On October 29, 2016, Ven. Xianjia met the theoretical physicist, Shantena Augusto Sabbadini at Beijing Longquan Monastery. A specialist in quantum physics, Professor Sabbadini is interested in traditional Chinese culture and the interface between mind and matter, consciousness and the phenomenal world; Ven. Xianjian is a doctoral graduate in hydraulic engineering from Tsinghua University.
Professor Sabbadini was given a tour around the monastery and then had a thought-provoking talk with Ven. Xianjia on the overlapping world views of Buddhism and quantum physics.
Both Ven. Xianjia and Professor Sabbadini agreed that quantum physics and Buddhism are conceptually very similar. In Professor Sabbadini’s view, the appearance of the solid world is the result of our embodied observation of the world. Thus quantum reality is the superposition of many different realities, in which everything is entangled and perceived from the inside of us. Though the world appears as multiple, separate objects, there is no separation from the perspective of quantum physics. Ven. Xianjia explained that from the Buddhist perspective, the objects, namely the external materials, are the deepest manifestation of our eighth consciousness, which, on the one hand, is not just the result of one individual consciousness but the consciousness of all living beings. However, as an individual, we perceive the world as different and separate when in fact our heart and mind has the capacity to impact the whole universe. Because we are attached to our body, our mind and heart is trapped by the constraints of our ego. Yet we, as humans, have the potential to affect the world with our thoughts and our actions; our mind and our consciousness are connected to and influenced by others’ mind and others’ consciousness. For many people, it is difficult to recognize when they hurt others but when they do so, they hurt themselves as in return.
The discussion then went to probe into the question of how consciousness created the world and what laws this creation followed. Ven. Xianjia indicated that every universe has a cycle of birth, growth and an end. The birth of the universe is co-created by the merits and vows of the Buddhas and Buddhisattavas as well as the collective karma of all relevant sentient beings. Professor Sabbadini added that, from the perspective of science there is a clear implication that it was a big bang which initiated the beginning of this universe. Yet there was also a thought or some type of speculation. This universe might be a bubble inside another universe. We are very far from fully understanding or directly experiencing this but he reflected that it was very similar to the Buddha's image of universe. Professor Sabbadini concluded that it was valuable for quantum physics to break the preconceived model of reality. Unfortunately, the risk is that this understanding remains confined to the technical world and does not spread into wider life. He said life was a practice. This talk tried to bridge the gap between modern science and Buddhism.
More details of the dialogue will be posted in the near future. Stay tuned.