“Westerners think consciousness stops when there is no more brain activity, don’t they?”
In modern science, consciousness is still often seen as something that the brain produces. There’s no doubt that mind and brain are very much intertwined, but whether they are one and the same is increasingly questioned and scientifically investigated.
From a philosophical perspective, you have roughly three approaches to consciousness:
1. From identity thinking: ‘we are our brain’; the state of matter (firing neurons) equals the state of our consciousness.
2. From emergence thinking: consciousness is produced by the brain; the material produces something non-material (the mind or consciousness)
3. From dualism: consciousness and matter (brain) are independent original realities; they stand alone AND they find each other.
The Buddhist Broadcasting Corporation documentary “Tukdam” features Buddhist monks who have meditated intensively all their lives and are dying in meditation. They fall into a situation called tukdam: in Tibetan culture, it is believed that consciousness has not yet fully left the body, even though the body is clinically dead.
The team of noted neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson is researching tukdam. Remarkably, the body of monks in Tukdam sometimes does not decompose for up to 10-12 days; there’s also experienced warmth around the heart. Impressive documentary that once again prompts reflection on: what is consciousness and where does it reside?