Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Extraordinary Gift of the Mind : Part-1

Presence in its activity of Experiencing gets bound by the Fundamental Process which results in organizing of the experiences, which we call knowledge. The Fundamental Process shapes this activity in many ways, like running water shapes the land. It takes the form of an entity where we can lump together activities of organizing. This entity has already been introduced as the Mind. It feeds on itself creating more organization, more structure, more meaning and more activity. This is by necessity, because an entity which does not do this will surely not be there to be experienced as a structure, given the force of impermanence. If you are wondering what these sentences mean, then probably you jumped into the middle of it all, so please read previous entries to make a head and tail out of this text.

The self sustaining mega structure, the Mind is truly an extraordinary thing. I think the Presence is proud of it, it is the beloved child of the Presence. The love is so deep that in the form of the Self, Presence thinks it is one with the Mind. It is all good, until the suffering begins. Well, how come suffering just appeared here out of nowhere in this pure love of the mother and the child? Did Mind come with a built in suffering generator? Did the Fundamental Process left it there as a bug, while calling it a feature ;-)?


Suffering as Ignorance

Here we arrive at the answer to an age old question – why is there suffering? The short version of the answer is – there is no suffering fundamentally speaking, its only a temporary occurrence. Suffering is an illusion, but a realistic one. 

Being an experience, and being a result of the Fundamental Process, the Mind is very much impermanent, it doesn’t last. Identification of the Self with the Mind causes an uneasy feeling to the Self, of it being slowly trapped, deprived of the freedom, and being destroyed [1]. It is just ignorance, as a partial knowledge that the Self is the Mind, or even human mind, which it is, but only for a while, it is just going through the process of the Mind. This process matures sooner or later and the knowledge is completed. As soon as the Self realizes that it was not the Mind, and it is not being destroyed or changed or becoming any less, a light bulb goes on. The Self breaks the identification with the Mind, it lets it happen, the attachment turns into unconditional love, and the suffering disappears. It was not there to start with, it was just the ignorance.

Here we see the importance of the suffering, it means that the Self with its Mind is nearing the end of the ignorance, the knowledge is on the threshold of being complete. Very soon the Self will see the Mind as a structure, a beautiful one, instead of a confusing labyrinth full of pain, pleasure and suffering. If one is not even suffering, then one is deep into the ignorance, blissfully so. Suffering makes one question the existence, which leads him to the questions like - who am I and why am I suffering, and soon the answers come. Suffering is a door to knowing.

So growing out of suffering is an important phase of the Mind, and it has that capability. It is available to all of us.

Often, the Self will not stop at the Mind, it descends deeper and identifies itself with other structures that the Fundamental Process conjures up, such as the survival processes, bodies, biological organs, and even the surrounding physical environment [2]. This makes the path of knowledge very twisty, rocky and full of pits. More about that later, right now we want to explore this incredible thing – the Mind !

Capabilities of the Mind

The structure of the Mind, endows the Self with certain fine capabilities. The Self itself has no capabilities/qualities, except of being conscious, being the witness. It is pure, almost pure strictly speaking because it’s a product of the Presence, the purest of all. Mind gives it certain abilities, tools, novel experiences, toys and weapons to play with. Self likes this play. Self knows its other aspects through the use of the Mind. This is what Mind is for – for the pleasure of the Self. Not to be taken very seriously, as it comes and goes. It is impermanent.

The Mind puts the Self right in the middle of dualities. So every quality comes with a price of an associated affliction. As we discussed before, the Mind as a knowledge creator puts limitations on the Self, providing it a temporary VR like view and making it forget what it is. We will go through a list [3] of these qualities and study what they are and also try to find some solution for the various afflictions to make the play more pleasurable.

1.    Perception

Perception is a process by which the Mind presents the Experiencing to the Self in an organized form. For example, the Presence can be experienced as a physical world via the percepts of vision, hearing, taste, touch and smell etc. These are nothing but patterns in the Experiencing. A collection of patterns is an Object. Human mind has this extraordinary ability to assign a location to an object. It does that by organizing the experience of an object with another useful structure called the Space. It is most obvious in case of vision, less in case of hearing and almost non-existent in case of touch (blind people may disagree here, but lets not go into that for now). So is there a space (empty “nothing”) where objects are placed and we simply see the space and objects as they are? The short answer is – No. Space is a result of Mind’s attempt to organize sensory information. No objects, no space. (More on space, time, spacetime and motion… later).

Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?
- M.C. Escher

The Mind is capable of objectifying non-sensory activities too and present them as percepts. For example, thoughts and imagination, although it makes no attempts to arrange them in space, so these are objects but not strictly objects. The bodily sensations like pain, hunger etc also are presented as percepts.

Traditionally, the perception is understood as sensation via external senses. But we are going to extend the definition of the perception to include more entities, some not external. Ultimately, the distinction of “external” or “internal” makes no sense because there is just perception - an experience which takes place nowhere and everywhere.

Exteroception: Sight (ophthalmoception, visual), hearing (audioception, auditory), taste (gustaoception, gustatory), smell (olfacoception, olfactory), and touch (tactioception, tactile), these are the traditional five senses corresponding to the five external sense organs. These describe the phenomenal world, there is no other way to experience the phenomenal world directly. To the Mind these structures themselves appear as an extension of the central nervous system – the sense organs with specialized neurons.

Proprioception: These are structures through which we are made conscious of the body. The kinaesthetic senses like ones own movements (joints/muscles), balance (internal ear) and relative positions of the limbs (when they are not touching anything or are not seen), are the senses to convey what the body is doing. Without them one cannot learn to walk, stand or dance. You will see them clearly if you climb a tree.

Interoception: Body temperature (thermoception), pain (nociception), hunger, thirst etc are the internal senses conveying the status of the body to the Mind. The heat or cold of the external objects is also perceived, but not as a quality of the objects themselves, but as our “feeling” of it.

It is debatable whether there are other kinds of senses, like the sense of the gravity (heaviness) or floating sensations because they can be easily lumped into feelings and not as distinct senses. It is also debatable if there are extrasensory perceptions (information received via non-sensory means) or whether remote sensing capabilities exists. If they are in your experience, they exist, nothing in the Mind or the Fundamental Process inhibits them, however you will find it hard to provide much evidence for them to others who have no experience of them. There are other senses which we are not capable of such as sensing magnetic fields or ultrasonic sounds, but other life forms can do that. So there is always a possibility that new kinds of perceptions become available to the Self as it evolves via the Fundamental Process. Without the perception, the body does not survive for long. So we are thankful to them, they are important for our experience as a human being. However, Perception, being partial knowledge, is just ignorance and does an effective job of hiding the nature of the Presence from itself.

It is the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive.
- C.W. Leadbeater

2.    Feelings

A collection of sensory perceptions can be lumped together as a distinct pattern, which is perceived as a feeling. For example the feeling of heaviness, which is not a sensation of gravity, it is just the amount of effort the muscles are doing, a proprioception. If you are in an orbit around the earth in a spacecraft, the gravity is still there, but now the muscles are doing no effort and the body feels weightless, so do the objects you lift. There can be feelings of a full bladder, full rectum or full stomach. All these are on the “objective” end of the feelings. Feelings are perceived "inside the body".

There can be more “subjective” kind of feelings, like, fear produces a sensation of shivering (tiny vibrations of muscles) and palpitation (heart movements) that are mixed with thoughts of urgency, anxiety and vulnerability. Love produces “warm” sensations and relaxed feelings or tingles. Feelings are accompanied by particular thoughts, memories etc. There can be complex feelings, for example the feeling of rain falling on the body (or showering) involving the senses of heat/cold, touch, sound, vision all in one. The feelings that come when one is with a particular person are even more complex. These can become really creative and poetic when combined, such as the distinct feeling of meeting your lover in falling rain with emotions of love or happiness and perception of beauty etc.

When does the perception stop being objective and blend into subjective? Feelings show that there might be no sharp boundary between the two. There is no sharp division of “me” and “not me”.

3.    Knowledge store

The Mind acts as a store house of the knowledge. It’s a structure which defines knowledge. Knowledge is often stored as patterns of experiences and patterns of patterns and so on. There can be basic skills, that are learned via the senses, like walking, eating etc or can be Recognition of objects/events, which is just a comparison of memorized patterns and perceived ones. There can be intricate sequences of patterns (how to dance or play a sport) or some very complex combinations of sensory-motor abilities (how to draw or paint). There can be dynamic patterns like your mother as a collection of experiences of a lifetime, or a Class, e.g. a dog as a generalization of various dogs you have experienced. There can be higher Abstractions, like various ideas, concepts, mathematical objects and physical models.

It is clear that only an experience can form a pattern or a structure on which the subsequent patterns are based. I’m not even trying here to be thorough about what constitutes knowledge, it is a vast subject in itself. I recommend books, old and new. There is a recent revival in Epistemology because of the progress in artificial intelligence or machine intelligence. This is of immense help in understanding how the Mind organizes knowledge and experience. The process does seem to be evolutionary and/or algorithmic, which is not a surprise, as the Mind is a result of the Fundamental Process, the mother of all such auto-processes.

Depending on the environments and substrates, and the ways in which knowledge is stored and utilized, there can be numerous kinds of minds. Our human mind is just one kind. A bacterium also organizes its experiences and uses them, and so does a robot, which are examples of different kinds of mind [4]. There can be disembodied minds which lack any kind of phenomenal knowledge or are no longer connected to the senses [5].

An attempt to classify Minds in modern AI (AGI) theories

See Note # 4 for a discussion
Although my own experience is limited in this regard, but it is possible to infer that all the knowledge of all minds resides in the universal Mind. So whatever we as individuals learn, is never destroyed. Individual minds and bodies are destroyed, but the knowledge they organize in their lifetime is preserved. To be honest, I cannot say this from my personal experience.

4.    Memory
A memory is an impression, just as footprints are impressed on wet soil, experiences get impressed on the Mind. Often human memory is generally thought of as a sequence of connected experiences. Such as, the various cool events that happened in your last vacation, including audio-visual and other sensory contents in addition to the knowledge they imparted. This is how we generally experience memory (and you can have a memory of remembering something), but in its basic form it is just stored patterns. So the line between knowledge and memory blurs here. Your knowledge of mathematics is also a memory of all the experiences you had with that subject. In brain, we do not find any specific structures devoted to memory. The structures that store knowledge also store memories. However there are probably structures that control the recall of memories. It is often irritating to find that we cannot recall something important when it is really needed, such as this girl’s name when you are dating her. So it is unreliable, unlike knowledge. I won’t attempt to do a comparative study of both here, but memory enables knowledge and vice versa.

There can be non-human memories (like those corresponding to the non-human minds), such as patterns impressed on papers (books or pictures), magnetic fields on tape or electronic memories or the DNA. What is the difference? I see no difference when compared to the brain memories, because if you could interface your brain with patterns impressed on other substrates, you could recall those as easily as you recall you own memories. As I said, there is hardly any distinction between physical and mental worlds, essentially.

“It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' says the White Queen to Alice.”
― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

Memories are always of the past, it seems. Why can’t we have a memory that stores the future? What a silly question, you may say, and that’s right its silly, but then the idea of memory storing the past is silly too. In my experience, a memory is always seen in the present. Now that’s a real shock, but that’s how it is. What we call a recall/remembering is an experience happening now, it is exactly that, a memory. 

"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

So why do memories look like they are of the past, while they are happening now? The Mind does a tricky thing. Mind creates Time, as a structure to organize our experiences. Memory is time, no memory, no time, no past. Mind simply classifies an experience as “past experience” by using some basic rules. If the experience is originating from impressions and the knowledge structures related to it are already there, then that experience gets a tag of “past”. This creates time. When the Mind is not doing that, such as in deep sleep, there is no time. The time of your waking up is the same as the time of your falling asleep [6]. When the Mind operates in unusual modes, such as when you are drunk or are dreaming, the time becomes very fuzzy and random. So the question is, doesn’t Memory store the past events and isn’t that its primary function and definition? No, it doesn’t. It only stores the experiences, which happen in no time. Its all eternal now for the Self. One can experience the “no-time” state of the Self when one is not too absorbed in the mental activities, there are some good meditations to experience this directly [7] [8].

In some philosophies, the concept of Memory is extended further to include the memories and knowledge stored in disembodied minds. The body is impermanent and usually fades very quickly compared to the mind. The impressions and other structures may remain intact to some extent and a new body may form based on them. Such impressions are called Samskaras. Also known as Karmic impressions or Vasanas (tendencies), they dictate the personality of the owner of the body. I cannot say much about these concepts, I have only a faint experience of being born with some unexplained tendencies. Universal Mind never forgets, it holds all memories of all individuals, almost infinite amount of memorized information. Like knowledge, our memories of experiences are never lost. Again, I won't be able to confirm that with my own experience, but many advanced seekers can do so. The point here is to open up your mind, so that you get busy seeking the answers and verifying what's said here. I don't intend to sell you yet another belief.

5.    Understanding

The pieces of knowledge can be linked together in relevant ways which makes them more useful. I will define such super-structures as Understanding (to avoid the confusion caused by multiple meanings of this term). Understanding comes with prolonged experience with the Contents that are related. For example, when one sees that the water always flows in a certain direction, one relates the experiences of water, flow, slope, terrain etc together and forms a logical chain of experiences, resulting in an understanding that water flows downwards. There can be more complex forms of understandings, such as understanding a complex phenomenon like Electromagnetism or a person and his behaviours, or a culture and so on.

 Understanding of a particular thing may differ from person to person because their experiences differ. Not only that, the way people structure their experiences together differ due to their different capabilities to organize experience or information. This has something to do with the intelligence (to be described later) and it is also a skill which can be developed. Understanding anything is often a lifelong process, especially if the subject is dynamic, such as a person. It is possible to understand better with more experience, practice and, if you are lucky, with the help of a good teacher or guide. 

Most of the suffering we cause to ourselves and others can be avoided by understanding each other better. It is also very useful to know how another person understands a particular thing or idea, this avoids confusion, or as they call it - misunderstanding - the cause of a lot of suffering. In my experience, the first step towards understanding others is understanding of the one’s own Self and one's own mind. If you understand yourself, it becomes easy to understand others.

[End of Part – 1]


[1] The Self cannot “feel” any suffering. It has no such capability. The Mind generates the experience of the suffering which the Self merely witnesses. This does not mean that the experience of the suffering is not real. Clearly the Mind doesn’t “like” it, doesn't matter if its unreal or real, it is not desirable. I’m only using some common words as metaphors to describe the situation of the Mind, the Self remains pure and unaffected by the drama of the Mind.

[2] Samkhya (Sankhya) philosophy provides a detailed (probably metaphorical) account of how the Self descends into the matter. See for a brief intro:

[3] This list is probably non-exhaustive. I may keep updating it.

[4] For an interesting discussion see:

[5] These have been reported by various explorers who explore the non-physical realms. My experience is limited here, so I recommend only one thing – explore and experiment yourself. Make your own knowledge.

[6] I’m thankful to Rupert Spira for explaining  this clearly.

[7] The Mind creates more such entities - colours, tones, tastes, smells and like, that cannot be found in physical world nor can be measured, and are strictly considered “subjective” (I can’t show you “my red colour” as I see it, directly to you, you never know what red looks like to me). These entities are just structures with peculiarities, in order to organize the knowledge in a meaningful way. Some are sub-structured in space and/or time some are not (where is smell located?).

[8] Will a different kind of memory create a different kind of time? I'm not sure. How does time feels like for a Goldfish? Or for an intelligence and conscious machine? Will some non-human minds evolve something better than time (or space) to structure knowledge? What can that be?

No comments:

Post a Comment