The Vedic and Upanishadic texts describe “Dharma” as a cosmic force transcending space and time. Following the path of virtue aligns one with Dharma, leading to ethical behavior. Such individuals perceive the universe as a unified entity, not limited by race, religion, species, or group. Rishis and Avatars are periodically born to uphold the spirit of Dharma. Despite diverse origins, these enlightened beings embody non-violence (ahimsa), kindness (daya), compassion (karuna), cosmic friendship (maitri), and equanimity (upeksha) in their pursuit of the ultimate truth.
One notable genius, Prof. Albert Einstein, born on March 14, 1879, in South West Germany, received the Nobel Prize in 1921 for his discovery of the Photoelectric effect. Einstein is revered not only as the “Father of Modern Physics” but also as a profound philosopher. Regardless of his numerous discoveries, he regarded all beings in the cosmos as manifestations of the Supreme Spirit, displaying compassion and friendship towards humans, animals, and other sentient beings. This notion of cosmic divinity and non-dual vision align with the foundation of the Upanishads.
Reading Albert Einstein’s letters reveals a striking resemblance of his thought with the verses of the Upanishads. This research paper aims to explore the parallels between Upanishadic and Einsteinian Philosophy, emphasising that the attainment of wisdom leads to a realisation of universal unity, non-violence, and a shared comradeship despite cultural differences.
Einstein’s Paradigm Shift: Embracing Spinoza’s Supreme over Abrahamic God
Baruch Spinoza, a 17th-century philosopher, faced exile from the Jewish community at the age of 23 due to his controversial views on God. He challenged the prevailing notions of a dominant, commanding, and personal God embraced by both Jews and Christians. Spinoza argued that the entire cosmos emerges from God, making it impossible for God to exercise control over His own manifested Self. According to Spinoza, God is solitary, impersonal, and impartial towards all creatures. He considered God as the ultimate cause of the cosmos, which operates according to a cosmic order known as “Substance.” In addition, Spinoza rejected the idea of a pluralistic God and instead embraced the concept of a singular force that manifests itself as the cosmos. Spinoza’s concept of God is relevant to this discussion because it is referenced by Albert Einstein when he was questioned about his belief in God by Rabbi Herbert, a Jewish leader in New York,
“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the creation. He is not concerned about the fate and doing of mankind. To me all is in God; all lives and moves in God. A God who rewards and punishes his creatures is unthinkable because all beings act as prompted by natural law, which is God itself. Thus, I reject the idea of a personal God that judges the acts of his creation. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s pantheism. He is the first philosopher to see the soul and body as one and not as two distinct entities. I am not an atheist but I cannot accept God as an authority established by the church. I do not believe in fear of life, death and blind faith. I have no faith in the God of theology. ”
Similar to Spinoza, Einstein also rejected the traditional notion of the Jewish and Christian God. He believed that God was non-dual, existing inseparably from His creation, and revealed Himself through the objects and phenomena of the universe. Einstein further expressed the view that God is the origin of both good and bad, yet remains indifferent to individual acts of right and wrong. He asserted that the structure of the universe could not have been different from what it is currently. Einstein later renounced his Jewish faith and German citizenship, ultimately becoming an American citizen in 1940. Einstein expressed his great fascination in Upanishadic philosophy, despite never having visited India. The Bhagvadgita was highly revered by Einstein as he stated,
“When I read the Bhagvadgita and its theory of creation, everything else seemed superfluous.”
He nurtured close connections with Indian leaders and intellectuals, such as Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Rabindranath Tagore. During his time in the United States, he had the opportunity to engage in discussions on profound philosophical concepts with Rabindranath Tagore. Remarkably, Einstein did not consider himself an atheist but rather described himself as a “Religious Non-believer.” Therefore, he did believe in a cosmic power or universal order that expressed itself in its creation. He further propounded that the universe is a manifestation of the Cosmic Spirit, everything within it is inherently divine.
The Philosophical Nexus: Schopenhauer, Upanishads, and Einstein
Arthur Schopenhauer, a prominent German philosopher of the 19th century, held great influence during his time. He was deeply influenced by the Upanishads, and their profound impact is evident in his writings. Albert Einstein, in turn, drew inspiration from Schopenhauer’s ideas. As a result, Einstein himself became a determinist, influenced indirectly by the Upanishads through the philosophical lineage that passed from Schopenhauer to him.
Consequently, through Schopenhauer, the Upanishadic teachings reached Albert Einstein, influencing his beliefs. The idea of a Supreme Will governing the cosmic drama became the cornerstone of Einstein’s life, philosophy, and scientific breakthroughs. This concept shaped his worldview and guided his exploration of the universe. The following statement by Einstein demonstrates the influence of Schopenhauer’s ideas,
“Schopenhauer’s words “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.” have accompanied me throughout my life. His thoughts have consoled me while dealing with others, even with those who have caused pain. This recognition of the lack of freedom of will have helped me in avoiding taking myself and others too seriously and have protected me from losing my sense of humor.”
Determinism in Upanishadic and Einsteinian Philosophy
The Upanishads encompass discussions on both determinism and free will. Notably, the Rigveda stands as the world’s first text to address determinism through the concept of “Rta,” which denotes a mystical cosmic order that intricately governs the functioning of everything. It lays the foundation for the development of the Vedic concepts of “Dharma” and “Satya. “ The Shrimad Bhagavad Gita reflects determinism in its teachings. It emphasises that individuals, under the influence of Avidya (ignorance), mistakenly perceive themselves as the sole doers of their actions. However, the Gita reveals that they are unaware that it is the Supreme, operating through them, orchestrating the intricate functioning of the cosmos. This highlights the underlying concept of determinism in the Bhagavad Gita’s philosophy. Further, when we refer to the Upanishads, we find thousands of verses that speak of determinism, i.e,
(I am one and I become many).
In the above said, Chandogyaopnishad speaks about the predetermined divinity of all life forms.
yasmin sarvani bhutani atmaivabhud vijanatah|
tatra ko mohah kah shloka ekatvamanupashyatah|| 
(When all beings have been realised as the ‘Self’, there remains no delusion and no sadness.)
The verse from the Ishavasya Upanishad suggests that the elimination of delusion and sorrow happens spontaneously when one strives to achieve a state of non-duality (Ekatmavada). Similarly, the Shvetashvatara Upanishad proclaims that everything is divine, implying that all beings are essentially the Supreme in disguise. These teachings imply a sense of pre-determination, as the Upanishads convey that the true nature of all beings is rooted in the Supreme. It further eradicates the difference between the cause and the effect,
purusha evedam sarvam yadbhūtam yacca bhavyam |
(All this is nothing but the Supreme Being, the One that was. The One that is, and the One that will be. He manifests as the world of material and remains the immortal one behind the mortal. )
Einsteinian philosophy is deeply rooted in the fundamental concept of determinism. It is worth highlighting that both Spinoza and Schopenhauer, who greatly influenced Einstein, were proponents of determinism themselves. Furthermore, Schopenhauer’s own views were heavily shaped by the teachings of the Upanishads. These interconnected influences demonstrate the profound impact of determinism and the Upanishads on Einstein’s philosophical framework. Einstine’s determinism can be comprehended from the following,
“God Himself could not have arranged the cosmic connection in any other way than that as it exists.”
“I do not believe in free will. Jews believe in free will. They believe that man can shape his own life. I reject this theory completely and in this respect, I am not a Jew. I am a determinist. Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, stars, humans, vegetables, and cosmic dust. We all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player.”
Einstein held the belief that the functioning of everything in the cosmos is governed by a Supreme will. He considered the idea of individuals creating their own destiny as an egotistical folly. In this perspective, a clear parallel can be observed between the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and Einsteinian Philosophy. These philosophical frameworks all emphasise the existence of a higher power or cosmic order that influences the events and workings of the universe, challenging the notion of individual control over destiny.
The Moral Conundrum: Determinism and Einstein’s Ethical Framework
It is widely believed that determinists like Einstein lack ethics. This misunderstanding is the result of a superficial comprehension of his perspective. Einstein has been criticized for being A-ethical. He however made it clear that, philosophically, a person may not be accountable for his actions. However, at a worldly level, he must observe social customs, rules and laws. Einstein, thus states,
“I am compelled to act as if free will existed because if I wish to live in a civilized society, I must act responsibly. I may consider a murderer as not responsible for his acts on a philosophical level but at a mundane sphere I will prefer not to take tea with him”
Despite his belief in determinism, Einstein emphasizes the significance of ethics for maintaining social harmony. His view of determinism primarily pertains to larger cosmic phenomena, such as the predictable movements of the sun, the flow of water, or the nature of fire. However, he also acknowledges that ethics do not derive their authority from a Supreme power but are essential in the material world. This ethical perspective is evident in a suggestion Einstein gave to his daughters during his visit to Japan in 1922, wherein he stated,
“If you wish for a happy life, use for yourself little, but give to others much”
He further states at various occasions,
“Only morality in our actions can give dignity to our life”
“Academic chairs are many but wise and noble teachers are few, lecture-rooms are large but the number of young people who thirst for truth and justice are small.”
“I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.“
While Einstein held a belief in determinism, he also recognized the importance of ethics in society. He emphasized that individuals must adhere to social customs, rules, and laws, even though he philosophically considered personal accountability to be influenced by determinism. Einstein’s ethical stance highlights the significance of responsible behavior and the pursuit of morality for a civilised society. Therefore, it is incorrect to assume that determinism and ethics are incompatible in Einstein’s perspective.
Reflections of Guilt: Einstein and the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Tragedy
Einstein, one of the key scientists involved in creating the atomic bomb, carried the weight of regret for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. He deeply lamented the immense devastation caused by these bombings, which remained a source of pain throughout his life. The development of the bomb was motivated by concerns over Germany’s potential creation of a dangerous weapon, and Einstein’s famous “energy-mass equation (E=mc2).” played a role in its construction. However, the bomb was not deployed against Germany as the country had already surrendered to the Allies on May 7, 1945. Following the bombing of Japan, Einstein expressed deep remorse and sorrow. In response to the tragedy, he uttered the words, “Woe is me.” While advocating for peace, Einstein had written a letter along with other scientists to President Harry S. Truman on July 17, 1945, urging him not to proceed with the bombing. Despite their plea, the advice was disregarded, and the devastating event unfolded on August 6, 1945. Einstein’s poignant statement reflects his anguish and the profound impact the bombings had on him. He further stated,
“If I knew that the Germans would not succeed at making an atom-bomb, I would’ve done nothing.”
Einstein’s Plate of Compassion: The Moral Imperative of Vegetarianism
It is true that Albert Einstein transitioned to a vegetarian lifestyle later in his life and expressed ethical reasons for his choice. While his digestive problems played a role in his decision, Einstein’s words and beliefs suggest a broader perspective on the ethical implications of consuming animal products. He recognized the interconnectedness of all beings and the moral dilemma of deriving pleasure from causing pain to other creatures. In light of this understanding, Einstein’s remarks indicate that if given the opportunity, he would have willingly embraced vegetarianism as a conscious ethical choice. Therefore, he states,
“I have always eaten animal flesh with a somewhat guilty conscience.”
“I am living without fats, without meat, without fish, but am feeling quite well this way. It always seems to me that man was not born to be a carnivore.”
“Besides agreeing with the aims of vegetarianism for aesthetic and moral reasons, it is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”
“What is the meaning of human life, or, for that matter, of the life of any creature? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. You ask: Does it make any sense, then, to pose this question? I answer: The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life.”
A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
The concept of non-dualism, as emphasized in Upanishadic thought, provides a foundation for the importance of vegetarianism. The notion that everything is interconnected and divine leads to the recognition that there is no inherent distinction between beings. In this perspective, the act of causing harm or inflicting pain upon any living creature becomes contradictory and goes against the understanding of the inherent unity of all existence. It further becomes important to take note of the lives of enlightened individuals. Those who realised the self in all and all in the self often reflect a profound connection to vegetarianism. Figures such as Mahavira, Buddha, Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Mahatma Gandhi, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plotinus, Rumi, Nicola Tesla, Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, and many others recognized the fundamental sameness and interconnectedness of all living beings. They understood that suffering is universal and does not discriminate based on size, name, or form.
The message of organic wholesomeness, cosmic divinity, compassion, kindness, and universal friendship, which finds mention in various Upanishadic texts, resonates with the ethical foundations of vegetarianism. It reflects the understanding that embracing a vegetarian lifestyle aligns with the principles of interconnectedness, compassion, and non-violence towards all living beings. This message of organic wholesomeness, cosmic divinity, compassion, kindness and universal friendship finds mention in various Upanishadic texts,
yacca kincit jagat sarvam drshyate shrooyate apivaa |
antar bahishca tatsarvam vyaapya naaraayanah sthithah ||
(Whatever in the universe is known through perception is pervaded and indwelled by Narayana)
aham atma gudakesha sarva-bhutaśhaya-sthitah|
aham adish cha madhyam cha bhutanam anta eva cha||
samoham sarvabhutesh na me dveshyosti na priyah|
ye bhajanti tu mam bhaktaya mayi te teshuchapyaham
(I exist as the atman in the hearts of all living creatures and I am the beginning, middle and end of all beings. I am the indwelling essence of all creatures and I have no likes or aversions.)
vo namo namo mrigyubhyash shvanibhyash cha|
vo namo namah shvabhyash shvapatibhyash cha vo namah||
(I bow to Rudra, the One who controls dogs, the one who Himself is the dog and the One who protects dogs)
abhayam nah pashubhyah
(animals must live without any fear)
tadaikshata bahu syam 
(I am one and I become many)
Accepting the Inevitable: Einstein’s Philosophy on Death
Like many yogis, Einstein did not view death as a tragedy but rather as a natural and predetermined occurrence. During a conversation with a friend while out for a stroll, the topic of “death” arose. When his friend stated that death is both a fact and a mystery, Einstein added, “..and a relief too.” This remark highlights Einstein’s perspective that death is not something to be feared or mourned but rather a release from the burdens and limitations of life. It reflects his acceptance of death as a part of the cosmic order and a potential liberation from earthly existence. Therefore, it can be inferred that Einstein had a positive outlook on death. As he grew older, he experienced various health issues and for the last 20 years of his life (1935–1955), he resided in Princeton, New Jersey. When faced with a ruptured blood vessel near his heart, doctors offered him the option of surgery. However, Einstein declined, saying,
“I want to go when I want to go. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share and it is time to go.”
Einstein’s words illuminate the Upanishadic concept of doing one’s tasks in the mode of renunciation (“I have done my share”) and not clinging to things, people, situations, or life (“it is time to go”). Additionally, the Shrimad Bhagvadgita declares,
“jatasya hi dhruvo mrityur dhruvam janma mritasya cha
tasmad apariharyeˊrthe na tvam shochitum arhasi ”
(Death is certain for the one born, and rebirth is destined for the one who died. Therefore, you shouldn’t mourn over the inevitable.)
Albert Einstein’s profound understanding of life and death stemmed from his journey from action to wisdom, body to self, material to the immaterial, and physical to the metaphysical. On April 18, 1955, at the age of seventy-six, Einstein departed from his material body. While he did not have faith in the concept of rebirth, he also did not see death as an end. His thoughts on the matter become clear from the following statements,
“I do not believe in immortality of the individual. Our death is not an end if we have lived on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us; our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.”
In conclusion, the parallels between the Upanishadic philosophy and Albert Einstein’s worldview are indeed profound and striking. Both embrace the idea of a cosmic force or Supreme Spirit that transcends space and time, emphasising the interconnectedness and inherent divinity of all beings. Einstein’s rejection of a personal, commanding God aligns with the non-dual, pantheistic views found in the Upanishads and Spinoza’s philosophy. Moreover, Einstein’s recognition of a cosmic order and determinism in the universe reflects influences from Schopenhauer and the Upanishadic teachings. While he believed in determinism, Einstein also acknowledged the importance of ethics and responsible behavior, echoing the concept of Dharma found in the Vedic and Upanishadic texts. Einstein’s commitment to peace and deep sense of regret in the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, further highlight his ethical concerns and his profound understanding of the interconnectedness of all life. His transition to vegetarianism demonstrates his recognition of the moral implications of causing harm to other creatures and the positive impact of compassionate choices. Ultimately, the exploration of the philosophical nexus between the Upanishads, Einsteinian Philosophy, and the influences of thinkers like Spinoza and Schopenhauer invites us to embrace compassion, non-violence, and a sense of shared comradeship. These perspectives transcend cultural differences and provide a deeper understanding of the cosmos, encouraging us to lead ethical lives and cultivate a harmonious relationship with the interconnected universe of which we are but fragments.
Author Brief Bio: Dr. Vandana Sharma ‘Diya’ is National Fellow at Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla; Principal Researcher, Kedarnath Dham, Ministry of Education and Former Post Doctoral Fellow-Indian Council of Social Sciences Research, Delhi.
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This thought is similar to the Vedantic thought where Brahman (Supreme) manifests as the entire Jagat (World) and can be seen in verses i.e., eko vashi sarvabhutantaratma ekam rupam bahudha yah karoti (He indwells all beings as the very Self and He alone becomes manifold) -Kathaopnishad Sankarabhashya, v.2.2.12; Brahmopnishad, v.17; sarvam khalu idam brahma (All is the Brahman) -Chandogyaopnishad, 3.4.1; mahad brahma yena prananti virudhah (Brahman is the source of plants, herbs and all beings.) -Atharvaveda, 1.32.1.
 Isaacson Walter, Einstein: His Life and Universe, Simon and Schuster Ltd., London, 2008, pp.388-89
 Ibid, p.387
 Jammer Max, Einstein and Religion, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1999, p.36
 Isaacson Walter, pp.388-89
 Ibid., p.392
Liberary of Congress, Declaration of Intention by Albert Einstein,1936, United States, https://www.loc.gov/resource/gdcwdl.wdl_02745/?r=-1.31,-0.058,3.62,1.446,0
 Isaacson Walter, p.157
 Unchanging truth, unalterable codes of conduct, constant cosmic law, unweaving universal order, and cyclical natural occurrences like birth, death, ageing, and seasons etc.
 Dharma encompasses various meanings and dimensions within its essence: 1. Svabhava: It refers to the inherent nature or characteristics of an entity, be it an object, animal, tree, or human. 2. Cosmic Order: Dharma represents the fixed and harmonious cosmic order (Rta) that governs the functioning of the universe. It signifies the consistent patterns and laws that ensure the sun rises and sets, and other cosmic phenomena occur predictably. 3. Duty and Responsibility: Dharma encompasses the idea of fulfilling one’s duties and responsibilities in various contexts, such as manavdharma (duties as a human), patidharma (duties as a spouse), rashtradharma (duties as a citizen), and more. 4. Social Norms: Dharma includes adhering to social norms and codes of conduct, such as loyalty to one’s partner, respecting authority figures like kings or leaders, and showing reverence for nature. 5. Purushartha: Dharma plays a role in the pursuit of Purushartha, the four-fold goals of life, which are Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (desires), and Moksha (liberation). 6. Religion: Dharma can be understood as a religious path centered around ethical codes that promote the well-being of all beings, transcending solely human concerns. Hindu Dharma, Jaina Dharma, and Bauddha Dharma can be considered Dharmic religions in this sense, while Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are not typically classified under Dharma. 7. Virtue: Dharma also encompasses virtuous actions and behaviors, such as watering plants, feeding animals, and providing care for the sick and ailing, extending compassion and kindness to all sentient beings.
 Satya represents the concept of truth in various aspects: 1. Acceptance: Satya entails accepting everything and every being in their natural form without attempting to forcefully alter or modify them. Forcing changes upon creatures mentally, physically, or genetically for personal pleasure is considered untruthful or Asatya. 2. Respect for Mother Nature: Satya involves refraining from taking away the resources of Mother Nature with the intention of accumulating them for personal gain. Taking fruits from a tree to satisfy one’s natural hunger is an act of truthfulness (Satya), whereas doing so out of greed is considered untruthful (Asatya). 3. Expressions and Virtues: The concept of Satya manifests as honesty, truthfulness, loyalty, calmness, acceptance, appreciation for everything and every being, compassion, kindness, and having an equanimous vision towards the entire cosmos. 4. Integration into Life: Satya is to be practiced in words, thoughts, actions, and as the foundational principle of life. Engaging in acts such as killing, altering someone or something, destruction, and causing harm for sensory pleasure or other reasons falls under the umbrella of Asatya or untruthfulness. In essence, Satya encompasses embracing truthfulness, honesty, and a deep respect for the natural order of the cosmos, fostering compassion and kindness towards all beings, and adhering to a life guided by these principles in all aspects.
 Shrimad Bhagvadgita, v.18.16 (tatraivam sati kartaramatmanam kevalam tu yah| pashyatyakitabuddhitvanna sa pashyati durmatih||)
 Chandogyaopnishad, v.6.2.3
 Ishavasyaopnishad, v.6
 Shevetashvataraopnishad, v.3.14
 Isaacson Walter, Einstein: His Life and Universe, Simon and Schuster Ltd., London, 2008, p.392
 Ibid.,pp.387; 392
 Ibid.,pp.392; 393
 Isaacson Walter, Einstein: His Life and Universe, Simon and Schuster Ltd., London, 2008, p.353
 Einstein Albert, The World as I see it, Filiqualian Publishing, Minnesota, 2005, p.8
 Einstein Albert, The Human Side, Princeton University Press, New Jerssy, 1981, p.40
 National Archives, Surrender of Germany 1945, United States, https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/surrender-of-germany
 Einstein Albert, The Quotable Einstein on Death, Princeton University Press, 1910, Letter to Max Kariel, August 3, 1953
Ibid., Letter to Hans Muehsam, March 30, 1954
 Ibid, Letter to Hermann Huth, December 27, 1930.
 Einstein Albert, Mein Weltbild, Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, First ed, 1934
 New York Post, 28 November 1972
 Yajurveda, Narayanasuktam, v10.13.5
 Shrimad Bhagvadgita, 10.20
 Ibid, 9.29
 Yajurveda, Rudramsukta, 4.5.4
 Yajurveda, 36.22
 Chandogyopnishad, 6.2.3
 Ghatak Ajoy, Albert Einstein: Glimpse of Life, Philosophy and Science, Viva Books, New Delhi, 1911, p.133.
 Wikipedia, 2018, Albert_Einstein_House, Online, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein_House
 Ghatak Ajoy, p.160
 Shirmad Bhagvadgita,v.2.27.
 Dukas Helen & Hoffmann Banesh, Albert Einstein: The Human Side (New Glimpses From His Archives), Princeton University Press, 1981, p.39
 Einstein Albert, The Quotable Einstein on Death, Princeton University Press, 1910, p.91