Cognitive Science Experiments

In an upcoming book I’ll soon be releasing, the Anapana Chi Conversations, Master Nan talks to management guru Peter Senge about cognitive science. Years ago the Dalai Lama and several monks had a discussion with cognitive scientists, and it pretty much went nowhere. Master Nan commented, "Of course … the monks are only trained in Buddhism and not science. I would predict the dialogue would be unproductive. However, we need to open up this field and study the mind."

Well, cognitive science starts with recognition of the first five consciousnesses, the 6th consciusness, 7th consciousness and alaya consciousness. The first five consciousnesses pertain to the senses. We see, hear, feel, taste, smell because of our senses, and that "analog" input is somehow translated into consciousness. The transducer function of turning material "images" or "signs" into consciousness is performed by a type of sentient matter or clear form that Buddha mentioned, as well as by a marvelous perfuming function you can read about in the Lankavatara Sutra. But let’s put that aside for the  moment….

What comes next is that the 6th consciousness takes these image panaromas of consciousness and discriminates out speciifc forms and appearances with names and labels, meaning attributes and characteristics. If it didn’t do this, then one sense field would be the same as the next. In other words, you wouldn’t be able to tell anything apart from anything else without this discirminating function, and every set of sensory inputs would look the same as every other. Look to the left, look to your right and both sets of data would be the same to you without discrimination. That’s the functioning of the 6th consciousness, or discriminative miond, so let’s study it. Let’s study that first moment of discrimination working successfully.

So here’s my first suggestion for the field of cognitive science: study that MOMENT when discrimination "works" and successfully "grabs" a phenomena. Study it with PET, EEG, and all the other devices you’re now using. What are some possible experimental designs for this Wureka  moment? The senses of sight and hearing provide opportunities.

One visual test that comes to mind are those pictures of dots on a wa;l where if you look at them briefly, nothing othert than dots seems to be there. But if you look at it sufficiently, discrimination kicks in and then a shape arises! All of a sudden it appears — that moment is something to study.

With sounds, one could chop up well recognized tunes, such as "Happy Birthy", into slices and only play certain slices under white noise, or varying segments of varying length, etc. When the person recognizes the song underneath the diffusion of the white noise, that eureka moment of discrimination is the thing to investigate.

Just my thoughts on studying the 6th consciousness. Past that we need studies on the 7th consciousness and its functions, and alaya. I’ll offer more experiemtnal designs later. Naturally I’m just giving the barest of details right now…


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