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Essays on mind, body and soul in

Buddhist philosophy

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Bardo
'... To the western materialist, the state of a 'dead' mind is OFF / Non-Existent / No Activity.  It is the ultimate Quietus -  no experience  whatsoever. To the Buddhist it is impossible to envisage 'no mind'. The state of a disembodied mind is active, hallucinatory and, depending on its karmic imprints, sometimes nightmarish...'

Buddha
'..all sentient beings, human and animal, are regarded as having Buddha seed..'

Christianity and  Buddhism, Genesis and Science.
'Christian Fundamentalists still hanker after the truth of Genesis, whereas Buddhists are happy to accept scientific explanations for the origin of the Universe.'

Compassion
'...compassion is the root of a Buddha because all Buddhas arise fom the mind of compassion, it is the root of Dharma because Buddhas give Dharma teachings out of compassion for others, and it is the root of the Sangha because it is impossible to become Sangha without practising compassion.'

Dharma and dogma
'Buddha Shakyamuni never claimed to have any higher authority for his teachings than his own experience.'

Dukkha
'Dukkha is sometimes translated as suffering but in actual fact encompasses all senses of unsatisfactoriness,  even including pleasure (which evolution has contrived  will always be a transient sensation - lest it detract too much from the grim business of survival).'

Emergence
The mind cannot be an emergent property of the brain or any other physical system, since emergent properties and emergent phenomena are psychological in origin, and require the pre-existence of an observer's mind in order to become manifest.

Emptiness
'King Milinda was a Greek and an experienced soldier who thought he knew a chariot when he saw one. But Nagasena demonstrated that if Milinda's chariot were gradually dismantled - knock a spoke out of a wheel here, a plank off there, then a bit of the frame and so on - there was no way for Milinda to decide at exactly what step in the procedure he should stop imputing 'vehicle' and start imputing 'heap of firewood'. '

Evolution - a rose by any other name
'Evolutionists believe that species arose by gradual change from simpler forms. Strawberry plants, cherry trees, blackberries, raspberries, hawthorns and apples all have a family likeness because they all arose from a common ancestor, which resembled a primitive rose. Hence botanists call this plant family the ROSACEAE.'

Evolutionary Psychology
'Our genes drive us along paths of action which appear to minimise suffering, but in many cases increase it. Greed and acquisitiveness are natural reactions designed to increase the survival of our genes, and decrease the chances of our competitors. After a certain point, the more you've got the more you've got to lose, and so the more you've got to worry about.'

Exclusivism
Most religions reach that they are the one true path to salvation and all unbelievers are cast into hell. This is a doctrine known as exclusivism.  Buddhism is not exclusivist. Any person guided in their activities by compassion is regarded as following a beneficial spiritual path.

Feminine spirituality, philosophy and science
'Why is God male rather than female? Gender is required to allow DNA to recombine and evolve in different and potentially novel combinations.  Patriarchal religions preach that God is a single unborn, uncreated, unevolved, non-biological entity who does not reproduce and will endure for all eternity. He hasn't undergone evolution Himself,  so why does He need to be sexually differentiated at all?.

Feud between Science and Religion
'Many (most?) scientists believe religions to be irrational, obscurantist and anti-scientific  The problem goes back to Galileo, who discovered that the earth goes round the sun, rather than vice-versa as stated in the Bible.'

Formless mind
'The description of the root mind as 'formless' doesn't just refer to its non-material nature, but it emphasises that it is unlimited, non-mechanistic and totally free from any structure or topology. . In Buddhist psychology the root mind is non-physical and non-algorithmic.  The mind cannot be understood in terms of circuit diagrams and flowcharts. It is pure awareness.'

Gender
' When you put maleness in plain biological terms, (DNA, chromosomes, sperm, eggs and all that stuff) there seems to be something nonsensical about a male God in the absence of a female...God is defined in terms of superlatives. He's the greatest in all respects. Omnipotent, omniscient, almighty, eternal, highest in the highest, supremely good. All these are definitions of exalted status - high versus low - powerful versus weak - wise versus stupid - permanent versus temporary - good versus evil, and of course male versus female...'

God
'For in Him we live, and move, and have our being'

Hallucinogens, hallucinogenic fungi, TMS and the mind
' ....People get spiritual experiences under the influence of electromagnetic fields such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS),   and from psychedelic drugs such as mescalin, LSD, Psilocybe semilanceata and Amanita muscaria. All these transpersonal experiences are simply delusions caused by disruption of the normal electrochemical activity of the neurones.'

' ...Yes and No. There's no doubt that people experience other realms of reality under the influence of TMS  or hallucinogenic drugs. In these conditions the functioning of the brain is indeed abnormal.  But - you've got to ask yourself - what is the purpose of the normal functioning of the brain? The brain is a device which has evolved by selection of the fittest (not the most truthful) to project the delusion of the inherently-existing self onto the mind. This delusion of a permanent, unchanging self is 'imputed' over the ever-changing transitory collection of biochemical building blocks that makes up the physical aspects of a sentient being. Disruption .... by biochemical or biophysical agents, enables the mind to temporarily push the doors of perception ajar and peek beyond mundane biologically-determined appearances.... '

Karma
'Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.'

Laws of physics - their anthropic origin
'Both quantum theory and Buddhist teachings on sunyata suggest that as soon as an observer's mind makes contact with a superposed system, all the numerous possibilities collapse into one actuality. At some instant one of these possible alternative universes produced an observing lifeform. The first act of observation by this mind caused the entire superposed multiverse to collapse immediately into one of its numerous alternatives'

Mahayana
'The Mahayana practitioner's objective is to achieve advanced spiritual states (culminating after many lifetimes in Buddhahood), in order to guide, teach and ultimately rescue all unhappy sentient beings from their suffering. To do this she needs to develop a number of attributes including great compassion (bodhicitta). '

Marxism
'In Marxist countries most religions were suppressed to a greater or lesser extent, Buddhism being a particular object of persecution. The reason for this is fairly clear, for unlike the other belief-systems that Marxism encountered, Buddhism was the only one which offered a rational, logically coherent philosophy, and thus presented a real ideological threat to the Marxist materialist worldview'.

Meditation
'There can be a number of objectives of meditation from simple relief of stress, through improving the long-term peace of mind in this life, up to stabilising and clarifying the subtle (permanent) mind that goes on to future lives.'

Meme theory and memetics
'A novel view of meditation might be that it is like running a virus check on your mind.  Lurking memes, such as rubbish left over from childhood indoctrination, can be brought to the surface and examined. Residues of self-referential belief systems - those driven by fear, guilt, wanting to conform, wanting other people to conform, or alternately pride in being better than non-believers - can be recognised for what they are and cleared out.'

Metaphysics
'Metaphysics means, literally,  'beyond physics'.  Metaphysics deals with phenomena which are either more basic than physics, or beyond the reach of physical methods of analysis and understanding.'

Mind - experiencing its non-physical nature
One of the quickest ways to convince yourself that the root mind is not physical, (and is not therefore limited by one birth and one death), is to meditate on the formless nature of the mind.


Original Sin - the evolutionary argument against
'The Buddhist concept of innate delusions is totally different to that of 'original sin'  found in some other belief systems. Innate delusions and their imprints are seen as an inevitable consequence of where we've come from over millions of years of evolution. There is no actual 'blame' or 'guilt' to them, though of course the practitioner strives to understand them in order to overcome them.'

Parietal Lobe and Mystical Experience
To the average Westerner, deliberately cultivating the idea that your ego doesn't exist as a fixed entity may seem weird and scary, but in fact it can be immensely liberating.   As one of the researcher/meditators taking part in the study said "It feels like a loss of boundary. It's as if the film of your life broke and you were seeing the light that allowed the film to be projected"

Particle physics
Basically, what quantum theory says is that fundamental particles are empty of inherent existence and exist in an undefined state of potentialities. They have no existence 'from their own side' and do not become 'real' until a mind interacts with them and gives them meaning.

Psychology
Buddhist views of the nature of the mind.

Qualia
'The Buddhist does not doubt that the brain does some very sophisticated ordering of its incoming nerve impulses into the datastructures which are the objects of knowledge.   But when all is said and done, those datastructures remain as objects. They are not themselves knowledge, neither are they that which performs the function of knowing.'

Quantum phenomena
Experiments in quantum physics seem to demonstrate the need for an observer to be present to make potentialities become real.

Rebirth - reincarnation
The belief in rebirth is not confined to Buddhism..... few Christians realised the importance of the concept of reincarnation or rebirth in Judaism, where it is known as 'gilgul' or 'ibur'.   This  has raised the question: 'If belief in rebirth occurs in Judaism, why was it not carried forward into Christianity?'   The Buddhist and Jewish beliefs are similar in that it is the very subtle, non-material mind which survives death. Since this is the only thing that we can take with us to the future, we need to make the best use of our present life to improve its state. 

Science of the mind?
Science will never be able to analyse such phenomena... because these 'things' do not have any structure - they do not have any nuts and bolts for the dismantling tools of science to get a grip on. 
The phrase 'Science of Consciousness' is thus a self-contradiction.


Sentient beings
What make a sentient being different from an automaton?


Spooky action at a distance (EPR Paradox)
'One of the most vivid illustrations of the interactions of the mind of the observer with a quantum system is given by EPR - the 'Einstein Podolsky Rosen Paradox', or 'Spooky action at a distance' as it is sometimes known. The experimental evidence seems to show that the observer's mind goes to its object unobstructedly and instantaneously.'

Sunyata (shunyata)
The ultimate unfindability of the real nature of all phenomena - their lack inherent existence, is usually referred to by English-speaking Buddhists as 'emptiness', which is a translation of the Sanskrit word Sunyata (sometimes spelled Shunyata). According to David Loy the English word emptiness has a more nihilistic connotation than the original Sanskrit. The Sanskrit root su also conveys the concept of being swollen with possibility [LOY 1996]. It is therefore most important not to confuse emptiness with total nothingness. Emptiness implies the potential for existence and change.

Symbiotic mind
Animals above a certain level of development require more than automatic reflexes in order to survive. Advanced organisms need motivation and intention in order to function in complex environments. Motivation and intention are chiefly driven by dukkha - the need to avoid suffering or unsatisfactoriness and the restless but futile search for lasting happiness. It is the suffering and grasping of their minds - the need to avoid pain and seek pleasure - that provides the driving force for survival and reproduction of complex animals.


Tantra and Tantric Meditation
All phenomena are free from inherent existence, that is they are not definable in terms of themselves, but are dependently related to other phenomena.  The same line of reasoning can be applied to our own identities, for if we search hard enough for our Self or Ego -  we find it isn't there!

Tat Tvam Asi - That Thou Art
Is the mind of God separate from the minds of His creatures?   Do we all have a spark of universal mind?

Thealogy (as distinct from theology)
The recently established field of study known as thealogy is attempting to assemble a coherant view of the divine which has not been corrupted by the politics of sexual repression. Thealogy is the systematic study of the nature and existence of the Goddess and her relationship with other beings. In particular, it is an attempt to disentangle what can sensibly be stated about the ultimate nature of reality from the agenda of previous generations of male theologians.

Three Poisons
Hatred, Confusion and Desirous attachment.

Tibetan Death Chart

Transpersonal Psychology
Transpersonal Psychology grew out of the rejection of the mechanistic or behaviorist model of the mind which was the orthodoxy of the mid-twentieth century academic establishment .   Charles T. Tart refers to this orthodoxy when describing his college experience in the 1960's: 'As to things like mystical experiences, if they were mentioned at all, which was rare, they were relegated to the fringes of psychiatry as being undoubtedly schizophrenic in nature and just showed how sick religions were to be associated with superstitious nonsense like that'

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in Science and Engineering
Einstein is said to have remarked that "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible."  This observation was elaborated by Eugene Wigner in his famous paper in Pure Mathematics (Volume 13, Number 1, February 1960) entitled 'The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences'

Three Poisons
Anger, Greed and Ignorance

Wicca - an intuitive reaction against materialism?
'As both Tibetan Buddhism and Wicca are growing rapidly in the English-speaking countries, there will come a time when there will need to be an interfaith dialogue between the two paths. The purpose of this article is to examine the similarities and differences between Wicca and Tibetan Buddhism.'

 

RATIONAL BUDDHISM
If we regard Buddhism as a combination of a philosophy, psychology and religion, then how much mileage can we get from the first two aspects before we have to start invoking religious faith?

Christian versus Buddhist worldviews

Buddhism in Everyday Life
The Daily Meditation