Is the Cardiac Theory Buddhistic?

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retrofuturist
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Is the Cardiac Theory Buddhistic?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:43 am

Greetings,

An interesting commentary and question posed by venerable K. Sri Dhammananda on page 111 of his translation of the Dhammapada (with specific reference to verse 37)....

" It is clear that the Buddha had not definitely assigned a specific basis of consciousness as he had done with the other senses. It was the cardiac theory (the theory that the heart is the seat of consciousness) that prevailed in his time, and this was evidently supported by the Upanishads. The Buddha could have adopted this particular theory, but he did not commit himself. In the Patthana, the Book of Relations, the Buddha refers to the basis of consciousness in such indirect terms as yam rupam nissaya, dependent on that material thing. What the material thing was the Buddha did not positively assert. According to the views of commentators like the Venerables Buddhaghosa and Anuruddha the seat of consciousness is the heart (hadayavatthu).

One wonders whether one is justified in presenting the cardiac theory as Buddhistic when the Buddha Himself neither rejected nor accepted this popular theory."


What does one think?

:heart:

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

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Re: Is the Cardiac Theory Buddhistic?

Postby appicchato » Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:03 pm


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Re: Is the Cardiac Theory Buddhistic?

Postby Individual » Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:32 pm

The best things in life aren't things.


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Re: Is the Cardiac Theory Buddhistic?

Postby Jason » Fri Apr 03, 2009 9:07 pm

Retro,

In my opinion, the evidence, scientific as well as textual, weighs heavily against the cardiac theory.

On the textual side, even Narada Thera, in The Buddha and His Teachings, admits that: "In the Patthana, the Book of Relations, the Buddha refers to the seat of consciousness, in such indirect terms as "yam rupam nissaya—depending on that material thing", without positively asserting whether that rupa was either the heart (hadaya) or the brain. But, according to the view of commentators like Venerable Buddhaghosa and Anuruddha, the seat of consciousness is definitely the heart. It should be understood that the Buddha neither accepted nor rejected the popular cardiac theory" (425).

Should we then favor Buddhaghosa over the evidence? I say no. It is often stated as a fact that the seat of consciousness is the heart or heart-base; nevertheless, the Buddha never explicitly states this and an increasing amount of scientific evidence is suggesting otherwise. Therefore, I would say that the cardiac theory, as much as people try to defend it with textual references and logic, is looking less and less tenable if we look solely at evidence at hand. Perhaps there is a means by which the two perspectives can be reconciled; however, I have yet to see one that sufficiently does so.

Neuroscience, on the other hand, has provided evidence that consciousness is centered in the brain.

There is, for example, data on the correlations between brain events and conscious experiences. Then there things such as the experiment done on the way the brain codes and recodes visual stimuli that effectively showed how one can "... even 'inject' such experiences into the brains of experimental animals, as demonstrated, for example, in elegant experiments () in which monkeys responded (behaviourally) to microstimulation of a circuit encoding a particular direction of motion in the same way that they had been trained to respond to an exteroceptive stimulus having the same directional value" (Gray, ).

Another example that I find rather interesting are the results of so-called brain bisection operations, which I suppose can be interpreted as showing nothing more than the experience of consciousness being processed and recognized in the brain, but can also be interpreted as supporting the theory that consciousness is centered in, or even the product of, the two hemispheres of the brain operating together ().

While far from being conclusive, scientific data certainly lends this theory considerable credibility.

Jason
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Re: Is the Cardiac Theory Buddhistic?

Postby pink_trike » Fri Apr 03, 2009 9:37 pm

Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

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Re: Is the Cardiac Theory Buddhistic?

Postby Individual » Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:07 pm

The idea of a "center" of consciousness, period, is a soul-theory or theory of ego. When there is a sensory organ and a sensory object, that is the sensory contact right there. Among the six senses, there is no central self by which they all meet together, neither in the heart nor in the brain. Even the brain itself is merely part of a broader central nervous system, which is connected to the pulmonary system, so when you have certain emotions, the heart and breath reacts a certain way. Now, if the heart and lungs react to emotions, just as the CNS does, why refer to one as the "center" but not another? It is a fabricated concept.
Last edited by Individual on Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is the Cardiac Theory Buddhistic?

Postby Jason » Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:07 pm


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Re: Is the Cardiac Theory Buddhistic?

Postby clw_uk » Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:10 pm

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Re: Is the Cardiac Theory Buddhistic?

Postby pink_trike » Sat Apr 04, 2009 12:05 am

Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.


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