The Dalai Lama on Quantum Physics and Spirituality
The Dalai Lama believes that the connection between quantum physics and spirituality is obvious. According to the world-renowned spiritual guide and teacher, all of the atoms in your body include part of the ancient canvas that used to make up the universe. You’re stardust, connected biologically to all living creatures. You’re made of invisible, humming energy, connected all at once to everything that exists.
Science and spirituality haven’t always co-existed harmoniously. In the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment, it was very dangerous to be a scientist or talk about scientific principles. Society at the time was dominated by the Church, and anything else was heresy (one example is the sad story of Giordano Bruno). These days, the scientific world criticizes spiritual ideas and theories.
To claim that these two traditionally opposing worlds are suddenly in harmony would be an overstatement. However, now there are proposals that link these two ideas in new ways that invite you to reflect. Buddhist philosophy, for example, provides a framework for exploring a fascinating and complex area of science: quantum physics.
The Dalai Lama
The first time anyone brought these two concepts together was in 2015 in New Delhi. The Dalai Lama went to a two-day conference about quantum physics and Madhyamaka philosophy where a group of physicists and scientists from diverse fields looked for commonalities between different subjects. They believed that finding these commonalities would further enrich human knowledge.
“When I was about 19 or 20, I developed a curiosity about science that had begun with an interest in mechanical things and how they worked. In China, in 1954/5, I met Mao Zedong several times. Once he commended me for having a scientific mind, adding that religion was poison, perhaps presuming that this would appeal to someone who was ‘scientific minded’.
Thirty years ago, I began a series of dialogues focusing on cosmology, neurobiology, physics, including quantum physics, and psychology. These discussions have been largely of mutual benefit. Scientists have learned more about the mind and emotions, while we have gained a subtler explanation of the matter.”
The Connection between Quantum Physics and Spirituality
The theories that connect quantum physics and spirituality aren’t new, nor come only from the Dalai Lama. Another resource on the subject is the book Science and Spirituality: A Quantum Integration by Amit Goswami. Goswami is a retired professor from the University of Oregon’s Department of Physics and the pioneer of a new scientific paradigm that seeks to lay the foundation for a conscious science.
Fritjof Capra is another well-known scientist. He’s from Austria and researches subatomic physics. He’s best known for his work The Tao of Physics (1975), which slightly opened up the academic world to the spiritual world. Given all of these developments, it’s reasonable to say that Buddhist philosophy and physics are closer than they used to be.
In fact, physicists such as Raja Ramanna, who passed away a few years ago, was famous for his role in nuclear development in India. In his later years, he became interested in the work of philosopher Nagarjuna and discovered something amazing. Much of what the founder of the Madhyamika School of Mahayana Buddhism said touched on principles of quantum physics.
Let’s take a look at what the Dalai Lama talked about in his 2015 conference in India.
What’s Quantum Physics?
- The term quantum refers to the smallest possible quantity of energy. As such, what quantum mechanics seek is to understand the phenomenology of the atom and also the elemental particles that make up the atom.
- This field was born in the 20th century and scientists such as Max Planck established many of the theories that we know today.
- Quantum physics is an important and complex discipline. It seeks to define and understand that which you can’t see or measure. Quantum physicists try to comprehend the indeterminism that’s part of the particles that make up our reality. Thanks to quantum physics, we now know that if you looked at an atom under a microscope, you’d see a small tornado. In this tornado, quarks and photons spin around and around.
If you get even closer to the atom, you’d discover something more amazing: a vacuum. That’s because atoms have no physical structure. They’re made of invisible energy, not tangible material. The idea that we’re made of energy is one of the pillars of the connection between quantum physics and spirituality.
Consciousness Beyond the Physical
Today, you can find countless books with the term “quantum” in the title in almost any bookstore. The quantum mind, quantum psychology, quantum healing, etc. It’s as if this mysterious micro world was suddenly orchestrating many of our daily activities.
Nevertheless, the connection between quantum physics and spirituality is still relevant due to the principles that the Dalai Lama laid out during his conference:
- Quantum physics demonstrates that energy is beyond everything tangible and material. Buddhism has always defended this idea and the need to transcend the physical in order to give your consciousness more relevance. At the end of the day, your mental impressions are what shape and form your reality. You are what you think, and what you think shapes your surroundings.
Your Mind is a Creator
- Amit Goswami, the physics professor we mentioned earlier in the article, teaches that the behavior of microparticles changes depending on what the observer does. When an observer looks, there’s a type of wave. When the experimenter doesn’t act, there’s no change.
That demonstrates how sensitive atoms are to everything that we do. Buddhism also stresses this same concept: your emotions and thoughts define you and your reality.
Within every atom, you can find part of the stardust that comes from the very beginning of the universe. In some way, as the Dalai Lama says, we’re all connected and form part of the same essence. Understanding this connection can help us understand the importance of being good. That’s because everything you do reverberates in the universe and comes back to you.
In conclusion, the connection between quantum physics and spirituality invites you to see this area of science through a very different lens. It’s a more subjective perspective, perhaps. Although orthodox minds mind not accept it, it still deserves our attention.
“The stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter; we’re beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as a creator and governor of the realm of matter.”