The Dao, Buddha, and Quatum Mechanics

I came across a great video by Shantena Augusto Sabbadini in which he makes a link between the Dao De Jing’s ( or Tao Te Ching)  view of the universe and the behavior of particles in quantum mechanics.

The video really speaks for itself, but I’m going to highlight a few of the interesting points and share my thoughts with how it relates to antifragility.

If you’re unfamiliar with the quantum mechanics and particularly the Double Slit Experiment, here are a few good, easy to understand summaries (and if you’re not familiar with it, prepare to have your mind blown!)

Original Double Slit Experiment

Double Slit with Quantum Eraser / Delayed Choice

Another good one here.

Here are the main points from Sabbini’s video:

Quantum mechanics tells us that all of the particles in the universe are made up of probability waves and are not “real” in the sense that they always exist in a tangible form in specific place.  Things only become real when measured/observed/sensed by a conscious observer.

This is why we experience the world the way we do — as real tangible objects — because we experience the universe from within a body, and a body gets it’s inputs though its senses of sight, hearing, touching, etc.  In other words, a body is sensing device.  It makes observations.  Hence, this is our only way of experiencing life.

Chapter 1 of Dao De Jing

Amazingly, the Dao De Jing tells us the same story in it’s first chapter:

The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things

And so, always eliminate desires to observe its mysteries
Always have desires to observe its  manifestations

These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders


All our talk about reality is not reality.  We can never fully describe it.  It is just a map.  (The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao)

Post Modern thinking says that even though we may not be able to fully describe the “real” reality and we say that maybe for humans maybe it’s all about how our thinking creates our own reality within our heads.  We have analyze, talk, measure, analyze and talk some more.
The Dao tells us to go the other way.  Stop talking and just experience reality.  I like this.  Just live in the moment.  This is what Buddha tells us, as well as more modern authors such as Elkhart Tolle and Micheal Singer.  To use a modern example, many of us are so busy tweeting, posting Fascebook updates and uploading photos of every moment of our lives to Snapchat and Instagram that we’re barely even experiencing life as it happens.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.  The Dao also tells us that when you name things, it creates a split between subject and object.  It creates the “myriad things” and also creates desire.  Desire ( or hatred) for objects, puts meaning on them and so gives meaning to life.  This naming and desire leads to suffering.  This is also one of the four noble truths of Buddhism.
Sabbadini  goes on to remind us that scientifically speaking, there are no separate objects in the universe — only fields interacting in space-time., just as a wave is not really a separate object from the ocean. Only in name is it different.  If you are a wave and identify with your separateness, you are bound to suffer because a wave will eventually be dissolved into the ocean.  It never really was separate.
So with desire you experience the boundaries — but notice Lao Tzu does not say this is necessarily bad.  With naming, desires and passion, you experience what it means to be alive in our world.  The joys, the struggle, the pain, anxiety, fear, love, fulfillment, and achievement.
He does not say anything about trying to take yourself out of the world (where else could you go?).    Having these two things together (and I think learning how use and experience each one of these together) is the wonder of all wonders, the secret of all secrets and the gate of all mysteries.
Now — what does all this tell us about living an antifragile life?  Plenty, in my opinion.   I see the verses of the Dao De Jing as tools or patterns that you can apply to your life.  When things are bad ( or anytime), you can remember that you don’t have to be attached to your thoughts.  We are all one.  You don’t have to let other people or emotions get the best of you and drive your life.  (Desireless!).  On the other hand, sometimes experiencing the full range of emotions is what makes us human and gives meaning to life. So we have to let is pass through us.
Certainly, when something good happens, it feels nice to embrace it,  celebrate it and experience it fully.  That’s fun right?  To me, that’s exposing yourself to good things but having limited exposure (notice I didn’t say no exposure) to the bad things.  The bad times come and go.  You know that’s a part of being human. You acknowledge them, experience them, even though it doesn’t feel good, but then are able to let them go.  The are bumps in the road… small setbacks… small losses.




4 thoughts on “The Dao, Buddha, and Quatum Mechanics

  1. Hi,
    That’s a very nice write-up 🙂 Thank you.
    If you want to understand deeper similarities with the D/Tao and certain other truths – I humbly invite you to my own blog where I’ve posted similar ‘insights’ that I’ve had. But the Tao-Not-Tao division/non-division is sooo much more fundamental than one can possibly imagine. It’ll take a lifetime to delve into its depths… I hope to see you there!
    Kind regards,


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