“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.” – Albert Einstein.

As per above quotes it give us some clues that Albert Einstein the greatest scientist of the century immensely influenced by Buddhism. When we study the theory of relativity seems to get root from Buddhism with the descriptions of time flow in six realms. Do anyone have descriptions "Theory of relativity" and are there any relationship with Buddhist teaching?

  • 1
    This appears to be a false quote (i.e. Einstein never said that), according to what's written here and here and here.
    – ChrisW
    Jan 9, 2018 at 9:42
  • This might be going in the direction of quantum woo. Buddhism never needed science, and its purpose is not to explain everything.
    – user8619
    Jan 26, 2018 at 6:07
  • "Whether the universe is eternal or not, etc., (those 10 opinions) I have not explained. Why, Māluṅkyaputta, have I not explained them? Because it is not useful, it is not fundamentally connected with the spiritual holy life, is not conducive to aversion, detachment, cessation, tranquillity, deep penetration, full realization, Nirvāṇa. That is why I have not told you about them." What the Buddha Taught
    – user8619
    Jan 26, 2018 at 6:08
  • Even if this were a real quote, it is likely just due to the perception that Buddhism is the most useful of the world religions (i.e. people can get real-world benefits from meditation, in a way they can't from Western prayer). It is also likely due to the perception that Buddhism doesn't subscribe to the supernatural (which it clearly does to a not-insignificant extent, but a non-religious person can disregard all of this for its practical purposes).
    – maxbear123
    Jan 26, 2021 at 6:07

7 Answers 7


Do anyone have descriptions "Theory of relativity" and are there any relationship with Buddhist teaching?

Asking "what is the theory of relativity?" isn't on-topic on this site (which is about Buddhism and not, say, Physics). Someone could try to draw analogies between Relativity and Buddhism; and they may have some characteristics in common (e.g. they're both dharmas, both anatta); but IMO there's little or no relationship (except that someone can try to learn both and then try to relate them).

One possible relationship is the idea that a frame of reference isn't privileged -- i.e. things exist in relationship to other things (which reminds me of "Indra's net", and of "this/that conditionality").

When we study the theory of relativity seems to get root from Buddhism with the descriptions of time flow in six realms.

There is a phenomenon called relativistic time dilation: if I were one of those twins, it would seem to me that I age at whatever the normal rate is but my twin ages at a different rate.

I'm not sure that (i.e. I doubt that) is the same kind of "different time flows" that you might read about in Buddhism.

There's an idiom in English "time flies when you're having fun" (see e.g. this article). Possibly the "time flow" described in Buddhism is more like that, i.e. it's a description of subjective time flow.

  • This is what I am thinking. Time is phenomena perceive by mind. Time run fast when you are happy and slow when suffer. Jan 9, 2018 at 13:56
  • Perhaps it's also pedagogical i.e. skillful teaching: "Heaven is extra-good because it's super-long; and hell is extra-bad because it's infernally long; in contrast, human life is relatively short so don't waste this brief opportunity."
    – ChrisW
    Jan 9, 2018 at 14:05

Because Buddhism does not have any notion of an objective, absolute construct (such as the Absolute Space, Time, Property or Object within Newtonian mechanics), and because Buddhism doesn't jump to a complete nihilism given this absence of Self, all that is left is relativity. Dependent arising is principally that principle of relativity. Paper describing the parallels between Buddhist philosophy (Nagarjuna's) and Rovelli's relational QM.

(Einstein's two relativities got rid of Absolute Time and Absolute Space relative to Newtonian mechanics btw, but he was still very certainly convinced that beyond the 'veil' of QM, there were fully deterministic, Absolute Objects and their Properties, "God does not play dice")


Buddhism is not interested in the physics of cosmology, because the physics of cosmology is not soteriological. It doesn't contribute towards the permanent cessation of suffering.

"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it. - Acintita Sutta

However, Einstein admired Buddhism because, I speculate, among world religions, Buddhism is the most empirical. It doesn't require beliefs and faith in things that are untestable and cannot be experienced in the here and now.

How is Buddhism related to the theories of relativity? It's obvious that both of Einstein's theories of relativity proved the Buddhist notion of impermanence (anicca).

Newton's physics assumed that the flow of time and the nature of space is fixed and permanent. Newton did not question the stage upon which nature is playing out its dynamic movements.

However, Einstein's discoveries proved that all of these are changing e.g. time dilation, curvature of space-time, gravitational waves etc. Here, Einstein proved that even the stage is dynamically changing.

Then you might argue that the speed of light is fixed and permanent. Well, that's only in vacuum. When light goes through other media, its speed changes.

So, absolutely nothing in the physical universe is permanent. Hence, Einstein's theories of relativity proved the Buddhist notion that apart from Nibbana, everything else is impermanent (anicca).

"Sabba sankhara anicca" - all conditioned and compounded things are impermanent.


As @ChrisW already indicated, Einstein never spoke or wrote that quote. Einstein appears to have occasionally made passing references to the Buddha in conversation, so the quote is likely concocted. Note that proponents of Abrahamic religions also quote Einstein out of context, most notably "God does not play dice with the universe", his reaction to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. Einstein used "God" in this context to refer to the laws of physics, not a supernatural entity. In his own words:

"I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal god is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being."

The Theories of Special and General Relativity do not stem from Buddhism, nor from any other philosophy or religion. I see answers here that claim


can be substituted by

utu = pathavī x utujarūpa arising rate2

This is not the case.

the E stands for intrinsic energy, not just utu, which is related to temperature. The Abidharma forms of energy are closer to alchemy than to physics (water, fire, earth, etc.)

the m stands for relativistic mass. For a particle of finite rest mass m moving at a speed v relative to the observer, this means:

enter image description here

while pathavī in Abidharma stands for the Earth element, which has nothing to do with relativistic mass.

The c stands for light speed, which is the maximum velocity of event propagation in the universe. Utujarūpa means temperature-born materiality, which has nothing to do with event propagation. Photons do not equate termperature-born For example, an electron will emit a photon when it falls to a lower orbit. This has nothing to do with temperature, but is related to the quantized energy potential of the electron. Temperature is not quantized.

There are a lot of common principles in Buddhism and the scientific method, such as experimentation and independent verification. It is likely for this very fact that Einstein would refer to Buddhism in conversation. But trying to equate ancient doctrinal concepts with 20th century relativistic theory is a disservice to both disciplines.

  • Very well done. I'll take this to my bookmarks. (+1) Feb 2, 2021 at 13:21

There are uncountable relativity appear in the last cannon of tipitaka, paṭṭhāna-abhidhamma.

So, the theory of relativity appeared in a little part of abhidhamma, such as utujarūpa of rūpa section:

In physic:

e = m x c2

Can convert to abhidhamma as:

utu = pathavī x utujarūpa arising rate2.


utu = thermal energy (in abhidhamma where is thermal energy, there are the other energies, such as pathavī, āpo, tejo, vāyo, vaṇṇa, sadda, ganda, rasa, and ojā, too. But some of them may be not appear to senual organs).

pathavī = mass.

utu-ja-rūpa = new arising form that is caused by thermal energy of the other form.

utujarūpa arising rate = rate of arising and vanishing of each utu-ja-rūpa.

In abhidhamma, mind arising is fastest (more than a trillion times per finger stroke), the form is slower 17 times (17 mind arose = 1 form vanished).

Also, in the path of purification, CHAPTER XX — PURIFICATION BY KNOWLEDGE & VISION OF WHAT IS AND WHAT IS NOT THE PATH 4. Comprehension of the material page 22, wrote:

There are 4-5 inherited generations of kamma-paccaya-āhāra-samuṭṭhāna, kamma-paccaya-utu-samuṭṭhāna.

There are 2-3 inherited generations of citta-paccaya-āhāra-samuṭṭhāna, citta-paccaya-utu-samuṭṭhāna.

There are 12 inherited generations of āhāra-paccaya-āhāra-samuṭṭhāna (however, depending on the quality of āhāra).

There are uncountable inherited generations of utu-paccaya-utu-samuṭṭhāna (depending on utuniyāma+bījaniyāma).

There are 12 inherited generations of utu-paccaya-āhāra-samuṭṭhāna.

The bold quote above is used in nuclear reaction.

However, theravāda buddhism trying to solve, avoid, and get out of every problem (suffering), so buddha and commentary did not explain too much about the form, because it is just 1 of 5 aggregates, 1 of 3 bhava. Therefore buddha and commentary have to spend the explaining time to the other parts of problem (suffering), too. But science, which formed from Capitalism culture, spending too much time with just form part (5 kāmaguṇa), which can sensed at the sensual organs (5 āyatana) by 5 sensual viññāṇa. Because the people in capitalism can't clearly comprehension the whole problem system (suffering in paṭiccasamuppāda cycle).

So buddha taught in Siṃsapāvana Sutta:

"What do you think, monks: Which are more numerous, the few simsapa leaves in my hand or those overhead in the simsapa forest?"

"The leaves in the hand of the Blessed One are few in number, lord. Those overhead in the simsapa forest are more numerous."

"In the same way, monks, those things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught are far more numerous [than what I have taught]. And why haven't I taught them? Because they are not connected with the goal, do not relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. That is why I have not taught them.

"And what have I taught? 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress': This is what I have taught. And why have I taught these things? Because they are connected with the goal, relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. This is why I have taught them.

"Therefore your duty is the contemplation, 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress.' Your duty is the contemplation, 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'"


To be honest I doubt Albert Einstein was actually very much influenced by Buddhism. Einstein was basically a scientist and an atheist almost whole his life.

His primary religion was science - the science which can make us understand the physical universe but tells us nothing about God or spiritual matters. So his advocating Buddhism as "the religion of the future" would have been mostly for practical and, indeed, opportunistic ends.


I think i understand the core philosophy of special relativity as it was intended and Buddhist texts make statements about the 'world' which align.

Ie ebts say ''that in the world which perceives & conceives the world is called 'a world..". Or 'this is called the all; eye & visible form, nose & smells, tongue & tastes, ear & sounds, body & bodily sensations, ....mind & ideas. This is calléd All". This is quite similar to what is arrived at by thinking in terms of special relativity where notions of conception & perception are tied with measurement & observation.

Imo a neat part about sr and mathematics in general is that it is in concept all impersonal and there is only a counting of what is measured or observed. IE when algebra tells us that negative multiplied by negative gets a positive result, we don't ask to explain it in terms of a doctrine of self; the idea of a self or other stupid ideas don't come into play here.

It is very elementary and truthful as dealing with discernable elements which can be seen & known by intellect and agreed upon.

Buddhism goes a lot further in mapping out causal relations of real elements in one's thinking and taking false elements out the equation of one's understanding.

The Dhamma also makes a statement about origination and a discernable cessation of one's particular frame of referance as pleasant and something to be realized by directing the mind to cessation of perception & feeling rather than a change in a perception to a particularly blissful perception experienced by a mind arising in dependence on a life-force & nutriment.

Another circumstance to note is that Buddhism aims to rid one of delusion and gain sanity which is closer to cognitive therapy and psychiatric theory than physics.

Although the developing of sanity through scientific understanding of electrocolloidal & electromagnetic processes has been pursued more than one might think in the last 100 years, ie the work on general semantics in "science & sanity" by korzybski, there is still nothing as complete as Buddhism which has one train discipline & manipulate awareness to discern it's cessation.

Nothing being as complete there are many cool ideas and thoughts that align and do clear up people's wrong views like philosophy in general be it in math, physics or paradoxes & thought experiments.

The Dhamma is just connecting all the dots for you and explains that understanding can also be thought of as a faculty & a power to be developed.

I think these are the core differences.

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