Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Wed Oct 24, 2012 7:38 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:If we take the view that subjective experience can never be satisfactory evidence, we can say nothing about the world we experience. But subjective experience is all we've got - all information about the world and about our minds is subjective experience - so that position obviously doesn't work, and we hardly ever act as though it does.


Subjectivity applied to demonstrable scientific rigor is not the same as subjective inference.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Oct 24, 2012 10:45 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:If we take the view that subjective experience can never be satisfactory evidence, we can say nothing about the world we experience. But subjective experience is all we've got - all information about the world and about our minds is subjective experience - so that position obviously doesn't work, and we hardly ever act as though it does.


Subjectivity applied to demonstrable scientific rigor is not the same as subjective inference.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by that, AB. Can you expand upon it?

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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Wed Oct 24, 2012 4:26 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:I'm sorry if I misinterpreted your position.
Think nothing of it :)
Kim O'Hara wrote:If we take the view that subjective experience can never be satisfactory evidence, we can say nothing about the world we experience.
To me, that sounds just like the arguements in favour of solipsism. I do, however, see your point. We have instruments that make measurements, but we, as people, read those instruments.
Kim O'Hara wrote:Science, however, insists that that position is not only valid but necessary.
Sorry to nitpick (genuinely), but science does no such thing. Science is a displine, it has no free will and so insists nothing. If I were to interpret what you said as 'scientists insist that the position [that no evidence can ever be objective] is not only valid but necessary', then I would struggle to disagree with you (for the same reasons that the solipsist viewpoint is difficult to argue against).
Kim O'Hara wrote:It rejects subjective experience in favour of something it believes is objective evidence, although that 'objective' evidence still comes to each person through the same sense doors.
Nit picking again, science doesn't reject something, scientists do. Science doesn't favour anything, scientists do. Science doesn't believe in anything, but I'm sure scientists do. This issue of 'sense doors' I've addressed earlier. Extending this line of thinking to its obvious conclusion casts doubt on pretty much everything, with the exception of our own minds.
Kim O'Hara wrote:Does [subjective x 10] = [objective]?
No. Nor does 1000 subjective experiences. Nor does 1000000. Here is an example: the majority of people on the Earth believe in a God, and I assume a large proportion of them will have 'experienced' something to confirm that belief to them (whether it's co-incidences, fuzzy warm feelings, feelings of comfort etc). Does that mean that peoples' experiences consistutes objective evidence for the existence of a God? No. I am not saying God doesn't exist, I'm not saying God does exist. Quite simply, the subjective experience of people is not scientific evidence supporting the notion of a God because:
1) their individual experiences can be explained without the need for a God to exist and
2) their collective experiences do not support a predictive theory that can be tested
Kim O'Hara wrote:It is a real problem and one I don't have a good solution to.
Me neither, and I agree it is a real problem. For me, the problem isn't an issue of whether to trust the evidence that scientists propose (after all, the observations that, collectively, we call evidence must be verifiable by other people so that, given the same initial conditions, the same outcome occurs.) The issue simply becomes a broader question of ontology and existentialism. I'm not a philosopher. I enjoy thinking about existentialism, but only for pleasure.
Kim O'Hara wrote:Like you, I am reluctant to accept the objective reality of something that has been subjectively experienced by only one person
If someone claimed to have experienced something in their dreams, I am happy to concede that they believe they experienced something in their dreams. If someone else, under precisely the same conditions, does not have that experience it casts doubt on its validity. How can precisely the same conditions be made? I don't think they can, which adds an extra dimension to the problem.
Kim O'Hara wrote:• I accept science when it says something which is within its realm of competence but place less faith in it when it talks about things it doesn't know or can't examine.
Science doesn't say anything, but scientists do. I agree, when scientists pontificate beyond their realm of competence (I like that expression), I find it difficult to take what they say seriously.
Kim O'Hara wrote:• I usually accept subjective experience as evidence when it agrees with others ... which is what science does.
Not quite, as explained above. What a scientist calls 'evidence' and what is colloquially called 'evidence' are two different things. For scientists, evidence must be repeatable. This does not mean 'lots of people have experienced the same thing', because the evidence must point towards the prediction of outcomes from a situation.
Kim O'Hara wrote:• I have a large mental bin labelled "unproven" and throw a lot of stuff into it. Within it, like sticks to like; and if enough bits stick together I haul them out and put them in the "may be true" bin.
That's a rather good analogy. I have a similar approach to things. Nevertheless, this neurosurgeon has no evidence and certainly no proof of any afterlife. He is either being deliberately provocative in his language, or he is a 'scientist saying something outside his ream of competence'.

... in my opinion.
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Wed Oct 24, 2012 5:02 pm

Mawkish1983 wrote:[No. Nor does 1000 subjective experiences. Nor does 1000000. Here is an example: the majority of people on the Earth believe in a God, and I assume a large proportion of them will have 'experienced' something to confirm that belief to them (whether it's co-incidences, fuzzy warm feelings, feelings of comfort etc). Does that mean that peoples' experiences consistutes objective evidence for the existence of a God? No. I am not saying God doesn't exist, I'm not saying God does exist. Quite simply, the subjective experience of people is not scientific evidence supporting the notion of a God because:
1) their individual experiences can be explained without the need for a God to exist and
2) their collective experiences do not support a predictive theory that can be tested

I'd like to address these two points, if I may.

I agree that the experiences claimed as evidence for God can be explained away without the need for God; in fact, in most cases, the non-God explanation is more reasonable and makes fewer assumptions. However, I do not believe the same holds true for the existence of subjective qualia. The experiences we as human beings have that support the existence of non-physical qualia (which I would argue includes all experience ever) cannot be explained away in a parsimonious or otherwise consistent manner without 1) appeal to that very same qualia, or 2) making assumptions and leaps of faith based in a presupposition of materialism that does not have its basis in the data.

We can observe our experience and see that it does not behave like physical matter, nor does it have a verifiable base in physical matter. Neuroscientists and psychologists agree with me; the only difference is that most of them have a presupposition of materialism because the methods they use require it...which leads me to my next point:

If we posit the existence of a non-physical, phenomenological approach to the existence of qualia, then why on Earth should we be expected to verify our theory through the methodology of the physical, objective approach? This doesn't mean that Buddhism gets a free ride when it comes to demonstrating the validity of a theory - it just means that our methods, which I believe to be just as capable of accurately ascertaining the nature of mental phenomenon as materialism is in dealing with the physical, are not going to fit the testable model in the same way. You're free to argue against the Buddhist methodology, but it cannot simply be discounted because it does not fit the model used to examine unrelated phenomenon.

What I'm getting down to, I guess, is that I see materialism as the opposite side of the solipsistic coin; whereas one says that the appropriate response to ontological uncertainty is the assumption of an all-mental world, the other acts in the same way by adhering, not through evidence or even reason, by through presupposition, to a philosophical position that posits a material base to all things. Both come up against the hard problem of consciousness (or in the solipsist's case, the hard problem of matter) in that neither can explain, in the confines of their worldview, why certain things behave in ways that do not fit their model. Buddhism rejects both dichotomies by making what is, in my mind, the only rational assumption: that what appears to be physical is in fact physical, and that what appears to be experience of the physical is in fact experience of the physical. Buddhism does not have to make any leap of faith, either in finding ways to twist the physical into some sort of debased mental projection, or in finding equally silly ways to paint the experiential as a mystical projection of an assumed physical process for which their is no evidence. The radical empiricism of the Buddha's teachings, the middle path between solipsism and materialism, is the true "scientific" path because it is the only one that follows the evidence instead of molding it to fit a presuppositional worldview that exists not as a reaction to observation but an assumption.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Wed Oct 24, 2012 5:41 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:If we take the view that subjective experience can never be satisfactory evidence, we can say nothing about the world we experience. But subjective experience is all we've got - all information about the world and about our minds is subjective experience - so that position obviously doesn't work, and we hardly ever act as though it does.


Subjectivity applied to demonstrable scientific rigor is not the same as subjective inference.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by that, AB. Can you expand upon it? ...


While it is true that “subjective experience is all we’ve got - all information about the world and about our minds is subjective experience”, mere subjective experience, with its tendency toward inference and assumptions, does not equal discernment into what is real.

Although I think Ṭhānissaro’s article would support that statement, his straw-man on unnamed “Modern-day materialists”, which for our purposes is to be interpreted as science (?), does not square with the analysis of subjective reality for the contemplative as taught by the Buddha which has been met by at least some neuroscience without conflict. The reason for this incongruence may simply be the par-usual of Ṭhānissaro’s agenda for bolstering-up his special interpretations of self and consciousness. In any case, his diatribe is less than helpful or accurate.

With reference to the OP and this tangent, I think that at least some science mentioned in this thread is not rejecting subjectivity as a valid interpretation of experience, but rather is in kind with the Buddha’s approach as sweeping past the mere habit of subjective inference to look at the how of the mechanics of experience.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Wed Oct 24, 2012 6:14 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:You're free to argue against the Buddhist methodology
I haven't. Nevertheless, it isn't science and shouldn't be treated as such.
LonesomeYogurt wrote:I see materialism as the opposite side of the solipsistic coin
I quite agree.
LonesomeYogurt wrote:The middle path between solipsism and materialism, is the true "scientific" path
No, it isn't. That is not to say it won't help you reach a thorough understanding of whatever is 'true', but that doesn't make it science. See here (wikipedia page). There's plenty more on that page but a common theme is reproducibility. Without that, it isn't science.

Again, it seems I must emphasise, I am not saying 'it isn't science and, therefore, is wrong', or 'it isn't science and, therefore, is a waste of time' or anything else derogatory. I'm simply stating the fact. The experiences aren't reproducible, so it isn't science.
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Kusala » Tue Oct 30, 2012 2:00 am

Food for thought...

“Science can give no assurance herein. But Buddhism can meet the Atomic Challenge, because the supramundane knowledge of Buddhism begins where science leaves off. And this is clear enough to anyone who has made a study of Buddhism. For, through Buddhist Meditation, the atomic constituents making up matter have been seen and felt, and the sorrow, or unsatisfactoriness (or Dukkha), of their 'arising and passing away' (dependent on causes) has made itself with what we call a 'soul' or 'atma' - the illusion of Sakkayaditthi, as it is called in the Buddha's teaching.”

Egerton C. Baptist, "Supreme Science of the Buddha"
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Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Arjan Dirkse » Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:02 pm

Well I did quickly notice this quote in the original article: "Although I considered myself a faithful Christian"...

So yeah, I remain skeptical. ;)

That said, he seems very happy to find an affirmation for his beliefs. So good for him.
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby gavesako » Tue Nov 13, 2012 7:49 am

A relevant article on this topic from Tricycle:


A Gray Matter: Another Look at the Convergence of Buddhism and Science

If you haven’t heard that Buddhist mindfulness meditation can change your brain for the better, you haven’t opened a magazine or newspaper lately. On the other hand, if you haven’t heard that research supporting such a claim is at best inconclusive, you can’t be blamed—it’s not a view you’re likely to come across as readily.

The ongoing story of the convergence of Buddhist practice and science—lately and most notably, neuroscience—has garnered a lot of press, and the popular narrative has been overwhelmingly weighted in favor of those who argue that Buddhism’s rationalist bent makes it, of all religions, uniquely compatible with scientific truths. But as is evident in this issue of Tricycle, a strong counternarrative has begun to emerge. In “A Gray Matter,” Columbia professor of Japanese religion Bernard Faure writes that a “careful and critical reading of the literature on Buddhism and neuroscience will lead, I think, to a far more sober assessment of their convergence than one generally hears from its advocates.”

Aside from questioning the science itself, Faure challenges the highly selective reading of Buddhism upon which the supposed convergence is based: The convergence of Buddhism and science is, Faure argues, largely a consequence of modern Buddhists—in both Asia and the West—having radically redefined the tradition for that specific purpose.

This notion of convergence has been around since the 19th century. In this issue’s “The Scientific Buddha,” adapted from his new book of the same name, University of Michigan professor Donald S. Lopez, Jr., a Tricycle contributing editor, focuses on the history of the dialogue between Buddhism and science and how it came to assume its present form. Lopez observes:

For the Buddha to be identified as an ancient sage fully attuned to the findings of modern science, it was necessary that he first be transformed into a figure who differed in many ways from the Buddha who has been revered by Buddhists across Asia over the course of many centuries. . . . [19th-century] European scholars, many of whom never met a Buddhist or set foot in Asia, created a new Buddha, a Buddha made from manuscripts. This was the age of the quest for the historical Jesus. European philologists set out on their own quest for the historical Buddha, and they felt they found him. It was this Buddha, unknown in Asia until the 19th century, who would become the Buddha we know today, and who would become the Scientific Buddha.

While both Faure and Lopez take a critical view of the exchange between Buddhism and science, their criticism is predicated on the belief that this dialogue is nonetheless necessary and—if some of the deep misconceptions that have shaped it are cleared up— potentially fruitful. But as these two scholars demonstrate, our erroneous views run deep. Perhaps the most significant difficulty is not so much a specific idea as it is the model that guides us. The Buddhism and science dialogue has been shaped by a model of comparison that sees the finding of agreement—convergence—as the most beneficial and desirable avenue to pursue. But as Faure writes, a comparative model based on mutual challenge might well shed more light on both Buddhism and science:

“Convergence may never be reached, and that is likely for the best, because it is difference, and the challenges it presents, that is the richer source of understanding.”

http://www.tricycle.com/blog/gray-matte ... nd-science
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Kusala » Tue Nov 13, 2012 8:47 am

gavesako wrote:A relevant article on this topic from Tricycle:


A Gray Matter: Another Look at the Convergence of Buddhism and Science

If you haven’t heard that Buddhist mindfulness meditation can change your brain for the better, you haven’t opened a magazine or newspaper lately. On the other hand, if you haven’t heard that research supporting such a claim is at best inconclusive, you can’t be blamed—it’s not a view you’re likely to come across as readily.

The ongoing story of the convergence of Buddhist practice and science—lately and most notably, neuroscience—has garnered a lot of press, and the popular narrative has been overwhelmingly weighted in favor of those who argue that Buddhism’s rationalist bent makes it, of all religions, uniquely compatible with scientific truths. But as is evident in this issue of Tricycle, a strong counternarrative has begun to emerge. In “A Gray Matter,” Columbia professor of Japanese religion Bernard Faure writes that a “careful and critical reading of the literature on Buddhism and neuroscience will lead, I think, to a far more sober assessment of their convergence than one generally hears from its advocates.”

Aside from questioning the science itself, Faure challenges the highly selective reading of Buddhism upon which the supposed convergence is based: The convergence of Buddhism and science is, Faure argues, largely a consequence of modern Buddhists—in both Asia and the West—having radically redefined the tradition for that specific purpose.

This notion of convergence has been around since the 19th century. In this issue’s “The Scientific Buddha,” adapted from his new book of the same name, University of Michigan professor Donald S. Lopez, Jr., a Tricycle contributing editor, focuses on the history of the dialogue between Buddhism and science and how it came to assume its present form. Lopez observes:

For the Buddha to be identified as an ancient sage fully attuned to the findings of modern science, it was necessary that he first be transformed into a figure who differed in many ways from the Buddha who has been revered by Buddhists across Asia over the course of many centuries. . . . [19th-century] European scholars, many of whom never met a Buddhist or set foot in Asia, created a new Buddha, a Buddha made from manuscripts. This was the age of the quest for the historical Jesus. European philologists set out on their own quest for the historical Buddha, and they felt they found him. It was this Buddha, unknown in Asia until the 19th century, who would become the Buddha we know today, and who would become the Scientific Buddha.

While both Faure and Lopez take a critical view of the exchange between Buddhism and science, their criticism is predicated on the belief that this dialogue is nonetheless necessary and—if some of the deep misconceptions that have shaped it are cleared up— potentially fruitful. But as these two scholars demonstrate, our erroneous views run deep. Perhaps the most significant difficulty is not so much a specific idea as it is the model that guides us. The Buddhism and science dialogue has been shaped by a model of comparison that sees the finding of agreement—convergence—as the most beneficial and desirable avenue to pursue. But as Faure writes, a comparative model based on mutual challenge might well shed more light on both Buddhism and science:

“Convergence may never be reached, and that is likely for the best, because it is difference, and the challenges it presents, that is the richer source of understanding.”

http://www.tricycle.com/blog/gray-matte ... nd-science


Thanks bhikkhu.
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Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Nov 15, 2012 9:52 pm

Idle click-through curiousity (okay, I was (still am) putting off starting work :tongue: ) just led me to Amazon's list of 100 best-selling books.
Guess what I found? Right up there at number four, this very book.
Looking at the rest of the top twenty - http://www.amazon.com/best-sellers-books-Amazon/zgbs/books/ref=pd_dp_ts_b_1 - doesn't do much to increase my faith in the neurosurgeon or, for that matter, the intelligence and discernment of Amazon's customers ... :rolleye:

:namaste:
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby pegembara » Fri Nov 16, 2012 4:41 am

We are looking in the wrong places for answers the same way Rohitassa was doing in trying to find an eternal heaven.

On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi, in Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery. Then Rohitassa, the son of a deva, in the far extreme of the night, his extreme radiance lighting up the entirety of Jeta's Grove, went to the Blessed One. On arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, he stood to one side. As he was standing there he said to the Blessed One: "Is it possible, lord, by traveling, to know or see or reach a far end of the cosmos where one does not take birth, age, die, pass away or reappear?"

"I tell you, friend, that it is not possible by traveling to know or see or reach a far end of the cosmos where one does not take birth, age, die, pass away, or reappear."

"It is amazing, lord, and awesome, how well that has been said by the Blessed One: 'I tell you, friend, that it is not possible by traveling to know or see or reach a far end of the cosmos where one does not take birth, age, die, pass away, or reappear.' Once I was a seer named Rohitassa, a student of Bhoja, a powerful sky-walker. My speed was as fast as that of a strong archer — well-trained, a practiced hand, a practiced sharp-shooter — shooting a light arrow across the shadow of a palm tree. My stride stretched as far as the east sea is from the west. To me, endowed with such speed, such a stride, there came the desire: 'I will go traveling to the end of the cosmos.' I — with a one-hundred year life, a one-hundred year span — spent one hundred years traveling — apart from the time spent on eating, drinking, chewing & tasting, urinating & defecating, and sleeping to fight off weariness — but without reaching the end of the cosmos I died along the way. So it is amazing, lord, and awesome, how well that has been said by the Blessed One: 'I tell you, friend, that it is not possible by traveling to know or see or reach a far end of the cosmos where one does not take birth, age, die, pass away, or reappear.'"

[When this was said, the Blessed One responded:] "I tell you, friend, that it is not possible by traveling to know or see or reach a far end of the cosmos where one does not take birth, age, die, pass away, or reappear. But at the same time, I tell you that there is no making an end of suffering & stress without reaching the end of the cosmos. Yet it is just within this fathom-long body, with its perception & intellect, that I declare that there is the cosmos, the origination of the cosmos, the cessation of the cosmos, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of the cosmos."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby Moggalana » Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:52 am

Sam Harris wrote a second blog about NDEs:
http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/scie ... k-of-death
Let it come. Let it be. Let it go.
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Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Postby pegembara » Sat Nov 17, 2012 2:07 pm

First, the teachings: The lama in my dream began by asking who I was. I responded by telling him my name. Apparently, this wasn’t the answer he was looking for.
Who are you?” he said again. He was now staring fixedly into my eyes and pointing at my face with an outstretched finger. I did not know what to say.
“Who are you?” he said again, continuing to point.
“Who are you?” he said a final time, but here he suddenly shifted his gaze and pointing finger, as though he were now addressing someone just to my left. The effect was quite startling, because I knew (insofar as one can be said to know anything in a dream) that we were alone. The lama was obviously pointing to someone who wasn’t there, and I suddenly noticed what I would later come to consider an important truth about the nature of the mind: Subjectively speaking, there is only consciousness and its contents; there is no inner self who is conscious. The feeling of being the experiencer of your experience, rather than identical to the totality of experience, is an illusion. The lama in my dream seemed to dissect this very feeling of being a self and, for a brief moment, removed it from my mind. I awoke convinced that I had glimpsed something quite profound.

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/scie ... k-of-death

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