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According to Buddhism, is the Mind (known by Citta, Manas, Vinnana or any other name that corresponds to Mind/Consciousness) connected with the organ called Brain?

Is the brain (or loosely speaking, head) referred to in Buddhist writings as the seat of mind, consciousness or the cause of human behaviour?

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    I think that the "intellect" sense-organ is the closest you will find to the mention of a brain in the literature. The buddha probably had no reason to confuse people by introducing and then debunking yet another swamp for delusions to cling to. – Sam Reeve Sep 21 '15 at 21:05

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There is a nice analysis in this article here. But basically, the Buddha said:

This body of mine, made of material form, consisting of the four great elements, procreated by a mother and father, and built up out of boiled rice and porridge, is subject to impermanence, to being worn and rubbed away, to dissolution and disintegration, and this consciousness of mine is supported by it and bound up with it.

My comment: mind is an informational phenomena. The information is made of relations that are passed from one carrier (not necessarily human or even a sentient being!) to another, through various media. In case of a sentient being, body is one of such temporary carriers of the information. When information is embodied in a living organism, it is known as mind.

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According to Abhidhamma commentary it seems that the seat of consciousness is in the heart. However, in the suttas Buddha seems to have only mentioned ‘yam rupam nissaya’—depending on that ‘rupa’.

98. Hadayavatthu — heart-base.

According to the commentators hadayavatthu is the seat of consciousness. Tradition says that within the cavity of the heart there is some blood, and depending on which lies the seat of consciousness. It was this cardiac theory that prevailed in the Buddha’s time, and this was evidently supported by the Upanishads.
The Buddha could have adopted this popular theory, but He did not commit Himself.
Mr. Aung in his Compendium argues that the Buddha was silent on this point. He did not positively assert that the seat of consciousness was either in the heart or in the brain. In the Dhammasangani the term hadayavatthu has purposely been omitted. In the Patthana, instead of using hadaya as the seat of consciousness, the Buddha has simply stated ‘yam rupam nissaya’—depending on that ‘rupa’. Mr. Aung’s opinion is that the Buddha did not want to reject the popular theory. Nor did He advance a new theory that brain is the seat of consciousness as is regarded by modern scientists

Source: http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/abhidhamma.pdf page 228

  • So, are you saying that The Buddha never posited a connection between brain and mind? Kindly clarify. – Krishnaraj Rao Sep 18 '15 at 17:20
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    @KrishnarajRao Well you cannot say like that, different functions of the mind associate different places. For example, you see an object with eye-consciousness (viññāna) that arises in the eye (cakkhuppasada). You recognize the object through perception (sañña) that arises in the brain. Your subsequent thought process (Citta, cetasika) arise in the heart-base. That's why buddha says nama associates a rupa. But the seat of consciousness is the heart-base because bhavanga-citta and other citta, cetasika arise and cease there. – dmsp Sep 19 '15 at 11:33
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This answer suggests there's not much explanation of any such connection in the Theravada texts:

I think the problem stems from a desire to know the mechanistic workings of reality; e.g. how one thing affects or effects another, rather than simply that it does so. Buddhism is, for the most part, terribly devoid of explanations about the former, since it is ultimately a practical path.

Those Buddhist doctrines do mention the senses and sense-organs (e.g. the eye) though.


This answer suggests that modern Buddhists know of some such doctrines. See also for example Buddha's Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation; and for example the fact that this article which you liked was the Dalai Lama speaking at a meeting of the "Society for Neuroscience" in Washington.

  • Are you saying that other than the Dalai Lama and some discussions on the Stack Exchange itself, there appears to be nothing in Buddhist that relates the human mind to the organ called the brain? I will appreciate an unambiguous and candid answer. – Krishnaraj Rao Sep 18 '15 at 17:27
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    I'm not saying that, no: only that these happen to be the only couple of examples that I'm aware of. The first is relevant because it's difficult to prove a negative (i.e. prove that scriptures don't say that, or prove that no scripture says that, given that the scriptures are so very voluminous). So by quoting Yuttadhammo I was trying to do the next best thing, instead of proving a negative, at least quoting a relatively expert opinion (Yuttadhammo being relatively expert). The second example, there's plenty (unknown to me and maybe too much to cite) of modern doctrine about brain ... – ChrisW Sep 18 '15 at 17:35
  • ... function. I don't know how much of this modern physiological doctrine people would call Buddhist doctrine (perhaps it's difficult to delineate exactly what a "modern Buddhist" is and isn't). – ChrisW Sep 18 '15 at 17:36
  • I hope you will forgive me for persisting, Chris. But is it possible to make a statement that sounds like, "To the best of my knowledge and study, and within my limited understanding, it appears that Buddhist literature that relates the human mind to the organ called the brain is scarce. All such literature appears to be of recent origin i.e. originating in the last decade or so"? Would you consider such a position truthful and direct without being offensive? – Krishnaraj Rao Sep 19 '15 at 9:18
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    @KrishnarajRao If that position resulted from the (lack of) answers on this site, that might be inferring too much; I don't know the history of Buddhist neuroscience. Yuttadhammo's might be an orthodox position i.e. that Buddhism can be practised without "relating the human mind to the organ called the brain". – ChrisW Sep 19 '15 at 9:26
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The Buddha teaches the 31 parts of the body as mentioned in the Satipatthana Sutta but the brain is never mentioned. I am certain the brain isn't mentioned anywhere in the suttas.

The Buddha relates the mind with the whole body not any one part of it.

  • I think eye, nose, ears, tang, bran (mana) are consider as faculties(sense-organs). – Shrawaka Sep 22 '15 at 9:38
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+50

In the Suttas, the brain is usually omitted when the parts of the body are listed (See DN 22, DN 28 and MN 119). The brain is added to the list in the commentaries (See Visuddhimagga VIII.44) and the description of the brain in Visuddhimagga VIII.126 makes no reference to consciousness... it likens the brain to bone marrow (where the bone itself would be the skull).

Mental States start to arise in the new existence immediately after conception. At that time, there is no brain (and no heart) to support these Mental States. This is why the Abhidhamma does not specify any specific organ as the base for the mind but rather uses the description, “that rūpa upon which the mind depends”.

According to the Abhidhamma, eye-consciousness arises dependent on eye-sensitivity, which is the sensitive part of the eye-organ (in modern parlance, the rods and cones of the retina). Similarly, ear-consciousness arises dependent on ear-sensitivity, and so on.

The term “Heart-base” is from the Commentary. The Dhammasaṅgaṇi omits “Heart-base” from the list of rūpa and the reference to “that rūpa upon which the mind depends” is from the Paṭṭhāna.

At the time of the Buddha, people recognized that sense data arose at different locations and needed to be combined. The only thing that they saw moving in the body was blood and the heart obviously plays an important role in moving the blood and this led to a cardio-centric view of the base of consciousness.

  • This question is about the role of the brain specifically, and about our normal lives long after birth. – Krishnaraj Rao Sep 22 '15 at 4:45
  • I have edited my answer to explain more clearly. In the Suttas, the Abhidhamma and the commentary, there is no linkage between the brain and consciousness. Linking the two would not make sense because, according to Buddhism, consciousness arises at the moment of conception and continues as a stream after that. – RobM Sep 22 '15 at 5:01
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I recently read this book ...

Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

... where he says about it that it's very much linked.

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All these are as of my understanding.

You are questioning about several things.

Citta - This is where generation of thoughts are flowing in a nonstop manner, As some readings, this is related to heart.

Manas - This can takes purposes and help other organs like eye to see and make vinnana, This is brain.

Vinnana - This is a term which means, 'knowing' (Let's say we saw a girl, we know that this is a girl, that knowing is called 'Vinnana'. This is neither brain nor heart.

(Process is like this. Say there is a girl, and our eye and other things like line of sight, sufficient amount of light etc. Since all the requirements are completed, our eye collide with the sight of the girl. Then with the help of 'Manas' we identified this object as a girl. After that, according to the object and our mind, we generate either like, dislike or neutral thoughts about the object. Then these thoughts can be continue to lead for a Kamma or just vanished)

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This question is about the role of the brain specifically, and about our normal lives long after birth. – Krishnaraj Rao

To answer this I use our community’s comments :

Buddhism can be practised without "relating the human mind to the organ called the brain". – ChrisW

To the best of my knowledge and study, and within my limited understanding, it appears that Buddhist literature that relates the human mind to the organ called the brain is scarce.
However the “Manasa” has considered as ‘mana’, ‘mano’.

According to Abhidhamma commentary it seems that the seat of consciousness is in the heart. However, in the suttas Buddha seems to have only mentioned ‘yam rupam nissaya’—depending on that ‘rupa’. - dmsp

The mind-body relationship happens at extremely fast speeds, in the laboratory of one's moment by moment experience, something like this: Eye consciousness(mind) makes contact with a rose that causes desire to have the rose(mind). That causes the arm to go reaching out(body) to pick the rose. - Uilium

different functions of the mind associate different places. For example, you see an object with eye-consciousness (viññāna) that arises in the eye (cakkhuppasada). You recognize the object through perception (sañña) that arises in the brain. Your subsequent thought process (Citta, cetasika) arise in the heart-base. That's why buddha says nama associates a rupa. But the seat of consciousness is the heart-base because bhavanga-citta and other citta, cetasika arise and cease there. – dmsp

"intellect" sense-organ is the closest to the mention of a brain in the literature. – Sam Reeve

So we consider a example. “Players can change, but the team continues”.

Individual players may add or remove from the team time to time. After some
time there may be no any founders plays in the team. But the team may
continue many generations with it’s identity and some special qualities.

We can compare team as mind and players as thoughts.

mind is an informational phenomena. The information is made of relations that are passed from one carrier (not necessarily human or even a sentient being!) to another, through various media. In case of a sentient being, body is one of such temporary carriers of the information. When information is embodied in a living organism, it is known as mind.- Andrei Volkov

Here this phenomena is stated as consciousness.

Certainly, the start of life, at conception, is seen as involving the flux-of-consciousness, from a past life, entering the womb and, along with the requisite physical conditions, leading to the development of a new being in the womb:
'Were consciousness, Ananda, not to fall into the mother's womb, would mind-and-body (nama-rupa) be constituted there?' 'It would not, Lord'. 'Were consciousness, having fallen into the mother's womb, to turn aside from it, would mind-and-body come to birth in this present state?'. 'It would not, Lord.' (D. II. 62-3 http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha205.htm

physical reality clearly exists, as does mental reality; they also clearly interact with each other in a manner that is fairly easily definable. The problem comes when you try to know more beyond these simple facts, i.e. how and why they exist and interact the way they do. - yuttadhammo

Here that phenomena is describe as awareness.

One answer is that reality is neither primarily physical nor mind, but awareness. Looking at Physics, we see the two-slit experiment, which seems to indicate that objects such as photons are "aware" of their environment and "make choices".
So, the simplest answer is to remove the quotes. Every thing, down to the lowest level of being, has awareness, and makes choices. Done. - no comprende

In here that phenomena is considered as aggregates

The relationship between body and mind is well described by the Buddha in form of e.g. the 5 aggregates i.e., materiality, feeling, perception, mental formations, consciousness and Dependent Origination.- Lanka

Sometimes we need to engage with team. (means with players). So we have paradox. Say winning a goal by a player is a wining of the team.

Likewise

Citta -, .. related to heart. ..Manas - ..help ..eye to see .. make vinnana, This is brain..Vinnana -, 'knowing' - John Fonseka

Mental States start to arise in the new existence immediately after conception ( Like TEAM). At that time, there is no brain (and no heart)( No PLAYERS In THE Team) to support these Mental States. This is why the Abhidhamma does not specify any specific organ as the base for the mind but rather uses the description, “that rūpa upon which the mind depends”- RobM

…Buddhist thinkers tried to analyse phenomena into their most basic units which they called dhammas and then attempted to describe their characteristics, their duration, their interaction with one another and their kammic results. Whereas the Buddha generally restricted himself to empirical experience, abhidhamma tends to be more speculative. Abhidhamma Studies, Nyanaponika, 1985. - See more at: http://www.buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=1#sthash.qwYypzzY.dpuf

Anyway what is the reason for continuity of this phenomena?

Citta (mind) is not one of the khandhas,( aggregates), therefore what you know as 'mind' is not perception, thought and consciousness. It is like an evolving soul.(Like Team).- mad buddhist

…..the brain is the mind. I was so perturbed…- Sam Reeve

….this consciousness of mine is supported by it(?) and bound up with it. ..

The It is the “Root”.

In The Root of All Things

“He perceives the base of infinite consciousness as the base of infinite consciousness. Having perceived the base of infinite consciousness as the base of infinite consciousness, he conceives himself as the base of infinite consciousness, he conceives himself in the base of infinite consciousness, he conceives himself apart from the base of infinite consciousness, he conceives the base of infinite consciousness to be ‘mine,’ he delights in the base of infinite consciousness. Why is that? Because he has not fully understood it, I say. suttacentral.net/en/mn1 – Shrawaka

May All removes the Roots.

Not that [Mahayana] Buddhists deny the Absolute. What they deny is existence of independent "I" in the absolute sense. "I" is a label,(TEAM) a nominal designation that only exists relatively to other things(PLAYERS). However, because the relative is subsumed in the absolute - not opposed to it - we can't deny existence of the relative either. This (here simplified) position is known as the unity of two truths. From this non-dualistic perspective, my power and the power of Absolute is the same power, my will and the will of Absolute is the same will, and my spontaneity and the spontaneity of Absolute is the same spontaneity. Using it and being used by it refers to the same activity. As Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." So, like I said in this answer, "Could we go as far as to say that Buddhist path culminates in the first-hand knowledge ... of God?" -Andrei Volkov

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Citta (mind) is not one of the khandhas, therefore what you know as 'mind' is not perception, thought and consciousness. It is like an evolving soul.

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Many people have claimed to me that the brain is the mind. I was so perturbed by this that I spent time considering it. My thought process:

If the mind were the brain then the parts of the brain would be the parts of the mind, consequently there should be a part of my brain that has the ability to see, since I can. However no object can have characteristics or abilities which are not inherited from their parts, (a kettle can boil water because the element can heat up) therefore there should be a part or parts of this part of the brain which can see. It is obvious that neither neurons nor flesh has the capacity to see, or else the dead would see things. No amount of massing together of neurons could ever acquire an ability for which no part is capable, therefore if we remove all the neurons and flesh from the brain then what is left should have the capacity for sight, however there is nothing left.

If the mind were in the brain then you should see inside the brain first before seeing outside, and if the mind were outside the brain then you should see your own face, and then how would you form a common awareness with your brain.

If the mind was not connected to the brain, then it couldn't form a common awareness, if it is connected then how could you have thoughts that are completely different from the brain's awareness?

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