Neuroscience Learns Buddhist Knowledge: The Self Is Not Constant

The Buddhist teaching that the self is constantly changing has been confirmed by University of Colombia Philosophy of Mind professor, Evan Thomson. Buddhists teach that the only constant thing in the universe is Change which means that the idea of a stable self, does not exist.

Neuroscience equally teaches that a person’s brain and body is in constant flux or progressive flow which affirms the belief that there is no stable self.Thompson says that in the perspective of neuroscience, the human brain and body are in constant flux, so there’s no proof that there is an unchanging self.

‘Neuroplasticity’ as coined by neuroscientists is of the opinion that the human brain is malleable and subject to change. What this means is that there are different ways through which you can try changing your brain and open up possibilities for growth in your life.

Many see this concept as a liberating one as it states that your thoughts or ideas about who you are do not necessarily define you and that there are endless possibilities for changing yourself.

It also negates the belief in Western society that people can “discover themselves.” It rather emphasizes that change and growth are the most important things in life.

According to Buddha, there is no permanent thing as everything changes and, “Being is always becoming.” It is a common saying of Buddhist monks that both we and the universe change constantly; that a person’s  awareness and control can be elevated through training the mind.

They also have a common belief in practicing non-attachment, saying that our attachment to something is a desire to make it stable which is an opposition to the forces of nature.

According to Pema Chodron, a Buddhist teacher, the principle of harmony is Impermanence. He says that we are living harmoniously with reality when we do not struggle against impermanence.

How About Consciousness?

Consciousness has remained a baffling topic for neuroscience as it has not been able to find a reason for its existence or how it exists. Buddhism, however, describes consciousness in three different ways:

  • ‘Saṅkhāra’ which means consciousness as is mentally fabricated.
  • ‘Nāmarūpa’ which describes the interdependence that exists between the mind-body and consciousness.
  • Consciousness as a “life force” which ensures continuity between birth and death.

Further advancement in neuroscience may prove Buddhist beliefs about consciousness right.