Saturday, July 28, 2018
Newton and Karma
written 21 July 2018
published 28 July 2018
Sir Isaac Newton is famous for his 1686 description of three laws of motion. These are: 1, the motion of an object remains the same unless a force is applied; 2, force is equal to mass times acceleration; 3, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When a hammer hits a nail, the nail is driven into the wood and the motion of the hammer is stopped. The action is the movement of the nail, and the reaction is the end of the motion of the hammer. When a sharply struck cue ball squarely hits another ball on the pool table, the other ball shoots away and the cue ball stops dead. This is action and reaction.
Momentum is mass times velocity. From a dualistic perspective, there are two separate pool balls, but considering the whole system, the momentum of one ball is transferred to the other through contact: momentum is conserved through the balance of action and reaction. Newtonian mechanics has been defined as independent masses joined together in energetic holism through contact with each other.
Quantum mechanics arose a century ago and presents a very different picture of the world. Mass is no longer simple billiard balls in occasional contact, but is described as a peak in a probability function, quantifiable only when observed, and arising out of an immense ocean of energy. Einstein described the energy equivalence of mass in his famous equation, energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Ongoing quantum research has shown that mass is non-local, meaning it is fundamentally connected, not just through contact in space/time, but in dimensions beyond space/time.
As confusing as all this sounds, challenging our direct experience of the world, quantum theory has been repeatedly put to the test, and measurable results confirm these relationships. Technologies based on quantum theory, such as computers, lasers, and nuclear weapons, not only work, but have transformed our world by their power of connectivity. Additionally, consciousness has been shown to be non-local as well, fundamentally connected beyond space/time. There is an emerging theory in physics that there are no material "things", but only thoughts and experience in relationship.
Considering non-local consciousness helps us understand the Buddhist concept of karma, which is similar to Newton's third law. If you cause pain, you will eventually experience pain, or conversely, giving joy brings joy, the foundation of the Golden Rule. We don't normally experience this connection because we live in a dualistic world view of separateness. When we push on another, we experience only the act of pushing, not the experience of being pushed. The non-local, or non-dual connection of consciousness requires an experience of reaction as a balance, since the events are unity in reality. Our ignorance of connection doesn't negate the fact of balance, but does shift our experience of that balance in time.
For example, we are currently experiencing a karmic balance in the United States. For decades, America meddled in the elections of other countries for our national advantage, and are now experiencing outrage at having our elections meddled with by Russia. We support tyrannical dictators all over the world for the benefit of corporations and banks, and ignore the suffering of the people of those countries. Under the current administration, the same corporate interests are more openly oppressing American citizens, even jailing many who dare to protest. Americans have economically benefited from intrusions into other countries, even if we didn't know about it. However, the pain was real to other people, and until we feel it ourselves and demand fairness and equality for everyone, the karmic balance won't be restored.
There is a sect of Christianity which believes in a punitive God, punishing guilty sinners, but the translation of sin from the original Aramaic is "to miss the mark". Many people feel that karma is punitive, but that is an error. No judgment is involved, any more than stubbing your toe on a rock implies the rock had it in for you. Karma is simply experiencing the reactions to our own actions, a consequence of the non-dual connection within all life. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, "we are here to awaken from the illusion of separation".