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Does The Brain Produce The Mind? A Discussion With Rupert Spira.

Who else finds the concept of the big bang difficult to grasp and believe. The theory (because that’s all it is) that the entire Universe originated from a sub-microscopic singularity so dense that it could contain everything there is and ever will be in the Cosmos, in an area millions of times smaller than a grain of sand. This is the model that we have grown up with and are now conditioned to believe is the reality, even though there is no conclusive evidence to support it. The consciousness model flourished in ancient cultures, and in fact, on reading the Vedas and more so the Upanishads. it seems that scholars of Advaita Vedanta had a greater understanding of consciousness than our modern day scientists. This understanding is mirrored in Buddhism and other nondual tradtitions. Below follows a a link to the video and a transcription of a discussion between Rupert Spira, international teacher of Advaita Vedanta and one of his students at his retreat in Mercy, California in March 2018. Many thanks to Amaya Aum for her transcription.

Does the Brain Produce the Mind?

Rupert Spira

Q: So, this question is about the brain and the sense organs in relation to the new model, as such. So, if I just outline what I understand as the new model (I think we talked about it before and you’ve said it this week) but it’s that Consciousness is the biggest thing, within mind, within matter (within that, is matter) and that can be represented by deep sleep, dreaming and the waking state. And it could also be ‘Knowing’ which then, as you say, kind of vibrates within itself to produce experiencing, being in the mind; and then that, through thought and perception, produces the duality of the experiencer and the experienced. And so, within the Consciousness, there’s time-less dimension-less-ness; within mind, there’s one dimension of time and then that then proliferates itself to time and space, and therefore, the notion of cause and effect as well.

R: Yes.

Q: So, because it seems like there’s a kind of tenacious belief (which has loosened greatly and I don’t think I believe it anymore) that thoughts and the brain…, (sorry) …, that thoughts are produced by the brain. But it seems that the brain is really only an object of perception in the waking state; it’s just an object in the waking state. Like, we can only ever think of …, (it’s kind of hard to describe) …, the brain is an image, which is a perception. But if we actually go to, therefore, our experience of that, that can be reduced down to perceiving and then the perceiving can be reduced down to ‘Knowing’.

… and so… am I making any sense? And the same goes with the other sense organs as well. Even with the eye, as well; we normally think we see with the eye.

R: Go back to Mary and Jane. Mary falls asleep, in Burlingame. She dreams that she’s Jane on the streets of London. So, the streets of London are what the inside of Mary’s mind looks like from Jane’s point of view. Yeah? So, in fact, the streets of London …, they appear from Jane’s point of view as matter, but in fact, they are the inside of Mary’s mind.

Could it be that our brains are what the inside of our minds look like when viewed from a second-person perspective…?

…, just as the world is what God’s mind looks like when viewed from the point of view of

a second-person perspective?

Could it be that our brain is what the inside of a finite mind looks like when viewed from a second-person perspective?

Q: It could be.

R: Whereas, just as the streets of London are the extrinsic image of Mary’s intrinsic experience, could our brains be the extrinsic view of …, could our brains be what our intrinsic experience looks like from the perspective of somebody else?

In other words, from somebody else’s perspective, our mind looks like an object made out of matter; just as, from our point of view, God’s mind looks like a world made out of matter.

And that would account for the fact that there is obviously a direct correlation between our minds and our brains. I don’t deny that. Change the mind; it registers on a brain scan. But that doesn’t mean, therefore, that the brain causes the mind. But there is a connection between the two. Why? Because the brain is what the mind looks like when viewed from the outside.

You taste chocolate. Imagine the taste of chocolate and you’re having a brain scan. The brain surgeon registers you tasting chocolate but what he sees is something very different from the taste of chocolate. You experience the taste of chocolate from the inside; he sees your brain waves moving from the outside. The taste of chocolate is what you experience from the inside. From the surgeon’s point of view, it looks like brainwaves from the outside. So, there is correlation between the taste of chocolate and your brainwaves, but that doesn’t mean that your brainwaves create your experience.

Q: It’s just two different ways of describing it.

R: It’s a first-person point of view, that’s the internal experience…., and a second-person point of view. Just as the world is our point of view (a second-person’s point of view) of God’s first-person experience.

So, this [indicates the space and room around us] is all the inside of God’s mind. When filtered through the limitations of our minds, it appears as a multiplicity and diversity of objects. So, the world is what the inside of God’s mind looks like from a second-person point of view.

Could our brains be what the inside of our minds look like from the second-person point of view? Why not?


Q: And then, with the other sense organs, would that be the same representation? It would be the same explanation, I guess. Like seeing the first-person point of view’s perception with the second-person’s point of view; the eyes …

R: Yes. Exactly. Yes, you could put it like that. Yes.

Q: … the ears, taste, smells, touch as well. I guess the whole body, in a sense.

R: Yes, just like (going back to Mary and Jane) …, Jane believes that she sees the world through her eyes, or she perceives experience through her eyes and her ears and her nose and her mouth. But those organs, from the inside, from Mary’s point of view, Mary doesn’t have eyes, ears, nose and a mouth. She seems to know the inside of her mind through the sense organs of Jane. So, from Jane’s point of view, it seems that her eyes are doing the seeing and her ears are doing the hearing. But it’s not really like that, because it’s Mary asleep in Burlingame that’s really doing the seeing and the hearing. And she doesn’t have eyes and ears. But from Jane’s point of view, it seems that she has eyes and ears, and that the eyes are doing the seeing and that the ears are doing the hearing and the nose is doing the smelling.

Q: And I guess that kind of goes for all the organs of the body and the body itself. R: Yes.


R: It’s just a model. I’m not suggesting it’s a completely accurate description of experience but it explains how there is a correlation between the mind and the brain, without implying that the brain produces the mind. It’s acknowledging the correlation between the two, but it stops short of saying the brain therefore produces the mind.


Q: And so, (sorry, because this is kind of interesting) from the first-person perspective, everything is … is that there’s just… is that when there’s just seeing, hearing, touching tasting, smelling, thinking, sensing …, that’s the first-person perspective …, and the second-person perspective is what that looks like from an outside observer?

R: Yes …

Q: So, the first-person perspective, if you actually stick with it, is that the experience of

… that’s mind; that’s just all mind stuff, I guess. That’s all experiencing. But from the

second-person perspective … R: … it looks like matter.

Q: It looks like matter.

R: Yes. So, from the first-person perspective…, what is made of mind from the first- person perspective, looks like matter from the second-person perspective.

What is all the inside of Mary’s mind looks like matter from the point of view of Jane. From Jane’s perspective, the world seems to be made out of matter.

From Mary’s perspective, it is all mind.

So, matter is what mind looks like when viewed from a limited point of view. [Silence]

R: You get that? Matter is what mind looks like from a limited point of view. God’s face… The world is what God’s face looks like when viewed from the perspective of a separate subject of experience.

In other words, all this is God’s mind but it appears to be a world made out of matter when viewed from the finite subject, from the point of view of a finite subject. When God’s mind is filtered through the limitations of a finite subject, it appears as a multiplicity and diversity of objects.

[Silence] I remember Shakespeare:

“And as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown,

The poet’s pen turns them into shapes And gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.”

And as God’s infinite Being bodies forth,

Its own dimensionless Presence,

The poet’s pen (that is, the finite mind)

Turns it into form

And gives airy nothing (God’s infinite Being)

A name and a form

And makes it appear as a world.

“And as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown,

The poet’s pen turns them into shapes And gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.”

And as God’s infinite Being bodies forth

Its own dimensionless Presence, (Each finite mind)

Turns that Presence into Objects and forms

And gives to God’s infinite Being

A temporary name and form.

[Silence] Shakespeare is very much more eloquent that I am.

Q: So, then, the exercise that we’ve done before, when there’s an object (so, say for example, the flowers) that’s the second-person perspective. That can then be turned into the first… (checking, is this…?) … this can never be turned into the first-person perspective, which is just really just seeing. And then that, in itself, can get reduced down to ‘Knowing’. And in the same way, the flowers or the brain are the second-person. Is that…?

R: Yes. The flowers are your second-person perspective of the activity of God’s mind. From God’s point of view, this is the activity of her mind. From your perspective, it is a bunch of flowers. However, the experience of seeing is the activity of your mind…, but from a surgeon’s point of view, it looks like brain waves in your skull.

Q: [Laughing] Yes. I think that makes sense. Because the second-person perspective is

always …

R: The second-person perspective makes mind look like matter. Q: Yeah.

R: From the first-person perspective, it’s all mind…. Q: … it’s all mind.

R: From a second-person perspective, that activity of mind appears as matter.

Q: And then would you say that … so, the first-person perspective, that’s still not quite Consciousness’ perspective, as such, because Consciousness’ perspective is just All- Knowing.

R: That’s true.

Q: So, it’s kind of zero-person …

R: Don’t make me work too hard…. [Chuckles]

Q: Zero-person perspective, first-person perspective, second-person perspective…

R: You’re right, you’re right, yes. The zero-person perspective; that’s dimension-less Consciousness in which there is no form. Yes.

Q: And that’s kind of like the deep sleep. The first-person is like (it’s all mind, so) the

dream. And then the second-person is the matter; so, the waking…

R: Yes, you could put it like that.

Q: But it’s all really your Consciousness.

R: Exactly. And remember that it’s dimension-less Consciousness that’s the zero-person perspective, who Itself assumes both the form of the first-person perspective and experiences everything as mind …, and then, within mind, enters into Its own imagination to seem to become a second-person point of view …, from whose perspective Its own mind appears as the world.

Q: [Chuckles]

R: It’s a beautiful model, isn’t it? Q: It’s lovely.

R: It’s exquisite. It’s like a jewel. It’s like a jewel within a jewel within a jewel. Isn’t it?

Q: Yeah, it’s lovely.

R: It’s a jewel in which every part is related to every other part, every part is reflecting off of every other part and appearing, depending on where you’re taking your point of view. So, it’s like a fluid jewel within a jewel within a jewel.

Q: And it seems to be able to take account of both the materialist and idealist points of view.

R: Absolutely.

The materialist point of view is the second-person point of view. The idealist point of view is the first-person point of view.

And the Consciousness-only model is the zero point of view…, which encompasses both

of those but is beyond both of them. Q: Yes. Good, that.

R: And another way of saying it (which is just for some of you to think about in the early hours) now that you’ve touched on it:

The zero, from pure Consciousness’ point of view,

Pure Consciousness has no dimensions.

The mind only has a single dimension;

it only has an extension in time but not space.

And from the second-person point of view, space seems to come into existence.

So, something that is zero, has zero dimensions; Takes the form of something with one dimension;

Which, in time, takes the form of something that has 3 dimensions. So, first there is dimension-less Consciousness, then time, then space. That’s your homework. Ponder that.

[They both laugh]

Q: Thank you, Rupert.

~ ~ ~

.Rupert Spira

“Does the Brain Produce the Mind?”

Rupert Spira. International Teacher of Advaita Vedanta, Nonduality, Jnana Yoga. Meditation and Enlightenment

Rupert Spira’s Website

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