Over the course of the past week in class, we have been discussing the very interesting topic of the Mind-Body problem as it relates to philosophy. We have discussed many theories regarding this topic, and I offer an additional one in this post: the Buddhist approach to the Mind-Body problem. According to Buddhism, the mind and the body are unified, with consciousness (inner subjective awareness) being primary. As per Mahayana Buddhism, the body is viewed “as the densest layer of a spectrum of being that ranges in quality from the dense (body) to the subtle (mind) to the very subtle (pure awareness without thought).” According to a different offset of Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, this very subtle quality of consciousness is believed to be the essential quality of all things, including the body, and is therefore termed “Big Mind.” Interestingly, this view claims that because “Big Mind permeates virtually all things, there can be no actual duality between mind and body.” That is, the mind and body differ only superficially in quality. Additionally, an important point to mention is that though consciousness is seen as primary as per Buddhism, it is not the “first cause.” In other words, consciousness does not cause anything, because such a view would imply that there exists a duality between consciousness and that which is caused by consciousness, a violation of the core ideal of Buddhist philosophy that in the reality of things, there is no fundamental duality between a subject and an object.
Overall, I believe that the Buddhist view of the Mind-Body problem is interesting and certainly plausible. It seems to suggest that consciousness is a phenomenon that just exists within us and permeates throughout our mind and our bodies. Could it then be said that it is fundamental, like David Chalmers postulates? I think it can be, provided that “fundamental” does not imply causation.