Junior (College 3rd year) ・Philosophy ・APA ・5 Sources

Zen buddhism has been accessible to science, especially its doctrines, which in many ways echo science. However, there are significant differences between the two, particularly in terms of the worlds they describe. Science, for example, is concerned with the external world, while Buddhism is concerned with the inner world, especially the psyche and inner peace. Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism are two different types of Buddhism (Samuel, 2014). Religion has a relationship with science, especially in terms of morality, because Buddha advises people not to accept anything on authority without first seeking proof. Any religious adherent must accept any doctrine only after being checked, which is a scientific concept. The two agree on the law of causality in everything except for the unconditional state of liberation also called Pali nibbana, which does not rely on cause and effect.

Buddhism and Cosmology

At first, Buddha was against many cosmological speculations concerning the universe, which had been put forward by groups known as externalists. He was not concerned about such speculations that made little sense but wanted to deal with suffering and ways to get out of it. However, with time the teachings of Buddhism offered detailed descriptions of the cosmos as it had a big role in salvation of the people. Theravada teaches about a single-world system and a multitude world system. The former explains that the universe, also called cakkavala is flat, heaven and meditation realms are above it while the hells are below it (Samuel, 2014). The circular Mount Meru is situated at the center of cakkavala and the space between the mountains consists of oceans such as the Great Ocean. People live in Jambudipa Island while the heavens, which are in groups of three layers hover above cakkavala. The Mahayana teaches about a world of systems occupying more than ten regions out of which some are pure, others impure, or mixed. The two teachings of Buddhism about the cosmos are explained via myths but it is clear to notice many parallels with science and its views about the universe. Science has many similarities with multi-world systems as compared to the small world systems. For instance, the small world system represents the galaxies such as the Coma Berenices while the Great World corresponds to the Big Dipper hosting of more than three million galaxies. Some Buddhist writings are compared to the shapes of galaxies such as the term cakkavala derived from the Pali word cakka meaning a sphere (Taber, 2017). This corresponds to the spiral galaxies explained by science. The Sutra talks of some thin worlds associated with the barred spiral galaxies while the Hwa Yen Sutra states that some world live for a short time while others live for longer. These can be said to correspond to young and old stars as science explains. In addition, Sutra explains of worlds with rock-ton surfaces, which can be taken to relate to Mars. Buddhism also teaches that the universe experiences cycles of evolution and dissolution, which can also be argued to be similar to the oscillation of the universe that tends to expand and contract. Each of the oscillating worlds is explained in Buddhism each with a big bang and big crunch. However, several astronomers do not agree to the oscillating universe theory. Buddhism also speaks of some beings that visit the earth that can be associated with intelligent life on other planets and to aliens who visit the earth from extra-terrestrial worlds.

Buddhism and Classical Physics

Buddhism Adhidharma texts belong to the Theravada teachings and they refer to the physical phenomena as dharma. According to classical physics, the physical world was argued to consist of particles of matter in continuous interaction with one another via some forces that could be determined through mathematical laws. The two, Abhidharma and classical physics are seen as beings consisting of impersonal units known as particles and forces, which continuously interact with one another via causative physical laws in physics (Samuel, 2014). In Buddhism, the particles interact with each other via the process of dependent origination. When a pen is placed on top of a desk, classical physics argues that the pen and the desk are aggregate of atoms, which interact with one another via different forces. Abhidharma argues that the pen and the desk are dharmas acting on one another via causes or conditions, which operate in accordance with the principle of dependent origination. In the two cases, it is possible to identify the similarity in the arguments since the particles or dharma actually exists. However, some differences exist such as in case of dharmas that should be directly experienced unlike in particles and forces, which can only be established using mathematical laws and theories. Again, many of dharmas are mental but physicals emphasize on the material world (Taber, 2017). The dharmas are also considered to be momentary but atoms studied in physics do no undergo any change since according to classical physics change can only occur if there is some form of motion. Again, Abhidharma aims at attaining nibbana or liberation but physics has no such goals that explain about other worlds apart from the physical one.

Buddhism and Quantum Physics

Dharmas are considered to have no intrinsic nature as taught by the Madhyamaka School of Mahayana. They are dependent on extrinsic causes and conditions in that every phenomenon is relational such that there exist no fixed point irrespective of the conditions. In quantum physics things such as the electrons lack particle nature and in some experiments they are like waves while in others they appear as particles. Such qualities cannot be considered intrinsic but may only depend on the experiment carried out. Quantum theory asserts that the behavior of electrons as a particle or wave depends on the observer or the person performing the experiment. In Madhyamaka an object depends on the subject being explored. Unlike the Madhyamak, not all the properties of electrons depend on the observer and the goal is always salvation (Taber, 2017). However, this is not the case in physics, which is concerned with experimental properties of matter. It does not concern itself with the relationship of matter and the superior beings such God. For any conclusion to be made an experiment must be done and the results analyzed to determine existence of any causal and effect relationships. Buddhism is about beliefs and nothing needs to be experimented in order to conclude about certain occurrences or phenomena. In Buddhism, reasoning is highly valued compared to the scripture teachings. Similarly, science emphasizes on reasoning before making decisions thus the two shares the idea.

Buddhism and the Relativity of Time in Modern Physics

The doctrine of emptiness affirms that logically, everything seems to lack inherent in nature. It also indicates that things are temporary and they have dependence property. They as well depend on the mental description by various names while they are short of essence. According to Madhyamaka’s view, there exist no inherent in time and at the same time there is no permanent nature (Taber, 2017). In addition, it is only a set of dependent relations. According to modern physics as well as explicit Einstein’s theory of relativity, time is essential as it depends on a particular reference frame. For instance, time is dependent on the relationship of an object and the person observing the object in question. For example, a person observing from the Earth deduces that time is relational but is rather not inherently fixed. Therefore Madhyamaka’s argument indicate that time is devoid of intrinsic and in independent in nature (Taber, 2017). The theory of relativity argues that the idea of space, mass, energy, and time cannot be considered as absolutes, permanent, or substances that are changing. The three coexist and everything including time as well as space is relative. Similarly, in Buddhism, the four phenomena do not exist independently and are relative. It is not possible to have real time in which phenomena and events occur existing on their own. According to Abhidhamma, time in the present, past, and future represents stages of arising and passing away of events and the fundamental unit of time is the duration of thought-moment (Taber, 2017). Matter changes constantly and therefore is described with reference to time of existence and thought-process. People live in a single thought-moment, which tends to slip away into irrevocable past. In fact, whatever people refer as now can be argued as the transitional stage from the future to the past. Concept of time in Buddhism deals with immaterial forces, which include vinnana or consciousness karma, and the result of karma.

Buddhism and Revolutionary Biology

According to Buddhism, humans are not substantial selves. They are a series of temporary aggregate with a temporary essential self or intrinsic nature Khandhas or Skandhas. However, there exists a false sense of identity brought about by three major problems or klesha. These afflictions are such as viz, hatred or aggression, attachment or passion or raga, ignorance or delusion called moha (Samuel, 2014). Because of such problems, humans tend to engage on diverse actions called Karman. For that case, the entire living world is the product of the collective actions known as Karman of the various human beings down along the line in age. Some evolutionary biologists argue that, just like all other species, human beings are devoid of an essential human identity, which makes up the permanent essence of species. Rather, they are as a result of evolution emanating from the actions of a number of organisms extending over a long period of time. The ability of the human being to take part in various activities such as to acquire shelter, think, reproduce, nay, collect food, love and hate as well as intermingle with other beings all originate from previous organisms. They also depend on the actions of those organisms and they start from the simple organism to a complex human being. Nevertheless, to some extent there is a notable disparity between Buddhism and evolutionary biology. For instance, while Buddhism focuses on the rebirth of individual series of aggregates through many lives; evolutionary biology is concerned with gene pools as well as their developments.

Buddhism states that human beings possess the three main afflictions in a germinal form that are present even at birth. These afflictions bring about the false impression of a substantial identity. This underlying tendency is also present in infants. This tendency of having self-identity makes most human beings to take their bodies and their roles as comprising a self. Even for those who have advanced in spiritual live, this pervasive sense of self is extremely difficult to get rid of. Similarly, the Buddhist afflictive emotions as well as the evolutionary biologists indicate that the human brain is far more advanced than the ancestral reptilian and mammalian brains (Samuel, 2014). However, the latent instincts of the animal often surpass the logic. This gives way to the emotions of fear, anger, and passion. Man is often under the spell of these underlying sentiments from the expressively past. Besides, just like the Buddhism, it is actually an illusion for someone to sincerely believe that man is self, an individual in control of the psychological processes. This is because the perception is not an active agent but just a witness that goes along with the generally unconscious processes of the brain. This illusion emerged from the fact that it enabled man to survive as well as have a sense of reality and take control. However, this sense of self-identity has not just been inherited but it is also produced and reinforced by the social and cultural encounters with one another. This view creates an illusion that the genetic traits and social surroundings mutually interrelate to ring out the false sense of individuality. According to some behaviorists in this context, which discusses, ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ human nature is really evil and beyond redemption. Others strongly maintain that humans are solely influenced and formed by their social surroundings but they are not the product of their genes. Ultimately, in both cases, that is the Buddhism as well as according to some evolutionary biologists the false ego can be eradicated through meditation and some by some people.


From the analysis, it is clear that Buddhism and science have some similarities and differences in various views and phenomena. Modern science and philosophy share some commonalities such as the teachings that connect the teachings of Buddha to evolution, cosmology, and quantum physics among others. Buddhism is not dogmatic and rational with aspects such as fundamentalism, supplication to spirits, devotion to traditions, and superstitions of various kinds. For instance, the idea of causation is common in Buddhism and science paving way for reasoning before making any form of conclusions. For instance, misery and suffering in individual’s results from some causes thus Buddhism eightfold path helps in understanding reality of things as they happen. It constitutes conventional and ultimate truth in which the former forces to phenomena such as being and non-being, inside and outside, and birth and death among others. Classical science reveals the conventional truth and quantum physics helps in finding the absolute truth by opposing some Buddhism views such as the conventional truths. Science involves testing of theories is necessary via modern technology before being accepted in the community.


Samuel, G. (2014). Between Buddhism and Science, between Mind and Body. Religions, 5(3), 56

Taber, K. S. (2017). The Relationship between Science and Religion: A Contentious and Complex Issue Facing Science Education. In Science education: A global perspective (pp. 45-69). Springer International Publishing.

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