TRIUNE MIND FINDS HOME IN TRIUNE BRAIN: An Exercise in Buddhianscience & Westernscience
Posted November 29, 2015 6:55 PM
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In my last study, Triune Mind  (Sugunasiri, 2014), I sought to understand the  three terms in the Canon that refer to the Mind, namely  Citta, Mano    and  Viñña?a,  to list them in alpha order.   While in places they are shown as cognates, having the same meaning,   elsewhere they occur with clearly differential meaning, in distinct  contexts.  It is this seeming contradiction   – i.e., both synonymity and variability, that I sought to explore in the paper.

The methodology was to see the roles played by each of Mano,  Citta and Viñña?a  in a Stream of Consciousness, made up of 17 mindmoments (Abhidhamma), beginning with a stimulus and ending with storing the input. It is captured in diagrammatic form as follows: (Refer to diagram above)

Each of Mano, Citta and Viñña?a is seen here having a single function, thereby coming to be characterized as M-simplex, C-simplex and E-simplex. But we go on to show how each of them is much more than that, both individually and relationally. In this sense, each of them comes to be labelled M-complex, C-complex and E-complex.

Following a full expllication of  Mano, Citta and Viñña?a,  both as simplex and complex, we bundle  them up into a ‘Triune Mind’, literally, ‘3 in 1 mind’ (see Sugunasiri 2014 for the full treatment).

2. Triune Brain in Westernscience 

‘Triune Brain’  is a concept proposed by Dr. Paul Maclean in 1969, and developed in a longer treatise in 1990 . In a study of it by Dr. Richard M. Restak, a medical practitioner (Restak,  1979), we have the   perspective outlined in the following  words:  “According to MacLean, we are the possessors of a Triune Brain – not one brain but three, each with  its own way of perceiving and responding to the world.”  (50 ff). They “amount to three interconnected  biological computers,   each having its own intelligence, its own subjectivity, its own sense of time and space, and its own memory and other functions”.

Continuing,  “the brain is somewhat like an archaeological site, with the outer layer composed of the most recent brain structure, the cerebral Cortex, which  is developed in primates and reaches its greatest level of complexity in humans. Deeper layers of the brain contain structure of our earlier evolutionary forebears, the reptiles and mammals”. Still further, in its evolution,  the human brain expanded “in a hierarchical fashion along the lines of three  basic patterns. These three formations are markedly different in chemistry and structure and, in an evolutionary sense, [and] are eons apart” (52).  

So there we have it. Three brains .  What, then, are these three brains?

To give MacLean’s version, “The first, most primitive”, which  MacLean   dubs   R-complex (R for ‘Reptilian),   is “a deeply placed series of brain structures that make up almost the entire mass of the brain in lizards and reptiles” (52). We can, of course, see why it would be called a ‘complex’. It is simply that it is made up of a series. Like every other part of the brain, it has multiple functions in an intricate interrelationship. 

And “As we climb the evolutionary ladder, the R-complex becomes less conspicuous, until in humans it is greatly overshadowed by the cerebral Cortex”, called the Neomammalian brain. It is called ‘mammalian’ since the structure itself, though enlarged in humans, is specific to the mammals, with the lower animals not even having such a structure . In between is the ‘limbic system’. 

3.  Critique of the ‘Triune Brain’ Model Re-visited  

While this hypothesis is no longer espoused by the majority of comparative neuroscientists in the post-2000 era ,    let us first present the  theory  in a little more detail  in order to allow us to take a closer look at the critique.

MacLean calls the   ‘most primitive’ brain  the    R-complex (R standing  for ‘Reptilian. ),  on the basis that it  is a series of brain structures “that make up almost the entire mass of the brain in lizards and reptiles”. Now this is one of the bones of contention of critics of the Triune Brain theory: 

… the basal ganglia (structures derived from the floor of the forebrain and making up MacLean'sreptilian complex) were shown to take up a much smaller portion of the forebrains of reptiles andbirds (together called sauropsids) than previously supposed…  

What this says, then,  is not that the brain structure called the R-complex is not based in a scientific reality, but that it occupies a far less physical area than claimed by MacLean, and that the feature is present in other animal species, namely birds (sauropsids together).     But not only, for - 

   basal ganglia are not limited to reptiles, as surmised by MacLean, but that they do existin amphibians and fish as well as mammals and sauropsids. Because the basal ganglia are found inthe forebrains of all modern vertebrates, they most likely date to the common evolutionary ancestorof the vertebrates, more than 500 million years ago, rather than to the origin of reptiles.

Again, the critique doesn’t reject the presence of basal ganglia in reptiles, but that they are found in others, taking us as further back in evolutionary time.  So the issue may more be one of labeling and timing.

Another critique is that-[s]ome recent behavioral studies do not support the traditional view of sauropsid behavior asstereotyped and ritualistic (as in MacLean's reptilian complex). Birds have been shown to possesshighlysophisticated cognitive abilities, such as the toolmaking of the New Caledonian crow and thelanguage-like categorization abilities of the African grey parrot. 

Here,  the particular behaviours, such as in the example given, namely ‘display’ in squirrel monkeys,  has been seen to be ‘stereotypical’ and ‘ritualistic’, in a supposed  contrast  with cognitive abilities. But to see them as    dichotonomous categoriess seems to not understand the sentient condition,  meaning ‘having senses’, including, from a Buddhist point of view, the mindsense. The basic question  is whether in ritualistic, meaning, habitual behaviour,  no  cognitive process is entailed.    Our sense is that  it indeed does, since the left and the  right hemispheres, associated with cognitivity and affectivity respectively, do not work in isolation, the two being  parts of the same system, namely mindbody (namarupa)  as in Buddhism.  

MacLean’s  example may come from the animal domain. But given that in the Buddhian understanding, animals and humans fall under the same phylogenetic scale, namely satta, literally ‘sentient being[s]’, let us  take  an example from the human sphere. Can a religious person,    e.g.,  praying at the church every Sunday, an ostensibly ritualistic behaviour,  be said to entail no cognitive skills?  The invoked source of expected benediction, namely, from a Buddhist point of view as also in Westernscience,  may be a non-existent God, but that  is not to say that prayer is done in  a non-cognitive frame of mind.   Prayer is done in the rational thought that  condition A (prayer) will result in condition B (benefit), and in the further rational thought that the outcome  can be nothing but good, as opposed to something bad.  And   distinguishing between  good and bad surely can hardly be argued to be non-cognitive, given that the distinction is based in an understanding, cogmitively arrived at,  of what could be harmful or not to oneself.  Distinguishing requires that the features and the parametres of the two distinct  entities be  identified, this surely entailing a cognitive process. Knowing that good is good for you, and bad is bad, itself is an act of cognition, based in the rational thought that what is good helps life and keeps it going. Prayer also provides a calmness of mind, again a rationally expected outcome of the ‘ritualistic behaviiour’.    

The practice of paying homage to the Buddha could help shed more light on the issue. Paying Homage to the Buddha easily qualifies as a ritual , but yet, it is an extremely cognitive act.   A first  cognition   is that the ritual will minimally keep the mind from being bad for the duration of the ritual. At a more positive level, it will help bring  one’s mind into focus (ekaggata),  and the mindfulness (sati) thus entailed can be said to usher  in a frame of mind that can help cultivate peace within oneself, during the Homage as well as in the long run, over time.   This could serve  as a condition that  could   possibly  lead   to  even  secular outcomes, such as better productivity in the workplace, better overall health and happiness, etc.  So paying homage, while a ritual, is hardly bereft of cognition and reason. The issue is not whether Homage will bring all these wonderful outcomes to all those who engage in it at all times, but that underlying the practice could only be a good intent,  a full-blooded cognitive process, the Buddha’s words being ‘Intent, I say,.. is kamma’ . 

On a more mundane level, waking up in the morning, having a breakfast and getting to work on time can be all seen as ritualistic and habitual behaviour. And if I were to say that they entail no cognition, or sophisticated thought, I know that I will be written off as simply nuts! 

The point, then, is that cognition is very much part of habit.  Thus we could see that a squirrel monkey displaying   is based in the cognition that it will not only earn social acceptance but also an existential benefit. An outcome of not getting the nod from the elders might be death itself, this itself entailing cognition.  So,  can it be said that  the ritual of display does not entail cognition?  We can thus dismiss the critique as having no rational basis, and being based in a Cartesian duality, the reality being, as in the Buddha’s teachings as well as in  Westernscience, that sub-systems of a system are all inevitably interrelated. 

The example, as in the critique quoted above,  of birds  possessing  ‘highly sophisticated cognitive abilities’, such as the toolmaking of the New Caledonian crow and the language-like categorization abilities of the African grey parrot, indeed suggest a range vis-à-vis habit and cognition. While display in squirrel monkeys does indeed entail cognition  as argued for above,  it can be said to be closer to  the lower end of cognition given that cognition is merely implicit. Tool-making and language-like abilities, on the other hand,   can be seen as being closer to the  higher end since cognition is more explicit. So the critique can be dismissed as being based in a faulty understanding of the sentient mind. When we then understand reality of   habitual behavour and cognition working in tandem and in interrealtional and relative terms   instead of in dichotomous terms,  critique of  MacLean’s example of squirrel monkeys displaying seems to fall flat. Of course, in fairness to the critics,   it could be said that MacLean himself has invited the critique  by not being more comprehensive in his analysis.  

Another shortcoming seen in MacLain’s theory is that the  

[s]tructures of the limbic system, which MacLean proposed arose in early mammals, have now been shown to exist across a range of modern vertebrates. The "paleomammalian" trait of parental care of offspring is widespread in birds and occurs in some fishes as well. Thus, like the basal ganglia, the evolution of these systems presumably date to a common vertebrate ancestor. 

  Again, the argument is not that the limbic system with specific functions does not exist, but that its evolution dates back further, the Buddhist view of sentient life  well agreeing with the thrust of the criticism. That is to say that the limbic system appearing in an earier evolutionary period does not take away from the fact of its functions. 

A final critique  is  of MacLean Neomammalian brain:

…recent studies based on paleontological data or comparative anatomical evidence strongly suggest that the neocortex was already present in the earliest emerging mammals. In addition, although non-mammals do not have a neocortex in the true sense (that is, a structure comprising part of the forebrain roof, or pallium, consisting of six characteristic layers of neurons), they possess pallial regions, and some parts of the pallium are considered homologous to the mammalian neocortex.  While these areas lack the characteristic six neocortical layers, birds and reptiles generally possess three layers in the dorsal pallium (the homolog of the mammalian neocortex). The telencephalon of birds and mammals makes neuroanatomical connections with other telecencephalic structures like those made by neocortex. It mediates similar functions such as perception, learning and memory, decision making, motor control, conceptual thinking, and tool use. 

Again the point argued  is not that a neocortex does not mark mammals, but that certain other, and  earlier,  species also have been found to be with neocortical functions.  

In sum, then, the critique of  the Triune Brain as proposed by MacLean   is primarily two-fold: (1). that the historical time periods assigned to each of the three brains are far too late in the evolutionary process, and (2). that animals other than mammals and vertebrates share at least some rudimentary forms of the characteristics of each of the brains as asssigned by MacLean in relation to only reptiles and mammals. All this  is then only to say that while the details may vary, none of the objections take away from the tripartite nature of the brain, namely   brain stem higher end since cognition is more explicit. So the critique can be dismissed as being based in a faulty understanding of the sentient mind. When we then understand reality of   habitual behavour and cognition working in tandem and in interrealtional and relative terms   instead of in dichotomous terms,  critique of  MacLean’s example of squirrel monkeys displaying seems to fall flat. Of course, in fairness to the critics,   it could be said that MacLean himself has invited the critique  by not being more comprehensive in his analysis.  

Another shortcoming seen in MacLain’s theory is that the  

[s]tructures of the limbic system, which MacLean proposed arose in early mammals, have now been shown to exist across a range of modern vertebrates. The "paleomammalian" trait of parental care of offspring is widespread in birds and occurs in some fishes as well. Thus, like the basal ganglia, the evolution of these systems presumably date to a common vertebrate ancestor. 

  Again, the argument is not that the limbic system with specific functions does not exist, but that its evolution dates back further, the Buddhist view of sentient life  well agreeing with the thrust of the criticism. That is to say that the limbic system appearing in an earier evolutionary period does not take away from the fact of its functions. 

A final critique  is  of MacLean Neomammalian brain:

…recent studies based on paleontological data or comparative anatomical evidence strongly suggest that the neocortex was already present in the earliest emerging mammals. In addition, although non-mammals do not have a neocortex in the true sense (that is, a structure comprising part of the forebrain roof, or pallium, consisting of six characteristic layers of neurons), they possess pallial regions, and some parts of the pallium are considered homologous to the mammalian neocortex.  While these areas lack the characteristic six neocortical layers, birds and reptiles generally possess three layers in the dorsal pallium (the homolog of the mammalian neocortex). The telencephalon of birds and mammals makes neuroanatomical connections with other telecencephalic structures like those made by neocortex. It mediates similar functions such as perception, learning and memory, decision making, motor control, conceptual thinking, and tool use. 

and the cerebellum (basal ganglia),  mid-brain with limbic functions and the neocortex . The time of the evolution of the Triune Brain might be controversial, but the fact of it is not. For in our understanding, the term satta ‘sentient being’ is encompassing enough to  take us back to the earliest evolutionary times, and are applicable to not only the later species but the earliest of species as well. Thus it is that we see that the model  of the Triune Brain provides a useful   comparative basis in relation to the Triune Mind as outlined in my earlier study.   

Let us then explore  the  Complex triad in a little more detail, allowing ourselves some repetition.  

4. Protosentient,  Paleosentient and  Neosentient Brain Complexes: 

 Retention  of Model  through Rebranding 

We have seen how MacLean’s charactetrization of the Brain in evolutionary terms has come under fire. But it appears that it is the labeling that is more the problem than the substance itself.  It is simply that the labels Reptilian Brain (or R-Complex), Paleomammalian Brain and Neomammalian Brain tend to misname  the psychophysical content  encapsuled in each of them.  So instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, we seek to drain the dirt in  the bathwater through  rebranding  it more descriptively and accurately, thereby allowing us to both eat the cake and have it, too, if I am kindly allowed to mix  metaphors here.  Here then is our proposed re-branding: (please refer to diagrams above)

One of the major fault lines in MacLean’s characterization is that earlier and/or other animal types have been found to possess the characteristics that he had assigned,   based in the research of the time,  to a  specific  animal type -   Reptilian Brain to reptiles  and the Paleo- and Neomammalian Brain to mammals.  Of course, the finding that animals predating reptiles and non-mammals possessing features associated with them   should hardly be surprising. An acorn tree can come out of only an acorn seed. That is to say that while the tree would show advanced features of acornness, the ‘acornness’ would already have been not just implicit, but ‘present’ in some shape or manner in the seed itself. Likewise ‘treeness’ in the seed. While a seed shows not a trunk, branches, twigs and leaves,  it  will not grow into a rock or water, both being insentient,  or an animal,  being complexly sentient, but only into an acorn tree.  The point then is that the fact that the early hints of the mammalian neocortex, e.g.,    being present  in non-mammalians,  takes away nothing from the fact that mammalians have a vastly developed neocortex compared to any early model.  And there is no doubt  that future research will take us even further back in evolutionary time in relation to the origins of a specific feature of later vertebrates  and mammals, – either in terms of more locus specificity or refinement or both. This, of course, only speaks to the march of Science. So the issue then is one of boundaries, an issue overcome, as noted,  by the Buddha’s term satta  which   applies equally to  Homo Sapiens,   Hominid, an amoeba or a virus.   Implicit in  satta, literally  meaning ‘state of being’, are senses. So whether an organism has six senses (including the mind-sense) as humans do, or fewer  in lower animals, or whether a given sense is less or more sophisticated in a given species, they all belong to the same phylogenetic scale. It is to capture this inclusivity and commonality,  then, that all three proposed labels contain the term ‘sentient’ – Protosentient, Paleosentient and Neosentient. The term ‘proto’ in Protosentient is simply is to capture the idea that in evolutionary terms, it relates to ahistorical  times, but without specifying a particular time frame. This helps accommodate any new research that may show that a particular characteristic associated with humans, say  language, is found to be present in species other than human, and thus much earlier than thought,   as e.g.,  “language-like categorization abilities of the African grey parrot” as in the critique above. So ‘proto’ can be taken to simply mean a range going all the way back to ‘a past  we may not know enough about at any given point in time’.  Or to put another way, we may understand it as referring to ‘unknown prehistoric times’, allowing for any possible future findings  that basal ganglia, in however a miniature form,  may go back even further than 500 million years ago (mya), as is understood today.

Neosentient, of course, should be obvious. Again, it is to capture the idea of being the ‘new kid on the block’, in contrast to the Protosentient,  without however a commitment to a specific evolutionary time. Paleosentient then is intended to mean the evolutionary time in between Proto and Neo, i.e., sometime in history before the ‘neo’ era, but later than ‘proto’. It simply means ‘of an identifiable historical  time frame’, the specific time moveable with research findings. It may be clear then that the concepts covered under the labels are relative.

We may note how the proposed triple characterization  well fits the Triune Brain. If the brainstem is clearly the earliest, again without necessarily being time-specific, the neocortex is the latest – new kid. In between is the limbic system, physically between the cortex and the brainstem. 

Every part of the brain is no island unto itself exclusively, although each does have its own little housekeeping to be attended to, and  may not be shared by any other, this explaining its individuality and its very existence  in the system. So while each structure, from a cell through muscle to organ,  has its own duty roster, no individual structure can be said to  survive or do its job without  interlinking with one or more others. While, e.g.,   talking entails the tongue, larynx, pharnyx, uvula, nasal passage, etc., each with its own contribution to make, there would no talking unless there was a thought in the mind doman, this again a complex process and there was the lung to provide the air flow. Likewise, no thought domain would even find expression in phonemes, morphemes and syntagmemes unless there was talking, or its extension, writing, singing, etc.   At a micro level, a sensory neuron may intake stimuli, but without motor neurons, the stimuli would go nowhere. Likewise, motor neurons would be renedered useless unless they worked in tandam  with the sensory neurons.  It is to capture this interconnectivity between the different sub-systems of the system called mindbody, and the multitasking,  that explains the add-on ‘complex’ in each of Protosentient-Complex, Paleosentient-Complex and Neosentient-Complex, continuing    MacLean’s nomenclature R-complex,  but also reflective of the Buddhian notion  of ‘aggregate’ or ‘bundle’ (khandha; kalapa) . 

Our new terminology, then,  hopefully meets  the criticism of MacLean’s Triune Brain  model.   It also speaks to the issue of the presence of a given feature, say cortical layers at the physical level,  habits  at the behavioural level, entailing as they do cognition.  They relate  to sentience, without being necessarily species-specific. The terms Proto-, Paleo- and Neo- are also general enough to modify the time boundaries as  new research digs out more information relating to the evolutionary process, in our own time or any time in the future. 

5. Triune Mind Finds Home In Triune Brain

We have seen above the   three minds in Buddhism in terms of function, and the three brains in Westernscience in terms of structure. So is there a parallel  between  the   Triune Brain   and    the Triune Mind?

Let us begin by noting the similarity in number: three brains – Neosentient, Paleosentient   and Protosentient, and three minds – Citta, Mano and Viñña?a, listing them in alpha order and  without suggesting a chronological matching. This numerical parallel may, of course,  be seen to be mere happenstance and superficial.  But it was noted above that while each of the three brains has its own individuality – in terms of intelligence,   subjectivity,  sense of time and space, and  memory and other functions, the three are also interconnected, rendering the Triune Brain a ‘B-Complex’.  Likewise was it noted that while each of the three minds constitutes an  M-simplex (showing a distinct function for each), the three of them, taken individually or   collectivity,  come to be a  M-Complex,   with interactive and overlapping functions. In Buddhian terms,  each component as well as the totality of the Triune Mind  is an ‘Aggregate’ (khandha), indeed an Aggregate of Aggregates  in relation to Feelings, Perception, Forces and Viñña?a (rupa,  vedana,  sañña,  samkhara,  viñña?a).  By extension, then, the Triune Brain, i.e., B-complex,  can also be called an ‘Aggregate’, again taken individually or collectively.   The  theoretical basis for this is the Buddhian Theory    that wherever there is  a ‘name’ (nama),   there is also a ‘form’ (rupa), and, of course, vice versa, as well captured in  the Con-coor   (this is my own short form) (paticcasamuppada)   link, ‘conditioned  by Consciousness is Mindbody; conditioned by Mindbody is Consciousness’ (viñña?apaccaya namarupa; namarupapaccaya viñña?a). So we see that the similarity in number is not accidental  or happenstance. 

The devil, as well as the angel, of course,  is in the detail. So our attempt now  would be to explore the specifics. Towards this, we begin by  positing a Hypothesis:

Hypothesis  The Triune Mind parallels the Triune Brain.

By way of seeking to establish our Hypothesis, we show the two side by side in the following Figure, now not in alpha order but, as we shall see, chronological order: (Please refer to diagram above)

This Figure  seeks to show  how,  noting the numbering bottom up, for reasons that will become evident, Citta, Viñña?a  and Mano (i.e., C-complex, V-complex and M-complex respectviely) parallel  the Protosentient-complex, Neosentient-complex and Paleosentient-complex  (MacLean’s Reptilian Brain (R-complex),   Neomammalian Brain and  Paleomammalian Brain respectively), now matching them diachronically, meaning, in terms of an evolutionary process.

“Alright”, the diehard skeptic, scientist or other, will say, “But what has all that got to do with the evolutionary process of humans evolving from animals, over millions and billions of years, that is the domain of  Westernscience?”  To rephrase the question in Buddhist terms, do the Triple  Thirsts  that characterise human sentient beings relate to animal sentient beings,   too? 

You bet!  Take your pet dog as a case study. If your pet  is  not listening to you, it can be said to have ‘a mind of its own’, suggesting the presence of the mind-sense, if also the other five senses. Does it see you come and begin to show you his love and affection, hear you call him, get the smell of you even before you come home , have a helluva time at the food bowl,  roll in the mud for that yacky to us but heavenly to his tactile sensations? His yearning for your return or the food can be said to be another  ‘Thirst’ in the mind-sense. Running to the food bowl is a Thirst in the body-sense, too - it is the body that gets the benefit, both qualifying under ‘Sense-Thirst’ , When it runs for dear  life in the  face of danger, it is clearly displaying its ‘Thirst to be’. But as in the case of human beings,  the ‘Thirst to be’ is inevitably conditioned by the ‘Thirst to be not’.  Keeping within the species itself, this could be understood as your pet poodle  dying and being reborn into an animal life, dog or other .  At the cellular level,  it can be understood as energy at the given mindmoment (mm) of the dog’s life coming to be, staying put and breaking up if only to show up at the next mindmoment. 

Bee studies  provide another example, where  the entire community   comes to be at the beck and call of the Queen Bee,  showing not only their yearning for survival (i.e., ‘Thirst to be’ entailing of necessity the ‘thrist to be not’)  but also upholding values such as loyalty and law and order, if still   by way of survival, this exemplifying also their ‘Sense-Thirst’.  

Even the most basic  forms of sentient life,  such as sea anemone and   volvox ,   can be said to share the features of the Triple Thirst, however rudimentary they may be in relation to the sentient being of the current  phase of evolution, namely hominids. The cells of volvox, e.g.,  ‘have eyespots’,  allowing them “to swim towards light” . If swimming suggests having ‘swim limbs’, and thus body-sense-based, swimming towards the light suggests both a ‘Thirst to be’ (survival) and ‘Sense-Thirst’ (satisfying the eye), both entailing ‘Thirst to be not’, mm to mm or over time or over life times.   The volvox live in a colony, linking with each other, providing amother instance of the Thirst to be and Sense-Thirst, just as we humans have a Sense-Thirst to be with our kith and kin.

So yes, the Thirsts are very much a part of non-human sentient beings as they are of human sentient beings, as captured in the Buddha’s term satta, which is what allows us to claim that Thirsts constitute the inherited mentation of  the Protosentient-complex, understanding  ‘inheriting’     both in the Darwinian   as well as the Buddhan  sense of Rebecoming (punabbhava).

“Except for altruistic behaviourand most aspects of parental behaviour, it is remarkable how many behaviour patterns seen in reptiles are also found in human beings,” notes MacLean (in Restak,1979 53). As our comparative study shows, this provides scientific evidence that confirms the Buddha’s use of the term satta to mean both human and animal.

Further, notes Restak  that  the Protosentient-complex “may be part of a neural repository for behaviour that is specific for particular animal species”.  The Citta (C-complex), constituted of the Triple Thirsts and the Triple Blemish Roots , can, then,  be said to be   the psychological manifestation of that neural repository in relation to the human species (see Sugunasiri, forthcoming, for the argument).  

But are we still not comparing apples and oranges? By  ‘evolutionary ancestors’ Restak and MacLean  mean the animal species alone (primarily the quadrupeds although bipeds like birds,    multipeds like centipedes and nullpeds (to coin  a term) like snakes  are not excluded), while Buddhism is talking about a human sentient being coming to Rebecome. So where is the evolution?

Glad you asked. We have already seen part of the answer to this in noting the common terms satta used by the Buddha to include both human and animal.  Now to add to it in evolutionary terms,  it is precisely this very term ‘sentient being’ that allows humans to be strung along an   evolutionary scale alongside animals.  First, a given human individual, is a member of the human species which is an evolutionary product of a process, as well studied in Westernscience,  that  can be traced back to non-human ancestors.  The evolutionary history of the species homo sapiens  is  traceable to the primates,  the most recent branch off being from chimpanzees  5 mya, but with more recent ties to  bonobos of 2-3 mya, with the oldest animals, ediacarans, being 575 mya.   So regardless of whether a human sentient being has more than one Becoming and continues in ‘fellow traveling’, this being the literal meaning of   samsara (< sa? ‘together’ + sara- ‘going, moving, following’, ‘flow’ (PED)), the given sentient being, being a member of the human species, can be said to inherit from  our evolutionary ancestors the psychological processes    relating  to the  “ancient forms of Animal Mentation”.   They confer an evolutionary survival advantage. Now allowing for several re-Becomings, while each re-Becoming may bring fresh faces,  alternately female and male, there are, among others, the Triple Thirsts and the Triple Blemish Roots,   continuing from animal to human. Thus each sentient ‘face’ , namely a new Rebecoming meaning a new Sentient Life, can be said to inherit the  psychological processes, if only to be changed in a given lifetime, conditioned by the new realities of the new life. Incidentally, such psychological processes were seen  by MacLean as being  ‘unlearned’ and ‘pre-programmed’. But  perhaps the innocent  juxtaposition of terms seems to give an unintended contratradiction. If it is pre-programmed, how could it be ‘unlearned’?      From the Buddhian  point of view, the processes are hardly unlearned. They are indeed pre-programmed and learned.

It is interesting that MacLean “has spent a lifetime searching for and describing ‘paleopsychic processes’” (his term),  “that refers to [these] ancient forms of Animal Mentation that we have inherited from  our evolutionary ancestors” (Restak, 52) but without finding it.    He was obviously not looking in the right place, namely,   Buddhianscience! In the context of our exploration then, we can happily say, “Look no more. We have arrived”, and point to the   relevant characteristics of sentience  introduced by the Buddha.  We could then say that the Triple Thirsts and the Triple Blemish Roots are what we humans have inherited from our reptilian ancestors. 

6. Concluding Words

On the basis of the above then we could say that the Hypothesis has been confirmed. It also then justifies our title that the Triune Mind has found a home in the Triune Brain.

NOTE 

This short paper is by way of an introduction to my forthcoming publication, tentatively titled, TRIUNE MIND,  TRIUNE BRAIN: Map of the Mind through  the eyes of Buddhianscience  & Westernscience. This is a comparative study of the “Triune Mind in Buddhism”  as proposed by me (Sugunasiri 2014) and the Triune Brain as proposed by  Dr Paul  McLean (McLean 1969; 1990).  So what you’ll find in this paper are both concepts and excerpts. For the fuller treatment, readers are kindly and respectfully invited to read the forthcoming publication where you’ll find the topic discussed in areas such as, among others -

•  the Buddhist concept of Stream of Consciousness in relation to a  Neuron and the human ear;

•  ‘Triune Brain’ in Westernscience explained in relation to the ‘Basic Structures of the Brain’. 

•  The process of Rebecoming (more popularly, and erroneously, ‘Rebirth’)  explained in scientific terms; 

•  Mind In Embryonic Growth;

•  The Absent Brain (Matthalunga) in Buddhian Thought. 

Thank you. Wishing you the best in health and happiness! 


Blog Author: PROF. SUWANDA H. J. SUGUNASIRI, PhD
Born Sri Lanka in 1936, and coming to the US on a Fulbright-Smith Mundt Scholarship in 1964, he has been in Canada since 1967, except for a brief stay of 2 years, on the faculty of Vidyodaya University, Sri Lanka. Earning his doctorate in Canada, he has taught at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at University of Toronto, the Faculty of Education of University of Toronto, Trinity College and in Continuing Education. Founder of Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies (Canada) (1999), and of the Canadian Journal of Buddhist Studies (2005), he has been a spokesperson for Buddhism in Canada.

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