Musaavaada, Patta-Pal-Boru and the Holographic Universe.
Posted on April 7th, 2015
By Bodhi Dhanapala, Quebec, Canada
My article in the Lankaweb (Apri 5, 2015 entitled “Is it Dhanapala’s confusion or Dr. Nalin de Silva’s confusion? Who considers Science, Mathematics and large parts of Buddhism as “Patta-Pal-Boru”?) has elicited a number of thought-provoking comments which need a serious reply. So, thanking the authors of those comments, I present here a brief response based on the most recent thinking in science, as far as I can ascertain them.
Let me first deal with simpler matters. There is a tendency to paraphrase Einstein and actually misquote him in a way that often brings out the opposite of what Einstein meant to say. “Neela-Maha-Yodhaya” says “ Nalin’s Patta-Pal-Boru has already been captured by the words of Albert Einstein;
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one”.
The actual quote from Einstein is “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”(see en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein ).
In order to be accurate, we need to also look at what Dr. Nalin de Silva said. [“බුදුදහමට අනුව අපේ (පෘථග්ජනයන්ගේ) සියළු සංකල්ප, ප්රවාද ඇතුළත් දැනුම මුසා වෙයි.]. It is because I am a practicing Buddhist that I asked myself the following question. If I accept Dr. Silva’s claim that everything known by Pruthagjana is a musa, then I know that what I (a pruthagjana) say to you or write to you is a Musa, so if I say it or write it, I am violating the “Musaavaadaa veramani” precept. The commentator using the name “Independent” fails to appreciate this simple fact. Furthermore, Dr. Nalin S, himself a pruthagjana, cannot say that anything stated by a pruthgjna is a lie because it is a self-referential statement that negates itself”. No one respecting even logic would utter self-referential statements. So given “Independent’s” statement, and Dr. Nalin de Silva’s statement, one must must ask who is being illogical?
“Independent” essentially tells us that he “knows” the etymology of the word Prathyaksha and also “Patichcha”. Independent says “Paticcha” – in Pali means dependence, a completely different meaning”, without referring us to any authority on the Pali language. The Pali dictionary ://dictionarysutta.org/ tells us that paticcca has the etymology prathi+eethya, implying going to (eethya) causes (prathya). Thus prathayaksha knowledge, ( which is a more sanskritzed prakrit form) means “knowledge where we have understood the causes”. Mere association of two things does not imply understanding them. It is when the causes are understood that we have “prathyaksha knowledge”. So, the meaning of the terms “Prathyaksha knowledge” in Buddhism is completely different from the “directly perceived knowledge” interpretation given by Dr. Silva, on his own authority and not based on any discussion of Pali or Prakirt sources. I believe that Dr. Silva is influenced by modern existentialist philosophers, and imagines that “Prathyaksha” has some thing to do with the eye and “sense data” from the organs (he says: “එහි නිරුක්තියට අක්ෂි යන්න වැදගත් වුවත් ප්රත්යක්ෂ සෑම ඉන්ද්රියක් සම්බන්ධයෙන් ම … මනස එක්වීමෙන් ද ප්රත්යක්ෂ ලැබෙයි.). There is no support what so ever for this linking “Prathyaksa” with the eye in any Pali etymology source. If there is such support he should produce it.
Furthermore, “independent” says “The enlightened being knows there is only observance but no person.” However, if we accept Dr. Silva’s interpretation, if the Independent is a pruthagjana, what ever Independent is saying must be a Musava (a lie).
Rejecting mys statement that “Buddhism does NOT say that there is no pudgala” (person). Buddhism has said that there is no UNCHANGING person or unchanging soul”
Independent reacts “Where did you learn that ? There are no ‘souls’ in Buddhism , may be it is stated Dhanapala’s religion”.
Buddhists believe in a consciousness that passes from one birth to another, but no permanent unchanging soul. This incessantly changing “consciousness” replaces the unchanging soul of many other faiths that accept an eternal soul. But Buddhism does not deny the existence of such a changing consciousness. It is in fact explained to be a concatenation of Naama-Roopa linked by causal processes. It is this changing nama-rupa sequence that is “the person” who travels samsaara. In many discourses of the Buddha, he identifies himself in his previous births as a Bodhisatva, and even goes so far as to identify the persons around him like Aajasatta and who he was in a previous birth, and how Ajaasatta was an enemy of the Buddha in that previous birth too. So, personal identities are recognized even as they evolve in Samsrara while they changes incessantly. So why does Dr. Nalin de Silva reject these clear statements found in many many Buddhist discourses? Given Dr. Silva’s interpretation of Buddhism, he cannot even identify Mirisavatiya and Dutugamunu, while Buddhist texts routinely make identifications going even into previous births.
There are many misconceptions about consciousness, anatta, mind-body problem etc in Buddhism, and it is no surprising that what Dr. Nalin de Silva has written (as a short remark within an article on science) is not accurate. A well-known Buddhist commentator known as Bhikkhu Samahitha (://What-Buddha-Said.net) also wrote a series of tracts on such matters and as there were major errors, I attempted to corrected his errors. In the end he conceded his errors and withdrew from the discussion, agreeing with me that the mind-brain question belong to the questions that the Buddha chose to not to discuss. You may read that discussion at the blog: this-life-buddhism.blogspot.ca/2011/08/early-buddhist-sermons-are-independent.html?spref=tw
Mr. Senevirathna says that the Buddha has recommended renunciation as these other things extend our sojourn in Samsaara. Indeed that is so and perhaps Mr. Senevirathna is at least a prospective anagarika who proposes to renounce he world.. But this discussion is for us who are recognized in the Singaalovada suthra as those who lead a gruha-jeevaka life, and others who have not renounced the world to become ascetics.
NeelaMahaYodhaya brings in a valuable contribution by referring to the ideas of Prof. David Bohm, and also in high-lighting the underlying “holographaic character” of the universe. These things need some explanation for the reader. In fact, I too was not aware of some aspects of these matters until I read a modern exposition of Bohm’s quantum theory in Dr. Dharmawardana’s recent book entitled “A Physicist’s view of Matter and Mind (World Scientific 2013)”. So let us thank NeelaMahaYodhaya for bringing this up.
I already pointed out that NeelaMahaYodhaya’s Einstein quote, when traced to the source, means a different thing. NeelaMY’s presentation of Bohm’s ideas also needs revision. Prof. Bohm is well known for insisting that the external world exists, and providing for an “ontological interpretation of the quantum theory”. He re-wrote the quantum equations in a way where particles simultaneously have both position and momentum, just as in the ordinary intuitive world codified by Galelio and Newton. So you can use Newton’s equations to describe how a quantum particle goes through a hard wall containing two slits, one slit at a time, and yet produce the diffraction pattern required by quantum mechanics. It is the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics that was used prior to Bohm’s quantum mechanics that gave rise to the impression that the real world is merely an illusion. So NeelaMY’s statement that Bohm “claimed that objective reality does not exist, that despite its apparent solidity the universe is at heart a phantasm,…” is to ascribe to Bohm the very non-ontological ideas of some members of the Copenhagan school. Dr. Nalin de Silva’s ideas are those of the Copenhagen school and not those of the objective school of David Bohm. But Dr. Silva would claim that quantum mechanics in any form is just “Patta-Pal-Boru”, as he has to reject all “abstract constructions” be they in mathematics, science, humanities, Buddhism or any other philosophic system. Professor Dharmawardana in his article entitled “Nay-Sayers of Science” that appeared in the Lankaweb had stated a similar critique of Dr. Silva’s views that reject all abstract knowledge.
Now let us discuss this “hologram” idea. Let us consider a hologram of a person’s face. It is an optical image where, even if you cut off a part of the picture, e.g., cut off the left side of the face, the remaining part still shows not only the right side, but also the missing left side. Of course the missing side is shown rather more faintly than prior to mutilation. In fact, even a 1/100 part of the image is enough to see the whole image, although now most of it would be only 1% in brightness. The while point is, every part of the hologram has embedded in it the phase relations coming from the whole object, in the sense that the microcosm contains the macrocosm in it. This fanciful idea is actually realized by science in constructing holograms. So holograms are not “phantasies” as perhaps implied by NeelaMahaYodhaya. It is used in optical data storage in a special types of compact computer discs, and in many other everyday applications of technology.
In Bohm’s Quantum theory, the quantum particles move just like marbles, but acted on by a quantum potential which guides the particles. In the case of the two-slit experiment, it guides the particles through one or the other of the two slits, as explained in a research paper by Bohm and Hiley. I find a good discussion of these “quantum potentials” in sec. 6.7.1 of Dr. Dharmawardana’s book that I already referred to. He explains how quantum potentials arise from the “boundary conditions” imposed on the differential equations that govern physics, and hence carry non-local information and phase relations. The ‘non-local” quantum potentials are the basis of the thesis of the “The undivided universe: An ontological interpretation of the quantum theory” by David Bohm and Basil Hiley.
The existence of being in step with each other (phase relations) and with the surroundings that is found valid for quantum particles is understandable when we remember that they have wave properties and see their surroundings by their waves. This idea was used by de Broglie in his concept of “pilot waves” that is at the heart of the Bohm potentials. If the de Broglie wavelength L of a particle is large, it sees other quantum particles and forms entangled states or superpositions. Such entangled many-particle states are known as Schrodinger’s cat states. These are NOT phantasies, but perfectly real objects that can be created in the laboratory and also exist in the formation of every chemical bond.
However, another very important thing is emphasized in Dr. Dharmawardana’s book that (I have not seen emphasized in other books). Namely, that almost all discussions of the philosophical basis of the quantum theory are given for quantum mechanics done at zero temperature. Dr. Dharmawardana points out (see his equation 7.13) that the de Borglie wavelength L of a particle of mass m in a room at the temperature T is given by L=h/sqrt(3mT) where h is Planck’s constant (divided by 2 pi) and T is in energy units. When this is calculated, even for a common oxygen atom, or for a big object like a cat, it is found to be very very small. So the quantum entanglements, holographic effects etc., simply don’t manifest unless the particles are very very close, as in a what-dwarf star. But for very light particles like electrons the value of L is large enough to allow the formation of chemical bonds which are of the order of a nanometer.
That is, the phase relations needed for the holographic effects rapidly undergo decoherence at any realistic temperature (e.g., above even one degree kelvin). Furthermore, according to a theory by Gelmann and others, there is decoherence even at zero temperature. Another theory of decoherence, arising from gravitational effects and general relativity have been given by Prof. Roger Penrose. But this has been criticized by other scientists, and a discussion of these topics and new criticisms are given in Sec. 7.5.3 of Dr. Dharmawardana’s book. Other modern books should also discuss these ideas, but I have alluded to this book as I have now become familiar with it. However, I must add that the book by Baggot referred to by Dr. Nalin de Silva does not consider the very important effects of temperature on coherence, holographic effects etc., and discusses only the academically important but unrealistic case of a zero temperature physical world.
Mr. Thayabaran in commenting on my article says that Buddhism reduces everything to “Nothingness”. As far as I am aware, this is not true. Buddhism reduces everything to Naama, and rupa, but both these exist and not “nothing”. Nama seems to be mental events, while rupa is what we usually mean by physical events, and living organisms seem to involve both these. However, according to Buddhist texts, there seems to be also worlds which have only form (rupa) and other which have no form but only nama. Of course, our world has both nama and rupa. Buddhist cosmology is very similar to that of other Indian cosmologies of the 5th century before the common era. It claims that there are 31 heavenly abodes above the earth, and four hells below the earth (underground), all this comprising a Chakravaala or a universe. There are many such universes. The origin of the universe, and weather it came from nothing or not, are the metaphysical questions that the Buddha refused to discuss.