Multiple Facets of the Fantasies of the Asian Mind

- - Jayapaul Azariah, Ph.D.
Founder President, All India Bioethics Association,
New No. 4, 8th lane Indiranagar, Chennai 600 020. India.

Email: Jazariah

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 13 (2003), 39-41.


Human personality is divisible into many components: some divide it as Body, Mind and Soul while others divide it into Body, Soul and Spirit. The mental mapping project needs to integrate all these aspects (Macer, 2002ab). It is also possible to recognize five interrelated components of human personhood. They are (a) Physical (b) Mental (c) Moral (d) Emotional (e) Spiritual. Such a five partite human personality is essential for personality development.

A mind is like a plant, planted in a mud pot or like a fish in an aquarium tank. Their growth in terms of size is strictly dependent on the space-capacity of the container. The smaller the given space the smaller is the organism. So is the mind. The scale of perception of the world around us conditions the mind. Asia is generally recognized as the spiritual center of the world while the West is technology oriented. Spiritual and mechanistic worldviews are the two containers that contain the mind. But where is this mind of the humans? Is it in the body component or in the soul or in the spirit? Is there any difference between the Western and Asian minds? If so what is due to?

An Aurvedic dictum is "You are the product of the food". In this sense food is related to the body and mind. If mind is "memory" then where is the mind? How does food condition the mind? If mind is that which thinks then is it right to say that perception, feelings, a will to do and consciousness are the outworking of the mind? Does mind grow and age? Are ideas created? Does mind produce an ideology? Mind is a double-edged sword! We generally say that the best definition of pollution is "Out of sight - out of mind". But the mind can interpret it as "out of sight" = invisible; "out of mind" = insane or a maniac"? Solutions offered by the mind can also be problems! Then one has to think again and reframe the solutions.! What are the technologies by which the mind can be controlled to think in the positive direction that can provide a viable solution?

The Asian mind is circular. It thinks of cycles and in circles. The way of life is characterized by cycles of birth and death. The body is taken through a cycle of fasting and feasting. Should the mind think linearly? Can the mind be subjected to fantasy? Is the ancient Indian concept of "Maya' a fantasy idea? Mind has the function of forming images and ideas. For the preservation of peace in this world what is needed is the development of a mind of a visionary fantasy.

To ask the question, "What is inside the mind?" is just like asking "What is inside of 'darkness'?" Inside darkness is there fear? Or do we see fear in it? Mind is a "black box". We know what is mind or what is inside of mind or where is this mind? All of us (many of us?) know that we have a mind but when someone asks me to explain "mind" then one is at a loss. We can only explain the outworking or the manifestations of mind and not the mind itself.

The US Senate declared that the 1990s be considered as the "The Decade of the Brain" and the current decade is being considered by Susan Greenfield as " The Decade of the Mind" (Jeeves, 2002). Therefore it is very appropriate to consider the major theme of "Mapping the Mind". Since it is a mega project it may also be very appropriate to declare this century as the " The Century of Mind Mapping". In declaring such an event it is envisaged that it may take one hundred years to complete this prestigious job.

There are many words that are very difficult to define. The words ', Human, life', and 'death' are three such words (Azariah, 1995). However, human personality has been compartmentalized into body, soul and spirit or body, mind and spirit. Generally thinking people accept the Cartesian dualism of mind and body. In this study, a five-part compartmentalization has been realized. They are the following. Every human being has a (i.) physical (ii) mental (iii) moral (iv) emotional and (v) spiritual components. Since human body is a system, these areas can work either independently or collectively as members of one body. Such a five partite human personality is essential for personality development.

"An idea comes to my mind" is the most common expression among the bioethically minded intellectuals, which connects the mind with the generation of an idea! But where is the mind, in the human body? Any dictionary meaning of mind would associate the following two features with mind name with 'memory' and 'thinking', which are commonly associated with the brain (the nervous system). Therefore, it is customary to say ' body and mind'. In the body, is mind alone the seat of memory? No, it is not the only biological component that has memory. The other two are (a) blood with the immune system, which remembers the identity of the invading pathogen and (b) the DNA, which is the molecule of heredity. Both blood and DNA are distributed through out the biological body. Hence, mind is present in the body and in every part of the body. This thought agrees with the Zen Buddhist concept of human personality, which recognizes both the body and mind as one component as bodymind.

Indian philosophy on mind

This subject is very vast. However a few points can be stated. The Indian philosopher Radhakrishnan (1997) states " we can't, however understand how the human mind can speculate freely and remodel life when it is filled with weariness and overcome by a feeling of hopelessness". For a productive mind one needs a life free of over burdens. He continues, " The mind, inconstant and unstable, must be steadied into an unruffled lake, that it might mirror the wisdom from above. Buddhi or the power of understanding and discrimination needs to be trained. The way in which this power operates depends on our past habits. We should so train it as to bring it into agreement with the spiritual view of the universe". Training of the mind is done in the Vedic period by the yogic disciplines which are (i) purification of the mind, body and senses that the divine may take poison of them (ii) concentration or withdrawal of the consciousness from the dispersed movement of thoughts running after the senses and fixing it on the supreme, and (iii) Identification with the real when we reach it.

Mind can travel out side the body and wonder. It has no physical boundaries. Hence it is transcendental in nature.

The second aspect of Asian mind is that it considers "end as/is the beginning" It thinks in circles and not in a linear fashion. Death leads to life and life leads to death. The concept of rebirth is an outworking of the circular mind. The third concept is that of "Maya", the idea of temporary existence of all substances and entities

Idea - Property of human nature

An idea is a mental process. But what does a "mental process' mean and where does it take place? A mental process can not be assessed since it happens within an unknown region (cyberspace) of human person. We may infer that the process takes place in the cybermental component of human spirit! Therefore, existence of an idea can not be tested by means of a technical process, since an idea is 'nonmaterial' in its composition. Therefore it is not an 'element' of a human body. It is non elemental in its nature. However, a non-biological technical process per se may not also form or generate an idea since it is the product of human creativity. Such creative ideas are commonly referred to as a "bright idea". It is an inventive idea. These creative and innovative ideas can be applied to different situations, other than the one to which it was conceived and proposed. A simple idea can solve a complex or a complicated problem.

An idea chain

When is an idea conceived? As mentioned earlier an idea springs from the inside of a person - may be from the cyberspace of the mindbody. An idea is the product of human interaction with the external environment or an external source of knowledge in put. An idea does not come from a mind that is a vacuum. An idea arises from an idea. It may be one's own idea/mindbody or it may be someone else's which may be heard or read or seen. Such a blend of ideas is synergy. That is the potency of the combined effect is greater than the sum total of the individual effects. Therefore, it appears that no single person can claim originality for an idea that is generated. All that is possible is that it is possible to claim ownership. One of the ways by which a bright idea can be measured is at the time when it is expressed orally or verbally. This ability is the inventiveness of human creativity. An invention is the "expression product" of an idea.

When does an idea become 'knowledge or vise versa? There is no definite line of demarcation. Knowledge as we know it, comes from outside of human -person system. The possible sources of knowledge are (a) observation of an object in nature or the surrounding environment; (b) an experience like burning a finger in a candle fire, (c) experimentation as we do in science, (d) teaching which comprises of (I) reading, (ii) computer and (iii) discussion and (e) revelation in which dreams, visions, enlightenment and holy scriptures. Knowledge could be simple, scientific or technological. A problem is how do we record the conception of an idea / and how do we evaluate the brightness of an idea?

Bioequivalent and functional equivalent

Since mind is associated with the whole body itself there should be an equivalent. Mind is both functionally and biologically equivalent to the nucleotide sequence of the DNA. If DNA can be sequenced so also the mind since they are bioequivalents to each other. There are similarities between mind and DNA. The answer is yes and no. But I suggest that following terms may be employed for the components of idea generated by the mind. Some proposed names; for the unit of mind (bioequivalent of gene) = neurgene or neugene and for the entire component of the mechanism is Neunome or neurnome and neurome.

What is the make up of the neugene or neurome? Many components can be recognized. They are religion, spirituality, conscience, mind itself, will, intellect, worldviews and the environment, both internal and external.

Muller Hill (1993) draws a relationship with the sequencing of gene and conscience. He writes " I do not know how many of you here and how many scientists elsewhere believe in this new Bible written by scientists in four letters. But I know pretty well that very few scientists read old Testaments and Mosaic Laws. Therefore, the question has to be raised as to what can be said of them. I know that to say 'read the Old Testament or respect the commandments will result in laughter'. So I have to retreat to my last line of defense and say listen carefully to your conscience. It is a voice that sometimes says No. It never says "yes" as Socrates has already remarked. This NO is the only break when all other breaks are gone. This voice can be silenced. Do not silence it. It comes forth from some unknown structure of human brain. It comes before religion and it grows with True Religion. Enjoy the beauty and pleasure of science and follow the voice of your conscience"

The brain is a biomaterial organ. And Muller Hill recognizes that it has unknown part and the seat of conscience which before religion and grows with true religion Religion/spirituality/ consciousness will world views and environment

Mind enhancement

Can the mind be enhanced? Yes it can be enhanced by various means. (i) Vedic people who lived in India many centuries ago resorted to mind enhancement by eating certain herbs (Modtilal). (ii) Drug addiction is a form of mind enhancement but with deleterious effects (Pollard, 2002). (iii) Genetic mental enhancement (Coates et al 1997) and (iv) Machine enhanced intelligence and mind (Pearson 1999).

As mentioned earlier Vedic people and many Indians today avoid certain food items like garlic and beef so as to lead a life of tranquility. Mind altering drugs like caffeine, cannabis, marijuana and cocaine can alter the mood and the emotionality of a person (Pollard, 2002). Coates et al (1997) predict that "genetics will bring the capacity of speeding and redirecting evolution along paths of our choice... genetics may also be used for mental enhancement" In the same line of thinking, Pearson (1999) suggests that "accelerated development through machine-enhanced intelligence will drive huge breakthroughs in biotechnology, materials, genetics, nanotechnolog , energy and travel... By the time(...) dies, she will in all likelihood be able to have her mind backed up on the networked, and uploaded into an android body.... " (quoted by Hendry, 2002).

Patentability of mind - idea

According to patent law no part of the human body can be patented i.e. the organs, DNA per se and the DNA sequences per se. An industrial application of a sequence or a partial sequence of a gene is patentable. Since mind is a biological component of human body it can be patent-able. A theory can not be patentable since a theory is an idea. But an idea is not a theory. Since an idea is a part of the human body just like the genetic sequence. Hence they are not patentable. Both have industrial applications and hence the "expression produce" of an idea or a theory, resulting in an innovation and inventions and all the products are definitely patentable. Another remarkable feature of idea generation is that ideas can be generated in parallels. For example, both Wallace and Darwin conceived the idea of the theory of evolution at almost the same time.

Azariah, J. Biology, Biophysics and Bioethics. EJAIB 5 (1995), 121-123
Coates, J.F., Mahaffle, J.B and Hines, A., 1997 The promise of genetics. Futurist 31: 18-22.
Hendry, C 2002 Science, Industry and the laity' Towards a knowledgeable society for biotechnology. New Genetics and Society 21: 177-198.
Jeeves, M 2002 Changing Portraits of Human Nature. Science and Christian Belief 14' 3-32.
Macer, DRJ. The next challenge is to map the human mind. Nature 420 (2002), 121, 2002.
Initial paper (EJAIB) - Macer, DRJ. Finite or Infinite Mind?: A Proposal for an Integrative Mental Mapping Project, Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 12 (2002), 203-6.
Pearson I 1999 At the cutting edge of Blade Runner World. Guardian Online 30th December 1999 pp. 14-15.
Pollard I 2002 Life, Love and Children: A practical introduction to Bioscience ethics and Bioethics. Kluwer Academic Publishers. Boston. Pp. 269.
Radhakrishnan 1997 Indian Philosophy. Oxford University Press Calcutta India. Vol 1. (3rd Impression of Indian edition 1940) pp. 738.
Muller-Hill, B 1993 Science, Truth and other Values. Quart. Rev. Biol 68: 399-407.

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