MODERN PHYSICS AND JAIN DARSHAN
We examine here the question
whether any common ground exists between Modern physics and religion,
particularly the Jain Darshan. The question has arisen because some
religious leaders as well as proponents of modern physics think that
they belong to different spheres of activity, one dealing with soul and
spirituality (which are not physical entities) and the other with
matter and the physical world . The laws that govern these two are
exclusive to their domain and hence it is futile to look for any
overlaps between them. The religion has declared one as vidya and the
other as avidya and there the partition has started. However if we
consider that no religion can ignore or wish away the ground truth on
which the physical universe operates, (whether some call it an illusion
a la Shankara, or not), they must not only incorporate each other but
be based on each other. I personally believe that any religion must
encompass various aspects of physical reality as we experience in our
daily life. In fact, Darshan and physics must be complementary and have
similarity of concepts and postulates of these two complementary
aspects of our existence i.e. Physics and spirituality must coexist. At
the least, they cannot be contradictory and in reality they should
derive strength from each other.
Physics believes in laws of nature
but not in God. On the other hand religion believes in God as well as
laws. Therefore laws provide a common ground where physics and religion
may overlap. Foundations of Physics are based on certain laws, theories
and principles which are derived from observations and deductions. As
examples we may cite Newton's Law of Gravitation, or Kepler's laws of
Planetary motion , Quantum theory or the Big Bang theory and principles
of conservation of physical entities or attributes. In contrast,
religions are based on faith, philosophical deductions and revelations.
The physical laws are deduced from observations or from theoretical
deductions and although the laws of physics control the physical world
in a fundamental way, they are not fundamental concepts of physics.
Take for example the Law of gravitation. It says that attraction
between two bodies depends on their mass and varies inversely as the
square of the distance between them. This affects all the physical
universe but is a consequence of the principle of gravitational
attraction. This immediately leads us to even more fundamental question
of the origin of Mass. We may recall here Mach's principle , which
deals with the concept of origin of inertial mass. Broadly speaking
Mach's principle states that the inertial mass of a body is solely due
to interaction of other bodies in the universe. Heller (1975) mentions
it in the following way" The local inertial frames are entirely
determined by the distribution and motion of all matter present in the
universe" and Einstein formulated it as " the entire inertia of a point
mass is the effect of the presence of all other masses, deriving from a
kind of interaction from the latter" There is yet no "proof" for this
principle but Einstein is said to have derived much inspiration from
the Mach’s principle for development of his Theory of Relativity.
The implication is that inertial
mass cannot exist in isolation. Now we may ask if this principle can be
extended to other physical entities or even spiritual entities? Is
everything interactive. Are we living in a totally interactive world
and everything here is interactive. The same may be postulated for life
or consciousness. Life certainly cannot exist in isolation. If all
living species, except one, in the universe or even on Earth vanish,
the last one also will not be able to survive. Therefore the life is a
result of interdependence (or interaction) with other living species.
The principle of non-violence immediately follows since the whole
becomes a cause for the existence of a part of it and both are
indistinguishable. In effect, when, one does any harm or kills some
body, howsoever primitive, one is killing a part of one self, because
his very existence is interactive in nature. It is like committing a
small suicide, howsoever small the quantum may be. Thus the inertial
mass, which is a physical entity and the consciousness, which is a
spiritual attribute, are both interactive in nature and their origin is
a consequence of interaction.
Many great minds who developed the
basic concepts of modern physics have written about things beyond
physics. To cite a few of them, we may mention the book on "Physics and
Philosophy" and "Physics and beyond" by Werner Heisenberg who gave the
concept of the Uncertainty principle. There are others like Feynman
(The character of Physical Law), Einstein (Ideas and Opinions) and
various essays and books that deal with science, philosophy, religion,
society and reality.
The crowning glory of modern
physics has been the Quantum mechanics. The laws of classical physics
ie of macro world are not found to be valid in microworld. It took lot
of debate to understand the quantum theory and Feynman, one of the
greatest minds of the modern era said "nobody understands quantum
mechanics….. I am going to tell you what nature behaves like. If you
will simply admit that may be she does behave like this, you will find
her a delightful, enchanting thing. Do not keep saying to yourself….
'how it can it be like that?' Because you will get into a blind alley
from which nobody has escaped . No body know how it behaves like that."
Some Quantum phenomena can not be described in a language, they are
"crazy beyond words", and can not be comprehended.
The quantum mechanics puts severe
constraints on certainty of our knowledge. Two tenets of quantum
mechanics that are relevant here can be crudely described as follows.
One is that the universe does not exist if you don’t observe it,
equivalent to the paradox of the Schrődinger’s cat. This implies that
universe and the observer exist as pairs and neither can exist without
the other. The other is that a particle knows how it should behave.
This is the famous two-slit experiment which is the backbone of quantum
mechanics and particle wave duality. If one goes to still finer
constituents of nature beyond electrons, photons and even quarks, the
duality may be replaced by multifacetedness or manifoldedness. The atma
is considered to be ati-sukshma, so it may be reasonable to expect that
it will have more attributes, may be infinity of attributes.
Let us first talk about
Complementarity and Anekāntvād. Even Neils Bohr who propounded the
basics of quantum mechanics had great difficulty explaining it. And he
did it through his principle of Complementarity. The principle of
Complementarity, is the most revolutionary and significant concepts of
modern physics. The Western philosophers and scientists had a lot of
difficulty in understanding and developing quantum mechanics. The
contradictory results indicated that photon (or electrons) sometimes
behaves as a particle and sometimes as a wave. This could not be
reconciled because of the basic problem that wave and particles were
considered to be exclusive or different. Bohr explained by saying that
contradictory behaviour is complementary and
used the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang, which are both opposite but
exist together and are required for completeness. Ekantvad has been
variously described as the theory of many-foldedness, non absolutism,
non equivocality. Literally it is defined as the theory of non-one
sided ness, implying the many sided nature of reality. Some times
anekāntvād is contrasted with Ekantvad which stands for definite and
categorical asserted philosophical position
In the physical world, as in
philosophy, things or ideas have plurality of attributes and these can
be apparently contradictory or conflicting. Anekāntvād successfully
harmonises or accommodates such views and completes the description of
physical reality. But when we talk of manyfoldedness, the question
obviously arises, how many. Certainly more than one but can it be
infinite? saptbhangi or sevenfoldedness is a corollary of Anekantvad.
This has been very clearly explained by D.S.Kothari in his essay on"
Complementarity principle and Eastern philosophy".
Anekāntvād not only explains
seemingly contradictory propositions in daily life, philosophy,
macroworld, mental exercises and in spiritual domain,it brought in the
concept of Avyakta or inexpressibility of certain states. Questions
which can not be answered in affirmative or negative, like the
existence of soul, could be dealt with in the framework of Anekāntvād.
It is , it is not; it is and yet it is not, it can not be expressed and
so on. This concept is common to Quantum behaviour, which can not
always be expressed in language. Anekāntvād is not simply a multiview
perception theory. It is not a limitation of consciousness that it has
limited capability of perception of the physical world . Thus it is not
looking at an object from different perspectives but that the object
can not be known from all the perspectives. Anekāntvād is as
fundamental as the uncertainty principle, which states that some
properties can not be measured accurately, not because of instrumental
limitations but because of inherent limitation of knowledge.
Syādvād, another corollary of
Anekantvad, is also a cornerstone of Jainism.. It has been translated
as "perhaps", or "May be". That appears to me as a qualitative (or
crude) definition. Can we extend and quantify it to include the
uncertainty principle or derive the uncertainty principles from the
framework of Syādvād? Uncertainty principle is one of the most
fundamental principles applicable equally well to the realms of all
physical microworld and may be (in my opinion), the cause of biological
evolution. The uncertainty, e.g. in energy levels give a choice for a
variance in combination or in taking part in different chemical
reactions. Without uncertainty biology will be like ordinary organic
chemistry such as polymerization and animate could not have evolved
inanimate. Syādvād therefore must be thought of as going beyond "may
be", or used as an instrument for tolerance in society but should be
seen to lead to indeterminacy and to the principle of uncertainty (ΔpΔx=h;
ΔEΔt=h). In manyfoldedness, or anekantvad, the uncertainty can be
defined in a more profound way and for other parameters. This is the
Syadvad in physical terms.
According to the principle of
Saptabhangi reality can be described in seven ways i.e. it exists, it
does not exist, it exists and yet it does not exist, indeterminable,
its existence is indeterminable, its non existence is indeterminable
and its existence as well as non existence is indeterminable or
inexpressible. Saptabhangi has been explained very succinctly by
Kothari in a quantum mechanical way by taking the example of a particle
in a box which is divided by a partition with a hole into two
compartments. Because of the particle-wave duality, the particle can be
in compartment A, or in compartment B, In A and still not in A , In B
and still not in B, not in A and B, in A as well as in B and in an
indeterminate state (avyakta).The same solutions emerge from the
considerations of quantum mechanics as has been shown mathematically by
taking wave functions.
Sometimes light or a photon behaves
like a compact object i.e. a particle and some times like a wave such
as a ripple we see in a pond. A photon or an electron, for example,
“knows” when it should behave like a particle and when it should behave
like a wave. In the famous two slit experiment, a beam of photon shines
through two slits and hits upon a photographic plate behind the slits.
The experiment can be run in two ways: one with photon detectors right
beside each slit so that the photons can be observed as they pass
through the slits and or with detectors removed so that the photons can
travel unobserved. When the detectors are in use, every photon is
observed to pass through one slit or the other. Essentially the photons
behave like particles. However, when the photon detectors are removed ,
a pattern of alternating light and dark spots, produced by interference
of light are observed indicating that the photons behave like waves,
individual photon spreading out and surging against both the slits at
once. The outcome of the experiment then depends on what the scientists
want to measure.
Before we end this discussion, it
is pertinent to ask "what benefit will accrue by seeing a common ground
between religion and physics. Well the answer is obvious but must be
stated here for clarity. Firstly if the religion is based on physics
then the intra-religion contradictions can be dispensed with.
Every one believes in physical laws
because they are experienced in daily life. So if religion has a basis
in the well established physical laws then there is no need to
compartmentalize various religions. The apparent contradictions may be
simply due to different emphasis on different aspects of physical laws
and when they are complete, they will probably all become the same.
Goldstein, S., Lebowitz, J.L.,
Quantum mechanics in The Physical review : The first 100 years (H.
Kothari D.S. The Complementarity
Principle and Eastern philosophy, Neils Bohr Centenary volume (A.P.
French and P.J. Kennedy, eds) Harvard University Press, Cambridge, USA
Matilal B.K. The Central Philosophy
of Jainism (Anekāntavāda) L.D. Series 79, (D. Malvania and N.J.Shah
(Gen. Eds) L.D. Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad.
Mookerjee, S.,The Jaina Philosophy
of Non-Absolutism 1944, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi.
Padamarajiah Y.J., A Comparative
study of the Jaina Theory of Reality and Knowledge,1963, Motilal