What is the brain?

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    • #6562

      You often use the example of the human body to illustrate how we can sensually perceive the concept of the inverted tree of meanings described in Vedic philosophy. In this illustration the head (or brain) is the root of this inverted tree, while the lower parts of the body are subsequently trunks, branches, figs and leaves. You also say in other parts of your work that there could be two physical objects that look to be of the same kind (in this case organic matter out of which the brain is made) but are in fact semantically different and thus one is actually hierarchically higher. So, is the brain a different type (or a more abstract type) of object than other organs? Also, how does the brain connect with the mind?

    • #6574

      You also say in other parts of your work that there could be two physical objects that look to be of the same kind (in this case organic matter out of which the brain is made) but are in fact semantically different

      Yes, if you use the word “president” in one context it may mean the president of a nation, in another context the president of a football club, and in yet another context the president of a labor union. The word “president” in a universal sense just means the head of something. But based on the context, the same word denotes the head of different things. So there is some innate meaning in the word “president” (i.e. that it is the head of something) but this innate meaning is incomplete. To complete this meaning, we have to bring more things into the context, such as whether we are talking about the football club or a nation. Therefore, individual objects are real and they have some meaning, but that meaning is incomplete. To know the full meaning we have to construct the hierarchy — from context to the symbol. This context is also a symbol inside some bigger context, and this bigger context is a symbol inside even bigger context. So, this is what we mean by hierarchy: to know the full meaning you have to know the immediate context, then the bigger context, then even bigger context, until you arrrive at everything.

      Everything doesn’t have a context, so it is a meaning that is complete. It is not a partial meaning like the “president” which needs to be completed by another type of meaning. It is an individual meaning, and yet it is unlike all the other meanings, and hence it is complete. This everything is hierarchically higher than the individual things which are its parts. So hierarchy simply means that there is an idea of everything which is divided to create infinite somethings.

      So, is the brain a different type (or a more abstract type) of object than other organs? Also, how does the brain connect with the mind?

      There are three kinds of hierarchies: of object, role, and purpose. Just like we can say that the chair is higher than the legs of the chair. This is hierarchy of objects. Then there is hierarchy of roles. Just like the CEO is higher than the employee. This is the hierarchy of roles.

      Before we study the body as material or objective ingredients, we have to study it as divisions of role or functional divisions. At a high level, every living body has some ingestion, digestion, circulation, elimination system. Each of these systems is divided into smaller functions. Each of these functions interacts with other functions, but the extent and nature of this interaction can be different. When we study biology and physiology most of the time we just speak about the functional structure and the interaction between different functions.

      However, each of these functions is also populated by some material object. Just like in a drama there is a character and then there is an actor. The character is the functional division and the actor is the individual performing that function. So, the object hierarchy and the functional hierarchy are both present in the same body. The brain is functionally higher than the rest of the body, just like the CEO is higher than the employee. The brain controls the rest of the body just like the CEO. However, this is only one type of hierarchy. The stomach is higher than the brain in the object hierarchy, and the heart is higher than the brain in purpose hierarchy.

      In the Ayurveda system, there are three guna and dosha. The pitta represents the object hierarchy and resides in the stomach. The kapha represents the purpose hierarchy and resides in the heart. And the vata represents the functional hierarchy and is centered in the brain.

      So the head is not higher in all respects, but it is functionally higher. It is not one hierarchy but rather three hierarchies which combine to create the complete system. Hence there are three aspects of the soul and each one can be said to be higher than the other because sometimes purpose dominates to use the function and the function dominates to use the object. At other times, there are inherent limitations in the object due to which it cannot perform a function, and there are inherent limitations in the function due to which a purpose cannot be fulfilled.

      The basic idea is hierarchy, but we have to think about how three kinds of hierarchies combine. The picture gets more complicated due to this combination because the same thing–e.g. heart–is subordinate to the brain in one hierarchy and higher than the brain in another hierarchy.

      • This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by Ashish Dalela. Reason: grammar
    • #6584

      I always wanted to understand the meaning of inverted tree in Bhagavadgeetha. It is one of the most difficult verses for me. I paste it here for reference.
      (1) ūrdhva mūlaṃ adhaḥ ṣākhaṁ ashvatthaṁ prāhuravyayaṁ
      chandāmsi yasya parṇāni yastaṁ veda sa vedavit
      (2) adhaschōrdhvaṃ prasṛitāstasya ṣākguṇa pravṛddhā viṣaya pravālāḥ |
      adhaṣca mūlāni anusantatāni karmānubandhīni manuṣya lōke ||

      The first shloka is just definition and easy to understand. In the second the analogy is explained thus: “the three attributes are in the form of the roots. The branches are in the bottom that contains all the life bounded by the karma.”

      My understanding is that root is said to be on top because they are receptors. Just like root absorbs nourishment, the three attributes ever present in the universe is absorbed by the roots of this tree. And just like leaves and trunks various class off organisms and individuals among them too receive these attributes in various proportion based on their karma. And the result is present in the fruits.

      If this is right, My questions are:
      1. Why reverse tree?
      2. Who enjoys the karmaphala, it should be the same individual but in the tree model karmaphala is enjoyed from an entity other than the tree.

    • #6589

      You might want to read one of my books to understand the inverted tree better. All the books cover this idea in one form or another. The root is not a receptor. God is the root, and this root is the whole truth. The trunks, branches, and leaves are partial truths. Just like ‘animal’ is a big idea, and ‘mammal’ is a branch of ‘animal’, and ‘dog’ is a branch of ‘mammal’. So we have to think in terms of ideas and how an abstract idea is the parent of a detailed idea, and the detailed idea exists inside the parent idea, and yet the child and the parent are separate. All these things seem paradoxical when you think about objects, but they become easy when we think about ideas. The most complete idea is at the top or the root, and the incomplete ideas are below as leaves.

      The universe is the tree, but the soul is roaming on this tree like a bird who hops from one branch to another. Some branch is a dog, and another branch is a human. Accordingly by this hopping one gets different bodies. This hopping is due to free will or guna and also compelled due to karma. Their combination is simply described as “enjoying the results of karma“.

    • #6593

      So the head is not higher in all respects, but it is functionally higher.

      Could you elaborate more on this? What is the function of the head, hands, feet, stomach etc?

      Also what is the relationship between the chemicals in the brain (like neurotransmitters) and the perception of those neurotransmitters (qualia), which must be in a hierarchically higher space?

      When a thought forms in the mind is it then expressed at the level of the brain in a chemical configuration?

    • #6597

      Could you elaborate more on this? What is the function of the head, hands, feet, stomach etc?

      Do I need to say? Isn’t it obvious what these body parts do?

      Also what is the relationship between the chemicals in the brain (like neurotransmitters) and the perception of those neurotransmitters (qualia), which must be in a hierarchically higher space?

      Nerotransmitters are not qualia. They are carrying information from the different body parts and this information has to be described semantically. Something becomes qualia when it combines with the sense. Otherwise it remains a physical property. Redness is a color, and it becomes red only when it combines with color. Otherwise, it is not redness. And color is not color unless it combines with seeing. Meaning is created in this combination. Otherwise it is a physical property. You are thinking like the biochemist in terms of physics rather than meaning.

    • #8425

      Hi Ashish. I just read the above post and would like to know how the position of the parts in a human body describe their functions? For example, the position of the brain is at the top of a human body. The position of the stomach is in the middle of a human body.The position of the arms of a human body is at the sides of a human body.How do these various positions of the organs define their respective functions?

      Regards.

    • #8428

      In Ayurveda, the body is not described as head, stomach, legs, etc. It is described as:

      1. Three guna and dosha — each of which have five parts

      2. Five types of prana

      3. Seven layers of substances called dhatu which begin with semen and end with skin.

      4. Five gross material elements

      Ayurveda did not believe in the existence of the body as modern science describes — lungs, heart, spleen, stomach, intestines. Surgery was a relatively late addition to Ayurveda.

      It is not that they cannot see these body parts. But they don’t consider it real. They just consider it your sense perception. What lies behind that sense perception? That’s what Ayurveda is.

      What you call ‘head’ and ‘brain’ doesn’t exist in Ayurveda. There are five senses, some of which are in the region of the head, but like skin, they are also spread all over the body.

      The best description of mapping between the visible body and the Ayurveda system of the body is that they divide the body by the three guna. The part of the body from the head to the heart is dominated by the guna-dosha of kapha. So, if you go to an Ayurvedic physician and say you have a brain tumor, they will not perform surgery. They will cure the dosha of kapha. Similarly, if you say you have migraines, they will try to cure the dosha of kapha. If you have a lung infection or throat infection, they will still try to cure kapha. This is how they think of the body.

      Likewise, any disease in the middle of the body — from the heart to the genitals — they consider a disease of pitta. And anything in the hands and legs — e.g. join pain — they consider the disease of vata. This is the high-level classification of the body in terms of three dosha.

      But you must remember that this type of classification is always a fractal structure. So, within this high-level division, there are smaller divisions as well. For example, the eyes in the head have a top-level classification of kapha but a lower level classification of pitta. Similarly, the nose is a higher level classification of kapha and the lower level classification of vata. And they also try to understand whether these three dosha have expanded from subtle to gross or from gross to subtle. If this expansion has occurred then the cure takes a longer duration.

      In this way, there is a theory of the body, and they cure based on this theory. They don’t look at body parts in the way the modern medicine does. The only exception is the division of surgery — which I said is relatively recent — and which looks at body parts like modern surgery.

    • #8437

      Thank you for that detailed response. I was still thinking of objects collections, where each constituent is strategically placed for optimal use.Take for example a car. Each component wheels,gears,seats are in a location in the object collection ( the car ) that makes their use optimal. Therefore,does location denote the characteristics of an object?

    • #8439

      Yes, location denotes functionality. But that location is not in the space you are experiencing by the senses. I’m not sure if the location you see makes the function optimal. For example, you can have a car with engine on the front or the back. The relation with the rest of the car is largely unchanged. It is still called an engine, and it works as an engine. We are talking about that functional differentiation as opposed to the physical location.

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What is the brain?

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