Author Topic: What is consciousness?  (Read 12966 times)

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #60 on: September 15, 2012, 01:43:11 am »
I think it was David Chalmers who suggested consciousness should just be accepted as something fundamental to the Universe, like gravity or electromagnetism...

Maybe it's an emergent property rather than a fundamental one?

Offline FallingLeaf

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #61 on: September 15, 2012, 08:39:33 pm »
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Maybe it's an emergent property rather than a fundamental one?

Yes, perhaps it is. What do you think it is emergent from? Here is a quote from Wiki to clarify my previous post, emphasis mine:

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Some philosophers, including David Chalmers, argue that conscious experience is a fundamental constituent of the universe, a form of panpsychism sometimes referred to as panexperientialism. In the paper "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness,” Chalmers wrote:
It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects of experience. But the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience is perplexing. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C?... It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all?[12]
Chalmers argues that a ‘rich inner life’ is not logically reducible to the functional properties of physical processes. He states that consciousness must be described using nonphysical means. This description involves a fundamental ingredient capable of clarifying phenomena that have not been explained using physical means. Use of this fundamental property, Chalmers argues, is necessary to explain certain functions of the world, much like other fundamental features, such as mass and time, explain significant principles in nature. 

Personally, not being either a scientist or a philosopher, I have no strong opinion on any of the hard questions regarding firstly, why there is something instead of nothing, and secondly, why there is experience of it. Although its a challenging and enjoyable distraction at times.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2012, 10:22:03 pm by FallingLeaf »

Offline FallingLeaf

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #62 on: September 16, 2012, 09:49:40 am »
Proximately, one could argue that consciousness is emergent from the brain but there aren't any biological brains without a cosmos. All life depends on fundamental forces of the universe such as electromagnetism and the strong nuclear force so perhaps the recipe for consciousness includes an as yet undiscovered ingredient tapped from the cosmos at large that mediates consciousness in some way. I think that is what Chalmers is saying his own way. Cosmologists seem to have no problem acknowledging that 95.4% of the matter and energy in the Universe cannot be directly observed, hence the mysterious names dark energy and dark matter. So why not mysterious ingredients in biological processes that could account for what we call emergence? My simple mind tells me that when a+b adds up to more than 'c' the obvious thing to do first is consider if we have missed something on the left side of the equal sign. That is standard scientific methodology. Too bad the neuroscientists are too busy drilling holes into the skulls of caged laboratory animals and inserting electrodes deep into their brains in their endless search for NCCs, the so called neural correlates of consciousness, to give it a try.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2012, 10:33:00 am by FallingLeaf »

Offline FallingLeaf

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #63 on: September 30, 2012, 06:52:54 pm »
Just finished reading Christof Kock's new book, Consciousness: Confessions Of A Romantic Reductionist. The neuroscientist's conclusion is that the cosmos is conscious, or at least infused with it.  According to Koch, consciousness is a fundamental feature of the universe.

 
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Consciousness comes with organized chunks of matter. It is immanent in the organization of the system. It is a property of complex entities and cannot be further reduced to the action of more elementary properties. You and I find ourselves in a cosmos in which any and all systems of interacting parts possess some measure of sentience. The larger and more highly networked the system, the greater the degree of consciousness.   

Integrated and differentiated information processing results in the most consciousness, and the human brain does that better than anything else we know of. But dog brains do it, too. Even worms, bees and fleas would have some some sense of what it subjectively feels like to be itself, as consciousness would theoretically infuse anything that could be defined as a 'system of interacting parts'. Might this include rocks and water? They have molecules which have interacting parts. Integrated information theory is an elaborate, contemporary version of panpsychism.

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Once you assume that consciousness is real and ontologically distinct from its physical substrate, then it is a simple step to conclude that the entire cosmos is suffused with sentience. We are surrounded and immersed in consciousness; it is in the air we breathe, the soil we tread on, the bacteria that colonize our intestines, and the brain that enables us to think... 

An interesting read and somewhat unexpected from a neuroscientist.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2012, 07:11:35 pm by FallingLeaf »

Offline BlueSky

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #64 on: November 01, 2012, 11:14:41 pm »
For someone who have an idea of @&$1, they will have a problem of what is @&$1.

Same thing with consciousness.

Scientist or us can make a very very complicated definition of what is consciousness. But what is the point if at the end you will soon or later see there is no such thing.

You simply waste your time.

What is the point to make a very robust, a very detail, or to think in a very complicated way the description of water from mirage?

It just strengthening your illusion the existence of water from mirage.

Same way, looking for a definition of consciousness will simply drag you down into samsara even deeper, because your this effort will further make you believe there is such thing.




« Last Edit: November 01, 2012, 11:18:01 pm by BlueSky »
Enlightenment is simply the clearing away of misunderstanding. When mistaken thinking is gone, liberation has happened. (Gampopa)


When we verbally indicate a thing as 'this' or 'that', our words, like rabbits's horns, are hollow names, mere fictive imputation upon what does not exist. (Longchenpa)

Offline former monk john

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #65 on: November 01, 2012, 11:32:15 pm »
with the cessation of conciousness, comes the complete cessation of posting on the internet........
to me, the signs of a successful practice are happiness and a cessation of suffering, buddhism often gives me this; not all the answers.

Offline BlueSky

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #66 on: November 02, 2012, 12:00:49 am »
There is no such thing as the cessation of consciousness.

If in the first place, there is consciousness, you are right to say my consciousness has ceased.

But, if you never have it even now, there is no such thing called cessation of consciousness.

Water of mirage never cease, because it is never there in the first place.
Enlightenment is simply the clearing away of misunderstanding. When mistaken thinking is gone, liberation has happened. (Gampopa)


When we verbally indicate a thing as 'this' or 'that', our words, like rabbits's horns, are hollow names, mere fictive imputation upon what does not exist. (Longchenpa)

Offline anando

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #67 on: May 09, 2013, 04:16:59 am »
 :r4wheel:
Helo,
i want to refer to the notion of buddhist consciousnes.
1. Consciousness is alreday implated from the beginning of life.
2. Consciousness is fed by the six senses but on the other hand the senses depend on consciousness. The last sentence is contradictionary, but  it works for both sides.
By dissolving the perception in the 8th freeing / Jhanas) also the consciousness is being dissolved.

sakko

Offline brahmacharya

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #68 on: November 12, 2013, 11:16:36 am »
We've touched on this question in other threads but I thought it would be useful to have a thread specifically on this.

Up to 8 types of consciousness are recognised in Buddhism - the first five relate to the senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing), the sixth is mind-consciousness, the seventh is manas, and the eighth is alaya-vinana.

So there is some classification of consciousness in Buddhism - but what actually is it? 

Is it best described as awareness, or knowing, or cognising?  And how is it different from perception?

CP

Different words are used for explanations, but there's really just one consciousness which manifests as all of those. The root of those consciousness - the mind, the senses - is the "I" thought-feeling or awareness. By staying in that awareness, the mind will be stilled automatically and it will be relatively easy for one to concentrate and meditate.
Brahmacharya & Related Topics - a website about brahmacharya/celibacy, asceticism, self-discipline, yoga etc...

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #69 on: November 14, 2013, 06:55:33 am »
Ran across this thread during my morning tour.  It reminded me of a period a few years back when I began a personal study of the topic in earnest, because I sensed that I had no definitive understanding of it, nothing concrete, nor with which I felt the comfort of competence.  Turned out most scientists working in the field of neurological research were experiencing the same syndrome of incompetence, as I discovered when I reviewed the following Ted Talks:

http://www.ted.com/search?cat=ss_all&q=Consciousness

Buddha describes "consciousness" by associating six types with each of the six "sense doors" already mentioned in this thread.
Buddha taught that each of these sense doors required vigilance so as to attenuate and eliminate the effects of the hindrances upon our minds and subsequently upon our behaviors, as a certain monk remarked repeating this teaching when talking about the failure of another, who had recently renounced his training as a follower of The Vinaya Rules for Monks:

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[At Saavatthii a certain monk said to the Ven. Saariputta:]

"Friend, Saariputta, my companion has renounced the training and reverted to the lower life."[1]

"This is what happens, friend, with one whose sense-doors are unguarded, who is immoderate in eating and not given to wakefulness [like that monk]. As long as he lives it will be impossible for him to maintain the holy life in all its fullness and purity. But if a monk guards his sense-doors, is moderate in eating and given to watchfulness, then it will be possible for him, as long as he lives, to maintain the holy life in all its fullness and purity.

"And how, friend, does one guard the sense-doors? In this a monk seeing an object with the eye, does not seize hold of either its general appearance or its details. Because anyone dwelling with the eye-faculty uncontrolled could be overwhelmed by cupidity and dejection, evil and unwholesome states of mind, therefore he practices to control the eye-faculty, guards it and gains control over it. So one guards the sense-doors.

[Similarly with ear, nose, tongue, body (touch), mind]

"And how, friend, is one moderate in eating? In this a monk takes his food properly considering,[2] not for sport, for intoxication, for adornment or beautification, but purely for the maintenance and nourishment of this body, for keeping it unharmed, as an aid to the practice of the holy life, thinking: 'I shall put an end to the old feeling,[3] and not produce any new feeling.[4] Thus I shall keep going, incur no fault, and live at ease.' That, friend, is how one is moderate in eating.

"And how, friend, is one given to watchfulness? In this a monk walks up and down by day and then sits,[5] thus cleansing his mind from obstructive states.[6] [Similarly for the first watch[7] of the night.] In the middle watch of the night, lying on his right side, he adopts the lion posture,[8] resting one foot on the other, mindful and clearly aware, with his thoughts fixed on rising. In the last watch of the night he rises, walks up and down, and then sits, thus cleansing his mind from obstructive states. That, friend, is how one is given to watchfulness.

"Therefore, this is how you should train yourselves: 'We will guard the doors of our senses, be moderate in eating and given to watchfulness.'

"This, friend, is the way for you to train yourself."

source:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn35/sn35.120.wlsh.html


And, what are these hindrances which assault us through our senses?:

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Many are the obstacles which block the road to spiritual progress, but there are five in particular which, under the name of hindrances (nivarana), are often mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures:

Sensual desire (kamacchanda),
Ill-will (byapada),
Sloth and torpor (thina-middha),
Restlessness and remorse (uddhacca-kukkucca),
Sceptical doubt (vicikiccha).

They are called "hindrances" because they hinder and envelop the mind in many ways, obstructing its development (bhavana). According to the Buddhist teachings, spiritual development is twofold: through tranquillity (samatha-bhavana) and through insight (vipassana-bhavana). Tranquillity is gained by complete concentration of the mind during the meditative absorptions (jhana). For achieving these absorptions, the overcoming of the five hindrances, at least temporarily, is a preliminary condition. It is especially in the context of achieving the absorptions that the Buddha often mentions the five hindrances in his discourses.

source:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel026.html

« Last Edit: November 14, 2013, 06:59:26 am by Bodhisatta 2013+314/365 ths »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #70 on: November 14, 2013, 07:04:54 am »
This talk given by Jill Bolt Taylor describes what happens when the central organ of consciousness, the brain, is damaged.  I could relate to this particular talk since I had recently experienced a series of over 100 right brain strokes.

http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #71 on: November 14, 2013, 08:48:56 am »
The Fire Sermon (Aditta-pariyaya-sutta)

Quote


Thus I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Gaya, at Gayasisa, together with a thousand bhikkhus. There he addressed the bhikkhus.

"Bhikkhus, all is burning. And what is the all that is burning?

"The eye is burning, forms are burning, eye-consciousness is burning, eye-contact is burning, also whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with eye-contact for its indispensable condition, that too is burning. Burning with what? Burning with the fire of lust, with the fire of hate, with the fire of delusion. I say it is burning with birth, aging and death, with sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.

"The ear is burning, sounds are burning...

"The nose is burning, odors are burning...

"The tongue is burning, flavors are burning...

"The body is burning, tangibles are burning...

"The mind is burning, ideas are burning, mind-consciousness is burning, mind-contact is burning, also whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with mind-contact for its indispensable condition, that too is burning. Burning with what? Burning with the fire of lust, with the fire of hate, with the fire of delusion. I say it is burning with birth, aging and death, with sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.

"Bhikkhus, when a noble follower who has heard (the truth) sees thus, he finds estrangement in the eye, finds estrangement in forms, finds estrangement in eye-consciousness, finds estrangement in eye-contact, and whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful- nor-pleasant that arises with eye-contact for its indispensable condition, in that too he finds estrangement.

"He finds estrangement in the ear... in sounds...

"He finds estrangement in the nose... in odors...

"He finds estrangement in the tongue... in flavors...

"He finds estrangement in the body... in tangibles...

"He finds estrangement in the mind, finds estrangement in ideas, finds estrangement in mind-consciousness, finds estrangement in mind-contact, and whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with mind-contact for its indispensable condition, in that too he finds estrangement.

"When he finds estrangement, passion fades out. With the fading of passion, he is liberated. When liberated, there is knowledge that he is liberated. He understands: 'Birth is exhausted, the holy life has been lived out, what can be done is done, of this there is no more beyond.'"

That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were glad, and they approved his words.

Now during his utterance, the hearts of those thousand bhikkhus were liberated from taints through clinging no more.

— SN 35.28
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #72 on: November 14, 2013, 08:56:33 am »
Awareness of Consciousness through The Meditative Mind:

In the first paragraph of the following commentary the author points out that one of Buddha's Main Adversaries is the accretion of the senses, Mara.  Therefore, I conclude that the accumulation of the consciousnesses, which arise from the sense contact is equally distracting from the goal of unbinding and release hindered in no small part by what passes through our sense doors:

source:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/khema/herenow.html

Quote
To develop a meditative mind, we also need to calm our senses. We don't have to deny our senses, that would be foolishness, but see them for what they are. Mara the tempter is not a fellow with a long tail and a flaming red tongue, but rather our senses. We hardly ever pay attention to what they do to us when they pull us from an interesting sight to a beautiful sound, and back to the sight, the touch, the idea. No Peace! Our constant endeavor is to catch a moment's pleasure.

A sense contact has to be very fleeting, because otherwise it becomes a great dukkha. Let's say we are offered a very nice meal which tastes extremely good. So we say to our host: "That's a very nice meal, I like it very much." The host replies: "I have lots of food here, please stay around and eat for another two or three hours." If we did, we would not only get sick in body but also disgusted in our mind. A meal can last twenty or at the most thirty minutes. Each taste contact can only last a second, then we have to chew and swallow. If we were to keep it in the mouth any longer, it would become very unpleasant.

Maybe we feel very hot and go to take a cold shower. We say to our friend waiting outside: "Now I feel good, that cold water is very pleasant." Our friend says: "We have plenty of cold water, you can have a shower for the next five to six hours." Nothing but absolute misery would result. We can enjoy a cold shower for ten or twenty minutes at the most.

Anything that is prolonged will create dukkha. All contacts pass quickly, because that is their nature. The same goes for sight, our eyes are continually blinking. We can't even keep sight constant for the length of time we're looking at anything. We may be looking at a beautiful painting for a little while and really like it. Someone says: "You can stay here and look at the painting for the next five hours, we're not closing the museum yet." Nobody could do that. We can't look at the same thing a long time, without feeling bored, losing all awareness, or even falling asleep. Sense contacts are not only limited because of their inability to give satisfaction. They are actually waves that come and go. If we are listening to some lovely music, after a few hours the same music becomes unbearable. Our sense contacts are mirroring a reflection of satisfaction, which has no real basis in fact. That's Mara constantly leading us astray.

There's a pertinent story of a monk in the Buddha's time which relates the ultimate in sense discipline. A married couple had a big row and the woman decided to run away. She put on several of her best saris, one over the other, wore all her gold jewelry and left. After a while the husband was sorry that he had let her go and followed her. He ran here and there, but couldn't find her. Finally he came across a monk who was walking along the street. He asked the monk if he'd seen a woman in a red sari with long black hair and lots of jewelry around her neck and arms. The monk said: "I saw a set of teeth going by."

The monk was not paying attention to the concepts of a woman with long black hair, a red sari, and lots of jewelry, but only to the fact that there was a human being with a set of teeth. He had calmed his senses to the point where the sight object was no longer tempting him into a reaction. An ordinary person at the sight of a beautiful woman with black hair, a red sari and lots of jewelry, running excitedly along the street, might have been tempted to follow her. A set of teeth going by, is highly unlikely to create desire. That is calming the senses.

If we come upon a snake, it's not an object of dislike, or destruction, but just a sentient being that happens to be around. That's all. There's nothing to be done, nothing to react to. If we think of it as a snake that could kill us, then of course, the mind can go berserk, just as the monk's mind could have done, if he had thought "Oh, what a beautiful woman."

If we watch our senses again and again, this becomes a habit, and is no longer difficult. Life will be much more peaceful. The world as we know it consists of so much proliferation. Everywhere are different colors, shapes, beings and nature's growth. Each species of tree has hundreds of sub-species. Nature proliferates. All of us look different. If we don't guard our senses, this proliferation in the world will keep us attracted life after life. There's too much to see, do, know and react to. Since there is no end to all of that we might as well stop and delve inside of ourselves.

A meditative mind is achieved through mindfulness, clear comprehension and calming the senses. These three aspects of practice need to be done in everyday life. Peace and harmony will result, and our meditation will flourish.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2013, 09:02:01 am by Bodhisatta 2013+314/365 ths »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline francis

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #73 on: November 14, 2013, 02:02:32 pm »
This talk given by Jill Bolt Taylor describes what happens when the central organ of consciousness, the brain, is damaged.  I could relate to this particular talk since I had recently experienced a series of over 100 right brain strokes.

http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html


Thanks Ron,

That is an amazing insight into how the brain works. 

Hope you recovery is going well.
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline NepalianBuddhist

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #74 on: November 16, 2013, 06:36:25 am »
Quote
Re: What is consciousness?


The psychological manifestation of the Mind.

 


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