Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 13, No 1 (2017)

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First Person Accounts of Yoga Meditation Yield Clues to the Nature of Information in Experience

Alex Hankey, Reshma M. Shetkar

Abstract


Since the millennium, first person accounts of experience have been accepted as philosophically valid, potentially useful sources of information about the nature of mind and self. Several Vedic sciences rely on such first person accounts to discuss experience and consciousness. This paper shows that their insights define the information structure of experience in agreement with a scientific theory of mind fulfilling all presently known philosophical and scientific conditions. Experience has two separate components, its information content, and a separate ‘witness aspect', which can reflect on all forms of experience, and with training be strengthened until its power of reflection identifies it as the innermost aspect of ‘self'. The Vedic sciences, Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta develop these themes. Samkhya identifies the different aspects of experience, outer and inner; Yoga practices lead the mind to inner states of zero information content (Samadhi) in which the experience of the witness (Sakshi) is strengthened and deepened. Vedanta states the nature of the ‘self' is to know itself directly without intermediary.  All this requires the witness to have a singular loop structure. The information structure of experience therefore has two aspects, information content plus a singular loop endowing it with a subjective sense of ‘Self'.

 


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