Buddhist Enlightenment and the Destruction of Attractor Networks: A Neuroscientific Speculation on the Buddhist Path from Everyday Consciousness to Buddha-Awakening

Journal of Consciousness Studies 18 (3-4):3-4 (2011)
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Buddhist philosophy asserts that human suffering is caused by ignorance regarding the true nature of reality. According to this, perceptions and thoughts are largely fabrications of our own minds, based on conditioned tendencies which often involve problematic fears, aversions, compulsions, etc. In Buddhist psychology, these tendencies reside in a portion of mind known as Store consciousness. Here, I suggest a correspondence between this Buddhist Store consciousness and the neuroscientific idea of stored synaptic weights. These weights are strong synaptic connections built in through experience. Buddhist philosophy claims that humans can find relief from suffering through a process in which the Store consciousness is transformed. Here, I argue that this Buddhist 'transformation at the base' corresponds to a loosening of the learned synaptic connections. I will argue that Buddhist meditation practices create conditions in the brain which are optimal for diminishing the strength of our conditioned perceptual and behavioural tendencies.
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