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Buddhism Vs. Hinduism

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For over 2000 years Buddhism has existed as an organized religion. By

religion we mean that it has a concept of the profane, the sacred, and

approaches to the sacred. It has been established in India, China, Japan and

other eastern cultures for almost 2000 years and has gained a strong foothold in

North 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 found

enlightenment be accepted now as it was thousands of years ago? Would it be

shunned by society as another "cult" movement? What conflicts or similarities

would it find with modern science; physics in particular? The answers to these

questions are the aim of this paper, as well as a deeper understanding of modern


Although I will stick with traditional ideas raised by Buddhism, one

detail in the story of Siddartha Guatama must be addressed in order for it to be

relevant to the main question being asked: What obstacles would Siddartha

Guatama face had he been born in modern day North America. Primarily, it must

be recognized that rather than being born into the Hindu religion (which in

itself is mystical), Siddartha would have most likely been born into a Christian

family. This in itself presents the first obstacle, that being that

Christianity is a strictly monotheistic and non-mystical faith. Hence from the

outset, although in the traditional story Siddartha faced a conflict with his

father (Ludwig 137), in the North American scenario the conflict would have been

heightened by the fact that his search for enlightenment was not even closely

similar to the Christian faith.

As with science, changes in religious thought are often met with strong

opposition. It is interesting to note though, that many parallels can be found

between modern physics and Eastern Mysticism. As Fritjof Capra writes:

The changes, brought about by modern physics . . . all seem to lead towards a

view 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 ideas

expressed in the religious philosophies of the Far East. (17-18)

Thus by examining some of the obstacles imposed by typical western thought on

modern physicists attempting to develop new theories, we can apply the same

conclusions to the situation that would be faced by Siddartha Guatama in modern

day North America. Traditionally, western thought can be summed up by French

philosopher RenJ Descartes' famous saying, "Cogito ergo sum" or "I think

therefor I exist". That is, typically, western man has always equated identity

with his mind, instead of his whole organism (Capra 23). This same line of

thought can be found in traditional Newtonian Mechanics in which the observer of

an event is never taken into account when describing the event. Rather, all

things are said to occur at an "absolute time" in space, never taking into

account the observer's position or speed relative to the event or the rest of

the Universe. However, in the beginning of the 20th century, new developments

in physics began to shake the framework of the scientific world. Due mostly to

work by Albert Einstein, but also Ernest Rutherford and others, the scientific

view of the universe took a drastic turn. These scientists recognized flaws in

the classical Newtonian view of the universe. The recognition of these flaws

led to the development of the Quantum Theory of Matter as well as Einstein's

Relativity Theory. These theories, as well as the discoveries that they led to,

incorporated the entire universe as being comprised of energy, and that

particles, time, and space, are just different representations of this energy.

Naturally this faced strict opposition. So much so that in spite of it's

ground-breaking nature as well as the fact that it had been proven, Einstein's

Special Theory of Relativity failed to earn him the Nobel Prize. Even to this

day many find it difficult to comprehend these more abstract theories. Both

concepts - that of empty space and that of solid material bodies (Newtonian

Mechanics) - are deeply ingrained in our habits of thought, so it is extremely

difficult for us to imagine a physical reality where they do not apply (Capra


Thus, by applying the obstacles faced by modern physicists, it easy to

see how a more close-minded western way of thought would be skeptical of

Siddartha's new philosophy. Rather than accept,



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