The quantum theory of life and Buddhism

By Dr. Senaka Ranasinghe

A ccording to Buddhism, the whole universe is a single, dynamic web of energy which can exist in three forms. These three forms of energy that exist in the universe also exist in the human body.

Energy in the universe can exist are: 1. Free Energy, 2. Forces, 3. Matter.

Free energy is pure, undifferentiated energy. Therefore, this form cannot be perceived directly or indirectly. Free, undifferentiated energy exists in the human body as consciousness. In Buddhism, consciousness is described as Vinnana.

Forces are a type of differentiated energy produced by moving matter, which in turn causes movement of matter. The forces that exist in the universe are: 1. Electricity, 2. Magnetism, 3. Gravity.

These forces do not exist in the material form. (i.e. particles or waves). Their existence is in the form of an energy field which can be detected indirectly.

By these forces, the movements that occur in all matter in the universe are inter-connected.

Though these forces are studied separately, in reality they exist in union, giving rise to a unified field which can be called the thought force. This is the force that moves the whole universe. The moving matter produces thought forces which in turn cause similar movement in matter.

The thought force exists in association with the living human body as the subconscious force of the individual. By this force, the individual is connected to all human beings and events in the universe.

The subconscious force determines the future events of the individual. In Buddhism, the subconscious force is described as Bhavanga.


Matter is a manifestation of differentiated energy. This form of energy can be perceived directly.

In an individual, matter is represented by the physical body. The fundamental unit of matter that exists in the universe and in the human body has four inseparable but interchangeable qualities. They are Solidity, Liquidity, Motion and Heat.

Depending on the predominant element, the quality of matter may differ.

Eg: Solidity is predominant in the earth, mountains, bones, liver muscles, kidney etc.

Liquidity is predominant in water, saliva, gastric secretions etc.

Motion is predominant in the wind, breathing, blood circulation etc.

Heat is predominant in fire, the sun, bile etc.

The material body contains the following six sensory organs, by which the individual perceives the universe:

1. Eye _ Visual perception

2. Nose _ Olfactory perception

3. Ear _ Sound perception

4. Tongue _ Perception of taste

5. Skin _ Perception of touch

6. Mind _ Perception of thoughts.

Mind is simply an area in the brain (known as the Limbic system) by which the individual perceives thoughts that exist outside.

A musician trains his ears to a particular note. Similarly, the mind can be trained and developed by concentration.


Consciousness is awareness. It is pure undifferentiated energy. For the consciousness (awareness) to manifest, it has to come in contact with one of the six sensory stimuli.

Eg. eye consciousness is awareness of vision. Thought consciousness is awareness of thought.

The cycle of events during a particular consciousness is analysed in great detail in Buddhism.

The process of eye consciousness can be analysed the following way:

* When a visual object comes into contact with the eye, the image is conducted to the brain.

* This image in the brain causes differentiation of free energy (consciousness) to eye consciousness. When an eye consciousness is born, this is the SELF that will perceive the image.

* Then the eye consciousness receives the visual image.

* The self inside the eye consciousness scans through the memory (which is in the brain) and identifies the object.

* According to the identification, a feeling is experienced by the SELF in the eye consciousness. It may be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

* Depending on the feeling, a volition is experienced by the SELF in the eye consciousness. During this stage the SELF will gather more energy and also it will divert body energy to act. Then at this stage VOLITION IS ACTION.

* Then the SELF in the eye consciousness will register the event in the memory.

* When the registration is done, the eye consciousness which is the SELF leaves the body. Then it exists in association with the body as a thought force. These accumulated thought forces of the individual will form its subconscious force.

This is the last event of the cycle. The moment the eye consciousness leaves the body, the concept of SELF dies off because it cannot exist without a body.

During this cycle of events, the material body also undergoes changes; i.e. Respiration, movements of blood in the circulation, movement of food in the stomach etc.

Then at the end of the cycle there is a different, new body which will replenish its free energy (consciousness) from the environment and is ready for the next cycle.

This cycle of events can be called a unit of eye consciousness or a QUANTUM of eye consciousness. (QUANTUM = a packet). The cycle of events is the same with all six types of sensory modalities. This is the fundamental unit of LIFE. After one sensory quantum wanes, another sensory quantum comes up like the waves in the seashore. Life is a pulsatile interrupted flow of these cycles (sensory quantums).

The time duration of one quantum may be about 1/20th of a second (=50 milliseconds). Then per every one second there is an interrupted flow of about 20 quantums of life, with each and every quantum there arises a NEW SELF, with new perception, new volition and a new body lasting only for about 1/20th of a second and dies off.


In the analysis of a quantum of life, it is very clear that there is no permanent, unchangeable self inside the body who can perceive, think and act. Instead there are different SELVES coming up with each consciousness and passes away with the same consciousness which lives only for about 1/20th of a second (=50 milliseconds).

When the next cycle of events are in progress, the self image of the previous cycle of events (quantum) is still present in the memory. (Because a nerve impulse lasts for about 50 milliseconds). So the Memory interprets and projects as if there is a permanent, unchangeable self, who feels and acts.

When an individual starts living with the memory projection of the illusion of a permanent, unchangeable self, they become in it. They become actors of this so-called permanent self which is actually a memory projection. When an individual becomes an actor of the SELF, he himself cannot watch the drama as an outsider; i.e. he cannot perceive the impermanence of self.

But if an individual can come out from the illusion of a permanent self and watch the drama of life as an outsider, then he could see the flow of quantums (life packets) which lasts for about 1/20th of a second and dying off.

At that stage there is no person who observes the process; Only the observation exists.

Then there will be no person to perceive; Only the perception exists.

There is no person inside the body to act; Only the action exists.

There is no person inside the body to think; Only the THINKING exists.

Action and Effect

When a thought comes in contact with the mind, the consciousness will differentiate into thought consciousness. The SELF inside this thought consciousness will identify and fell the thought. Depending on the feeling, there will be volition, which will manifest immediately as the act (Volition is Action). Then the particular SELF inside this thought consciousness will register the event and leaves the body as a thought force and exists in the individual's subconsciousness. Since the individual is connected to the whole universe by its subconscious force, the registered event will manifest as REALITY in the individual's life.

Then, by repetitive thoughts, the individual CREATES its own social environment. This social environment inturn will CONDITION all its activities, emotions, thinking and activities.

Since the social environment will only CONDITION the individual but will NOT CREATE the individual, there is no place for absolute predeterminism of future events. Though the social conditioning is present, there exists a certain element of free will.

The Buddha mentioned that by being conscious at the present and by consciously altering the thought forces, the previously accumulated undesirable thought forces can be neutralised or abolished before being manifested. It is similar to the potential energy of a seed. Only when the conditions are favourable, it will grow up as a plant. If the conditions are not favourable, the seed dies off.

In the same way, evil deeds will manifest similarly in the individual's life giving rise to unpleasant feelings as the result of the action. Virtuous deeds will manifest similarly giving rise to pleasant feelings as a result of the action. Also, the previously accumulated undesirable thought forces can be altered or neutralised by doing virtuous deeds at present.

Life after death

At the time of death, a thought comes up from the individual's subconscious field and it will be perceived by the mind.

The last thought may:

* Related to a habit the individual would have practised during life.

* Related to a strong volitional activity performed by the individual during life.

* Indicate the next birthplace.

This last thought is perceived by the thought consciousness. At the stage of volition, it will divert body energy to act and also gather more energy. After this stage the LAST THOUGHT CONSCIOUSNESS leaves the body with the remaining subconscious force. This last thought consciousness can exist in the environment as a force. During this period it consumes some of the subconscious forces which it had gathered during life. This is also another form of life (life in fine material world Rupa Loka). Also depending on the development of the mind, of the individual and according to the last thought consciousness, the subconscious forces can exist in the form of free energy till the energy in the subconscious forces wane. This form of life is described as Arupa Loka in Buddhism.

The disadvantage in this form of life is that it cannot collect NEW thought forces because of the lack of a physical body. (Since thought forces are produced by moving MATTER).

After some time when most of the subconscious forces are consumed by this form of life, the last consciousness will be attracted to an embryo with a similar potential energy. (Similar to a radio-signal being attracted by a radio tuned to the particular FREQUENCY).

Then the last thought consciousness of the previous life will become the first thought consciousness of the present life, and the cycle of change proceeds. (Samsara).

So it is clear that there is no transfer of matter from one life to another life but only a transfer of energy as thought force. Then again the process of change begins. In reality there is nothing to change but only the process of change exists.


Life is made up of an interrupted flow of life-packets (quantums of life). Each life packet contains a self which feels and acts and dies off within about 1/20th of a second. That is, about 20 different `selves,' feelings, acts come up within about 1 second - with a definite gap between each self.

Since the critical fusion frequency (the rate at which stimuli can be presented and still be perceived as separate stimuli) of the human memory is also about 20 per second, the memory projects and interprets as if there is a permanent self inside the body which acts and feels. Because of this ignorance of selflessness, emptiness and unsatisfactoriness, various volitional activities are done by the individuals. The root of volitional activity may be due to the illusion of a permanent self, greed or hatred.

When volitional activities are performed, it will gather more thought forces, which will again give rise to another new material body. So the life cycle goes on forever (Samsara).

Due to ignorance, there will be greed and hatred which will produce more thought forces and the cycle goes on.

If a person has completely eradicated the illusion of self, greed and hatred, such an individual will not accumulate more thought forces. The past collected thought forces will manifest in present life. Since there will be no further collection of thought forces to be manifested in a next life, there will not be a continuation of the process. Such an individual has stopped the process. The process of change has come to an end.

At this stage, the person has attained Nirvana. There all the sensory perceptions are interpreted as selflessness, impermanence, and emptiness by the memory.

Then at this stage, the person has completely eradicated the illusion of self. Then there is no person to achieve Nirvana. There exists only the greatest achievement. The ultimate truth of nothingness. The truth of impermanence.

@ WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka -