Roaming about the blogs in wordpress, I found out the other day this blog that contains a post of a google video on a documentary by the BBC on history of contemporary physics. The story is about the discovery of the structure of atom and the intimate connection between the very big and the very small. Those who are familiar with physics will immediately recognize Rutherford’s discovery of the internal structure of the atom and all the subsequent developments after that.
There are two things that got me watching the whole video until the end (it took me almost an hour). The first was that there is matter and there is antimatter. Antimatter is just like matter, except that it is a mirror image of matter. Antimatter exists in an alternative universe, so to speak. It might be compared to a shadow of the entire visible universe. This has very startling implications. For example, I now exist (this much is certain because, as Descartes said, I am now writing this post and am thinking (or at least believe I am thinking, and so on). But according to this antimatter theory, there is somewhere out there my counterpart, another me who exists in the fullest sense as I do exist now, only that that another me is a mirror image of myself. Since I am right handed, my doppelganger is then left handed, and so on.
Another thing, which is perhaps more outrageous, is the proposal that there are a multitude of universes apart from our own. I remember reading a science book when I was a teenager that there can be only one universe, because the universe is the sum total of everything there is. But then this physicist suggests that our universe is just one among very, very many! What is going on?
The physicist (I happen to forget his name, but he’s from Oxford) suggests that there are a universe for every possibility. Hence each possibility is an actual reality in some universe. He calls them “multiverses.” Thus there is another universe (or philosophers prefer to call “another world”) in which I am not a Buddhist, but a Christian, yet another where I am a Taoist, and another where I am a Jewish, and so on and on. This is not mere philosophical argument out of the logic of possibility (such as David Lewis’s), but a *physical* theory.
But if all this is true, it has a profound implication for Buddhist teaching. If there are many, many multiverses in many of which there is a ‘Soraj’, so where is the real ‘Soraj’? What about the sense of identity of the ego, which is so hard for most of us to get rid of and is the root cause of ignorance (avidya) which brings about sufferings and endless roaming in samsara. If there are an infinite number of Sorajs then who is the real Soraj? Is it the one who is conscious now of writing this very sentence and is feeling the tactile sensation of a Korean-made keyboard? Not exactly, for all the other Sorajs in all the multiverses could be doing the same thing and are feeling the same sensation. The only reason why this might seem counterintuitive to some is that the attachment to the sense of the ego is so strong. There has to be something to hold on to which is part and parcel of the sense of the identity of the self. This feeling just cannot be dissipated to the many personalities out there in the multiverses. The problem, though, is that this feeling, this seeming sense of identity of being oneself is just an illusion. It is an illusion because we can always imagine a scenario where we do not possess the perspective of a particular person, but instead view that particular person just as another among very many human beings there are, each feeling the same thing and having the same perspective. So there is nothing in the putative sense of the ego that can guarantee that this sense of the ego is for real.
Enough for now. It’s late already. Back to the TV 🙂