Memory

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Memory

Postby MayaRefugee » Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:52 pm

Greetings,

I've searched around most of today on the trail of an explanation of Buddhisms stance on memory, there's not much online about it so I thought I would ask here, if anyone could give me some terms or offer some help I would really appreciate it.

What I'm wondering is how are things like people from the past that pop up in dreams, things remembered from childhood, flashbacks from war, etc explained?

From what I understand memory is an off-shoot of perception but where would the "memory-bank" perception uses to compare its objects fit into things?

What conditions the present to make us aware again of things we were aware of in the past?

Peace.
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Re: Memory

Postby ground » Sat Feb 27, 2010 4:59 pm

MayaRefugee wrote:What conditions the present to make us aware again of things we were aware of in the past?

ignorance -> sankhara -> ...
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Re: Memory

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Feb 27, 2010 7:20 pm

I would say it a function of kamma. What happened in the past conditions what is happening now so it stands to reason that past memories recycling through the mind is just a result of the past actions.

As to why some memories keep coming up for no reason and some don't as far as I can tell for me the ones that keep coming up generally have an emotional reaction involved with them, some clinging, and/or a wish I could have done something different.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Memory

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Feb 27, 2010 7:22 pm

Perhaps of somewhat peripheral interest, there is an Abhidhamma-oriented discussion of perception, memory, and mindfulnss in Abhidhamma Studies by Nyanaponika Thera
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/abhistudy.pdf

In Chapter 4, Page 111
Appendix: The omission of memory in the list

I was going to post some of it, but my cut and paste is playing up...

Mike
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Re: Memory

Postby Ben » Sat Feb 27, 2010 10:12 pm

Nice post Mike
I was going to reference the same essay!
metta

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Re: Memory

Postby ground » Sun Feb 28, 2010 8:27 am

Each sensation is necessarily a de novo experience. Past, present, future are fabrications of mind although from a perspective of convention these fabrications are capable to guide human successful action. Therefore knowledge of the past and the present and - to a certain very limited extent - projections of a future can be considered right knowledge.
However from the perspective of the "truth" status of appearing phenomena a memory cannot represent a de novo experience (that occured in the past) because it is a fabrication too and the product of merging a de novo experience (in the present) with a memory (fabrication) cannot be a correct representation of a phenomenon being experienced.

Kind regards

Edit:
Of course this is just the presentation of one possible view. From the perspective of realism the function and "truth" status of "memory" and "fabrications" may be assessed quite differently.
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Re: Memory

Postby MayaRefugee » Thu Mar 04, 2010 6:47 am

Thanks for the replies guys,

I still haven't found anything substantial that succinctly explains what's going on from a Buddhist perspective.

To TMinzyur in particular (but if anyone else wants to have a stab at this feel free):

If in the present moment I take the summations I made of an event from the past as an object(s) of meditation and recall how things happened or played out in that particualr portion of "time" how do the elements that made/make up that past-event persist through "time" allowing me to "re-watch" them in this present moment.

Can anyone explain from where I am drawing these elements of previous experience that seem to allow me to engage in this recollection?

Does anyone know of something in Buddhism that is akin to what is commonly refered to as a memory-bank?

I'm thinking maybe a Buddhist theory of learning might entail descriptions of this sort of stuff, does anyone know of the existance of such a theory?

Peace.
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Re: Memory

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Mar 04, 2010 7:08 am

MayaRefugee wrote:If in the present moment I take the summations I made of an event from the past as an object(s) of meditation and recall how things happened or played out in that particualr portion of "time" how do the elements that made/make up that past-event persist through "time" allowing me to "re-watch" them in this present moment.

Can anyone explain from where I am drawing these elements of previous experience that seem to allow me to engage in this recollection?

Does anyone know of something in Buddhism that is akin to what is commonly refered to as a memory-bank?

I'm thinking maybe a Buddhist theory of learning might entail descriptions of this sort of stuff, does anyone know of the existance of such a theory?

Peace.


I would have thought it was the brain.

If man can build machines that can store information and recall it later on demand why is it so surprising that human biology (or animal for that matter) can do it too? no need to look for anything "spiritual".
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Memory

Postby ground » Thu Mar 04, 2010 7:21 am

MayaRefugee wrote:To TMinzyur in particular (but if anyone else wants to have a stab at this feel free):

If in the present moment I take the summations I made of an event from the past as an object(s) of meditation and recall how things happened or played out in that particualr portion of "time" how do the elements that made/make up that past-event persist through "time" allowing me to "re-watch" them in this present moment.

First of all your "memory of" is different from what it seems refers to. This does however not deny that interesting conclusions may be drawn "retrospectively".
If your question refers to the "meachnism" or "substantial basis" of memory I do not know but I can just refer you to the views of neuroscience and certain buddhist views about some sort of "store consciousness".

Kind regards
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Re: Memory

Postby MayaRefugee » Thu Mar 04, 2010 8:01 am

Goofaholix,

I'll admit I am on the fence here, one leg dangles in the "it's the brain" camp and the other is open to other explanations.

TMinzyur,

I think I'm beginning to see how a reflection is not an accurate portrayal of the actual past event but this reflection does seem to be made of elements that have some sort of endurance.

I suppose I'm attributing permanence to these elements and ignoring the possibilty that they are susceptible to change - :cookoo: - I'll look into it further.

I like the idea of the bhavanga-sota i.e. store-consciousness but when I bought it up in another thread it didn't appear to be common knowledge so I assumed it wasn't a Buddhist fundamental, I could be giving too much credibility to those that didn't know about it and shaping my learning based on what they believe - :shrug:

Taking into account I'm only new to Buddhism would you say the bhavanga-sota is a valid Buddhist concept and therefore something a student of the teachings should know about?

Peace.
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Re: Memory

Postby Reductor » Thu Mar 04, 2010 8:11 am

Hey again,

I will give you what understanding I have, which is based on suttas and personal observation. It is worth noting, however, that Buddhism is concerned with how things appear from the 'inside', but doesn't talk to much on the nittygritty biology involved. It is important to note that the mechanical of memory is in the brain and nervous system. Where else would it be?

When I look at an object, I immediately take in a large number of attributes about said object. This is an act of the eye, the object being sensed by the eye, and the necessary consciousness being aware of that input from the eye, all coming together (this is termed 'contact'). From contact it is said that feeling arises, then craving, then clinging, then becoming. In the description of something called dependent co-arising each event is said to be conditioned by the previous one, ie without the previous event having occurred, the current step does not happen. However, there is no mention of perception in this chain, nor memory.

However, there is a passage linking feeling with consciousness and perception. In addition there is a kind of definition of what a perception is. Take a look, and continue reading my post below.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Perception

"'Perception, perception': Thus is it said. To what extent, friend, is it said to be 'perception'?"

"'It perceives, it perceives': Thus, friend, it is said to be 'perception.' And what does it perceive? It perceives blue. It perceives yellow. It perceives red. It perceives white. 'It perceives, it perceives': Thus it is said to be 'perception.'"

"Feeling, perception, & consciousness, friend: Are these qualities conjoined or disjoined? Is it possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them?"

"Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them. For what one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them."


Now I ask you: how come you can discern between blue and red? Is there a way that you might, at this point in your life, call the color red 'blue'? When and how did you learn your colors.

This is how perception is a part of memory, in that perceptions are 'labels' or construct that exist in our being which grew out of repeated 'contact' (see above) with the outer world coupled with the internal thought processes that organized them. They can be simple, as in color, or complex, as in a recollection of a parent. In more complex perceptions there is a spreading out, as a interconnect web, as it were, of smaller perceptions which describe the complex perception. Each smaller perception could in turn be linked to another complex perception, which produces a huge net of interdependent labels for things taken in by the senses.

So when new input is taken in via the senses, it too receives the same rough treatment, with the thought process seeking out pre-existing perceptions in the mind that are the same or similar to those attributes that have been taken in via the sense. When a perception is found, there is a very likely possibility that an active mind will seek out other perceptions related to it, in an attempt to give sense data more context for the purpose of taking an action, and this in turn pulls more and more previous experience into the present experience.

As an example, as really silly one, is this from my life: I picked up a valentine heart cut out by my kid, and noted that the top (the humps) were uneven in size. Then I noted a similarity between the 'humps' and breasts (its true, I did)... before I knew it there was an unfolding of memories, which ended up with me recollecting a scene from "American beauty" where the main character stood in front of a window with her shirt off, and her breasts are uneven. Where did that come from, I would have wondered, had I not been observant. If I had not stopped the process, what would I have ended up recalling to mind?

Anyway, my eyes are bugged. I don't know if this answer is useful to you or in the vein you were looking for, but ask any questions about it that you like, and I will do my best to answer.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Memory

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Mar 04, 2010 8:17 am

MayaRefugee wrote:I think I'm beginning to see how a reflection is not an accurate portrayal of the actual past event but this reflection does seem to be made of elements that have some sort of endurance.

I suppose I'm attributing permanence to these elements and ignoring the possibilty that they are susceptible to change - :cookoo: - I'll look into it further.


You appear to be thinking that a memory contains something of the thing that is remembered, correct me if I'm wrong. This would be like saying a photograph contains something of the object or person in the photograph.


MayaRefugee wrote:I like the idea of the bhavanga-sota i.e. store-consciousness but when I bought it up in another thread it didn't appear to be common knowledge so I assumed it wasn't a Buddhist fundamental, I could be giving too much credibility to those that didn't know about it and shaping my learning based on what they believe - :shrug:

Taking into account I'm only new to Buddhism would you say the bhavanga-sota is a valid Buddhist concept and therefore something a student of the teachings should know about?
.


Store Conciousness is an idea of the Yogacara philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism (and I think it also has some following in Yogic/Hindu philosophy). I'm not sure how big a part of Mahayana Buddhism it is, I suspect it's quite fringe but somebody might be able to elaborate.

This is a Theravada forum so you'll probably not find much interest in it here.

If it's something that makes sense to you then look into it further.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Memory

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:01 am

This is from the Debate of King Milinda :

1 .“In how many ways, Nāgasena, does memory spring up?”

“In seventeen ways, O king. That is to say; by personal experience, as when one like Ānanda can recollect his previous lives (without special development); by outward aid, as when others remind one who is forgetful; by the greatness of some occasion, as when a king remembers his coronation or as one remembers attaining the stage of a Stream-winner; by the impression made by benefit, as when one remembers that which gave him pleasure; by the impression made by detriment, as when one remembers that which gave him pain; by similarity of appearance, as one remembers one’s mother or father or brother or sister on seeing someone like them; by dissimilarity of appearance, as one remembers someone on seeing one unlike them; by the knowledge of speech, as when one is reminded by others; by a sign, as when one recognises a draught bullock by seeing a brand mark; by effort to recollect, as when one is urged again and again; by knowledge of spelling, as one who knows how to write remembers that such a letter follows another; by arithmetic, as when accountants do large sums by their skill with figures; by learning by heart, as reciters of scriptures recollect by their skill in reciting; by meditation, as when a monk recalls his previous lives; by reference to a book, as when kings call to mind a regulation made previously by reference to a book; by a pledge, as when a man recollects by the sight of goods deposited the circumstances under which they were pledged; or by association, as when on seeing or hearing something one remembers other things associated with it.”
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Re: Memory

Postby ground » Thu Mar 04, 2010 5:22 pm

MayaRefugee wrote:TMinzyur,

I like the idea of the bhavanga-sota i.e. store-consciousness but when I bought it up in another thread it didn't appear to be common knowledge so I assumed it wasn't a Buddhist fundamental, I could be giving too much credibility to those that didn't know about it and shaping my learning based on what they believe - :shrug:

Taking into account I'm only new to Buddhism would you say the bhavanga-sota is a valid Buddhist concept and therefore something a student of the teachings should know about?

Peace.


MR

actually I am not a friend of speculative concepts. Therefore I personally do neither believe in neuroscience beyond the mere correlation of observable phenomena in dependence on equipment and intention nor do I believe in something like "store-consciousness". It just appeared to me that you were looking for such kind of concepts therefore I mentioned neuroscience and "store-consciousness".

IMO in the context of the path to deal with one's experience is sufficient and there is no need to seek to establish concepts that cannot be verified and obscure rather than elucidate.

Kind regards
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Re: Memory

Postby ashkenn » Sat Mar 20, 2010 12:24 pm

Preceptions is noting, recognising and remembering

regarding that sutta:
Preception notes and consciousness experience. When you experience red colour, it is the consciousness that experiences the red or yellow colour while preception notes it and remembers it. They arise together, co-joined.

Hope that helps

KC :-)
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