Vanity thought #1765. VC – Sankhya in language of Quantum Theory

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

On with the rest of the chapter on “Atoms and Macroscopic Objects”.

The author makes an interesting statement equating karma with “probability wavefunction”, whatever that is. The logic, I assume, goes like this – quantum theory is closest to describing complete reality. It can’t explain gravitation yet but it’s making strides in the macroscopic world where it explains behavior of what we see as non-quantum objects like shoes and gases. The world is fundamentally made of quantum particles, we just don’t know how to explain really big things yet. Expressing Sāṅkhya in language of quantum theory, therefore, is our best bet to appeal to scientists here.

Everybody knows that photons can behave both as particles and as waves. “Probability wavefunction”, as I understand it, describes the state of a photon and makes predictions whether it’s a wave or a particle. These predictions are given only as probabilities – unlike the rest of science quantum theory is indeterministic. It’s not like “train leaves station A… when will it arrive at station B” problems from school textbooks. The answer there is certain, it can’t be “either 3 PM or 5 PM, there’s a greater probability that it will be 5”.

With out best theory we can’t know the exact state of a photon, it can be both this and that, and when we finally observe the state this uncertainty goes away and that’s what is called probability wavefunctīon collapse – because now we know. I’ve typed that all up from memory, exact details might differ from the modern state of science and modern textbooks. The principle, however, still stands – wavefunction collapse creates certainty out of possibilities, and that’s why it’s compared to karma as it finally manifests the fruits of our previous actions.

The comparison does not end there – wavefunction is not observable, because observation would collapse it, and so is unmanifested karma. Unmanifested karma is already there but it’s not converted into perceivable sense objects yet. In science there’s no agency that governs collapse of the wavefunction. I mean observation causes the collapse but it can’t predict which way it will go. In Sāṅkhya the agency that manifests a particular karma is time, and this time is a manifestation of God, so it’s out of our control. That is to say we attribute the agency that collapses wavefunction to God and then it all makes sense and wavefunction becomes predictable again (for God, not for us – we still don’t know how His time works). This is not a general “god” which might act whimsically but the form of God who observes the universe as was created from prakṛti, which was created by another form of God first. I don’t see any space for whim here. From our position we can try to understand how time chooses possibilities and converts them to karma and this process is described in Sāṅkhya, though cryptically. I mean to say that it requires a deep study of the subject and is not given to us in easily digestible bits of information.

At least we know what we have to do with concepts we are already given. Science, on the other hand, can’t progress anywhere unless it incorporates both karma and time. And it’s not just karma and time but the whole gamut of subtle matter plus conscious beings and God that requires Sāṅkhya to work, too.

The author says that there are numerous interpretations of quantum theory to get around this deficiency of lacking karma and time and some of them are offered by advaitins who introduce “universal consciousness”. I don’t know who they are, maybe the author means people like Deepak Chopra here. In any case, they can’t explain everything without accepting God. Karma, btw, is a result of our incomplete knowledge of God, so if these Brahman based theories do not include God they are doomed to fail, too.

Anyway, karma is converted from unmanifested to manifested state by adding information, which is done by time. This addition of information transforms something that is “unconscious” into something “conscious”. The conscious experience of pain or pleasure that follows is, therefore, not something brought from outside but it lies “within” us, waiting for its turn. It’s not that there’s somebody out there trying to harm us but it’s our own unmanifested karma becoming perceivable. We’ve heard it many times before, of course, and here’s Sāṅkhya’s explanation of the same thing.

Next there’s a paragraph about trisarenu (in our books it’s spelled as trasareṇu), which is the smallest object we can see. It’s described as particles of light we can observe floating in sun rays as they enter through the window. Trisarenu is clearly not the same thing as atom in modern science, and, actually, Vedic texts mention particles smaller than that, though still not nearly as small as in quantum theory. What trisarenu is, however, is a smallest object perceivable by our senses. In that sense we can say it’s the atom of the realm of Bhūloka. I suppose anything smaller than that pertains to realms of Vedic cosmos lower than ours but the author doesn’t say it.

In science they, of course, know of particles smaller than atom and they produce them just like Sāṅkhya prescribes – by adding information to what already exists. Their information comes in the form of energy like laser rays they blast existing elements with. They can’t observe what is created in this process and they need extra energy to “magnify” traces left by new particles so that these signs become perceivable. They, in effect, traverse the semantic tree down to the areas not accessible by our senses. They can’t perceive those nodes on the universal tree and so they need to go back up the hierarchy to the realm of Bhūloka again. Sāṅkhya works everywhere.

Last paragraph sums it all up and introduces “atomism” but what the author means is clearly quantum theory – the wavefunction discussed earlier. When he says that atoms exist as karma in unmanifested form he clearly means “particles in uncertain states” as opposed to “particles in certain states”. There’s a promise to show different types of karma corresponding to five Vedic elements – ether, air, fire, water, and earth.

When unmanifested karma is converted due to time an event is created and this is called wavefunction collapse in quantum theory which produces measurement outcome. Science cannot predict these events (with absolute certainty) because it looks for their causes in manifest properties of matter while they lie in unmanifest karma and time.

Our experiences are not caused by matter and not due to our consciousness either, but due to past events we may or may not remember. I don’t know what is the role of remembrance here, I don’t think it matters because the ability to remember is also dictated by karma, not by our current state. Some people don’t like the concept of karma and reincarnation because they don’t remember the causes of their suffering but the ability to remember is caused by karma, too. Umanifested karma does not require our awareness and it isn’t stored in our memory as we will see later. It’s also called unmanifested for a reason – it’s unperceivable. What we remember is not unmanifest karma either – because it’s perceivable it must be something else.

Enough food for thought for today, I think.


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