Expounding the Heart Sutra through a Scientific Experiment

Author  Dwight Chien

My article titled “Discovering the Profoundness of Buddhism through a Scientific Experiment” was published in the 178th edition of the “BAUS Wisdom Journal for all Being”. In it described molecules, atoms, positrons, neutrons, and photons all have been demonstrated through scientific double-slits experiments to exhibit the characteristics of both particles and waves. The experimental results of the dual characteristics reflect very well what is described in the Hear Sutra.

Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara told us in the Heart Sutra: “…Form is no other than emptiness, and emptiness no other than form, form is exactly emptiness and emptiness exactly form…” I had read these verses numerous times for tens of years in the past, and was not able to grasp the meaning. In our mundane reality, whatever our eyes see is what it is. How can it also be emptiness at the same time? This is very mysterious. Yet, now I have found actually the double-slits experiment explains it. When I was attending college, I learned light possesses the characteristics of both wave and particle at the same time. However, I was not able to apply that to expound Heart Sutra. Several years ago, when I saw the video of the double-slits experiment, I still was not able to make the connection with the Heart Sutra. Yet, recently it suddenly came to me, isn’t the particle characteristics of the light a form? Isn’t the wave characteristics of the light emptiness? Isn’t the light wave and the light particle exist simultaneously? In this case, of course “Form is no other than emptiness, and emptiness no other than form, form is exactly emptiness and emptiness exactly form”. The puzzle that I could not solve for tens of years, when I understood, it is as simple as that.

The Heart Sutra then continues: “…so also are sensation, perception, volition, and consciousness…”. Based on our common sense, we cannot consider sensation, perception, volition, and consciousness as particles. However, they are not emptiness either. Perhaps the best way to coin it is by calling them “virtuous particles”. These virtuous particles are different from actual particles because they lack the form. On the other hand, they are not emptiness either because they are associated with our consciousness, and we know emptiness has nothing to do with our consciousness. Since these virtuous particles possess both the characteristics of wave and particles, they certainly can similarly fit into the verse of “Form is no other than emptiness, and emptiness no other than form, form is exactly emptiness and emptiness exactly form”.

Within the Heart Sutra, “Form is no other than emptiness, and emptiness no other than form, form is exactly emptiness and emptiness exactly form” is the verse most difficult to understand. Once it is understood, the whole sutra becomes very straight forward. The compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara wants us to reach the other shore, not getting attached to mundane dharma. He used the most straight forward verses to describe for us the phenomena of his enlightenment. However, we sentient beings still may not understand. Comparing to the practitioners of olden days, we are lucky to know the result of current scientific experiments, which helps us understand Heart Sutra. The olden-day practitioner, however, will not able to reach enlightenment without very lengthy and hard practice. Many of them were not able to get enlightened in their whole life. We are lucky as we can get a minor enlightenment easily. Yet, this minor enlightenment lacks the foundation of serious practice. Therefore, we should become inspired by this minor enlightenment and begin to practice even more diligently.

 

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