Many see Religion as separate from Science limiting religion to mere spiritualism or criticizing it as working against Science. Quantum Physics stands as a great example of how Hindu Vedanta inspired scientists. Quantum Physics highlights the fundamental flaws of classical physics, challenging Newtonian theories as well as Einstein’s space-time realm.
Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei and Charles Robert Darwin stand as popular examples of courageous scientific minds in the west who faced extreme resistance from Christian churches for proposing theories directly conflicting with Biblical religious beliefs. This lead to Scientists and Science in developing an aversion and often rejection of religions in west which in a way helped science to thrive in making sense of planet, sense of impossibly small, unimaginably large enormity of space, microscopic behavior of atoms etc.
Unfortunately, this religious aversion phenomenon instead of being limited to west, overshot and got attached to eastern religions without fundamental understanding, evaluation and despite being in perfect harmony of Scientific principles. Thanks to likes of Swami Vivekananda, who had foresight in engaging with scientific minds in early 19th century explaining Vedanta that helped bring Hinduism and Science closer and complementing instead of being mutually competing. While we can quote Yoga, Pranayama, Meditation, Ayurveda, Pranic Healing and acupressure receiving wider adoption outside of India as examples of Hindu beliefs gaining popularity contributing to health sciences in west, but I would like to draw focus and elaborate on Quantum Physics that stands as classic example of this timeless effort of great Hindu philosophers reflecting Vedanta in pure science specifically Physics.
Quantum Physics has many applications in day-to-day life. Semi-conductor chips used in computers, tabs, smart phones, laser mechanics of fiber optic communications, GPS navigation, MRIs and many more. This successful Quantum theory/mechanics is most challenging to comprehend and can be illustrated by simple double slit experiment and quantum entanglement. Remember, these experiments were conducted by many scientist’s multiple times over multiple years yielding consistent results.
Double slit experiment:
Figure A, B, C, D shows concise depiction of Double Slit experiment.
– From Figure c), single electron shot in one path displayed wave pattern, reflects that electron could be present anywhere travelling from both splits and were showing their presence after being forced to display pattern on the screen. Electrons don’t have fixed position rather they travel as probability wave instead of material wave.
– From Figure d) when electrons are consciously observed they become particles else they are probable waves or in suspended state (without screen).
– Outside laboratory and in real world, until a thing is consciously observed it doesn’t exist. Implying, there must be actually something outside the universe to look at the universe as a whole and collapse its wave function.
Quantum Entanglement: Figure below depicts Quantum Entanglement
Entanglement is the unusual behavior of elementary particles (such as electrons, protons) where they become linked so that when something happens to one, something happens to the other; no matter how far apart they are. In other words, it is an apparent ability of objects to instantaneously know about each other’s state, even when separated by large distances (potentially even billions of light years.
1. Its still unknown to scientists, how exactly these electrons were able to communicate instantaneously challenging Einstein’s relativity theory that nothing can travel beyond speed of light.
2. It is direct contravention of the “principle of locality”, the idea that distant objects cannot have direct influence on one another, and that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings, an idea on which almost all of physics is predicated.
3. Nonlocality suggests that universe that exists as “separate” parts are actually connected in an intimate and immediate way.
4. It also challenges breaks Einstein’s space, time limitations. An object can communicate without any space and time restrictions.
There are many vedantic concepts that can be directly related to these experiments, but will be specifying few of them. Even though Science and Vedanta might have different approaches in arriving at these concepts but you will be surprised on how both have stated the same.
Concept of Brahman: Satyam Jnanam Anantham Brahma
Taittiriya Upanishad (2.1) defines Supreme Parabrahman as one who is Satyam, Jnanam, Anantham (Absolute Reality-Awareness-Infinite is Brahman). Adi Shankaracharya in Advaita concept gave detailed explanations of these upanishad verse, which we will understand below.
Satyam: Satyam means absolute reality. As per Sanskrit, asatyam (Unreal) means – yat rupena yat nischitam tat rupam vyabhicharat tat anritam ” – An object once known in a form, fails to present in that form always, is unreal). Absolute reality means, an object that maintains its forms always (yat rupena yat nischitam tat rupam na vyabhicharati tat satyam)
Jnanam: Omniscient or knowing everything or conscious of everything.
Anantham (Infinite) is something has no restriction of space, time and object or that has no Antham (desha-kala-vastu parisechana – limited by space, time and object). Properties of all-pervasive elementary constituents of matter are beyond space, time limitations (entanglement).
“Double-slit experiment relates to Satyam (Absolute reality- elementary nature of matter is not made up of various particles like electrons, photons but rather a suspended form of unknown state of matter until consciously observed), Jnanam (indicating the whole universe exists due to conscious unknown observer).
Quantum entanglement relates to infinite nature of matter beyond limitations of space, time and objects (Anantham all-pervasive matter)”
We can also easily relate to these great contemplations of Upanishads:
Brahma satyam jagan mithya – Brahman is real; the world is unreal
Ekam evadvitiyam brahma – Brahman is one, without a second
Prajnanam brahman – Brahman is the supreme knowledge
Tat tvam asi (Brahman) – That is what you are
Ayam atma brahma – Atman and brahman are the same
Aham brahmasmi – I am brahman
Sarvam khalvidam brahma – All of this is brahman
As you can see from first and last verse that this world is unreal and is created with all-pervading consciousness of Brahma.
Gayathri Mantra also means meditating upon Omnipresent (Satyam), Omniscient (Jnanam) Parabrahman (Infinite) bestow our intellect. As in Double-slit experiment phenomenon, when there is no observer matter becomes omnipresent, in the same way meditation on Gayathri Mantra helps to dissolve one’s individual consciousness which helps in experiencing Infinite nature of Parabrahman.
Erwin Schrodinger Nobel Prize Winner, noted theoretical physicist developed a number of fundamental results in the field of quantum theory had lifelong interest in the Vedanta Philosophy of Hinduism. He once wrote:
This life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of this entire existence, but in a certain sense the “whole”; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one single glance. This, as we know, is what the Brahmins express in that sacred, mystic formula which is yet really so simple and so clear: tat tvam asi, this is you. Or, again, in such words as “I am in the east and the west, I am above and below, I am this entire world.”
Schrodinger in his famous book “What is Life?” used many Vedantic ideas. Francis Crick, Nobel price winner, Biologist, Scientist, Physiologist who is responsible for discovering along with James Watson, the double helix structure of DNA strand, credited Schrodinger’s book for key insights that led him to his revolutionary discovery.
In a famous essay on determinism and free will, Schrodinger expressed very clearly the sense that consciousness is a unity, arguing that this “insight is not new… From the early great Upanishads, the recognition Atman = Brahman (the personal self equals the omnipresent, all comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world. He considered the notion of plurality to be a result of deception (maya): “the same illusion is produced by a gallery of mirrors, and in the same way Gaurisankar and Mt. Everest turned out to be the same peak seen from different valleys.”
Werner Heisenberg, noble prize winner and finest physicists, came up with fundamental principles of quantum mechanics. Over span of years, few questions he had dwelled during his experiments, had no answers. Heisenberg was in correspondence and later met Rabindranath Tagore from whom he understood Advaita Vedanta. Heisenberg mentioned observer interacts with a system in order for the system to acquire reality which is in sync with concept of Maya. At Shantiniketan, Heisenberg also experienced spontaneous Kevala Samadhi (confirmed by Paul Brunton philosopher & writer). In Kevala Samadhi mind is turned off and the physical world disappears with its conceptions of space and time, the universe is perceived as an illusion without intrinsic reality, the ego is dissolved revealing the Oneness of Creation and the existence of the Cosmic Mind. When somebody experiences samadhi even only once, a deep internal transformation results that annihilates all patterns of “reality” of the world. Surely this experience reinforced his concept of ‘reality’ that he introduced as fundamental for quantum Physics.