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Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Wed May 20, 2009 12:17 am
by RCharles
More controversy... :wink: The way I'm seeing it, enlightenment is really just a brain trick.

Just about all the time, we Westerners operate in the left brain, which is language, logic, and ego. We see the world as divided because that's what the left brain does--divides things, names them, thinks and reasons about them as objects.

But then we meditate or come to awareness, and the right brain starts to dominate, possibly for seconds, then minutes, then maybe hours or most of the time. And we see that we are connected to everything. There is no dividing and distinguishing. It's all one. It's all God and all peace all the time and everywhere.

Nothing changed. No mystical experience happened. We just started thinking more with the right brain than the left and we saw things differently. Sort of like looking at something with only the left eye open and then only the right. And when we get good at it, we can switch back and forth between hemispheres more or less at will, which is like seeing with both eyes open. :)

I don't mean to belittle the wonder of learning to see with the right brain, or the amazing realizations it can bring, but essentially, this seems pretty simple. Am I missing anything? Anyone care to enlighten me? :lol:


Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Wed May 20, 2009 1:30 am
by Glycine
I know what you mean, RCharles, and I even posted a similar question half a year ago:
http://eckhart-tolle-forum.inner-growth ... f=4&t=4942
My current understanding is that everything we can talk about is pretty much generated by the brain. However, the ability to get out of the "crazy loop" of thoughts is opening a new dimension that we can identify with.
Awareness could be that which sees the appearance of such "identifications."

Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Wed May 20, 2009 4:32 am
by karmarider
Yes, it could very well be a right/left brain thing. Certainly, Jill Bolte's viral video supports this theory:

And of course there could still be more to it. The conventional science view is that consciousness is created by the brain (the "hard" problem). Others believe that the brain is a transponder for consciousness that exists outside, so it's possible that the right brain transponds consciousness more cleanly.

The thing is, whether awakening is right brain dominance or some of the more complicated theories of karma and existence that have been posted here--does it matter? Awakening has brought me home, to a natural, easy state.

What I see on this board is it seems the biggest obstacle to awakening is the intellectual browbeating. When we can give up all the mental gymnastics, and just be--it doesn't get any simpler than that.

Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Wed May 20, 2009 7:14 pm
by Sighclone
Yes, karmarider - all the intellectualizing here (and I am as guilty as anyone) does distract from the personal non-mental event of awakening. I like to think that most of what I write is just nudging people a little closer to the awareness that words inevitably fail, inextricably linked to the mind as they are. I've stopped arguing, at least.

Some avoid ratiocinative comments (like HermitLoon!!) - but I do think that members' egos can construct barriers that can be exposed by the observation and writing of others (most of your comments...much thanks, by the way). The best that does is leave the original poster with the understanding that "Well, that little idea was wrong."

Ironically, it is that kind of dialogue which constitutes most of PON.

Namaste, Andy

Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Wed May 20, 2009 8:17 pm
by karmarider
good point about PON--the first time I read it, it made no sense to me and I was vaguely insulted. At that time I believed the path to Truth was through intellect and science. Possibly, this is why Time magazine called PON "mumbo-jumbo". A few months later, I was ready; the ego had softened.

It's useful to jostle egos; and the PON can be thought of as an effective ego-jostle. It's good, too, to remind that all intellectual arguments and beliefs are endlessly circular. There is no path from intellectual understanding to Truth. It is so utterly here and now, and ordinary--the extra-ordinary is contained in the ordinary.

Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Thu May 21, 2009 2:43 am
by Tony-S-Ma
Science/intellectual inquiries may erroneously put carriage before the horse. Logic and reason go both ways. If one drops the understanding that cause and effect work all the time, one's whole world changes within.

Awakening changes one's brain. The observational conclusion as an understanding can still be awakening is a brain trick because awakening and brain change are co-observed.

In addition, Awakening is very subjectively experienced. There is no objective scientific measure for it. It often takes an awakened person to know whether another is awakened. I love the story about the recognition of Huineng by the fifth Zen patriarch Hongren. Lineage in many spiritual traditions are designed for this reason; however, it can be abused by egoic growths on the tree of lineage. Huineng somehow recognized this, and promptly stopped the tradition of passing down the bowl and rob of Gautama. However, not many have understand this, so the tradition of lineage continues in Zen.

I know I hold a controversial position in the awakening business: there are different stages of awakening. This makes an objective scientific measurement of awakening even harder even though we have very complex instruments for measuring brain.

If one can not recognize an adult from a child, one is probably an infant. Those who hold scientific understanding of awakening are very likely infants in the awakening business.

Infant, toddler, pre-adolescence, adolescence, adult, post-adult.

Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Thu May 21, 2009 10:00 am
by Marcel Franke
Gangaji: "stop"

Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Thu May 21, 2009 6:31 pm
by RCharles
Thanks to you all for posting your insights. Karmarider, your Jill Bolte-Taylor video says exactly what I was trying to say. That if awakening is rooted mainly in the right brain, perhaps it can become a more universal experience than it currently is. Perhaps we can find more direct ways of teaching it, just as we teach kids to read, write, and count. In some senses, people like Eckhart are pioneers in this field, since his method can produce awakening very rapidly, seemingly much more rapidly than traditional religious practices.

In bringing up this topic, I didn't mean to demean the experience of awakening or to deny that it may also have connections to God and spirit that go far beyond the physical mechanisms of the brain. I just want to speculate that as Jill B-T says, it seems to start with the right brain, the right brain seems to be the portal to the world of oneness and spirit, and it may be more easily taught than we realize.

Finally, Tony, your information about how the right brain grows with awakening implies that the spiritual center of the brain resembles a muscle that grows stronger with exercise. Makes sense, and it implies that once you step through the portal of the right brain, there is more and more to the awareness it brings.


Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Thu May 21, 2009 6:45 pm
by Mesquared
Oh, my RC, it's like we're on the same path. :) (Of course, we all are.) For some reason, your posts stand out at me. The vibe I get from your posts, the Catholic background, and now the thoughts on the brain all feel very familiar. (Does this happen to others on the board? You relate to certain people, maybe because of where you are on your journey?)

I was a little disappointed after I read Jill BT. In one way, I was excited because science discovered awakening! Then, I thought, "Oh, no! There really is no afterlife! And I'm a big fool for buying into all this stuff!"

But, then, I've read that some scientists think there is more. That something outside the cell is working on it. This gives me hope. I confess: I am not a scientist. I know little compared to others.

However, nothing takes away the literal power of now! For that, I am so grateful.

Now, wish me luck when we go to talk to our priest about Baptism. He has discovered we haven't baptized our baby yet.

Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Fri May 22, 2009 5:50 am
by RCharles
Hi Mesquared,

Thanks for your very kind comment about resonating. Yes, I find that I too resonate with certain other members here, and probably, as you said, it's because we are in a similar place on the path and have similar backgrounds.

I hope you will take heart about the afterlife. I've wondered about it also, but I've read so much evidence in favor of it (life after death stories of those who died and came back) that I don't really doubt it. I think it was one of the moderators here who recently posted a really great link to a life-after-death testimony. Unfortunately, I visited the site and read the story but didn't bookmark it.

Here's a theory for you (no facts, just opinion). I've come to think maybe the right brain is the place of trainable enlightened thinking and also that God made our right brain like a little radio transmitter-receiver that provides our connection to spiritual realms. When it's really well-tuned, we not only perceive ourselves as one with the world but we also feel so much of the presence of God that it's as if we are at one with God. I'm not there yet, so you can't prove it by me, but I've had tastes of it, and I know many others on this forum have as well.

Who knows what we will find as we go deeper into awareness and spirit, but as you said, nothing takes away the literal power of now. Perfect Peace is within all of our grasp, literally, right here, right now.


Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Fri May 22, 2009 2:02 pm
by Webwanderer

Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Fri May 22, 2009 2:05 pm
by James
Glycine wrote:
My current understanding is that everything we can talk about is pretty much generated by the brain.
I understand where you are coming from Glycine, I went through several years of on and off again doubting about these existential matters. It is better not to take things on faith or trust something that can't be verified through direct experience, realization or knowing.
One of the ways in those years, that I came to see differently was through dreams. I noticed that the content of my dreams at night often contained images and ideas that were new to me, things I did not recall seeing or learning; things I couldn't possibly know.

I kept a dream journal for a while, and every night before going to sleep I invited the dreams to come. I woke up in the middle of the night sometimes to write them down, or record them on tape. The more I did this, the more intense and profound the dreams became, with all kinds of metaphors and transcendent imagery; clues and instructions about my own resistance and internal blocks to awakening. For me this was very powerful and convincing. It became clear to me that the mind was like a "transponder" as R.C. calls it.

You might want to check out the noted analyst, Carl Jung's writings, he delves a lot into the collective unconscious, dreams and symbols in the human psyche. You needn't believe his theories, but his work for me was fascinating, and began to open my consideration to other possibilities. Find out for yourself through direct direct experience.


Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Fri May 22, 2009 2:48 pm
by James
"A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive."
~ Albert Einstein

Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Fri May 22, 2009 3:43 pm
by Sighclone
Thanks again always, James.


Re: Isn't Enlightenment Really Just a Brain Trick?

Posted: Fri May 22, 2009 6:00 pm
by johny
Well I have personally experienced what Tolle talks about, and it certainly did not look like mind stuff. But here is the logical explanation I could give:
Experience of awakening is rare. But it's less rare for people who have experience of life after death. You would certainly agree that there are more of these people who were declared dead, they saw a light, tunnel etc, felt really good and they then came back to life.
Now people/scientists give argument against these kind of experience saying that these are mind made stories. But these people were declared brain dead. I do not mean all of them and I certainly don't have many records, but some of them were. So how can one's mind create an illusion of awakening when it's officially dead?
Here are few links I could find: ... death.html ... 09,00.html
However the guy in second link does not talk about any awakening experience. But it seems he has forgotten or does not want to talk about it.

Those links may not be close to what I want to explain, but digging out medical records is certainly not interesting to me.