Home » Features » Some Quantum Theories Of Pure Land Principles 净土原理之量子理论

极圆极顿,
难议难思,
唯有大智,
方能谛信。

– 净土宗九祖澫益大师
《佛说阿弥陀经要解》

Extremely complete [and] extremely sudden [for enlightenment], difficult [to] discuss [and] difficult [to] conceive, only with great wisdom, [is one] then able [to] truly [have] Faith [in these aspects of the Pure Land Dharma Door].

– Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ǒuyì
(Essential Explanation [Of The] Sūtra [In Which The] Buddha Speaks [Of] Amitā[bha] Buddha)

[Note: With Quantum Mechanics (量子力学) accepted by scientists worldwide, the following theorises upon its principles’ correlations to the Pure Land teachings accordingly, with terms in brown linked to explanatory videos. Above too, is a directly related video teaching.]

In Quantum Physics (量子物理学), which is mechanics of the (sub-)atomic, there is the intriguing phenomenon of Superposition (态叠加), of how, for example, electrons (电子) behave in a doubly fuzzy state, as both particles (of forms: 粒子) and waves (of energy: 波) at the same time. This Wave-Particle Duality (波粒二象性) seems mutually-contradicting, until observed (i.e. measured) in certain ways, which then interferes and collapses them into specific states accordingly. It is as if the universe at the microscopic level exists as clouds of possibilities, or fluctuations of potentials, until our minds come into the picture, to look at it.

Observation itself is thus inevitably also participation. As taught by Forest [Of] Awakening Bodhisattva (觉林菩萨) in the Flower Adornment [Avataṃsaka] Sūtra (华严经), ‘If [a] person desires [to] understand fully, [the] three periods’ [i.e. past, present and future teachings of] every Buddha, [one] should contemplate [the] Dharma realm’s [i.e. universe] nature, [to realise that] everything [is] only [by the] mind created.’ (若人欲了知,三世一切佛,应观法界性,一切唯心造。) 

Some might think that consciousness is not needed for the universe to exist as it does, although this cannot be proved – with or without observers. Even detectors will need observers’ evaluations. This Observer Effect (观察者效应), as if of ‘mind over matter’, is echoed by the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s Cat (薛定谔猫), which says there is the probabilistic instead of the deterministic at the quantum (i.e. fundamental) level of phenomenon, which everything else is based upon.

Related is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (海森堡不确定性原理), which says that the more you try to measure the exact position (位置) of a particle, the harder it is to measure its exact momentum (动量), and vice versa. This is likened to the challenge of seeing form (色) (as something solid) and emptiness (空) (as constant change) at the same time, although they are truly one and the same (色即是空), as perceived by the fully enlightened.

The basis of our ‘reality’ is constant change in time (i.e. impermanence: 无常) and unsubstantiality in space (i.e. non-self: 无我), as the state of being in indeterminate states, only ‘crystallising’, taking form with our karmic and chosen perceptions, individually and collectively. The observer’s mind and the matter observed are interdependent. With mind over matter, what observed arises from the subject (i.e. observer); not the object (i.e. observed). As unenlightened beings, we perceive misleading stability at the macroscopic level, thus becoming attached to form, or fluxing chaos at the microscopic level, thus becoming attached to emptiness – both reflecting our deluded, confused and convoluted minds. (It is also possible to have aversion to form and/or emptiness.)

Those unenlightened have to toggle to and fro to perceive and understand form and emptiness, as if they are two, and once focusing on one, tend to stay attached. The fully enlightened are on the Middle Path (中道) of the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñā Pāramitā: 般若波罗蜜), able to see both without attachment to either. (We will also be able to perceive in this way in Pure Land, as empowered by the Buddha’s blessings.) This can be likened to comprehending the reality of E = mc2 (or mass-energy equivalence: 质能等价) in a balanced way. (Energy equals to mass times the speed of light squared).

Energy with no particular fixed form is as if emptiness, while mass with particular configurations are as if forms. Forms are of Relative (Conventional) Truths (俗谛) (and are thus comprehensible with the theory of relativity), while emptiness is of Absolute (Ultimate) Truth (真谛) (and are thus ‘comprehensible’ with quantum theory). Realisation of the Perfection of Wisdom should be crucial in the quest for the Grand Unified Theory (GUT: 大统一理论) or Theory Of Everything (TOE: 万有理论), by combining these truths on the Middle Path.

The Buddhas see instead, all as they really are, with the light of their eternal (i.e. constant) peace (常寂光), with perfect calmness or stillness (寂), and clarity (光). This is so as, ‘When the mind is pure, the land is thus pure‘ (心净则国土净). Out of compassion, they can also perceive as we do, to understand our plight, so as to aid us towards Buddhahood. They also enable us to closer see as they do in their Pure Lands, with their most skilful and pure environmental factors, as empowered by their blessings. Even before Buddhahood, the more enlightened one is, the more at peace can the land be perceived.

Related next is the phenomenon of Quantum Entanglement (量子纠缠/缠结). When two particles, such as electrons, are made to emit from the same atom, they will exhibit characteristics of being entangled in correlated responses, even at vast distances apart, within time gaps so ‘short’ that any possible ‘communication’ must be faster than the speed of light, which is deemed ‘impossible’ according to Classical Physics (经典物理学). Such entanglement is seen by how when one particle is observed spinning clockwise, the other can be instantaneously observed to spin anti-clockwise.

In the Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ǒuyì’s ( 净土宗九祖澫益大师) ‘Essential Explanation [Of The] Sūtra [In Which The] Buddha Speaks [Of] Amitā[bha] Buddha)’《佛说阿弥陀经要解》, he taught, that ‘[A]bout [this one] kṣaṇa [i.e. an instant, that is] named [as] “now”, [with] one thought corresponding, [with mindfulness of Buddha, is with] one thought [being] born [in his Pure Land, with] thought [to] thought corresponding, [is with] thought [to] thought [being] born.’ (约刹那名今,一念相应一念生,念念相应念念生。)

As with a single (一念) moment (刹那) of right mindfulness of Buddha now (今), it corresponds (相应) with being born in Pure Land in that moment (一念生), this is a form of immediate spiritual and physical entanglement. In this sense, the process of being born in Pure Land can begin now, from moment to moment, from thought to thought, until it is (eventually) reached, now (or later).

Next, he taught that, ‘[The] wonderful cause [and its] wonderful effect, [are] not apart [from this] one [wholehearted] mind, like [a] balancing [scale’s] two ends, [when going] down [at one end, and] up [at the other end, they are at the] same time.’ (妙因妙果,不离一心,如称两头,低昂时等。)

This most wondrous set of cause and effect (妙因妙果) is not apart from the wholehearted mind (不离一心), as they are from the same source of Buddha-nature (佛性), thus entangled purely – with mindfulness of Buddha (with unrealised Buddha-nature) as the cause, and with birth in the Buddha Land (from realised Buddha-nature) as the effect. The duo’s action and reaction are simultaneous, thus instant, like how a scale’s two ends (如称两头), go up and down together (低昂时等). Distance is thus no obstacle at all, even if Pure Land is ‘a hundred thousand koṭis of Buddha Lands’ (十万亿佛土) away. (With 1 koṭi being 10 million, it is 1 trillion world systems away.)

Such speed of mindful thought is faster than the speed of light, as immaterial thought is perhaps the most subtle yet powerful energy. With right understanding of the Pure Land teachings, when there is revulsed renunciation of the Sahā World (厌离娑婆), that turns away from here, there is also rejoice in seeking the Land Of Ultimate Bliss (欣求极乐), that turns towards there, (instead of elsewhere). With firm momentary practice to leave the Sahā World as the cause, there is momentary birth in Pure Land as the effect. Thus is there correlated and aligned direction, of ‘spin’ (by turning) and response (by birthing). This further illustrates the entanglement.

The scale analogy easily explains how the subject and object are ‘one’, as bridged by the mind. This is the only way for there to be immediate ‘reaction’, with no time gap at all. Thus is it wonderful cause and effect, not the usual cause and effect with a prolonged time lapse. As the mind is non-physical, and scientists do not detect any physical ‘scale’, this explanation is physically unverifiable, though also undisprovable.

[Note: Entanglement here is about correspondence (相应), with one event begetting a correlated, and thus different effect. It is not one event begetting the same event, which is to get a copied effect (相应非相同). For example, clapping is to have both hands corresponding, with one hand going left and the other right, at the same time, correlating as one. It is not one hand copying the other, leading to both hands going left or right.]

The quantum entanglement of ‘vow now for birth now’ (今愿今生) in Pure Land is attested by the vision of Wáng Shì (王氏) of the Yuè state (越国) in the Sòng Dynasty (宋朝), as recorded in the ‘Record Of Pure Land Sages’《净土圣贤录》- ‘Of the world’s people who cultivate to be born in this Western Pure Land, once they give rise to this aspiration with a thought, in this pond then grows a flower. With diligence and laziness not the same, the flourishing and emaciating are also different. Those who are diligent will have their flowers flourishing, and those who are lazy and neglectful will have their flowers emaciating. If diligently cultivating, passing a long time without ceasing, when mindfulness is proficient and contemplation is accomplished, as their forms disperse and their consciousnesses depart, they will definitely be born within them.’(世间修西方者,才发一念,此中便生一华。勤惰不同,荣悴亦异。精进者荣,怠废者悴。若历久不息,念熟观成,形消神谢,决生其中。)

Wáng Shì also saw the ‘manifested’ form of Mǎ Yú (马玗) in a lotus flower, which reflects his ongoing practice to reach Pure Land, with him still alive without sickness in this world then. This further illustrates the entangled nature of our forms in this world with that in Pure Land.

Back to Superposition, Amitābha Buddha (阿弥陀佛: Āmítuófó) as the Dharmadhātu Treasury Body (法界藏身) or Dharmakāya (法身) exists in the state of the ‘most super Superposition’, with no definite form, being everywhere at the same time, pervading all space with his immeasurable light (无量光), and all-time with his immeasurable life (无量寿), even within this Sahā World. Thus is he able to connect to us immediately, and appear with a most appropriate Manifestation Body (应化身: Nirmāṇakāya) once we are sincerely mindful of him, to be received and guided to reach his Pure Land. There, we will, with his blessings, directly perceive the full magnificence of his (actual) Reward Body (报身: Saṃbhogakāya) in his Reward Land (报土).

Physicists’ recognition of their inability to explain the workings of quantum mechanics illustrates the limits of science. This is while Buddhists who look closer at the Dharma for links are able to demystify them. As above, they can also be used to explain Pure Land principles, to make the otherwise difficult-to-believe Pure Land teachings easier to understand and accept, thus strengthening Faith for practice and attainment of birth in Pure Land.

何俟娑婆报尽,方育珍池?
只今信愿持名,莲萼光荣,
金台影现,便非娑婆界内人矣。

– 净土宗九祖澫益大师
《佛说阿弥陀经要解》

Why wait for [our] Sahā [World’s karmic] retribution [to] exhaust, [to] then [be] born [in Pure Land’s] treasure ponds? Now, only [needing] Faith [and] Vow [to] uphold [the] name [of Āmítuófó, our] lotus calyxes’ [or buds’] glorious light, [on their] golden platforms’ images [will] appear, [and we will] then no [longer be] persons within [the] Sahā World.

– Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ǒuyì
(Essential Explanation [Of The] Sūtra [In Which The] Buddha Speaks [Of] Amitā[bha] Buddha)

Related Articles:

今发愿今往生的原理
The Principle Of ‘Vow Now For Birth Now’
https://purelanders.com/2018/10/26/vow-now-for-birth-now
愿为三资粮之中心
The Centrality Of Aspiration Within The Three Provisions
https://purelanders.com/2018/10/26/the-centrality-of-aspiration-within-the-three-provisions
愿生偈
Verses On Aspiration For Birth
https://purelanders.com/2019/04/29/verses-on-aspiration-for-birth
十位相连宋朝净土圣贤
10 Related Sòng Pure Land Sages
https://purelanders.com/2018/12/04/10-related-song-dynasty-pure-land-sages

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