Friday, July 24, 2009

Three New Good Books I plan to read

At the outset, A HAPPY WELCOME TO MR. D.M. RAMA RAO to have joined the site. I look forward to his valuable inputs.

The Book Reviews are copied from

1. The Vision Revolution: How the Latest Research Overturns Everything We Thought We Knew About Human Vision

Mark Changizi

Hardcover: 215 pages
Publisher: Benbella Books; 1 edition (June 2, 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-1933771663


Scientist Changizi (The Brain from 25,000 Feet) kicks off this engaging romp through vision science with a list of the human eye's superpowers: "telepathy, X-ray vision, future-seeing and spirit-reading"; a "theoretical neuroscientist" trained in cognition and biology, he's not kidding. To expose these amazing abilities, and explain the whys of vision (the hows just "make my eyes glaze over"), he poses four challenging questions: "Why do we see in color? Why do our eyes face forward? Why do we see illusions? Why are letters shaped the way they are?" In his answers, Changizi challenges common notions regarding sight. Human color perception, for instance, is based around subtle changes in skin tone which correlate to blood flow, indicating emotions silently--allowing us, in essence, to read the minds of others. Binocular vision, it turns out, is not required for depth perception: in videos game, we "acrobatically navigate realistic virtual worlds as a cyclops." "Future-seeing capabilities" evolved in order to account for a one-tenth-of-a-second lag in perception. A friendly tone, colorful everyday examples and many helpful figures will draw readers--science buffs or not--down the rabbit hole of cognitive theory and keep them there, dazzled. 7 color images, 75 b&w illustrations. (June) --Publishers Weekly online, May 11, 2009

2. The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self

Thomas Metzinger

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Basic Books (March 16, 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-0465045679

Review (Note by Ramesam: Not everyone agrees with this review quoted below)

Consciousness, mind, brain, self: the relations among these four entities are explored by German cognitive scientist and theoretical philosopher Metzinger, who argues that, in fact, there is no such thing as a self. In prose accessible mainly to those schooled in philosophy and science, Metzinger defines the ego as the phenomenal self, which knows the world experientially as it subjectively appear[s] to you. But neuroscientific experiments have demonstrated, among other things, that the unitary sense of self is a subjective representation: for instance, one can be fooled into feeling sensations in a detached artificial arm. So the author argues that the ego is a tunnel that bores into reality and limits what you can see, hear, smell and feel. Metzinger tests his theory by ranging over events of the consciousness such as out-of-body experiences, lucid dreaming and free will, and he concludes by probing ethical actions and what a good state of consciousness would look like. Most readers will have difficulty penetrating Metzinger's ideas, and those who do will find little that is genuinely new.

3. Selfless Insight: Zen and the Meditative Transformations of Consciousness

James H. Austin

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (March 31, 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-0262012591


Analytic philosophy of mind sees persons as much less substantial and ego centered than Cartesian rationalism, which posits that my essence is my immutable self, my soul. Neuroscience finds no soul, no central headquarters that is me. And Zen teaches how to flourish in a world where you are nothing rather than something. Austin's Selfless Insight takes us on an insightful tour of a certain postmodern space where we meet the Heraclitean processes that we are."
—Owen Flanagan, James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy, Duke University and author of The Really Hard Problem

"James Austin's wonderful book Selfless Insight provides an up-to-date review and synthesis of the brain physiology which permits humans to meditate and how meditation alters brain functions. Just as Hubel and Wiesel's Nobel Prize winning research revealed how the brain permits us to see and perceive incoming light, James Austin's newest book helps us understand how people who meditate see the light and wisdom within."
—Kenneth M. Heilman, James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor of Neurology, University of Florida College of Medicine

Sunday, July 19, 2009



First of all “A Big Thank you” to all the readers of this thread.

Based on the inputs I received, I provide a few clarifications. Some of the issues may sound repetitive.

1. Rationale behind the Proposal in Looking for “Markers” in the Brain:

Stripping out the hyperbole, mysticism, esoteric and ‘other worldly’ attributes and complex descriptors, let us see what Non-Dualism is.

On the attainment of Liberation, “I” and “World” become One.

“I” loses its (individuating) status as a subject perceiving a separate object “World” out there.

When a distinct perceiver “I” is no more present, it logically follows that a distant perceived “World” also cannot be present (because there is no one to see it).

What will then remain is only “Amness” or “Beingness” or simply “Existence” of whatever That Is. If this sounds as too much mumbo-jumbo, let us translate this into simple English.

I See the World.” -- Sentence1.
I Am the World” or “The World Is Me” -- Sentence 2.
Just Seeingness or Isness.” -- Sentence 3.

The transformation of Sentence 1. to Sentence 3. in an individual is Liberation.

Sentence 1. is a phenomenon of normal perception. It involves the sense organs and sensory cortex in the brain. As it transforms to Sentence 3., via Sentence 2., there is no apparent reason to say there are no attendant cognitive changes (invoking Occam’s Razor). Further, the change is happening within and to a specific individual. So this change in cognition has to show up in that specific Individual’s brain. (We cannot, though, rule out related changes in other body parts e.g. endocrine system).

2. Purpose of the Study:

Tying up a study with “Purpose” or “Utility” is a mundane technological perspective. Blue sky type of R&D is for knowledge enhancement without predetermined objective. Science (done with an open mind) has brought out unimaginable transformation during the past couple of centuries on our understanding of the Universe, its Laws, Man’s position in the Universe and so on. Amazing examples can be cited from Genetics, Molecular Biology, Astrophysics, Medicine and many other fields. We do not know what the future scientific discoveries will unfold.

Non-Dualism is inarguably a unique achievement of our ancient seers and sages millennia of years ago within the means of inquiry and investigation available to them. Non-Dualism and its derivatives helped in the redemption of sorrow. Basically it ends the “sufferer” and not “suffering” per se. Existence of ‘suffering’, inviolability and inexorability of Natural Laws (Niyati) are accepted as Anaadi (without a beginning) and hence taken as unquestionable in Vedanta.

3. Causal Relations:

Some questions were raised whether the “Markers” would be mandatory or necessary conditions in a Jivanmukta and inducing the electrical/chemical/structural changes will result in a Jivanmukti.

These questions are relevant far into the future. Right now, one has to establish first that certain indicators as ‘signatures’ of the Jivanmukti can be detected in the brain. Further, even if we do find the “Markers”, one-to-one causal relations cannot be immediately postulated in biological systems unlike in deterministic physical systems. That is to say, if we find [A] indicates [B], we cannot say in natural systems that given [B], [B] automatically implies [A].

4. Examples of Jivanmuktas in the Post # 7:

As was already pointed out by me in the Post, the Examples from the past and presently living people are given purely for illustrative purposes. The purpose of the list was only to establish that the Jivanmukti we are talking about is not purely a hypothetical and theoretical concept and we do have real life examples right in our midst. I would like to reiterate that no judgmental value is involved even remotely in the list. Readers are welcome to expand the list.

5. Is “Consciousness” amenable to Scientific query?:
Admittedly, what is “Consciousness”, how do we define it, how can the chemo-electrical pulsing in the brain engender it, is it ‘beyond’ or within the brain are all open questions in Neuroscience and are being hotly debated by experts. Consensus is emerging at least on the approach to tease out these problems. The Cartesian dichotomy between Science and Mind is getting erased now-a-days. Science has made tremendous progress since the days of trepanation, though it is still scratching the surface in Neuroscience. Hence the immediate humble aim now is not directly tackling “Consciousness” but to find out identifiable correlates.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hearty Welcome to the First Member and Comments on the Posts

I am very happy to welcome Mr. Mario Romualdo M. Costa as Member of this site. I am sure I will be benefited by his views and comments.

Well known Vedantin Dr. K. Sadananda ( of U.S.A., Advaita Author Dennis Waite of U.K., Non-Dualist Madam Annette Nibley were kind to me to go through either partly or fully the contents on the topic of Neuronal Correlates of a Jivanmukta. Their comments have been quite positive and I shall write about them in my next Post.

In the meanwhile, I shall await further views and observations from the Blog readers.

I hope to go into purely Neuroscience aspects of the subject in the future Posts.