The Universe In A Single Atom (HH the Dalai Lama), Morgan Road Books 2005


"One can know at any one time where an electron is but not what it is doing, or what it is doing but not where it is. Again this shows that the observer is fundamental: in choosing to learn an electron's momentum, we exclude learning its position; in choosing to learn its position, we exclude learning its momentum. The observer, then, is effectively a participant in the reality being observed. I realize that this issue of the observer's role is one of the thorniest questions in quantum mechanics. Indeed, at the Mind and Life conferences in 1997, the various scientific participants held different nuanced views. Some would argue that the observer's role is limited to the choice of measuring apparatus, while others accord greater importance of the observer's role as a constitutive element in the reality being observed. 

This issue has long been a focus of discussion in Buddhist thought. On one extreme are the Buddhist "realists", who believe that the material world is composed of indivisible particles which have an objective reality independent of the mind. On the other extreme are the "idealists", the so- called Mind-only school, who reject any degree of objective reality in the external world. They perceive the external material world to be, in the final analysis, an extension of the observing mind. 

There is, however, a third standpoint, which is the position of the Prasangika school, a perspective held in the highest esteem by the Tibetan tradition. In this view, although the reality of the external world is not denied, it is understood to be relative. It is contingent upon our language, social conventions, and shared concepts. The notion of a pre-given, observer-independent reality is untenable. As in the new physics, matter cannot be objectively perceived or described apart from the observer - matter and mind are co-dependent." (ibd. p. 63 - marks by ACG)