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Buddhadharma : Summer 2015
summer 2015 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 77 there is a school of thought in neuro- science that Thompson labels “neuro- nihilism,” or neuro-reductionism, that posits that the identification of a self is only a construction of the brain. After all, if the brain is what becomes aware of our thoughts, feelings, surroundings, and other perceptions, shouldn’t our own self-understanding also come from the workings of the brain? Thompson guides the reader through these advanced theories of the mind by linking thoroughly researched, and often very esoteric, Tibetan and Indian texts with modern neuroscience. He argues that the “I” self is a perceived construc- tion that cannot exist independently of perception or other objects; however, he asserts that the self is not completely an illusion. Although the author borrows from several disciplines, the reader does not necessarily have to subscribe to Bud- dhism, neuroscience, or Vedic beliefs to appreciate the text. Thompson himself maintains a skeptical yet open-minded view of these disciplines throughout the text, challenging the reader to do the same and to “be resolutely empirical in our approach.” Thompson introduces an overview of philosophy of mind, then progressively describes and interprets different states of consciousness beginning with waking, transitioning into dreaming, and finally delving into abstract and illusory states of consciousness, all the while question- ing the very nature of consciousness. While the content is profound and, at face value, can seem daunting, the author takes care to guide the reader to a greater understanding. For example, Thompson discusses consciousness from ancient Indian dialogues: “According to the yogic traditions of Indian philoso- phy, consciousness is that which is lumi- nous and has the capacity for knowing.” Rather than leaving the reader to deci- pher this definition, Thompson defines luminosity and breaks this statement down into something easily digestible, ultimately concluding that conscious- ness is dependent on observation. Wak- ing consciousness, he explains, is part of a feedback loop. In the same way an organism depends on and is affected by its environment—yet can also alter the environment on which it depends— consciousness, too, depends on physical processes. However, consciousness also influences the very physical processes on which it depends. What parts of consciousness aggre- gate during dreaming? Neuroscience identifies several stages of consciousness during sleep. These stages have been established scientifically by electroen- cephalography (EEG) and have been explored philosophically and experien- tially through meditative introspection. One of the first states, the hypnagogic, is transient by nature and experienced through the appearance of dreamlike images and sensations as we fall asleep. Within the hypnagogic state, the self is no longer bounded by the ego. Yet when we begin to dream, the ego reemerges in a dream body, and soon our perception of ourselves and our dream experiences is similar to when we’re awake. Lucid dreams, which arise when we waKing, dreaming, being self and consciousness in neuroscience, meditation, and philosophy by evan thompson columbia university press, 2015 496 pages, $32.95 reviews Ancient and Traditional Astrology James Sebastian 503-522-9974 SKYMANDALA.COM 30% off your first reading, Coupon Code: Sky PACIFICZEN.ORG JOHN TARRANT AUTHOR OF BRING ME THE RHINOCEROS AND THE LIGHT INSIDE THE DARK LONG RETREATS 2015 SUMMER FALL OPEN MIND RETREATS 2015 SUMMER FALL JUNE 28-JULY 4 OCTOBER 17-24 JUNE 4-7 AUGUST 20-23