Saturday, 8 March 2014

Einstein and Buddha - and Alan Watts too.

"The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description...if there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism."

Er, but - it appears Albert never said this, or at least not in this tidy form. He is usually described as a theist, or a pantheist, rather than an atheist, and he certainly didn't go for the personal God who is directly involved in human affairs, the "Lord please smite our enemies because we don't like them" sort of God. It would seem he approached Buddhism via Schopenhauer, and he does mention it favourably.

I think MythoAlbert, as quoted above, is right, in that the experience of a sense of unity above/below individual forms and processes, the "mystical" experience Alan Watts tried to describe (in my last posting here) sits better with Big Science than the Judeo-Christian family of faiths.

So Gautama Buddha* still gets top marks from me (and one or two others) for:

  • not claiming divine origins or a pre-ordained mission
  • telling his followers to find their own light, their own way
  • giving them the astonishing** insight that the ego, the self, is transitory and not a consistent entity
  • getting people to meditate their way to a better, calmer, more compassionate state of being

So well done GB, and AE!

* Many Buddhists believe in Buddhas before Gautama, and that there will be Buddhas in the future, e.g. the overweight cheerful bloke you see in China, represented in lots of little easy-to-purchase statues. See below.

** astonishing, because it seems to be confirmed, or at least supported, by psychologists and neuroscientists; they tell us that we continually recreate our sense of who we are, and that the feeling that "I," my sense of self, is a consistent thing- that's simply a sort of working assumption we need for social interaction etc etc. And GB had no psychologists or brain scanners to help him discover this insight. Just meditation.

The future Buddha, Maitreya; I have to say as an aesthetic experience I prefer Gautama....

but no doubt he'll be welcome, if/when he arrives!

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