[Advaita-l] athma is mere function of the brain [was: concept of soul]

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sun Oct 14 07:36:37 CDT 2007

The first thing to do in this sort of a debate is to step back, redefine and be very clear about everyone's assumptions. Then, the need is to move away from loose talk of mind, body and soul, towards talking of consciousness and matter. Both the scientists who talk of brain and neurological function and the vedAntins who talk of the Atman as sat and cit mean very different things from what people routinely refer to as mind, soul etc.

As a matter of fact, a great many of these questions arising today have been anticipated and addressed by vedAntins and also other schools of Indian philosophy (including many Buddhist and Jain schools of thought). Specifically, these issues are handled when they consider the lokAyata stance that consciousness in the body is nothing more than a derivative of the material, living body. The conclusion has always been that one has to accept consciousness as something different from matter, although it manifests through matter.

The closest physical analogy I can think of is energy (keeping in mind that no analogy is perfect in all details). So long as one thinks, like an eighth grade schoolboy, that energy is merely something possessed by and derivative of physical matter, one can never really get beyond classical physics. Quantum physics will remain a closed book forever. So will almost any higher physics.


> Since Sri Krishnamoorthy takes on a scientific approach I will play the devil's advocate only to pick brains a bit more. Extensive studies involving imaging brain cell activity and recording brain functions during sleep, prayer, altered-state etc etc have all produced immense insights - most invariably lead to this conclusions : the soul is merely a function of the brain. The skeptics' two favourite questions are: if athma is in fact a potent power, how come it needs the body to function? In other words is there anything at all a soul can actually do by itself? The second question is "it's only a matter of time before a fully functional human is created entirely in the laboratory - be it from harvested genetic material no less. Assuming this is a complete life-form that can function like any healthy human on earth, where did it get its "life" from, if not from the brain?"
> Om tat sat.
> G. Sethuraman
> Chennai.

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