Email: The Buddha’s Knowledge of Atoms (14.9.2017)


Dear N
Here is a concise article I wrote yesterday regarding the Buddhist atom theory:
Apparently, Buddhism is the only ancient Asian philosophy to have conceived of an atom. This adds further speculation to the old question as to whether Greece influenced India – or India influenced Greece (including the possibility that both set of thinkers may have arrived independently at the same idea). When you read the above, you can formulate your own ideas about any possible relationship between Buddhist thought and Quantum Mechanics and its many interpretations and implications. The Buddha certainly states that the macro world seems permanent, but that his personal ‘experience’ of the cycles of life proved otherwise. Therefore, ‘knowing’ for the Buddha is premised upon ‘experience’ (through the mind and body), with the caveat that there is a ‘correct’ (i.e. ‘enlightened’) manner in which to view the inner and outer world, and an ‘incorrect’ (i.e. ‘deluded’) view in which to view the inner and outer world. This appears very similar to the objective scientific method in the modern West (developed in ancient Greece), with the Buddha also applying its method to the inner workings of the mind. The Buddha further states that the tiniest speck of matter (which cannot be seen by the naked eye) is in a constant state of flux. It moves around in time and space – and fluctuates in and out of existence. The Buddha states that he knows this through the use of his rational mind as a ‘sense’, by logically extrapolating what he observes through the processes of the macro world. This is a product of ‘reason’ augmented by a directed ‘imagination’ – similar to how a scientist uses existing knowledge to formulate a knew theory initially premised upon an intuitive hunch. (This process is often mistranslated in the West as ‘psychic vision’, but this cannot be correct, as the Buddha stated that all experience is ‘conditioned’). One major difference between the Buddha’s system and any modern parallel is that simply ‘knowing’ things (as is evident in the modern, Western academic tradition) is not enough to escape suffering. The Buddha claims (again through first-hand experience) that his method of behaviour modification and psychological re-programming, removes suffering in the mind and body by radically transforming the relationship between an impermanent individual awareness and the functioning of an equally impermanent (and changeable) set of life processes. Make of that what you will!
Best Wishes

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