The Companions of Consciousness

Mind Sciences! Meditation Techniques! Practice both? Research Both? With one brain! One mind! The choice of our companions on this journey  depends on our consciousness! Let us meditate on that point for now! 🙂

Consciousness. Exploring New Horizons!

Mind Sciences are buzzing with this word – Consciousness!

On a parallel track, meditation also is now popular with terms like ‘mindfulness’ becoming common parlance and practiced even in corporate precincts!

The endeavor at TransForm TANTRA, is to take a TOTAL perspective on understanding consciousness. An attempt to transcend the dualities of Science-Spiritual, Body-Mind, Theory-Practice, Subjective-Objective, East-West, Particle-Wave … also Left Brain-Right Brain among many others. A comprehensive examination of consciousness is the next frontier that beckons mind sciences today.

There exists a space in this world and in life that is beyond the scientific and beyond the rational. Consciousness process technologies like TANTRA & Zen offer the first-person empirical approach – the ‘non-science’ or ‘beyond rational’ practice of consciousness if you will. A fascinating exploration of possible consciousness breakthroughs with the help of these ancient methods is the call of the day!  

As Michael S. Gazzaniga states “In recent years the topic of consciousness has become red-hot once again.”

A Meditative Introduction!

Let us flag off this fascinating exploration! With a rather meditative sounding statement by Michael S. Gazzaniga and lest you wonder – he is one of the world’s leading authorities on neuroscience.

The Consciousness Instinct

Unraveling the Mystery of How the Brain Makes the Mind by Michael S. Gazzaniga

‘IMAGINE, IF YOU CAN, being conscious of only one moment – right now. This moment exists without a past or a future. Now imagine life being a series of these moments, each existing in some kind of isolation from all other moments, not connected by subjective time. Imagine being temporarily frozen in each of the moments that together make up normal living.

It is hard to imagine this scenario because our minds travel back and forth through time so fluidly, like a ballerina in The Nutcracker. One moment serves as the grist for the next planned action, which is in turn weighed in the present against our past experience. It is hard to imagine this ever not being true.

And yet, conk your head in the right way and that might be you, still able to understand the idea of having a past and future, but unable to place yourself in your own past or future. Weird, if true. No past, no future, only the present.’ (Excerpt from the Introduction.) 

In this book, Michael Gazzaniga’s scientific imagination BUBBLES to narrate an incisive scientific & philosophical account of consciousness. Gazzaniga avers “Plainly stated, I believe consciousness is an instinct.”

Please do read a REVIEW that featured in the Washington Post written by another mind scientist we shall encounter in the near future – Eliezer Sternberg!

New Horizons of Mind Science

For almost over century, consciousness has appeared to be an elusive concept in the mind sciences. What does it mean to be conscious? That is a question that has been answered … but not really!

It would be wonderful if mind scientists like Gazzaniga can conk their heads the right way – towards India!

Consciousness has been explored here for millennia! A sort of first-person Research & Development effort traversing generations of practitioners has been explored in depth and documented here. A rational, scientific examination of consciousness is the next horizon that beckons mind sciences today. 

In fact, just about three decades ago Gazzaniga wrote ‘The Social Brain’ a book that shines with the sincerity of his efforts. In that he remarked ‘Metaphorically, we humans are more of a sociological entity than a single unified psychological entity. We have a social brain.’

Elaborating on the same point, Gazzaniga observes in The Social Brain that ‘the human mind is more of a sociological entity than a psychological entity. That is, the human mind is composed of a vast number of more elementary units, and many of these units are capable of carrying out rather sophisticated mental work. These activities can go on outside the awareness of our verbal conscious system. Putting it the other way around, extensive information processing in the brain is going on independent of verbal processes.’ (Page 28) 

The nature of this non verbal information processing in the brain is of tremendous significance. And that process needs to be explored from mutliple specialist perspectives.

Like Gazzaniga, more specialists of different backgrounds need to attempt to talk to non-specialist, ordinary people through their writings. That would help. A lot more minds would apply themselves to explore this terrain within the brain, from refreshing new approaches.

The Social Brain: Discovering the Networks of the Mind
by Michael S. Gazzaniga

In fact, three decades after The Social Brain, at one point in the The Consciousness Instinct, Gazzaniga admits …

‘Working away in the mind/brain sciences as I have for sixty years makes me painfully aware that we humans have not yet grasped the problem in its fullness. Still, it is in our nature to think about who and what we are and what it means to be conscious. Once bitten by the question, we spend our lives gnawed by the desire for an answer. Yet, when we try to grab hold of the problem of consciousness, it seems to dissolve like fog.’ (Excerpt from the Introduction.)

But ZEN, What Is Consciousness? 🙂

Definitions are considered essential in science. Ironically, many significant phenomenon of life elude definition. Let us please not forget that science remains a subset of life! What ZEN is the way ahead? 😉

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

A collection of Zen and pre-Zen writings.
Compiled by Paul Reps.

We now turn our attention to another American gent who conked his head towards India in the 1950s. Of course, far from being a mind scientist he was a verbal process specialist – a POET of sorts – Paul Reps!

‘He (Paul Reps) learned about Ramana Maharshi and found his way to the hermitage Laksmanjoo, in Kashmir. There he absorbed and transcribed the 4,000-year-old manuscript “112 Ways of Centering,” which is probably the finest guide to meditation practice.’ (Reference link)

In 1957, Paul Reps wrote the landmark book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. The book created a wave of Zen that took, not just America but the entire world by storm.

And incidentally, ‘the finest guide to meditation practice’ – “112 Ways of Centering,” was featured as an appendix tucked away towards the end of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones.

To quote Reps himself – ‘It presents 112 ways to open the invisible door of consciousness.’

Now Reps also titled the book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones – ‘A collection of Zen and pre-Zen writings.’

The pre-Zen writings were the 112 Ways of Centering! Paul Reps remarks ‘It is an ancient teaching, copied and recopied countless times, and from it Lakshmanjoo has made the beginning of an English version. I transcribe it eleven more times to get it into the form given here.’

Consciousness Process Technologies

The Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra or Vigyan Bhairav Tantra (VBT) is a text that defines 112 Consciousness Process Technologies! A fascinating realm of consciousness to explore & understand the fog of doubt in the mind!

The Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra or Vigyan Bhairav Tantra (VBT) is a systematic and comprehensive treatise about consciousness. True to the Indian tradition, this body of knowledge is a charming, poetic dialogue of love between the Indian godess Bhairavi and her beloved Bhairav!

The book begins when Bhairavi (who is Parvati) makes a fervent plea which is very similar to Gazzaniga’s statement above – she is imploring Bhairav to clear the fog of doubts in her mind! 

Subsequently, in response, Bhairav (who is Shiva) recites 112 methods or techniques or Consciousness Process Technologies which can clear that fog of doubt! That is ALL!

These 112 methods or Consciousness Process Technologies as this writer prefers to call them are mostly about very simple, common human experiences of life. (Yes! Some of those are about sex and they seem to have captured human imagination out of proportion!) In fact, there are many more and a lot more, which deserve attention especially from people with a taste for the mind sciences.

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra or Vigyan Bhairava Tantra – The Original Sanskrit Kashmir Series Publication

The Roots of Consciousness 

The Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra or Vigyan Bhairav Tantra (VBT) is a text that defines 112 Consciousness Process Technologies! A fascinating realm of consciousness to explore & understand the fog of doubt in the mind!

Vijnana Bhairav Tantra

The Manual for Self Realization
Revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo

Now this is the man Paul Reps is talking about – the venerated Swami Lakshmanjoo. And this is the book – Vijnana Bhairav Tantra. The Manual for Self Realization. You would doubtless notice that true to the Indian tradition, the book is ‘Revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo’! He is NOT credited as the writer or author.

In this book, Swami Lakshmanjoo very systematically talks about each of the 112 ways, often dwelling on every Sanskrit word and elaborating finer nuances and connotations.

Paul Reps was a fortunate man. He present as this discourse happened and Reps also got that rare opportunity to clarify his doubts and understanding.

As Reps himself says ‘He (Swami Lakshmanjoo) shares with me this ancient teaching from the Vigyan Bhairava and Sochanda Tantra, both written about four thousand years ago, and from Malini Vijaya Tantra, probably another thousand years older yet. It is an ancient teaching, copied and recopied countless times, and from it Lakshmanjoo has made the beginning of an English version. I transcribe it eleven more times to get it into the form given here.’

As you read the book and also listen to Swami Lakshmanjoo you will find him to be very meticulous, very authentic and true to the word and spirit of the original Sanskrit text. Most commentaries by others somehow preferred the distilled ‘SMS style’ English version of Paul Reps!

घटादिभाजने दृष्टिम् भित्तिस्त्यक्त्वा विनिक्षिपेत् ।
तल्लयं तत्क्षणाद्गत्वा तल्लयात्तन्मयो भवेत् ॥ ५९ ॥

Right now and right here …
let us savor one ORIGINAL dharana
or Consciousness Process Technology
from Vigyan Bhairav Tantra.

A pot full of water. A word full of meaning.
Beyond verbal processing … beyond forms and beyond functions!

Companions and Handbooks!

The Mind Sciences speak the English we all know but can boggle the mind with heavy duty ‘verbal processing’! Conversely, texts on meditation often in ancient or even ‘foreign’ languages are friendlier and easier to read! Does that tell us something? Let us do a quick review of four Handbooks of Consciousness and how they fare on ‘verbal processing’ and of course how they have conked their heads towards India!

The Routledge Handbook of Consciousness

Consciousness?
A lot of stuff in this book can actually get your head spinning away!
Let us be GENTLE!While there is no clear indication
that Indian philosophers conceived of something analogous to Descartes’ mind-body problem,
their solutions to the problem of agency, the problem of self-consciousness, and the problem
of personal identity offer new ways to conceive the experiential features of our surface and
deep phenomenology, a naturalistic epistemology grounded in pragmatic rather than normative
concerns that echoes recent developments in embodied and enactive cognitive science, and a
sophisticated conceptual vocabulary for thinking about the mind and mental phenomena in
both egological and non-egological terms.

Hover your mouse over the word gentle above to savor one sentence!

The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness

One key chapter to note: Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness: An Introduction! Be ready to deal with phrases like ‘Meditation as Explanandum’!

The Oxford Companion TO Consciousness

India find the odd reference! Soma as ‘a substance revered for its ability to provide visions of paradise!’ Advaita Vedanta & Buddhist philosophy. Can we expect more in future?

The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness

David E. Presti who ‘teaches neuroscience to Buddhist monks and nuns in India and in Bhutan’ refers to the areca or betel nut in India in ‘Altered States of Consciousness’! That’s it!

A comprehensive examination of consciousness needs science and and the ‘non-science’ approaches BOTH! Lest we get obsessed with methodology or become obscure and complicated or BOTH!

That is definitely worth a thought!

Join TransForm TANTRA in this consciousness journey!

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