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.




Superposition may be defined as : The quantum mechanical property of a particle to occupy all of its possible states simultaneously. This property of multiple coexisting states of existence persists until the superposition is measured, observed, or interacted with. Superposition is classically explained by Schrödinger’s Cat. A cat is imagined as being enclosed in a box with a radioactive source and a poison that will be released when the source (unpredictably) emits radiation, the cat being considered (according to quantum mechanics) to be simultaneously both dead and alive until the box is opened and the cat observed. Its kind of a funny thing to think about, but it begs a few important questions.

  1. What role does the observer play not only in science, but in perception in general?
  2. What roles do subject, object, and action, the three sub parts of observation, really play in our awareness in meditation?
  3. What are Buddhists attempting to observe in meditation, is this all the same thing?

The buddhist perspective might be that everything in the universe is constantly in super position until mind perceives it or consciousness collapses the wave front and all the possibilities condense into one. One might even say that to a Buddhist all possibilities exist in every situation we experience.

We can say that all possibilities exist within mind, and mind being no thing, is beyond our normal observation but not beyond meditation. When subject, object, and action come together within the meditation we witness the inseparability of ourselves and others. We attempt or practice to do this in the meditation and to then bring it forth in our daily lives. This is commonly called being in the moment or mindfulness. We use these phrases daily almost flippantly while ignoring their much deeper meaning.

The Sanskrit word Mahamudra is a state reached by meditation. Mahamudra could be defined in two parts; as Maha or super and mudra or position. If there are any Sanskrit experts out there, I am curious as to your thoughts on this. Please understand that my Sanskrit is often colored by my understanding of Tibetan and a very good Indian friend.  Mahamudra has been the subject of many beautiful and cryptic songs or prose in Tibet since 1000 ad. The realization of mahamudra is enlightenment. Our goal in Buddhism is to discover our true potential. This true potential is Enlightenment.

Do you agree, or feel otherwise? Or perhaps you have something to add?