Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

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Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by Dan74 » Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:18 am


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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by jundocohen » Sat Feb 03, 2018 12:24 pm

Hi,

Thanks for the very interesting article. The question of consciousness remains wide open, and science has barely scratched the surface. We have so little understanding now that, personally, I am open to all possible explanations. Our sentience seems significantly dependent on the workings of the brain, yet is it only that? The brain may be tapping into something much more fundamental. The question of consciousness remains one of the great mysteries.

I will just say this about Dogen: While he sometimes spoke of seemingly insentient objects as being sentient, living beings, as here is Shobogenzo Bussho, his meaning is not so specific:
The meaning of “all living beings,” as described now in Buddhism, is that all those that have mind are “living beings,” for minds are just “living beings.” Those without mind may also be “living beings,” for “living beings” are just mind. So minds all are “living beings,” and “living beings” all “have the buddha-nature.” Grass, trees, and national lands are mind itself; because they are mind, they are “living beings,” and because they are “living beings” they “have the buddha-nature.” The sun, the moon, and the stars are mind itself; because they are mind, they are “living beings,” and because they are “living beings” they “have the buddha-nature.”
(http://21dzk.l.u-tokyo.ac.jp/BDK/bdk_se ... um=B2582_2)

This is actually an idea originally from some corners of Tendai Buddhism. For example, the ninth patriarch of the T’ien-t’ai school, Chan-jan, wrote:
[Because of i-nien san-ch’ien, “three thousand worlds in one thought”] we may know that the single mind of a single particle of dust comprises the mind-nature of all sentient beings and Buddhas…. The man who is of all-round perfection, knows from beginning to end that Truth is not dual and that no objects exist apart from mind. Who, then, is “animate,” and who “inanimate”? . . . In the case of grass, trees, and the soil (from which they grow), what difference is there between their four kinds of atoms? . . . How can it still be said unto today that inanimate things are devoid (of the Buddha-nature)?
Now, whether Dogen actually meant that trees and stones, etc., where conscious and thinking like you and me? That's an open question too. He may simply have been imbued with the "animism" that pervades so much of Japanese culture. In Shinto and earlier beliefs, trees and mountains and just about any object has a certain energy, spirit and life. Dogen certainly felt so, as many of his poems reveal. He also demonstrated a great "oneness with nature" as so many of us Zen folks come to feel:

Because the mind is free --
Listening to the rain
Dripping from the eaves,
The drops become
One with me.


I also believe that "mind" is not limited to what is inside us, and there is one sense of this that we already know for sure, and which is fully in keeping with the understandings of modern science: Our sentience is dependent on a brain and sense organs that are built from atoms of elements that came from distant stars. The sense organs evolved in response to outside factors, e.g., our eyes are attuned to the wave lengths of light produced by our sun and present on this world. One sees a "green tree" within one's brain based on photons that likely bounced off something "out there" which enter the eye, are turned into electro-chemical signals that travel from the optic nerve and are turned into some kind of image within the brain which we experience as "green tree." We then may elect to sit under it or cut it down. Because there are trees and the rest of the world perceived "out there," we can develop a sense of "self" that is "in here" in response. In other world, our "minds" are actually cycles and feedback loops in which "inside" is fully dependent on "outside" ... thus our "mind" is not only what is inside us, but the whole feedback loop: inside out, outside in, all beyond the borders of in or out.

In that sense, you and I, our minds and all the rest of us, are truly this universe come alive, made of the stuff of this universe, looking back at itself the universe. We are, in that sense, the universe looking back and pondering itself. Whether "mind" is much more than that, it is too early to say.

Gassho, J
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by fuki » Sat Feb 03, 2018 1:20 pm

Ofcourse consciousness is universal and whatever happens is an expression/manifestation of consciousness. Hence it's quite ridiculous to say this is conscious this is not conscious while that very thought appears in consciousness! There is no division in consciousness, Samadhi clears that one up.

The problem begins when we mistake universal consciousness for something personal or private even the notion "I am conscious" is false so no merit in thinking about whether spoons or tables are or are not, the very idea is already an expression of consciousness. The article is more proof that mind cannot be used to get something from mind.
meldpunt seksueel misbruik in boeddhistische gemeenschappen.
https://meldpuntbg.nl/

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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Feb 03, 2018 9:34 pm

Nope!

I started a thread on Philosophy Forum about a web essay on this very topic, and was delighted when the author (who is also mentioned in that article you posted) actually chimed in (only once, but still.)

My analysis of the flaw of panpsychism in that post was as follows.

I think it is a mistake is to believe that 'experience' is something that can be known in the third person. In other words, experience is not an object of cognition, in the way that an electron or particle or other object can be. We don't know experiences, we have experiences; so experience has an inescapably first-person element: that is, it is undergone by a subject. So we can't objectify 'the nature of experience' in the way we can the objects and forces that are analysed by the natural sciences.

Now, in one sense we can be very clear about our own experiences - we certainly know what an unpleasant or pleasant experience is, and we know that some experiences have specific attributes. But in all cases, we know those things experientially - we know about those attributes, because they are the constituents of our experience, in a way very different from how we know and predict the behaviour of objects according to physical laws.

We can see others having experiences, and infer what they're experiencing, but again, we only know experience by experiencing. Experience is never a 'that' to us.

I think it is true that it was generally felt up until modernity that the Universe was alive. In traditional cosmologies, the world was alive with the spirits of the ancestors, ghosts, Gods, and demons. But that sense is very different to the sense of trying to pinpoint 'consciousness as an attribute of physical matter'. Spirits are not 'objects' but are beings, who are to be propitiated, worshipped, thanked, or feared. So the nature of the relationship is very different to that of a scientist trying to analyse objective properties; it belongs to a different form of historical consciousness.

So, I think the idea of trying to identify what experience, mind, or consciousness is, on the basis of the observed behaviour of objects, or by inferring that it is some property of matter, is profoundly mistaken. It is an attempt to naturalise what is in an epistemic sense prior to any idea of nature.
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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by daibunny » Mon Feb 05, 2018 12:38 pm

All the Buddhas and all sentient beings are nothing but the One Mind, beside which nothing exists. This Mind, which is without beginning, is unborn and indestructible. It is not green nor yellow, and has neither form nor appearance. It does not belong to the categories of things which exist or do not exist, nor can it be thought of in terms of new or old. It is neither long nor short, big nor small, for it transcends all limits, measure, names, traces and comparisons. It is that which you see before you - begin to reason about it and you at once fall into error. It is like the boundless void which cannot be fathomed or measured. The One Mind alone is the Buddha, and there is no distinction between the Buddha and sentient things, but that sentient beings are attached to forms and so seek externally for Buddhahood. By their very seeking they lose it, for that is using the Buddha to seek for the Buddha and using mind to grasp Mind. Even though they do their utmost for a full aeon, they will not be able to attain it. They do not know that, if they put a stop to conceptual thought and forget their anxiety, the Buddha will appear before them, for this Mind is the Buddha and the Buddha is all living beings. It is not the less for being manifested in ordinary beings, nor is it greater for being manifest in the Buddhas.
Huangbo Xiyun d. 850

And for purely practical purposes thats good enough for me.

I loved the article, especially the quote at the end :)

Anyone interested in the current discussion on consciousness is probably already familiar, but if you havent heard Donald Hoffman on the subject yet, check out his videos on youtube. His interface theory of perception is especially interesting and may help explain why we see things the way we do, as separation.
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_ ... ld+hoffman
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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by Fruitzilla » Mon Feb 05, 2018 5:38 pm

I agree with Fuki that it misses the mark. You can theorize and reason about reality until the cows come home, but you'll still not see your original face.

With the caveat that you can never know what finally makes the ball drop of course.

A little change of emphasis on the Huangbo quote to cement my point: :-)
All the Buddhas and all sentient beings are nothing but the One Mind, beside which nothing exists. This Mind, which is without beginning, is unborn and indestructible. It is not green nor yellow, and has neither form nor appearance. It does not belong to the categories of things which exist or do not exist, nor can it be thought of in terms of new or old. It is neither long nor short, big nor small, for it transcends all limits, measure, names, traces and comparisons. It is that which you see before you begin to reason about it and you at once fall into error. It is like the boundless void which cannot be fathomed or measured. The One Mind alone is the Buddha, and there is no distinction between the Buddha and sentient things, but that sentient beings are attached to forms and so seek externally for Buddhahood. By their very seeking they lose it, for that is using the Buddha to seek for the Buddha and using mind to grasp Mind. Even though they do their utmost for a full aeon, they will not be able to attain it. They do not know that, if they put a stop to conceptual thought and forget their anxiety, the Buddha will appear before them, for this Mind is the Buddha and the Buddha is all living beings. It is not the less for being manifested in ordinary beings, nor is it greater for being manifest in the Buddhas.

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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by daibunny » Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:34 pm

Imagine a "Good Post" emoticon here :namaste:
The bridge is flowing, not the water.

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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by Dan74 » Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:09 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Feb 03, 2018 9:34 pm
Nope!

I started a thread on Philosophy Forum about a web essay on this very topic, and was delighted when the author (who is also mentioned in that article you posted) actually chimed in (only once, but still.)

My analysis of the flaw of panpsychism in that post was as follows.

I think it is a mistake is to believe that 'experience' is something that can be known in the third person. In other words, experience is not an object of cognition, in the way that an electron or particle or other object can be. We don't know experiences, we have experiences; so experience has an inescapably first-person element: that is, it is undergone by a subject. So we can't objectify 'the nature of experience' in the way we can the objects and forces that are analysed by the natural sciences.

Now, in one sense we can be very clear about our own experiences - we certainly know what an unpleasant or pleasant experience is, and we know that some experiences have specific attributes. But in all cases, we know those things experientially - we know about those attributes, because they are the constituents of our experience, in a way very different from how we know and predict the behaviour of objects according to physical laws.

We can see others having experiences, and infer what they're experiencing, but again, we only know experience by experiencing. Experience is never a 'that' to us.

I think it is true that it was generally felt up until modernity that the Universe was alive. In traditional cosmologies, the world was alive with the spirits of the ancestors, ghosts, Gods, and demons. But that sense is very different to the sense of trying to pinpoint 'consciousness as an attribute of physical matter'. Spirits are not 'objects' but are beings, who are to be propitiated, worshipped, thanked, or feared. So the nature of the relationship is very different to that of a scientist trying to analyse objective properties; it belongs to a different form of historical consciousness.

So, I think the idea of trying to identify what experience, mind, or consciousness is, on the basis of the observed behaviour of objects, or by inferring that it is some property of matter, is profoundly mistaken. It is an attempt to naturalise what is in an epistemic sense prior to any idea of nature.
Yes, but... this is our experience, the differentiating between animate and inanimate in this way. Autistic people don't and interact much deeper at times with what we see as the inanimate world.


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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by Wayfarer » Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:45 am

That might be true, but it is also beside the point of what I wrote. I had hoped that in one of these two forums that I posted this on, it would be recognised as a criticism based on nondualist principles but alas not. :|
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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by daibunny » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:15 pm

“The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection. The water has no mind to receive their image.”

Who is to say that we arent just the water?
The bridge is flowing, not the water.

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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by Dan74 » Tue Feb 06, 2018 5:23 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:45 am
That might be true, but it is also beside the point of what I wrote. I had hoped that in one of these two forums that I posted this on, it would be recognised as a criticism based on nondualist principles but alas not. :|
I didn't comment on your first point, because it is very plausible ("the eye cannot see itself") and yet we do invent mirrors and models for all manner of impossible things...

My post addressed your second point about relatong to objects.

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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by Wayfarer » Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:40 pm

What bothers me is that I think it’s a truly pseudo-scientific attitude. It’s trying to attribute consciousness to objects, without understanding what it is about consciousness that makes it hard to fathom. And it’s a hard question, because ‘the eye cannot see itself’. Seeing a reflection of the eye, or understanding how eyes operate, doesn’t address that question.

There are many sayings in Zen about the futility of trying to understand mind this way. It’s a subtle point, but it’s quite definite. You can’t see the seer, hear the hearer. So by trying to make an object out of what it is that sees and hears, then you’re misunderstanding what it is that you’re trying to understand.

Current physics is characterised by many fierce debates about what is and isn’t a scientifically valid approach, involving string theory and other matters of physical cosmology. It’s impossible for the layman to even understand the intricacies, but it is reasonably probable that all such arguments will never be resolved or that they’re even resolvable. They’re interminable, classic ‘poison-arrow’ problems, in Buddhist terms. The ‘panpsychism’ theory is similar, in that it’s interminable, and may not even be scientifically verifiable. It’s a wild goose chase, a phantom theory.
The most important thing is not at all important.

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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by Dan74 » Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:54 pm

Maybe, but I'm not sure.

I don't recall a definite statement about awareness or consciousness being beyond conprehension. Maybe it is just not relevant to awakening to analyse it in a scientific manner?

As for string theory etc, my very nonexpert understanding is that the ptinciple scientific problem is verification. Some of those theories rest on hypotheses that we have no idea how to verify or whether we ever will be able to. Which is a problem for scientists.

Mathematicians can just make shit up. But physicists generally like to understand how it relates to the real world we live in and how we can test whether it holds water or not.

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Re: Everything is conscious some experts say- would Dogen agree?

Post by lobster » Wed Feb 07, 2018 7:59 am

Sadly science is often hijacked by the opportunists
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mysticism

However there are credible scientists exploring the nature of our quantum mechanical being.
Q: When physicists finally understand the core of quantum physics, what do you think the theory will look like?
A: I think it will be beautiful.
http://discovermagazine.com/2009/sep/06 ... -mechanics

It may take a new model from or with the help of Quantum AI to know if everything is conscious. I don't feel Dogen will be much help ...

:112:

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