Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Notes on reading 'Wholeness and the implicate order': Introduction (3).

Still more notes in response to the intro (with more baggage that I bring). Although these are presented as notes jotted as I read, in practice, I usually tap away and later on do some tidying up. Most entries are prepared offline, on a handheld computer (HP Jornada 720, as usual :-) It allows for me to sit on a comfy chair, edit to my heart's content, whilst using only modest amounts of electricity (or battery power).

[p. xi] Thought and reality: for the Buddha, the reality he was primarily concerned with was dukkha, typically translated as 'suffering' or 'unsatisfactoriness' concerning which he taught a lot about subtle processes (e.g. the dependent chain of contact, feeling, perception and so on, yet the essence is expressed in a simple connection, in the first two verses of the Dhammapada:

1. Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.
2. Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.

[p. xv - xviii] Bohm continues to summarise what lies in the chapters ahead, and comes to the later chapters. He is looking for a holistic theory that takes a wold view that includes consciousness and evidently is not content with the discontinuities at the sub-atomic level, in which results given are in terms of statistical aggregates. I find it interesting that research is oriented to concrete predictions, that are applicable: indeed even 25+ years later, even though physicists are well-versed in wave/particle duality, I tend to hear about funding for particle accelerators or measurements concerning sub-atomic particles, such as the MINOS project .

However, it may be that it's the level of aggregates where we need to work. Again, the Buddha gave many teachings on khandas, which translate as 'heaps' or 'aggregates', and the processes surrounding them. But, as expressed e.g. in the Parivatta Sutta, the key requirement is direct personal observation.

This is what I was trying to get at in my first foray in this area, when on the basis of little more than intuition and reading an article in Scientific American, I posted a perhaps overly bold (and, now it seems arrogant) message to Usenet, entitled 'Quantum Theory and Meditation,' especially as it was my first proper posting! I received a flame within 3 days and more vitriole followed, yet there also flowed some rich dialogue and friendship. The main point I was trying to make is that the most interesting results depend upon's one own observation and not that of any instruments set up to do the observations for you.

I touched on just special relativity at school, when I read and wrote an essay on some of Bertrand Russell's 'The ABC of Relativity,' but that's about 20 years ago and so I have very little detailed knowledge.

So that's my baggage, so I look forward to reading what Bohm presents concerning quantum theory and relativity, and his new approaches.

Already though the book conveys the sense that there's a lot of feeling one's way for research directions. There's a kind of sustained balance or tension between wholeness and division, to which I can relate to intuitively from the period I spent doing a bit of research in number theory, in that the object of my research was to elicit the integer values of the determinant of a certain kind of matrix, which is a problem worked mainly in the field of algebraic number theory, but actually the main result was in terms of densities, saying "most values of 'the right type' are integer values of the determinant," and thus a result of analytic number theory.

So what? Well, many mathematicians like simplicity, symmetry, wholeness and completeness, wherein they can find great beauty. For some, it evidently meant so much, among whom Kronecker is well known among mathematicians for his remark:

God created the integers, all else is the work of man.
But, on reading a summary of his life, it sounds that this strongly held belief led to immense friction.

This reminds me of the conflict in views dismissed by the Buddha in the Tittha Sutta in the Udana. All in all it's best that I have no expectation about any absolute answers concerning the cosmos; rather, my goal should remain to learn something that may improve my understanding of the composition of the Buddha's teachings.

No comments: