Q: To what extent do you think the human body and the human mind can operate separately? Do you think that the human body can become a separate entity to your mind? And if that is possible how can we individuals be enlightened to do that?
P: They act in concert and they influence each other. They also act separately. For example, if you are hungry and you don’t eat then you suffer; that is the body affecting the mind. But despite being hungry if you choose to go on hungry, then that might not lead to suffering. So you might be hungry, but not necessarily suffer because of it. Then at that point you choose not to be affected.
People are comprised of three different things. One is of physical material. We are governed by the laws of physics and material because we are made of material. Somebody push us off an airplane, we fall. Because we have mass we are affected by gravity. Just because I am a Buddhist monk, it doesn’t mean I can fly. Just because you are a good person, it doesn’t mean you don’t fall. Because we are made of material we are governed by gravity. And if we put ourselves on fire then we burn. And that is a physical manifestation.
But based on the material collection there is a phenomena called life. Life is based on material but it is a little different than just the material. When you put this cup on the floor it does not get up and come back on the table by itself. It does not have the ability to go against gravity by itself.
But a life based on material, for example, a rabbit can jump up here, why? Because there’s food here, and it can come up here and eat. So life is based on material but it goes beyond just the phenomena of the material.
So where does this life function come from? If you observe material, if you change its arrangement, then the nature of how that material behaves changes. For example, let’s suppose there are 20,000 parts to a car. From a material perspective, whether the parts are assembled into a car or not, they are identical. But only when you assemble the parts together according to a certain blueprint, does the car move, make a noise or make a light.
When the materials are put together according to a blueprint called the genes, it creates a phenomena called life that is not intrinsic to the material alone.
When the materials are put together according to a blueprint called the genes, it creates a phenomena called life that is not intrinsic to the material alone. All life is based on material. But despite that it is different from material.
Among life functions there is also something called a mental phenomena.Let’s examine this. For example, a pig when it’s hungry it eats. It does not think of sharing its food with others. But once it’s full it doesn’t care who eats its food. But a human being, even though he is hungry, he knows how to share with others. By the same token, even though he may be full, he also has ability to hold food and not share with others who are hungry. That mental phenomena does not exist in animals.
This mental phenomena is something that goes beyond animals. The ability to share is good. The thing that even animals won’t do, to hold food despite others being hungry is bad. So the concept of good and evil is a mental phenomena. There is no good or evil judgment in nature. Just because a tiger eats a rabbit that is not an evil thing. It’s not evil for a snake to feed on a frog. That’s the baseline value.
But the concept of good or evil is based on that baseline. If you do something that goes against the natural baseline then you go to hell. If you do something that goes beyond the natural baseline then you go to heaven. I am not saying that heaven and hell exist. That is a concept that we built around the concept of Good and Evil. That goes beyond just biology. It is another level of phenomena.
But all this higher mental phenomena derives originally from the material. We need a hardware to install a software but a software cannot exist by itself. But that doesn’t mean that the software is always impacted by the hardware. So the mental phenomena does have the ability to impact your life functions.
We are comprised of these three different levels of existence or phenomena combined. So you can’t exist without material, but it cannot be fully understood by material only. You can’t analyze the mental phenomena by denying the material basis. But you cannot fully understand it using only material basis either. So you have to have a systemic view of the life and see it holistically.
Religion has an ingrained issue because it only speaks to the mental phenomena. Scientists also make the similar mistake on the other spectrum by thinking that everything can be reduced to the material and trying to understand the world that way. So you have to look at it as a system.