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Here is what I have been told by some Thai followers:

The sun's light takes 8 minutes to reach the Earth, but our mind can think of the sun or even of distant stars instantly. That is to say, our mind is faster than the speed of light. They claim science is a subset of Buddhism.

Is this true or false?

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    They are talking total gibberish. Never let philosophers try to make claims involving actual physics. Alan Sokal's tired of dealing with that. – Carl Witthoft Nov 29 '14 at 19:15
  • For a proper comparison ask how long it takes the sun's light to think of Earth, or how long it takes your mind to physically travel to the sun. – Robert Nov 29 '14 at 21:30
  • I think such phrases are metaphors. – Ramchandra Apte Nov 30 '14 at 10:21
  • Gosh, I read something a few years back in sci amer mind maybe? Anyway, researchers had shown that either some thoughts – Ron Kyle Nov 30 '14 at 12:17
  • Are faster than real time, or that there is a signal in the brain that must travel ftl. Ill try to find it – Ron Kyle Nov 30 '14 at 12:18

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The key point here is that the concept of speed is dependent on space (speed = distance/time, distance = spatial position B - spatial position A), which in turn is a derived product of matter.

Mind, being immaterial (and moreover momentary), does not "move", per se. It arises based on one of the six senses and ceases in the next moment. It never takes up space, nor can it be said to "move" in ultimate reality.

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  • Bhante, there's a semi-famous story about 'mind moving', i.e. Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving. But I suppose that might be some metaphorical movement. – ChrisW Nov 30 '14 at 21:21
  • Also I read on Wikipedia that Rūpa doesn't distinguish between an object's external-material-thingness and its internal-sensorial-thingness; I don't know whether there is a word or system-of-knowledge that does: whether anyone tries to distinguish between objective and subjective. – ChrisW Nov 30 '14 at 21:21
  • If the mind is an infinite space and phenomena occurs in fractions of a second we could say that speed approaches infinite. But when we say about the space or the movement of the mind, it isn't like space or movement in physics. – eric Dec 1 '14 at 21:28
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well i can write sun on paper faster than 8 minutes that does not mean my hands are faster than light ! this things are misinterpretation. Real Buddhism is about 'Nirvana' and about becoming free from the self, think about yourself without you ever existing ..

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  • If you don't mind, perhaps this is of some relevance here as well: Speaking in this way, teaching in this way, I have been erroneously, vainly, falsely, unfactually misrepresented by some brahmans and contemplatives [who say], 'Gotama the contemplative is one who misleads. He declares the annihilation, destruction, extermination of the existing being.' But as I am not that, as I do not say that, so I have been erroneously, vainly, falsely, unfactually misrepresented by those venerable brahmans and contemplatives... -- MN 22 – Sadhana Nov 29 '14 at 13:24
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Demonstrably false. Before getting to thinking about the sun, let's consider seeing the sun as an example: When photons from the sun, a visual object, make contact with the eye, there is eye-contact. With eye-contact arises eye-consciousness, that is the pattern of electrochemical impulses in the visual cortex of the brain. However, it still took 8 minutes for those photons to reach the eye from the surface of the sun. When thinking about the sun, there is a mental object, the idea of the sun, which makes mind-contact with the mind, causing idea-consciousness to arise. However, the mental object and the visual object of the sun are still two different dhammas, two different phenomena. Your idea of the sun as a mental object has no dependence on the continued existence of the sun as a visual object. No information travels from the visual object of the sun as part of the process of the mind making mind-contact with the mental object of the sun.

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  • Furthermore, the sun might not even exist when you're thinking about it, and you wouldn't know for 8 minutes. An huge alien spacecraft could swoop in, scoop up the Sun and run away with it while you're calmly thinking about the sun, enjoying the remaining few minutes of warm sunlight on your face, blissfully unaware that the sun has already been taken away. – Johnny Dec 1 '14 at 6:00
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If you think about the sun the thought of it arise instantly. Hence your mind is much faster than the speed of light which takes 8 minutes to reach earth. Thoughts and memories of distant objects can arise instantly in your mind. Hence why the mind is called it is faster than the speed of light. This is not to be confused with the literal meaning where here is actual travel from one place to the other other than when rebirth is happening. (When there is rebirth you die in one place and the conscientiousness instantly arises somewhere else where there is a ready womb.) This is similar to a simply used in Milinda Panha though this is discussed in the context of rebirth.

Science is always a model or approximation of reality, hence always changing with new research and discovery. The Dhamma is Akāliko (timeless). Hence Buddhism teachers an absolute reality where as science is and approximation.

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    What absolute nonsense. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 30 '14 at 15:27
  • The fact that a thought arises doesn't mean it actually reaches the sun or traverses the space; it only reaches the image or memory of the sun we have in our minds. That's way closer than the actual sun. – Bartek Banachewicz Nov 30 '14 at 15:28
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You are making a lot of mistakes about what happens when the mind "moves" to the Sun or someplace else.

One is that the Sun you're thinking of is not the Sun, it is an image of the Sun. The Sun is not in your mind. Your mind is inside your skull, or certainly inside your body (including your whole nervous system, not just your brain) which would take light far less than 8 minutes to travel through.

Another mistake is that thinking of the Sun is instantaneous. It takes the chemical, electrical and other changes in your brain and body actual time to think of the Sun. Since none of those parts of your body move anywhere near the speed of light, even the short distance among them takes milliseconds for the interacting parts to move through. But it's still not the Sun.

Still another mistake is that science is a subset of Buddhism. While there might indeed be interpretations of existence that (some) science and Buddhism could agree are accurate, most notably the fundamentally subjective nature of events requiring an observer to have any definite state or condition, there is not a hierarchical relationship. There is a common philosophical attitude derived from making experience the basis of existence, while noting that there is more to existence than to experience.

So while there is interesting food for thought in comparing the speed of thought to the speed of objects, trying to find Buddhism superior to science by contradicting it is really just a self indulgent sophism. Which both Buddhism and science would agree is a waste of time or worse.

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    it is an image of the Sun is precisely the key here. Good answer. – Bartek Banachewicz Nov 30 '14 at 15:29
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    I would debate that the mind is inside the skull, or anywhere in space whatsoever, but still +1 for a concise answer. – Anthony Nov 30 '14 at 18:22
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A pretty amusing question. :)

The canon is full of descriptions such as:

Then the Blessed One, realizing with his awareness the line of thinking in Ven. Anuruddha's awareness — just as a strong man might extend his flexed arm or flex his extended arm — disappeared from among the Bhaggas in the Deer Park at Bhesakala Grove, near Crocodile Haunt, and re-appeared among the Cetis in the Eastern Bamboo Park, right in front of Ven. Anuruddha.

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Who ever stand against the words of lord buddha,I have only one thing to say that its the truth. Our mind is so much faster than the speed of light and no one to prove and find that except a buddha.

According to buddha, there is a smallest unit of time which is called "Chiththakshana" and no one can even think about it. Our mind has a life time of 1 Chiththakshana. So Birth,Life Time And Death of our mind has this 1 smallest unit. So our mind is birthing,living and dying trillions and trillions times(Can't even think about it) during our life time. That's why it says the mind is more and more speeder than the light. Most of the people can't understand this because of the theories they have learnt. Finally I would like to say there are trillions (Even more) of earths which people live, in this universe. And the end of the universe is inside our own body.

For more information refer Abhidhamma Pitaka

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  • Hello tarzanbappa and welcome to Buddhism.SE! Can you kindly link the specific references for the information contained in your answer? Thank you. – Robin111 Apr 30 '15 at 12:58
  • For that you need to refer the Abhidamma Pitaka of three Pitaka – tarzanbappa May 4 '15 at 5:09
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Yes. According to Tibetan Buddhism and also non-denominational anecdotes from people that died and came back they went through a "tunnel" traveling what they felt was faster than the speed of light.

Also, mind-only school of consciousness in Buddhism would also confirm that mind is beyond the laws and bounds of space-and-time including the light constant which limits other material phenomena.

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Light is made of photons; it is material : the photons move in the air or in the emptiness like in space for example; the thinking is in our soul; it is not material.

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  • Photons are not "material". – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 30 '14 at 15:29
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit he is referring to "material" in the sense "not the mind or spirit," not to "matter." – rightfold Nov 30 '14 at 15:45
  • @rightføld: That's immaterial. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 30 '14 at 16:12
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Your mind is not faster than light for two reasons. First, you are just imagining the sun not producing light from the body itself. Two, your mind works through the use of neurons. Neurons communicate to each other by sending electrical impulses, electrical impulses are electrons moving through atoms that have dislocated electrons. Just saying this is far from the speed of light, but I get the idea why people believe this because the electrical impulses don't have to travel far to the next neuron since its on a cellular level compared to the large distances we use electricity for, this is considerably fast so it kinda seems like the speed of light.

P.S. As another example, mainly psychologically. It could be you think as that the speed of the mind is equal to the speed of light since we got the idea that the speed of light is the fastest speed possible. And your speed of thought is the fastest you can think, since you can't imagine anything faster because you have a limit you think that your speed of thought is the fastest speed possible. Since your thinking process is basically 'you'. So you have nothing to compare it to literally since as I said you 'thinking', is the fastest you can 'think', because 'thought' is the base layer of you 'thinking'. And because of this, you make the connection that the fastest speed possible in the universe is isn't/as fast as your thought process. Of course this isn't the only reason why you think that thought is faster than light. If this is hard to understand sorry, its because this is quite hard to put into words.

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When you're thinking about the Sun, your consciousness isn't actually traveling to the Sun itself; rather, your mind is simply reproducing a mental image of the Sun. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to say that when you think of the Sun, the "movement" is from some part of the brain to another (not a neurologist, sorry).

The light from the Sun takes 8 minutes to reach Earth, but in doing so it travels an immense 92,960,000 miles. (yes, I know it's not speed of light through a vacuum, but the difference is insignificant here)

However, when you think of the Sun, the information travels some amount of inches in what, a couple milliseconds?

From this, we can easily see that light is faster than our mind.

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  • I think that the use of the word "mind" connected with how the brain works is misleading. They are different levels, like how what I am writing here is different from the software in use, or my computer hardware. This same CPU lets me write any thing I want. So are CPUs intelligent? Where are my words written here, actually? Same kind of mixup. – user2341 Nov 30 '14 at 14:42
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Mind is not but it's thinking. Sun is not but is rays. Light is not but it's vision. In your context your thinking is right but it can never go abnormal until unless you had percieved something abnormal to you. Only then your mind has started sending thinking/rays in response to that.

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