Can mind exist without matter?

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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Jan 24, 2014 10:24 pm

The idea that the "non-returner" concept was misconstrued, as I read the passage you quoted, is based on the assumption that non-returners arise as formless beings. If non-returners do not arise as formless beings, then the two questions ("has the non-returner concept been misconstrued?" and "can we make sense of formless beings?") are independent of each other and the latter can then not be used to answer the former without further support.


Yes, that's so. The latter question of whether we can make sense of formless beings is the only one I am interested in here, and the non-returner aspect is only provided because it is the context in which Gombrich talks about it. That is, he might well be wrong about non-returners, but his doubts about the formless realms are interesting, whether or not they are misplaced or misused.

If formless beings don't make sense, then how are the formless absorptions to make sense?

Presumably, by understanding them as perceptions of formlessness, or perceptions that are without form. That doesn't mean that a person so "absorbed" (i.e. having the meditative experience) has lost their physical body, or what differentiates it from other material objects. I'm not sure of the Pali word, but I assume that the difference between mental absorption ("I didn't hear the rain because I was absorbed in my book") and physical absorption ("The ink was absorbed by the blotting paper") is relevant here.

Aren't the experiences of beings in the formless realms effectively defined in terms of the experiences of the formless absorptions (as in my previous quote from DN 15)? It seems that dismissing the possibility of formless realms requires similarly dismissing the possibility of the formless absorptions.


They might be defined in this way, but if formless realms are different from formless absorptions, there is nothing about the experience of the absorption which determines what the "realm" is. We could dismiss (say) the possibility of Utopia, while believing that one might become absorbed in ideas about it. But I don't think anyone is dismissing the possibility of formless realms. I'm merely asking whether we can make sense of it.
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby santa100 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 10:47 pm

culaavuso wrote: This interpretation makes sense and seems to be supported by DN 15...


One intersting thing is that when we read the full section of DN 15 ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html )especially the highlighted portions, there seems to be classes of beings cleanly segregated into buckets of the seven stations, which indicates some divisions of "realms" in which they reside, although this doesn't mean it excludes the scenario of human meditator able to reach those realms while doing formless meditations:
"Ananda, there are these seven stations of consciousness and two spheres. Which seven?

"There are beings with diversity of body and diversity of perception, such as human beings, some devas, and some beings in the lower realms. This is the first station of consciousness.

"There are beings with diversity of body and singularity of perception, such as the devas of the Brahma hosts generated by the first [jhana] and some beings in the four realms of deprivation. This is the second station of consciousness. [2]

"There are beings with singularity of body and diversity of perception, such as the Radiant Devas. This is the third station of consciousness.

"There are beings with singularity of body and singularity of perception, such as the Beautifully Lustrous Devas. This is the fourth station of consciousness.

"There are beings who,with the complete transcending of perceptions of [physical] form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, [perceiving,] 'Infinite space,' arrive at the dimension of the infinitude of space. This is the fifth station of consciousness."
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jan 25, 2014 9:13 am

Sam Vara wrote: I believe Richard Gombrich says somewhere that the whole idea of formless realms is a cosmological afterthought added after the Buddha's death.


But he would say that, wouldn't he? ;)
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jan 25, 2014 9:16 am

culaavuso wrote:Regarding the original question, the terms "mind" and "matter" are not clearly a one to one mapping with "nama" and "rupa", and the term "rupa" itself seems to be used in different ways in the canon.


Good point. The meaning of terms like "nama" and "rupa" seem to be dependent on context, and IMO it would be misleading to assume that one definition applies to all contexts.
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jan 25, 2014 9:18 am

Mkoll wrote: However, up to that point speculation and questioning are essential.


Yes, and I think that discussing the meaning of what the suttas say is always useful.
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Jan 25, 2014 9:50 pm

Is it possible that arupa means "not form" ? Maybe some sort of subtle unpercieve rupa is still there.

Also, how would arupa loka reconcile with all the teachings that namarupa is together, and with teaching of Dependent origination? What happened to rupa as link in DO in arupa loka?

Thus, Ananda, from name-and-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form. From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes contact...

This is the extent to which there is birth, aging, death, passing away, and re-arising. This is the extent to which there are means of designation, expression, and delineation. This is the extent to which the sphere of discernment extends, the extent to which the cycle revolves for the manifesting (discernibility) of this world — i.e., name-and-form together with consciousness. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


And the whole arupa loka thing seems to be very far fetched. How to distinguish one "being" from another considering that there is no spatial location and that mental states are very similar? How can we know that these beings even exist?

Of course one can say "meditate and see for yourself". But how do we know that meditative experience is not some sort of misunderstanding? After all, a person who meditates and reaches arupajhana-s still has a body with which one meditates and percieves arupajhanas. So it is not like there is direct experience, there isn't direct experience of arupa lokas.

If one thinks that one has telepathic powers, then how can you distinguish your thoughts from thoughts of another being - especially if that being is formless?


As for "can mind exist without matter", I'll believe it when one can take too much alcohol, mind altering drugs, damage the brain - all without effect on consciousness and mental function.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby SarathW » Sat Jan 25, 2014 11:17 pm

Thanks all:
- What is the Pali term for stations of consciousness and two spheres?
- What is the diffrence between stations of consciousness and two spheres?
- Can some one reply to the following OP as well:
- viewtopic.php?f=13&t=16160
:)
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby santa100 » Sun Jan 26, 2014 5:12 am

From the Pali source ( http://suttacentral.net/dn15/pi ):
Stations of consciousness: Viññāṇaṭṭhiti. Ven Buddhadatta rendered as "stages of sentient beings" (Concise Pali-English Dictionary http://www.budsas.org/ebud/dict-pe/dictpe-24-v.htm )
Two spheres (Ven. Bodhi renders "two bases"): dve āyatana
Their difference was described in DN 15 ( http://suttacentral.net/dn15/en )
Regarding the other OP, the previous sentences in the same paragraph page 389 should explain it: "With regard to the difference between space and Nibbāna, it may briefly be said that space is not[it is nothing], but Nibbāna is[it is spaceless and timeless]." A numerical analogy: an apple in the basket represents the number 1 (1 apple). No apple in the basket represents the number 0 (0 apple). While "space" can be represented with 0 to indicate there is not (no apple), but "Nibbana" cannot because it is something other than 1 and 0. Also refer to the simile of the Turtle and the Fish pages 387-388 ( http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/buddh ... gsurw6.pdf )
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Jan 26, 2014 12:33 pm

Alex123 wrote:And the whole arupa loka thing seems to be very far fetched.


Alex, we were discussing what the suttas seem to describe. And if you read the whole thread most of your points have already been discussed / addressed.
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby SarathW » Tue Jan 28, 2014 3:56 am

Thanks Santa

Neither perception nor non-perception is a realm.
Why, the base of neither perception nor non-perception not considered as a station of consciousness?
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby santa100 » Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:01 am

SarathW wrote: Neither perception nor non-perception is a realm.
Why, the base of neither perception nor non-perception not considered as a station of consciousness?

The 2 bases of non-percipient beings and neither perception nor non-perception are separated out from the 7 Stations for Consciousness because they either have no consciousness or extremely subtle consciousness as explained by the Comy from Ven Bodhi's "The Great Discourse on Causation":
The non-percipient beings, [because of]not having consciousness, are not included here(the 7 Stations for Consciousness)..The base of neither perception nor non-perception is included among the bases but not among the stations; for like perception, this consciousness is so subtle that it is called "neither consciousness nor non-conciousness
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:34 am

santa100 wrote:
Regarding the other OP, the previous sentences in the same paragraph page 389 should explain it: "With regard to the difference between space and Nibbāna, it may briefly be said that space is not[it is nothing], but Nibbāna is[it is spaceless and timeless]." A numerical analogy: an apple in the basket represents the number 1 (1 apple). No apple in the basket represents the number 0 (0 apple). While "space" can be represented with 0 to indicate there is not (no apple), but "Nibbana" cannot because it is something other than 1 and 0.


Thanks, I hadn't come across that before. If we're using a numerical approach and space = 0, would it be stretching the point to say that Nibbana = infinity?
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby santa100 » Tue Jan 28, 2014 2:28 pm

Spiny Norman wrote: Thanks, I hadn't come across that before. If we're using a numerical approach and space = 0, would it be stretching the point to say that Nibbana = infinity?

It might not be a good analogy for there's positive infinity and negative infinity. Beside, the infinities still sit on the same dimension as the x-axis of the number line, which represents "conditioned" phenomena. So maybe Samsara would be better represented by infinity, while Nibbana would be like the y-axis that runs vertical to the x-axis. Note that this is a very crude analogy since we know that y-axis itself is also conditioned (unlike Nibbana). But just for the sake of analogy, the y-axis belongs to a separate dimension other than the x-axis and thus might be a better example than the infinity..
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Re: Can mind exist without matter?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jan 28, 2014 2:56 pm

santa100 wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote: Thanks, I hadn't come across that before. If we're using a numerical approach and space = 0, would it be stretching the point to say that Nibbana = infinity?

It might not be a good analogy for there's positive infinity and negative infinity. Beside, the infinities still sit on the same dimension as the x-axis of the number line, which represents "conditioned" phenomena. So maybe Samsara would be better represented by infinity, while Nibbana would be like the y-axis that runs vertical to the x-axis. Note that this is a very crude analogy since we know that y-axis itself is also conditioned (unlike Nibbana). But just for the sake of analogy, the y-axis belongs to a separate dimension other than the x-axis and thus might be a better example than the infinity..


I see what you mean, though I think all the dimensions are relative and conditioned. I'll ponder it some more. ;)
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