For over 2000 years Buddhism has existed as an organized religion. By
religion we mean that it has a concept of the profane, the sacred, and
approaches to the sacred. It has been established in India, China, Japan and
other eastern cultures for almost 2000 years and has gained a strong foothold in
North America and Europe in the past few centuries. However, one might ask;
what fate would Buddhism face had Siddartha Guatama been born in modern times;
or more specifically in modern day North America? Would his new found
enlightenment be accepted now as it was thousands of years ago? Would it be
shunned by society as another “cult” movement? What conflicts or similarities
would it find with modern science; physics in particular? The answers to these
questions are the aim of this paper, as well as a deeper understanding of modern
Although I will stick with traditional ideas raised by Buddhism, one
detail in the story of Siddartha Guatama must be addressed in order for it to be
relevant to the main question being asked: What obstacles would Siddartha
Guatama face had he been born in modern day North America. Primarily, it must
be recognized that rather than being born into the Hindu religion (which in
itself is mystical), Siddartha would have most likely been born into a Christian
family. This in itself presents the first obstacle, that being that
Christianity is a strictly monotheistic and non-mystical faith. Hence from the
outset, although in the traditional story Siddartha faced a conflict with his
father (Ludwig 137), in the North American scenario the conflict would have been
heightened by the fact that his search for enlightenment was not even closely
similar to the Christian faith.
As with science, changes in religious thought are often met with strong
opposition. It is interesting to note though, that many parallels can be found
between modern physics and Eastern Mysticism. As Fritjof Capra writes:

The changes, brought about by modern physics . . . all seem to lead towards a
view of the world which is very similar to the views held in Eastern Mysticism.
The concepts of modern physics often show surprising parallels to the ideas
expressed in the religious philosophies of the Far East. (17-18)

Thus by examining some of the obstacles imposed by typical western thought on
modern physicists attempting to develop new theories, we can apply the same
conclusions to the situation that would be faced by Siddartha Guatama in modern
day North America. Traditionally, western thought can be summed up by French
philosopher RenJ Descartes\' famous saying, "Cogito ergo sum" or "I think
therefor I exist". That is, typically, western man has always equated identity
with his mind, instead of his whole organism (Capra 23). This same line of
thought can be found in traditional Newtonian Mechanics in which the observer of
an event is never taken into account when describing the event. Rather, all
things are said to occur at an "absolute time" in space, never taking into
account the observer\'s position or speed relative to the event or the rest of
the Universe. However, in the beginning of the 20th century, new developments
in physics began to shake the framework of the scientific world. Due mostly to
work by Albert Einstein, but also Ernest Rutherford and others, the scientific
view of the universe took a drastic turn. These scientists recognized flaws in
the classical Newtonian view of the universe. The recognition of these flaws
led to the development of the Quantum Theory of Matter as well as Einstein\'s
Relativity Theory. These theories, as well as the discoveries that they led to,
incorporated the entire universe as being comprised of energy, and that
particles, time, and space, are just different representations of this energy.
Naturally this faced strict opposition. So much so that in spite of it\'s
ground-breaking nature as well as the fact that it had been proven, Einstein\'s
Special Theory of Relativity failed to earn him the Nobel Prize. Even to this
day many find it difficult to comprehend these more abstract theories. Both
concepts - that of empty space and that of solid material bodies (Newtonian
Mechanics) - are deeply ingrained in our habits of thought, so it is extremely
difficult for us to imagine a physical reality where they do not apply (Capra
Thus, by applying the obstacles faced by modern physicists, it easy to
see how a more close-minded western way of thought would be skeptical of
Siddartha\'s new philosophy. Rather than accept, or even recognize, the more
abstract theory of reality that Siddartha would be presenting, western