Buddhism teaches the cleansing of one’s mind of its defilements arising from craving, anger and ignorance in order to see and comprehend things in their authentic form.
The cleansing is done with systematic forms of meditation whereby engaging awareness as a vital force a strong foundation of concentration is built to progress into knowledge, wisdom and insight. With the cleansing of the mind, the kammic energy that flows for one runs its course to a finish. With the cessation of kammic energy, rebirth comes to an end. Rebirth it is that brings disease, decay, death and the whole of man’s travail. Thus, cleansing one’s mind one fulfils the purpose of one’s earthly existence.
In Buddhism there is no difference between mind and consciousness. Consciousness meeting with sense faculties triggers off thoughts which lead to mental and bodily activities giving rise to feelings, sensations, perceptions and mental formations. Consciousness being foremost in the life of man getting to know it becomes essential. Here are some theories of notable scientists and philosophers on the subject.
According to Western medical science, consciousness is an attribute of living organisms - an attribute of life at a certain level of development.
The concept of consciousness as a state of awareness is a primary. It cannot be broken down any further or defined by reference to other concepts to which it can be reduced. Hence it is an irreducible primary. It means that at birth, man’s brain produces consciousness due to chemical reactions. On this basis it necessarily follows that consciousness must cease with death.
The facts of neurology demonstrate that everything about the mind from the memory motor periphery to the inner sense of self is minutely controlled by the brain. If your brain lacks certain chemicals or locally gets damaged, your mind is apt to fall apart at the seams. If parts of the mind depend for their existence upon parts of the brain, then the whole of the mind must depend too. Hence the soul dies with the brain which is to say, it is mortal.
These theories, however, are in conflict with what hypnosis reveals. Some patients hypnotized for diagnostic purposes, spoke about their previous births, giving vivid details which when investigated were found to be unbelievably accurate. That was proof that consciousness did not cease with death but continued to manifest itself.
Freud’s discovery of the unconscious mind was due to his investigation into hypnosis. It was because hynotised subjects would recall incidents from their childhood that were completely forgotten in their conscious state that Freud was forced to postulate an unconscious mind to account for the preservation of the otherwise irretrievable material.Rene Descartes declared that the mind (the thinking thing) was separate and distinct from the brain. The physical matter of the brain constrained by the law of physics and forced to act like a machine was incapable of producing the wide range of activity encompassed by thought which it is believed was generated by a non-physical phenomenon.
The science of matter and energy and how they behave is called physics. The law of conservation of energy is a natural law, a rule of nature. It describes the way things are, not the way we want them to be. According to this law energy can neither be created nor destroyed.
American philosopher David H. Lund has stated - “How can the brain a material substance produce something as radically different from it as consciousness is? How can the brain create out of its own material substance a reality that has no mass, no shape, no size and is not seen in space?”
According to E.D. Walker - nothing is either lost or added. There is no creation or destruction. The law of conservation of energy holds in the spiritual realm as in physics. This uniform stock of energy in the universe neither declines nor increases but necessarily changes.
J.A. Storey has stated that what we call life is a combination of physical and mental energies. When the physical body is no more capable of functioning, energies will not die with it but continue to take some other shape which we call another life. According to V.F. Gunaratne, a Buddhist philosopher, “Thought like matter is energy and energy cannot be destroyed or annihilated. It goes on producing its results and they in turn produce theirs though not necessarily in the same plane or sphere.”Edgar Cayce, the great American psychic who in a hypnotic trance gave thousand of readings to those who appeared before him or sent their names and addresses said to Lammers in November 1923, that he was a Spanish monk in a previous birth. In a second reading, Lammers got a past birth again and for the first time, Cayce mentioned Karma, a debit and credit ledger of life that carries over from one life to the next and must be dealt with if the individual is to develop.
Cayce was confused by the thought that reincarnation was a sin against the scriptures. Looking up the dictionary the meaning of Karma is given as - the force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to be the motive power for the round of deaths and births endured by him until he has achieved spiritual liberation and freed himself from the effects of that force. Consciousness and karma combine with energies to form the life force.
In a B.B.C. programme, Professor Ian Stevenson the best authority on rebirth was asked the question that since memories are tied to a particular brain tissue, in the event of the brain being taken away, does it not follow that there would be no memory? This question you will observe is based on the premise that the brain and mind are linked together? Stevenson's answer was - “I think that it is an assumption. Memories can exist elsewhere too.” When Stevenson was asked what evidence he relied upon, he replied - "think the best evidence comes from rebirth cases”.
There is evidence that memories can exist outside a dead brain. It is reported that some transplant patients report uncanny experiences after receiving a donated kidney, liver or heart. Without knowing who the organ donor was, they began to participate in his memories. Associations that belonged to another person start being released when that person’s tissues are placed inside a stranger. In one instance, a woman woke up after a heart transplant craving for beer and chicken McNuggets.
She was very surprised because she had never before wanted either. After she began to have mysterious dreams in which a young man named Timmy came to her, she tracked down the owner of her new heart which had come from the victim of a fatal traffic accident. When she contacted his family it turned out that the victim was a young man named Timmy. The woman was stunned to know that he had a particular fondness for drinking beer and had been killed on his way home from McDonalds. Timmy died and so did his brain. His tissues lived to tell the truth.
Making use of meditation to understand the working of the mind, the Dalai Lama has said - “According to Buddhism, we cannot posit a beginning to consciousness. If we do so, then we would have to accept a first instance of consciousness that is uncaused and has come from nowhere. This would contradict one of the fundamental principles of Buddhism, which is the law of cause and effect. Buddhism accepts the dependent nature of reality according to which everything arises because of the coming together of causes and conditions.
So if consciousness comes into being from no cause, this would go against the fundamental principles. Buddhists therefore consider that every instance of consciousness must be produced by causes and conditions of some kind. Of the many causes and conditions, the main or substantial cause of consciousness must be some form of experience since matter alone cannot produce consciousness. Consciousness must come from a previous instance of consciousness, which is experience.”