Author Topic: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words  (Read 4551 times)

Offline Kenneth Chan

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Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« on: May 14, 2016, 06:35:20 am »
Although Einstein did not realize it, the theory of relativity provides proof that our science is actually a science of how we experience the universe, and not a science of a universe "out there" that is independent of us as conscious observers. This reflects the Buddha’s words that “mind precedes all phenomena.” Relativity tells us that mind even precedes time and space.

This observer-dependent nature of our science actually explains why the speed of light is constant. If scientists continue to insist that the conscious observer has no role to play in their science, they would be like the prisoners in Plato's Allegory of the Cave, who have no idea that they are trapped by their perceptual limitations.

All this can be proved to be true because of the theory of relativity, and the explanation for this can be found at http://kenneth-chan.com/physics/why-relativity-exists/   (I need to provide this link because the explanation is too long to insert into one post. The explanation is based on an earlier paper of mine that was approved for publication by Prof Kip S Thorne, who is a world authority on General Relativity. I would be happy, of course, to explain things further here if anything is not clear.)
« Last Edit: May 14, 2016, 09:23:50 am by Kenneth Chan »

Offline Kenneth Chan

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2016, 07:27:33 pm »
I have now included an abstract at my website which briefly summarises my paper. I hope this helps those who are interested but find the article too long to read. The abstract is as follows:

"In the theory of relativity, time and space distort depending on our state of motion, while the speed of light always remains constant. Einstein considered the constancy of the speed of light as a postulate that cannot be explained.

This paper explains this “postulate” as follows: The speed of light is constant because electromagnetic transmission determines the rate our body and brain function. We perceive the speed of light to be constant because our very physiological functioning depends on the speed of light, and we have effectively defined our time accordingly.

This also reveals that our science is an observer-dependent science; even time and space are observer-dependent entities. If we ignore this fact, we would be like the prisoners in Plato’s Cave, who have no idea that they are trapped by their perceptual limitations. Thus, in science, we need to take into account our crucial role as conscious observers." (end of abstract)

It is the need to take into account our role as conscious observers that make the study of the mind a crucial and necessary component of science. Contemporary science, unfortunately, seems to ignore this fact. And that is why I feel that contemporary science is an incomplete science. The study of the mind, as done in Buddhism, must be included to obtain a more complete picture of the truth. As the Buddha says: "Mind precedes all phenomena." And the theory of relativity certainly supports these words.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2016, 10:52:48 pm »
Thank you for the article. I found it easy to understand and I’m not a scientist.

The questions that arose for me were:

1. What is electromagnetism? (which you imply is synonymous with light)

2. If mind proceeds all phenomena, does that mean that some kind of “mind” proceeds our brains and physiological organism?

My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline Kenneth Chan

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2016, 12:35:07 am »
Thank you, zafrogzen, for your response and your interest. Let me first address your first question: "What is electromagnetism? (which you imply is synonymous with light)."

An electric field is a kind of force field that surrounds any charged particle. Basically, the electric field is a region where an electric charge would experience a force. We cannot see the field directly, but if we place a charge in that region, the charge would experience a force. We say that an electric charge is surrounded by an electric field, because if we place another charge in this region, it would experience a force. (A magnetic field is similar. And electric and magnetic fields are linked to one another.)

Light is essentially caused by a disturbance in the electric and magnetic fields. When we accelerate an electric charge back and forth, the electric and magnetic fields are disturbed. This disturbance is transmitted through these fields, the same way a disturbance on the water surface is transmitted along the surface of the water. The speed of light is essentially the speed of this transmission of the disturbance in electric and magnetic fields. And because the disturbance is rhythmic like a water wave, we say light is an electromagnetic wave.

Now let me go to the relevant quote from my article, and hopefully, this would now make sense:

“The transmission of light is essentially the transmission of a disturbance in the electrical and magnetic fields. This disturbance is not immediately felt by another charged particle at a distance. This is akin to how a sudden shaking at one end of a long rope is not felt immediately at the other end of the rope. First, the disturbance has to be conveyed along the rope to the other end. Likewise, a disturbance in the electrical and magnetic fields needs to be transmitted first in order to be felt at a distance, and the rate of this transmission is exactly the speed of light, since light is an electromagnetic wave.

A similar transmission of electrical disturbance has to occur in the functioning of the human body. For example, an electrical signal in a nerve cell has to be transmitted along the axon of the nerve cell before it can be felt by another nerve cell at the other end. The rate of this transmission is dependent on the general rate of transmission of any electrical disturbance, which is the speed of light.” (end of quote)

Now, since every cell and every organ in our body is governed by electromagnetic phenomena, the rate at which our body and our brain function is dependent on the rate of electromagnetic transmission, which is essentially the speed of light. This is the key point that Einstein had not realised, and it actually explains why the speed of light is always measured by us as constant. I hope this helps to clarify things.


Offline Kenneth Chan

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2016, 01:07:46 am »
Hi zafrogzen. Let me now try to address your second question: “If mind precedes all phenomena, does that mean that some kind of “mind” precedes our brains and physiological organism?”

What I am saying is that what we know as “science” is actually a science of what we experience, and not a science of a universe that is independent of us as conscious observers. Thus, brains and physiological organisms—that we study through science—are actually just what we are able to access as observers. How these entities manifest to us is dependent on our perceptual abilities, and, in particular, is dependent on our mind. Hence, in this sense, mind precedes these phenomena.

We have no access to anything that does not ultimately depend on our mind. Both relativity and quantum physics are actually observer-dependent theories. Unfortunately, many scientists do not want to accept this fact.

Many scientists even go to the extent of claiming that our mind and consciousness are derived from the materialistic components that are observed in science, ignoring the fact that what we observe in science is dependent on the mind itself, in the first place. Such a claim is like claiming that the light rays that are detected by a camera, are sufficient to account for everything about the camera. It is like claiming that we can lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps!

It is really time for scientists to stop behaving like the prisoners in Plato’s Cave, and acknowledge that we have to take into account our conscious mind as the means for gaining access to everything we can observe and measure in science. It means we need to seriously study the mind in its own right.



« Last Edit: May 16, 2016, 03:45:48 am by Kenneth Chan »

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2016, 08:37:46 am »
Thank you for your kind response.

I do think scientists are trying to seriously study "the mind in its own right,” but it is inevitably from a materialistic, mechanical view, because science relies on observation (consciousness) of external events. Your description of “electromagnetism” appears to fall into that category as well.

If what you say about our minds creating time and space is the case, which I suspect is true, then time has no actual existence apart from consciousness, so the word “proceeds” would not really apply, because mind and phenomena are one -- not separate. Thus the talk of consciousness existing apart from the phenomena of our brain and body is wishful thinking -- more like the Atman or soul postulated in religions other than Buddhism. There can only be an “afterlife” if there is a before and after.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline Kenneth Chan

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2016, 10:00:56 am »
The word is actually "precede" - in "mind precedes all phenomena" (and not the word "proceed"). Entities like "electromagnetism", "brain" and "body", that the scientists study, are things that are actually what the mind observes. In that sense, the mind precedes these phenomena. They are not things that are independent of the mind.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2016, 10:07:33 am by Kenneth Chan »

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2016, 11:53:46 am »
Ha ha, You're right, I misspelled precedes.

So, are you saying that those things the mind perceives don't actually exist as independent entities -- or just that how they appear is dependent upon the mind of the observer?

In the Pali Suttas the Buddha says that consciousness arises from "contact." I take that to mean that phenomena and consciousness arise together, simultaneously, in this present moment, and that consciousness is not an independent entity (or self) that can "precede" phenomena.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline Kenneth Chan

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2016, 02:58:29 pm »
In the Pali Suttas the Buddha says that consciousness arises from "contact." I take that to mean that phenomena and consciousness arise together, simultaneously, in this present moment, and that consciousness is not an independent entity (or self) that can "precede" phenomena.

Absolutely agree with this. The mind and what it perceives cannot be separated. They come together. It is one aspect of non duality. In the words of Nagarjuna [from The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way (Mulamadhyamakakarika)]:

"Without detachment from vision there is no seer.
Nor is there a seer detached from it.
If there is no seer
How can there be seeing or the seen?"

This is a teaching on emptiness. Neither the seer nor the vision exist independently on their own right. They are dependently arisen and hence are empty of inherent existence from their own side.

The wonderful thing is that the theory of relativity actually proves that time and space do not exist independent of the observer or the mind. Time and space are simply aspects of our experience. That is why our science is a science of what we experience. It is not a science of a universe "out there" independent of us as conscious observers. Scientists need to acknowledge this. Otherwise we are truly like the prisoners in Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2016, 04:43:49 am »
All this can be proved to be true because of the theory of relativity, and the explanation for this can be found at http://kenneth-chan.com/physics/why-relativity-exists/   


Could you explain what this means?
"We perceive the speed of light to be constant because our very physiological functioning depends on the speed of light, and we have effectively defined our time accordingly."
The constancy of speed of light is a theoretical prediction, not something we "perceive".

I found your ideas interesting, though a little New-agey.  I also wonder if this kind of intellectual speculation is really just a distraction to Buddhist practice, which focusses on experiential insight.


« Last Edit: May 17, 2016, 04:58:19 am by Spiny Norman »

Offline Kenneth Chan

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2016, 09:45:39 am »
I found your ideas interesting, though a little New-agey.  I also wonder if this kind of intellectual speculation is really just a distraction to Buddhist practice, which focusses on experiential insight.

Thank you for your post and for asking how this helps in Buddhism. Let me first assure you, though, that there is no speculation whatsoever in my paper “Why Relativity Exists.” It is all based on scientific fact and logical deduction. It demonstrates, without any speculation, that our science is a science of what we experience, and not a science of a universe that is independent of the conscious observer. In this sense, it supports the Buddha's words that “mind precedes all phenomena.”

Please note that my earlier paper “Time and Space,” on which this article is based, was refereed and approved for publication by Prof Kip S Thorne, who is a leading authority on General Relativity. If the conclusions were based on speculation, he would not have approved it.

Also, whether or not intellectual understanding helps in experiential insight depends a lot on the approach one takes in Buddhism. Certain traditions, like the Gelugpa tradition in Tibetan Buddhism, do focus a lot on intellectual understanding. Many texts in Madhyamika philosophy take the form of intellectual debate and philosophical exposition. The practitioners in the Gelugpa tradition make use of their intellectual understanding to help them in their meditation practice that aims ultimately at direct experiential insight.

In any case, the purpose of my paper is not really to provide help in meditation practice. The purpose is to hopefully contribute, in some small way, towards the aim, in Mahayana Buddhism, to save all sentient beings from suffering.

What I hope to do is to spread the understanding that the mind cannot be excluded in the scientific quest. Given that our science is a science of what we experience, mind and consciousness have a central role to play. If scientists would acknowledge this fact, they will have no choice but to focus on the mind, and eventually realize the need to understand it through meditation and transformation of the mind to a higher level. And that is essentially what the Buddha is telling us to do.

At the very least, we need to counter the mistaken notion of many scientists that the mind is only a secondary phenomenon that is purely derived from the materialistic components of nature. It is this kind of thinking that leads people to neglect the mind, and in a sense become like the prisoners in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The theory of relativity now provides us with the means to help break these chains that bind people in ignorance.

[I will address your other query in another post when time permits.]
« Last Edit: May 17, 2016, 09:49:11 am by Kenneth Chan »

Offline Kenneth Chan

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2016, 06:01:22 pm »
Could you explain what this means?
"We perceive the speed of light to be constant because our very physiological functioning depends on the speed of light, and we have effectively defined our time accordingly."
The constancy of speed of light is a theoretical prediction, not something we "perceive".

Hi again, Spiny Norman, and thank you for your question. Actually, the constancy of the speed of light is not just a theoretical prediction. It was experimentally confirmed by the famous Michelson-Morley experiment. Albert Michelson actually received the Nobel Prize for it.

What you quoted from my article comes from the abstract of the paper, which merely summarizes the main findings. The actual explanation is found inside the article itself. In any case, let me quote here some of the key passages that should help in understanding this:

“The physiological basis of relativity stems from the fact that all our biological mechanisms function via electromagnetic interactions. Every single organ—as well as every single cell—in our body functions via electromagnetism.

Muscular force is actually electromagnetic force. We are able to move only because our muscular contractions are mediated by electromagnetism. We literally move and breathe via electromagnetic interactions. All our sensory apparatus also rely on electromagnetic interactions. Even our nerves transmit information via electromagnetism; hence our brain functions via electromagnetism. This is the crucial point. It all means that our sensory experience of the universe is mediated by electromagnetism.

Since the speed of light is the speed of electromagnetic transmission, the reason for its constancy now becomes evident. It is constant because of a limitation in our perceptual ability. We are simply unable to experience the speed of light varying because both our perceptual apparatus and our brain function via electromagnetic transmission. In other words, we cannot experience the speed of light to be anything other than constant because the very rate at which we ourselves function depends on the speed of light!

We are essentially trapped inside the system, like the characters inside a video movie. If someone slows down the video, all the characters inside the video—as well as everything else there—slows down equally. The characters’ movements, and even their rate of thinking, slow down exactly in line with everything else. How then would these characters inside the video notice any difference in the speed of the video itself? They would, in fact, not notice any change at all, simply because they cannot escape the system to view it from the outside.

As another example, suppose we want to measure the expansion of an iron rod being heated inside an oven. If we use an iron ruler inside the oven to make the measurement, we detect no expansion. This is because the iron ruler expands by the same proportion as the rod. This iron ruler is incapable of detecting a change because it is also inside the system and equally affected by it.

Likewise, we cannot measure any change in the speed of light because we are also “trapped inside the system.” If the speed of electromagnetic transmission slows down, we ourselves—our actions and our thoughts—slow down by the same amount, so we cannot detect any change. That is the reason for Einstein’s second postulate.” (end of quote)

Hope this helps. Further explanation can also be found in my article at http://kenneth-chan.com/physics/why-relativity-exists/ 
Of course, I will also be happy to explain things further here at this forum. Thank you for your interest.



Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2016, 10:32:49 pm »
Muscular force is actually electromagnetic force. We are able to move only because our muscular contractions are mediated by electromagnetism. We literally move and breathe via electromagnetic interactions. All our sensory apparatus also rely on electromagnetic interactions. Even our nerves transmit information via electromagnetism; hence our brain functions via electromagnetism. This is the crucial point. It all means that our sensory experience of the universe is mediated by electromagnetism.

No, I'm pretty sure these are all electro-chemical reactions and not electro-magnetic ones.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2016, 10:49:21 pm by Spiny Norman »

Offline Kenneth Chan

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2016, 06:40:00 am »
No, I'm pretty sure these are all electro-chemical reactions and not electro-magnetic ones.
All electro-chemical reactions are mediated by electromagnetic forces. This is a scientific fact. So there is absolutely nothing wrong with what I wrote.

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2016, 12:40:11 pm »
All electro-chemical reactions are mediated by electromagnetic forces.

Sorry but I have no idea what this means.  Could you explain simply and clearly how electro-chemical reactions in the central nervous system are "mediated" by electromagnetism?

 


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