Rick wrote: ↑Wed Aug 01, 2018 5:30 am
Per Buddhism, what does "to exist" mean? Can this be answered (satisfactorily) without reference to the two truths? If so, please do.
This is a good question. I think I can answer according to my understanding in a way that specifically squares with the phenomenon of quantum entanglement. I apologize in advance to anyone whom I may be repeating here, I have not read through all of the replies! ^^ But I don't often see entanglement and Buddhism connected quite this explicitly, and the question of existence has fascinated me since childhood.
Like all concepts, "to exist" is nebulous and impossible to pin down upon close inspection. For example, we could try "To exist means to be something that can potentially be experienced / encountered / measured."
Seems fair, right? Except wait… we can split hairs, there. Are you familiar with Cosmology (from Physics) ? Due to the rate of cosmic expansion increasing, galaxies far beyond the edge of our
observable universe must be redshifting into oblivion, forever unreachable by us and forever unseen by us as well. Let's assume, for sake of argument, that the physics and math and inferences they draw are correct. Do those galaxies out there, that can never bee seen or experienced by us
, exist per the definition attempted above? Hrmmm. Clearly, we need to try a little harder… it may be tempting to try, "To exist means to be something that can potentially be experienced / encountered / measured by someone somewhere."
, but that definition divorces the fact of whether something exists or not entirely from direct experience. It would then be, in very real physical terms, nothing more than intellectual philosophizing to say whether something exists or doesn't. Akin to disagreeing on specifically where, on the electromagnetic spectrum, green becomes blue. See the problem? So let's try once again… maybe "To exist means to be something that can potentially be experienced / encountered / measured or inferred through that experience."
Hmmm… well, once upon a time, the planets were understood to move around the Earth in these cute Spirograph patterns called "epicycles", and numerous forces causing them to move about so strangely could be inferred. More recently than that, a universal law
of gravitation was inferred, Newton's well-known inverse square law, which is not only wrong in the sense that it lacks detail but wrong on the basic assumptions about reality — the basic inferences, if you will — that it was based on. In that sense it was not only wrong but uncorrectable, it had to be tossed out wholesale.
At some point, it begins to seem reasonable to consider existence in terms of quantifiable degrees; maybe to say some things exist moreso than others. That's a good sign that the mental construct of "existence" is starting to crack. ^_^
With regard to physical existence: in a nutshell, reality — being defined for each being as their own sphere of experiences — projects outward from each of us according to our karma. What we think of as the extant physical world is the residue of those projections converging. Where they have not converged — such as upon the spin of a particle which has been absolutely
precluded from all possible determination or inference — physical "existence" is quite literally not defined. This is why quantum entanglement is a real, measurable phenomenon. To think that there is a deterministic external reality that just "exists" and generates our experiences of it makes the entanglement phenomenon both philosophically and mathematically inexplicable; precisely what happens when one gets tangled up in the trappings of wrong ideas, not unlike those crazy things they once thought must move the planets around in those funny patterns.
Does any of that help at all?