Welcome Anonymous !

This forum is intended to give the members of the ShiningWorld community a place to meet and discuss Vedanta among themselves. We do not endorse any of the views or opinions expressed here--unless they are made by one of our endorsed teachers--so please take advice and / or teaching from another member of the forum at your own risk. If you feel you have a question that is not being adequately answered in this forum, please contact one of our endorsed teachers directly.

Board index General Discussion

General Discussion

Neuroscience, The Brain, And Vedanta

This is where to post topics that do not fall into any of the below chapters. please post there whenever possible. If you cannot decide where to post, post here and your topic may be moved to the appropriate chapter as deemed relevant.

Moderator: Wayne

Neuroscience, The Brain, And Vedanta

Postby Alex222 » Mon Jan 16, 2017 7:24 pm

Hi All,

I am new to this forum but I have been following Ramji and his teachings for the last year or so. I’ve read the Essence of Enlightenment and have now begun reading Tattva Bodha and the Bhagavad Gita.

One of the reasons why I’ve been so intrigued by Vedanta is due to the fact that the teachings seem to fully welcome scientific explanation and interpretation, and of course uses logic and reason in order to prove and reinforce the understanding.

There is one scientific concept which I’m concerned seems to contradict the teaching, and I’m wondering if it is simply a confusion of wording and my understanding rather than an actual contradiction.

Currently, the mainstream scientific view seems to be that consciousness is something that is created locally, by the brain. From what I've read, they are currently trying to map out which parts of the brain are responsible for creating consciousness. When I examine myself at a very basic level, I can see that consciousness is ever-present (although I can really only confirm that I’ve never not experienced consciousness in this lifetime, and in this body, but I can’t really speak to whether or not I was consciousness before my body came into existence), and I mostly understand the logic as to why I am consciousness, the subject. However, is this consciousness that is referred to in the teaching the same consciousness as that which science is determining is locally created by the brain?

If science is able to prove that consciousness is in fact a local phenomenon (it seems as though maybe they are close to discovering this), which occurs individually and locally in each person, how could we say that consciousness is ever-present, beginning-less and endless? I can tell that in my own experience, consciousness is ever present. But when this body dies, does this consciousness, defined by science, not die and therefore is not ever-present, and has an end?

Am I looking at consciousness in the wrong way? Is the word ‘consciousness’ as defined by science different from the ‘consciousness’ discussed in Vedanta? If so, does anyone have any other words to better demonstrate / explain the word / concept of consciousness as used in Vedanta?

Thank you in advance!
Alex222
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2017 6:32 pm

Re: Neuroscience, The Brain, And Vedanta

Postby Mira » Wed Jan 18, 2017 9:58 am

Hi Alex,
Welcome to the forum, Great first question too. One that gets right to the crux of the teaching.

Like you, I appreciate that Vedanta knowledge can be validated using our own logic and reasoning. I love how the ancient seers and sages understood aspects of neuroscience, psychology and physics that we are only starting to realize today.

I don't see much contradiction between Vedanta and Neuroscience.

The consciousness that Vedanta speaks of is impersonal consciousness (that which is not confined to a brain). This consciousness is synonymous with existence or reality. That is, ask yourself, can anything exist without an awareness of it? Can there be existence of any kind anywhere which is separate from awareness? If you think deeply about this, you will realize that awareness and reality are not separate. That is, awareness is the fundamental reality. It is the light which illumes all objects in existence. All these objects need awareness to exist--but awareness (being the fundamental reality) is free of objects. It is self aware (by definition) or self-luminous.

So, then the next question that might occur is: is my ordinary, everyday awareness the same as the awareness which constitutes the fundamental reality. The answer is yes!

The awareness or reality we speak of is fundamental, so there cannot be two fundamental realities, correct? So your ordinary, everyday awareness is essentially the same as the impersonal awareness which is the substrate of existence.

That you exist, means you are existence itself. That you are conscious, means you are consciousness itself.

A final thought to consider is that when a body dies, its brain is not conscious any more (that is, it has no 'personal consciousness') however, that act of the body dying is also happening in the 'impersonal consciousness' that Vedanta talks about as the fundamental reality.

Hope all this makes sense.

So, I for one, don't see a contradiction between Neuroscience and Vedanta. If they succeed in creating true artificial intelligence--that will also occur as a happening in awareness.

Anyway, I hope I have not confused you. Since your question is such a fundamental one, my suggestion would be to ask your question to a Shining World teacher. They are very good at unfolding the truth :D.

Again, welcome!
Mira
 
Posts: 160
Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2015 3:54 pm

Re: Neuroscience, The Brain, And Vedanta

Postby Alex222 » Thu Jan 19, 2017 1:57 pm

Hi Mira,

Thanks so much for your reply. This is extremely helpful! I like the way you explain it as 'impersonal consciousness'. I hope that as I continue to follow the teachings this will become more and more clear. And I'm glad that you see this as uncondradicting from neuroscience.

Thanks again,

Alex
Alex222
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2017 6:32 pm

Re: Neuroscience, The Brain, And Vedanta

Postby kpitsim » Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:17 pm

Hi Alex and Mira:

I join Mira in welcoming you and your inquiry to the group. Glad you found Mira's reply helpful, I did too.

Just to add my two cents worth from my own study so far of James and the teaching:

The fundamental viewpoint of vedanta is that what is real by definition is never changing. The brain that neuroscience studies necessarily is an object in space-time, because science can only study objects, whether they are biological impulses, or electro-mechanical energies, or mathematical models. The best therefore that can be expected from science is to reveal the workings of maya, the glorious ignorance that is the creation, in which cause and effect have their apparent reality. To the extent Vedanta includes the workings of Maya, it is served by scientific advances in exploring the space-time world of appearances.

However, the impersonal consciousness that Mira writes about, is beyond space-time, beyond any mental concept, quality, or objectification, and in a different order of reality all together from the order that science addresses. This is the distinction between Satya (unchanging real) and Mithya (always changing and in that sense unreal).

The implication of the above is that study of the brain can never determine that consciousness is in fact a local phenomenon. Since I am not a student of the neuroscience field, I am not sure whether it can determine that it is a non-local phenomenon. From the little I have read, I believe there is much more that is explainable by granting consciousness a non-local nature.

Mira nicely frames the practical inquiry for us, namely whether my ordinary everyday awareness is the same as the awareness which constitutes the fundamental reality. She goes on to state a logical argument, that there cannot be two fundamental realities, so everyday awareness must be the same as the unchanging fundamental awareness. The point is how far logical analysis gives you a confident knowing that you essential nature is unchanging, non-local, and immortal. IMHO the logical analysis combined with the cultivation of sattva in the mind, allows for a non-logical experience of your self beyond subject/object dichotomy, that science will cannot bridge,and that knowing has no locality and no dimension of death.

Hope this also helps, and also I am willing and hoping to be corrected if my understanding is incomplete as well.

Bob
kpitsim
 
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2016 1:55 pm

Re: Neuroscience, The Brain, And Vedanta

Postby Stan » Fri Jan 20, 2017 8:18 am

Hi Alex,

Welcome to the forum and thanks for posting this rather fundamental question....
Bob and Mira have posted some great replies so I nearly didn`t bother making one. :lol:
However, I thought i`d share some thoughts for the purpose of hopefully aiding in some inquiry into this topic.

Am I looking at consciousness in the wrong way? Is the word ‘consciousness’ as defined by science different from the ‘consciousness’ discussed in Vedanta? If so, does anyone have any other words to better demonstrate / explain the word / concept of consciousness as used in Vedanta?


Basically,there is a confusion in science as to what awareness is and where it`s located.
To make things more complicated, this statement of your`s is far from cut and dried as `mainstream` science`s view of the location of consciousness has altered fairly recently.

If science is able to prove that consciousness is in fact a local phenomenon (it seems as though maybe they are close to discovering this), which occurs individually and locally in each person


If you google " Is consciousness non local", you will find that the jury is very much out on the subject and localised consciousness is now seen as fairly old dogma.

What does all this mean though ? If the `old` mainstream scientific view is somehow proven right, it means that consciousness comes from inert matter. snag is, that goes against both reason and experience. can you get consciousness out of a stone ? Can you get something out of nothing ? ie matter out of nothing ? The body is completely inert...it`s just a meat tube as Ramji is fond of saying. You know IT, but no part of IT ever knows you....surely ? The logical next question is.... who is `You` ?

And what if science finally admits that consciousness has to exist before matter ? more than that, what if the scientists admit that you are consciousness itself ? What do you do with that ?
The world wouldn`t change because 99.999 % of people couldn`t relate to that. It would be meaningless unless you know what consciousness/awareness is. In vedanta, consciousness, awareness and existence are the identical same thing and the only thing that is real. ie. always present and never changes.

I think that the main point of confusion here is the confusion of the mind ( The subtle body ) with consciousness/ awareness.
I`ll stick to the term awareness from here onwards.

Science has failed to understood that the mind is actually nothing more than inert subtle matter. Western science has further failed to distinguish between the functions of the mind and the illumining nature of pure awareness.
Consequently awareness and the mind have become morphed into a single entity referred to as the conscious mind, or conscious person.
It is apparent, however, that these two – awareness and the mind – are not the same, for even in the absence of the mind (Mithya or relative knowing) in such states as deep dreamless sleep and nirvikalpa samadhi, or thought-free meditation, awareness doesn’t cease to exist.
If it did, one would neither awaken – for something can’t come out of nothing, and if consciousness were to have ceased to exist it would have by definition dissipated into nothing ... nor remember that one had slept soundly. One can only remember something that one has previously experienced.

The problem science has in understanding awareness is that awareness cannot be an object ( it is that which knows all objects and the lack of ) and the scientists` tools for observing objects are only extensions of the senses....which ironically can only know objects !

According to Vedanta, the mind itself is not conscious. Just as the brain, which is the mechanism through which the functions of the mind are conducted, is a part of the physical body and is composed of gross matter. It might seem odd but, the mind does not think on its own. The mind is nothing more than a subtle machine capable of carrying out its designed function of generating thoughts when it is illumined by consciousness.

As the mind does not think on it`s own, it cannot have it`s own individual consciousness. The whole idea of the individual is only a notion in the mind. It is all mithya or relative/ apparent knowledge and vedanta has no argument with it. However, what is in mithya, stays in mithya and never crosses over to sattya...the self, `pure awareness`.

You said ...

One of the reasons why I’ve been so intrigued by Vedanta is due to the fact that the teachings seem to fully welcome scientific explanation and interpretation, and of course uses logic and reason in order to prove and reinforce the understanding.


Yes, but the understanding of what ? vedanta uses logic and reason and is the science of consciousness/ awareness as it is purely impersonal and uses the process of Inquiry to ascertain knowledge of the self/ awareness.
Worldly science cannot reach that knowledge for the reasons mentioned earlier but worldly knowledge is valid within limits. the limits of knowledge of the senses and inference or mithya.

Self knowledge is the aim of vedanta and vedanta never posits anything that cannot be verified by personal self inquiry. we prove the knowledge to our own satisfaction.
There is no need for a `leap of faith` nor having to take the word of `scientists`. that is also `indirect` knowledge. vedanta doesn`t contradict neuroscience but it shows it`s limitations regarding self knowledge which in the end, is the whole point of vedanta.

Inquiry leads us to the understanding that there is only one awareness and we are all it. Yes, one awareness only ! There are many teachings in vedanta that strip away the false ideas and notions of ourselves to reveal that we are `pure` awareness` , not only that, but what it means to be awareness ... whole and complete, limitless, unborn, non dual, self knowing, ordinary awareness.
Any one of those terms is a synonym for awareness ! Fully understand one and you understand them all.
Even if science could show us the location or even origin of awareness, how would we know ? where would it be known ? where could this knowledge take place ?

I hope this has helped to direct some further inquiry Alex.
User avatar
Stan
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2015 11:15 am
Location: Lincolnshire, U.K.

Re: Neuroscience, The Brain, And Vedanta

Postby kpitsim » Fri Jan 20, 2017 9:44 am

Stan:

Very glad you chose to reply.

Stan:
vedanta doesn`t contradict neuroscience but it shows it`s limitations regarding self knowledge which in the end, is the whole point of vedanta.

Love that.

Bob
kpitsim
 
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2016 1:55 pm

Re: Neuroscience, The Brain, And Vedanta

Postby Alex222 » Sun Feb 19, 2017 11:30 am

Hello Stan, Bob, and Mira,

Thank you so much for all of your replies. I think that the site went down shortly after I posted this as I wasn't able to access and read further posts until just recently. I have much more clarity on this now and I can't thank you enough for your willingness to help out and the depth of your answers. I look forward to continuing with self inquiry; these responses have really helped to fill in fundamental gaps in my understanding.
Alex222
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2017 6:32 pm

Re: Neuroscience, The Brain, And Vedanta

Postby kpitsim » Tue Feb 21, 2017 4:57 pm

Alex:

Just read your email as I just discovered that the forum is back in operation. Glad you found our replies helpful.

Bob
kpitsim
 
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2016 1:55 pm


Return to General Discussion

cron

Login

User Menu