A proof of the inviolability of karma

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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby Hoo » Sat Jun 12, 2010 3:34 pm

Hi alexryan,

Lots of good constructive observations above. JMHO, but I believe many of them could be guidance to changing the title of the blog article. Whenever I've used absolute terms I've always had to eat them :) The burden of proof was on me to show that there were no exceptions or no equally useful ways to see what I was describing. I've always lost that particular battle :)

(from the blog)...The fundamental delusion that characterizes our species in the age of barbarism is the belief that enduring happiness can be attained and sustained by bringing unhappiness to others.


Escaping that delusion is a great set of goals! :) I worked in something similar for most of my working career, which was all before I began practicing Buddhism, btw. If you can imagine someone trapped in samsaric processes working to relieve suffering of others, that was me - chuckle.

My two cents worth, I wonder how many of our 6+ billion particualr species have that belief, especially that "bringing unhappiness" to others is a requirement. I don't have that motivation, for example. Even pre-Buddhism, I knew that happiness didn't require bringing unhappiness to others. Treatment could have been indicated for for persistent beliefs like that, though I may be wrongly reading how you are using the terms.

Re animals can't have an abstract concept....my dog would argue with you, then ask if you had interviewed all members of all animal species ;) She does communicate to me that she wants to play - an abstract concept. She knows when it is time for supper or a treat and comes to get one of us if we are late according to her internal clock - then leads us to where we are supposed to be. Experiencing hunger might not be conceptual. Getting someone's attention that we are off schedule and correcting it sure seems that way. Without communicating it (a concept), she would be left simply feeling hunger, but she's learned to associate us with the process of getting fed. That association is part of the hard-wiring for survival, in most Western thought, but that process is one of forming concepts to interface with data.

So as a reader, I would take issue with "proof" and "inviolability." There are differences in the understanding of kamma/karma according to which tradition you are looking at. But just the other day I read one from Pema Chodron in her book, "Start where you are." She said that karma gives us the lessons we need to soften the heart, or words like that. I don't believe she was describing an aware process that karma chooses. It was more in line withpast karma "sets the stage" to repeat past life choices, but we can choose differently (my interpretation of what she said). I've read similar in Ajahn Chah's books, I think, that life gives us plenty to practice on each day, and that today is made (largely) of past kamma.

I don't think that is inconsistant with part of what you say. It says that the process of kamma is inviolabile - like the natural law quotes above, you can't escape physics. The results of kamma can certainly be subject to change and there's a lot written on that. I actually like the part of Tiltbillings tag line that "karma is the way to freedom (or words to that effect)" because I can choose in eadch moment to repeat the mistake or to choose the intent and my action.
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sat Jun 12, 2010 5:57 pm

Don't forget the forth kind of kamma: "neither black nor white kamma", as I understand it, that's the way to freedom
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby Anicca » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:13 pm

Mawkish1983 wrote:Don't forget the forth kind of kamma: "neither black nor white kamma", as I understand it, that's the way to freedom

Good shot, Mawk!
AN 4.232
These four types of kamma have been understood, realized, & made known by me. Which four? There is kamma that is dark with dark result; kamma that is bright with bright result; kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result; and kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma.

And what is kamma that is dark with dark result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates an injurious bodily fabrication... an injurious verbal fabrication... an injurious mental fabrication... He rearises in an injurious world where he is touched by injurious contacts... He experiences feelings that are exclusively painful, like those of the beings in hell. This is called kamma that is dark with dark result.

And what is kamma that is bright with bright result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates an uninjurious bodily fabrication... an uninjurious verbal fabrication... an uninjurious mental fabrication... He rearises in an uninjurious world where he is touched by uninjurious contacts... He experiences feelings that are exclusively pleasant, like those of the Ever-radiant Devas. This is called kamma that is bright with bright result.

And what is kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates a bodily fabrication that is injurious & uninjurious... a verbal fabrication that is injurious & uninjurious... a mental fabrication that is injurious & uninjurious... He rearises in an injurious & uninjurious world where he is touched by injurious & uninjurious contacts... He experiences injurious & uninjurious feelings, pleasure mingled with pain, like those of human beings, some devas, and some beings in the lower realms. This is called kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result.

And what is kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma? The intention right there to abandon this kamma that is dark with dark result, the intention right there to abandon this kamma that is bright with bright result, the intention right there to abandon this kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result. This is called kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma.


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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby alexryan » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:46 pm

Annica,

Thank you for your thoughts.
Perhaps what I like best about the Buddha was that he challenged us to not take anything that he said as scripture.
He challenged us to think for ourselves.

We should remember that Buddha was not a god.
He was just a dude.
A very smart dude, but just a dude nonetheless.

He was not all-knowing and all-seeing.
He was a flawed human being just like the rest of us.
Is it possible that he himself did not truly understand karma?

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
~Buddha
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby bodom » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:50 pm

alexryan wrote:We should remember that Buddha was not a god.
He was just a dude.
A very smart dude, but just a dude nonetheless.

He was not all-knowing and all-seeing.
He was a flawed human being just like the rest of us.
Is it possible that he himself did not truly understand karma?


This is not the Buddha I have taken refuge in.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby Anicca » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:52 pm

Howdy Alex!
alexryan wrote:We should remember that Buddha was not a god.
He was just a dude.
A very smart dude, but just a dude nonetheless.

Er, ah, just a Rightly Self-Awakened Dude who happened to *teach* the gods!

alexryan wrote:He was not all-knowing and all-seeing.
He was a flawed human being just like the rest of us.
Is it possible that he himself did not truly understand karma?

I'll step back from arguing at this point - but, please enlighten me - what were the Buddha's flaws and what did he not understand about kamma that you can teach us?

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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby alexryan » Sat Jun 12, 2010 7:13 pm

Hoo,

Thank you for your very thorough comments.
Two issues that you mentioned ...

Issue #1:

Re:
".The fundamental delusion that characterizes our species in the age of barbarism is the belief that enduring happiness can be attained and sustained by bringing unhappiness to others."


You said ...
"I wonder how many of our 6+ billion particualr species have that belief, especially that "bringing unhappiness" to others is a requirement. I don't have that motivation"


I would respectively challenge that.
There is always a "moment of decision".

In that moment of decision we have to weigh our strong desire to obtain the thing that we believe with bring us happiness against our desire not to harm others.

In that moment of decision we have to weigh our strong fear to avoid the thing that we believe will bring us pain against our desire not to harm others.

There is always a moment of decision.

Issue #2:

"as a reader, I would take issue with 'proof' and 'inviolability.' There are differences in the understanding of kamma/karma according to which tradition you are looking at."


What I am suggesting is that the concepts of the "golden rule" and its converse "the ethic of reciprocity" go beyond Buddhism altogether. They are found at the heart of all moral systems. The reason for this is that they have a biological origin. The fact that different traditions have different understandings just means that we haven't yet as a species discovered the scientifically accurate understanding.

We know from the history of science that there are often many different attempts to describe a phenomenon when we do not truly understand the underlying mechanism.

As science progresses and knowledge is advanced our theories as to why things are the way that they are should be continuously refined until we truly understand the phenomenon in its entirety should they not?

We who value truth should welcome such things should we not?

Metta
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby alexryan » Sat Jun 12, 2010 7:23 pm

Annica,

You said ...
please enlighten me - what were the Buddha's flaws and what did he not understand about kamma that you can teach us?


My logic is ...
All human beings are flawed.
The Buddha was a human being.
Therefore the Buddha was flawed.
:)

Honestly, I am not an expert on everything the Buddha said and did.
All that I am saying is that if the Buddha thought that karma was too complex to be fully understood, he was mistaken.
That may have been true 2600 years ago.
That is not true today.
I am absolutely positive of that. :)

What can I teach you about karma that Buddha could not.
The Buddha did not have access to findings from neuro-science 2600 years ago.
He could not prove to you that the anterior cigulate cortex hub will send unremitting signals of pain to the amygdala hub for the duration of our disharmony with our conscience and the intensity of these signals will increase in proportion to the intensity of our disharmony. This neurological process is the force that leads us to be the unconscious enforcers of karma.

With Metta,
Alex
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby Anicca » Sat Jun 12, 2010 7:54 pm

alexryan wrote:What can I teach you about karma that Buddha could not.
The Buddha did not have access to findings from neuro-science 2600 years ago.
He could not prove to you that the anterior cigulate cortex hub will send unremitting signals of pain to the amygdala hub for the duration of our disharmony with our conscience and the intensity of these signals will increase in proportion to the intensity of our disharmony. This neurological process is the force that leads us to be the unconscious enforcers of karma.


No more questions here. Thank you for sharing and caring, Alex.

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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby bodom » Sat Jun 12, 2010 7:56 pm

Why are you under the impression "the Buddha thought that karma was too complex to be fully understood". I have never heard this before. Where did you get this idea?

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:07 pm

Hi Bodom,
bodom wrote:Why are you under the impression "the Buddha thought that karma was too complex to be fully understood". I have never heard this before. Where did you get this idea?

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
AN 4.77 Acintita Sutta: Unconjecturable
"There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

"The Buddha-range of the Buddhas[1] is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"The jhana-range of a person in jhana...[2]

"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma...

"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them."

I understand this to mean the details of the causes of a particular result, not understanding the workings of kamma in general.

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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby Hoo » Sat Jun 12, 2010 9:27 pm

".The fundamental delusion that characterizes our species in the age of barbarism is the belief that enduring happiness can be attained and sustained by bringing unhappiness to others."


Weaver said "I wonder how many of our 6+ billion particualr species have that belief, especially that 'bringing unhappiness' to others is a requirement. I don't have that motivation"

I would respectively challenge that.
There is always a "moment of decision".
In that moment of decision we have to weigh our strong desire to obtain the thing that we believe with bring us happiness against our desire not to harm others.
In that moment of decision we have to weigh our strong fear to avoid the thing that we believe will bring us pain against our desire not to harm others.
There is always a moment of decision.


Weaver - My obervation is to still question how many of we 6+ billion have that belief that "enduring happiness can be attained and sustained by bringing unhappiness to others. I wondered if I misread your intent, thinking you were implying that our happiness is necessarily based on the unhappiness of others. I agree that there is always a moment of decision, if one chooses. I believe that not all will choose to decide. Not all will decide as we wish they would. The reason for my hesitation is that thousands of years of religions have not accomplished the taming of the species. You claim to have proof but seem not to have a foundation for your claim.

Please see my comments as critiques of your positions, not you for holding or presenting them. You have a marvelous goal, but I believe the foundations of your positions lack validity and proof.


Weaver said...as a reader, I would take issue with 'proof' and 'inviolability.' There are differences in the understanding of kamma/karma according to which tradition you are looking at." ....Alexryan said...What I am suggesting is that the concepts of the "golden rule" and its converse "the ethic of reciprocity" go beyond Buddhism altogether


But your presentation is about proof of the inviolability of karma. Your suggestion doesn't seem to support your stated thesis.

...They are found at the heart of all moral systems.

Except the ones that favor slowly and painfully killing your enemies and/or defiling the remains, or eating them, etc., which are also moral systems - just not ones we like :)

The reason for this is that they have a biological origin.

Which portions of our biology are responsible for them? I believe this to be not provable.

The fact that different traditions have different understandings just means that we haven't yet as a species discovered the scientifically accurate understanding.

But you imply that it is known - biological origin.

............................................

We know from the history of science that there are often many different attempts to describe a phenomenon when we do not truly understand the underlying mechanism.
Proposition one. Several problems - WE is not defined, so it may be modern Mayans disproving that human sacrifice is right, or it might be an appeal, or it might be true or not if I haven't studied the history of science.

As science progresses and knowledge is advanced our theories as to why things are the way that they are should be continuously refined until we truly understand the phenomenon in its entirety should they not?

A request for agreement or implied proposition two. Scientists YES, Luddites NO, Religions somewhat divided, "Free Earthers" HECK NO!, ;)

We who value truth should welcome such things should we not?

A request for agreement or implied proposition three. WE know the truth, and that ain't it! :guns:

I use these somewhat silly examples to ilustrate a problem. If you don't have definitive proof of your claims, any view is a valid as the one being presented.

But my opinions are as true or valid as anyone else's, so feel free to take them with a grain of salt or to just ignore them :) I admire the goal of eliminating barbarism. I just don't believe you have made a case for a proof of the inviolability of karma with the points you provide.
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby bodom » Sat Jun 12, 2010 9:54 pm

Thanks Mike. Do you believe Neuro-science answers this question as our friend alex here maintains? Also do the four unconjecturables pertain to the Buddha himself or only to unenlightened individuals?

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby alexryan » Sat Jun 12, 2010 10:10 pm

Hoo,

Thank you very much for your thorough critique.
This is exactly the kind of feedback that I need.
I still believe that the proof is valid but perhaps I am not communicating it as well as I could be?

Some of the points that you make lead me to think that you might not have read the proof in its entirety. This is understandable because it is much longer than I wish. However, I do believe that I have addressed all of the issues that you have raised in the proof itself and I would encourage you to read it if this is a subject that you are passionate about like I am. :)

Re:
"The fundamental delusion that characterizes our species in the age of barbarism is the belief that enduring happiness can be attained and sustained by bringing unhappiness to others."


My point here is that "at the moment of decision" this is the belief that we hold when we *choose* to defy our conscience.
It is true that at such times we are usually consumed by the emotional flooding of the fight or flight response such that our ability to empathize is significantly reduced.
However, when the temporary madness leaves us and our empathy and thus our conscience returns we will feel the pain of guilt if we have harmed others.
How we choose to respond to that pain determines whether we will choose to be in harmony or disharmony with our conscience.
If we consciously choose disharmony we are choosing to launch an internal civil war.
Our unconscious mind will will fight us relentlessly and seek to sabotage our efforts to achieve and maintain happiness until we choose to return to harmony.
This is the nature of the force which enforces the law of karma unconsciously.

Re:
The reason for my hesitation is that thousands of years of religions have not accomplished the taming of the species


I ask you this ...
What is the force that has lead religions to desire to tame the species for thousands of years?
What motivates people to desire this?
Have people just randomly desired that such a goal might be fun to pursue?
Or is there a burning desire within that leads people to want to achieve this goal?
From where does this desire come?
I have attempted to prove that it is innate.
This force is rooted in our biology.
It is rooted in the emotion of empathy.

Re:
"They are found at the heart of all moral systems." Except the ones that favor slowly and painfully killing your enemies and/or defiling the remains, or eating them, etc., which are also moral systems - just not ones we like"

Agreed. To say that the golden rule and the ethic of reciprocity lay at the heart of a moral system is not to say that the resultant moral system does not contradict itself.
IMHO most moral systems exist for the purpose of self-deception.
The most effective lies are those that are hidden within a truth.
Such is the case when people use religion to morally justify actions to themselves that they know to be immoral.
Self deception is one of the ways in which we attempt to battle our conscience.
I cover this in section 8.2.5 of the proof. :)
I also explain how our conscience fights back against such tactics.

Thank you very much for your very constructive feedback.
It is very much appreciated.

With Metta,
Alex
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby Hoo » Sat Jun 12, 2010 10:26 pm

Hi Alex,
Re:
"They are found at the heart of all moral systems." Except the ones that favor slowly and painfully killing your enemies and/or defiling the remains, or eating them, etc., which are also moral systems - just not ones we like"

Agreed. To say that the golden rule and the ethic of reciprocity lay at the heart of a moral system is not to say that the resultant moral system does not contradict itself.
IMHO most moral systems exist for the purpose of self-deception.
The most effective lies are those that are hidden within a truth.
Such is the case when people use religion to morally justify actions to themselves that they know to be immoral.
Self deception is one of the ways in which we attempt to battle our conscience.
I cover this in section 8.2.5 of the proof.
I also explain how our conscience fights back against such tactics.

Thank you very much for your very constructive feedback.
It is very much appreciated.


Glad I can be of some help. But I would suggest some caution if you are preparing to present your blog article as a paper or other reviewed submission. To an audience that already shares your perspective, there will be little disagreement, I suspect. We just had a discussion here about self-referential positions and I'm glad you are looking outside of neurology for further input.

You might also benefit from explorations in psychiatry/psychology for reference to the training of of social conscience, anthro for evolution of moral codes in ancient nomads and tribal peoples, and pediatrics for the latest info on conditioning as the basis for development of social capability and conscience. There are cultures that do not seem to have the Golden Rule at the center of their codes, which would be unlikely under the biological basis approach. After all, we are all female at the embryonic stage until "outside forces" cause a differentation. I believe it would be a mistake to treat all humans as female.

It's been a good discussion :) We hold different views, and that's OK.
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby alexryan » Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:10 am

Hoo,

Thank you again for the suggestions.
I do not believe that soft sciences like pyschology will help me to accomplish my goal.
Neuro-science is hard science.
Evidence from soft sciences is open to endless philosophical discussion/debate.
I am not seeking this.
I am seeking to irrevocably *prove* beyond a shadow of a doubt that karma is inviolable.
The evidence that can be gleaned from a hard science like neuro-science is cold, hard and indisputable.
I believe that I need to strengthen the proof by illustrating in more detail exactly how karma is enforced at the neuro-logical process level.

With Metta,
Alex
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby Hoo » Sun Jun 13, 2010 1:01 am

alexryan wrote:Hoo,

Thank you again for the suggestions.
I do not believe that soft sciences like pyschology will help me to accomplish my goal.
Neuro-science is hard science.
Evidence from soft sciences is open to endless philosophical discussion/debate.
I am not seeking this.
I am seeking to irrevocably *prove* beyond a shadow of a doubt that karma is inviolable.
The evidence that can be gleaned from a hard science like neuro-science is cold, hard and indisputable.
I believe that I need to strengthen the proof by illustrating in more detail exactly how karma is enforced at the neuro-logical process level.

With Metta,
Alex


I wondered if I was dealing with one of those notorious hard scientists, as you must have wondered if I was one of those notorious soft scientists :hello: Look's like we were both right, though I retired about 10 years ago and can now claim only faded glory credentials - chuckle. My dad was a biochemist who went research instead of medicine, though, and he always claimed that behavior was only chemical in nature.

If you have Psychiatric and Pediatric associates that speak developmental as well as medical, check them out on your thesis. They may have some suggestions, too. It's been fun! :)
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jun 13, 2010 1:36 am

Greetings Alex,

alexryan wrote:Neuro-science is hard science.


Apologies for the length of the upcoming quotation, but since you find your statement convincing, it would be worth a few minutes of your time to read.

Nanavira Thera's Letter to Dr. M. R. de Silva, 26 March 1962
http://nanavira.xtreemhost.com/index.ph ... &Itemid=49

A short while ago you were good enough to send me a copy of Triangle with an article 'Anatomy of Consciousness' by the late Prof. Sir Geoffrey Jefferson F.R.S.[1] I sent you my comment upon it in a couple of lines in a postcard; this, of course, was totally inadequate, but I did not at that time find it convenient to say more. I know that I shall now again risk being incomprehensible to you, but I regard the current orthodox attitude of science to the question of consciousness as being such an obstacle (particularly for medical men) to the understanding of the Buddha's Teaching (and even to a no more than ordinarily intelligent and wholesome understanding of life) that it is a risk I am cheerfully prepared to take. (And, after all, nothing obliges you to read what I have to say if you don't wish to.) It is a matter of regret to me that, though I have been so well treated by so many doctors in Ceylon, and have found them, as people, so friendly and easy to talk to, I am yet quite unable to get beyond a certain point with them and discuss things that really matter. Always there arises a barrier of uncomprehension, and I perceive that, even though I am still being listened to, communication is no longer taking place. No doubt the question is not easy, but it must be faced; and this article 'Anatomy of Consciousness' seems to offer a convenient point of departure for a discussion.

Prof. Jefferson, in his article, tells us that 'consciousness depends upon (or 'is the sum of')[a] the activities of the whole intact nervous system, central and peripheral'; and the article clearly takes it for granted that an elucidation of the nervous system and its workings, if it were complete, is all that would be required for a total understanding of consciousness. 'We shall agree in the belief' says Prof. J. 'that whatever mental qualities human beings display during consciousness are derived in the end from the millions of cells in the cortex and from infinitely elaborate internuncial connections with subcortical structures.' This is certainly the generally accepted view in scientific circles.

Two assumptions are implicit in this attitude. The first is that between each possible state of the nervous system and each possible state of consciousness there exists a one-to-one correspondence. With this assumption we shall not quarrel (though a practical demonstration of its validity obviously offers certain difficulties). The second assumption is that the working of the nervous system strictly obeys the established laws of science, and in particular those of physics and bio-chemistry.

A physiologist (or neurologist), clearly enough, is bound to make this second assumption: it is the assumption of every man of science that the results of his investigations can be arranged in an ordered pattern exemplifying regular laws of behaviour, and furthermore that these laws of behaviour hold not only in the restricted field of his own investigations but universally in all branches of science to which they may be applicable. Thus, for example, the biologist accepts without question the laws established by the experimental chemist as well as those established by people who have investigated the behaviour of electricity; and the theoretical physicist assumes that, ultimately, the behaviour of all things whatsoever can be accounted for in terms of certain fundamental laws that are his special field of study. Failure to make this assumption, it might seem, must obviously lead to chaos—what hope of understanding the order of the universe and man's place in it unless we assume that the universe is ordered (i.e. that the same experiment repeated at different times and in different places will always give the same result)? What hope for suffering humanity if vaccination (for example) had purely random effects, producing immunity from smallpox in one, precipitating the measles in another, and simply giving a slight squint to a third? Medicine would be impossible unless cures could be predicted with some confidence. Besides, in view of the astonishing successes of modern science (and medical science in particular), what sane person could possibly be tempted to doubt this assumption—does not the success of the scientific method abundantly justify the assumptions it makes?

To begin with, doubting of this scientific assumption (supposing that it is necessary to doubt it) does not necessarily land us in chaos. To deny the universality of the order discovered by science and embodied in its laws is not by any means to deny that science discovers any order at all. Nor is it to deny that there is any universal order. If, as may be thought, there is a universal order of more fundamental nature than that revealed by science (though quantum theory, in a muddled way, is partly aware of it),[b] we can quite well allow the scientific order a limited validity within this universal order. (Logicians, whose task it is to investigate such matters, are well aware that the laws of science are only probably, not certainly, true.) 'Things' we may say 'obey the laws of science...except when they don't.' Or, to be more precise, 'the laws of science are less uniformly valid in one region than in another.' Details are not necessary here; what is important is the general idea.

But is it necessary to doubt the scientific assumption? Are we obliged to reject the simple and convenient view of the universal validity of science for the undeniably more complicated and tiresome view suggested above? Imagine that, by accident, you rest your bare arm on a hot stove. You will undoubtedly lift your arm in a hurry. Why? Because contact with the hot stove is painful, you may say. But this won't do at all. What we want is an account of the changes that took place in your nervous system from the time your arm was rested on the stove to the time it was raised; and this account must be in strictly scientific terms. Pain, however, is not a scientific term. We can speak of an electrical or chemical impulse travelling along a nerve up your arm to your brain; for these are all things that can be publicly observed (in theory at least) by each one of a team of physiologists who are experimenting on you. But the pain you feel is strictly private: not even in theory can the team of physiologists observe it.[c] (You can tell them that you feel pain, of course, but this does not make the pain public: what is public here is the sound of your voice, and the meaning of the words you utter is quite irrelevant—to allow that your words are meaningful is to beg the whole question.) A physiologist can observe an impulse moving up your arm, but he cannot observe a pain moving up your arm; only you can do that (if, for example, a red-hot needle is moved on your skin from the elbow to the shoulder; but not, of course, if your nerve is stimulated at a stationary point, when all you will feel is a stationary pain). This means (and I shall emphasize it by underlining it) that a physiologist must make no reference whatsoever to feeling (pleasure, pain, indifference) in his account of human behaviour. If he fails to abstain he abandons scientific method.

A physiologist is bound to maintain that the pain you felt when your arm was against the stove had nothing at all to do with the immediately subsequent removal of the arm from the stove (nor with your remarks about it); he must maintain this because he is obliged to claim, if he is to be consistent, that he can fully account for the movement of your arm (and the sound of your voice) in terms of neural mechanisms alone and without any reference to the pain. And if feeling plays no part in our actions we must count it a fortunate coincidence that the state of the nervous system to which the painful feeling of a burning arm corresponds happens to be one that brings about removal of the arm from the hot surface: if the converse were true, and the nervous system pressed the arm down still harder on the hot surface, we should have a pretty miserable time of it. Imagine it: each time we felt pain we should find the neural mechanism making the body do the very thing that aggravated the pain; and perhaps we should find ourselves recoiling from pleasure 'as if we had been burned'. But no; our bodies, by some happy chance, do just what we should wish them to do—when there is pleasure the body acts in such a way as to prolong it, and when there is pain the body takes action to bring it to an end. Or can it possibly be that feeling does, after all, dictate—to some extent at least—what our bodies shall do? Were we perhaps wrong in so categorically rejecting your original explanation that you raised your arm because contact with the hot stove was painful?

Or consider the case of a man who takes alcohol. Are the motions of buying the bottle, opening it, pouring the contents into a glass, and finally swallowing, wholly to be accounted for without any reference to the fact that he finds it pleasant to be intoxicated? Certainly, there is good experimental evidence that our behaviour will accommodate itself, after a short period, to a change of environment in such a way as to give us the least possible discomfort in the altered circumstances.[d] This is the principle upon which the conditioning of reflexes depends—a rat is repeatedly made uncomfortable by an electric shock if he behaves in a certain way, and, in consequence, 'learns' to behave in a different way.

But if we are to allow, as clearly enough we must, that feeling is capable of affecting the state of the nervous system (either by determining a specific action, such as raising the arm off a hot stove, or by conditioning a fairly lasting change in behaviour), then we shall find ourselves obliged to abandon the postulate of the universal validity of the laws of science. So long as feeling depended upon the state of the nervous system and the state of the nervous system upon scientific determinism, all was well; but if, in addition, the state of the nervous system must be admitted to depend upon feeling, then (at least in the eyes of science) we enter the realms of chaos; for feeling, not being publicly observable, is not a scientific entity, and cannot therefore be governed by any laws of science, and the behaviour of the nervous system, accordingly, ceases to be wholly rational. In short, the living body, and the nervous system in particular, are regions where the laws of science are manifestly less uniformly valid than elsewhere.

In your recent letter you said that you see that there is not much use in your studying paranormal phenomena because you find yourself trying to explain and understand them on a scientific, rational, basis; and you don't think this can really be done. You are quite right, of course, in thinking that these phenomena cannot be explained on a scientific basis; but this is the very reason why they should be studied. Certainly, they cannot be explained or understood in a hurry, but this is no great matter; the important thing is that they afford striking and varied evidence (both spontaneous and experimental) that the laws of rational science are not universally valid. And it is failure or refusal to accept this fact that so effectively blocks the way to progress in clear thinking of a fundamental nature.

The achievements of the rational methods of science have been so striking, and the methods themselves are so beautifully simple and tidy, that there is a natural tendency on the part of rationalists to make the wholly irrational assumption that reason (or science) is capable of accounting for everything. Indeed, this assumption is so very nearly an axiom (except in isolated pockets—see footnote b) that the strongest emotional resistances are encountered by anyone who ventures to question it. Yet there is a failure of rational science that is still more striking than the most striking of its successes; and that is...to account for itself.

Without the scientist there is no science; but science cannot, without inconsistency, admit the existence of the scientist; for the scientist is a man, and a man is not to be explained if feeling is ignored; and feeling is outside the domain of science. Science, however, in its claim to universal validity, is unwilling to recognize this; and a bastard entity has been brought into existence to make this claim seem valid. This bastard entity is sensation. Prof. Jefferson says 'When we analyze in physiological terms alone...' and then proceeds to speak of '...the classical pathways by which sensation reaches the thalamus and finally the cerebral cortex'. Sensation, in Prof. J.'s view, is a purely physiological term. This means that it is nothing more nor less than an electrical or chemical impulse (I believe there is still some uncertainty in this matter) travelling along a nerve. Under no circumstances, then, can the word 'sensation' be taken to mean 'feeling'. But obviously this is just what it does mean in ordinary usage. A painful sensation is a painful feeling, or more simply, a pain. And this being so, the word 'sensation' cannot possibly be a physiological term. But the physiologist, by using it as if it were a physiological term, manages to fuse two strictly incompatible meanings into a single word, and this gives the illusion that the two meanings are the same. We saw (para. 1) that Prof. J. uses the two expressions 'to depend upon' and 'to be the sum of' as if they meant the same thing, and this is nothing else than the very ambiguity we have been discussing, but in another form. To be just, I don't suppose that the Professor is aware of the duplicity; he is deceiving himself in good faith, in company, no doubt, with almost all his colleagues; for the ambiguity is so convenient and so unobtrusive (to a non-philosophical eye, at least) that it would be regarded as ridiculous, if not positively heretical, even to point it out, let alone to object to it. Nevertheless, it is with the help of this piece of verbal legerdemain that the pleasing illusion of the universal validity of rational science is maintained.[e]

It must now be remarked that the current scientific interpretation of the word 'consciousness' is itself inadequate (quite apart from the fact that consciousness is just as much beyond the domain of science as feeling). From Prof. J.'s article (as well as from other sources) it is evident that 'consciousness', for the scientist, means 'rational thought' or 'awareness of what one is doing or thinking'. The Professor seems to exclude 'automatic or conditioned behaviour' from conscious activity, and this is in accordance with current scientific opinion. But conditioned behaviour, as we noted before, involves feeling (pleasure or pain); and to exclude this feeling from consciousness is to invite confusion. (Does an unconscious pain hurt? If you say 'yes', I ask 'how do you know, seeing that you are not conscious of it?' If you say 'no', I ask 'then how can you tell it is a pain and not a pleasant feeling?, how do you know there is any feeling at all?') This restriction of consciousness to rational thought is simply a prejudice of rationalism; and in the Buddha's Teaching it is specifically stated that consciousness (viññāna), feeling (vedanā) and perception (saññā) are inseparable[2]—whenever there is any one of them there are all three. But to understand this a more subtle and intelligent approach to consciousness (or, more generally, to experience) is necessary.

The mistake is to approach consciousness by way of the body. But rational science, being essentially the study of what is public, namely matter, has no alternative. The laws of science are the laws of matter, and if these laws are universal then consciousness (whatever it may be) must necessarily be subordinate to matter. What science overlooks, and cannot help overlooking, is the fact that in order to know the body it is first necessary to be conscious of it—the body is an object (amongst other objects) of consciousness, and to seek to investigate consciousness by way of the body, instead of the other way round, is to put the cart before the horse. Consciousness comes first, and if it is to be known it must be studied directly (that is to say, by immediate reflexion). This matter has been stated clearly by J.-P. Sartre, who, in his principal work dealing with consciousness, writes more than 250 pages out of a total of 700 before mentioning the body at all. This is what he says.

Perhaps some may be surprised that we have treated the problem of knowing without raising the question of the body and of the senses and even once referring to it. It is not my purpose to misunderstand or to ignore the role of the body. But what is important above all else, in ontology as elsewhere, is to observe strict order in discussion. Now the body, whatever may be its function, appears first as the known. We cannot therefore refer knowledge back to it, or discuss it before we have defined knowing, nor can we derive knowing in its fundamental structure from the body in any way or manner whatsoever. (EN, pp. 270-1; B&N, p. 218)

And Sartre goes on to point out that whatever knowledge we have about our own body is derived in the first place from seeing other people's bodies. As a doctor this will be evident to you—you know about the structure of your own heart not from having dissected it but from having dissected other people's bodies in your student days. Knowledge of our own body is thus very indirect, and this is particularly true of the nervous system.
The foregoing remarks are generally applicable to all those medical men—perhaps the majority?—who have allowed their scientific attitude towards medicine (which is admirable in its proper place) to affect and infect their general outlook on life, so that they now quite fail to understand what it is to be an existing individual. But more especially these remarks apply to those among them who think of investigating the Buddha's Teaching. It might well happen that a doctor, reading the Suttas for the first time, and coming across such a passage as this:

There are in this body head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, midriff, spleen, lights, bowels, entrails, gorge, dung, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, spittle, snot, oil-of-the-joints, urine <S. XXXV,127: iv,111, etc.>

would think to himself, 'As anatomy, this is hopelessly inadequate; any first-year student knows a hundred times as much; and besides, there is no sort of order about it'; and he would congratulate himself that medical science has made such enormous progress since the Buddha's day. His first reaction would thus be to dismiss these primitive notions as trivial and obsolete. Then, turning the page, he might encounter this passage:

He regards matter—or feeling, or perception, or determinations, or consciousness—as self. That is a determination.... In an uninformed commoner contacted by feeling born of nescience-contact, monks, there is craving arisen; thence is born that determination. Thus, monks, that determination is impermanent, determined, dependently arisen; and that craving too is impermanent, determined, dependently arisen; and that feeling too is impermanent, determined, dependenty arisen; and that contact too is impermanent, determined, dependently arisen; and that nescience too is impermanent, determined, dependently arisen. <S. XXII,81: iii,96-7>

Our doctor finds this altogether incomprehensible—there is nothing about it in the textbooks, not even in those on the shelves of the psychiatry department—, and concludes that, presuming it does actually mean something, it is quite beyond his powers of understanding. Thus his second reaction is baffled humiliation. In this way he oscillates between the opposite poles of superiority and inferiority to the texts, and is unable to find anything on the same level as his own understanding—it is all either beneath him or above him. The trouble is, as no doubt you will have gathered, that our doctor has got things the wrong way round. He is accustomed, on the one hand, to elaborate and intricate descriptions of the body and its workings (whole textbooks—whole libraries, no doubt—are devoted to the heart and the kidneys), and on the other hand he has never been required to digest anything more than the most artless pronouncements about consciousness. And this is because medical science puts the body first and consciousness (if considered at all) afterwards.

But the Suttas put consciousness first and the body a bad second, for reasons that I hope to have made clear; and it is to be expected that statements about consciousness will be complex and those about the body simple. If our doctor can manage to reverse the order of his thinking (which needs practice), he may stand some chance of finding the Buddha's Teaching at least partly intelligible instead of wholly baffling and frustrating. The first passage quoted above is, of course, not a primitive attempt at anatomical description, but is designed to lead a person to disgust with the body; and exact physiology is obviously out of place. The second passage is, admittedly, of extreme difficulty; but the Dhamma, I am afraid, is difficult, and it serves no useful purpose to pretend that it is not. (Those booklets that presume to explain the Dhamma on a scientific basis do the greatest possible dis-service to seriously interested enquirers. It is far better for a man to understand that he does not understand the Dhamma, than it is for him to believe falsely that he does understand it. The former attitude may encourage progress, the latter can only obstruct it.) It is in the hope of clearing away at least some of the preliminary obstacles to a right approach to the Buddha's Teaching that I have written this to you.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby alexryan » Sun Jun 13, 2010 2:26 am

Retro,
Thank you for the lengthy quote.
I'm not exactly sure what point you were making.
Would it be possible to clarify?

My objective is limited to that of proving the inviolability of karma.
Please note that neuro-science has made huge advances since 1962.

I believe that a hard-science like neuro-science produces results that are more irrefutable because the premises of the logical argument can be reduced to the level of irrefutable empirical evidence. So, while there is always uncertainty, the uncertainty is reduced to the level of "Can I believe the information gathered via my 5 senses?".

To the best of my knowledge here are the facts that I know of from neuro-science as it pertains to proving the inviolability of karma via the logic of my proof:

1) All animals are driven to pursue pleasure and avoid pain.
The ancient amygdala hub the neurological component that determines what is pleasure and what is pain.

2) All decisions are made twice.
There is the initial impulsive fear-driven decision which is made in the amygdala hubm
Then there is the reasoned decision which is made in the anterior cingulate cortex hub.
The later is the seat of "self-regulation" it enables us to over-ride the primal decisions that we make.

3) The circuitry for empathy is attached to the anterior cingulate cortex hub and is integral to our ability to self-regulate our destructive emotions.
This is because empathy evolved as a means for us to accurately ascertain the intentions of others.
The ability enabled superior self-regulation capabilities which enabled us to accurately make decisions about when we should be fearful and when we should take risks to seize opportunities.

4) What we call "happiness" is a state of calm in the amygdala.
Maintaining this state of calm *requires* us to keep our empathy on at all times because that's how our brain evolved.

Whenever we connect with someone and hurt them we feel their pain as if it were our own.
If we choose to maintain a state of disharmony with our conscience by refusing to atone for hurting them, the only way to do this is to battle with our own thoughts to switch off our empathy for them.

But we are destroying our own ability to be happy in the long term by doing so.
The more people we hurt the more we hurt them the greater the internal tension that we create and the more intense the internal war becomes.

The desire to return to a state of harmony with our conscience is primal and unrelenting because we need to have this in order to have enduring happiness.
This is the force that drives us to unconsciously enforce karma.

If there is any aspect of this argument that is unconvincing, please attack that aspect directly.
As a firm believer in the scientific method and someone who highly values truth I am very open to being proven wrong.
But I am also fairly certain that I am right. :)
And I also believe that the consequences of this could be quite extra-ordinary. :) :)

With Metta,
Alex
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jun 13, 2010 2:33 am

Greetings Alex,

alexryan wrote:If there is any aspect of this argument that is unconvincing, please attack that aspect directly.

How about its practical relevance.

In other words, what are you going to do about it? Is your theory actionable in any way which could produce positive outcomes?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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