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Friday, February 1, 2019

Mystery of Awareness

Is awareness an emergent property of the mind? Or, is it an inherent property? Emergent property is one which is exhibited by a complex system but not by the individual members of its component parts. Inherent property is an essential quality or ability of the person or thing.

To me, it appears that awareness is both. It is an emergent property, because individual neurons do not have that property and it is a property of a complex system of neurons and networks. It is inherent when viewed from the function of the brain.

In our awareness, we experience both bodily sensations and sensory inputs from outside. Bodily sensation includes both physical or externally induced and mental, such as feelings and emotions, which are generated internally. We are also aware of the fact that we are aware of that awareness. The awareness is called the substrate and the awareness of awareness is called the substrate consciousness by the Buddhist psychologists. One is physical. The other is metaphysical.

Whatever it is, what we observe in nature is not things in nature as they are, but mental images of those things which were observed, after modification and/or rearrangement by our emotions, prior knowledge and bias. This is the Buddhist’s point of view and the basis of Buddha’s teachings of knowing the true nature of things and dependent co-arising.

What if there is another universe where the life-forms have a different set of sensory modalities? Will their view of the universe be different from those of ours? Will their awareness be different?

The inner self seeks the bliss of knowing the three origins – that of the Universe, that of Life and that of Awareness. Not that we will ever be able to know. Therefore, the bliss is in the pursuit of that knowledge. How can we experience the bliss amidst so many distractions and noise? How can we experience the mystery going beyond the assertions of science which gives a more accurate picture of physical reality, but ignores values, emotions and intuitions? How can we go beyond theology which binds us to rituals and symbols developed for a bygone era?

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