Is awareness in the brain?

Omkaradatta's picture



Average: 4.5 (6 votes)

Somebody recently suggested on a blogging that science has proved awareness is in the brain. Actually this isn't the case, and I thought I would address this subject on my own blogging.

Science has shown that when some brain area is stimulated, it can arouse a certain memory or sensation. This shows that the mind is associated with the brain. Actually the brain and the mind are one, as certain mind states (such as depression) affect the brain as much as doing something to the brain affects the mind. It's likely that if the brain were destroyed, the mind would be destroyed along with it.

But what of awareness? Who or what is aware of being conscious, aware of thinking the thoughts, aware of the sensations?

Before the scientist stimulated the brain, the patient was aware of nothing in particular. During the stimulation, the patient was aware of the sensation. And after, the patient remained aware. Awareness was not shown to be affected by messing with the brain at all.

Awareness is actually timeless, beyond time -- if we were moving in time ourselves, the hands of the clock would appear to stand still. Instead, we witness time "going by us" or progressing. This suggests that we are outside time altogether. Obviously, as the brain is itself in time, aren't we existing prior to the brain?

Nisargadatta Maharaj: "Wherever you go, the sense of here and now you carry with you all the time. It means that you are independent of space and time, that space and time are in you, not you in them. It is your self-identification with the body, which, of course, is limited in space and time, that gives you the feeling of finiteness. In reality you are infinite and eternal."

Awareness cannot be said to be located in the brain, or anywhere in particular. It's always Here, and it is independent/primary. Scientists have not shown that the brain supports awareness, but rather the awareness of the scientist supported his/her brain research!



mika's picture

An issue of defintion

I think the main issue is not whether awareness is in the brain (i.e. body) or not but how you exactly define awareness. Different spiritual paths use different definitions for awareness as well as for consciousness and so science and western psychology.

Additionally, as mainstream science yet does not recognize metaphysics as a valid option it is pointless to discuss their proofs as they are based on an axiom that only whatever is perceived can exist.

I have come through the years to the conclusion that mind is a product of the brain and therefore awareness which is clearly a faculty of the mind (e.g. disappears in deep sleep) is in the brain. Consciousness, the soul, on the other hand is metaphysical, beyond the brain, the body, and the mind. But all this of course will remain a speculation until I physically die.

mika | Sat, 02/07/2009 - 20:54
Phroggy's picture

~

Yes, it's no doubt true that science is defining awareness diferently, though I'm not sure how different it is from your definition. Awareness does not disappear in deep sleep, which highlights the difference between being aware and being 'aware of' something.

Awareness of something is often referred to as consciousness. There would be no way of knowing if one is conscious unless he is conscious of something, and so they are the same; consciousness is it's content. Clearly, consciousness comes and goes along with the perception of things, whether it be sensory perception or 'mind objects', but awareness is a different matter.

In order for someone to be conscious of things, he must first have awareness; 'he' must exist and be aware. Otherwise, when you are not conscious, you cease to exist, and that's not so. In deep sleep, Awareness is just as present as ever, but consciousness has ceased because there is no perception, and so there are no traces left in the mind. You do not wake up in the morning and remember existing in deep sleep, but of course you did.

An interesting way to look at is that in deep sleep you are 'Awakened', without the delusion of ego and thought. When you 'wake up' in the morning, You are actually going to sleep; reentering the illusion of 'me'. You love deep sleep because you are unburdened by the 'me' and it's world that you believe you must manage.

Phroggy | Sat, 02/07/2009 - 21:37
Omkaradatta's picture

Is it not You?

"I have come through the years to the conclusion that mind is a product of the brain and therefore awareness which is clearly a faculty of the mind (e.g. disappears in deep sleep) is in the brain."

Is it not You that came to such a conclusion? If so, aren't You prior to that which was concluded? Without You being there first, what conclusion can ever be made about anything?

People assume there can be an external world, without them being there to perceive it. From here, it just makes no sense. Your world is not separate from you -- it's in your mind. All the borders, boundaries, dividing lines, scales of values, etc. are there. Give them up and they will fade from your vision, including the notion that the external world is objective and separate from you.

One can only do this... there's nothing to fear from it. What one needs to know, they just know. There's no need to keep anything in the mind, to keep the mind spinning all the time.

P.S. there's just no such thing as objectivity. Everybody is seeing subjectively, and "social agreement" does not equate to reality. All we can really Know is our own existence. In my view, the acceptance of this is a major step on the spiritual path, as all attachment is to what we consider objective. Interestingly, the body is objective to us too.

The Knower of the body, brain, mind and world is real. So what wants to transcend the mind? The mind ;-). The witness of this desire for transcendence is already Beyond.

http://www.omkaradatta.info

Omkaradatta | Sun, 02/08/2009 - 01:12
mika's picture

"Is it not You that came to

"Is it not You that came to such a conclusion? If so, aren't You prior to that which was concluded? Without You being there first, what conclusion can ever be made about anything?"

No by any basic logic. You can conclude about something and not be prior to that something, without being there first.

"Your world is not separate from you -- it's in your mind."

This is based on theory. When you wake up in the morning from deep sleep there were happenings during the night in a world which is coherent with the world of yesterday. There can be a theory developed also for that (the mind generates the happoenings etc etc). I prefer to base my assumptions on simple personal direct experience.

mika | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 08:33
Omkaradatta's picture

OK, then...

> You can conclude about something and not be prior to that
> something, without being there first.

Such as? What can I conclude, without being here first to conclude it?

> ("Your world is not separate from you -- it's
> in your mind.") -- This is based on theory.

OK, then:

*My* world is not separate from *me*, it's in *my* mind. This is based here on simple personal direct experience.

> I prefer to base my assumptions on simple personal direct
> experience.

Good.

http://www.omkaradatta.info

Omkaradatta | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 09:19
Phroggy's picture

~

"No by any basic logic. You can conclude about something and not be prior to that something, without being there first."

Can we discuss this? Hehe.
You had stated (in effect) that brain produces mind which produces awareness. Tim suggestd that whatever you are, which is clearly aware of brain and mind, must be 'prior to' brain and mind instead of 'after' brain and mind, meaning if awareness is the result of something, it can't know what it is the result of, so what it is aware of must come 'after'. IOW, awareness must be present to be aware of brain and mind, so that brain and mind are happening as 'objects' of your awareness.

It's the same realization contained in the idea that if something is the source of thought, it cannot, itself, be thinking, just producing thought, so we say it is prior to thought. Similarly, that which forms the illusion of time does not, itself, exist in time. Does that make sense?

Phroggy | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 09:25
Omkaradatta's picture

What I found interesting...

What I found interesting was this: First I said "Your world is not separate from you, it's in your mind". She replied by giving an example *from her mind* (a memory of going to bed, and a memory of waking up, and a memory of 'coherence' between the two) in order to assert that "your world is in your mind" is only a theory!

I s'pose these pointers are probably useless, eh? :-p.

http://www.omkaradatta.info

Omkaradatta | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 10:35
salim's picture

simple

You misinterpret what she said or you didn't understand her. She is directing you to the simple experiential tool. Why complicate the simple.

salim | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 11:04
Omkaradatta's picture

What do you mean?

I don't complicate anything simple, I merely offer pointers to direct experience here that can be 'looked at' and partaken experientially by the reader, if they so desire. It's like saying "look, there a bird up in the tree".

If the reader's answer is "look for yourself", my answer is only: I am already looking, or I wouldn't be pointing at it. If the answer is "that's not a bird" or "I don't see anything", that's OK, I don't mind -- nonetheless, a bird is seen here.

http://www.omkaradatta.info

Omkaradatta | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 11:36
Phroggy's picture

~

Experience is fundamentally an expression of Awareness happening within Awareness, and so it takes on the qualities of a nightly dream. "An experiential tool", then, is an oxymoron. There are no tools that are not also dream tools and can proove only dream events, and so to point at one's dream experience as proof that it is not a dream is pointless.

She says, 'See, I wake up in the morning and something appears to have happened while I was sleeping. My waking dream has continuity and so it can't be a dream.' You can never find anything within a dream to proove it's not a dream.

Phroggy | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 20:47
Phroggy's picture

~

"I s'pose these pointers are probably useless, eh? :-p."

As long as they see us as childish, ego driven theorists, yes, it's pointless. :)~

Phroggy | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 20:52
Phroggy's picture

~

"Awareness is actually timeless, beyond time -- if we were moving in time ourselves, the hands of the clock would appear to stand still. Instead, we witness time "going by us" or progressing. This suggests that we are outside time altogether. Obviously, as the brain is itself in time, aren't we existing prior to the brain?"

This is actually a very helpful realization that anyone can have if they will stop and look, and for the skeptics, no, it is not a conceptual theory.

Ask yourself some very basic questions like, how do I know cold from hot, and you'll see that everything you know must rest on a relative foundation of some kind. Cold is known as 'not hot' and hot is known by 'not cold'.

From there, take it into the perception of time. How do I know time is happening? If time were to stop now and then, then you could say, 'I know time because it is not that stopped time thing, but it doesn't stop. As Tim says, if there were only time, you would be floating in a river of time observing the river and it would not be moving, so 'something' must be standing on the bank watching the river flow. You must be perceiving time from the timeless or you would know nothing of time.

From there, you can take it another step. In the same way that you can't perceive time flowing while in the flow, you can't perceive Self while Being the Self.

Phroggy | Sat, 02/07/2009 - 21:57
dasein's picture

There's awareness even in dreamless sleep

There's awareness in dreamless sleep, because you wouldn't even know there was such a thing as dreamless sleep if there wasn't awareness in that state.

dasein | Mon, 04/07/2014 - 19:24
angel76's picture

Why can't I know?

Why can't I know? by inference, by the fact of a memory gap, by deduction, by hearsay... dreamless state is a name given to the state in which one is asleep and has no dreams.

PS. I know that there is such a thing called Australia although I've never been there.

angel76 | Mon, 04/07/2014 - 21:23
dasein's picture

We know too much about dreamless sleep

How do we know what dreamless sleep is not? We know it's not Australia or anything else but itself. The little we experientially know about dreamless sleep is already too much to say there's no awareness in that state. What do we already know about dreamless sleep to think about it in the waking state as we do? Sure it's definitely not like being aware in the dream state or awake in the physical world state.

Usually dreamless sleep is thought of as a past state, a memory or projected memory, but I can have the experience of noticing it simultaneously with the waking state in present time, that is, recognizing being awake and in dreamless sleep at the same time. I think it's common to miss this because the intensity of sensory experience has a glaring out effect. As I see it, dreamless sleep is perhaps the ultimate high contrast background to everything.

dasein | Tue, 04/08/2014 - 04:05