Revised January 22, 2019; February 26, 2020; August 27, 2022; October 26, 2023
1. Whether it is a scientist or a Buddha, each is “discovering” the way nature works, i.e., revealing to the world what the fundamental laws of nature are. To appreciate a Buddha compared to a scientist, contemplate the following. The scientific knowledge we have today is the CUMULATIVE effort of thousands of scientists, each taking the knowledge base a little further. As Newton said, “I was fortunate to stand on the shoulders of giants to see further.”
- Not all scientists make similar contributions. Galileo, Newton, and Einstein made “giant leaps” compared to the smaller steps taken by other scientists.
- Now, with cumulative effort over many hundreds of years, science has made significant advances concerning understanding some of the fundamental laws relevant to INERT MATTER.
- On the other hand, there is virtually no progress in understanding how the mind works; see “Consciousness – A Dhamma Perspective.”
2. As I build up this site, anyone can see that Buddha Dhamma is the ultimate Grand Unified Theory. It explains the behavior of inert matter and living beings that we can see. It also describes the existence of an infinite number of worlds with living beings in 29 other realms (other than the human and animal realms that we cannot see). See “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma.”
- Buddha Dhamma is not a religion in the sense of providing salvation. The Buddha was not a God, a prophet, or a messenger. He was a human being who purified his mind to perfection so that he could see the whole of existence.
- The Buddha was the greatest scientist who investigated the problem of existence and found a complete solution. We all need to find our salvation by following his prescribed path to purify our minds.
3. Newton could not have discovered the laws of gravity if it were not for the efforts of scientists like Brahe and Copernicus. Similarly, Einstein could not have discovered relativity without the knowledge passed down by other scientists. Quantum mechanics would not have been possible without the efforts of multiple scientists who moved forward with the evidence gathered by hundreds of other scientists.
- The Buddha, in comparison, discovered the complete set of laws about the WHOLE EXISTENCE through his efforts. That includes the way inert matter behaves on this Earth and all of existence in the 31 realms (that science is not even aware of). That includes how inert matter behaves in all 31 realms AND the minds of beings in those 31 realms.
- I recently proposed an explanation for the controversy over the “non-locality” issue in quantum mechanics. Everything in this universe is inter-connected (or entangled) at a deep level; “Quantum Mechanics and Dhamma.”
4. We could say that the minds of the caliber of Newton and Einstein appear roughly every 100 years. The mind of a Buddha is infinitely more advanced and appears once in many billions of years if beings are lucky.
- There have been four Buddhas in this Mahā kappa, but the last Buddha before them was born 30 Mahā kappā ago. Thus, there was a gap of 30 Mahā kappā (roughly a trillion years) without a Buddha appearing in this world.
- The Buddhas use a method different from the “scientific method” used by scientists. Instead of conducting experiments on inert matter, they conduct mind experiments. Answers to ultimate questions on the existence of living beings with complex minds can be found only by PURIFYING a human mind to the ultimate level. That is what a Buddha does.
5. I will try to provide at least some details of the complex worldview that the Buddha provided. Buddha Dhamma has been muddled and distorted over the past 2500 years.
- “Our world” is much more complicated than what is grasped by our senses; see “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma.”
- And our lives do not end with this one; see “Evidence for Rebirth.”
- Those two facts constitute the basis of the true nature of existence. They need to be thought about carefully. One cannot comprehend the message of the Buddha until one at least has some idea about this “big picture.”
Now let us examine one case where it took 2500 years for science to come to be consistent with one part of Buddha Dhamma’s worldview.
It Took 2500 Years..
Here is a picture of our Milky Way galaxy. We can see (with the naked eye) only a couple of thousand stars. But there are hundreds of BILLIONS of stars in our galaxy. The following is a high-resolution picture of just our Milky Way galaxy. Furthermore, there are about an equal number of GALAXIES in our universe. Thus, there is a whole galaxy for each star in our galaxy. It is truly mind-boggling.
1. Even a few hundred years ago, scientists believed our Earth was at the center of the universe: “Geocentric model.”
- Therefore, Buddha’s view of the universe as consisting of innumerable “world systems” was not looked at favorably even a few hundred years ago.
- Of course, that has changed now. Buddha’s statement that “there is no discernible beginning to life” is also becoming vindicated with each new scientific discovery. See “Origin of Life.”
2. In Buddha Dhamma, there is no First Cause (no Creator): Life always existed and will always exist. Each living being has gone through innumerable birth-rebirth processes without a conceivable beginning. However, everything in the “world around us” is impermanent, including our universe (a “major world system” in Buddha Dhamma).
- Everything is born, has a transient existence, and finally decays. And this includes our universe as well. Like everything else, stars (and associated planetary systems) come into existence and eventually fade away.
3. if there is no beginning to life, then where did life exist before the “big bang,” i.e., before our universe came into existence? (actually, life is believed to have evolved on Earth much later).
- People who lived even a hundred years ago had to take Buddha’s words on this point solely on faith. But we are lucky to be assured by the fact that modern science gives us some rather persuasive reasons to believe that life existed forever. Let us look at the emerging evidence.
4. Even as recently as at the beginning of the 1900s, Lord Kelvin (one of the top scientists of the day) estimated that the age of the Sun was less than 40 million years. He estimated that based on gravitational contraction (scientists did not know about nuclear fusion then). Our knowledge of the universe was also pretty much limited to the Solar system. So, this meant the age of our “known universe” was very short, and thus, the Buddha’s teachings on a beginning-less samsāra (or sansāra) seemed like a myth.
- Vindication of the Buddha’s teachings started at the beginning of the 1900s with the advent of quantum mechanics and relativity. The Discovery of radioactivity in 1898 by Becquerel and Einstein’s explanation of the photoelectric effect in 1905 led to the quantum theory of atomic structure. That, in turn, led to the correct picture of nuclear fusion as the source of solar energy.
- So, by 1956, the solar system’s age was> 4 billion years, and the universe’s age was estimated to be around 14 billion years. Even billions of years are hardly the same as “beginning-less time”!
5. By 1929, Edwin Hubble proved that distant galaxies were moving away from each other. And that our galaxy is but just one of many galaxies. That was a vast understatement since now we know that there are 400 billion galaxies in our observable universe!
- The currently accepted theory of the “big bang” is the inflationary theory of Alan Guth. See “The Inflationary Universe” by Alan Guth (1997).
- However, a minority of scientists do not believe in the “Big Bang.” They have proposed alternate theories; see “Endless Universe” by Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok (2007). In this view, universes are destroyed and reborn.
6. Buddha’s worldview does not have a “Big Bang” beginning either. Life always existed, and it will always exist in the future.
- See “Origin of Life.”
- The post “Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27)” discusses some key concepts.
7. By the way, there are several theories currently being explored in quantum mechanics related to cosmology. One theory requires a universe to exist for each possible event! So, there may be an infinite number of parallel universes. For example, see “The Beginning of Infinity” by David Deutsch (2011). In all these theories, multiple universes always exist.
- In any case, the Buddha did not say which of these theories is correct. He just said life always existed, and it always will. But he did say that “star systems” — like our Solar system — come into being, survive for long times, and are destroyed at the end.
- And that process repeats over and over!