibetans did not have (sky burial anyone?) and they have quite medical tradition.
Jesse wrote:Seem's stupid to me. Of course if you disrupt the function of the brain it will cause problems. Like someone else pointed out, they can't prove they are 'unconscious', merely that they have interupted some functions required for speach/motion/gestures/etc. Same appplies to the area of the brain they are shocking, there have no idea if it's an area nessecary for consciousness, or just some area responsible for motor skills, memory, etc.

You can achieve the same thing by hitting someone in the head with a stick. This research doesn't seem much more advanced honestly, but they guy seems quite pleased with himself.
I agree. If I hit throw my xbox controller at my tv I stand a real chance of affecting it's ability to give a quality picture. But I would not be affecting the ultimate source of the picture itself. Physicalists and materialists ofttimes imply that they don't actually believe in consciousness, because its the "hard problem". Its too hard to figure out, so lets pretend its not real. Nothing to see here folks.

Though after years of contemplating these and similar topics I don't believe at this point memory (at least long term memory) has much to do with the brain either. There might be some data I am unaware of, but last I checked its still a mystery.
..............................................................................
Just an aside, I am less of a Buddhist if I reject the authority of the abhidharma? I remember doing that, though I forget why. I might have to contemplate some stuff.....
I just don't belong.

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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by boda » Thu Dec 10, 2015 11:30 pm

Jesse wrote:I'm talking about awareness as we experience it. I don't know what definition you are looking for.
You mentioned plain awareness, self-awareness, and some sort of disembodied awareness. Presumably, none of us experience the disembodied variety, unless we're having an out-off-body experience?

There is a difference between awareness and consciousness. For instance, we can be conscious but unaware of many things within our sphere of experience. Conversely, we can't be aware of anything without consciousness. Self-awareness is a more specific function, and further demonstrates the modularity of the human brain. I don't know if it's been done yet, but if the portion(s) of the brain that were responsible for self-awareness were fed a few volts that function would turn off also. We could realize emptiness with a mere flip of a switch. :woohoo:

Jesse
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Re: Consciousness On/Off Switch

Post by Jesse » Thu Dec 10, 2015 11:52 pm

boda wrote:
Jesse wrote:I'm talking about awareness as we experience it. I don't know what definition you are looking for.
You mentioned plain awareness, self-awareness, and some sort of disembodied awareness. Presumably, none of us experience the disembodied variety, unless we're having an out-off-body experience?

There is a difference between awareness and consciousness. For instance, we can be conscious but unaware of many things within our sphere of experience. Conversely, we can't be aware of anything without consciousness. Self-awareness is a more specific function, and further demonstrates the modularity of the human brain. I don't know if it's been done yet, but if the portion(s) of the brain that were responsible for self-awareness were fed a few volts that function would turn off also. We could realize emptiness with a mere flip of a switch. :woohoo:
haha I don't think i mentioned a disembodied awareness. I guess you could argue dreams are a form of that though.. Anyway, Self-awareness as im talking about it is just selfhood, (aware that you can think, move, speak, act, aware that you exist). You can argue it's due to karmic imprints purely, but I think you require a brain capable of memories for a self to exist. If you have no reference point to the past, you can't really say I, because you would have no memories to compare this moment with, and each progressing moment you would forget all that you did/learned the previous moment. I think it would be quite hard to develop any sort of cognitive biases/imprints/karma without it.
even when our bodies fade away awareness continues despite it.
If you mean this bit, I wasen't talking about a disembodied awareness, I only mean that all objects that exist are still aware. Other people are aware, the whole cosmos is still aware. Our tiny delusion of a self has simply lost it's capacity to maintain itself due to losing it's form, until it is reborn.
We can't be aware of anything without consciousness.
I'm not sure that's true. I believe all arisen phenomena is inherantly 'aware', in the most basic sense. It's only when suffeciently developed forms of awareness develop do they gain abilities such as cognition, memory recall, the ability to move their bodies, the ability to develop a self.

Then again, these are just my theories and could be completely wrong.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

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