Advaita Philosophy, Yoga Philosophy

Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism in modern science


Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism are the two most intellectual religious philosophies that arose in human civilization. Both are very similar in many respects.

Both adhere to the highest standards of logic and reason. In both, the aspirant is asked to use his powers of mind to reason out the truth from their teachings and not to accept them without thinking. In both, this world itself is our testing place, there is no higher world than this and it is here that we must reach our spiritual goal. In both again, the spiritual goal is within oneself. There is no need to go outwards in search of the truth. The struggle to find the truth beyond the universe and within oneself is the spiritual path for both, and they prescribe the same lonely struggle with oneself in which the aspirant must fight alone.

But though both adhere to the highest standards of intellectual rigour, both stand diametrically opposite in terms of their philosophy. They are the two polar ends of the same spiritual struggle for truth. Either one or the other must ultimately be true, because they cannot both be true. Here I shall note in brief the contrasting views of Buddhism and Advaitism with regard to certain points:

Buddhism and quantum physics:

In my article, Advaita Vedanta and Quantum Physics, I have discussed the stand of Advaita Vedanta with regard to quantum physics. Continuing the article, we can say that Buddhism teaches the exact opposite viewpoint as the basis of the world. Whereas Advaita Vedanta says that the final basis is a single homogenous and continuous structure, Buddhism affirms that the universe at its base is composed of discrete, discontinuous units which interact continuously with each other. This in fact is not so different from the Standard Model. We might well say that if the Standard Model is proven, the Buddhist view of the basis of the world would also be proven. Similarly, the String theory also with its characterization of discrete particles at the base would also be an affirmation of Buddhist theory.

Buddhism accords quite well with the present theories of quantum physics, both the Standard Model and String theory.

Buddhism and consciousness

I have already discussed the definition of consciousness in Advaita Vedanta and its importance for the spiritual goals of Advaita Vedanta (Advaita Vedanta, Consciousness and the mystical experience).

In the case of Buddhism also, it is its definition of what constitutes consciousness that determines its spiritual goals.

In Advaita Vedanta as we have seen, consciousness by definition arises from the Brahman, which is like an absolute ‘substance’, homogenous, continuous, indivisible and unchanging. Thus during meditation, when we introspect deeply into our consciousness and ‘touch’ the deepest level of our consciousness, we come into contact with this Brahman and this is the mystical experience, the Samadhi of Advaita Vedanta.

In Buddhism however, the deepest level of both the material world and our consciousness is considered to be discrete, separate entities. Thus when we introspect into the deepest layer of our consciousness, we will find that it is composed not from a single homogenous whole but of discrete ‘particles’, like the bits and bytes of data in a computer. Thus when we analyze our consciousness we find that there is no ‘wholeness’ of our consciousness. It is a mere ensemble based on disconnected bits which only give the appearance of a complete structure. Hence such a meditation shows the essential lack of coherence of our consciousness. This realization, that our consciousness lacks any ‘wholeness’, is the Nirvana of Buddhism. With this realization, the aspirant can then deconstruct his or her mind and know that it is impermanent, and thus get rid of the desires, and with this the ‘dukkha’ of life.

The mystical experience hence in Buddism is not an ‘experience’, as it is in Advaita Vedanta and Yoga, but a ‘realization’, a knowledge.

Is Buddhism falsifiable

In this article, Is Advaita Vedanta falsifiable, I have discussed how Advaita Vedanta is falsifiable.

Since Buddhism is the polar opposite of Advaita Vedanta, Buddhism is also falsifiable, ie, it is falsifiable when Advaita Vedanta is proved.

Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism both define exactly opposite ways of understanding what lies at the deepest level of the universe, the final Truth of the universe.

In Advaita Vedanta as we have seen, the deepest Truth is said to be a single, homogenous whole. In Buddhism on the other hand, the deepest layer is said to be discrete individual particles.

So if science ultimately finds a homogenous whole as the final basis, then Buddhism will be falsified.

Is Buddhism provable

In this article, Is Advaita Vedanta provable, I have discussed how Advaita Vedanta could be proved.

Buddhism also could be proven by quantum physics.

In fact, if the theory of the Standard Model is proven to be the final reduction and there is nothing more beyond it, then we can say that the Buddhist model of the universe is proven. This is because Buddhism defines such individual discrete particles as the final constituents of the universe.

Similarly, if the standard model is finally found to be incomplete and the String theory is in fact shown to be the deepest level, then also the Buddhist model would be proven because the String theory also proposes such discrete particles as the base.

So here we see an important difference between Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta: Buddhism can be proven in many ways, because it proposes discrete particles, and this can be held by many theories. But Advaita Vedanta can be proven in only one way. Advaita Vedanta proposes a single homogenous substance, and there is only one way to define this, and hence only one theory which satisfies Advaita Vedanta.

* People who read this also read:

* To read more on Advaita Vedanta and Yoga and its harmony with modern science and reason, you can go through my book on Amazon:

Advaita Philosophy, Yoga Philosophy

The Circle of Fire: The Metaphysics of Yoga

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