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Lions Roar : September 2005
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2005 4 5 Studying Mind from the Inside The true nature of the mind, says HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA, is beyond any concept or physical form, and therefore it cannot be studied solely by third-person, scientific methods. Mind must also be studied through a rigorous observation of our own subjective experience, and in this Buddhism excels. THE JOY OF MEETING SOMEONE you love, thesad- ness of losing a close friend, the richness of a vivid dream, the serenity of a walk through a garden on a spring day, the total absorption of a deep meditative state—these things and others like them constitute the reality of our experience of consciousness. Regardless of the content of any one of these expe- riences, no one in his or her right mind would doubt their reality. Any experience of consciousness—from the most mundane to the most elevated—has a certain coherence and, at the same time, a high degree of privacy, which means that it always exists from a particular point of view. The experience of consciousness is entirely subjective. The paradox, however, is that despite the indubitable reality of our subjectivity and thousands of years of philosophical examination, there is little consensus on what consciousness is. Science, with its characteristic third-person method—the objective perspective from the outside—has made strikingly little headway in this understanding. The question of consciousness has attracted a good deal of attention in the long history of Buddhist philo- sophical thinking. For Buddhism, given its primary interest in questions of ethics, spirituality, and overcom- ing suffering, understanding consciousness, which is thought to be a defining characteristic of sentience, is of great importance. According to the earliest scriptures, the Buddha saw consciousness as playing a key role in determining the course of human happiness and suffer- ing. For example, the famous discourse of the Buddha known as the Dhammapada opens with the statement that mind is primary and pervades all things. The problem of describing the subjective experi- ences of consciousness is complex indeed. For we risk objectivizing what is essentially an internal set of expe- riences and excluding the necessary presence of the ALEXANDERTSIARAS/SCIENCEPHOTOLIBRARY