Buddhism and Quantum physics

Some people are against making comparisons between Buddhism and quantum physics. However, with an open mind, there is nothing wrong in doing so. Discovery is exploring the unknown. Therefore, I will try to bring up some observations that I have found.

Since I do not know anything about Quantum Physics except viewing some simple explanations in YouTube, what I understood is limited and may be wrong or inaccurate. However, my intention is to bring up a discussion so some quantum physicists and Buddhist experts can contribute their takes on the topic if they are interested in it. Their discussions may bring some new ideas and understanding to everybody including myself.

In Buddhism, we know that form is not “I, my, mine, myself,” but I am not apart from form. Same for feeling, perception, volitional formations, consciousness. In other words, I am not “the all”, but I am not apart from “the all”. So what does this mean? Can we say that I am “the all” and I am not "the all " at the same time? Or I am 1 and 0 at the same time? This is against normal or conventional logic which is based on duality, so it must be something else or different logic system.

The Buddha said that we cannot use normal logic to understand the Tathagata. He is beyond logic. What is that beyond logic?

In quantum physics, with my limited understanding, I see that the quantum superposition fits very well with the above. It is the quantum superposition state of “the all” and not “the all”. As I understand, this does not mean that it has only 2 states (the all and not the all), but in fact, it contains an infinite number of states. It is impossible to pinpoint exactly what it is without observation or measurement. However, by observation or measurement, it is no longer in that superposition state, so it is impossible to precisely know what that state is.

In Buddhism, we often see the tetralemma:

The Tathagata exists after death
The Tathagata does not exist after death
The Tathagata exists and does not exist after death
The Tathagata neither exist nor non exist after death

If we see this as quantum superposition then it is the quantum superposition state of existence and non-existence. In this quantum superposition state, we cannot say that it exists or not exist or both or neither. Without observation or measurement, we cannot say anything about it. When we can determine that it is this or that, it is no longer in its quantum superposition state.

“Exist” is an observation or measurement.
“Does not exist” is an observation or measurement.
“Both exist and non-exist” is an observation or measurement.
“Neither exist nor non-exist” is an observation or measurement.

The quantum superposition state is an immeasurable state. The Tathagatha is also immeasurable.

As I see, quantum physics is beyond normal logic. It breaks many conventional rules, and it is hard to understand, unfathomable. However, we can see the similarities with Buddhism.

With my near zero understanding of quantum physics and limited knowledge in Buddhism, I do not say that those observations are correct. However, I see this as an opportunity for exploration and discernment.

Not sure if you are aware, but this topic has been discussed in the past.



Thanks, I do. But I do not see the topic that I tried to present. If you know where it is, please let me know.

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No problem, I just wasn’t sure, always worth checking just in case :slight_smile:

But is this really so?

  • A Tathagata is no more in a quantum superposition than, let’s say, a car. And even if they were in superpositon, liberation and nibbāna, being beyond concepts and views, is not about being in a pre-measurement, pre-collapse-of-the-wavefunction state.

Rather it is unfathomable because the extinguishment (nibbāna) of greed, anger, and ignorance is beyond the reach of views and concepts. As is the full cessation of final nibbāna.
"‘This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.’ AN9.36

Just saying… :pray:

We can try to avoid what we cannot explain; however, this does not mean that all other explanations about it are invalid. Even if they are wrong, they may give us some new directions.

As I understand, if we identify that as a car then we do not refer to its quantum superposition state, but we rather, by observation, point to the manifestation that we call a car. If we identify that as a Buddha then we do not refer to the quantum superposition state, but we rather, by observation, point to the manifestation that we call “Buddha”. However, I better leave this explanation to some quantum experts since quantum physics is beyond our normal logic and my ability.

What we call “the all” should include everything that we can know of or even have not yet known. Otherwise, it should not be called “the all.” “Not the all” could be what we call “nibbana.” That’s how I understand.

When we are “the all” but we are not “the all” then “the all” has no effect on us. That is what nibbana is about. This is what the fourth herd of deer does in MN25. That’s how they got free from Māra’s power.

To me, Nibbana is not beyond the reach of views and concepts. It is to be experienced here and now. If it can be experienced here and now then it can be understood and is not beyond the reach of views and concepts.

For a very long time I was in debt, unable to repay the debt, suffering with the debt. However, I am now completely cut off from it, no longer need to worry about it. The heavy weight was dropped off forever, and will never be put up again. Realizing this fact, I understand that “This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.” I have experienced nibbana in that regard.

Observation or measurement is activity that disturbs the quantum field. When the quantum field reaches its vibration’s threshold, a particle is created. This is from quantum field theory.

By stilling all activities, the particle is not created, its quantum field remains calm and peaceful. The “I” is not found.

That’s how I understand. Of course, this understanding is new and controversial, so I expect many objections.

Hi, and thanks for your response.

Here’s what the Buddha said about the All, SN35.23:
“Mendicants, I will teach you the all. Listen …
And what is the all? It’s just the eye and sights, the ear and sounds, the nose and smells, the tongue and tastes, the body and touches, and the mind and thoughts. This is called the all.

Mendicants, suppose someone was to say: ‘I’ll reject this all and describe another all.’ They’d have no grounds for that, they’d be stumped by questions, and, in addition, they’d get frustrated. Why is that? Because they’re out of their element.”

So in the Buddha’s teaching there is no All that not yet known in the way you appear to be suggesting.
From a more philosophical and conceptual standpoint, we can imagine and speak about all kinds of unknown places and things – but the Buddha is teaching from a standpoint of direct experience through the senses here.

Well, there are many teachings in the suttas that explicitly and implicitly deny this. If there’s thinking, which is conditional and impermanent, there’s dukkha.
SN 22.15 What’s impermanent is suffering. Yad aniccaṁ taṁ dukkhaṁ;
SN 12.125 Whatever arises and ceases is only dukkha arising and ceasing. This is how right view is defined.

This doesn’t mean we don’t or can’t think, of course, only that anything that is impermanent is not nibbāna.

I’m happy that you’re no longer burdened with debt and are feeling lighter and happier! :grinning:
However, only arahants directly realize “This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.”

May I suggest that no physicist has ever suggested an “I” in the quantum world or any other psychological or emotional factors in that domain.
The teaching of Dhamma applies to beings – mostly humans in the Pāli Canon – and is not meant to be applicable to the quantum scale and vice versa.

The 4NT’s are about suffering, dukkha, including its cause and the liberation from it.
IMHO, adding QM into the mix does not help to comprehend the cause of dukkha or aid in its ending. And that’s what the Buddha said was the purpose of his Teachings.

Just sharing some reflections here.
All best :pray:

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Thanks for your feedback. I will try to clarify what I said:

You never see me, you never see my car but my car and I are not beyond the all. That is what I mean.

I was suffering because of the debt. Now I no longer have any debt, and by wisdom, never pick up any new debt. The absence of debt is the nibbana that I experienced (This is just an example). In that absence, empty of debt, what could be impermanent when there is nothing there regarding to debt?

When I said the “I” is not found, I implied the “I” is similar to a particle in the quantum field. However, it is another topic that I do not want to bring up yet.

To me, adding quantum physics into the mix can give new direction to many current problems about tetralemma, nibbana, I have seen many arguments about those topics and they do not go anywhere.

With quantum physics, we may have a new direction to understand why craving is the problem? Why is the stilling of all formations, of all activities peaceful? We can see that the excitement of the quantum field will create its particles. Why does the quantum field get excited? What caused this excitement or disturbance? The particles are created then cease. These particles are impermanent, but the quantum field is not even if it is in constant flux. However, this is beyond my ability to explain.

With an open mind, we will see many interesting ideas. If it does not fit with our current understanding, it still gives us a new direction when we are ready for it if we do not reject it.

Hi again :pray:

Except, in a way you are when you or anything is outside the sense field of the observing mind. The Buddha’s teachings are close to Phenomenology in this aspect, though of course, not limited to philosophical or psychological domains.
What we experience through the All, the senses, is all we can directly experience and work with. Hence, the Buddha’s statement, in this context, that

I agree and understand that the absence of a burden or hindrance is sukha, happiness. It’s just that conditional happiness like this, for any of us, is not nibbāna because we haven’t yet extinguished all greed, anger, and ignorance, ( a common “description” of nibbāna in the suttas).

Certainly, you can pursue this if you wish. But may I suggest that for 2500 years, Dhamma practitioners have realized greater peace, happiness, and equanimity – and even nibbāna – without having the slightest clue about QM?

The debates on the forum, including about the Tetralemma, need not be utterly resolved to 100% agreement for people to still deepen their practices, enjoy the Dhamma while cultivating wisdom and compassion, and ultimately to realize nibbāna is all I’m suggesting here. :slightly_smiling_face:

Wishing you All the Best! :pray:

It seems like my understanding about “the all” is different than yours. Even if I never see you, I still can know that you are nothing but form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, consciousness. I never think you are anything beyond that.

However, it is nice to have some disagreements. That’s how we can improve our understanding.

Thanks for your feedback.

The sutta did said if anyone tries to posit something beyond the all, they cannot do it because it’s beyond their range.

Outside of the 5 sense fields, we can still use the mind to image/ extrapolate that the person far away is still there.

The maths of quantum superposition is exact. Just that it’s not classical. Classical means binary on off, here or there, not (complex number) here + (complex number) there

Thanks very much.

While the Sabba Sutta doesn’t mention it, I was taking “mind” as a 6th sense. Whatever we conceive or extrapolate in the mind is directly experienced only in the mind, rather than directly experiencing the “outside” objects themselves.
As in MN147 in which mind is listed along with the other senses.

" “Reverend, these five faculties have different scopes and different ranges, and don’t experience each others’ scope and range. That is, the faculties of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body. What do these five faculties, with their different scopes and ranges, have recourse to? What experiences their scopes and ranges?”

“These five faculties, with their different scopes and ranges, have recourse to the mind. And the mind experiences their scopes and ranges.”


I remember a quote from the late Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. I think he was getting ready to explain walking meditation. It went something roughly like “The real miracle is not to walk on water, but to walk the Earth (with increased awareness)”.

People s-t-r-e-t-c-h Buddhist teaching to make it seem to have some kinship to science.

The real wonder is immersing yourself in a consistent long term meditation process and living by The Four Noble Truths.

No sarcasm or disrespect meant.

If science can help to solve my problem I will not mind to use it. I think science is catching up with Buddhism.

I consider Buddhism to be one of the most important things I think about on a daily basis.

Science is absurdly ahead of explaining the natural universe than the myths in the Buddhist writings.

I am starting to think that the Four Noble Truths, The Noble Eightfold Path may be one of the most powerful mental health tools in existence, though perhaps one of hardest to understand in terms of application.

Western psychology has powerful tools to, and research seems to be promising more.

My career has problem solving as one of the dominant issues between the lines. One thing I have learned is “the right tools for the right job”. Find solutions first, then look for preferred solutions. Don’t exclude possibilities before you start.

Good luck.

It’s been a while since I read it, but I highly recommend B Alan Wallace’s book Choosing Reality (and some of his other work). Wallace actually took the time to study Physics, so his book is relatively unique in that he does know something about both Buddhism and Physics. The message I took away from his work was that it was not useful to draw conclusions on a technical level, but on the level of both modern Physics and Dhamma requiring a radical change one’s point of view to understand.

I met Wallace briefly when he gave a talk here recently and we bonded over our disappointment back in the 70s in learning that such works as “The Tao of Physics”. That particular book laid great emphasis on parallels between Eastern thought and a Physics theory which, at the time the book came out, was going out of fashion (replaced by the “Standard Model”). I presume there have been similar claims about currently fashionable theories and I would caution hitching Dhamma to those.

Thanks Mikenz66,

I brought up this topic in the hope that there will be a discussion about the topic, so I can find interesting ideas to improve my knowledge. I understand that very few people will be interested in this topic because it is abnormal and not very Buddhist. However, that is ok since I believe there will be people who will find this topic interesting.

Yes, this will require a radical change in one’s point of view to see any value in this abnormal topic.

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It’s certainly worth thinking about, but I would advise reading some books, by people who have studied both Dhamma and Physics deeply. Wallace’s book that I mentioned above is in that category. And don’t expect it to be easy. My fourth-year Physics students struggle to come to grips with Bell’s theorem and the experimental work of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics winners.

I am glad that I am not alone with my own observations. Since I like simple and easy-to-understand explanations for dummies like me rather than sophisticated theories or grammars that will blow my mind, I just found a good video on YouTube that has similar observations like mine even if there are some points that I do not totally agree with and it does not address the topic that I am presenting here. I think it is worth taking a look with an open mind.

I’m sorry, but it’s really hard to take this seriously:

This Quantum Field is the very ground from which every atom, all matter, the universe, and our very selves arise from and falls back into.

There is a similar notion within Buddhism. It is called dependent arising or Pratītyasamutpāda.

I don’t think those are accurate statements about either Physics or Dhamma.

The thinking about measurement and quantum mechanics has come a long way since the debates in the 30s between Einstein, Bhor, etc.
It’s been almost 60 years since Bell’s work changed the landscape - pointing out some issues that Einstein, Bhor, and others had missed. This led to the work recognised by the 2022 Nobel Prize, and the dawn of quantum information technology.

The material on the Nobel site is worth reading: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/2022/press-release/
See: https://www.nobelprize.org/uploads/2022/10/popular-physicsprize2022-3.pdf

The first quantum revolution gave us transistors and lasers, but we are now entering a new era thanks to contemporary tools for manipulating systems of entangled particles.

And there are many interesting videos out there that make a good attempt to explain the issues:

These experiments rule out certain ideas about “local realism” and what you can know about certain quantum systems before you make the measurements. With some imagination one could start comparing these ideas with what the Dhamma says about how we perceive things. I’m not convinced that this is actually helpful in understanding the Dhamma, apart from the obvious observation that understanding either requires a radical change in how we think.

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