John Wheeler,​ Are we Observing or could we actually be Participating in the Universe?

” ‘Participant’ is the incontrovertible new concept given by quantum mechanics. It strikes down the ‘observer’ of classical theory, the man who stands safely behind the thick glass wall and watches what goes on without taking part. It can’t be done, quantum mechanics says it…May the universe in some sense be ‘brought into being’ by the participation of those who participate?”

John Wheeler

 

This statement from John Wheeler is game-changing. The movement from static observer status to that of a dynamic conscious participant is truly revolutionary or is it? Science is often slow to react to such outrageous ideas such as this. Remember how long it took us to accept that the earth was a sphere and that it orbited around the sun? Even Quantum Physics had taken its time in the last 100 years to become a household word where many have a basic understanding of at least some the simplest ideas it has proposed to mankind. How would science test John Wheeler’s aforementioned statement other than referring to the famous double slit experiment? How would one propose to observe the participation of the observer on a universal scale and in a scientific frame? This question has many philosophical ramifications as well. But when we want to explore these scientific and philosophical ideas perhaps we do not need to reinvent the wheel. Perhaps the Hermitic axiom of as above so below or as outside so inside might help us here to understand this very complex relationship we find ourselves in. If the answers we are seeking can be found within then we need’ent look further than to understand the Buddha Dharma and Adhyatma Vidya. The Science of Mind has for 1000’s of years clearly pointed out our conscious interactions with the form-based or objective world that we find ourselves in.

As a practitioner of the Buddha Dharma, I have come to understand observation and participation quite intimately. I observe my mind daily; both in everyday situations and in meditation. I examine my actions after I do them and I examine how thoughts arise, exist, and return to mind in meditation. I know that Buddha nature is in everyone and everywhere, and all living beings want to be happy and avoid suffering. I understand that we are participating in consciousness, both karmically and actively by choosing not only what we do and how we do it but how we see and understand everything around us. I have also grown to know freedom and wisdom very well. Freedom in both mind and in the world is the underlying cause of great bliss and joy. Wisdom and deep understanding are knowing not only how to do something but why, if, or when it needs to be done.

For example, the Buddha Dharma teaches us that there are 4 factors that maximize the effects of karma. They are 1) That we know and understand the situation, 2) Wish or plan to do it or wish or plan to have it done 3) Then do the act or have it done, and 4) Being happy or satisfied about the results afterwards. Let us examine two slightly extreme examples. The first, both before and during WW2 Adolf Hitler was chancellor of Germany no one should have had a better understanding of Germany’s situation better than him. He and his government planned the return of Germany to the top of the world stage. Then the plan was methodically enacted step by step. I think that even in his death Hitler was happy and proud of what he had done. Here all four factors of Karma are strongly realised. The next example is related but fictional. Let’s suppose that I was alive in Hitler’s time and I killed him before the first concentration camp opened up. I knew and understood the situation, I planned the act of his assassination and then carried it out. I was devastated to have killed someone but undeniably happy to have saved millions of lives and untold suffering. So here as well all four criteria are met for the strongest karmic imprints in one’s mind. OK perhaps, they are 95% met as I was not happy to have killed in the first place, but I was only happy with the result. Does this 5% make a big difference here? Of course, there is and its a question of wisdom and compassion.

Buddhism teaches us that there needs to be a balance between our actions of compassion and wisdom. When one acts or participates only with compassion we are soft and even mushy. We can be slow to stand up and act in ineffective ways. I think we all know how cold and hard pure wisdom can be. Imagine telling a loved one or family member the truth about something hurtful but in a direct and unloving way. Wisdom and compassion show us how to be loving and effective in the world. Sometimes the most compassionate thing to do is to act with wisdom and kill the Hitlers of this world or stand up and protect others and our freedoms that are constantly under attack. The question is one of motivation, do we act from love or anger do we benefit only ourselves or do we benefit all? Understanding the mindful identification of what is driving our participation in the universe is a central tenant of the Buddha Dharma. I would challenge everyone reading this to think about how your actions resonate not only within your personal lives but on a universal scale as well. Don’t just observe but participate actively for the benefit of all. Be the change we want to see in the world. Be the change that this world so desperately needs.

May the universe you”bring into being”by your conscious, active, and mindful participation be one of great bliss.

May all beings know and live in freedom and have the causes of freedom.

QP

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