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Essay Review: Tibetan and Western Models of Mind

Tibetan Buddhst monks create map of the mind mandhala in sand

Any attempt to help neuroscientists and Tibetan Buddhists to understand each other is of potential value. At the very least, such an attempt is likely to help scholars on both sides to enter discussions from informed positions rather than from ignorance. Thus these three books deserve a warm welcome, though readers may vary somewhat in the degree of warmth they accord to each of them.

Consciousness in the Brain

Head with top removed displays the mystical light representing consciousness

Even at the stage of the retina, a division arises between the dorsal and the ventral stream. The dorsal stream is responsible for movements in relations to objects, and is unconscious. The ventral stream has specialised modules for different aspects of vision. This processing happens at a still unconscious stage, with consciousness only found at the end of the process. Consciousness-related stimuli pick up strength as they progress through the cortex. After 200-300 ms unconscious processing fades, but consciousness-related signals move towards the front of the brain.

Living Philosophy and the Joy of Life

A businessman in reverence for the Earth

The art of living is second to none. The art of understanding is also important: it should help us not only to comprehend the ways we have been bound and imprisoned, but also to find a path to liberation, to freedom, to fulfillment.

We need to start with assumptions about the world in which we are living and reflect in which way cosmology can help us to live and experience joy. We should be clear about what we are doing. Let me just state straightforwardly:

We don’t live in a mechanistic cage, which is the source of our sorrows and slavery.