Does quantum mechanics favor Buddhist philosophy?


These are both intriguing reads.

Over the last couple of years I have spent a great deal of time pondering how things like Donald Hoffman’s “Consciousness Only” theory and the Buddhist idea of interdependent coexistence mesh with what we seem to now know about reality through modern quantum physics.

All of those quantum mechanics principles have been experimentally proven out so a more esoteric theory like Hoffman’s has to end up producing them to be correct.

With regard to the “Measurement Problem” and wave/particle relationship, that is, that nothing truly exists as a particle until it is observed…I think interdependent coexistence fits perfectly with that if you equate “observation” with “measurement”. All phenomena are continually “measuring” each other through their inherent interdependence.


I believe you can even call it perception.

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I’m thinking on an even broader level that that, Barry.

That “observation” that causes the wave functions of the leaves of a tree to collapse into the particles that the passing hiker perceives as leaves could be coming from being “measured” by the interaction of the gentle breeze or even the sunlight.

Interdependent coexistence has to be deeper than just sentience.

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From that perspective, for sure. I was thinking from your example that you were speaking of scientific measurement. Can’t remember the quote source but to paraphrase, science measures everything except consciousness.

Science definitely struggles with consciousness. That’s the “Hard Problem of Consciousness”, right?

Here’s something else I have been thinking about regarding the relationship between quantum mechanics and Mahamudra, specifically, the dual/non-dual relationship between emptiness and form.

It feels as though the difference in perspective between emptiness and form is much like that between a wave and a particle and I see that as hinging on the presence of boundaries. Emptiness becomes form in the presence of perceived boundaries and when those boundaries are dissolved…form becomes emptiness. In deep meditation one can dissolve the boundaries of the physical body and abide for a time in a subtle body or even in a clear light presence.

In the course of our everyday lives our constant thoughts are collapsing emptiness into form through observation/perception. When we “cut the root of the mind and let consciousness remain naked”, form dissolves back into emptiness. I think we are always right there at that balance point.

If you would attain the realization of transcendent mind and non-action,
Then cut the root of mind and let consciousness remain naked.
Let the polluted waters of mental activities clear.
Do not seek to stop projections, but let them come to rest of themselves.
If there is no rejection or accepting, then you are liberated in the mahamudra.

The Mahamudra Transmission from Tilopa to Naropa

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As kids we used to play “freeze-tag (STOP).” Perhaps we should have carried that over to our minds?

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You bring me back to my youth with freeze tag, my friend. I have actually used that image (Stop the flow!) as a lucid dreaming mantra.

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In some dzogchen teachings the terms „existence“ and „non-existence“ are seen as extremes.

What if you one changed the sentence as follows:
With regard to the “Measurement Problem” and wave/particle relationship, that is, that nothing truly appears as a particle until it is observed with the specific tool of measurement and a specific observer.

B.Alan Wallace riffs in the 2014 Fall retreat about the tripod of observation, observer and means of observation. Only in combination do all three constitute a relative reality.

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The only problem I have with that perspective is that it continues to be “human-centric”…or perhaps “sentient being-centric”.

I’m trying for a perspective that has all phenomena as “measurers” of each other. To do that I think we need to go past the term observer as that implies sentience. The wind is “measuring” the leaf and, therefor collapsing that wave form into particulate existence. What tool of measurement is involved in that process?

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Don’t we have to get beyond measurement?

Well, not human-centric but awareness-centric, yes.


Yes, but that sounds still like a mechanistic clock-work description of the universe, just with the difference that it‘s not as simple as a couple of cogs and springs as in a clock, but an infinite matrix of cause and conditions influencing each other - but (!) still without a role for awareness. In the end, such a model of the universe would still be a materalistic one, and thus would fail to explain the role of the observer in quantum physics, and, the hard problem of consciousness .

I don’t think we can if we are existing in this physical plane as everything is always being measured by everything else.

For the purpose of this discussion I have taken the liberty of equating measurement with observation in order to postulate that there is perhaps a wider interpretation of how this collapse to particle occurs in nature. But now, with a bit of a deeper dive, I see that Wiki is (as usual) ahead of me. :sunglasses:

And, in the spirit of this excellent thread direction, I’m hoping to tie a piece of Buddhist philosophy (as I understand it) in with some quantum mechanics by equating wave function collapse when measured to emptiness becoming form when measured by thought.

Of course, to do that you’ll need to buy into:

Emptiness = Wave Function
Form = Particulate Matter
Observation/Measurement = Thought

When we step out of the coarse body/mind we can get beyond measurement and abide in emptiness.

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I‘d buy into it if you‘d consider:
Observation/Measurement = Awareness

I think the pivotal axiomatic point here is still another one:
When trying to find a model describing the physical world, everybody (including myself) is mentally hard-wired in axiomatically presuming that there is a solid world out there independent of observation. I.e. a universal clockwork - nature’s perpetuum mobile, independent and mechanistic. The famous tree in northern Alaska which nobody sees falling, so has it really fallen?
But, maybe that is an illusion?
Maybe the only real thing out there is a world of experiences - not stand-alone objects - which are hard-wired with and only appear in conjunction with awareness that perceives.

The role of awareness in this equation seems to lie in the type of its conditioning that determines the type of observation/experience being made.

I agree with this . . . .

I’m pretty sure the tree was in Iowa, not Alaska, when the example was first given.

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hehe, geography was never my strength :wink:

Not quite. All of that measuring also has to factor in what Neil Theise calls the “quenched disorder” in all systems. That’s the randomness that is inherent to creation.

I agree with that. But I’ll go a little further. Awareness only works as a fundamental driver of primordial creation if it is not confused with perception. Awareness, non-dual and pristine awareness, occurs before perception and any conditioned awareness results in a perceived experience rather than one that is grounded in rigpa/turiya.

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Can’t be the sam because perception indicates dualism, right?

I agree that rigpa, primordial awareness, underlies any perception.
But, I would argue that, although rigpa is ever-present in an act of perception, it is probably conditioned, inpure perception that reeifies an individual subjective reality.
E.g. a human sees a flower and perceives it with human perception (and reeifies it mentally) as, say, 6 inch tall object with yellow pedals etc.
A bee would perceive a totally different phenomenon in terms of relative size, color and other attributes, because of its bee-specific awareness/perception.

So, what is independently „real“ - the human perception or the bee‘s perception of the flower, or both?
Or is there no independent reality at all?
What „is“the flower independent of any bee‘s or human‘s perception?

I take from this thought experiment, that a reality model can only describe subjective experiences dependant on the perceiving subject - but not independent objects.