The dividing line between the self and nonself is generally taken to be the skin, strongly implying that I am this body and nothing else. Of course, when a chunk of the body has vanished, as some unfortunate double amputees have experienced, one still feels one-self to be just as “present” and “here” as before, and not subjectively in the least. This logic could be carried forth easily enough until one arrives at solely the brain itself perceiving itself as “me” – because if a human head could be maintained with artificial head and the rest, it would reply “Here!”
- Robert Lanza MD Chief Scientist at Advanced Cell Technology; and Adjunct Professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine
This has led some prominent researchers, such as the late Nobel-winning neuroscientist Sir John Eccles, to propose a dualist view of the problem, arguing that the human mind and consciousness may in fact constitute a separate, undiscovered entity apart from the brain
- Sir John Eccles – Neuroscientist and Nobel Prize winner
As you can see, these are two opposing views on the concept of mind/brain and consciousness. The traditional view holds the theory that the mind/brain and consciousness are inherently one (monist approach) thus tying the “self” to the brain where as the alternate view given by a Nobel Laureate and also supported by Karl Popper (Philosopher) say that mind/brain is separate from consciousness (dualist approach).
Both scientists use scientifically accepted methods to arrive at opposing conclusions. This is one example to elucidate the fact that modern scientific conclusions are relative to time, place, and person. It does not teach an “absolute” truth and is not intended to either. Therefore, if we want to understand the real purpose of life, then, we have to approach an absolute yet bonafide source.
The concept of the “self” is steeped in mystery yet Krishna proclaims with boldness that the spirit transcends death and obtains a new physical reality. It seems the Absolute and relative truths co-exist. The Vedic literatures claim that the individual person sees through the eyes, hears through the ears and feels through the skin. In other words, the “real” individual is not physical but spiritual. The external physical covering is a temporary reality. Majority of modern science and its laws are permutation and combination of this external physical covering.
The traditional approach defines “consciousness” based on the temporary nature of the physical body & mind. This definition cannot explain ghostly spirits or life-after death incidences or other paranormal behaviors frequently documented. The second definition, however, lends credence to the existence of a reality beyond the physical realm and hence can explain paranormal behavior.
There is growing body of research trying to prove the dual theory of mind and consciousness. Dr. Sam Parnia heads the inter-continental AWARE study conducted by leading doctors and neuro-scientists. More information can be found here. The AWARE research uses modern clinical and scientific methods to prove that consciousness surpasses physical death. There has been positive progress made in this regard.
In another place, the Late Dr.Ian Stevenson from the University of Virginia, School of Medicine pioneered research on the concept of “reincarnation”. Dr Stevenson used scientific methods to ascertain that reincarnation is indeed a fact and not myth. His work can be found here.
These studies and research only reinforce the words of Krishna spoken 5000 years ago thus giving credibility to Bhagavad Gita as a book of knowledge. What the scientists are trying to uncover in terms of the dual mind-consciousness paradigm has been dealt in detail 5000 years ago in the Bhagavad Gita. Studying it will help us understand the nature of consciousness and its concomitant factors.