Wisdom of the wise falls short of the universal truth
Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power-Rene Descartes
The mind is everything. What you think you become-Buddha
Throughout the history of man many minds of wisdom have provided various
explanations of the purpose, substance and consequence of human existence in their quest to both answer questions and provide intelligible frameworks around which the mind of man can hold onto for security and climb for comprehension.
However relevant their words and ideas might have been at the time and in the circumstances they were created their expressions were never a perfect description of the universal truth but simply stepping-stones on the way to finding it. The quotes above attributed to the minds of two of the most profound thinkers of humanity are comments that make clear statements about our existence with some foundation of logic, and I would argue that it is in fact the quote from Buddha that is the more logical of the two. In assessing these critical pieces of wisdom one also has to understand both the time in history and the geo-cultural region in which they were made. Descartes, a Frenchman, lived in Europe in the 1600s and in addition to being a philosopher was an accomplished mathematician whose theories relied heavily on the empirical method and the early models of western scientific thought, with little consideration shown to the more mystical eastern schools of philosophy. Within the conceptual models of this period of history the issue of scientific evidence began to occupy a more central role in the minds of intellectuals as they moved away from the medieval dark ages and towards what they then considered the light of reason.
It is impossible to know the extent to which the ability of man to conceptualize can expand with time, and with these enhanced cerebral abilities comes the development of original models of thought. Buddha was ahead of his time and as the quote above simply states the essence of life is the mind from which all originates and which therefore represents the universal truth. The question might reasonably be asked why Descartes and his western thinkers did not either appraise themselves of this previously contemplated matter or did and chose to completely ignore it. The answer probably lies somewhere in between when one considers the attitude held by most westerners towards the east as Europe was on the political and military ascent, and it would have been almost an act of treason to give credit to philosophies from peoples that were in the process of political subjugation. This failure to acquire the knowledge of the east was in the opinion of many later intellectuals an act of imperial arrogance.
The concept of oneness is closer to an understanding of the universal truth and has existed for many centuries prior to the philosophical arguments that emanated from the minds of 16th-20th century Europeans, although it should be stated that there were a number of noted German thinkers who attached their theories to the writings found in the ancient Vedic scripts. The fascinating evolution of thought, that now in the 21st century, allies itself with that of the ancient eastern way of thinking is partly due to the political resurgence of those parts of the globe but has in my opinion much more to do with the simple fact that humans are getting closer to an appreciation of the universal truth.
The universal truth encompasses the message put forth by Buddha that is founded on the oneness of universal existence. In other words everything we as humans experience is created from the same matter/material/energy concept and the thoughts of man are no different. Within the last decade there has been an increasing acceptance on the part of the western scientific establishment that the concepts of consciousness and materialism are interconnected, by the fact that they are constituted by the same matter. This is exactly what Buddha was stating in the quote above. That there is no difference in matter between a thought and the material object that is born from that thought. The mind, being the generator of thoughts, is logically therefore everything and if one were to choose a statement closer to the universal truth it would be that of Buddha and not Descartes.
21st century technology has aggressively latched onto these realizations and in ways that some view as rather ominous. The arguments of privacy, censorship and control were up until recently entirely un-applicable to the realm of the mind, but with some of the most recent technological intrusions into the last vestiges of privacy they have become highly relevant. A thought is an entity in the same way a car is an entity. The acceptance of this statement, which at one time would have almost guaranteed a lifetime position at the closest psychiatric institution, represents an intellectual revolution but also provides the foundation for scientific endeavor that moves closer to the essence of existence and might arguably provide a more convincing answer to the question of why we exist. In the meantime however it will at the very least enable the development of technologies that connect the minds of men in ways that will hopefully lead to constructive and innovative additions to the human experiment.
The mind is everything and simply knowing this provides a sense of peace consistent with the universal truth.