What is "Mind?"

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Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Canada
Aug 22, 2014 - 07:37pm PT
And it has to be so hard because of what ?

Even without Autism, most people can hold fast to an ideal, even if they stay at the party of ideas too long.

Eventually there is a conclusion that the sentient individual finds truth in. Where this form of peace lies is as individualistic as the individual who feels better because of it.
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Aug 22, 2014 - 08:19pm PT
Basically, the untrained mind is genetically coded to narrow focus from one thing to the next (JL)

"Trained" vs "untrained" is task-specific. To revere an empty mind seems like such a waste . . .
MH2

climber
Aug 22, 2014 - 08:28pm PT
Basically, the untrained mind is genetically coded to narrow focus from one thing to the next, so holding an open focus is basically going against our survival instincts. (JL)



Has no human ever gone against their survival instincts? Without practice?


Basically, I agree with Jim.


But the larger point is that even if I tried it myself and found it impossible to hold an alert open focus without practice and even if a million people told me the same, I would be foolish to claim that none of the billions of humans in all their genetic, cultural, and traumatic brain injury variety has ever done so.

It sounds as though even a single exception to your claim about alert open focus would undermine your confidence in your own experience. Your experience can stand on its own but you should not push it on everyone. That is what religious zealots do.

jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Aug 22, 2014 - 08:37pm PT
You will never, under any circumstance, meet someone who can hold an alert, open focus without prolonged practice (JL)

A conviction borne of personal experience and lots of data no doubt. If you say so.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 23, 2014 - 11:57am PT
You will never, under any circumstance, meet someone who can hold an alert, open focus without prolonged practice (JL)

A conviction borne of personal experience and lots of data no doubt. If you say so.


John, this is not a case of me "saying so" based on my guessing about what I believe or in trying to bolster my position or any succh thing. MH2 is arguing simply because he likes to challenge anyone claiming anything catagorically - with the excepting of someone providing a measurement. But notice what he will NOT do - try it on for size himself and report back as he was invited to do. As is, he's arguing about Paris having never been there, always trying to find an exception to undermine, and missing Paris entirely. Judgement sans inveestigation is truly a duffer's trap.

And an Open Focus does not translate to an "empty mind," but rather to the direct experience of emptiness, or no-thing-ness. Big difference.

I view allof this talk as unconscious discusive rants demanding, beseeching the opposite to be false, unverifiable, invalid, etc. However when it comes time to actualy do the testing, to put the hypothesis to work, we get nothing back but more talk. Mercy . . . It's basic science. Here is the theory - you cannot hold an open focu for long without training. You doubt the theory, simply test it. No woo or mystery to it.

Per the "data," that data is overwhelmingly robust, reaches back thousands of years and exists in all meditation halls and in any text that goes into personal or 3rd person (in the case of teachers) accounts of people dealing with the challenges of practicing alert, empirical self observation. There is no instance in the literature, nor yet will you find any teacher or practitioneer who has either experiences, or data of others, who right off the bat simply sat down and dropped into the space between thoughts, sensations, memories, desires, etc. and could hang there witout being shanghaied by the first idea that came along, then snapping back to a while later and wondering where they went, how they lost the open focus, etc.

The practice is a proces and no one skips rungs, though some are faster than others. But be a good scientist and don't take my word for it. Test the theory for yourself, or read about it if your are scared or bored or lazy or can't be bothered for whatever reason - and tell us your experience, or what you have read about people getting started with no-mind self observation. What people struggle with is that this is not an inherent skill, and that someone, somewhere has dicked it with no practice - which is as ludicrous as claiming someone could master writing sonnets or playing the violin or doing hard math with no practice at all. They could just step up and do it.

Not ever . . .

More later. Time to go riding.

JL
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Aug 23, 2014 - 04:16pm PT
Thanks Base, for the heads up on the new Scientific American and you should read the new chapter by Sam Harris in return. http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/chapter-one

I do really like what Harris has written. I was thinking as I read it that he covers many of the same issues I always did in my comparative Asian religion classes. As for religion, he doesn't espouse any, but he's got Buddhist philosophy oozing out of his pores.

For all those who read Largo and get confused, try Sam Harris. He says much the same thing about emptiness and no thingness and loss of self, but in slightly different vocabulary which often helps. Harris seems to have mostly followed the Theravada school of philosophy and meditation which is an entirely different branch than Zen, so it's interesting to see the similarities and differences.

Harris also takes the very classic Buddhist approach of discussing things from the personal up. Are you happy and what does happiness mean anyway? If you aren't, how can you acquire happiness? No talk of cosmology or metaphysics at all, but an emphasis on personal ethics instead.

The great British historian of the rise and fall of civilizations, Arnold Toynbee, often said that the most important event of the 20th century is that Buddhism made it to the West. I thought of this often as I read Harris. His secularized Buddhism (the Theravadins say this was the original Buddhism) is the type that will take hold I'm sure. It is skeptical of all isms, sees the shortcomings of both religion and science in human affairs, at the same time believing that the findings of neuroscience will help us to understand why these age old techniques of meditation work. He sees meditation as a method of building a better and happier and more ethical brain. No woo.

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Aug 23, 2014 - 04:32pm PT
For all those who read Largo and get confused, try Sam Harris.

lol, I was going to post up the same thing yesterday, but then I got distracted. Darn the discursive! discursive this and that, discursive wanting, discursive surfing, discursive reading. At bottom, discursive out of control, unregulated thinking I guess. No wonder half the time I feel like a bb in a tin can in a wash machine!

But I'm not sure I got a lot out of it, this first chapter. But I'll withhold judgment and wait to see. Frankly, his writing on this one seemed, well, a bit "discursive," but we'll see later.

I agree though on this. Given the "poverty of language" concerning all the many and various new schools of thought and thinking going on ushered in by the modern secular age, there is a place for "spiritual" even among the atheists, non-religious, scientific and others, imo, although of course the definitions need to change depending on area, field or context.

"Spiritual" doesn't necessarily need to mean ghostly or pertain to woo.
WBraun

climber
Aug 23, 2014 - 05:19pm PT
How ironic HFSC and Sam Harris both atheists following Buddhist philosophy.

Buddha was none other than God himself but never said he was.

He preached Ahimsa non violence against animals and all living entities.

The Brahmanas during that period used a vedic animal sacrifice for eating animals.

There was never any injunction for killing animals for sense gratification.

The sacrifice was for releasing the soul of the animal to get a higher body namely human.

They only used a very old animal.

It was a test of their brahmical powers.

Because Buddha preached against the vedas it was considered atheistic.

But only God himself can do this correctly by cheating the atheists to stop further Karmic reactions that will occur in their next lives.

After Buddha disappeared from view to the materialists he returned as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and drove Buddhism out of India and reestablished the vedic consciousness.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu defeated all the atheists, impersonalists, the mayavadis, and the Buddhists.

The Buddhists maintain that the principle "I am" is the Ultimate Truth, but this excludes the individuality of "I" and "you."

If there is no "I" and "you," or individuality, there is no possibility of argument.

The Buddhist philosophy depends on argument, but there can be no argument if one simply depends on "I am." There must be a "you," or another person also.

The philosophy of duality--the existence of the individual soul and the Supersoul--must be there.

This is confirmed in the Second Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Aug 23, 2014 - 05:59pm PT
Harris writes,

"1. The moment we admit the possibility of attaining contemplative insights—and of training one’s mind for that purpose—we must acknowledge that people naturally fall at different points on a continuum between ignorance and wisdom. Part of this range will be considered “normal,” but normal isn’t necessarily a happy place to be. Just as a person’s physical body and abilities can be refined—Olympic athletes are not normal—one’s mental life can deepen and expand on the basis of talent and training. This is nearly self-evident, but it remains a controversial point. No one hesitates to admit the role of talent and training in the context of physical and intellectual pursuits; I have never met another person who denied that some of us are stronger, more athletic, or more learned than others. 2. But many people find it difficult to acknowledge that a continuum of moral and spiritual wisdom exists or that there might be better and worse ways to traverse it... 3. Stages of spiritual development, therefore, appear unavoidable."

I thought this was an interesting section. All three points, at least thought-provoking.

This one, too, regarding first person mental facts...

"Every mental state you have ever had has arisen and then passed away. This is a first-person fact—but it is, nonetheless, a fact that any human being can readily confirm. We don’t have to know any more about the brain or about the relationship between consciousness and the physical world to understand this truth about our own minds."

So we can gather together facts (collect into a body of knowledge) about our minds and how they work, also facts about first-person sujectivity, that many if not most should be able to agree on.

Now of course I knew this before just as millions do but it is nice to hear it expressed every so often for reinforcement sake. Maybe someday it will be a part of a new modern secular belief system for getting on in life that millions will share in as a kind of common ground.

Iow, what he's discussing here is the issue or claim that there are objective facts about subjective experience. No wonder we are sometimes confused between objective and subjective.

And I like to ponder this, too, as a variation in terms of "mental life." So thus, version #2: there are objective facts to be known, to be discovered, to be learned, to be taught, about our "mental lives."

My "mental life" was busy as a bee today, everywhere discursive but also productive, I think. :)

.....

Still a personal favorite of Sam Harris: Insofar as it's a pointless universe and we're mortal... "How can we create lives that are truly worth living, given that these lives come to an end?"

I think it's right up there with: To be or not to be?
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Aug 23, 2014 - 06:18pm PT
which is as ludicrous as claiming someone could master writing sonnets or playing the violin or doing hard math with no practice at all. They could just step up and do it (JL)

Good Will Hunting notwithstanding - that movie was a real stretch.


;>)
MH2

climber
Aug 23, 2014 - 07:41pm PT
There is no instance in the literature, nor yet will you find any teacher or practitioneer who has either experiences, or data of others, who right off the bat simply sat down and dropped into the space between thoughts, sensations, memories, desires, etc. and could hang there witout being shanghaied by the first idea that came along (JL)


That does not guarantee, as you claim, that no one has ever done that.


How much do music, sonnet-writing, and math share in common with holding an open focus?


The interesting thing to me is that you are unwilling to qualify your statement. You insist on the unverifiable absolute rather than say that holding an open focus is merely difficult and to the best of your knowledge requires practice.
jstan

climber
Aug 23, 2014 - 08:20pm PT
That does not guarantee, as you claim, that no one has ever done that.
MH2

Based just on his perceptions, JL is long on knowing what can't be done. It is left to us to get used to letting all this just float by.


ood Will Hunting notwithstanding - that movie was a real stretch.
JG

Millions of people are letting the possibility of being a Warren Buffet guide their vote. I hope it is less serious when I wonder why I can't read as fast and remember as well as Will Hunting. He was pretty stupid on one level though. Wondering whether he should check into Minnie Driver. That is pretty bad.

MH2

climber
Aug 23, 2014 - 08:24pm PT
Thank you. Yes. Open focus. Things float by.
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Aug 23, 2014 - 08:51pm PT
Reading fructose's comments on Harris, I feel I should clarify that while I saw Buddhism all over what Harris wrote, and he admits he has spent as much as two years in silent meditation altogether, unless you are very familiar with Buddhist vocabulary, you probably won't perceive it that way but will simply see his writings as a modern secular philosophy as does fructose.

For sure, he has found a way to discuss meditation and other than normal states of mind in a neutral enough way, that what he says will be accepted by a large spectrum of people. I admire this because I personally struggled hard to speak in an absolutely neutral way in comparative religion classes. Almost every word to describe the inner subjective world is so loaded with cultural and religious baggage, it's a real challenge.
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Aug 23, 2014 - 09:59pm PT
Well Sam is very "Deterministic".
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Canada
Aug 23, 2014 - 11:00pm PT
Werner,

Please explain the theistic context which the "untouchables" find themselves in, as prescribed by Brahmins.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Aug 24, 2014 - 08:30am PT
Semantics can be a bitch.

WBraun

climber
Aug 24, 2014 - 08:43am PT
Please explain the theistic context which the "untouchables" find themselves in, as prescribed by Brahmins.

This is a material designation created by stupid British.

Research it.

There is no such designation on the spiritual platform .....
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Aug 24, 2014 - 09:25am PT
The Indian caste system is based on the conquest of India by other groups. The people at the bottom are the original stone age inhabitants who were one of the first migrations out of Africa. In some areas like the Himalayas, they were remote enough to retain their tribal identity. In the populated plains, they became the casteless people the British labeled untouchables. They are considered polluting for the work they do - including killing animals (one whole group catches rats from the fields and that is the main stay of their diet), cleaning toilets, carrying corpses etc. Some of them in the west, seem to have obtained that status through mixing with Alexander's soldiers as there are not a few with blue or green eyes and light hair.

Just above them are the majority who are agricultural workers, above them the merchants, above that the warrior caste and on the top, the Brahmin priests, educators, and intellectuals. In general, the darker the skin, the longer time spent in India, and the lower the caste. The invading Indo-Europeans did however, give honorary Brahmin status to some of the indigenous Dravidian priests who were already there and had a highly developed society along the river banks while the tribals lived in the jungle.

The caste system created a very stable agrarian society with a large food surplus and over time, was incorporated into religious teachings to justify the privileges of those at the top. You can make an almost one for one comparison with the system of slavery and segregation that existed in America in the south, complete with scriptural quotations as to why that system was God ordained.

Jesus mixed with Samaritans, the Untouchables of his day. Buddha had many close untouchable followers. Both great spiritual leaders broke with the stratified societies of their time. Millions of untouchable Indians have converted to Islam in the past and Buddhism more recently. A significant number are also becoming Christian. Educated Hindus do not believe in caste and almost all modern Hindu religious leaders have spoken against it. As we have seen from our recent riots however, changing people's hearts and minds and the elite power structure is a slow process.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Aug 24, 2014 - 10:13am PT
What people struggle with is that this is not an inherent skill, and that someone, somewhere has dicked it with no practice - which is as ludicrous as claiming someone could master writing sonnets or playing the violin or doing hard math with no practice at all. They could just step up and do it.

Not ever . . .


I agree with Largo on this... in the age of Google it has become easy to opine on something based on the opinions of others.

Take climbing, for instance... a fraction of the climbs that have been done are every repeated, based largely on the communication of the opinions of "quality" and a shared communal esthetic that changes as a fashion. Not unlike the clothing worn by the participants, and about as deeply motivated.

If you take nothing else from Largo's entreaties, take his implore to go out and do it (and you can fill in what "it" is). Often, it is more important to walk down a path, what ever path, than to sit and discuss what you will find at the end of that path, and especially if you never get around to the journey.

Being a scientist doesn't have a lot to do with sitting around taking about science, it has a lot to do with doing science. And to do science requires a lot of practice... reading popular accounts from scientists doesn't get you very far...
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