A while ago I went to a lecture of the Dalai Lama, where I encountered some concepts that seemed to be in contradiction with the teachings from Advaita Vedanta (non-dual branch of Hinduism), which I adhere to.
Firstly according to Buddhism no phenomenon has an ultimate substance. Nagarjuna claimed that such phenomena are empty and considered all experienced phenomena as "dependently arisen" from the emptiness called " Shunyata " .Yet he did not mean that such phenomena cannot be experienced or that they would be non-existent. He rather meant that they are devoid of an eternal, permanent substance ( svabhava ). In that way it is said that Buddhism should not be confused with nihilism. In Hinduism the ultimate "substance", which is not really a substance, is primordial consciousness itself, Purusha .
Secondly, in Buddhism there is ultimately no "Self" ( anatta or anatman ), which would be the underlying hypostasis of being. This is strongly contrasted with Hinduism, in which the "Self" is deemed the ultimate ground of being, the all-pervasive omnipresent Brahman (God) or primordial consciousness from which all phenomena arise.
Thirdly, he said that "in Buddhism there is no creator". In different Hindu sects there are different mythological descriptions of the creation process, and different names for a creator, but the role of higher intelligence in this process is undeniable.
Let's see if a comparison with modern notions from quantum physics and ontology would be able to help us to reconcile these seemingly opposite stances.
In quantum physics there is the wave-particle duality. In this duality, considered in the light of with Einstein's equation E = mc2, energy (E) can either be unbound Ie in a wave form (like electromagnetic radiation) or material in the form of eg a subatomic particle, such as an electron having mass (m). Energy in its particle form can only be detected by an appropriate instrument configuration, but if a different instrument configuration is used, a wave-like behavior is observed. What seems to be solid and material is in fact a buzzing beehive of energy streams that form orbitals, shape and structure together.
What is important in this last phrase is the word "together". As long as energy is alone and not observed it is presumed to be non-local, in other words everywhere. Upon measurement, observation, the wave collapses to make a particle observable. This requires and interaction of that energy with a material configuration of a sensor. Together the observer and the energy to be observed are capable to manifest an observable local, particulate entity. This nicely fits the notion of dependent arising for the observable energy.
It should be realized that all type of matter is a collection, a congregation of multiple particles or energy packages. There is no such thing as an unobserved free particle. Rather, as long as it is not observed, it is non-local. Materiality therefore requires at least two energetic entities that together establish a kind of density, an interference pattern, which a locally concentrated.
There must be an observation for the particle aspect to be observable. Yet if you leave a two-slit experiment to take place in your absence, the experiment still takes place and you can still see the outcome, even if you were not present at the moment of interaction between the detector and the energy wave collapse that established the particle. This means that the terminology "observation" does not necessarily imply that the observer is human. Rather the interaction between structural matter and functional energy transmission of the detector and the energy to be observed can be considered as an observation.
In view of this interaction aspect of the observation, one could state that matter is the consequence of the mutual observation of energetic entities; the interaction of at least two energetic entities forming a so-called " didensity ".
Interestingly enough, in the world of information a given entity, a thing can only be ontologically be defined by at least two descriptive statements. Meaning is conveyed only by a didensity of informative content. A term without a relation to another term is just a name, with no inherent essence. It is only when things are defined in terms of the elements that constitute them, that they can be understood as a thing by the brain. Yet we also know certain sensory qualities (such as colors, tastes, sounds) which a priori might seem to escape from this dual type definition. This is not so. We can only know a color if we know at least another color, we can only get some information out of sounds if they contrasted to other sounds. If there is no contrast there is perhaps observation, but there is no meaning. Meaning can only arise if there is contrast. A didensity . A togetherness of energetic entities, which at least differ in one aspect (eg their relative location) of a quality (the aspect), which is the same for both (this sameness of quality which only differs in degree is called the "identity of opposites "). Thus a quality is polarised into a duality to generate a phenomenon. This neatly fits the notion of "dependent arising".
Yet energy, which is not materially bounded, can still convey information, if this energy transmits a contrast. An interference pattern, a pulse sequence, a set of different frequencies. The most stunning modern application perhaps being the Wi-Fi, which transmits very complex information non-materially. This transmitted apparently unbound energy definitely has a structure. And if it has a structure, it also has a certain pattern, shape or form. So even in the apparent non-material world, which can still be decoded into materially observables, there must be some kind of structure and form. This implies that it is only relatively non-local. It is perhaps non-local with regard to the scale of our instruments and ourselves, but from a cosmic view point, if you were able to see, be or feel that energy, it would still be a wave form with a shape advancing or expanding through space. It would for such an observer be "particulate", limited in time and space. The peaks and valleys of the interference pattern would be "somewhere".
In a sense, such energy would be "material", a certain substance, as it apparently has implicit structure and form. So materiality is perhaps but a relative term. Indeed, what we consider as solid matter is mostly empty and the subatomic particles that are left, themselves are just whirlwinds of energy revolutions at light speed in a -for us- very limited space. So matter itself is in fact nothing but energy. We can accelerate the subatomic particles until they disintegrate into pure energy, which we then measure in Mega electronvolt units. For an observer, who is billion times smaller than a subatomic particle, such energy whirlwinds that build the particle would be non-local unbound energy.
So it seems as if matter and energy are relative terms and that there is no end to this tower of turtles of emptiness being form being emptiness etc. Depending on the scale that you look at it.
So it is then equally valid to state that form is as substantive as emptiness. One can say ultimately there is no emptiness; if you were able to look further down, eg below Planck scale, there would be an infinity of levels of materiality. Likewise one can state ultimately there is no materiality, if you were able to look further down, eg below Planck scale, there would be an infinity of levels of unbound energy, which is nothing else than emptiness.
So it seems "empty" is not so empty after all, and "form" is not so full or permanent after all. Even the polar notions of form and emptiness seem to follow that pattern of "dependent arising".
On the other hand these arguments are speculative. Perhaps there is a lowest level of aggregation below which there is only unbound energy in revolutions. For us it would seem that that level is the Planck scale, but we can't be sure about that.
The point I wanted to make is that apparent unbound energy ( Ie energy not bound in a material form) has structure, has an interference pattern and does convey some information.
Modern analyzes of the vacuum have shown that it is not so empty. The well-known Casimir effect shows that particles can arise from a vacuum. Which then leads to the conclusion that the vacuum is a kind of energy sea boiling with activity. This is sometimes also referred to as the zero-point energy.
The physicist Nassim Haramein suggests that the vacuum does have a structure, namely that of an isotropic vector equilibrium, which can be best modeled in the form of cuboctahedrons, which themselves can be composed of adjacent octahedrons and tetrahedrons. Or in a dynamic way as a " Jitterburging " octahedron-cuboctahedron, which when closed is an octahedron and when fully open is a cuboctahedron. This non-stop " Jitterburging " would generate a sustained toroidal flux, which establishes the subquantum zero-point field.
Although these theories have not yet been proven, they are a very elegant approach to describe the possible "structure" of emptiness. It is in a certain way the return of the "ether" that was denied by the scientists at the beginning of this century. Noteworthy, Nikola Tesla, who is the father of all wireless energy transmissions, was convinced of the existence of an "ether" and Einstein later started to doubt his earlier denial of the ether.
Interestingly, Nassim Haramein mentions the possibility of a fractal type nesting of octahedron-cuboctahedron, giving the vacuum an infinite structure; It is turtles all the way down. Like in the Hindu parable that the world rests on a turtle (or an elephant) and when asked what this turtle rests on the answer is: another turtle. When the question is repeated the answer is: It is turtles all the way down.
So the answer to the question "is there an ultimate substance" can perhaps be replied in the form of an infinite regress zero-point energy matrix à la Haramein, with alternating form and emptiness. As that system is in a constant flux of expanding and retracting ( Jitterburging ), and perhaps even spinning, there is no place which has complete emptiness of energy flux, nor is there ultimate permanency of one form or structure, rather the forms / structures alternate and recur at intervals, rendering them "semi-permanent" or "dynamic" if you wish.
I will come back to this issue after having discussed the next issue, which provides some further clues as regards the notion of an ultimate substance.
As regards the Anatman (or anatta ) – atman (or Brahman) dichotomy, I guess Buddha wanted to fight the "false ego". The idea that our personality can be kept permanently. The idea that we have an individual soul independent from the Brahman.
To resolve this issue I have to go deeper in this matter. Forgive me if I have to repeat some of the concepts mentioned above in different words.
With the logic analytical technique of " Syndiffeonesis ", developed Chris Langan, it can be demonstrated that everything is reductively the same.
" Syndiffeonic " means "difference in sameness". Any assertion to the effect that two things are different implies that they are reductively the same. The difference between two things can be described in terms of quantities and qualities of something they have in common. This difference map builds the relations. If you do this for all things, and if you do it recursively as regards the differences between the differences of two or more sets of relations, it turns out that all things are reductively the same.
The difference can be said to be written in a common language (not necessarily a literal language, but proverbially spoken) of a quality that is the same for everything. The mere fact that a difference between things can be described linguistically (or geometrically, which is just another type of language) implies that difference is only "partial" and quantifiable in terms of "contribution. Both related things (" relands ") are quantified manifestations of one and the same quality.
Which means that relations lead to patterns, patterns of form, forming some kind of information. Unlike the Greeks who found atoms to be the ultimate building blocks which cannot be reduced any further, today our paradigm is that pure energetic (structured) vibrations (as described above) appear to be the ultimate essence of reality which cannot be reduced any further. As things are only temporarily compounded of one and the same quality but eventually return to that same original energetic state, things can be said to be " in formation ".
When things interact they influence each other, leading to a mutual "reaction". In order to be able to react, some information must be exchanged. Between two colliding billiard balls a vector impulse is transmitted and exchanged. Electric charges "feel" each other's presence and react correspondingly in their movement; again some kind of energetic vibration is transmitted. Objects, albeit in a very rudimentary form, are somehow "aware" of what is happening to them when they encounter other objects and "react" thereto. There is some kind of "sensing" involved. It is true that this is not the focussed aware-type of sensing that living entities (as we know them) can have, but it can be called sensing, perceiving in a certain way. Even if it is programmed into the object how to react, when encountering a certain stimulus, the fact that it can react to a stimulus, means that it must somehow be able to perceive that stimulus. We can call this ability to perceive a form of proto-awareness. As all forms of energy in one way or another interact with each other, even if it is in a very minute almost imperceptible way, we cannot deny that there is an interaction; there is a form of sensing involved.
In other words the pure energetic structured vibrations which are the ultimate essence of reality and which cannot be reduced any further, have an intrinsic quality of proto-awareness. They are a presence, which senses. A " Presense ", for as long as they have not encountered any other presence, they may not sense anything.
But as long as pure energy has not encountered any other energy, it is in its wave state and isn't really localized anywhere. It is only when energy interacts with something else or another form of energy, that it becomes manifest and localized. Without interaction, not much can be said about energy. When it interacts, it means that there is at least a second entity to interact with. A meaningful event in the life of an energy beam can only occur when it interacts with something else, when there is a proximity between the two; they can be said to co-occur or to coincide if they are sufficiently proximate to be able to influence each other.
Funny enough in modern programming building towards a "thinking" robot or computer network, such as Watson from IBM (this program searches answers an looks for "meaning" via so-called "Latent Semantic Analysis"), "meaning" is derived when two terms have a statistical "proximity co-occurrence" in a body of text.
Similar to the building an ontology, both in the interaction of energies or (sub) atomic particles and in Latent Semantic analysis, we encounter the same thing: Meaning, a meaningful interaction, a reaction can only occur if there is sufficient proximity, to localise and event, an occurrence, something that gives meaning.
The undifferentiated energy as such appears a priori meaningless and it can only form an event, something perceptible once it encounters another energetic vibration of some sort. So any event is minimally a didensity, a proximity co-occurrence. Only the relation is observed in fact.
Wittgenstein and other philosophers pushed this idea even further: the only facts that can be said to exist are the relations between the things; the things as such have no "independent reality". If you consider a three-dimensional sea of energy, as long as it is homogeneous everywhere, no things can be said to be observable. But when you have interference patterns in the energetic sea, it means that there has been some stimulus to form an inhomogeneous distribution in the sea. The different energy waves can then interact, giving rise to observable interference patterns.
What we can observe, we say it exists; it stands out from a more or less homogeneous background. But that does not mean that that background is an absolute void, an absolute nothingness. Rather it is bursting with potential energy waiting for its chance to interact.
So observable "things" can be said to be the consequence of the relation between (at least) two streams of energy. Only their relations then lead to observable existences, the ground thereof is not directly knowable via sensory perception, although it can be inferred if you depart from the millennia old concept "nothing can come from nothing".
So in its most fundamental ground form existence originates from the ability of energetic vibrations to sense stimuli (proto-awareness) and to interact / react so as to give rise to interference patterns: to shape and to form, to generates a relation event, which is observable, which we can call a form of information. So energy is endowed with proto-awareness and proto-information ( Ie the ability to sense and the ability to interact and thereby give form and shape). Thus, we might have a clue here that the most fundamental ground of being is not substantial in the sense of matter or structured energy, but not an absolute void either. Rather it may be proto-awareness or primordial consciousness per se.
Everything that can be said to " ex-sist " ( Ie "stand out" from a background as opposed to "subsist": being the underlying background, which is not an absolute "nothing") can therefore be said to be a compound of at least two different streams of energy. Everything that can be said to " ex-sist " can be said to be of a temporary nature as it ultimately dissolves back into its structured energetic building blocks. But its underlying energetic proto-awareness and proto-informative ability is never lost.
Proto-awareness leads to self-creation, self-organization self-sustention ( autopoiesis ), which is a cybernetic stimulus-response-feedback loop inherent to Reality. Reality has sensors, senses what happens otherwise it is not possible to evaluate conditions, recognize these and respond thereto. This appears to be true at any level: wave-energetic, subatomic, atomic, molecular, macromolecular, cellular, organ level, plant and animal level.
So awareness of some sort, Ie consciousness, however minute, is an inherent functional characteristic of everything that is. This leads us to the need to accept the notion of hylozoism or panpsychism, wherein every energetic entity is inherently endowed with a form of (proto) -awareness. For if it did not or could not interact with other energies / entities, it would not exist.
As long as energies / entities are localized and autopoietically work for their self-sustention, they can be said to be "selfish". But as soon as they start to contribute to the creation, organization and sustention of other entities, they start to merge with that and the "self" aspect starts to diminish. In that sense we have ultimately no "individual self", and eternal individual atman, that remains limited to one specific form, as our energies will one day merge and meld and contribute to a greater whole together with other energies. The drop of energy, that we temporarily are, will one day flow back to ocean where it came from.
But that ocean as a whole is likely to be aware of its internal energy streams. That ocean as a whole is a flux of consciousness at a higher level. That ocean can then be equated with Brahman or God if you wish, being all-pervading. And that is what the Upanishads (a set of Hindu scriptures) call the (higher) "Self". But as it is the infinite whole of all existence and subsistence, there is no point in calling this "self", because "self" would imply the existence of "non-self". And there cannot be anything outside the whole of existence / reality. Reality is that which contains all and only that which is real. There are no things or beings outside of reality for if they are real, they are per definition included in reality. Whatever can influence reality is per definition part of reality. This excludes external causes. But this also means that the term "self" for Brahman is in fact pointless.
So perhaps Buddha did not deny the existence of Brahman, but realized that the term "self" was inappropriate for the whole and that the individual atman was no permanent entity. Noteworthy in Hinduism Buddha is revered as one of the incarnations of Vishnu.
Interestingly enough the term " atman " is etymologically related to the German " atmen " which means to breathe, and in fact the " Jitterburging " structure of the vacuum can be considered as a form of breathing. As all phenomena arise and subside endlessly from this sea of energy, this can also be considered as a form of "breathing".
I that way perhaps there is no real dichotomy between these aspects of Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta (non-dual Hinduism), but only an apparent one, as the same words are used, but slightly different meanings intended.
The third topic relates to the notion of a "creator". In the more mythological branch of Hinduism as described in the Vaishnavist Puranas , the demi-God Brahma (not to be confused with Brahman) created the world or universe as we know it. Yet Brahma himself originated from the navel of Vishnu, an origin he couldn't find himself. When the incarnation Krishna of Vishnu confronted Brahma with countless other Brahma's from parallel universes he was flabbergasted. Shiva was born from the head of Brahma in the Puranas . This is the view of those who see Vishnu as the highest God and equal to the highest Brahman, the view of the Vaishnavas. The Shivaites on the other hand describe how Brahma and Vishnu were seeking the origin of the Lingam of Shiva but could not find it. Although the different sects may be divided over the name of the highest God, Hinduism accepts that all is One and all is a creation of one ultimate entity, commonly denoted as the Brahman.
According to the Dalai Lama, "in Buddhism there is no creator" and existence is the consequence of the "dependent arising".
The statement that in "Buddhism there is no creator" is however not the same as "there is no creator" or "Buddha denied the existence of a creator". It seems that for the philosophy of Buddhism, the notion of a creator is not a necessary concept.
In fact Buddhism was in a certain way a reaction to an ancient form of Hinduism also called Brahmanism, in which there were frequent animal sacrifices to please the Gods. Buddhism may have been a necessary reaction to stop this cruelty, which also seems strongly contrary to the morality of the more modern abstract form of Hinduism Ie Advaita Vedanta. In Advaita Vedanta the most important key concept of morality is " ahimsa " or the absence of violence. This includes refraining from killing animals and that's why most Hindus are vegetarian.
Anyway, the all too frequent animal sacrifices in early Hinduism were a kind of perversion and were not in line with the concept of all-is-one. It was therefore important to dethrone the Hindu Gods from their pedestal and it may well be that that is the reason why Buddha never addressed the topic of a God or Creator.
If we observe however the complex structure of our solar system, which is seeded with a great number of kinds of numerical clues hidden in the measures of the orbits and circumferences of the planets, it is difficult to deny the existence of a higher intelligence, who must have designed this. John Martineau has described a great number of coincidences in the solar system, which are so astonishingly precise that they defy the notion of spontaneous arising. It is already quite a coincidence that the moon has a distance from the earth and the sun and a size such that it can exactly cover the sun when seen from the earth during an eclipse. This is often dismissed as a form of the " anthropic principle ", which states that it is "unremarkable that the universe's fundamental constants happen to fall within the narrow range thought to be compatible with life". Things seem so incredibly coincidental, for if they were not, we wouldn't be here to observe it.
Well, what if I tell you that Mercury and Earth's mean orbits are in exactly the same relation, ratio as their physical sizes and what if I tell you that the same is true for the Earth vs. Saturn. That an octagram and a fifteen-pointed star can be drawn respectively in these respective sets of orbits / circumferences, wherein the points of the star precisely touch the orbit or circumference of the greater planet and wherein the inner space of the star precisely touches the orbit or circumference of the smaller planet, you may start to frown. If I tell you that this star also produces the exact tilt of the earth, you may start to wonder what is going on here. If you study the complete solar system, you stumble on numerous of such coincidental relations, which on top of it, describe the most beautiful flower like patterns.
And this is not the end of your astonishment: Nature is full of bizarre coincidences, and our measures like mile, kilometer feet and centimetre seem to have been magically chosen to encode our base ten numerical system. And the ancients appear to have been aware of this and have encoded this in their buildings.
The equation (Hlf * p) / Ω = c describes the relationship between the hydrogen fine transition line, the ratio between the circumference and diameter of a circle, and the speed of light in a vacuum in Thoms / sec , wherein omega is 0.012345679012345679 ( by multiplying the 0.012345679012345679 by the missing 8, we get 0.0987654321 -ergo omega encodes base 10 number system).
The speed of light is encoded three times in the pyramid of Gizeh. The Great pyramid: GP, has 144000 casing stones (144000 is the speed of light in earth grid arcs / grid second); The position in latitude of the complex of pyramids halfway Khufu and Khafre is 29,9792458, which are the same numbers as in the speed of light in meters per second; the difference between the outer and inner circumference of GP also encodes the light speed (299.8 m).
The height of the GP (280 royal cubits: Pi – Phi ^ 2 = royal cubit) encodes the distance between earth and sun and also the polar radius of the earth.
The base length of GP is 365.2422 sacred cubits, which refers to length of year.
Other sizes used in the GP encode moreover the radius of moon and earth, Pi, Phi etc. The diameters of the Earth and Moon (7920 miles and 2160 miles) are in the ratio of 11 to 3, which proportions also encode the proportions of the human body (as in Da Vinci's Vitruvian man). Twice the perimeter of the bottom of the granite coffer times 10 ^ 8 is the sun's mean radius.
The radius of earth and moon together equal 5040 miles which is 7! but also 7 * 8 * 9 * 10. Ergo these radii together encode base 10 number system as well. The circumference of the moon is 12 ^ 7 feet.
And I can go on and on. How could the ancients have been aware of the metric and mileage system? How could they have known the speed of light? How can it be that constants and planetary sizes encode our base ten system? Do you realize how extremely fine-tuned the materials chosen to create the proportional coincidences of Mercury, Earth and Saturn must be? It defies understanding.
To me it seems all too coincidental and it looks more like a very elaborate beautiful work of higher intelligence, which expresses itself inter alia via us. We may not have known what we were doing when we built these structures, but a higher intelligence with knowledge about the future seems to have been working through us.
It appears very likely that there is a higher intelligence and that this higher intelligence is making all creations. Primordial consciousness appears to be expressing itself to become known by its lower temporary "selves".
Whether this is the work of one higher intelligence or multiple collaborating intelligences is not so important. It just seems to be too farfetched to assume that all these measures and ratios are the consequence of "spontaneous arising".
Therefore to claim that there is no creator at all is in view of these overwhelming data a less likely hypothesis than the opposite.
It is noteworthy that Nagarjuna never said that "dependent arising" and "emptiness" represented the absolute truth. He used these notions in a pragmatically and used a higher form of logic to show that via logic, reason, metaphysics and science we cannot know the absolute truth.
Note that he did not say that we cannot know the absolute truth. In many religious traditions the absolute truth is said to be knowable only through a direct mystical communion. Samadhi in Hinduism, Satori in Zen-Buddhism.
Alan Wallace, a Buddhist repeatedly writes that consciousness is a relative thing. But at a certain point, he makes the distinction between "substrate consciousness" (relative consciousness; awareness of a phenomenon) and "primordial consciousness". He quotes the Tibetan monk Düdjom Lingpa: "Primordial consciousness is self-originating, naturally clear, free of outer and inner obscuration; it is the all-pervasive, radiant, clear infinity of space, free of contamination."
That notion perfectly matches Advaita Vedanta. It is this notion that Hinduism, perhaps unduly, calls the "Self" or Brahman. So if you dig deep enough, beyond the veil of semantic obscuration, it turns out Buddhism and Hinduism aren't so different after all. And the most promising thing is: You are One with that! Tat Tvam Asi. You can experience merging and becoming one with that consciousness.