Duality: Mind & Matter?


I think the problem being pointed out by a discussion of philosophy is that wrong metaphysics can easily lead people to rationalize behaviour driven by kilesa. The Sāmaññaphala Sutta provides a good example of this where the Buddha asks King Ajātasattu whether he has spoken to other Samaṇa-Brāhmanā regarding fruits of the ascetic life (which they are discussing). The result is a veritable mini-tour of other popular teachers of the Buddha’s time. The king relays the materialist philosophy of Pakudha Kaccāyana, saying,

And here there is no-one who kills or who makes others kill; no-one who learns or who educates others; no-one who understands or who helps others understand. If you chop off someone’s head with a sharp sword, you don’t take anyone’s life. The sword simply passes through the gap between the seven substances.’

Materialism, essentialism, and other such folk theories & philosophies certainly aren’t unique to ‘Western’ thought. David J. Kalupahana’s book A History of Buddhist Philosophy outlines in detail the many folk theories & philosophies, and their parallels in Western philosophy, prevalent at the time of the Buddha. Continuing on from that work, Joanna Macy’s book Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems highlights the link between the Buddha’s teaching of Idappaccayatā and a contemporary understanding of complex systems, self-organizing processes, emergent phenomena, and ‘levels’ of being (mirroring the way the Buddha spoke, e.g. the five Niyāmas, discussed in Jayarava’s analysis).


I agree with this expression. There is that which is experienced and whatever we say or think it is, it isn’t. We can think about thinking and by doing so we might come to understand how we think and how thinking originates but we can not say that the experience of thinking is such or such thing ie consciousness or form because these are conditions of the experience which are dependently arisen in as far as the manyfold experiences arise these can be said to arise because experience arises in as far as it’s supports and requisite conditions are present, it manifests as an expression of it’s supports and requisite conditions and this expression is perceived as sensory impression. Thus sensory impressions are a representation of their specific supports and conditions; they arise as an expression of all of these conditions coming into play.

Therefore when there are sensory impressions, supports and conditions can be delineated because it can be known directly by anyone that ie to see we need an eye, we need light and we need to be conscious, without these conditions there is no seeing forms cognizable by the eye. However seeing is neither the eye nor the light nor consciousness in and by itself but when there is seeing there is the eye, light and consciousness, apparently. Seeing however is seeing and whatever we think it is well it isn’t that because that is called thinking about seeing.


My understanding is that the philosophy of Kaccayana was a non-materialist philosophy positing seven separate, eternal and non-interacting substances.


There is a lot of contemporary interest in “interdependence” and Indra’s Web, etc. as an interpretation of some Mahayana philophies, and the supposedly vast impact an appreciation of interdependence might have on human behavior. But why should we believe that? For example, many scientists believe that the quantum wave functions of every quantum system are entangled with the wave functions of all other quantum systems. That doesn’t stop them necessarily from making war technology.


I have a background in systems, the basic definition we used for a system was “a set of components assembled for a purpose”. It works best with man-made systems like machines, transport systems and organisations, but it can also be applied to natural systems like the weather or the human body.
Thinking of the EBT, a “chariot” would be a set of parts assembled to transport people quickly. I’ll need to give some thought as to the purpose of the nama-rupa system. :blush:


The study of industrial systems and natural systems unfortunately often use the same language. In the natural Systems Theory approach, the idea of purposes is almost non-existent (although at a high level, downward causation can be seen as purposive, e.g. human intention, whereas a complex systems process like evolution is seen without purpose although it expresses optimization, e.g. fittedness to an environnment). Any man-made system can be modelled on natural systems, a discipline that was formerly called cybernetics (that word is so warped now as to be practically meaningless). The distinction seems like a digression, but it’s important to distinguish common everyday use of words like ‘system’ and ‘complex’ from their uses where natural systems are at play with processes like feedback, natural variation and complexification, and constraints (‘conditions’ in translation of the Buddha’s terminology). The Buddha’s wisdom in pointing out imponderables such as the workings of Kamma is borne out in Systems Theory which demonstrates that future states of complex natural systems are inherently not predictable in any exacting measure (although we can find patterns, as the Buddha found and pointed out patterns in Kamma-Vipāka).


Your point is well-taken. An appreciation of interdependence (or of most things really) does not translate in altered human behavior in an obvious or predictable way.

However, I don’t think most scientists believe that the wave functions of all quantum system are entangled with wave functions of all other quantum systems. Wave functions don’t get entangled. When two quantum systems are entangled their combined system has one wave function. Hence, the logical implication of the view that “everything is entangled with everything else” would be that there’s one wave function for the whole universe. And that’s a fringe view at best.


Sure, the assumption of purpose is less obvious with natural systems than man-made systems, but it can still apply. For example you could say that the purpose of evolution is to produce increasingly well-adapted organisms. Actually the main difference is that you cannot design natural systems, whereas design is an important aspect of applying systems methodology to man-made systems - and here clarity about system purpose is a critical consideration.

And of course systems methodology can be used to analyse and understand both natural and man-made systems. For example multiple cause diagrams are a useful way of understanding positive and negative feedback in systems. Once you understand a natural system it might then be possible to influence it - an obvious example is prescribing medication to regulate bodily functions.

As for predicting future states of complex systems, an obvious example is weather forecasting. With enough computing power you could probably predict kamma too! :grin: