The heart as the physical base of the mind?

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The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Stephen K » Wed Nov 10, 2010 1:10 pm

A Discourse on Dependent Origination, p. 92, Mahāsī Sayādaw wrote:According to the commentaries, the heart forms the physical basis of all mental events.



Is this only the commentators' opinion or does this come from the Buddha himself?
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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Nov 10, 2010 1:12 pm

I have read that in the visuddhimagga that the Buddha said the mind resides in the head and the heart. Experientially that seems to be correct as we experience some emotions in the heard and thinking seems to happen around the head area (even though the mind cannot be physically pinpointed in space).

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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Individual » Wed Nov 10, 2010 1:59 pm

Stefan wrote:
A Discourse on Dependent Origination, p. 92, Mahāsī Sayādaw wrote:According to the commentaries, the heart forms the physical basis of all mental events.



Is this only the commentators' opinion or does this come from the Buddha himself?

From what I've seen, only the commentaries. It's possibly based solely on etymology: citta can mean heart or mind. I remember somebody saying a while back that the commentators claimed that the function of the brain is to produce phlegm?
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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby bodom » Wed Nov 10, 2010 2:33 pm

From Nyanatiloka's dictionary:

Hadaya-vatthu:

'heart as physical base' of mental life. The heart, according to the commentaries as well as to the general Buddhist tradition, forms the physical base vatthu of consciousness. In the canonical texts, however, even in the Abhidhamma Pitaka, no such base is ever localized, a fact which seems to have first been discovered by Shwe Zan Aung Compendium of Philosophy, pp. 277ff.. In the Patth. we find repeatedly only the passage:; That material thing based on which mind-element and mind-consciousness element function; yam rūpam nissāya manodhātu ca mano-viññāna-dhātu ca vattanti, tam rūpam.


http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... dic3_h.htm

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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: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Wed Nov 10, 2010 2:44 pm

Stefan wrote:
A Discourse on Dependent Origination, p. 92, Mahāsī Sayādaw wrote:According to the commentaries, the heart forms the physical basis of all mental events.



Is this only the commentators' opinion or does this come from the Buddha himself?


As far as I know the heart is just a lump of muscle which pumps blood, whereas the brain is the site of mental activity.

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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Nov 10, 2010 3:05 pm

I remember seeing a documentary in the BBC saying that those who have had heart transplants remembering the previous person's memories! Several cases in fact..! It was saying that the heart has nerve tissue much like that of the brain. So far it is known that the heart can generate its own impulses using this nerve tissue, even when it is not connected to the brain. So I think it is not yet established in science but there are some indicators that we maybe heading in that direction...
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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Individual » Wed Nov 10, 2010 3:30 pm

rowyourboat wrote:I remember seeing a documentary in the BBC saying that those who have had heart transplants remembering the previous person's memories! Several cases in fact..! It was saying that the heart has nerve tissue much like that of the brain. So far it is known that the heart can generate its own impulses using this nerve tissue, even when it is not connected to the brain. So I think it is not yet established in science but there are some indicators that we maybe heading in that direction...

The heart's autorhythmic cells (the neural portion) are responsible for the heartbeat. There's only a few simple bundles of nerve fibers, which start in the upper right atrium (top right chamber) and then travel down and to the left. The whole thing operates like clockwork, so that the four chambers can be filled and emptied in the most efficient way possible. When there is strong emotion or a need for either energy or relaxation, the brain can send signals which cause the heart to speed up or slow down, but don't alter either the rhythm of the contractions or the fact that they contract at all.

The study you mention sounds like pseudoscience, because from everything I've ever heard about memory (i.e. experimental MRIs) show memory being related to various parts of the brain, like the hippocampus. This is the BBC, remember. Not JSTOR or NIH. Some Ph. Ds because they're too lazy or stupid to do real research engage in what could be called "quackery," to get money from the public due to an inability to get academic grants. Or it can be the other way around: they engage in quackery because the ones giving out grants are stupid. The media often picks up on bad science like this because it sells newspapers. :)
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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Nov 10, 2010 3:38 pm

Hi Individual

You maybe right. In any case, we shouldn't be mixing science with the dhamma. The former is 'objective' the latter is experiential. So if we mix up the 'brain' and 'heart' (objects) for where mental phenomena are felt we will end up quite confused.

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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Nibbida » Wed Nov 10, 2010 4:17 pm

This isn't as cut and dried as it may seem. The Heartmath Institute and other people have been doing a lot of quality research on the extensive interconnection between the heart and brain. There is research on heart rate variability and psychological states in top research journals, particularly on heart rate variability.

The heart doesn't seem to "think" the way the brain does, but the highly reciprocal influences that they have shows that the heart responds and contributes to cognitive and emotional states in ways that were not fully appreciated until recently. They are distinguishable organs, but they also part of an interdependent system. Whether we see them as "separate" or "one" is a concept, but they do function in concert. So the idea of "citta" is not as far off as it may seem to our modern perspective.
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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Individual » Wed Nov 10, 2010 4:31 pm

Nibbida wrote:This isn't as cut and dried as it may seem. The Heartmath Institute and other people have been doing a lot of quality research on the extensive interconnection between the heart and brain. There is research on heart rate variability and psychological states in top research journals, particularly on heart rate variability.

The heart doesn't seem to "think" the way the brain does, but the highly reciprocal influences that they have shows that the heart responds and contributes to cognitive and emotional states in ways that were not fully appreciated until recently. They are distinguishable organs, but they also part of an interdependent system. Whether we see them as "separate" or "one" is a concept, but they do function in concert. So the idea of "citta" is not as far off as it may seem to our modern perspective.

Interesting. Could you cite any studies on this? You mention the Heartmath Institute. Who are they? Are they affiliated with any major academic, medical, or government institutions, or is it possibly just one or more rogue Ph. Ds promoting quackery, to sell books, videos, and get ad revenue on websites? :)
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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Nibbida » Wed Nov 10, 2010 5:15 pm

Sure. Certain findings seem pretty consistent, whether from Heartmath or other people. Negative states of mind are associated with low heart rate variability, meaning that the heart does not have the normal responsiveness to situations and demands, changing as needed. Positive states of mind are associated with higher HRV, and doing HRV biofeedback increases positive states of mind. In fact, I read a book, I think by Childers in which he recommended some steady breathing technique (that increases HRV) coupled with focusing on thoughts of love towards someone. the combination had the strongest effect on increasing HRV (which is physiologically good), and is pretty much like loving-kindness meditation.


McCraty, R., M. Atkinson, et al. (1995). The effects of emotions on short term heart rate variability using power spectrum analysis. American Journal of Cardiology 76: 1089-1093.

Impact of depression and antidepressant treatment on heart rate variability: A review and meta-analysis. Kemp, Andrew H.; Quintana, Daniel S.; Gray, Marcus A.; Felmingham, Kim L.; Brown, Kerri; Gatt, Justine M.; Biological Psychiatry, Vol 67(11), Jun 1, 2010. pp. 1067-1074.

Heart rate variability (HRV) in adolescent females with anxiety disorders and major depressive disorder. Blom, E. Henje; Olsson, E. M.; Serlachius, E.; Ericson, M.; Ingvar, M.; Acta Paediatrica, Vol 99(4), Apr, 2010. pp. 604-611.

Armour, J. A. and J. Ardell, Eds. (1994). Neurocardiology. New York, NY, Oxford University Press.

Kok, B.E, Fredrickson, B.L. (in press). Upward spirals of the heart: Autonomic flexibility, as indexed by vagal tone, reciprocally and prospectively predicts positive emotions and social connectedness Biological Psychology
http://www.unc.edu/peplab/publications/Kok_Fredrickson_Biological_Psychology_proof.pdf

Vagal tone as an indicator of treatment response in major depression. Chambers AS, Allen JJ. Psychophysiology. 2002 Nov;39(6):861-4.
http://128.196.99.80/JJBAReprints/Chambers%20and%20Allen%20Psychophysiology%202002.pdf
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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Individual » Wed Nov 10, 2010 5:56 pm

Nibbida wrote:Sure. Certain findings seem pretty consistent, whether from Heartmath or other people. Negative states of mind are associated with low heart rate variability, meaning that the heart does not have the normal responsiveness to situations and demands, changing as needed.

Oh, I see now. I didn't know at first what you meant by "heart rate variability". As I see it, this is nothing special; that is, it says nothing about how thoughts or consciousness are somehow governed by the heart, only that certain emotional or psychological problems can affect cardiovascular health. For instance, this article:
http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/ ... _heart.htm

Unhealthy emotions create an unnecessary trigger of the fight-or-flight response, which could conceivably reduce the body's capacity to respond to stress appropriately (which includes heart rate variability, it also includes things like cortisol, but would you equate the adrenal glands with "mind"?).

Also, I still don't see the credibility or relevance of Heartmath. This website (assuming this is them) definitely looks misleading:
http://www.heartmathstore.com/

Even if it were true that consciously monitoring heart-rate and comparing it with emotions could work to extend life (a self-diagnosis made by a completely unqualified person with no medical or educational background??)... Even if this were true, with right mindfulness one can be aware of the heartbeat and emotions without paying for a machine. :)
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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Nov 10, 2010 8:34 pm

Hi Individual

You can believe in what you want. Equally you are free not to believe as well.

As far as beliefs go (since current science isn't the final version of the truth) I tend to believe in what is helpful for my practice.

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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:17 am

rowyourboat wrote:As far as beliefs go (since current science isn't the final version of the truth) I tend to believe in what is helpful for my practice.



Clearly the activity of the heart is linked to bodily functions, but for me the idea that the heart is conscious in some way is highly speculative and not particularly useful. I don't see a problem with regarding the brain as the centre of mental activity.

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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Hanzze » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:32 am

Maybe that help on the question:

Image

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:53 am

Hanzze wrote:Maybe that help on the question:

Image

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra


Thanks, but I don't subscribe to the idea of Chakras and don't regard them as part of Buddhist teaching.

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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Hanzze » Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:12 pm

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Thu Jan 13, 2011 2:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Hanzze » Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:31 pm

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Thu Jan 13, 2011 2:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby pt1 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 1:05 pm

rowyourboat wrote:I remember seeing a documentary in the BBC saying that those who have had heart transplants remembering the previous person's memories! Several cases in fact..! It was saying that the heart has nerve tissue much like that of the brain. So far it is known that the heart can generate its own impulses using this nerve tissue, even when it is not connected to the brain. So I think it is not yet established in science but there are some indicators that we maybe heading in that direction...

I remember seeing the same documentary. I think there were several cases shown where the recipient of the heart after the operation suddenly starts engaging in some completely new habits - I think there was a case of a person suddenly starting to write poetry, and later he found out that his heart donor was actually a poet. Or one that I remember as funny - I think there was a lady who suddenly started having a lot of fast food and beer after the operation, and she found out later on that her heart donor was a biker :)

Stefan wrote:
A Discourse on Dependent Origination, p. 92, Mahāsī Sayādaw wrote:According to the commentaries, the heart forms the physical basis of all mental events.


Is this only the commentators' opinion or does this come from the Buddha himself?


As I remember, there are two notes in Visuddhimagga (Nanamoli translation, 1991 edition) that summarise the issue well - a long note 26 in chapter XIV (page 809) and a small note 5 in chapter XIII (page 802) - as I remember both of these are basically a translation of the commentary to Visuddhimagga.

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Re: The heart as the physical base of the mind?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:10 am

Hanzze wrote:I don't know much about chakras and there is for sure a lot of esoteric, but I could not reject it when I observe my self.


Yes, I take your point about self-observation. I seem to mostly experience stuff in my head. I think this is mostly because of biology, the fact that 4 of the 5 sense organs are physically located in the head. Alternatively it could mean I am over-intellectual. ;)

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