Nobel Laureate Erwin Schrodinger’s appreciation of Advaita Vedanta is well documented. In the sequel, a reproduction from the following site is presented, along with a few comments.
Coming to Schrodinger again.
Let us find out where he got his cat idea!
...He had a life-long interest in the Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism, which influenced his
speculations at the close of What is Life? About the possibility that individual consciousness is only a manifestation of a unitary consciousness pervading the universe.
[FROM: Erwin Schrodinger - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
Vedic Science and Swami Vivekananda -
31. Erwin Schroedinger (1887–1961) Austrian theoretical physicist, was a professor
at several universities in Europe. He was awarded the Nobel prize Quantum
Mechanics, in 1933. During the Hitler era he was dismissed from his position for his
opposition to the Nazi ideas and he fled to England. He was the author of Meine
Schrodinger wrote in his book Meine Weltansicht:
“This life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of this entire existence,
but in a certain sense the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be
surveyed in one single glance. This, as we know, is what the Brahmins express in that
sacred, mystic formula which is yet really so simple and so clear; tat tvam asi, this is
you. Or, again, in such words as “I am in the east and the west, I am above and
below, I am this entire world.”
[This is a reference to the Mundaka Upanishad mantra:
ब्रह्मैवेदममृतं पुरस्तात् ब्रह्म पश्चात् ब्रह्म उत्तरतो दक्षिणतश्चोत्तरेण ।
अधश्चोर्ध्वं च प्रसृतं ब्रह्मैवेदं विश्वमिदं वरिष्ठम् ॥ 2.2.11 ॥ ]
All this that is in front is but Brahman, the immortal. Brahman is at the back, as also on the right and the left. It is extended above and below, too. This world is nothing but Brahman, the highest.
Schrodinger’s influential ‘What is life? The physical aspect of the living cell & Mind and
matter (1944)’ also used Vedic ideas. The book became instantly famous although it
was criticized by some of its emphasis on Indian ideas. Francis Clark, the codiscoverer
of the DNA code, credited this book for key insights that led him to his
According to his biographer Walter Moore, there is a clear continuity between
Schrodinger’s understanding of Vedanta and his research:
“The unity and continuity of Vedanta are reflected in the unity and continuity of wave
mechanics. In 1925, the world view of physics was a model of a great machine
composed of separable interacting material particles. During the next few years,
Schrodinger and Heisenberg and their followers created a universe based on super-
imposed inseparable waves of probability amplitudes. This new view would be
entirely consistent with the Vedantic concept of All in One.”
He became a Vedantist, a Hindu, as a result of his studies in search for truth.
Schrodinger kept a copy of the Hindu scriptures at his bedside. He read books on
Vedas, yoga and Sankhya philosophy and he reworked them into his own words, and
ultimately came to believe them. The Upanishads and the Bhagavad gita, were his
According to his biographer Moore, “His system – or that of the Upanishads – is
delightful and consistent: the self and the world are one and they are all. He rejected
traditional western religious beliefs (Jewish, Christian, and Islamic) not on the basis of
any reasoned argument, nor even with an expression of emotional antipathy, for he
loved to use religious expressions and metaphors, but simply by saying that they are
(source: The Wishing Tree – By Subhash Kak p. 1 – 7).
In a famous essay on determinism and free will, he expressed very clearly the sense
that consciousness is a unity, arguing that this “insight is not new…From the early
great Upanishads the recognition Atman = Brahman (the personal self equals the
omnipresent, all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far
from being blasphemous, to represent, the quintessence of deepest insight into the
happenings of the world. The striving of all the scholars of Vedanta was, after having
learnt to pronounce with their lips, really to assimilate in their minds this grandest of
“Vedanta teaches that consciousness is singular, all happenings are played out in
one universal consciousness and there is no multiplicity of selves.”
“the stages of human development are to strive for Possession (Artha), Knowledge
(Dharma), Ability (Kama), Being (Moksha)”
“Nirvana is a state of pure blissful knowledge.. It has nothing to do with individual.
The ego or its separation is an illusion. The goal of man is to preserve his Karma and
to develop it further – when man dies his karma lives and creates for itself another
(source: What is life? the physical aspect of the living cell & Mind and matter – By
Erwin Schrodinger p. 87).
He wished to see:
“Some blood transfusion from the East to the West” to save Western science from
Schroedinger explicitly affirmed his conviction that Vedantic jnana represented the
only true view of reality- a view for which he was prepared even to offer Empirical
(source: A Short Introduction to Hinduism – By Klaus K. Klostermaier p. 168).
“In all world,” writes Schroedinger in his book My View of the World (chapter iv),
“there is no kind of framework within which we can find consciousness in the plural;
this is simply something we construct because of the temporal plurality of
individuals, but it is a false construction….The only solution to this conflict insofar as
any is available to us at all lies in the ancient wisdom of the Upanishad.”
(source: My View of the World – By Erwin Schroedinger chapter iv).
Regarding mystical insights, Schrodinger tells us: “The multiplicity is only apparent.
This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. And not of the Upanishads only. The mystical
experience of the union with God regularly leads to this view, unless strong
prejudices stand in the West.”
(source: The Eye of Shiva: Eastern Mysticism and Science – By Amaury de Riencourt
Again in -
INDIAN INFLUENCES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF QUANTUM MECHANICS.,
Professor C.P.Girijavallabhan explains-
Erwin Schrodinger, discoverer of wave mechanics was deeply influenced by the
philosophical wisdom of the East. Schrodinger read widely and thought deeply the
teachings of Hindu scriptures. He was particularly fascinated by Vedanta and
Upanishads and developed a kinship with Buddha and his techniques. Schrodinger
also wrote about “The Basic view of Vedanta” by expounding Sankara’s version of
advaitha and non-dualism.
…….A beautiful account of his state of mind can be obtained from the breath taking
biography of Erwin Schrodinger written by Walter Moore (A Life of Erwin Schrodinger,
Cambridge University Press, Canto reprint). In July 1918, Schrodinger wrote the
following: “Nirvana is a state of pure blissful knowledge……It has nothing to do with
individual. The ego or its separation is an illusion. Indeed in a certain sense two “I”‘s
are identical namely when one disregards all special contents- their Karma.”
In August 1918 he wrote:
Schrodinger wrote was fascinated by the following passages from
Hearn’s essays (The Diamond Cutter) “The ego is only an aggregate of countless
illusions, a phantom shell, a bubble sure to break. It is Karma that prevails. Acts and
thoughts are the forces integrating themselves into material and mental phenomena
- into what we call objective and subjective appearances. The universe is the
integration of acts and thoughts. Even swords and things of metal are manifestations
of spirit. There is no birth and death but the birth and death of Karma in some form
or other form or condition. There is one reality but there is no permanent individual.
Phantom succeeds to phantom, as undulations to undulations over the ghostly sea of
birth and death: And even as the storming of sea is a motion of undulations not of
translations, even as it is the form of the wave only, not the wave itself that travels -
so with passing of lives there is only rising and vanishing of forms – forms mental,
forms material. The fathomless reality does not pass. Within every creature incarnate
sleeps the infinite intelligence unevolved, hidden, unfelt, unknown. Yet destined from
all eternities to waken at last, to rend away the ghostly web of sensuous mind, to
break for even its chrysalis of flesh and pass to the extreme conquest of space and
In autumn of 1925 Schrodinger wrote an interestingly personal account of his
philosophy of life (Mein Welten sicht – My World View). He completed this only in
1960 and in chapter 5 of this book he gives the basic view of Vedanta. He writes
“Vedanta teaches that consciousness is singular, all happenings are played out in one
universal consciousness and there is no multiplicity of selves. He fully acknowledges
Sankara’s view that Brahman is associated with a certain power called Maya to which
is -due the appearance of the entire world. Maya is neither being nor not being but a
principle of illusion. Brahman through Maya projects the appearance of the world.
Thus Maya is the material cause of this world. In all the apparently individual form of
existence the individual Brahman is present. Schrodinger did not believe that it will
be possible to demonstrate the unity of consciousness by logical arguments. One
must make imaginative leap guided by communion with nature and the persuasion of
analogies. He learned the commentaries of Sankara on the Sutra’s from the “Sacred
Book of the East” edited by Max Muller.
Erwin Schrodinger is a prominent example showing how eastern philosophy can
profoundly influence western thought in the field of fundamental science. While
scientists like Schrodinger did not possess a direct knowledge of Sanscrit to discern
first hand both the letter and spirit of Upanishads, there are persons like Robert
Oppenheimer who were not lacking in such an advantage. The fact is that
irrespective of east or west, the great minds everywhere have perceived that the
ultimate reality remains timeless and changeless.
About the author:
Dr. C. P. Girija Vallabhan is a professor at
International School of Photonics at Cochin
University of Science and Technology
What Is Life? -From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
…Schrödinger concludes this chapter and the book with philosophical speculations on
determinism, free will, and the mystery of human consciousness. He is sympathetic
to the view, common in Indian mysticism, that each individual’s consciousness is only
a manifestation of a unitary consciousness pervading the universe. In the final
paragraph, however, he emphasizes the uniqueness of each human being’s store of
memories, thoughts and perceptions.
And by the way..
The DNA monarch , Francis Crick…. One of the discoverers of the structure of DNA,
….. credited What Is Life? as a theoretical description, before the actual discovery of
the structure of DNA (the existence of the molecule had been known for nearly 2
decades, but its role in reproduction and helical shape had not even been guessed at
this time), of how genetic storage would work and a source for inspiration for the
Undergraduate Physics Students’
Computing and Learning Environment
Department of Physics
University Of Toronto
Schrodingers’s Wave Mechanics
In 1905 Einstein proposed that light, in addition to its well known nature as a wave of
electric and magnetic fields, can be thought of as a particle, which now we call the
photon. In 1923 Louis de Broglie proposed that particle-like objects, such as
electrons, could also be thought of as some sort of wave. At this time de Broglie was
a graduate student, and his proposal was part of his PhD thesis. His supervising
committee didn’t know what to make of this outlandish proposal and asked
Schrödinger, who pronounced that the idea was “rubbish!” The committee went to
Einstein, who essentially said that they should give the kid his PhD, since “there
might be something to it.” So that is how de Broglie got his PhD, and in 1926
Davisson and Germer actually saw electrons demonstrating an interference pattern.
In 1926 Schrödinger published a series of papers giving a full form of Quantum
Mechanics; in this formulation the central idea is de Broglie’s hypothesis. This
formulation, then, is called Wave Mechanics. When earlier we stated that we could
“explain” the ad hoc Bohr model by realizing that the ‘allowed orbits’ of that model
correspond to standing waves of electrons, we were describing how Wave Mechanics
describes the theory of an atom.
It is interesting to note that the first of these papers appeared simultaneously to
Heisenberg’s first publication. Schrödinger’s paper was in the journal Annelen der
Physick, a competitor to the Zeitschrift journal that had published Heisenberg’s work.
It is obvious that Schrödinger changed his mind about a wave aspect to electrons
between 1923 and 1926. There is some controversy about how Schrödinger actually
arrived at Wave Mechanics, but in the Fall of 1925, presumably as he was building
his theory, he wrote an essay, Seek for the Road, which may provide some clues.
(Reference: My View of the World, (Cambridge, 1964).
You may recall the Schrödinger’s Cat paradox, which was first published in its
“scientific form” in 1935 in Zeitschrift der Physick. However in his 1925 essay he
recounts an ancient Sankhya Hindu paradox that, jazzed up with some technology,
became the cat paradox. In that original form the paradox was cast in the form of
two people, one looking at a garden, the other in a dark room. The modern
equivalent would be one person looking in the box to see if the cat is alive or dead,
while a second person waits out in the hall. As we discussed, in this modern form the
state “collapses” for the first person while it does not collapse for the second person.
In 1925 Schrõdinger resolved that paradox the way the Vedantists did: he asserted
that all consciousness is one. As he wrote:
“But it is quite easy to express the solution in words, thus: the plurality [of
viewpoints] that we perceive is only “an appearance; it is not real. Vedantic
philosophy, in which this is a fundamental dogma, has sought to clarify it by a
number of analogies, one of the most attractive being the many-faceted crystal
which, while showing hundreds of little pictures of what is in reality a single existent
object, does not really multiply the object.”
Here is another fragment of that essay:
“… you may suddenly come to see, in a flash, the profound rightness of the basic
conviction of Vedanta: … knowledge, feeling and choice are essentially eternal and
unchangeable and numerically one in all men, nay in all sensitive beings.”
Do you think that Schrödinger had such a flash of insight? Is this the sort of insight
which in the Eastern traditions is sometimes called enlightenment?
Finally, Schrödinger himself makes an interesting analogy between Vedantic
philosophy and modern physics:
“If finally we look back at that idea of Mach [that `the universe is not twice given'],
we shall realize that it comes as near to the orthodox dogma of the Upanishads as it
could possibly do without stating it expressis verbis. The external world and
consciousness are one and the same thing.”
Om Om Om
The following is from the Wikipedia having ‘quotes from/on Schrodinger’. One can find many resources within this page on related subjects/topics: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Erwin_Schr%C3%B6dinger#My_View_of_the_World_.281961.29
- Nirvana is a state of pure blissful knowledge… It has nothing to do with the individual. The ego or its separation is an illusion. Indeed in a certain sense two “I”‘s are identical namely when one disregards all special contents — their Karma
- On principle, there is nothing new in the postulate that in the end exact science should aim at nothing more than the description of what can really be observed. The question is only whether from now on we shall have to refrain from tying description to a clear hypothesis about the real nature of the world. There are many who wish to pronounce such abdication even today. But I believe that this means making things a little too easy for oneself.
- The multiplicity is only apparent. This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. And not of the Upanishads only. The mystical experience of the union with God regularly leads to this view, unless strong prejudices stand in the West.
- As quoted in The Eye of Shiva: Eastern Mysticism and Science (1981) by Amaury de Riencourt
- Multiplicity is only apparent, in truth, there is only one mind…
- “The Oneness of Mind”, as translated in Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World’s Great Physicists (1984) edited by Ken Wilber
- Consciousness is never experienced in the plural, only in the singular. Not only has none of us ever experienced more than one consciousness, but there is also no trace of circumstantial evidence of this ever happening anywhere in the world. If I say that there cannot be more than one consciousness in the same mind, this seems a blunt tautology — we are quite unable to imagine the contrary…(This statement of Schrodinger is the direct denunciation of the dvaita theory of a jiva atma existing as different from a parama atma in each individual. It is striking to see the above observation of Schrodinger is an echo of what Shankara stated in the ‘antaryAmi’ section of the Brahmasutra.) The greatest proof of Schrodinger’s observation is the Bhagavadgita verse 15.10. Krishna is so openly stating that ‘he who fails to recognize Him who is appearing to undergo all these experiences is truly deluded’. The logic: there cannot be two consciousnesses in one body.
- Continues Schrodinger: In itself, the insight is not new. The earliest records, to my knowledge, date back some 2500 years or more… the recognition ATMAN = BRAHMAN (the personal self equals the omnipresent, all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world. The striving of all the scholars of Vedanta was after having learnt to pronounce with their lips, really assimilate in their minds this grandest of all thoughts.
Again, the mystics of many centuries, independently, yet in perfect harmony with each other (somewhat like the particles in an ideal gas) have described, each of them, the unique experience of his or her life in terms that can be condensed in the phrase: DEUS FACTUS SUM (I have become God).
- The plurality that we perceive is only an appearance; it is not real. Vedantic philosophy… has sought to clarify it by a number of analogies, one of the most attractive being the many-faceted crystal which, while showing hundreds of little pictures of what is in reality a single existent object, does not really multiply that object…
- “The Mystic Vision” as translated in Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World’s Great Physicists (1984) edited by Ken Wilber
- We do not belong to this material world that science constructs for us. We are not in it; we are outside. We are only spectators. The reason why we believe that we are in it, that we belong to the picture, is that our bodies are in the picture. Our bodies belong to it. Not only my own body, but those of my friends, also of my dog and cat and horse, and of all the other people and animals. And this is my only means of communicating with them. (This thought is present in Shankara’s adhyAsa Bhashya, very first sentence. The Bhagavadgita says it all in the 13th chapter verse: 26.) Those who think and believe that ‘we are in this world’ are immature, not being able to get out of, transcend the ‘I am the body’ idea. The Gita and the Ishavasyopanishad teach the mature view: ‘sarva-bhUtAni cha Atmani – all beings in Atman’ as the vision that ensures freedom from bondage, freedom from the world-illusion. All philosophies, Advaita leading them, hold out this freedom and not clinging to the ‘world-is-real’ illusion that even the modern scientists following Advaita have come to realize.
- Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down as a result of recent experience in the physical sciences, for this barrier does not exist.