Life, Mind and Consciousness comprises the conference proceedings of a seminar convened by the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata between 16 to 18 January 2004. The approach of this conference, like the previous conference held on 8 and 9 February 2002 and the next held between 13 to 15 January 2006, was to cultivate interdisciplinary dialogue on consciousness. Specifically, this conference sought to identify the link between life and consciousness through the experience of the mind. In spite of the challenges posed by such interdisciplinary forums— even for formulating a consensual definition of consciousness—it was hoped that such an interdisciplinary dialogue would enable researchers to hone their own research programmers by interacting with others working in the same field, but in different paradigms. This volume contains the eighteen papers that were presented at the eight academic sessions of the seminar, transcripts of the discussions following the paper presentations, the addresses of the inaugural and valedictory sessions, and the transcripts from the panel discussions.
The subject of the seminar is highly topical and has been debated in several similar seminars and conferences around the world. There still does not appear to be any meeting ground where all of them could come to a common conclusion. Philosophers and scientists appear like to independent teams trying to dig a tunnel through a mountain but from opposite sides it is only when there is a common meeting ground that discussions become meaningful. The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of culture deserves to be thanked for organizing seminars of such topics from time to time. We look forward to more such seminar in the future.
The International Seminar on ‘Philosophy and Science : an Exploratory Approach to Consciousness’ held on 8th and 9th February, 2002 at this Institute created great interest among scholars of different disciplines. This prompted us to hold another International Seminar on ‘Life, Mind and Consciousness’ on 16, 17 and 18 January, 2004. Renowned philosophers and scientists from different parts of the country and abroad actively participated in the Seminar and their deliberations were quite educative.
In 1931, the world renowned Physicist Dr Max Planck wrote in the concluding paragraph of his book The Universe in the Light of Modern Physics, ‘Philosophers have realized that they have no right to dictate to scientists their aims and the methods for attaining them; and scientists have learned that the starting-point of their investigations does not lie solely in the perceptions of the senses, and that science cannot exist without some small portion of metaphysics.” find that he went so far as to say ‘I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing postulates consciousness. Not only Dr Planck, but others too transcended the limit of their own scientific work and entered into the arena for philosophers. A galaxy of renowned thinkers belonging to different disciplines explored consciousness in their own areas of study, sometimes crossing the boundaries of more than one disciplines, and consequently there opened a floodgate of new thoughts. Some of such scholars participated in this Seminar. Resides, there were other brilliant scholars, and their deliberations and interactions were quite interesting and illuminating.
The Inaugural session received the benediction of Swami Ranghanathanandaji Maharaj, President of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Prof. Murli Manohar Joshi, the then Minister in—charge of Human Resource Development, Science and Technology and Ocean Development, Government of India, delivered the inaugural Address and also opened the exhibition on consciousness organized by the Department of Architecture and Planning, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. Prof M. G. K. Menon, Dr Vikram Sarabhai, distinguished professor of the Indian Space Research Organization, chaired the session.
In the Valedictory session which was open to the pub lie, Dr Samir Bhattacharya, Director, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology presented a brief summing-up of the proceeding of the eight Academic sessions. It was followed by a panel discussion by Prof M. G K. Menon, Prof P. N. Tandon, Prof G. J. Larson. Prof E. C. G. Sudarshan, MM Govindagopal Mukhopadhyay and Prof I. N. Mohanty.
We are grateful to the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, for their active support and financial assistance to the Institute for the Seminar. Also we are grateful to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi, who extended financial help to partially meet the expenses. Equally grateful we are to Prof Joy Sen and his team of the Indian Institute of Technology. Kharagpur, who set up an excellent exhibition on consciousness.
This volume contains the papers of all the participants and also the discussions that followed after each presentation and the proceedings of the Inaugural session and Valedictory session. The Co-coordinators of the Academic sessions took the trouble of editing the proceedings of the respective session, and we are grateful to them.
In the Papers presented by the learned scholars, probably enough light has not been shed on the relation of the life force (prana sakti) with consciousness as held in Indian philosophy. Dr Dehabrata Sen Sharma, one of the participants, has presented a brief note on this subject based on the views of Abhinava Gupta, the well-known Kashmiri Saiva writer. We are happy to include this note in the Appendix.
We hope this volume on consciousness will evoke further interest among scholars of different disciplines for more investigations on the subject.
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