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SANTHIP  KANHOLY

Graduate Research Assistant, Virginia Tech : Aerospace & Ocean Engineering

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What does science has to say about enlightenment or the consciousness of an enlightened individual ?

All religions speak of a non-dual consciousness state which can be experienced individually. My question is what does science has to say about enlightenment that has been experienced by Buddha and other present day enlightened individuals ? What can it say to help us in pointing towards that non-dual state of consciousness ?

I have been fortunate enough to have access to an enlightened individual. So I have been witness to how different they are. I want to know what does science have to say about the consciousness

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      Mar 24 2011: In the buddhist definition, nirvana is defined by no longer experiencing suffering, no longer being reborn, seeing into the essential nature of reality (which includes seeing/experiencing all thing as impermanent, seeing things as essentially not having a self, and seeing things as ultimately unsatisfactory).

      Essentially, an awakened person, through practice that leads to insight into the nature of their own minds (and reality) is no longer subject to the negative emotions that tend to govern and control our lives. In a lot of ways, it can be said that an awakened person is the king of their domain and has full control of all their actions because they see through a lot of the nonsense that makes up our daily lives. For example, an un-awakened person would get hit by a friend and react with anger, sadness or whatever. The awakened person, in the same situation might respond with compassion for the person, or with sensibility or whatever. This is because the awakened person sees the big picture (or the ultimate picture), he is not caught up in the details of why this person hit him or how or how he should react in retribution. In Chinese Zen, a term was coined as "host" and "guest"...The awakened Master is the host and the students are the guests. Because the host hosts emotions and experiences whereas the guest is controlled or conquered by emotions and experiences. The host knows the whole house and reacts accordingly. The guest only knows one room and reacts accordingly.
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          Minh Do

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          Mar 25 2011: Hi Birdia, Wow. That's a broad stroke of different schools of thought and practices that I'm not sure I could answer comprehensively. But I will try my best here...

          From what I have studied in Zen (Ch'an) Buddhism, they are all linked. Chinese Zen takes its roots through Indian Buddhism (Bodhidharma) and Japanese and Korean takes their roots from Chinese. In Zen, they consider the unbroken lineage of Masters as paramount. A sidenote on that though, if you check out one of my favorite books, Swampland Flowers which features talks, letters and responses from Master Ta-Hui. In the introduction they make reference to a rather famous quotation in Ch'an, that "half a man is better than no man", which means that sometimes a Master cannot find a successor that is equal in his level of realization but is enough to pass on the torch to the next generation. Having said that, there's also famous stories (specifically in Ta-Hui's case) wherein the student's realization surpasses the Masters and the Master has full acknowledgment of that (Ta-Hui's Master actually used to come down from the pulpit and sit and listen to his own student's lectures). You can make of that what you will...

          My knowledge of Hinduism (philosophy and especially practice) is very limited so I'll refrain from making comparisons there, but will say that I think that the thesis that "all religions point to the same realization" may be a bit hasty, especially given the above.

          If we want to look at orthodox Mahayana schools (and also evidenced in root Theravadin texts) there are certainly different levels of realization. At the root of the Mahayana awakening is compassion and the vows to stay in this world until all suffering is over (arguably never). In non-Mahayana, one only seeks to leave samsara and end suffering for oneself. The types of mental practice are certainly different and arguably lead to different mental experiences.
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          Mar 25 2011: Anytime! This is certainly one of my favorite topics. And i do hope that neuroscience will take greater interest in the topic. Theres a book titled Zen and the Brain but i have yet to open it up. Now if only the mind as byproduct discussion was less cluttered we could get into some meat. Hehe. Although i have been loving some statements people have been making. Your take?
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          Minh Do

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          Mar 28 2011: Birdia, I know what you mean. It seems people don't like to stick with hard facts and argue through the validity of statements. Nevertheless, one of the things I did like was Kathy K's statement that thoughts are not generated by the brain but pass through the brain. Not sure how true this is, but it is certainly provocative. But then we would have to come up with a more agreeable definition of "thought".
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        Apr 5 2011: I guess it would be better to say an awakened person allows emotion to pass through them, rather than allowing the emotions to run around the center of an ego or an individual identity with the transient ( body , achievements , possessions etc )

        A zen master can display anger too. Just wanted to say that here.. from what you have said it would seem like all masters are compassionate, and they cannot display a "negative" emotion per say.... But would say that they donot allow emotions to affect the peace within, be it anger or compassion :)

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