The hard problem for modern culture is how can mind existent in, essentially, a pluralistic, material world? To be sure, mind (or consciousness) is not an objective determinate thing that can be measured by any kind of instrument. Said again, mind is not some kind of special, localized object. From our Buddhist standpoint if mind, as an observer, were to look straight at itself it would not recognize itself. On the other hand, if we were to understand the world to be a phenomenalization of mind, then it would follow that we have to abandon phenomena for a split second, so to speak, for mind to re-member itself. It would be like suddenly abandoning waves to see natural, pellucid water. This is also to say that waves may appear to have individual existences but they are actually continuous with each other through the medium of water which is most fundamental. When waves cease, the water does not cease, there remains natural water. This of course implies monism: all from the one. For Buddhism, mind is integral and universal which Western science doesn’t buy. Nevertheless, all that we perceive is Mind-only.
Although this all sounds quite simple (I have blogged about this a number of times), the difficulty of living by this so as to go on a quest to realize Buddha Mind, personally, is almost out of the question. It is not part of our culture. Nor deep down are we all that convinced. The world we were born into and live in seems to us more real and vivid. It is certainly a pluralistic world. Let’s face it, we are not Siddhārtha Gautama. We have no intention of giving up our kingdom for the poverty and life of a mendicant. The longing for truth is just a passing curiosity that befalls the young until they get a taste of sex, money, power and fame. Should their quest of sex, money, power and fame fail, there is always the Siddhārtha Gautama fallback position or just having a family falling into Darwinian fitness.
It is unfortunate that our modern world doesn’t have more Siddhārtha Gautamas. The culture which springs up from our mundane life is not a very high or noble culture. The Tang dynasty culture of China was much higher and much more profound as was Greek and Indian culture before the Muslims began their invasion of India in the 8th century, eventually, putting millions to the sword who would not convert. We have little or no interest in mind these days—certainly not a monism of mind. It really isn’t on the radar screen of science. It is just a hard problem which can be set aside and ignored. But ignoring mind because it is a hard problem also means ignoring other things like who am I? This culture has no answer.