By Archana Raghuram | Temples Books and Science YouTube Channel
In this super enlightening video, Archana Raghuram discusses the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Alain Aspect, John Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger for proving that the universe is not real. Raghuram highlights the convergence of quantum physics and Vedanta, an ancient Indian philosophy, in describing reality as an illusion (Maya) and identifying the conscious observer (Sakshi) as central to the existence of the world. A summary of this video and the full transcript are below.
The Nobel Prize announcement appeared in Scientific American late last year:
The Universe Is Not Locally Real, and the Physics Nobel Prize Winners Proved It
The question is: What exactly does “not locally real” mean? Archana Raghuram answers that question and much more in this video:
What does REAL mean in physics | The Universe as per Quantum Physics & Vedanta | Nobel Prize | (Q&A)
In the first half of this remarkable video, Archana Raghuram discusses the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Alain Aspect, John Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger for proving that the universe is not real. Raghuram highlights the convergence of quantum physics and Vedanta, an ancient Indian philosophy, in describing reality as an illusion (Maya) and identifying the conscious observer (Sakshi) as central to the existence of the world.
Raghuram takes you through a step-by-step journey into the world of physics which has reached a convergence point with the conclusions of Vedanta – one of the most ancient philosophies of the world. She begins with Einstein's theory of relativity, which demolished the idea of an objective reality by demonstrating that time and space are relative and depend on the observer's perspective. This was the first significant challenge to the objective view of reality.
Next, Raghuram discusses the emergence of quantum physics, particularly the double-slit experiment, which showed that particles only exist when observed. This placed the observer at the center of reality. However, Einstein disagreed with quantum physics, specifically with the idea of entangled particles, which he described as “spooky action at a distance.” He believed that this aspect of quantum theory indicated that it was incomplete or wrong.
The search for entangled particles eventually led to their discovery, with experiments showing that they can communicate instantly across vast distances and even through time. Despite these discoveries, scientists could not automatically conclude that quantum physics was accurate. Two explanations were considered: either the bizarre behavior of entangled particles was real (proving quantum physics correct) or there was a hidden property of matter that could provide a logical explanation for their behavior.
The deadlock between these two explanations was resolved by the 2022 Nobel Prize-winning physicists who devised an experiment that confirmed the predictions of quantum physics. They demonstrated that particles billions of light years apart can instantly know each other's state, proving the universe is not real and settling the argument in favor of quantum physics. This groundbreaking discovery aligns with Vedanta's ancient teachings about the nature of reality.
In the second half of this video, Raghuram explores the convergence between quantum physics and Vedanta, focusing on the concept of Brahman, the consciousness principle that creates the universe, and its relationship to the observer. This convergence is supported by the Mahavakyas, the great sayings of Vedanta, which emphasize the unity of individual consciousness and the ultimate reality.
Raghuram begins by explaining that particles do not have a real existence until they are observed, and it is the act of observation that brings them into existence. According to Vedanta, the world exists because the observer sees it, and the universe is an illusion (Maya) created by the deluding power of consciousness. This idea may initially seem like a giant leap, but Raghuram presents a thought experiment to elucidate this point.
Raghuram uses the analogy of a dream to explain the relationship between Brahman and the universe, emphasizing that Brahman is only an observer or witness, not an active participant in the process. This concept is called Sakshi Chaitanyam in Vedanta, which means witness consciousness or observing consciousness.
In the experiment, the dreamer's consciousness creates every object and person within a vivid dream. The people in the dream have their own experiences, but all of these experiences are ultimately the dreamer's. The dreamer's consciousness is undivided and experienced through each person in the dream. The dreamer and the people in the dream are essentially one and the same, despite the illusion of separation created by the deluding power of Maya.
The Mahavakyas, like “Tat Tvam Asi” (That Thou Art) and “Aham Brahmasmi” (I am Brahman), emphasize the oneness of individual consciousness and ultimate reality. This unity is illustrated in the thought experiment, where the dreamer's consciousness is experienced through each person in the dream, highlighting the non-duality between the dreamer and the dream characters.
The paradox of quantum physics lies in the counterintuitive and seemingly contradictory nature of the behavior of particles at the quantum level, especially in relation to the role of the observer in bringing particles into existence.
The Mahavakyas help to explain the paradox of quantum physics by suggesting that the observer's consciousness is not separate from the reality being observed. In this context, the seemingly paradoxical behavior of particles in quantum physics can be understood as a manifestation of the underlying unity of all things. When the observer and the observed are essentially one, the act of observation can be seen as an interaction between different aspects of the same non-dual reality.
In this way, the Mahavakyas provide a philosophical framework that can help reconcile the paradox of quantum physics by highlighting the non-dual nature of reality and the inseparability of the observer and the observed. This perspective suggests that the seemingly strange and counterintuitive phenomena observed in quantum physics are, in fact, reflections of the deeper unity and interconnectedness of all things.
In summary, the video highlights the convergence between quantum physics and Vedanta, particularly in relation to the concept of Brahman and the role of the observer. The Mahavakyas reinforce this convergence by emphasizing the unity of individual consciousness and ultimate reality, which is exemplified in the thought experiment and supported by the principles of quantum physics.
TRANSCRIPT + NOTES
Hello and Namaste. I am doing this video with a sense of awe and excitement, and I hope you will share this feeling with me at the end of this video. The 2022 Nobel Prize for physics has been awarded to physicists who have proven that the universe is not real. Yes, you heard me right. The universe is not real. What is amazing is that this is just what Vedanta has been proclaiming for millennia: reality is an illusion – Maya. This Nobel prize-winning proof for quantum physics proves two fundamental principles of Advaita Siddhanta:
1) Maya – The world is not real.
2) Sakshi – It is a conscious observer or a witness that brings the world into existence.
These are not just superficial likenesses. Quantum physics and Vedanta overlap at a deeply fundamental level.
***** NOTE: Advaita Siddhanta is a school of philosophy within Hinduism that originated in India. It is also known as Advaita Vedanta, which means “non-dualistic end of the Vedas”. The term “Vedanta” refers to the philosophical part of the Vedas, which are considered the sacred scriptures of Hinduism. Advaita Siddhanta was founded by the Indian philosopher and theologian Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century. According to this philosophy, there is only one ultimate reality, which is Brahman, and all other phenomena, including the individual self (jiva) and the world (jagat), are ultimately unreal or illusory (maya). The core principle of Advaita Siddhanta is the non-dualistic nature of reality, which asserts that there is no real distinction between the individual self and Brahman. The individual self is said to be an illusion caused by ignorance (avidya) and can be overcome through spiritual practice and realization of one's true nature as Brahman. Advaita Siddhanta has had a significant influence on the development of Hindu philosophy and spirituality, as well as on the broader religious and cultural traditions of India. It has also attracted the attention of scholars and practitioners of other spiritual traditions around the world.
In this video. I plan to do two things.
First I'll take you through a step-by-step journey through physics, which has reached a point where it has converged with the conclusions of the most ancient philosophy of the world.
Second, I want to show you how the bizarre and paradoxical aspects of quantum physics can be easily explained by applying the principles of Advaita Vedanta. I hope you will stay with me till the end. This is a proud moment for all of us. Hundreds of years of scientific research has led back to the wisdom of our rishis.
This journey begins with Einstein. Before him, It was thought that the universe was an absolute reality. There was time and space which was all pervading and they had objective and independent existence. There can be no difference of opinion on how much time has elapsed and how far two things are in space anywhere in the universe. Einstein's relativity demolished this notion.
It proved that time depends on the vantage point of an observer if you are moving close to the speed of light, time itself slows down for you. People traveling at different speeds will experience different times. Same is true for space too: different people traveling at different speeds will measure two points in space differently. Space itself shrinks and expands depending on the point of view of the observer. Relativity erased the distinction between what is and what appears. The observer was no longer a passive, non-consequential entity. He became central to the form and shape of the universe.
This was the first big blow to the objective view of reality. Einstein's theory, however, did not claim that a conscious observer was essential to this process.
The next big blow was the emergence of quantum physics. There is a famous experiment called the double slit experiment in quantum physics, which proved that particles don't exist at all until they are observed. It is the act of observation that brings particles into existence. Before someone makes the observation, a particle can only be thought of as a set of probabilities. A particle does not have any real existence until it is observed. This was the conclusion of the founders of quantum physics like Heisenberg and Neil Boer.
Quantum physics pushed the observer to the very center of reality. Ironically, it was Einstein who vehemently disagreed with the findings of quantum physics. He's supposed to have famously remarked; “Do you really believe the Moon is not there when you're not looking at it?”
There are many things about quantum physics that makes no logical sense. Einstein pointed out those things to prove that quantum physics is wrong. At the center of his argument was a set of really bizarre particles called entangled particles. Quantum theory predicted the existence of a special set of particles called entangle particles. You can think of entangled particles as twins who are mirror images of each other. They are inextricably linked and replicate each other's every move. If one particle changes its behavior, the other will know this instantly and change its behavior, too.
Einstein described quantum entanglement as “spooky action at a distance.” He said that this prediction of quantum theory proves that there is something incomplete or wrong with it. It was predicting that particles have telepathy and communicate with each other. How can any scientist in their right mind accept such a conclusion? Einstein said that such particles could not possibly exist.
If particles that are billions of light years apart can know each other's state instantly, it means that information is traveling faster than the speed of light. Einstein, Schrodinger and several other prominent scientists of that time published papers describing this paradox of quantum physics, which they claimed proved that there was something wrong with quantum physics.
After this paper was published, a search began in the scientific community for entangled particles. And, to everyone's amazement, they were discovered. An experiment was carried out which proved that quantum entanglement is real. Two entangled particles can communicate with each other instantly.
Not only can they communicate through large distances in space, it also turns out that they can communicate across time. That is, they appear to be sending information to the past and future. Watch my video on the double slit experiment and entangled particles if you want to understand this better. I have provided a link in the description and at the end of this video.
The existence of these particles have been proven multiple times and are used in real life applications. In fact, entangled particles are key to the functioning of quantum computers. However, there remains some doubts about why these particles exist and behave the way they do. Just because entangled particles were discovered, the scientists could not automatically conclude that quantum physics was accurate. It is possible that we were missing out some hidden property of matter that is causing the entangled particles to behave the way they do.
Let me explain this with an analogy. You are watching a magician perform a series of incredible tricks. There are two possible explanations for this. He's a real magician like Harry Potter and can perform magic using his wand. The second explanation is that he's tricking you. you are not able to see what he's doing so it looks like magic to you. In reality, it is not magic at all. If this trick is explained to you, it'll make perfect sense. In this analogy, Harry Potter is equivalent to the quantum physics version of reality. If such bizarre and unexplainable behavior really exists, it proves that quantum physics is accurate. The universe is not real.
Now there is a second scenario: what if the magician is not Harry Potter. What if he is only a skilled trickster, making us believe that magic is happening when there is a perfectly logical explanation for the trick. This is the second explanation for entangled particles. It's not that these particles are bizarre and their behavior beyond any explanation. It is just that we don't understand them fully. If we understood their properties, we would be able to provide a perfectly logical explanation for their behavior without involving quantum physics.
For a long time, physics was deadlocked between these two explanations for entangled particles, which brings us to the physicists who won the 2022 Nobel Prize for physics this year: Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger. Until these physicists came along, there was no way to conclusively determine which of these two is the right explanation. Is it real magic or is it just a trick? These physicists devised an ingenious experiment which proved that quantum physics is absolutely right. Particles which are billions of light years apart, do in fact, know each other's state instantly.
There is something spooky happening which defies explanation, thus settling the argument in the favor of quantum physics. They basically proved that the universe is not real. How mind-blowing is that?
WHAT IS REAL?
Now we have moved to a point in physics where nothing we previously knew makes sense. How can the universe not be real? Moreover, how is it possible that observers bring the universe into existence?
Physicists are toying with the idea that the very purpose of the universe was to create conscious observers. It is possible that until observers appeared, the universe did not have any shape or form. All these sound less like physics and more in the territory of metaphysics. Is it possible to make sense of these bizarre findings? I want to put forth to you that it makes perfect sense when you look through the lens of Vedanta. Like quantum physics, Vedanta says that the world is not real – it is only an illusion.
So what is real, then? What is causing the solution? The only thing that is real is consciousness. Consciousness is not a product or an emergent property of life, as science claims. Consciousness is the fundamental principle from which the whole universe emerged. Universe is created by consciousness. It exists in consciousness and resolves into consciousness.
***** NOTE: Nobel Prize winning physicists also believe that consciousness is fundamental:
“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness… Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” ~ Max Planck, who is known as “the father of quantum physics.” His discovery of energy quanta won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.
“It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness of the observer. The very study of the external world led to the conclusion that the content of consciousness is the ultimate reality.” – Eugene Wigner, 1963 Nobel Prize Winner in Physics
This consciousness principle, which creates the universe and pervades every aspect of the universe, is called Brahman. In Vedanta, there is a famous and oft-repeated example given to explain this concept. The universe is equated to a dream and Brahman to a dreamer. The relationship between you and your dream perfectly represents the relationship between Brahman and the universe.
***** NOTE: Brahman is a concept in Hinduism that refers to the ultimate, divine reality that underlies the universe. It is often described as an all-encompassing, infinite and eternal entity that transcends time, space, and individual identity. According to Hindu philosophy, Brahman is the source of everything in the universe and is the ultimate goal of human existence. It is believed that every living being is essentially a manifestation of Brahman and that realizing one's identity with Brahman is the ultimate goal of spiritual practice. Brahman is also associated with the concept of Atman, which refers to the individual self or soul. In Hinduism, it is believed that the ultimate realization of the identity between the individual Atman and Brahman leads to liberation from the cycle of birth and death (samsara) and the attainment of ultimate spiritual enlightenment (moksha).
Let us examine this relationship further. First, the entire dream is born in you, exists in you, and disappears in you. You create, sustain and destroy your dream. Brahman, the consciousness principle, operates in a similar manner.
Second, nothing that happens in your dream has any impact on you. What do I mean by this? You can win a lottery in your dream and you wouldn't be richer by a penny. You can murder someone in your dream and you will not be punished for it. You are untouched by your dream, although it exists in you. This is true for Brahman, the consciousness principle.
The third and perhaps the most difficult relationship to understand is this: what is the real relationship between you and your dream world? I said before that nothing that happens in your dream is real for you. What is the one thing that happens in your dream which is true even when you wake up? Take a second to think about it. The only true relationship between you and your dream is this: you are the witness of your dream.
You observe your dream. This was true while you are dreaming and is true after you wake up. Why is this so important? Nothing can happen and nothing can exist in the dream world without you witnessing it. Think about it for a second. Can anything exist in your dream without you seeing it? In fact, the question itself is wrong.
The objects in your dream get their existence because you witness them. The very act of you seeing it brings things into existence in your dream, isn't it? Again take a moment to think about it? Nothing can exist in your dream that you don't see. It is your seeing that brings things into existence.
Brahman and the universe have similar relationship. Everything is born in Brahman, exists in Brahman, and resolves in Brahman. But Brahman is not an active participant in the process. It is only the witness of the universe. That is why Brahman is referred to in Vedanta as Sakshi Chaitanyam, the witness consciousness or the observing consciousness.
***** NOTE: Sakshi Chaitanyam, often referred to as Sakshi, is a fundamental concept in the Vedanta philosophy, particularly in the Advaita Vedanta school. The term “Sakshi” means “witness” or “observer,” and “Chaitanyam” refers to “consciousness” or “pure awareness.” Sakshi Chaitanyam can be understood as the witness consciousness or the pure awareness that observes everything without being affected or influenced by the experiences or objects being observed. According to Advaita Vedanta, the ultimate reality, or Brahman, is the only true existence, and everything else is an illusion (Maya). The self (Atman) is considered to be identical to this ultimate reality. However, the illusion of the world and the individual's identification with the body, mind, and intellect create a sense of duality, making it challenging to recognize the true nature of the self. Sakshi Chaitanyam represents the unchanging, eternal, and pure consciousness that exists within every individual, separate from the body, mind, and intellect. It is the conscious observer that witnesses all experiences, thoughts, and emotions without being entangled or affected by them. The concept of Sakshi Chaitanyam emphasizes that this witnessing consciousness is the true nature of the self (Atman) and that realizing and identifying with this pure awareness leads to spiritual liberation (Moksha). In the context of this video, Sakshi Chaitanyam is closely related to the role of the observer in quantum physics. The video suggests that the observer's consciousness plays a central role in bringing the world into existence, reflecting the fundamental principles of Advaita Vedanta.
Now we have reached the second big convergence between quantum physics and Vedanta. Brahman. the consciousness principle that creates the universe, is only an observer, a witness, a Sakshi. Particles do not have any real existence until they are observed. It is the act of observation that brings particles into existence. Take a minute to absorb this.
Now you may say to me: “Wait a second. This is a giant leap. The all-pervading consciousness bringing the universe into existence cannot be equated to a puny little observer in a tiny little corner of the universe, bringing things into existence.”
The answer to this conundrum takes us to the very heart of Vedanta, the zenith of its teachings. Just like Einstein, let us do a small thought experiment. Let's say you are having a vivid dream. It is your consciousness that has created every object in your dream. There are not only inanimate objects in your dream, there are also people in your dream. What about them? They don't just exist, they are conscious beings. Where do they get their consciousness from?
Let's say there are 10 people in your dream. Each person in your dream is having a different experience. Where do they get their sentience from? How is it possible for them to experience the dream world? Are they experiencing anything that you are not experiencing? If a person in your dream is watching the sunrise, it is your consciousness which has created the sunrise and you are seeing it through his eyes. He's experiencing the sunrise because you are experiencing it. The experience of every person in your dream is your experience. Take a minute to absorb this
Now ask yourself: how is this happening? Have you divided your consciousness into 10 different parts and distributed it to the 10 people in your dream? No! You are one undivided consciousness experiencing your dream world through every person in your dream.
Now let us shift our point of view to the people in your dream. Each person experiences the world as if it is outside of him. They experience themselves as distinct individuals separate from everyone else. One person cannot see what the other person is seeing. Each of them is under the impression that they're living in a tiny little corner of this world and they have limited power over it. This is just an illusion, an illusion, caused by the deluding power of your dream. This deluding power is called Maya in Vedanta – the power that deludes us into believing that this unreal world is in fact real.
There is only your consciousness shining through all the people in your dream. While you are dreaming, even you don't know this. You are experiencing all the ups and downs of the world as though it is outside of you. You, the dreamer, is every person in your dream and every person in your dream is you. You have not divided yourself to become these multiple people in your dream. You remain undivided observing your dream, and this power of observation is reflected in every person in your dream.
Let me repeat: there is only one observer, one consciousness, which appears in every conscious being. Every observer in the dream world is you the dreamer. This is the final teaching of Vedanta – the culmination of all its knowledge. There is only one consciousness principle and it is you. The whole world is happening in you, you are Brahman, you create, sustain and destroy the universe. You are the sakshi, the witness of the entire world. The world exists because you see it. The world exists because you see it.
Can you see how this neatly explains the paradox of quantum physics? How is it possible for a puny observer in the laboratory to bring things into existence? It is possible because there is nothing puny about an observer. He is that all-pervading consciousness that brought the whole universe into existence.
See how well Advaita Vedanta perfectly explains these fundamental laws of quantum physics. Quantum physics says the universe is unreal. Vedanta says the universe is just an Illusion: it is Maya. Quantum physics says the observer brings things into existence. Vedanta agrees: the all-pervading witness consciousness, the Sakshi Chaitanya, creates the universe. It is the same consciousness that shines through every living being. It is impossible to ignore the uncanny similarities between quantum physics and vedanta.
If you want a more elaborate explanation for all the things I've spoken about in this video, watch my series, titled “Science and God“. In this series, I have called out all the things and signs which point towards an intention and intelligence behind the universe. In the 5th 6th and the seventh video of the series, I have explained quantum physics and vedanta in detail once again.
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Until next time. Namaste
Watch more great videos on Archana Raghuram's Temples Books and Science YouTube Channel