September 6, 2020
The mind is not in the brain, but the brain is essential for the mind to work as long as the gandhabba is inside the physical body.
Relevant Summary of Previous Posts
1. In the previous posts, we discussed that only in the kāma loka that some living beings have physical bodies with brains. Brahmā in 20 realms do not have physical bodies or brains. See “Mind and Matter – Buddhist Analysis,” “Sensual Pleasures – The Hidden Suffering,” and “Kammic Energy Leads to Consciousness.”
- Of course, modern science is not aware of realms other than the human and animal realms. That is one reason that most scientists believe that consciousness arises in the brain.
- Per Buddha Dhamma, humans and animals (and other beings in kāma loka) REQUIRE physical bodies to have access to close sensory contacts (taste, smell, and touch.) That, in turn, REQUIRES a brain to control the movement of heavy body parts. See, “Our Mental Body – Gandhabba.”
We will discuss that more in the next post.
- But let us first review the current status of scientific research on the efforts by scientists to explain consciousness to arise in the brain.
- We already discussed the following roadblock facing “materialistic science”: How can feelings arise in inter matter? That is the “hard problem of consciousness” that philosopher David Chalmers discussed in the video in #9 and #10 of “Theories of Our World – Scientific Overview.”
Mind Is Not in the Brain
2. The following video summarizes the current status of scientists’ attempts to prove that consciousness arises in the brain. Many of them, who spent their whole lives looking into this issue, have concluded the following: The brain does play a role in consciousness. But consciousness does not arise in the brain.
- @ 3 minutes: Neuroscientist Wilder Pennfield argued that “the causal force is missing within the brain that can account for the actions and intentions.” How can intention arise in inter matter?
- @ 4 minutes: There are correlations between the mind and the brain, but correlation does not mean causation. That is where science got stuck. However, it is fully explained in Buddha Dhamma. The brain is just a conduit facilitating body movements. A gandhabba does not have a brain. The brain becomes necessary only where a solid physical body is required for close sensory contacts for sensory pleasures (kāma assada.)
More Comments About the Above Video
3. Around 5 minutes, the author explains the “Visual Binding Problem,” which is a part of a broader “unified perception.” This is important.
- Let me give you another example. Suppose you are in a restaurant and see someone entering the restaurant. It is an old friend you have not seen any many years. But how long does it take you to recognize who it is, and even recall some “good old memories”?
- I discussed that in detail at #4 through #6 in “Amazingly Fast Time Evolution of a Thought (Citta).”
- The mind is not in the brain and can work MUCH faster than the brain. In the above examples, recognition happens not in the brain, but in the mind. We will discuss details in future posts.
4. At 8 minutes: Instead of the brain giving rise to mind, the evidence is emerging that the mind can affect the brain. The brain has this property called “plasticity.” That means our thoughts can make some brain changes, especially “re-wiring of neural connections” and even repairing some minor damages to the brain.
- The video in the following section a presentation by neuroscientist Dr. Schwartz mentioned here. He has successfully treated some patients with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD.)
- In fact, the correct mindful meditation (Satipaṭṭhāna or Ānāpānasati; not breath meditation) can vastly improve brain function in all of us to help grasp deeper aspects of nature. That is what entails following the Eightfold Noble Path. We will get to that in the future.
- At 13:45 minutes: A study found that it is possible to control one’s sexual urges by “applying the mind.” They were able to control brain activity with “mind control.”
- It is clear that the mind is not in the brain because it can affect brain activity.
You Are More than Your Brain
5. More and more scientists and philosophers realize that “you are more than your brain.” A human has the freedom and capability to change his/her destiny.
- Dr. Jeffrey Scwartz is a neuroscientist who has developed a novel program to treat OCD successfully. He has written several books on the subject of the mind, including Ref. 1 below.
- Here is a recent presentation of Dr. Schwartz on the subject:
- Dr. Schwartz was one of the early scientists to become aware that we (our minds) are more than our brains. He did most of his studies in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, there have been more studies conducted using new techniques for brain imaging.
More Evidence against Materialism
6. The current Western tradition of thinking is that the only things that really exist are the atoms and the void. Everything else, including the mind, is reducible to matter made of atoms. That world view is “materialism.”
The following presentation by Dr. Michael Ignor provides a summary of evidence against materialism from recent research by many neuroscientists.
- At 5 minutes: Cutting a brain in half does not lead to significant changes in a person. If the brain gave rise to consciousness, one would expect such a drastic change would lead to a huge change in personality (and perhaps to two personalities). But the changes were insignificant (except that it relieved the patients of susceptibility to seizures.
- At 7 minutes: Research of Dr. Wilder Pennfield showed that probing various areas of the brain could not affect personal characteristics, such as intellect, political biases, habits, etc. There is a “core personality” that does not depend on the brain. But, of course, if the brain is dead, then such attributes cannot manifest.
- More evidence that the mind is not in the brain!
Those in Vegetative States May Be Fully Conscious
7. Another notable fact from the video by Dr. Ignor is that some of the “brain-dead” patients in “vegetative states” could be fully conscious.
- At 9:30 minutes: People who are “brain dead” and are in vegetative states may be “alive inside.” They are just not able to express their feelings because they cannot talk or move body parts. A discussion of Dr. Owen’s brain scan studies (mentioned by Dr. Ignor) is in Ref. 2. There are aspects of the mind that cannot be destroyed even with severe brain damage. I will discuss this more in the next post.
- At 15:30 minutes: Libet experiments on free will that seemed to suggest that humans do not have free will. Also, see, “Neuroscience says there is no Free Will? – That is a Misinterpretation!” More information providing evidence that humans do have free will in Ref. 3.
- At 19:30 minutes: The book by Bennett and Hacker referred to y Dr. Ignor is Ref. 4.
- At 22:20 minutes: Importance of intentionality that we touched on in #2 above. How can intentionality arise from the lifeless matter in a brain?
Teleology – Purpose of Things in the World
8. At 25 minutes, the discussion turns to teleology. Teleology is about “a reason or explanation for something to exist.” See Ref. 5. An acorn grows into an oak tree and not to an apple tree. The blueprint for bringing an oak tree into existence is in that tiny seed. Of course, the acorn needs to germinate and extract all necessary material from the earth to grow into that huge oak tree.
- So, even scientists like Dr. Ignor cannot explain the ROOT CAUSES for either an oak tree or a human being comes into existence. Therefore, they assign that to a Creator. In their view, it is the Creator that designs EVERYTHING in this world. That is the “Teleological argument” for the existence of a Creator. It sometimes goes as “Intelligent Design.”
- As Dr. Ignor asks around 26 minutes what the purpose of an eye is. He would say that it was created by the Creator for humans to see. He says that there is a “grand mind” (that of the Creator God) behind the universe. That is because Dr. Ignor is not aware of the “previously unknown theory of the Buddha.”
- But the Buddha said that we create our own future eyes because we like to enjoy seeing things in this world! Again, this needs to be explained in a bigger picture.
- An acorn giving rise to an oak tree is very similar to a gandhabba giving rise to a human body. That gandhabba is unimaginably smaller than an acorn but has the blueprint for the human body. The gandhabba starts building the body while inside the mother’s womb, by taking nutrition from the mother. Once born, the baby starts eating food, and that is how the body of a full-grown adult comes into being. See, “Buddhist Explanations of Conception, Abortion, and Contraception.”
If Mind Is Separate From the Body, What Happens to It at the Death of the Body?
9. Therefore, there is strong evidence emerging to support the idea that the mind is not in the brain, even though the brain helps facilitate the mind’s workings. That gives rise to the following critical question. If the mind is something more than the brain (and the physical body), what happens to that mind when the body dies?
- For those who have not been exposed to true Buddha Dhamma, there could be only one option. That is the ASSUMPTION that the mind (stated to be “soul”) must be going to either heaven or hell forever.
- But as we have already discussed, the mind creates “seeds” for future lives. Many such “seeds” exist for many future lives (some with physical bodies and brains) for ANY living being. That is why we all have been in this rebirth process from a time that cannot be traced back. See, “Origin of Life – There is No Traceable Origin.”
- The “previously unheard Dhamma” is that living beings themselves are responsible for creating SEEDS for their future lives. Furthermore, living beings are also responsible for creating their environment to live in! That includes living things without consciousness (like vegetation) and the whole environment for all of that to exist. This is a VERY DEEP subject. But we will first address the issue of living beings creating the seeds their future lives.
- Both aspects are explained with Paṭicca samuppāda. We will, of course, first focus on human beings and other living beings.
1. Jeffrey Schwartz, “You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life”, (2012)
2. Dr. Owen’s brain scan studies are discussed in the following video:
3. Alfred R. Mele, “Free: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will” (2014)
4. M. R. Bennett and P. M. S. Hacker, “Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience” (2003)
5. Wikipedia article, “Teleology.”