Did Albert Einstein Mention Buddhism?


Albert Einstein apparently held Buddhist philosophy in high regard, stating that it represented both a social science and a natural science. Of course, the Buddha was right when he stated that the human mind can only know a certain level of knowledge within its natural state. This suggests that the Buddha was discussing a human mind unassisted by modern technology. Of course, through the use of the mind in a particular manner, technology can be produced that augments the mind’s ability to perceive and understand phenomena, but the mind itself is always hindered by a ‘knowledge barrier’ as suggested by the Buddha. The Buddha not only rejected a society premised upon theism, but advocated a complete revolutionary break with the past. This aspect of Buddhism is virtually ignored in the bourgeois West, or those Asian counties that embrace predatory capitalism. As for natural science, it is well-known that the Buddha explained how it is that a bowl of water is teeming with life so small the human eye can not ordinarily detect such entities, and that other worlds exist in the universe, more numerous than the grains of sand in the Ganges. The Buddha clarified the two ways of understanding the universe, namely through logic and reason, and a properly guided intuition. Both types of mind activity are required for the development and progression of scientific understanding. In 2012, those with a superstitious and irrational mind-set thought the world was going to end because the Mayan Calendar appeared to indicate this. Buddhism rejects the ‘argument from authority’ premise, and has a much broader concept of time and space (very similar to modern science).

However, in the West there seems to be confusion about whether Albert Einstein really did praise Buddhism, or consider it a ‘scientific’ philosophy. As Western sources all seem to be copying one another’s lack of knowledge on this issue, I have accessed the Chinese language internet to shed some light on this matter. These are the observations, quotes and attributable sources that I have found, gathered from the work of Chinese scholar Fu Dujun (杜福君) [https://www.zhihu.com/question/24587915]:

1) ‘What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the enquiring and constructive mind.’

Source: Albert Einstein: The Human Side – The Chinese author states the phrase containing the word ‘Buddha could be found, but nothing relating to ‘Buddhist’ or ‘Buddhism’.

2) ‘The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. The religion which based on experience, which refuses dogmatic. If there’s any religion that would cope the scientific needs it will be Buddhism….’

Source: Albert Einstein, quoted in Madalyn Murray O’Hair – All the Questions You Ever Wanted to Ask American Atheists (1982) vol. ii., p. 29 – The Chinese author states that this quote cannot be directly attributed to Albert Einstein – and was probably a product of paraphrasing, condensing and re-imagining a number of known Einstein quotes about Buddhism – as conceived by Madalyn Murray O’hair.

A further note states: A reply from the Einstein Archives of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem states: ‘The quote under discussion which I know is quite ‘popular’, appears to paraphrase some ideas Einstein developed in an essay titled “Religion and Science”, written in 1930. Here, Einstein mentions the “cosmic religiosity” (not religion!), Buddhism, and a belief that avoids dogma and theology.’

3) Einstein’s knowledge of Buddhism comes mainly from Schopenhauer. There is no evidence that Einstein understood Buddhism in its Asian cultural context, or through its broader philosophical implications.

4) Basically, it is clear that Einstein possessed a positive attitude towards Buddhism. In fact, many scientists also have a positive attitude towards Buddhism, but this does not necessarily mean that Buddhism can be of any direct assistance to scientific research, or represents a philosophy higher than science. It is more the case that Buddhism’s understanding of the world seems to be in line with the scientific method. Like science, Buddhism opposes dogma (and agrees with dialectical research), but Buddhism is generally more tolerant toward different types of thinking, than is mainstream science. In-short, the Buddhist integration of wisdom and tolerance allows people to feel good. It should also be noted that this positive attitude of modern science toward Buddhism is ‘generic’, as most scientists (including Einstein) rarely have an in-depth understanding of Buddhist philosophy, and usually do not agree with the concept of re-birth (or reincarnation), as found within popular Buddhism.

Chinese Language Reference Articles:




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