Physicists are scientist who study the reality and draw conclusions about it scientifically. After studying what Buddha said it appears to me that Physicists are trapped in a wrong world. They believe in Newton's Law. They believe in Einstein's Universe. They believe in Quantum Mechanics. All the above laws fail to lead to any conclusion about Dhamma as taught by Buddha or other religions worldwide. They do not find any suffering inherent in the Universe because they failed to connect their theories with the beings. For physicists, non-conscious Universe can lead to the emergence of consciousness on its own. For physicists , something which feels Nothing can lead to emergence of feeling on its own. To illustrate imagine a piece of matter kept in the space. According to science that matter will become conscious over a period of time on its own because it will create a juggling of chemicals and that juggling of chemicals is called life and consciousness. That juggling of chemicals produces suffering in the Mankind and by giving appropriate chemicals the suffering can be removed. And that is what happening in the west.Similarly they believe that the mind is a result of chemical juggling and when the chemical juggling stops the mind ceases to exists.

My question is :

Due to the above wrong view , do you agree that Physicists are suffering or going to suffer? And briefly what can a Buddhist do to help them?


5 Answers 5


All unenlightened beings suffer including scientists. I suppose the real question is whether scientists will ever realize the four noble truths. Unless there's a radical change in how they approach reality, I do not see that happening any time soon.

The real issue is that mainstream science still does not acknowledge that there is a mental aspect to the universe. They think of the mind as a byproduct of the brain. Any scientific research done based on that hypothesis will never lead to the understanding of the four noble truths.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 13:43

When I wrote this answer I was not assuming that a "physicist" is a "physicalist" or a "materialist" (see comments below this answer): if that is your assumption, then this isn't a good answer for you.

Due to the above wrong view , do you agree that Physicists are suffering or going to suffer?

IMO physicists suffer for the same reasons as other people -- it's not exactly because of physics (scientific theories) that they suffer.

Their knowledge of physics doesn't contribute to their suffering -- like (I guess) neither does a farmer's knowledge of agriculture, nor a linguist's knowledge of grammar, etc.

But physics doesn't address (explain) the cause of human suffering, and so it doesn't offer much solution IMO. For that reason a suffering physicist may find physics unsatisfactory, and appreciate the Dhamma for its insights into phenomena (e.g. feelings) which are outside the scope of physics.

Is one good thing about physics, that it might be a preliminary training in emptiness?

And briefly what can a Buddhist do to help them?

As for whether you can teach (or help) a physicist, I don't think it's easy to help anyone (physicists included) -- see also How to explain what Buddhism is?

On this site, people ask questions: so they're active participants in their own learning. More generally I suppose you might help a physicist learn dhamma but maybe not if they're not interested and won't participate.

My personal opinion is that attempts to mix Buddhism and Physics sound like nonsense, by the way -- e.g. explaining Buddhist cosmology using modern cosmology, quantum mechanics with consciousness, atoms with kalapas and so on -- so don't try to do that, i.e. it's more helpful to give good explanations of Buddhism than bad explanations of Physics.

Also, I doubt that anyone "believes in" Einstein's universe, to the extent that they think that Einstein's universe is all there is (i.e. is a complete description of everything). Instead, Einstein's "theories" are soon as good "models" of some observations, i.e. of some aspects of reality.

IMO the fact that Einstein's laws don't explain suffering or love or anything else is only proof that Einstein didn't explain everything, not proof that what he didn't explain doesn't exist.

It's possible too that some Physicists get some consolation from their beliefs. There's this famous story:

Besso died in Geneva, aged 81. In a letter of condolence to the Besso family, Albert Einstein included his now famous quote "Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." Einstein died one month and 3 days after his friend, on 18 April 1955.

One of my complaints about Physics is that it has nothing to say about sila; but that doesn't have to mean that physicists are immoral.

by giving appropriate chemicals the suffering can be removed

I think that's a different topic: not physicists but psychiatrists, medical doctors, and "recreational drug" users.

I think that scientists believe that meditation (and discipline) can be effective too, under certain circumstances (if it's practised in the right way) -- see for example The Pursuit of Happiness.

  • Physicists and Brahmins are different than farmers and linguists... Physicists like Brahmins claim to explain everything about the Universe, from the beginning to the end. Physicists like Brahmins hold the wrong view. Wrong view means eternal hell because without getting rid of wrong view one can not attain Nirvana. That is why a physicists have to make extra effort to unlearn the theories about reality before understanding Dhamma. Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 10:14
  • 1
    "I know physicists who are desperate to find theory of everything" Yes and Physics doesn't explain everything (or at least it didn't used to), so it too may be inadequate or disappointing (i.e. dukkha), especially to someone who is craving.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 10:49
  • 1
    Farming skills or grammer knowledge does not incorporate taking up nihilistic views. But a physicist could easily take up nihilistic views like no-rebirth, no karma etc. Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 11:59
  • 1
    Yes, some can be open minded. Ever wondered why most of them do not research much about the mental aspect of reality? Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 12:52
  • 1
    @SankhaKulathantille If the scientists took the mental aspect of the universe seriously When you write "the mental aspect", I guess that "mental aspect" includes ,"how we perceive it (sense-objects)", "how we feel about it (dissatisfaction)", and "how we react to it (anger or attachment)", and maybe "what's good (ethics, discipline, maybe kindness or selflessness too)". Is that what you mean by "the mental aspect" (which science should have studied), or did you mean something else?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 14:13

The Buddha started out with the goal of finding the end of suffering and he found it. The Dhamma is his teaching of how to reach the end of suffering. The Parable of the Simsapa Leaves showed that the Buddha knows more than he revealed, as part of his enlightenment.

Physics and science in general has a different goal. It has the goal of trying to understand how the universe works, based on empirical evidence from observation and experimentation.

While the Buddhist path is an empirical one based on personal practice and personal evidence, science is another type of empirical path based on physical evidence. Both have different goals.

When scientists say that the mind is based on chemical and electrical interactions in the brain, that is simply their hypothesis based on the available physical observations. However, science is continuously progressing, and their understanding of how this works would improve over time. This does not mean that science will over time become the same as the Dhamma. But they may get closer.

I tried to explore in this answer, the possibility that physics is getting closer to the Buddha's teachings. On the other hand, I tried to consider the possibility that the Buddhist description of hungry ghosts may fit microorganisms in this question. If you look up YouTube video talks of physicist Prof. Lawrence Krauss, you would find that physics is slowly finding reasons for the lack of intelligent design in the study of cosmology. In this answer, you can find the links between neuroscience and Buddhist meditation.

Also, you can read the 14th Dalai Lama's "Science at the Crossroads" talk given in 2005. Excerpt below:

Although Buddhist contemplative tradition and modern science have evolved from different historical, intellectual and cultural roots, I believe that at heart they share significant commonalities, especially in their basic philosophical outlook and methodology. On the philosophical level, both Buddhism and modern science share a deep suspicion of any notion of absolutes, whether conceptualized as a transcendent being, as an eternal, unchanging principle such as soul, or as a fundamental substratum of reality. Both Buddhism and science prefer to account for the evolution and emergence of the cosmos and life in terms of the complex interrelations of the natural laws of cause and effect. From the methodological perspective, both traditions emphasize the role of empiricism. For example, in the Buddhist investigative tradition, between the three recognized sources of knowledge - experience, reason and testimony - it is the evidence of the experience that takes precedence, with reason coming second and testimony last. This means that, in the Buddhist investigation of reality, at least in principle, empirical evidence should triumph over scriptural authority, no matter how deeply venerated a scripture may be. Even in the case of knowledge derived through reason or inference, its validity must derive ultimately from some observed facts of experience. Because of this methodological standpoint, I have often remarked to my Buddhist colleagues that the empirically verified insights of modern cosmology and astronomy must compel us now to modify, or in some cases reject, many aspects of traditional cosmology as found in ancient Buddhist texts.

  • You are trying to say that science will ultimately express the Dhamma as told by Buddha. I do not think that is going happen because science is refusing to see the obvious Truth which is as visible as the light. There is a state of Nirvana. There is a state of Uncreate. Will science ever admit the existence of state of Nirvana ? No because it can not be expressed and science does not believe in word of mouth.Will science ever be able to guide us towards our true destination ? No. Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 17:30
  • Science will not ultimately express the Dhamma. However, science and Dhamma will get closer over time. Their goals are different, that's why they would never become equal. It's like comparing apples and oranges.
    – ruben2020
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 17:39
  • Physicists are holding a wrong view. They say we came from nothing but matter , unconscious unintelligent matter. It is like saying tree came from mixture of soil , sunlight , water and air. Physics ignores the existence of seed. Physics is irrational. It ignores the obvious. Such a wrong view can only lead to eternal suffering if it is not abandoned immediately. We grew up from coming together of form , feeling , perception, fabrications and consciousness. Physics only recognizes form and claims form led to feeling, consciousness etc. Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 23:25
  • Great thinking if your objective is to become a jihadist. Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 16:56
  • @QuantumBrick You mean to say .. no one is going to listen to the truth unless one becomes a jihadist ? If true that is sad. Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 5:57

The truth is everyone is suffering. But Physicists have that scientific explanation of how we suffer. For example, a normal person may have the understanding that most of us end up being with the similar type of people. A Physicists may describe this how waves with the same frequency synchronize as we all are a bunch of waves (our body, mind... everything). Therefore, actually, a Physicist who is passionate about suffering may suffer less as he/ she understands the core and try to find a solution to the main cause.

  • All theories are Anatta. Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 3:48

This question is surrounded by ignorance regarding science and also ignorance regarding the Dhamma. Philosophically speaking, the question assumes an objective reality does not exist: it assumes nature does not exist outside of one's own mind. This goes against all factual evidence (e.g, we are very sure the Earth existed before mankind came around) and the Dhamma. In MN 1 it is said that an untaught person

perceives earth as earth. Having perceived earth as earth, he conceives himself as earth, he conceives himself in earth, he conceives himself apart from earth, he conceives earth to be ‘mine,’ he delights in earth. Why is that? Because he has not fully understood it, I say.

This passage should be matched and compared to the view of the wise man, who

does not conceive himself as earth, he does not conceive himself in earth, he does not conceive himself apart from earth, he does not conceive earth to be ‘mine,’ he does not delight in earth. Why is that? Because he has fully understood it, I say.

Which, for people like me, indicate that the Buddha is both exposing the essence of anattā and the existence of an objective reality. It becomes even clearer if one considers paṭiccasamuppāda: contact (phassa) is a fundamental step, since the senses need to interpret an objective reality in order to feel (vedanā) something about it.

Justifying the existence of a natural world outside one's mind is very simple if one advocates humbleness: do not think the world depends on you. Many things depend on you, but the existence of the Sun, the stars, the electrons and even the nibbāna, don't. After being forced to admit such a tangible, objective and human-independent reality exists, it's really easy to see why physicists suffer as much as anyone else: since every person in the world has an occupation, some will naturally incline towards the study of such an objective reality. Since "scientist" is not included in (AN 5.177)

Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison,

this means the scientist has done anything wrong. Buddha doesn't mention the attempt to explain nature leads to bad kamma and terrible rebirths. He does, however, point that dealing with poison might get you in trouble. The objective of religion (in general) is not condense within its teachings all possible knowledge attainable: religion deals with soteriology, with the immaterial and mental, with the exit from a problem regarding man, not regarding natural phenomena. When people (at least me) say that Buddha was fully enlightened, we say that he was the understander and explainer of all that leads to happiness (as defined by Buddhism), not an explainer of natural phenomena. In fact buddhist cosmology, for many traditions, has lost its place as once a phenomenological concept, being now treated (by many) as an allegory.

The changes in society, along with the changes in scientific research, should also make us revise parts of the Dhamma. As an example, take the vision of perfect wife implied in AN 7:59:

One without anger, afraid of punishment,

Who bears with her husband free of hate,

Who humbly submits to her husband’s will—

Such a wife is called a handmaid.

Remember "handmaid" is what Bodhi chose as the best translation [nowadays] for "dasi", which means "slave". We shouldn't live in a world where a good wife is considered as a slave anymore, and the Dhamma should be revised regarding this - even if in Buddha's time, this was normal. We should also investigate nature and reality as deep as we can, and if the conclusions obtained using a seemingly fail proof method (the scientific one) lead to contradictions regarding some aspects of the Dhamma, then I know some lines of Buddhist thought are willing to change the Dhamma based on them.

I wrote this answer because it would be impossible (and against the rules) to post it as a comment to ChrisW's answer (which is very good). In resume, I was aiming towards explaining that no, science does not claim to explain everything. It claims to explain what is explains, and aims to explain what it still doens't. When science explains something, it explains it in a totally different way than religion: it's not supposed to be personal, but general and statistical - faithless. It's supposed to be measured and investigated by everyone and give the same results. That's why there are dozens of lines of Bubddhist thought, but only one line of science: if scientist don't agree, it means nature didn't act as we thought it would. We therefore need to go back to the lab and blackboard until we measure the proper result. Also, such a result does not depend on the observer, but it might depend on the observation. Depending on the observer would mean that each person would measure a different value for the charge of the electron, and this would be against the premise that everyone should measure the same charge, otherwise theory/experiment would be wrong. The observation, however, plays a fundamental part in quantum mechanics, but this has nothing to do with attā or mankind. "Observe" is a physical term that means: making a quantum system interact with a [usually] classical one, which forces it to change (obviously). Science will never prove or disprove any religion basically because it's not interested in them, since religion is not a component of an objective reality.

Religion and science no not mix, and a physicist is exposed to suffering as much as everyone else.

P.S.: If you can make a person cry and laugh using magnetic fields, maybe it's time to understand feelings are chemical, right? ;)

  • What do you mean by Anatta is objective ? Anatta is as objective as Buddha himself. Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 16:56
  • I didn't say that. MN 1 refers to both the existence of a reality disjoint to man and to the essence of anatta. Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 16:58
  • science proposes we are living in a Universe or multiverse. Science also proposes that Universe will come to an end. Science also claims life originated due to juggling of chemicals. Do you really believe that consciousness can originate due to rearrangement of matter ? This kind of faith leads to darkness. You suddenly find no reason to be kind ,compassionate because you are just a show of chemicals and you yourself can be manipulated using chemicals. Buddha would have shown that Truth is beyond chemicals. Buddha shows the light. Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 22:53
  • If you think our chemical nature and the fact that the universe will or will not end culminate in the fact that there is no reason to be kind, then you have not understood the Dhamma. The Dhamma is about the Four Noble Truths, and they are not concerned with the end of the universe. The Dhamma is about suffering, and on suffering you should focus - not on the end of the universe. Let the scientists study the universe, let us find peace studying and practising the Dhamma. Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 23:03
  • I was a student of the physics. I had difficulty understanding atman,forget about anatta. I had gone crazy trying to understand self from scientific perspective. This I predict is going to happen to scientific atheists. They are going to suffer. Is it not our duty to be ready with answers which will remove the cause of their suffering ? Those who believe in God at least believe in atman. Scientific atheists believe in no self view. According to them you are no better than a thermostat. Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 23:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .