How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

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Malcolm
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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Malcolm » Thu Mar 02, 2017 3:59 pm

KarmaOcean wrote:
If Buddhism states that the Universe itself is sentient...
It doesn't.
Buddhahood in This Life
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The knowledge imparted through the guru’s instructions that formerly was unknown (avidyā) is vidyā.


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

Post by Kenneth Chan » Fri Mar 03, 2017 12:41 am

KarmaOcean wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:Of course, no one actually thinks that the photons are sentient beings involved in an elaborate conspiracy to trick us, but that really appears to be what is happening.
Personally speaking, I suggest that anyone reading this, who does not instantly disagree with this sentence, needs to read the Lotus Sutra.
Photons are particles of light energy. KarmaOcean, you must be the only person, I have ever known, who actually claims that photons are sentient beings. The sentence I wrote must be read in the context of the whole section of my paper (http://kenneth-chan.com/physics/direct- ... mechanics/) where it comes from. It refers to this observation in the "delayed choice quantum eraser" version of the double-slit experiment:

If the information, of which slit the photon passes through, is available to the observer (the actual sentient being), an interference pattern does not form on the screen. This is because the photon has to behave like a particle at the slits since the "which-slit" information is available to the observer.

If, on the other hand, the "which-slit" information is not available to the observer, the interference pattern does form on the screen. The photon now does not even behave as a particle at the slits but can only be represented by a quantum wave function (i.e. a probability wave) at the slits.

All this is related to the fact that the photon, like any other particle, only arises in dependence upon the mind that apprehends it. As Werner Heisenberg puts it, it only makes the transition from the "possible" to the "actual" upon the act of observation. This phenomenon, found in the formulation of quantum mechanics, is thus fully compatible with Madhyamika philosophy. And that is why Madhamika philosophy actually explains the mystery of quantum physics.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by KarmaOcean » Tue Mar 07, 2017 3:11 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:All this is related to the fact that the photon, like any other particle, only arises in dependence upon the mind that apprehends it.
Western Science has come about from the idea that Man has free-will i.e agency in determining events.

Yet I suppose, you would say, that the observer has themselves arisen dependently upon causes and conditions.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by KarmaOcean » Tue Mar 07, 2017 3:28 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:...And that is why Madhamika philosophy actually explains the mystery of quantum physics.
The actual mystery, simply put, is: How come the Universe seems to knows if it is being monitored ?

And the answer you provide, simply put, is: Because matter is a property of mind.

Therefore it seems to me you support the notion that the Universe is actually sentient.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Kenneth Chan » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:44 am

KarmaOcean wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:All this is related to the fact that the photon, like any other particle, only arises in dependence upon the mind that apprehends it.
Western Science has come about from the idea that Man has free-will i.e agency in determining events.
Yet I suppose, you would say, that the observer has themselves arisen dependently upon causes and conditions.
The observer is empty of inherent existence because his very existence is dependent upon causes and conditions, is dependent upon his parts, and is dependent upon the mind that imputes the label upon him.
KarmaOcean wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:...And that is why Madhyamika philosophy actually explains the mystery of quantum physics.
The actual mystery, simply put, is: How come the Universe seems to knows if it is being monitored ?
And the answer you provide, simply put, is: Because matter is a property of mind.
Therefore it seems to me you support the notion that the Universe is actually sentient.
KarmaOcean, you have a great penchant for misreading things. Please do not put words in my mouth. I never said "Because matter is a property of mind." If you are going to question what I wrote, please quote my exact words. Also, I never suggested that the "universe is sentient." I am not even sure what exactly you mean by these words.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by KarmaOcean » Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:32 pm

Do you agree that the actual mystery (of quantum physics) is: How come the Universe seems to knows if it is being monitored, or do you not agree ?

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Kenneth Chan » Tue Mar 07, 2017 5:26 pm

KarmaOcean wrote:Do you agree that the actual mystery (of quantum physics) is: How come the Universe seems to knows if it is being monitored, or do you not agree ?
Actually, the main mystery in quantum physics is the "measurement problem." This is the question of what causes the collapse of the wave function.

KarmaOcean, you must understand the statements I made on this thread in the context of Madhyamika philosophy and quantum physics. Please do not take the statements made completely out of context.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Kenneth Chan » Wed Mar 08, 2017 1:06 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:
KarmaOcean wrote:Do you agree that the actual mystery (of quantum physics) is: How come the Universe seems to knows if it is being monitored, or do you not agree ?
Actually, the main mystery in quantum physics is the "measurement problem." This is the question of what causes the collapse of the wave function.
KarmaOcean, here is a passage from my paper, "A Direct Experiential Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics," that explains what the "measurement problem" is about. Of course, if you want to understand fully the scientific terminology used here, you have to read the whole of Section 2 entitled "The Formulation of Quantum Mechanics" (http://kenneth-chan.com/physics/direct- ... ormulation) where this passage comes from:

In the collapse of the wave function, the probability concerning which eigenstate actually takes over as the new quantum wave function follows the probability distribution reflected by the expansion coefficients of the original quantum wave function (before its collapse). Note that, from the quantum wave function, we only have a probability distribution of the possible results of the measurement. We cannot predict exactly what the actual result will be. In other words, the surviving eigenstate gets “chosen” by chance. This unpredictability of the wave function collapse upset Einstein so much that he made the famous comment, “God does not play dice with the universe,” to which Niels Bohr was said to have responded: “Einstein, stop telling God what to do!”

What actually upsets many physicists over this collapse of the wave function, however, is not its probabilistic nature, but the fact that the observer now seems to actually have a role in determining our reality. If there is no collapse of the wave function, the formulation of quantum mechanics only appears to accord the observer a passive role. The part of the quantum mechanics formulation concerning the quantum wave function, the eigenstates, and their corresponding eigenvalues and expansion coefficients, of course, do necessarily involve the observer, but the observer appears, so far, to be just passively observing.

The collapse of the wave function changes all that. Now the observer, upon choosing what to measure and actually making a measurement, causes an abrupt change to the quantum wave function. The observer now not only observes, but actually changes our reality by the act of making an actual measurement and taking note of the results. The observer is thus no longer just an observer. He or she actually becomes a participant in shaping our reality!

In terms of our cake analogy, what all this amounts to is this. Einstein’s concern is that when we actually cut the cake (i.e. make an actual measurement and cause a collapse of the wave function), the piece of cake (the eigenstate) that becomes the new cake is chosen randomly, a choice that cannot be predicted. It is purely a probabilistic event, thus prompting Einstein’s comment that “God does not play dice.”

Other physicists, however, appear more concerned with the fact that the observer actually gets to decide whether or not to cut the cake (i.e. whether or not to make an actual measurement), and in the process, decide whether or not to end up with a new cake (i.e. a new quantum wave function). This new cake (the new quantum wave function) represents a dramatic change in our external reality. In other words, the observer is now not only a passive observer, but an active participant in altering our reality by actually cutting the cake!

Not only that, the observer can choose to affect our external reality differently by deciding how to cut the cake. The observer can do this simply by choosing to measure different observables. Each different observable the observer chooses to measure means a different operator (i.e. a different rule on how to cut the cake), which results in a different preferred basis with different possible eigenstates (i.e. a different set of possible cake parts) from which a random selection is made. In other words, the observer can actively affect our reality by choosing whether or not to make a measurement (i.e. cut the cake) and also by choosing exactly what observable to actually measure (i.e. how to actually cut the cake).

This means, of course, that our science is not a science of a universe “out there” independent of us as observers. If anything, this evidence from quantum physics is even more compelling than that provided by the theory of relativity, in informing us that our science is an observer-dependent science. The theory of relativity informs us that time and space are really entities defined by us, observers, to reflect how we experience the universe. Here, in quantum physics, the observer, by the very act of observation, actually changes our reality!

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by KarmaOcean » Wed Mar 08, 2017 5:25 pm

Thank you for your replies to my questions.

You state that a participant may cause a wave function collapse.
Simply assuming that the participant causes the collapse is prejudicial and unscientific.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Kenneth Chan » Wed Mar 08, 2017 11:13 pm

KarmaOcean wrote: You state that a participant may cause a wave function collapse.
Simply assuming that the participant causes the collapse is prejudicial and unscientific.
KarmaOcean, no one is “simply assuming” that the participant causes the collapse of the wave function. This is what the formulation of quantum mechanics directly indicates. The role of the observer is pivotal in the formulation of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics does not provide rules for the behaviour of a particle, directly, on its own right, independent of the observer, but only rules for the results of measurements of the particle by the observer.

Physicists have, however, tried, for over a century now, to deny this role of the observer in causing the collapse of the wave function. This has resulted in the vast array of different interpretations of quantum mechanics, all of which requires hypothetical ad hoc additions to the basic formulation. And in spite of all these additional ad hoc conditions, inserted by hand, in order to deny the role of the observer, none of these interpretations are free of conceptual problems. That is why there are so many differing interpretations of quantum mechanics in the first place; it is because none of them actually fits.

Is it not logical, then, to consider, instead, that what the formulation of quantum mechanics directly indicates, may, in fact, be what is correct? What my paper, "A Direct Experiential Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics," shows is that Madhyamika philosophy allows us to do exactly that. In other words, Madhyamika philosophy allows us to accept what the formulation of quantum mechanics directly indicates, in a way that is free of conceptual problems and free of the need for any further hypothetical ad hoc additions or modifications to the basic formulation.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by KarmaOcean » Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:42 am

You know sometimes people suddenly declare "Everything is one. There is nothing to understand"...

Well I feel like you've had a similar epiphany, which is so simple that it cannot be adequately communicated, regarding Quantum Physics!

I know this sounds really contrite but I just feel like I need to express it:

(1) I want to tell you that I've experienced similar epiphanies.
(2) It's okay to just write a simple Haiku (俳句) about these things.
(without writing 20 page theses)

For example, one might write the following:

I control
The Universe around me

Don't for one second think there's anything dumb about something so simple.
Often times communicating in a very simple language can be very revealing.

I hope you post some Haiku about Quantum Physics, Kenneth!

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Kenneth Chan » Fri Mar 10, 2017 2:57 am

KarmaOcean wrote: I hope you post some Haiku about Quantum Physics, Kenneth!
OK. How about this?

"To be or not to be ...
It's up to me to see!" :smile:

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Wayfarer » Fri Mar 10, 2017 3:10 am

I think Kenneth is basically correct in regard to the 'observer-dependent' nature of observation in this particular issue. However that is something that has to be interpreted appropriately. There's a plethora of new-age books, like Think and Grow Rich, or The Secret, which seeks to exploit this idea by claiming it is something that any of us utilise to change our fortunes, and so on. (Sometimes I wonder if the 'global financial crisis' of 2008 didn't have this kind of thinking as one of its causes, as one of the main contributors to it was the totally unrealistic belief that anyone could own property, regardless of their means - 'think and grow rich'. And what happened?)

Anyway, there is indubitably a 'collapse problem' as Kenneth has described above, but again for many other fields of science, it doesn't have a lot of impact; things work according to laws which are for all practical purposes quite independent of ourselves. But quantum physics has shown that, in some way there is no ultimate separation between observer and observed. I agree that it demolishes (or should demolish) 'philosophical materialism', for once and for all, but again, what that means, ought to be interpreted carefully.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by KarmaOcean » Fri Mar 10, 2017 3:54 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:The observer is empty of inherent existence because his very existence is dependent upon causes and conditions, is dependent upon his parts, and is dependent upon the mind that imputes the label upon him.
I have a question regarding this "empty" observer whom you mention.

The observer finds himself in a room.
He sees himself sat at a table.
On the table there's an apple and knife.

Question one: Is the observer capable of determining that the apple will be cut into two ?
Question two: Where the apple ends-up cut into two; whilst the possibility of an uncut apple seemed to have been previously applicable, yet the apple actually was cut, how can we be sure the possibility wasn't simply an illusion ?

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Kenneth Chan » Sat Mar 11, 2017 12:09 am

KarmaOcean wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:The observer is empty of inherent existence because his very existence is dependent upon causes and conditions, is dependent upon his parts, and is dependent upon the mind that imputes the label upon him.
I have a question regarding this "empty" observer whom you mention.

The observer finds himself in a room.
He sees himself sat at a table.
On the table there's an apple and knife.

Question one: Is the observer capable of determining that the apple will be cut into two ?
Question two: Where the apple ends-up cut into two; whilst the possibility of an uncut apple seemed to have been previously applicable, yet the apple actually was cut, how can we be sure the possibility wasn't simply an illusion ?
All this appears to be more of a question concerning free will, rather than one concerning either Madhyamika philosophy or quantum physics per se. Madhyamika philosophy is mainly concerned with the teachings of emptiness rather than with the issue of free will. The formulation of quantum mechanics also does not address this issue of free will, nor does it say anything about the mind being able to affect the probability distribution that is represented by the quantum wave function.

There are, however, some very intriguing experiments that explore this possibility of the mind influencing how the wave function collapses. These “mind over matter” experiments were presented at the recent Science of Consciousness Conference in Tucson in 2016 (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIS6qWx ... freload=10).

If these experiments are confirmed, it will demonstrate that the mind does have some control over the probability distribution represented by the quantum wave function. However, as Wayfarer mentions, we should be wary about new-age books that seek “to exploit this idea by claiming it is something that any of us can utilise to change our fortunes, and so on.”

We need to remember that there are other factors that affect the probability distribution concerning how the wave function collapses. It is not just a matter of how we choose to will what happens. In all likelihood, the forces of karma will have a much greater effect on this. So I believe it is probably much better for us to focus, instead, on creating positive karma by taking the spiritual path that will transform us progressively into a better and better person.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by KarmaOcean » Sun Mar 12, 2017 7:06 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:Madhyamika philosophy is mainly concerned with the teachings of emptiness rather than with the issue of free will. The formulation of quantum mechanics also does not address this issue of free will...
(1) Dependant origination and the issue of free will are not separate issues.
(2) Comprehension of QM, without questioning free will, is nothing more than a comic-book comprehension.

I have now, several times over, questioned the autonomy of the observing apparatus.
Each time I question the autonomy you respond with a different, seemingly random, response.
You continually persist with an unquestioned belief in the observer/observed dualism.
You have repeatedly failed to acknowledge my position and have not yet asked for any clarification.
It seems you are incapable of looking at the world from any other, different, paradigm.

All the same I have enjoyed reading your replies and thank you for your responses.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Kenneth Chan » Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:39 am

KarmaOcean wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:Madhyamika philosophy is mainly concerned with the teachings of emptiness rather than with the issue of free will. The formulation of quantum mechanics also does not address this issue of free will...
(1) Dependant origination and the issue of free will are not separate issues.
(2) Comprehension of QM, without questioning free will, is nothing more than a comic-book comprehension.

I have now, several times over, questioned the autonomy of the observing apparatus.
Each time I question the autonomy you respond with a different, seemingly random, response.
You continually persist with an unquestioned belief in the observer/observed dualism.
You have repeatedly failed to acknowledge my position and have not yet asked for any clarification.
It seems you are incapable of looking at the world from any other, different, paradigm.
It's very simple, KarmaOcean. Since you insist they are not separate issues, please point out specifically how Madhyamika philosophy or quantum mechanics inform us about free will. (Please note that the "dependent origination" discussed on this thread is that referring to the Madhyamaka understanding that "all things are empty of inherent existence because they are dependently originated." It is not referring to the twelve links of dependent origination.)

With regards to the issue of the autonomy of the observing apparatus, this has been dealt with extensively in my paper "A Direct Experiential Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics." In particular, look at the section on the von Neumann chain. And how in the world did you come to the conclusion that I have "an unquestioned belief in the observer/observed dualism" when I am saying exactly the opposite? This is getting tiresome.

Before making all these kinds of criticisms, please at least do me the courtesy of first understanding my paper. You seem to be making all sorts of criticisms without actually knowing very much about either Madhyamika philosophy or quantum mechanics.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Wayfarer » Sun Mar 12, 2017 12:10 pm

Kenneth Chan wrote:The observer is empty of inherent existence because his very existence is dependent upon causes and conditions.
This point is tangential to the argument about physics, but I'm not sure about this. You see, 'dependent on causes and conditions' applies to 'all compounded phenomena'. But there is 'that which is unmade, uncreated', which is not dependent on causes on conditions. We have to be careful not to reify the unconditioned by treating it as an object. But, is the Tathāgata dependent on causes and conditions? I know that's a difficult question but it should be considered.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Kenneth Chan » Sun Mar 12, 2017 3:18 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:The observer is empty of inherent existence because his very existence is dependent upon causes and conditions.
This point is tangential to the argument about physics, but I'm not sure about this. You see, 'dependent on causes and conditions' applies to 'all compounded phenomena'. But there is 'that which is unmade, uncreated', which is not dependent on causes on conditions. We have to be careful not to reify the unconditioned by treating it as an object. But, is the Tathāgata dependent on causes and conditions? I know that's a difficult question but it should be considered.
The Tathagatha is also empty of inherent existence. We are not talking about an inherently existing entity that is dependent on causes and conditions. Also, you have cut short my statement. My entire statement reads:

"The observer is empty of inherent existence because his very existence is dependent upon causes and conditions, is dependent upon his parts, and is dependent upon the mind that imputes the label upon him."

In other words, there is no such inherent existence, and the very idea of its existence is dependent on these other factors. It is difficult to put this in words, but try to take it in the correct sense.

The whole of Chapter 22 in Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika explores the emptiness concerning the Tathagatha. Here is one verse from this chapter:

Since he is by nature empty,
The thought that the Buddha
Exists or does not exist
After nirvana is not appropriate.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Malcolm » Sun Mar 12, 2017 7:20 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:The observer is empty of inherent existence because his very existence is dependent upon causes and conditions.
This point is tangential to the argument about physics, but I'm not sure about this. You see, 'dependent on causes and conditions' applies to 'all compounded phenomena'. But there is 'that which is unmade, uncreated', which is not dependent on causes on conditions. We have to be careful not to reify the unconditioned by treating it as an object. But, is the Tathāgata dependent on causes and conditions? I know that's a difficult question but it should be considered.

In Buddhadharma in general, there are only three unconditioned phenomena: space (as absence of obstruction), analytical cessation (nirvana), and nonanalytical cessation (simple absence of a cause).
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


The knowledge imparted through the guru’s instructions that formerly was unknown (avidyā) is vidyā.


—Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, Longchenpa.

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