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Who is the Perceiver of Pain or Pleasure?
Let us try to understand the phenomenon of pain. Pain is experienced when a stimulus damages or threatens to damage body tissue. When agents harmful to the system stimulate the tissues, the nerve endings (nociceptors) produce some chemicals that generate an electric impulse, which is then transmitted through the nerve fibres. There exists an undoubted "experience" which occurs when we are subjected to painful stimuli, resulting secondarily into a specific behavioral pattern like reflex withdrawal of hand on pin-prick etc. The description of passage of pain says nothing about the conscious perception of the pain. Also the conduction of impulses right upto the neuronal cells in the pain centers in the subcortical region does not reveal the actual experience of sadness and feeling of hurt due to pain. The description of brain even if elaborated in greatest possible details, would consist of nothing more than a list of statements about electrochemical states of brain cells. Such data might have some relevance on patterns of behavioi, but they cannot explain consciousness because they do not even refer to it.The reality of our conscious perception is undeniable and our understanding of all other aspects of reality depends on this primeval fact. We all feel by direct perception that we have consciousness and it is the cause for our perception of all other stimuli including pain. There are innumerable examples showing how conscious awareness is entirely different from the physical behavior associated with it.
For example what happens when a person accidentally strikes his thumb with a hammer? Certain specific patterns of behavior result - the person may shout, wave his hand etc. The study of the body's reaction may reveal several kinds of electrochemical changes like higher concentration of impulse generating chemicals and so on. While these measurable effects are part of the event, they are distinct from the experience of the pain itself. Although everyone readily understands the sensation of pain because it ls a common conscious experience it cannot be defined in physical terms. If brain is no more than an '^formation processing device of these impulses, then what makes it any different from the machines used to record the experimental data from the brain? The fact, however, is that a machine cannot feel pain while for an individual, pain is a reality he cannot deny. In case of human beings endowed with conscious awareness, physical description is inadequate to describe his personal experience.The Bhagavad-gita affirms the presence within the body of distinct entity, the conscious self and establishes it as an irreducible individual quantum or atom of consciousness. The conscious self is superior to the brain and its functions. The situation of this conscious self can be compared to that of a pilot flying an airplane on instruments. Since the sensory apparatus of the body is composed of matter, this apparatus can provide information only about the configuration of material energy and their transformations and not about the soul.