Namchak Community Blog

My Love of Science

The following is an except from Lama Tsomo’s book, Why is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling?

The entire time I was growing up, I was exposed to another Western tradition for exploring the world: science. My father had a passion for it. Often his “bedtime story” for me was a lesson on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, or the construction of atoms, or modern genetics. He was so impassioned about science, and so good at rendering it in a way I could understand, that I was caught up in the adventure of inquiry. He would pull out textbooks and point while I looked on, making it all come to life. I was so infected by his delight and awe at the workings of the universe, that I think he shared this particular subject more with me than with my siblings. Though I didn’t become a scientist, in my keen interest in the subject, I carry that legacy to this day.

In the twentieth century, as Western science moved far beyond Newtonian physics, the highly regarded physicist and fellow of the Royal society David Bohm (1917–1992), took us ahead by, well, a quantum leap. Early in his professional life, Bohm worked with Einstein, who had hoped to fully form his “unified field” theory before he died, a goal he never achieved. In my opinion, Dr. Bohm’s later theories and related insights, indicated by his term holomovement, went far toward accomplishing the task. 

One of Bohm’s most startling assertions is that the tangible reality of our everyday lives is really a kind of illusion, like a holographic image. Underlying it is a deeper order of existence, a vast and more primary level of reality that gives birth to all the objects and appearances of our physical world in much the same way that a piece of holographic film gives birth to a hologram. Bohm calls this deeper level of reality the implicate (which means “enfolded”) order, and he refers to our own level of existence as the explicate, or unfolded order. 

This theory helps explain many phenomena previously unexplained by science. Though I won’t go on about them all here, you can explore them through Talbot’s work, and, of course, Bohm’s. I do want to quote Talbot’s explanation of one previously unexplained phenomenon, because it more thoroughly clarifies the conundrum of “wavicles.”

It also explains how a quantum can manifest as either a particle or a wave. According to Bohm, both aspects are always enfolded in a quantum’s ensemble, but the way an observer interacts with the ensemble determines which aspect unfolds and which remains hidden. As such, the role an observer plays in determining the form a quantum takes may be no more mysterious than the way a jeweler who manipulates a gem determines which of its facets become visible and which do not.

Perhaps this is how we can use scientific theory to illuminate the interaction between the ocean and its waves that Buddhism speaks of. Perhaps this helps us understand, too, how we create and project our own reality from the infinite possibilities enfolded within the one great awareness.