BuddhismFor over 2000 years Buddhism has existed as an organized religion. Byreligion we mean that it has a concept of the profane, the sacred, andapproaches to the sacred. It has been established in India, China, Japan andother eastern cultures for almost 2000 years and has gained a strong foothold inNorth America and Europe in the past few centuries. However, one might ask;what fate would Buddhism face had Siddartha Guatama been born in modern times;or more specifically in modern day North America? Would his new foundenlightenment be accepted now as it was thousands of years ago? Would it beshunned by society as another “cult” movement? What conflicts or similaritieswould it find with modern science; physics in particular? The answers to thesequestions are the aim of this paper, as well as a deeper understanding of modernBuddhism.Order now
Although I will stick with traditional ideas raised by Buddhism, onedetail in the story of Siddartha Guatama must be addressed in order for it to berelevant to the main question being asked: What obstacles would SiddarthaGuatama face had he been born in modern day North America. Primarily, it mustbe recognized that rather than being born into the Hindu religion (which initself is mystical), Siddartha would have most likely been born into a Christianfamily. This in itself presents the first obstacle, that being thatChristianity is a strictly monotheistic and non-mystical faith. Hence from theoutset, although in the traditional story Siddartha faced a conflict with hisfather (Ludwig 137), in the North American scenario the conflict would have beenheightened by the fact that his search for enlightenment was not even closelysimilar to the Christian faith. As with science, changes in religious thought are often met with strongopposition. It is interesting to note though, that many parallels can be foundbetween modern physics and Eastern Mysticism.
As Fritjof Capra writes:The changes, brought about by modern physics . . . all seem to lead towards aview of the world which is very similar to the views held in Eastern Mysticism. The concepts of modern physics often show surprising parallels to the ideasexpressed in the religious philosophies of the Far East. (17-18)Thus by examining some of the obstacles imposed by typical western thought onmodern physicists attempting to develop new theories, we can apply the sameconclusions to the situation that would be faced by Siddartha Guatama in modernday North America.
Traditionally, western thought can be summed up by Frenchphilosopher RenJ Descartes’ famous saying, “Cogito ergo sum” or “I thinktherefor I exist”. That is, typically, western man has always equated identitywith his mind, instead of his whole organism (Capra 23). This same line ofthought can be found in traditional Newtonian Mechanics in which the observer ofan event is never taken into account when describing the event. Rather, allthings are said to occur at an “absolute time” in space, never taking intoaccount the observer’s position or speed relative to the event or the rest ofthe Universe. However, in the beginning of the 20th century, new developmentsin physics began to shake the framework of the scientific world.
Due mostly towork by Albert Einstein, but also Ernest Rutherford and others, the scientificview of the universe took a drastic turn. These scientists recognized flaws inthe classical Newtonian view of the universe. The recognition of these flawsled to the development of the Quantum Theory of Matter as well as Einstein’sRelativity Theory. These theories, as well as the discoveries that they led to,incorporated the entire universe as being comprised of energy, and thatparticles, time, and space, are just different representations of this energy.
Naturally this faced strict opposition. So much so that in spite of it’sground-breaking nature as well as the fact that it had been proven, Einstein’sSpecial Theory of Relativity failed to earn him the Nobel Prize. Even to thisday many find it difficult to comprehend these more abstract theories. Bothconcepts – that of empty space and that of solid material bodies (NewtonianMechanics) – are deeply ingrained in our habits of thought, so it is extremelydifficult for us to imagine a physical reality where they do not apply (Capra64). Thus, by applying the obstacles faced by modern physicists, it easy tosee how a more close-minded western way of thought would be skeptical ofSiddartha’s new philosophy.
Rather than accept, or even recognize, the moreabstract theory of reality