[Advaita-l] Re: Reconciling current research with Advaitic theory of mind (Shyam)

MC1 at aol.com MC1 at aol.com
Fri Feb 23 16:18:28 CST 2007

I had been looking into the following citation for some project when I  came 
up the "Mystery of Consciousness" thread. I hope the following sheds  some 
“...Therefore through the similarity of the intellect, the self assumes  the 
likeness of everything. Hence, it will be described later on as 'Identified  
with everything' (IV.iv.5)  
Therefore it cannot be taken apart from anything else, like a stalk of  grass 
from its sheath, and shown in its self-effulgent form. It is for this  reason 
that the whole world, to it utter delusion, superimposes all activities  
peculiar to name and form on the self, and all attributes of this self-effulgent  
light on name and form, and also superimposes name and form on the light of 
the  self, and thinks, ‘This is or is not the self; it has or has not such and 
such  attributes; it is or is not the agent; it is pure or impure; is it bound 
or  free; it is fixed or gone or come; it exists or does not exist,’ and so on.
” (Br  Up bh IV.iii.7 [Madhavananda p615])
Mahesh Ursekar <mahesh.ursekar at gmail.com> wrote:
Pranams to  all:

In a recent issue (Jan 19, 2007) of TIME magazine, the following  article
appeared entitled 'The Mystery of  Consciousness':

While  the author categorically claims that currently they *do not* have
answers to  what consciousness actually is, he does say:

"neuroscientists agree  ...[that the feature they] ... find least
controversial is the one that many  people outside the field find the most
shocking. Francis Crick called it "the  astonishing hypothesis"--the idea
that our thoughts, sensations, joys and  aches consist entirely of
physiological activity in the tissues of the brain.  *Consciousness does not
reside in an ethereal soul that uses the brain like a  PDA; consciousness is
the activity of the brain*."

To support his  claim, he makes the three following points:

"Using functional MRI,  cognitive neuroscientists can almost *read people's
thoughts from the blood  flow in their brains. They can tell, for instance,
whether a person is  thinking about a face or a place or whether a picture
the person is looking  at is of a bottle or a shoe *."


"*And consciousness can be  pushed around by physical manipulations*.
Electrical stimulation of the brain  during surgery can cause a person to
have hallucinations that are  indistinguishable from reality, such as a song
playing in the room or a  childhood birthday party. Chemicals that affect the
brain, from caffeine and  alcohol to Prozac and LSD, can profoundly alter how
people think, feel and  see. *Surgery that severs the corpus callosum,
separating the two hemispheres  (a treatment for epilepsy), spawns two
consciousnesses within the same skull,  as if the soul could be cleaved in
two with a  knife*."


"*And when the physiological activity of the brain  ceases, as far as anyone
can tell the person's consciousness goes out of  existence*. Attempts to
contact the souls of the dead (a pursuit of serious  scientists a century
ago) turned up only cheap magic tricks, and near death  experiences are not
the eyewitness reports of a soul parting company from the  body but symptoms
of oxygen starvation in the eyes and brain. *In September,  a team of Swiss
neuroscientists reported that they could turn out-of-body  experiences on and
off by stimulating the part of the brain in which vision  and bodily
sensations converge*."

While I was able to think of counter  arguments to the first and third
arguments keeping Advaitic theory intact, I  could not find any such argument
against the second.

According to my  understanding of Advaita, the mind is manifest due to the
power of Brahman  behind it, just as the moon shines due to the power of the
sun. In other  words, it is not an epiphenomenon of the gross body (as the
Charvaks would  have it) but has an independent existence.

However, in relation to the  second point of the author (in bold above) how
does one explain the  'splitting of the mind' when the brain is split? For
more details, on  split-brain patients see the below  link:

Can  any of the more knowledgeable readers on this list share their thoughts
on  how one can explain the second point of the author keeping the  Advaitic
theory of mind intact? Or if my understanding is in some way flawed,  I would
be grateful for due correction.

Many thanks in  advance,

Pranams,  Mahesh

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