Niels Bohr and the Buddha “Awareness or Creation”


“Everything we call real is made up of things that cannot be regarded as real” Niels Bohr. To a Buddhist, this is music to our ears. It sounds very much like the teachings of emptiness. To some, the concept of emptiness is troublesome and it can be hard to wrap your mind around it. It has been described by some very early Christian translations to mean nothingness. This makes us Buddhists sound like nihilists. This was likely done on purpose as to discredit, to falsely portray, or confront Buddhism and further the creation myth by the Church and her missionaries. However, Buddhism is as far from nihilism as Christians are from hell. We define emptiness by saying that all phenomena have no intrinsic or independent existence of their own. To detail this teaching classicly we need to discuss the twelve points of dependent origination. But to make things easy I will simply try to answer that age-old question “if a tree falls in the forest does anyone hear it?” For example, let us take something beautiful like a rose. Does a rose really exist? Another way to ask this is to say does the rose exist independently in and of itself? In Buddhist Philosophy for something to really exist it must be independent of all other phenomena. The answer is no, the rose does not exist independently of anything, it is as we know dependant on sunlight for example. One step further and we see that there is no sunlight without the sun. There is no sun without the sun’s ongoing nuclear reactions and no reactions without Helium and Hydrogen. We see here that rose is empty of independent existence. Or as some might say the rose is an expression of emptiness or empty in nature or essence. We agree with Niels Bohr and we understand the rose to be real but it is not.
Is there another way that we can understand the rose to not exist independently? Yes, if the rose is to be considered to be real and independent it must exist as it does now without changing. It cannot grow, bloom, and we could not even cut one from the plant as it would die and rot away. We know this independence to be false because the rose changes in every moment fully dependent on all the conditions it requires to be as it is. This is also understood as impermanence, as no thing lasts forever.

Now if I stop here I can imagine that some of you might say, “see this is Nihilism no things exist in Buddhism. And you might be right, however, I am reminded of a quote from a famous Buddhist Philosopher Nagarjuna, who said “If you think things are real you are as dumb as a cow, if you think they are not real you are even dumber” If you think trains are not real please do not stand in front of one that’s moving, as you will be suddenly surprised. We know phenomena are there because we can perceive them and be aware of them, they are however dependent on our perception and awareness. The famous double slit experiment is good evidence of this. Our observation imparts a temporary existence to them as we observe them. Just as the waveform collapses into particles that we can perceive as we observe them. They arise, exist, and dissolve back into the space or the field where all information exists as space is information. It would seem that we give phenomena their essence or that our observation is responsible for their creation. When we look around and see the sheer complexity and beauty around us it is clear that life is amazing and so full of potential and joy. We just need to slow down and simply pay attention to it; this is what we learn in meditation. So clearly Buddhists are not nihilists. Now for one to think that the traditional biblical creation myth we talked about earlier as the truth, one needs to assume that all of creation was finished after just 6 days. I firmly understand that it is preposterous and hubris to think anything other than, that creation is continuous and infinite. And when you come this far you might just see yourself as an integral part in all of it.

So the falling tree in the forest is dependent on the sun, the rain, and many other conditions around it not the least of which is us. Without someone to notice it there simply is no meaning or reason for the tree to exist in the first place.

“If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.” Niels’ words here are truly inspiring, I would expand to say this: If Buddhism hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet. The more I learn the more I am shocked by the Buddha Dharma. I am often moved to tears when concepts like emptiness finally begin to sink in and are understood on deeper and deeper levels. I am convinced that Niels Bohr must have understood things in a similar fashion or he would not have said what he said.



Is Buddhism a Religion or a Scientifically measurable experience?


As part of the scientific process, we ask a question, formulate a hypothesis design the experiment and carry it out and measure the result as objectively as possible. It’s the same in meditation. In the sceince of mind, the laboratory of traditional Buddhist meditation we look within ourselves as objectively as we can and observe our mind and inner being while listening for the wisdom and answers that are already there deep within our personal inner universe. We then apply this new found wisdom found in our meditation and look for and measure results in our daily lives we are often surprised to see how wonderfully we have changed and developed during our life experience.

So let’s begin our meditation experiment:
A traditional well thought out Buddhist meditation can be comprised of two main parts. In the first part called shine (shyiné), shamatha, or calming and abiding we find ourselves learning to hold our attention using our body, speech, and mind, in fact, we can use our entire totality here and calmly stay on one point of beautiful focus. When distracted we calmly accept and return without any ado. After sufficient time, we can be flexible here, we relax our calm focus and allow our full being to either become one with the object of the focus or to dissolve the object of the focus from its state of energy and light into wide-open awareness. After a few moments of open suchness, called laktong (lhagthong), insight, or vipassana we gently return to our normal state of awareness and wish that all beings can find a state of equanimity free from attachment and aversion.

So thankfully much of the preparation for the experiment has already been done during the 1000’s of years of yogis meditating and teaching others in the many traditions passed down from teacher to student in the far east. This is an important clue here, as with science every student needs a qualified professor to question and keep one on track, meditation requires a good teacher, one who understands western life and can communicate and direct the student at all points in the process of inner development is indispensable.

Once we understand the process and have our clearly stated hypothesis such as “meditation is a healthy way to increase my quality of life”, we begin. And sit and sit and sit……..




Are you still sitting?



What are the results? Well, they vary as much as individuals are individual, and while we should not try to grade or evaluate the meditation too much, but generally hindsight of a few weeks to many years shows some profound results. What are the more general results?:
1. Calm and relaxed behaviour.
2. Quiet acceptance of our situation.
3. Stress reduction
4. Space in mind to choose between tragedy or comedy within the challenges in life.
5. Ubiquitous love for all beings.
6. Compassion.

The open laktong, space, or suchness phase of the meditation is where I have many of my best ideas and inspirations. The calm breathing and focusing follows me throughout the day and helps me complete my tasks at hand with love and sometimes creativity as well.

As with any experiment, unexpected results may arise. It is best to chat with your trusted professor or Lama as to how or why the results have occurred. Allow yourself to incorporate their advice into your personal experience and grow. Just like Quantum Physics is not for everyone and you might be better suited for some sort of Biology or Chemical studies, meditation is not for everyone. A good teacher will know if you are in the right place and may recommend yoga or even just mundane like running if meditation is not for you.
There may be challenges and hindrances that arise and a good teacher can guide you through them. One common one is “I just cannot quieten my mind or the hamster never stops running in his wheel” This “condition” is commonly called “monkey brain” and everyone suffers from it especially in the beginning. When we begin to look inside we start to see just how distracted we are all the time it’s not more or less than normal we just notice it for the first time, and it will subside.
It is also worthwhile mentioning that some individuals who suffer from deep depression or any type of psychosis should likely not meditate or do so only under the supervision of their therapist.

Thank you, have an amazing meditative and joyful day



The Mahamudra of Max Plank


As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clearheaded science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about the atoms this much: There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. . . . We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.

Das Wesen der Materie (The Nature of Matter), a 1944 speech in Florence, Italy.

“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”

As quoted in The Observer (25 January 1931)

We have been ignoring modern science for more than 100 years now in the struggle against impermanence of all things composite. We glorify everything material and honour those who can amass the most. We could not be moving in a such a completely wrong direction as a species, how could we misunderstand or even ignore such a clear and concise description of the material world, from one of the most preeminent minds ever, as this? What did Max see on his blackboard filled with equations erased and scratched over once again that could lead him to such a profound observation such as this? After his years of study experimentation and research and this is how he sums it all up in the final years before the end of his life by saying consciousness is the root of all there is, there is no thing behind it.

Let us compare his summary to that of another scientist, not a normal scientist but a scientist of the mind, the third Karmapa. Rangjung Dorje born in Tingri Tibet in 1284. He studied mind within the laboratory of meditation. His professors were highly respected monks from a very long tradition of mind exploration dating back more than two thousand years earlier to old India, the birthplace of modern science. Well, we haven’t recognized it as such yet but one day we must, the Greeks as great as their minds were, only recycled what they had learned in the east, and claimed much of it as their own. Anyway, I digress. Karmapa wrote a song of Mahamudra, I put forward two verses for our comparison of these two masters of intellect.

Verse 9: All phenomena are projections of the mind. Mind is not “a” mind; the mind is empty in essence. Although empty, everything constantly arises in it. May precise examination sever mistaken views of the ground.


Verse 18: Through the examination of external objects we see the mind, not the objects. Through the examination of the mind we see its empty essence, but not the mind. Through the examination of both, attachment to duality disappears by itself. May the clear light, the true essence of mind, be recognized.

So we can surmise from both Max and the Karmapa that everything comes from mind. Max did not say where things go when they cease to exist but today we can logically infer that they must go back to where they have come from, as the Karmapa said.

Don’t you find this comparison interesting, from two totally different times and sources that are saying almost the same thing. It begs us to look deeper and just outside but within as well.