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What is the nature of consciousness? Is consciousness merely a by-product of the physical brain?

Consciousness is perhaps the greatest mystery ever to be presented to mankind. My question is: What is the nature of consciousness? How can the materialistic world view of mankind explain the phenomenon of consciousness. By its nature, which is of a totally immaterial and invisible, with its inner activity of thinking, also a totally invisible activity, which the whole of the scientific world view rests upon..."Thinking". What is thinking if not a non-physical super-sensible invisible, immaterial reality. For the scientific world view to understand itself, it must examine the nature of thinking. And in doing so, the "religious" world view will be able to find something to hang onto.Science and religion can meet on this question. Because it is here where they both fall short. Science cannot explain consciousness out of the materialistic world view. Religion cannot explain evolutionary principles in nature without adapting the scientific world view. The two are locked in an unending battle. Can it be that thinking is,in fact, the "spiritual activity of man"


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  • Mar 12 2011: Hi Santhip and welcome to the discussion !

    I guess I can agree with a lot of what your are saying. There's a lot of ideas in your comment so I think I have to start with just one thing at a time...
    As for consciousness being a "spacial" phenomenon ... I fell first upon the question of time.. as time is seemingly related to space... however if we can extract our perspective long enough out... like imagining that we are floating out into space and then imagining or visualizing the earth spinning around the sun... we are in a way projecting ourselves out of the time element of consciousness. As an astronaut ... the wheel of time is no longer bound to the earthly existence... but the biological clock that continues ticking in our bodies continues...perhaps at a different rhythm than the original biological rhythm that we were born into. What we experience as jet lag is also a disturbance of this biological rhythm . Time is also related to movement... circular movement.. Could become a whole new discussion here... as Tim and I talked about earlier. Concepts of infinity and eternity.... are they real ? How fully do we really understand them.
    I would venture to say that when we die.. the time element becomes a spacial element... This is why we can "see" our whole life pass before our field of vision in a review. The review that Colleen was talking about earlier here on this discussion and the same review that people who have a NDE. The flow of events throughout or lives becomes an object of our perception. Our consciousness, which we experience as an individualized part of the universal consciousness, then expands out into the universal consciousness. The time flow becomes a spacial flow of existence.
    This all sounds pretty far fetched I know... anyone reading this now, without having read my previous comments will surely think this is a conglomeration of a wild imagination... but I think you might follow what I'm getting at...
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      Mar 12 2011: Time comes out of the dual consciousness of subject and object. If there is a subject, and if there is an object to be experienced, then that consciousness can project time from such a state. However, there is no concept of time in a non-dual consciousness. How can there be time when all that remains is the ultimate universal consciousness in the end, which is beyond time ? There is only that primal IS that remains in such a state. So time implies a dual consciousness in place.

      When ultimately one falls into the primal IS of non-dual consciousness, one is everything and nothing at the same time. One isn't then limited by the body, or the biological clock that is associated with the body that is arising out of the dual consciousness of "I" am the "body". One sees the transient happening withing themselves and as not being separate from it at the same time. Such individuals do not "sleep" when they sleep. They are awake even when they are sleeping. Infact if you look at their brain waves when they are awake, it would show delta brain waves, which implies their "waking" state of consciousness is that of "sleep" state of consciousness. I can point you to individuals who can show this any time of the day.

      As far as infinity and eternity goes, yes .. they are real. There is this non-dual state of consciousness which is infinite in its expression, and eternal ( has existed beyond time ). Living proof is in the existence of such individuals described in the paragraph above. But trying to understand them would imply the need to put a box around them, and also calls for an observer/subject "trying" to "understand" them. But when one experiences this non-dual reality of consciousness, there is no one left who is trying to understand. If there is "someone" left trying to understand, then it isn't non-dual consciousness. This reality can only be experienced directly when one stills the mind ( a state of no thoughts)
      • Mar 12 2011: Is it possible to bring this ''still mind'' experience to our dual conscious reality, without fracturing the whole?
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          Mar 12 2011: The whole is "fractured" when we do not recognize and acknowledge all parts of the whole. This is a piece many people are searching for, and it is a matter of remembering.
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          Mar 13 2011: The whole is never fractured. The whole is whole. The ultimate reality is that of non-duality / non-dual consciousness. Any kind of separation from that primal IS would be duality.

          Having said that, for the majority of us non-dual consciousness isn't the living state of awareness/consciousness within us. But there are individuals who have attained such a state ( the evidence for which is very evident especially in their presence). So yes, it is possible to still one's mind, and be open to what is happening in the moment without separating it based on our own individual systems of perceptions and perceptual filters. In fact , upon deeper observation, the greatest inspiration/thought is observed when one has a still mind. It doesn't happen because we continuously were thinking, but when we stilled our mind to allow the thought to happen. So yes.. still mind is always present and can be strengthened using practices with time.
      • Mar 13 2011: Thank you for response, but it is not exactlly what I was asking for..." To be concious is not to be in time" TS Eliot. I believe, that pure consciousness is freed of time.To highly evolved mind, which has filtered out ego noise, reality appears as timeless continuum. But can they deliver,if they choose to, via what? How human mind can shape a thought without sequense,hence time. Language failes, a word kills the very phenomenon it tries to define, music, art, math? Or does it suggest different ways? You said you knew such people, who managed, it's blessing! Do they share knowing or just technic, how to get there and if you manage it's only for you? So it's individual quest? Thank you.
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          Mar 14 2011: Natasha .. You are right when you say pure consciousness ( one which is beyond the moving/thinking mind) is freed of time. And reality as is perceived now would be timeless. Now .. fact is that upto this very moment, this timeless reailty has delivered everything .. The mind seeks to control the delivery though , which is simply impossible .. My teacher used to say, God doesn't need your help to get things done, or your control .. So the simple truth is everything is delivered regardless of the mind's intervention ..

          Whatever needs to happen will happen. And honestly the ego which tries to control simply cannot control everything . Time can only emerge out of an ego/subject-object construct. Because we are familiar with the ego construct, we choose to hang onto the familiar rather than surrendering ourselves to the truth in the moment, which is the timeless reality. And yes, no language/ or any other dualistic medium can put the ultimate reality within a box, but can only help to point to it, rather than completely define it.

          Yes. I know an enlightened teacher, who is willing to give guidance to those who are sincerely seeking the truth of their own being. Her name is Guru Swami-G ( www.guruswamig.com ). I came across her through complete chance encounter on the internet searching about kundalini. She has experienced enlightenment, and has been giving guidance ever since. She has brought a handful of students to direct experience as well. So yes, she is willing to give guidance to those who seek it. Having said that, it still remains a very individual and lonely journey, which must be taken by the individual themselves. But having access to someone who has completed the journey helps in progressing quickly and tremendously.

          And yes .. she doesn't think at all. And she finds that she is still able to get tons of things get done without thinking, in fact more efficiently than before. Have been fortunate to bear witness to this myself.
      • Mar 13 2011: Hi, Mark, do you mean "a condition of a complete simplicity costing not less than everything'' ? And how far an individual can go, still to be in this world? Will you opt for a car,if you can fly?
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          Mar 13 2011: Natasha,
          I think I understood your original question. Is it possible to still the mind without fracturing the whole. You are refering to the whole of the "self"? In your next comment, you ask: "can they deliver, if they choose to, via what?" By that you mean can they function in our world?

          The thought process is still available to us even if we choose to "turn it off" most of the time.
          By taking the path of stilling the mind, we are not giving up anything, but rather, choosing a different focus. It is definetely an individual quest, and each individual may experience it differently. One person may choose to be totally secluded and not use the thinking process at all. Another person may choose to function more actively in the world and use the thinking process on occasion, but generally function from a place of knowing, rather than thinking. Does that make any sense?
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          Mar 14 2011: @ Natasha - Lol .. When one ultimately experiences that non-dual state, it doesn't mean that they go numb. But the illusion of a "me" storyline completely disappears, and what needs to happen will take place without thinking about it . But we are taught to rely on our " thinking" mind in schools, and on the intellect. The ultimate non-dual state is even beyond the intellect. What needs to be taken care of appears within one's consciousness.

          But it doesn't mean that they would lose their sense. If car is cheaper and if they have little money then they will choose car. So what needs to happen will happen.

          But yes, even though I haven't experienced this "non-thinking" state, which is highly unimaginable for the common populace, when one merges with the timeless reality, thinking doesn't take place at all to get everyday things get done.
        • Mar 14 2011: Thinking itself tells you what you know and what you don't know. You can't say I know something without first thinking about the facts that build up your conviction around what you think you know. That you reaffirm yourself about your knowledge is only natural. This we do every time we are put in a situation of uncertainty... we go into your thoughts (call it mind if you will) our memories and check out if that which was a fact is still true. A very simple example is in mathematics ....7x8=56 maybe you have to say to yourself 8x8=64 (because then you can see how 64-8=56 If you didn't remember the 7x8 answer you could go into the table that you remembered in your mind from 3rd grade that yes 8x8 is 64 and much easier for you to remember 8x8=64 and then 64 minus 8 is clearly 56... The logical element is always accessible to our thinking. Our memories are also always accessible but get more and more cloudy as we get older or by our thinkings ability to access our memories. Our thinking accesses our memories just as it accesses our feelings. They lie in a cloudy mass (very cloudy for me these days) Can you remember what happened on Tuesday last week?? Memories lie also in this time stream that we were talking about earlier and the same time stream that we gain full access to in the life review after we die.
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          Mar 15 2011: @Daniel - There is a state of consciousness that is beyond thinking. We do not think all the time. But the awareness is always present. You are reading these words. The awareness of these words takes place. Awareness precedes thinking. The more we rest in this awareness, rather than the thoughts that occur within this awareness, the quieter the mind becomes. When the mind becomes quiet the possibility of experiencing the state of consciousness beyond thinking is open, and then one is cleared of the illusion of a "thinking" me at that point. But for that we need to queiten our mind of thoughts.

          No amount of thinking can out think thinking. It seems that you are mixing ideas of "awareness" in what you are describing as thinking. Again, when one comes back to what is happening in the moment, one can experience that there is no need for any memory to get things done. The answer for 8x8 would be 64, and would come spontaneously. The intuitive mind begins to take precedence.

          Einstein had once remarked that a problem cannot be solved at the same consciousness state that it was formulated. There needs to be a higher consciousness state to "resolve" thinking. And a quiet mind is the place to begin. Slowly and steadily. One step at a time.

          One can use logic to point to the ultimate state. But it can only point. It isn't what it is pointing to. Once we know what it is pointing to, then we jump into the point and experience it. Thinking fails to equate with the direct experience, and has its place as a lower level tool when compared to the higher awareness. The only way to verify this is by experiencing it yourself. There is no other better way to do so.
      • Mar 13 2011: Hello,Colleen, Thank you very much, it was really helpful. Now I see I confused the state of "still mind'' with ''all-at -onceness'' the state of ultimate truth, when there is no you, that's what TS Eliot said "cost not less than everything"he ment life. This state was defined as self/ego singularity, nothing can defy singularity, It's one way joney. I ment to ponder this.
      • Mar 14 2011: What I was trying to say is that the whole subject/object relation is merely a "construction" of thinking.... Thinking is observing the subject (the tree) as well as the object (one's self, or the observer, or the subject) Both are within thinkings observation. So to try to pry out the thinking process to reach some kind of higher consciousness is.... in my mind a self-contradiction... Thinking has pointed you in the direction of a higher conscious. One could never begin the search without the ability to think. To throw out the activity of thinking is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. As for functioning in the world without thinking... well, naively speaking, I guess it could be done, but I guess our way of living would have to be like a monk or a guru in the Himalaya's or the like. In the modern world we have to penetrate the material world with thought and understanding. Our thinking has to be engaged to the fullest to pull us through.... Never would I call thinking the root of evil ... never... Thinking has gotten us into this mess and thinking has got to get us out it !
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          Mar 15 2011: Mark was pointing to how "thinking cannot out-think thinking". Thinking is thinking. And one must go beyond even "thinking" by "not- thinking". That is simply how it is.

          Daniel, it seems you are trying to mix up "awareness" with thinking. Let me define awareness. Awareness is the state of being aware. One can be aware of their body sensations, their emotions, or their thoughts. Thinking is the act of being aware of their thoughts. Concentration is the act of pulling back awareness into what you are doing in the moment rather than get pulled by other thoughts.

          The act of being aware is different from the act of being aware of one's thoughts. One can be aware of anything else. Hence I would like to restrict the definition of thinking to the act of being aware of one's thoughts rather than the act of observing, which is more in line with being aware.

          You do not need to be a monk to flush out thinking. Hundreds do meditation on a daily basis just to be in a quiet mind. It is possible to do this with practice. It is not an easy task to give up thinking and to be in a quiet mind. The modern world has wrongly taught/imbibed us with a sense that a quiet mind is equivalent to being numb. But that is the farthest from the truth. Health benefits of meditation ( quieting your mind ) is more than beneficial. And again, you can easily function more efficiently when your mind is quiet rather than relying on your thoughts. Even though it may seem not to be familiar doesn't mean it can't be done nor contradictory. Simply, It can be done.

          Instead of emphasizing on thinking, I would say it is necessary to go beyond the thinking mind to experience the fuller and ultimate nature of consciousness. It cannot be conceptualized as thoughts and realized as a superfical understanding. But it has to experienced by quietening the mind.
      • Mar 15 2011: Santhip,
        With the word non dual consciousness, do you mean monism?
        • Mar 15 2011: Thanks,Mark,very helpful and confusing again... I would like to give it up, but it bugs me. So enlightenment needs additional contemplation or thinking, so your non-dual awareness must be converted into dual-awareness to become the property of your mind,otherwise how could you possibly be aware , that you have it?
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          Mar 15 2011: Daniel,

          Mark did a good job explaining what non-dual awareness is. I will add my own words to elaborate it as well :-)

          My first reaction after your question of monism was, what is monism ? Is it the "ism" that basically says there is only "one" or is it the "ism" that says there is only one god ? Is it pointing to that which is one with everything and is not separate from anything ?

          Non-dual consciousness would be the consciousness state in which there is no separation. There is no more subject-object consciousness state of duality and thus of separation in it. It is the dual consciousness that is persisting on creating a division between a "me" and the object. In non-dual consciousness, there is no "me" to feel separate from the object. It just IS.

          Non-dual consciousness cannot be fully described conceptually, to be honest. It must be experienced. The individuals who have experienced it says it to be the highest state that can be attained by a man. They would never trade it for all the money in china. Such is the feeling of enlightenment, and end of suffering they percieve.

          Monism, if used to point to that single absolute reality, which is not separate from anything and yet is not affected by the transient, can be useful in equating with non-dual awareness. But if monism is used to point to a "god" ( father figure ) which is separate and controlling the fate of mankind through another concept of sin etc, then it fails to be equal to non-dual awareness. Ultimately this consciousness state can be experienced only by a still mind devoid of thoughts.

          And yes, when you fall into this non-dual awareness, there is no more of the individual "ego" or "me". The "me" has to die before it can experience this non-dual awareness. That is simply the truth of it. :-)
      • Mar 15 2011: Hello, maybe it's time to reconcile the blessing of thinking with the blessing of non-thinking state. As all seeming opposits they are complementary. '' Change favours the prepared mind" Only thinking can push us to persue unthinking state. I mean, it's an option for us, the thinking addicts.
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          Mar 16 2011: Sorry .. not the way to go :)

          Only by practising non-thinking can you let go of thinking .. So active meditation in every moment is the way to go. :-)
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          Mar 16 2011: It is a GREAT way to go Natasha!

          It may not be your way to go, but there are many paths that different people take to achieve what they desire. You are sounding like many religious leaders who say "my way is the only way"!!! That's simply not true.

          You say "only by practicing non-thinking can you let go of thinking...so active meditation in every moment is the way to go".
          Are you familier with the definition of meditation? "To focus one's thoughts; reflecton or ponder over; to plan or project in the mind to engage in contemplation or reflection; a discourse intended to express its author's reflections or to guide others in contemplation".

          You are suggesting only the practice of non-thinking...letting go of thinking AND staying in the state of "active meditation"? That seems contradictory.

          Perhaps you are confusing "mind chatter" or unfocused thoughts with focused thinking? There's a big difference.
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          Mar 16 2011: Doesn't the Gita define many types of yoga - through action, knowledge, devotion, etc...?

          Why should meditation be the preferred method?
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          Mar 17 2011: @ TIm

          Meditation is the act of stilling the mind. One can still the mind through action, dancing, knowledge etc. So meditation ( stilling the mind ) is the preferred method :-)
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          Mar 17 2011: @Colleen - Well.. I guess its like this. Ultimately , the experience of enlightenment leaves one thoughtless. Perhaps I was too harsh in saying "non-thinking is the way to go " as an absolute statement. Maybe : "non-thinking is ultimately the state you attain, where the flow of the universe happens" is exactly what I was referring to :-) I wasn't talking about daily lives :P ( even thought it still can be done without thoughts )

          There are spiritual paths where one sits with a single thought " who am I ? " , and they just sit with it until the answer presents to them with an experience. Even in this path, the mind eventually stills onto a single thought, with attention not being pulled by any other thought, and eventually deconstructing the ego/mind. So thought was useful in this context, but the mind had to be still. I know it sounds scary, but merely stating the facts :-)

          But to experience the ultimate nature one will have to still the mind and even the utility value thoughts hold for us. As the ancients say, you have to give up the "world" ( of thoughts as well) to experience the pearl of great price.
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          Mar 18 2011: Dear Santhip,
          There are many different spiritual paths that all reach the same destination. I am aware of many of them, and many people who follow different paths. It is not at all scary...sorry you percieve it to be. With your belief that there is only one way, you limit yourself:>)
    • Mar 13 2011: Thank you,Mark I wellcome any help.Impressive!!!! A lot of catch up work,and I love it!

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