In his book, The Spiritual Universe: How Quantum Physics Proves the Existence of the Soul, Fred Alan Wolf narrates a story about a wanderer who visits the Buddha and asks if there is a soul; the Buddha remains silent. The wanderer asks if there is no soul; again the Buddha remains silent. After the wanderer leaves, Ananda, the Buddha’s disciple, inquires about the master’s silence. The Buddha replies that if he had answered yes, he would be siding with brahmanas who hold to the eternalist theory, and if he had answered no, he would be siding with those who hold to the annihilationist theory.
Then on page 176 of the book Wolf quotes Robert Oppenheimer (when a student asks him about the existence and movement of an electron in an atom) as saying: “If we ask, for instance, whether the position of the electron remains the same, we must say ‘no.’ If we ask whether the electron’s position changes with time, we must say ‘no.’ If we ask whether it is in motion, we must say ‘no.’ If we ask whether it is standing still, we must say ‘no.’ Wolf then concludes that Oppenheimer’s remarks and the Buddha’s answers “point to the same thing. For in both Buddhist logic and QT [quantum theory], it is necessary not to hold any fixed opinion but to see things as they are without mental projections.”
J. Robert Oppenheimer is known mostly as the “father of the atomic bomb,” but among physicists, he is known for his great contributions to physics such as the prediction of the collapse of a large star into a black hole. What is less known about him is his strong belief in mysticism and Eastern Thought. His close friend Isidor Rabi said of Oppenheimer “… [he] was overeducated in those fields, which lie outside the scientific tradition, such as his interest in the Hindu religion, which resulted in a feeling of mystery of the universe that surrounded him like a fog. He saw physics clearly, but at the border he tended to feel there was much more of the mysterious and novel than there actually was … [he turned] away from the hard, crude methods of theoretical physics into a mystical realm of broad intuition.” It is this mysticism which turns the naturally mathematical and probabilistic – and therefore indefinite and uncertain – nature of the quantum theory into the kind of mystical answer that you saw above. A physicist, unfettered by spiritualism, would have told the student to “Shut up and calculate [the probabilities]!” as Feynman famously did to one of his students.