This paper discusses the phenomenological nature of the sense of boundaries (SB), based on the case of S, who has practiced mindfulness in the Satipathana and Theravada Vipassana traditions for about 40years and accumulated around 20,000h of meditative practice. S’s unique abilities enable him to describe his inner lived experience with great precision and clarity. S was asked to shift between three different stages: (a) the default state, (b) the dissolving of the SB, and (c) the disappearance of the SB. Based on his descriptions, we identified seven categories (with some overlap) that alter during the shifts between these stages, including the senses of: (1) internal versus external, (2) time, (3) location, (4) self, (5) agency (control), (6) ownership, and (7) center (first-person-egocentric-bodily perspective). Two other categories, the touching/touched structure and one’s bodily feelings, do not fade away completely even when the sense-of-boundaries disappears.
Thinking and spirituality each evoke many interpretations. Constructivist thinking focusses on a systemic and rational approach that includes an analysis of meaning in terms of constituent operations. Central features of religious thinking depend on an absence of agreed mechanisms to establish consensus. Insight, novelty and humour however, depend on flexibility in making meaning. Zen provides a perspective facilitating a flexible orientation to cognitive categories allowing access to systemic properties of the person-experience interface.
Focuses on the nonduality of subject and object in Buddhism, Vedanta, and Taoism, with reference to Western thinkers including Wittgenstein, Heidegger and William Blake. The main argument is that these three Asian systems may be understood as different attempts to describe the same experience. The categories of Buddhism (no self, impermanence, causality, eightfold path) and Advaita Vedanta (all-Self, time and causality as maya, no path) are “mirror images” of each other. Ultimately it becomes difficult to distinguish a formless Being (Brahman) from a formless nonbeing (shunyata). Buddhism seems to be a more phenomenological description of nonduality, Vedanta a more metaphysical account.
The article considers whether, and how, current scientific studies of consciousness might benefit from insights of mystical traditions. Although considerable effort has been expanded towards introducing mysticism into mainstream cognitive science, the topic is still controversial, not least because of the multifariousness of meaning associated with the term (from “illogical thinking” through “visions” and “raptures” to “paranormal” and “psychopathological phenomena”). In the context of the present article, mysticism is defined as a set of practices, beliefs, values etc. developed within a given religious tradition to help the practitioner realize the experiential and existential transformations associated with mystical experiences, i.e. experiences characterized by the breakdown of the subjectobject dichotomy. It is then examined in which areas mysticism so defined might provide beneficial for consciousness studies; broadly, three such areas are identified: phenomenological research (mysticism as a repository of unique experiential material and practical know-how for rigorous phenomenological analyses), the problem of the self (mysticism as a repository of experientialexistential insights into one’s fundamental selflessness), and the so-called hard problem of consciousness (mysticism as a unique experiential-existential answer to the mind-body problem). It is contended that, contrary to popular belief, cognitive science could benefit from insights and practices found in mystical traditions, especially by way of grounding its findings in the lived experience and thereby (potentially) demystifying some of its self-imposed abstract conundrums.