Re: FW: Religous Variation

John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 01:03:38 +0900

Peter Junger writes,

>"Edward W. Farrell" writes:
>: I am not aware of the existence of a "theory of mind" with the
>: same definition of, say, the theory of relativity. The unique
>: problem with a theory of mind is regression, i.e., the subject
>: of the theory is also its object. As a tool of science, then, such
>: a theory would always be subject to buffeting by the very sorts
>: of beliefs it is engaged in explaining. As difficult as this is,
>: dealing with mind openly and straightforwardly is all the more
>: essential in my view.
>Is not the Buddha Dharma, at least in many of its traditional
>manifestations, such a ``theory of mind'' (and a lot more besides)? And
>is not much of the Buddhist practice directed towards freeing
>ourselves from that ``buffeting'' by extinguishing our attachment to
>those beliefs, and all other beliefs as well?
The four noble truths are, indeed, directed toward removing attachments,
not just to beliefs, but to all objects of desire. Buddhism as practiced
not infrequently has less lofty goals: rebirth in a better life or
prosperity in this one. Nirvana, the extinction of desire and, thus, the
self, is acknowledged as an ultimate goal but generally deferred to a later
life. (See, for example, M. Spiro on Buddhism in Burma, S. Tambiah on
Buddhism in Thailand and Sri Lanka, H. Welch on Buddhism in China.)

I have read in various places that Mahayana Buddhist philosophy includes
several subtle theories of mind. I would be delighted to hear more about

In the meantime I will note merely that the notion that desire leads to
illusion seems highly consistent with the view suggested to me by reading
Malinowski of the infant crying out to a parent outside her visual field,
being rewarded,and thus learning to communicate with invisible beings who
may, perhaps, respond to her desires. A more subtle theory of mind might
help to articulate this process.

John McCreery
3-206 Mitsusawa HT, 25-2 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, JAPAN

"And the Lord said unto Cyrus, 'Shall the clay say to him who moldest it,
what makest thou? Let the potsherd of the earth speak to the potsherd of
the earth." --An anthropologist's credo