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Lions Roar : September 2005
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2005 4 3 presented by physics professor Vic Mansfield as part of the Namgyal Buddhism and Science Dialogue. Referring to a meeting in 1998 with the Dalai Lama at the Institute for Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, Zajonc says, “We really worked on the nature of reality, why things look the way they look, when deep down they are actually quite different.” This question relates to two “problems” in modern physics. The first is the nonlocality problem: in the so-called “macro” world, we think of objects as discrete and unconnected, but at the quantum level, there really are no objects; every- thing is intimately connected with everything else. The second is the meas- urement problem: at the quantum level, the data that comes back to you is com- pletely different depending on the ques- tion. It’s as if you were to ask a person, “Are you a boy?” and they say yes, but when you ask, “Are you a girl?” they also say yes. This kind of breakdown in logic has caused physicists to regard the quantum arena as random, despite Einstein’s retort that “God does not play dice with the universe.” Buddhists and cosmologists can also get into a tangle on the beginning of the universe, since Buddhists are into beginninglessness. At the same time, notions of time seem to provide a point of convergence, since many Buddhist teachings upset conventional notions of time in the same way as the principle of relativity does. Just like the mind scientists, Zajonc does not seem motivated by figuring out who’s right. In his book, he describes many points in dialogues when everyone breaks into peals of sponta- neous laughter. “It’s amazing,” Zajonc says. “It literally breaks you up. It breaks up your ideas and leaves a kind of humor. Nonlocality, randomness, interdependence—these are like quantum koans. If you try to think them out in a conventional way, you will fail. Sometimes I think one needs a new level of insight to be able to put your mind around them. Furthermore, our technological advancement far outstrips our ethical devel- opment, our capacity to make sound judgments about what we’ve unleashed.” On this point, Zajonc is passionate. “At the beginning of our scientific revolution,” he says, “there was division of labor. Science would take care of natural knowledge. All ethical examine what they have been taught and they commonly trust what they are told by a teacher by “evaluating all sides of their character.” He says that faith has a place in life, but not blind faith. The average person is constantly holding beliefs because “they accept the competence of those who provide the information.” He believes that “many people need to hear information about meditation from people they deem com- petent.” His book The Case for Happiness, now being translat- ed into English, is part of that cam- paign. “I am willing,” he says, “to take a few trips a year to the States from Nepal to spend a few weeks on this research. It is time well spent, if I can serve as a bridge between worlds. The culture is training people’s minds in one direction right now. They need to see that another direction is possible.” IN HIS CONCLUDING statement in The Quantum and the Lotus, Ricard says that one of the main reasons that “science has been led into a dialogue with Buddhism” is the dilemma that has emerged through quantum mechanics and relativity of “trying to reconcile the apparent reality of the macrocosm with the disappearance of solid reality as soon as we enter the world of particles.” Arthur Zajonc (rhymes with science), editor of The New Physics and Cosmology: Dialogues with the Dalai Lama, is a physicist who has peered, at times side by side with the Dalai Lama, into the topsy-turvy world that lies far beneath the naked eye. Zajonc notes that there is a kind of natural kinship between Buddhism and neuroscience, since Buddhism has had so much to say about the mind and can provide reliable evidence of effectiveness. “When you switch over to the physical sci- ences,” he says, “you are in a very different territory.” Buddhism could be said to offer a science of the mind, but there is noth- ing in Buddhism that looks much like the highly mathematical world of Western physics. If physics were limited to predicting what happens when a hammer hits a nail, there wouldn’t be much to talk about, but because physicists since Einstein have strayed into looking into the nature of reality, it engages the philosophical side of Buddhism and doctrines like emptiness of inherent nature and codependent origination. The philo- sophical convergences lead to seminars like “Quantum Nonlocality & Emptiness in Madhyamika Prasangika,” recently of itself no different from any other materialist reductionist doctrine.” Arthur Zajonc continued on page 93