Sunday, August 30, 2015

Differences Between Consciousness Only And Mind Only.

Here's a first-go at a table briefly outlining some of the distinctions between the teachings of mind only (cittamatra) and consciousness only (vijnaptimatra). 

I have observed that in Tibetan Buddhism the distinctions seem to have been lost or never established when Buddha Dharma came from India to Tibet, and so the Tibetan system usually employs consciousness only and mind only interchangeably without distinction. 

Zen Buddhism is in the lineage of the Indian ancestral master Bodhidharma who brought the "One Vehicle lineage of Southern India" to China with his manner of teaching the Lankavatara Sutra.  Therefore, at different times Zen has been called the "Mind Only School" and the "Buddha Mind School" because the mind only tradition of the One Vehicle takes mind as Buddha.
Differences Between Consciousness Only And Mind Only.
consciousness only
mind only
vijñaptimatra (etym. divided-knowing-getting-only; lit. representation-only, information-only, or cognition-only); vijñānamatra (etym. divided-knowingness-only; lit., consciousness-only) D.T. Suzuki clarifies that vijñaptimatra is the proper technical term used by Vasubhandu, but confusion has caused vijnanamatra to be the commonly used label consciousness-only. Vasubhandu said, “So long as consciousness (vijnana) does not abide in a state of cognition-only/representation-only (vijnaptimatratva), there is no ceasing of the remorse of the two-fold grasping (i.e., dualism).”
cittamatra (etym. that which perceives-only, that which comprehends-only, that which reflects upon-only; lit. mind-only); cittadṛśyamātra (lit. mind-seen-only)
school or teaching lineage
Yogacara (the Practice of Union or Unification Practice)
Ekayana (the One Vehicle)
central idea
everything we become aware of is nothing but the representations of consciousness; the world is the objectification of consciousness.
everything that manifests is nothing but mind; the world is the objectification of mind
what is mind?
mind (as manas) includes the 6, 7, & 8 consciousnesses
mind (as citta) includes all 8 consciousnesses
relation between mind and consciousness
mind (manas) is an aspect of consciousness
consciousness is an aspect of mind (citta)
alayavijnana’s purity or impuity
alayavijnana is purity itself with nothing defiled in it (as the most profound depth of mind). Ignorance only arises as a function of the 1-7th consciousnesses.
alayavijnana contains the seeds of the pure and the impure and is the impurity phase of the undefiled Tathagatagarba which contains both good and not-good roots, while the essence of mind (citta) is pure (in the sense of transcending both purity and impurity) in its most profound Dharmakaya aspect which is the original nature of both TG and AV.  Ignorance arises as a function of the alayvijnana.
the successive depths of mind
mano-vijnana, manas, alayavijnana
mano-vijnana, manas, alayavijnana, Tathagatagarbha, Dharmakaya (AV, TG, and DK are three names for 3 aspects of the one and same. “the Tathagatagarbha
is the Alayavijnana”)
tathagatagarba (TG)
sees TG as too close to atman/eternal self/ego substance and as contrary to teaching of anatman
sees TG as how consciousness perceives Dharmakaya and as how Dharmakaya transforms into alayavijnana
process orientation
emphasizes the process of transformation which takes place in the alayavijnana to realize that consciousness is only representational activity
emphasizes the process of transformation that takes place in the alayavijnana to realize that consciousness is only mind’s activity and so mind becomes Buddha
relations between the 1-7 consciousnesses and the 8th alayavijnana
the 1st to 8th consciousnesses are distinguished functions of consciousness.
The 1st to 7th consciousnesses are the activity of the 8th alayavijnana as the waves are the activity of the ocean.
Comparison to Western views of the unconscious
The 7th consciousness is analogous to the subconscious and the 8th is analogous to the Freudian unconscious, in which the 8th storehouse only contains contents deposited there from the 1st to 6th consciousnesses via the 7th.   
The 7th consciousness is analogous to the subconscious and the 8th is analogous to the Jungian collective unconscious, in which the 8th storehouse contains additional contents that were not deposited there from the 1st to 6th via the 7th and are contents inherently arising from the Buddha nature.   


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Are plants sentient beings?

An article in the Guardian reviews a new book Brilliant Green that asks "Are plants sentient?"  I answer with a general yes. Obviously the entire range of flora have different degrees of sentience just as the entire range of fauna have differing degrees of sentience. The wide meaning of sentience means feeling-perception-awareness, e.g., any kind of sense of environment, and the narrow meaning is self-conscious or intelligence measured by self-consciousness.

With the wider meaning, all living beings have some degree of sentience, i.e., awareness. Otherwise they would not be living beings. Traditionally, with the earlier and less sophisticated narrower views of sentience, only people were considered sentient beings having our kind of self-consciousness as our definition of intelligence, and animals and plants were not considered sentient. No recognizable self-consciousness meant no consciousness and therefore no sentience or intelligence.   However, life means interaction, relationship, stimulus and response, so I include all living beings in the category set of sentient beings because responding to the environment, no matter how simplistic or limited, is the sign of "feeling" and the presence of awareness and is thus being active in the response to the environment. Therefore to me, all living beings are sentient.

Next is the question of the degree of sentience. Obviously, there is a spectrum of sentience with mammals at one end and perhaps mold or plankton at the other end. Here, I think the question of self-consciousness is relevant. While all sentient beings are sentient, not all are self-conscious to the same degree.  However we have to watch for species-centric bias because as mammals, we humans can't even access the ranges of sentience on the sensory spectrum that some other mammals can. For example, we can't hear the range of sound that a dog or dolphins can. So there may be many areas of the field of sentience that we are unaware of. An open grass prairie and a redwood forest have different feelings to them for us, and these different feelings arise from them, not just our imagination. The different feelings that we are sensing are our limited perception of the sentient fields of those different plant communities.

In Buddhism, there is the concept of Buddha fields or Buddha lands which are of infinite variety and relate to all the fields of sentience of all the sentient beings. In addition to Buddha lands being other dimensions or other planets or galaxies, they are also other being's fields of consciousness, such as the Elephants' Buddha land where beings can communicate with stomping on the earth or dolphins' Buddha land where beings communicate by whistling, clicking, sounds.

When trying to assess a degree of sentience in terms of self-consciousness, the Buddhist model of the 5 Skandhas is helpful. All living beings have the activity of all five skandhas, (1) sensory data, (2) feeling-reception of senses, (3) perception (4) complex activity for identifying and responding to the perception, and (5) consciousness.    It is the degree of the complexity of the fourth skandha's unconscious formations and complexes that conditions the degree of self-consciousness of the fifth skandha. From our human perspective, ants, bees, and other hive creatures appear to lack an individual self-consciousness as we would understand it, yet we perceive what appears to be some kind of group- or hive-mind self-consciousness.

Again, we are high up on the predatory food chain and have "conquered" the planet according to our own species-centric assessment, yet there is much we do not understand about other creatures, both animals and plants, and when we destroy our own ability to live on the planet by pollution, climate change, or nuclear war or power radiation, there are other species of sentient beings who will survive, and then from their perspective they will be the meek who have inherited the earth.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Our Lives Matter Without Being Color-coded

These are not easy words to write. Contrary to many progressives, I did not find the Black Lives Matter disturbance at the Netroots Nation conference to be positive or beneficial. I think progressive groups need to hold their own events and not interrupt each other's events for their own agenda. I don't think the Black Lives Matter people would be as considerate as the Netroots Nation people to being interrupted by Climate Change activists or Save the Whales activists. 

Specifically, I am bothered by the demand "Say it, just say it: Black Lives Matter." To me the "Black Lives Matter" name itself is racist. I know that many of my friends and fellow travelers in progressive directions don't understand me when I say this. There is the perception that only "white" is racist because it is inherently "white supremacist," while "Black Lives Matters" can't be racist because they are not arguing for "black supremacy," only for black respect. I totally get this argument as it is the current version of the "Black is Beautiful" and "Black Power" movements of my youth, yet at the same time I totally reject this argument, now as I did then, as a basis for believing in a “black race.” A view doesn't have to be "supremacist" to be exclusive, while any exclusivity in identity between one group and another is the seed of what becomes group supremacy and racism when the categories are racial.  

I can identify with the frustration shown in this video. I can appreciate the sense of wanting to control a space as a group identified as people of African ancestry when one's whole life has felt like it has existed in a space controlled by people of European ancestry. But the seeds of racism are clearly present within that small and temporary, but racially defined, space. 

To me any argument that affirms the existence of either a "white race" or a “black race” as a separate race is an argument for racism.  The reason is that “black” or "white" is not a club, not a religion, or any other social category that a person can join voluntarily, and it is not a biological category like male and female that one should be assigned to involuntarily (as we have seen how such assignment can cause so many problems for transgendered people).   So to look at people/ourselves and assign them/us into color-coded categories of “race” is the essential activity of racism, whether or not one puts one’s own color on the top of the preferred scale. In my worldview, humans simply cannot identify as color-coded categories without calling our identified color "us" and all other identified colors "them." 

When "us" and "them" become fixed into a determinative group identity, then conflict and fighting between the groups is inevitable. "Black" and "white" are just variations on the theme of "us" and "them," but it is more pernicious than many forms of "us" and "them" because the categories are perceived as "natural" and "biological" with a real biological basis for the negative projections about the "them."

As I see it, the terminology of “black and white” was created by white supremacists using a white racist frame. The entire social construct of a “black race” and a “white race” was created by white supremacists. If we use the language, categories, and framing created by white supremacists, then it only reinforces the social frame of reference and cultural fiction that races even exist in the first place. There is no "white race" and no "black race" (just like there are no brown, yellow, and red races) except as a social fiction originally created by people who called themselves "white" for the very purpose of creating a justification for their supremacy as a group: the group they created and labeled “the white race."  To me, the person who identifies themselves as “white” or “black” is a person whose mind has already been colonized and brainwashed by the false and erroneous notions of white supremacy. 

The following table of a Johari window is how I have come to see my predicament of trying to articulate my perspective.
In the table, I am in Group 3. I accept that there is institutional racism but I don't accept that there are races. The Black Lives Matter people, and the many other progressives supporting them who identify as “white” or another color, are in Group 1 that accepts both that there is institutional racism and that there are races. To me, as a Group 3 person, to accept that there are races as a fact (and not a mere fiction whose time has come and gone) is the sure-fire way to continue and maintain institutional racism. To a Group 1 person, it is my view that is the sure way to continue and maintain institutional racism, because it is inconceivable to that perspective that a person can both deny the existence of race while accepting the existence of, yet opposing, institutional racism.

So while in Groups 1 and 3 we agree that there is institutional racism and that such institutional racism is pernicious and pervasive, we have a fundamental disagreement about what is the appropriate response to that institutional racism.  So if someone demands that I say “Black Lives Matter,” I do not take that demand lightly, but also I do not take as friendly, because to me there are really no “black lives,” and trying to force me to adopt the view that there is a “black race” is the work of the very same institution of white supremacy that is behind the institutional racism of today.  Based on some reactions I get, this nuance is almost impossible for the Group 1 person to perceive.

This difference between the perspectives of Group 1 and Group 3 does not even begin to address the problems in communication arising from considering the Group 2 and Group 4 people in society who do not accept that there is institutional racism, whether or not they accept or reject the idea of race as a real thing.  However, in addressing the question of institutional racism with a person who does not believe it exists, we should still bear in mind whether their denial is from the standpoint of believing in race (Group 2) or not (Group 4), because it will determine how we should approach each person in discussion. The same logic and arguments will not be received the same by the two different groups.

Obviously there is a lot more I could say about this issue that involves the arguments regarding the institutional racism with its built-in "white privilege" that we are confronted with every day, especially when seeing the institutional racism at work in and through the entire system of law enforcement in this nation.

Also there is much to be said about how to actually address institutional racism and stop it. How are we going to overcome our own mental slavery to the very idea of race?   How are we going to liberate ourselves from our own erroneous conceptualizations about humanity and our place within the human family?

But I will leave it here for now on the point that for those of us who oppose institutional racism, we need to see each other's views on the notion of race itself and learn to talk with each other about those differences if we are going to work together and be successful at ending institutional racism. 
Any comments?