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    In relational interpretation of quantum physics, there is no difference between physical objects without consciousness and “beings” that are self-aware with subjective (local) consciousness. Four questions: (1) does this imply that our subjective consciousness is an evolutionary phenomenon based on efficacy representing mere appearances/blurring rather than reflecting nature of reality, (2) from buddhist perspective, do discoveries in quantum physics/quantum gravity considered to reflect the true nature of (ultimate) reality as in Buddha nature, (3) could non-locality interpreted as non-local awareness or universal intelligence that speaks to the Buddha nature, (4) Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche (Kagyu/Mahamudra lineage) teaches all our actions are ethically based whereas outcomes of our actions are ethically neutral–from quantum physics perspective, is ethics (and compassion for that matter) nothing more than another blurring phenomena based on interdependence/interconnectivity of relational interpretation?


    Hi mjuliekim,

    Many thanks for your questions.

    As a general comment: relational quantum physics is not a theory of consciousness. To the best of my knowledge, it does not contain any statements about the difference between physical objects and self-aware beings. However, my understanding is that Rovelli’s view is that consciousness emerges from the interaction between material particles.

    1) I would not say that this is a direct implication of relational quantum physics. Rather, it follows from the two following statements: a) Our subjective perception of reality is shaped, to a certain extent, by our neural circuits. b) These, in turn, are subjected to the process of natural selection that shapes the evolution of life on this planet (and perhaps on others, too!). There is scientific evidence (e.g., from the field of evolutionary psychology) that not only our bodies are adapted to the environment in which our ancestors lived, but also our minds. Short answer is: yes, evolution selects for representations of the world that enhance the likelihood of survival and reproduction, rather than correct perceptions of reality as it is.

    2) I think that discoveries in quantum physics point towards emptiness of absolute properties as the fundamental essence of reality. In this sense, I’d say that Buddhism and quantum physics agree. I do not think quantum physics would ever postulate something akin to Buddha Nature, however, as it is a physical theory, not a theory of consciousness/mind. I do hope that one day we’ll see a comprehensive theory that includes quantum physics, consciousness studies, and traditional wisdom; that, in my opinion, would point to something akin to Buddha Nature – but that’s outside the purview of extant quantum physical theories.

    3) In principle, it could, but then, we still know very little about consciousness and its relation to what we perceive as the physical world. I would say that we are still far from having a scientific answer to this question, and it’s a matter of personal reflection and beliefs.

    4) I’m not by any extent a qualified Buddhist teacher, but I’ll share some personal reflections:

    In his book “Notes on Complexity”, Buddhist scientist Neil Theise says something along these lines: that entities appear as solid and independent only from the perspective of their level of complexity. From the point of view of an atom, there is probably nothing like an ethical action. For example, there is no experience of morality in a carbon atom belonging to a piece of bread that is being given to a hungry person. Neither there is from the perspective of the whole planet Earth; that’s just a bit of organic matter being transformed in another bit of organic matter. However, on the human level, the giver and the receiver experience generosity. So no, generosity and ethics do not exist intrinsically: they are, like everything else, a relative phenomenon.

    Another perspective is that science describes the world as a place of objects. Ethics, religion and philosophy are concerned with the world as an arena for action. These two descriptions are complementary; what appears to be a flow of matter and energy (the bread passing from hand to hand, in the previous example) from the point of view of science, is an act of generosity, from the perspective of ethics. Both descriptions are true and complementary. So I wouldn’t say that ethics is nothing more than a blurring phenomenon: is part of our lived experience as human beings – which of course is relative, like everything else.

    Hope this helps! Good luck with your studies,

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