An East Asian perspective of mind-body

Shigenori Nagatomo, Gerald Leisman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper addresses a need to re-examine the mind-body dualism established since Descartes. Descartes' dualism has been regarded by modern philosophers as an extremely insufficient solution to the problem of mind and body, from which is derived a long opposition in modern epistomology between idealism and empiricism. This dualism, bifurcating the region of spirit and matter, and the dichotomous models of thinking based on this dualism, have long dominated the world of modern philosophy and science. The paper examines states of conscious experience from an East Asian perspective allowing analysis on achieved supernormal consciousness rather than a focus on "normal" or "subnormal." The nature of the "transformation" of human consciousness will be studied both philosophically, as a transformation from "provisional" dualism to non-dualism, and neurophysiologically. The theoretical structure of the transformation will, in part, be examined through the model provided by a Japanese medieval Zen master, Takuan Sôhô. Then, to verify Takuan's theoretical explanation, toposcopic analysis of electroencephalographs will be presented of the performance of individuals practicing the martial arts technique of tôate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-466
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Medicine and Philosophy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1996
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was originally presented as part of a symposium on The Engineering if Human Consciousness, at the American Psychological Society Meeting, Washington, D.C., June 14, 1991. This work was supported, in part, by a grant rom the International College of Applied Kinesiology to Dr. Leisman. Yuasa, Y. 'Philosophy and medicine in East Asia' (unpublished manuscript). Application of art or techne may be envisioned as ranging from a measurement )f a neuron firing by utilizing a recording device, to a technical modification of tuman consciousness. The latter sense is being addressed here. To use the medieval theological terminology, the former is transformed, within fakuan's conceptual scheme, through the ordo cognescendi to the ordo essendi of he latter. To see how the modification of the body subtly influences the function of ego-•ogito see Nagatomo (1986). Here one has to make a distinction between the "attended" glance and the 'unattended" glance. The latter is a case in which a vacant glance is cast on hings, and as such it does not have a clearly demarcated distinction between igure and ground. The former case is at issue here. The word translated as "notice" is literally "to look at" in the original. This sen-ence may be alternatively translated as "when you give one look at the iword..." In this literal rendition, it is clear that visual perception is at issue. There may be a case in which no reflective act is involved in perception, espe-ially at the moment when perception takes place. What Takuan questions in this :ase is the nature of judgment accompanying the pre-reflective perception. What nay be useful in this connection is a distinction between judgments based on rained and untrained perceptions. The case of not having an intention to move one's hand is disregarded here. According to one school of Buddism, this one-mind is said to be the sole reality >f the triple world consisting of the world of desires, the world of form, and the vorld of no-form. Also the term "unconscious" used here is not simply confined o the personal unconscious, but includes the cosmic unconscious. 0 It is noteworthy to underline the fact that it is the body not the mind which is laid to be "thrown into confusion." This point becomes clear when we deal later vith Takuan's idea that it is the body which learns and remembers. 1 Takuan alternatively calls the state of immovability "original mind" (honshin). 2 In Yoga, this state would correspond to the samddhi without "seeds" where 'seeds" mean various noematic contents, whether they pertain to the image of naterial substance or the image created through visualization. 3Takuan calls "no-mind" alternatively "right-mind" [shoshin] or "original


  • Consciousness
  • Electroencephalography
  • Mind-body dualism
  • Transformation
  • Zen Buddism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects


Dive into the research topics of 'An East Asian perspective of mind-body'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this