Buddhism, neurology, and the self

Thanks, Katie Raver, for seeing this article, thinking of me, and posting the link on my Facebook wall, and thanks to Tom Dotz of NLP Comprehensive for sharing it where Katie found it.

Buddhism and the Brainis an opinion piece published in new-to-me Seed Magazine.

There is usually a vast gulf between how someone perceives their self, say in seated meditation, and their beliefs about their self. The meditating self is often a constant fragmented stream of thoughts, sensations, memories, naming, internal dialogue, sometimes interrupted by calm.

Anatta is not a unified, unchanging self. It is more like a concert, constantly changing emotions, perceptions, and thoughts. Our minds are fragmented and impermanent…. Both Buddhism and neuroscience converge on a similar point of view: The way it feels isn’t how it is. There is no permanent, constant soul in the background.

The author asks how Buddhism got it right and brings up the paradox of reincarnation. (If there is no self, what continues to be reincarneted?) He also wonders about the Western view of the self:

When Judeo-Christian belief conflicts with science, it nearly always concerns science removing humans from a putative pedestal, a central place in creation. Yet science has shown us that we reside on the fringes of our galaxy, which itself doesn’t seem to hold a particularly precious location in the universe. Our species came from common ape-like ancestors, many of which in all likelihood possessed brains capable of experiencing and manifesting some of our most precious “human” sentiments and traits. Our own brains produce the thing we call a mind, which is not a soul. Human exceptionalism increasingly seems a vain fantasy. In its modest rejection of that vanity, Buddhism exhibits less error and less original sin, this one of pride.

Click the link above to read the whole article.

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