How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

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Kenneth Chan
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How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Kenneth Chan » Mon Dec 05, 2016 4:33 am

Recently, in November 2015, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, presided over a two day conference on quantum physics and Madhyamika philosophy in New Delhi, where a panel of physicists and monastic scholars gathered to discuss the intersection of quantum physics and the Buddhist Madhyamika philosophy.

Daniel Oberhaus (the author of the article on the conference entitled “Dalai Lama: Religion Without Quantum Physics Is an Incomplete Picture of Reality”) however noted this: “For the most part, the explicit connections between Madhyamaka and quantum physics were left up to the interpretation of the audience. The physicists stuck to physics and the monastic scholars stuck to Buddhism.”

It is, however, possible to explicitly interpret the formulation of quantum mechanics in terms of Madhyamika philosophy, and this can be done directly without any modifications to the original formulation of quantum mechanics and without the need for additional ad hoc conditions. In other words, we can have a direct experiential interpretation of quantum mechanics that fits perfectly with Madhyamika philosophy.

The problems physicists had with quantum mechanics, over the last century, was actually in attempting to fit the formulation into the prevailing Western philosophical outlook that posited a mind-matter duality. This led to either the extremes of solipsism or materialism. Most physicists have decided to adopt the extreme view of materialism, which claims that consciousness must be derived from matter, but this creates all sorts of problems in interpreting quantum mechanics in a consistent way.

If we dispense with the idea of a mind-matter duality, and instead adopt the Madhyamaka view of reality, the formulation of quantum mechanics actually falls into place perfectly. This means, of course, that the formulation of quantum mechanics reinforces the Buddhist view that Madhyamika philosophy is actually the correct view of reality.

It is interesting to note that, years ago, two of the pioneers of quantum mechanics, Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli, had also arrived at the realization that the middle way approach is the correct one for interpreting quantum mechanics. Here, Werner Heisenberg writes about a consensus he had reached with Wolfgang Pauli:

“The physicist Wolfgang Pauli once spoke of two limiting conceptions, both of which have been extraordinary fruitful in the history of human thought, although no genuine reality corresponds to them. At one extreme is the idea of an objective world, pursuing its regular course in space and time, independently of any kind of observing subject; this has been the guiding image of modern science. At the other extreme is the idea of a subject, mystically experiencing the unity of the world and no longer confronted by an object or by any objective world; this has been the guiding image of Asian mysticism. Our thinking moves somewhere in the middle, between these two limiting conceptions; we should maintain the tension resulting from these two opposites.”

We are not sure which form of Asian mysticism Heisenberg was referring to in the quote, but it appears that he was, unfortunately, unaware of Madhyamika philosophy. Madhyamika philosophy can actually explain the mystery of quantum physics, but it means that we have to dispense with the notion of a mind-matter duality and especially dispense with the claim that consciousness is derived from matter.

An explicit interpretation of quantum mechanics in accordance with Madhyamika philosophy can be found at http://kenneth-chan.com/physics/direct- ... mechanics/, where I have provided an outline of the formulation of quantum mechanics (which can be understood without actual mathematics) and demonstrated how well the formulation fits into the Madhyamaka view of reality. I would, of course, be happy to further clarify and discuss this interpretation of quantum mechanics here on this forum.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Wayfarer » Mon Dec 05, 2016 7:23 am

Greetings and salutations. Very interesting post and a subject I have an interest in as well. I have a book by Graham Smetham about 'quantum Buddhism'. I also have The Quantum and the Lotus by Matthieu Ricard and Trinh Xuan Thuan which explores a number of such issues from scientific and Buddhist perspectives.

Philosophically it's a very interesting area, and I agree that Madhyamika can provide an interpretive framework for the strange implications of quantum mechanics.

But at the same time, we ought not to loose sight of the fact that quantum theory makes very exact predictions about many phenomena, which have enabled great technological progress, not least the computers on which you and I are conversing in this thread (let alone space travel, lasers, smartphones, GPS, atomic clocks, magnetic resonance imaging....the list goes on.) So, one could find out a lot about Madhyamika philosophy without however mastering the principles which make those discoveries possible.

The problems physicists had with quantum mechanics, over the last century, was actually in attempting to fit the formulation into the prevailing Western philosophical outlook that posited a mind-matter duality. This led to either the extremes of solipsism or materialism. Most physicists have decided to adopt the extreme view of materialism, which claims that consciousness must be derived from matter, but this creates all sorts of problems in interpreting quantum mechanics in a consistent way.


Is that so? According to this fairly recent review, several of the quantum pioneers were very interested in Eastern philosophy and various forms of idealism. That is the subject of the book Tao of Physics, which points out that Niels Bohr actually changed his family Coat of Arms to incorporate the Ying-Yang symbol:

Image

This was to reflect his idea that his famous 'wave-particle duality principle' reflected the dialectical relationship of complementary opposites. Heisenberg also expressed much interest in Eastern philosophy and according to some sources once underwent a significant yogic experience.

And other quantum pioneers, including Eugene Wigner and Erwin Schrodinger, expressed interest in Vedanta and Schopenhauer. So I don't think any of them fell under spell of 'cartesian dualism'. The review above says that, after the war, when the focus moved to the USA from Europe, those active in the field were generally less interested in the philosophy and more in the application; the so-called 'shut up and calculate' approach, which is still the basic approach of many working scientists.

Still, there is definitely truth in the basic idea. (I would be interested in an attribution of that Heisenberg quotation.)

Although, with one caveat:

This means, of course, that the formulation of quantum mechanics reinforces the Buddhist view that Madhyamika philosophy is actually the correct view of reality.


Strictly speaking, Madhyamika is not 'a view', in the sense of being a systematic presentation of principles. Its aim is mainly critical. I think that is one of the reasons it gets along well with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Kenneth Chan » Mon Dec 05, 2016 10:59 am

Hi Wayfarer. Thank you for your response.

I am certainly aware that the pioneers of quantum mechanics were much immersed in interpreting what the formulation of quantum mechanics actually meant with regards to the nature of reality. Many of them were indeed drawn towards the parallels they found in Eastern mysticism and delved into it.

Unfortunately, I think they probably did not have much access, at that time, to Madhyamika philosophy and a good explanation of it. Actually, you can see from the quote by Heisenberg that I provided in my opening post, that Heisenberg, at least, did not seem to be aware of Madhyamika philosophy. This was unfortunate. Otherwise, I believe Heisenberg would certainly have looked more closely into it, since it fits the approach that both he and Pauli had realised was the appropriate one to take (i.e., in the middle between the two extremes of materialism and solipsism).

Eugene Wigner was certainly a victim of the need to fit the formulation of quantum mechanics into the Western philosophical framework of a mind-matter duality. In the 1960s, Wigner argued strongly that consciousness has a definite role in quantum physics, but, later in life, he changed his mind because he felt that this led to solipsism. That actually is only true if one had to fit this role of consciousness (in quantum mechanics) into a framework of a mind-matter duality. Again, unfortunately, like Heisenberg, Wigner did not seem aware of Madhyamika philosophy, which would have solved the problem for him.

If you can find the time to read Section 4 of my paper (http://kenneth-chan.com/physics/direct- ... mechanics/) on “Consciousness and Quantum Mechanics,” I actually looked, in some depth, at why Wigner felt that he had to change his mind.

I do understand that Madhyamika philosophy is not just a view, but is an actual philosophy based on deep and very precise logical analysis. I have, in my paper, actually made use of the analysis based on dependent origination to explicitly interpret the formulation of quantum mechanics so that it is free of contradictions and free of the need for additional ad hoc conditions to the main formulation.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Astus » Mon Dec 05, 2016 1:25 pm

"According to Madhyamika philosophy, objects only exist in dependence upon causes and conditions, and in dependence upon the mind that apprehends it."

Because of dependent origination there is no origination of anything, only in a nominal, conventional sense. Furthermore, Madhyamaka is not the one to posit a perceiver.

"The reason that quantum mechanics reinforces the Madhyamaka view is simply the fact that alternative views, like a mind-matter duality, or either the extremes of materialism or solipsism, actually lead to serious interpretation problems."

European philosophy produced some developments beyond Descartes. I recommend you check on Kant's transcendental philosophy and Husserl's phenomenology.

"both mind and matter are empty of inherent existence, both mind and matter have the same ontological status"

Things are defined by their function, not whether they have an inherent existence or not, therefore emptiness does not serve as a sufficient basis to eliminate the difference between mind and matter.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Kenneth Chan » Mon Dec 05, 2016 3:23 pm

Astus wrote:"both mind and matter are empty of inherent existence, both mind and matter have the same ontological status"

Things are defined by their function, not whether they have an inherent existence or not, therefore emptiness does not serve as a sufficient basis to eliminate the difference between mind and matter.

The only point that I am making, here, is that since both mind and matter have the same ontological status, there is no need to reify one while negating the other. That's all. I am not saying they are the same. The point is to avoid both the extremes of materialism and solipsism, which is the main problem that the physicists faced in interpreting quantum mechanics, and having to fit it into the framework of a mind-matter dichotomy.

Perhaps I should reproduce here the abstract of my paper, since it outlines basically why the Madhyamaka view of reality makes a difference in the interpretation of quantum mechanics. Here it is below:

Abstract:

The theory of relativity informs us that our science is a science of our experience, and not a science of a universe that is independent of us as conscious observers. This nature of our science is also reflected in the formulation of quantum mechanics, since the main formulation of quantum mechanics does not provide direct rules for the behaviour of particles. Instead, it provides rules that concern only the results of measurements by observers. This means that the observer is an intrinsic part of the main formulation of quantum mechanics, and what differentiates the observer from physical particles has to be mind and consciousness.

As John von Neumann and Eugene Wigner pointed out, this means that consciousness has an intrinsic role to play in quantum mechanics. Why then has there been so much resistance to recognizing this fundamental fact? And why have physicists, for more than a century, persistently tried to get rid of the observer, even if it meant—in defiance of Occam’s razor—having to insert, by hand, additional hypothetical ad hoc conditions to the basic formulation?

The underlying problem appears to be the need to fit this intrinsic role of consciousness, in quantum mechanics, into the prevailing view, in Western philosophy, of a mind-matter duality. An attempt to fit the role of consciousness into this framework of a mind-matter duality would unfortunately lead to solipsism, and that is the main problem. So the vast majority of physicists gravitate, instead, to the stance of materialism, and hence the need for them to free quantum mechanics from the conscious observer.

The formulation of quantum mechanics actually does not, in any way, suggest a mind-matter dichotomy, and it certainly does not suggest either materialism or solipsism. Quantum mechanics actually points to a middle way between these two extremes of materialism and solipsism, a realization that both Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli eventually reached. This means that the formulation of quantum mechanics actually points to the philosophical viewpoint of Madhyamika philosophy, also known as the Middle Way philosophy.

In this paper, the formulation of quantum mechanics is explicitly interpreted in terms of Madhyamika philosophy, and this can be done directly without any modifications to the original formulation of quantum mechanics, and without the need for additional ad hoc conditions. In other words, we can have a direct experiential interpretation of quantum mechanics that fits perfectly with Madhyamika philosophy. Thus, in addition to being supported by extremely precise logical analysis and deep meditational insight, there is now also concrete scientific evidence that the Madhyamaka view of reality is correct.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Mon Dec 05, 2016 3:26 pm

"both mind and matter are empty of inherent existence, bqoth mind and matter have the same ontological status"

Things are defined by their function, not whether they have an inherent existence or not, therefore emptiness does not serve as a sufficient basis to eliminate the difference between mind and matter.


The essential point is that ultimately there is no difference between mind and matter. Matter is mere appearance to mind.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Astus » Mon Dec 05, 2016 4:35 pm

Kenneth Chan wrote:The only point that I am making, here, is that since both mind and matter have the same ontological status, there is no need to reify one while negating the other. That's all.


And my point is that Madhyamaka is not the solution here.

into the prevailing view, in Western philosophy, of a mind-matter duality.


And my second point, that it is not the prevailing Western philosophical view. This issue has already been addressed by Kant over 200 years ago.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Astus » Mon Dec 05, 2016 4:36 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:The essential point is that ultimately there is no difference between mind and matter. Matter is mere appearance to mind.


If there were no difference, then mind is a mere appearance to matter, or it's all just matter, or just mind.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Crazywisdom » Mon Dec 05, 2016 4:58 pm

Luckily we really don't need need to entertain concepts of consciousness or a universe to attain our religious aim.
El Perdedor

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Kenneth Chan » Mon Dec 05, 2016 5:11 pm

Astus wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:The only point that I am making, here, is that since both mind and matter have the same ontological status, there is no need to reify one while negating the other. That's all.


And my point is that Madhyamaka is not the solution here.

Hi Astus. You need to explain why you say that Madhyamaka is not the solution here. I have explicitly interpreted the formulation of quantum mechanics in terms of the Prasangika Madhyamaka view, and it fits perfectly with the formulation, without any contradictions, and without the need to insert any additional ad hoc conditions to the formulation. So what is your reason for saying that Madhyamaka is not the solution here?

Astus wrote:
into the prevailing view, in Western philosophy, of a mind-matter duality.


And my second point, that it is not the prevailing Western philosophical view. This issue has already been addressed by Kant over 200 years ago.

I am aware that there have been developments in Western philosophy since Descartes. Nonetheless they are still very different from Madhyamika philosophy. The problem is that most physicists are not really interested in philosophy per se, and their thinking is still grounded on the basic mind-matter dualism. As a result of this, most of them gravitate to materialism, since solipsism is almost anathema to them.

Let me reproduce here a quote I used in my paper to illustrate this: This is a passage by physicist, Alistair Rae, from his recent book “Quantum Physics: Illusion or Reality?”:

"Philosophers have long had difficulty proving that there is an objective real world ‘out there’ rather than that everything is just my sense impressions. However, the aim of science has always been to seek an objective description of the physical universe that can be consistently believed in if we so choose. To suggest that consciousness must fill an essential role in our understanding of the quantum world would run directly against this trend. It may be that a theory based on consciousness and subjectivism could be consistent with the observed facts, but I find its implications—such as the nonexistence of a physical universe until a mind evolved (from what?) to observe it—quite unacceptable. I would prefer to believe almost any theory that preserved some form of objectivity." (end of quote)

So among physicists attempting to solve the mystery of quantum mechanics, the framework of a mind-matter dichotomy is very real.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Astus » Mon Dec 05, 2016 5:37 pm

Kenneth Chan wrote:You need to explain why you say that Madhyamaka is not the solution here.


Because it does not deal with the mechanics of consciousness or perception. Its primary purpose lies in the field of eliminating views, and not in establishing conventional interpretations.

in terms of the Prasangika Madhyamaka view


Prasanga is a technique of refutation, not affirmation.

Nonetheless they are still very different from Madhyamika philosophy.


I take them to be better fitted for the whole purpose, first of all because those are philosophies, while Madhyamaka isn't.

their thinking is still grounded on the basic mind-matter dualism.


One could see the same dualism in Madhyamaka as well, as far as the teaching of nama-rupa is very much accepted in its conventional application. On the other hand, even in the Nikayas the dualism (jiva-sarira) is denied.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Kenneth Chan » Mon Dec 05, 2016 9:30 pm

Astus wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:You need to explain why you say that Madhyamaka is not the solution here.


Because it does not deal with the mechanics of consciousness or perception. Its primary purpose lies in the field of eliminating views, and not in establishing conventional interpretations.

in terms of the Prasangika Madhyamaka view


Prasanga is a technique of refutation, not affirmation.

Nonetheless they are still very different from Madhyamika philosophy.


I take them to be better fitted for the whole purpose, first of all because those are philosophies, while Madhyamaka isn't.


Astus, you seem to be arguing over semantics, i.e. what the name Prasangika means, whether it should be called a "philosophy", and so on. All this debate over semantics is not really relevant to the question of whether or not a direct interpretation of the formulation of quantum mechanics, based on the Prasangika Madhyamaka view of reality, is able to solve the mystery of quantum physics. Actually it does solve the mystery. Please read my paper and you can see how it can be done without contradictions, and without the need for additional ad hoc conditions.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Astus » Tue Dec 06, 2016 12:32 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:based on the Prasangika Madhyamaka view of reality


That is the point I am questioning, if it is actually Madhyamaka, or rather a personal reinterpretation that is inspired by elements of Madhyamaka.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Kenneth Chan » Tue Dec 06, 2016 1:08 am

Astus wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:based on the Prasangika Madhyamaka view of reality

That is the point I am questioning, if it is actually Madhyamaka, or rather a personal reinterpretation that is inspired by elements of Madhyamaka.

Well, I suggest you actually read my paper, and let me know whether you think it is actually Madhyamaka or just my personal interpretation, and why you think that. I am certainly open to discussing this.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby boda » Tue Dec 06, 2016 5:36 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:The process of the collapse of the wave function is therefore the process of dependent origination.

Couldn't ANY process be correctly interpreted as a process of dependent origination?

Crucially, this dependent arising of the object requires the act of measurement or observation by the conscious observer. Using Heisenberg’s terminology, we can say that physical particles only make the transition from the ‘possible’ to the ‘actual’ upon the act of measurement by the observer. How then can the reverse also be possible? In other words, how then can physical particles also be considered to be the cause of the mind of the observer? It would be like claiming that we can lift ourselves up from the ground by pulling on our own bootstraps. This is the fundamental incompatibility, and it needs to be recognized.

Again all you seem to be saying is that phenomena arise dependently. I don't believe that anyone would dispute this.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Kenneth Chan » Tue Dec 06, 2016 8:42 am

boda wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:The process of the collapse of the wave function is therefore the process of dependent origination.

Couldn't ANY process be correctly interpreted as a process of dependent origination?

Sure, probably any process can be correctly interpreted as a process of dependent origination. The cause of the collapse of the wave function is, nonetheless, the main longstanding unresolved problem in quantum physics. It even has a name, which is "the measurement problem." Essentially, what I am saying, then, is that this Madhyamaka viewpoint is, in fact, the solution to the measurement problem.

The collapse of the wave function is what happens when an observer makes an actual measurement of a particle. Prior to this act of measurement, the particle actually does not manifest as actual particle in a particular position. All we have, prior to the act of measurement, is the quantum wave function, which is a mathematical entity that only provides us with a probability distribution of where we might find the particle if and only if we actually measure its position. That is what Heisenberg means by saying that the particle only makes the transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' upon the act of measurement by the observer.

What exactly causes this process of transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' is the measurement problem, and it has puzzled physicists for over a century now. The correct solution, to me, is that this transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' is actually the process of dependent origination.

boda wrote:
Crucially, this dependent arising of the object requires the act of measurement or observation by the conscious observer. Using Heisenberg’s terminology, we can say that physical particles only make the transition from the ‘possible’ to the ‘actual’ upon the act of measurement by the observer. How then can the reverse also be possible? In other words, how then can physical particles also be considered to be the cause of the mind of the observer? It would be like claiming that we can lift ourselves up from the ground by pulling on our own bootstraps. This is the fundamental incompatibility, and it needs to be recognized.

Again all you seem to be saying is that phenomena arise dependently. I don't believe that anyone would dispute this.

I really wish what you say is true. Unfortunately, nearly all the contemporary scientists would, in fact, dispute this! They insist, instead, on the stance of materialism, and dogmatically claim that consciousness must be derived from matter.

It is actually this insistence on materialism that has led to the vast array of different interpretations of quantum mechanics, all aimed at negating the role of the conscious observer. In attempts to remove the conscious observer from quantum mechanics, they have even resorted to bizarre ad hoc hypothetical additions to the formulation, like "infinite parallel universes" which can never be detected experimentally. You will be amazed how many physicists would prefer this "many worlds" scenario than admit that consciousness has a role to play in quantum physics!

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Vasana » Tue Dec 06, 2016 10:37 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:
boda wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:The process of the collapse of the wave function is therefore the process of dependent origination.

Couldn't ANY process be correctly interpreted as a process of dependent origination?

Sure, probably any process can be correctly interpreted as a process of dependent origination. The cause of the collapse of the wave function is, nonetheless, the main longstanding unresolved problem in quantum physics. It even has a name, which is "the measurement problem." Essentially, what I am saying, then, is that this Madhyamaka viewpoint is, in fact, the solution to the measurement problem.

The collapse of the wave function is what happens when an observer makes an actual measurement of a particle. Prior to this act of measurement, the particle actually does not manifest as actual particle in a particular position. All we have, prior to the act of measurement, is the quantum wave function, which is a mathematical entity that only provides us with a probability distribution of where we might find the particle if and only if we actually measure its position. That is what Heisenberg means by saying that the particle only makes the transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' upon the act of measurement by the observer.

What exactly causes this process of transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' is the measurement problem, and it has puzzled physicists for over a century now. The correct solution, to me, is that this transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' is actually the process of dependent origination.


Maybe i'm not understanding your position Kenneth but i'm with Boda in that Dependent origination is applicable to all physical and metal phenomena. Saying that the transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' is specifically the process of dependent origination seems problematic because the teaching of depedent origination means that nothing, including time and motion and any 'transition' can be independently isolated. Titling one phenomena or transition as the process of dependent origination is like gathering up a single drop of the ocean and saying that 'only this drop can be called dependenlty arisen'. Seeing one thing as dependently-originated means seeing all things as dependently-originated and so the 'thing-ness' of the initial thing under scrutiny is negated.

Co-emergence might be a fruitful word to play with.
"If you think that buddhas and sentient beings are indivisible, you should honor and serve sentient beings to the same degree as you would the buddhas. Do you do that?" ~ Shri Singha

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Astus » Tue Dec 06, 2016 10:48 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:Well, I suggest you actually read my paper, and let me know whether you think it is actually Madhyamaka or just my personal interpretation, and why you think that. I am certainly open to discussing this.


I had read your paper before my first post here and responded on it based on that.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Astus » Tue Dec 06, 2016 10:52 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:It is actually this insistence on materialism that has led to the vast array of different interpretations of quantum mechanics, all aimed at negating the role of the conscious observer.


Madhyamaka does not posit the necessity of a conscious observer. In fact, you could say that assuming an observer is already falling into false views, as discussed in chapter 3 of the MMK.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

Kenneth Chan
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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Postby Kenneth Chan » Tue Dec 06, 2016 11:38 am

Vasana wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:What exactly causes this process of transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' is the measurement problem, and it has puzzled physicists for over a century now. The correct solution, to me, is that this transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' is actually the process of dependent origination.


Maybe i'm not understanding your position Kenneth but i'm with Boda in that Dependent origination is applicable to all physical and metal phenomena. Saying that the transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' is specifically the process of dependent origination seems problematic because the teaching of depedent origination means that nothing, including time and motion and any 'transition' can be independently isolated. Titling one phenomena or transition as the process of dependent origination is like gathering up a single drop of the ocean and saying that 'only this drop can be called dependenlty arisen'. Seeing one thing as dependently-originated means seeing all things as dependently-originated and so the 'thing-ness' of the initial thing under scrutiny is negated.

Co-emergence might be a fruitful word to play with.

Hi Vasana. I am afraid that you are misunderstanding my meaning. In no way am I saying that there is something that is not empty of inherent existence. I agree completely with the Madhyamaka principle that all things are empty of inherent existence. This is the ultimate truth.

However, especially for the purpose of communication, we have to recognise the validity of what is known as the conventional truth or the relative truth. This is a recognised approach in Madhyamika philosophy. It means that while all things are empty of inherent existence, they nonetheless function and interact with each other. So we can talk about this functioning of phenomena along the lines of the conventional truth.

If we have to always rigorously express ourselves in accordance with the ultimate truth, we will not be able to describe any interactions at all. So please try to understand me in the correct spirit. I am talking here along the lines of the conventional truth.

To address your point directly, let me just state here that I consider the transition (from the 'possible' to the 'actual') to be empty of inherent existence. The process of dependent origination itself is also empty of inherent existence.


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