What is Mind?

Art by Tomasz Kopera

In this age of swift advancements in brain imaging and research, we are uncovering a few of the mysterious functions of the brain, mind, and body.  Sunil Pandya, a neurosurgeon and thinker on medical ethics summarizes the scientific aspects of the mysterious relationship between the mind and brain and how this mystery persists, even with each technological advancement.

In short, Dr. Pandya indicates there is “a clear connection between mental functions as we understand them (‘mind’) and the structure that produces it (brain).”  His paper goes on to report “the mind… is a virtual entity, one that reflects the workings of the neural networks, chemical and hormonal systems in our brain.”

Further, Dr. Pandya reports “The mind cannot be localized to particular areas within the brain, though the entire cerebral cortex and deep grey matter form important components. Consciousness, perception, behavior, intelligence, language, motivation, drive, the urge to excel and reasoning of the most complex kind are the product of the extensive and complex linkages between the different parts of the brain.”

Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson along with neurologist Dr. Richard Mendius scientifically describe the illusory nature of a fixed, permanent, separate self in the book The Practical Neuroscience of Buddha’s Brain.  These behavioral and brain specialists compare the separate self to a unicorn, a truly fictional character, …as the brain strings together moments of selfing and subjectivity into an illusion of homogenous coherence and continuity.”

These “new” scientific findings are not new at all.  They are echoes of the ancient teachings of Wu Hsin, Jesus the Christ, Lao Tzu, the Upanishads, and the Buddha, as they pointed towards the illusory nature of mind and the personal self the mind projects.

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