Cosmology

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Cosmology

Postby Will » Mon Apr 04, 2011 5:47 pm

We moderns often see Buddhist or Platonic or any ancient cosmology as simply wrong, because the descriptions given do not agree with our view through telescopes and science's explanation. While that is a logical possibility, I would suggest that ancient cosmologies are not supposed to be literally true. Yes many followers of Buddhism have assumed they were literally true, but they were wrong to do so.

Whether the geometric cosmos made up of mandalas, spheres, squares and other colors and shapes is how planets & stars appear with a higher vision or they are just psychological keys to those realms or something else, I know not. The fact that such a similar use of geometric shapes was shared by Buddhism & Platonism, for example, suggests that neither a mere lack of telescopes nor fantastic imaginations were the causes.

From a sketch about Plato's cosmology in his Timaeus:

In accordance with the requirements for the construction of the body of the universe previously set out at 31b4–32c4, the Craftsman begins by fashioning each of the four kinds “to be as perfect and excellent as possible…” (53b5–6). He selects as the basic corpuscles (sômata, “bodies”) four of the five regular solids: the tetrahedron for fire, the octahedron for air, the icosahedron for water, and the cube for earth. (The remaining regular solid, the dodecahedron, is “used for the universe as a whole,” [55c4–6], since it approaches most nearly the shape of a sphere.) The faces of the first three of these are composed of equilateral triangles, and each face is itself composed of six elemental (scalene) half equilateral right-angled triangles, whose sides are in a proportion of 1:√3:2. Timaeus does not say why each face is composed of six such triangles, when in fact two, joined at the longer of the two sides that contain the right angle, will more simply constitute an equilateral triangle. The faces of the cube are squares composed of four elemental isosceles right-angled triangles and again, it is not clear why four should be preferred to two. Given that every right-angled triangle is infinitely divisible into two triangles of it own type (by dropping a perpendicular from the right-angle vertex to the hypotenuse, the resulting two smaller right triangles are both similar to the original triangle) the equilateral or square faces of the solids and thus the stereometric solids themselves have no minimal size. Possibly, then, the choice of six component triangles for the equilateral and four for the square is intended to prevent the solid particles from becoming vanishingly small. Since each of the first three of the regular solids has equilateral faces, it is possible for any fire, air or water corpuscles to come apart in their interactions—they cut or crush each other—and their faces be reconstituted into corpuscles of one of the two other sorts, depending on the numbers of faces of the basic corpuscles involved. For example, two fire corpuscles could be transformed into a single air corpuscle, or one air corpuscle into two fire corpuscles, given that the tetrahedron has four faces and the octahedron eight (other examples are given at 56d6–e7). In this way Timaeus explains the intertransformation that can occur among fire, air and water. On the other hand, while the faces of the cube particles may also come apart, they can only be reconstituted as cubes, and so earth undergoes no intertransformation with the other three.[39] Having established the construction and interactive behavior of the basic particles, Timaeus continues the physical account of the discourse with a series of applications: differences among varieties of each of the primary bodies are explained by differences in the sizes of the constituent particles (some varieties consisting of particles of different sizes), and compounds are distinguished by their combinations of both different sorts and different sizes of particles. These various arrangements explain the perceptible properties the varieties of primary bodies and their compounds possess. An object's particular arrangement of triangles produces a particular kind of “disturbance” or “experience” (pathos) in the perceiving subject, so that the object is perceived as having this or that perceptible property.
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:48 pm

I think they meant their cosmology quite literally. This is easy to understand from the Abhidharmakosa where it gives both real and unreal places and relates them to each other in terms of distance and direction. Of course, it is always possible to come up with a psychologised, symbolic re-interpretation. The question is, is it worth it? Is it important in any way?
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Aemilius » Sat Apr 30, 2011 12:12 pm

´ Everything is like a dream, and then we start quarreling whose dream is the correct one !
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Dechen Norbu » Sat Apr 30, 2011 10:50 pm

:good:
Aemilius wrote:´ Everything is like a dream, and then we start quarreling whose dream is the correct one !
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Will » Sat Apr 30, 2011 11:24 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote::good:
Aemilius wrote:´ Everything is like a dream, and then we start quarreling whose dream is the correct one !


A dream quarrel is no problem. :roll:
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Re: Cosmology

Postby davidchatman » Mon Oct 03, 2011 9:47 am

Aemilius wrote:´ Everything is like a dream, and then we start quarreling whose dream is the correct one !


well said.cosmic law...............
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Aemilius » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:48 am

about Plato's cosmology in his Timaeus:

We moderns do not need to see the Plato's cosmology as "wrong", because in the Philosophy of Science we have learned that various scientific models are merely models for the understanding of reality, they themselves are not the reality.
Plato's model neatly explains how substances transform from a liquid state to a gaseous state, or to a state of burning. It is strange that his model doesn't include the explanation for molten metals, or for water turning into ice, or ice melting into water.
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Re: Cosmology

Postby edearl » Tue Oct 04, 2011 2:04 pm

Aemilius wrote:about Plato's cosmology in his Timaeus:

We moderns do not need to see the Plato's cosmology as "wrong", because in the Philosophy of Science we have learned that various scientific models are merely models for the understanding of reality, they themselves are not the reality.
Plato's model neatly explains how substances transform from a liquid state to a gaseous state, or to a state of burning. It is strange that his model doesn't include the explanation for molten metals, or for water turning into ice, or ice melting into water.


We try to understand reality as it is. Therefore, we must select a mental model of the Cosmos (or anything else) that best explains our observations. If we find our current mental model does not completely and accurately explain the observations, then we know our mental model needs to be amended. But, we may or may not know of a a more accurate and complete model. Moreover, some things about the Cosmos (or other things) cannot be experienced with ones senses, for example we cannot see outside of the observable universe and cannot know if there is an outside. Thus, all of us are eternally bound knowing incomplete and inaccurate models of reality, just as Plato.

:namaste:
Last edited by edearl on Tue Oct 04, 2011 2:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Kai » Tue Oct 04, 2011 2:37 pm

Buddhist cosmology is at best, a metaphor or a useful model for visualization practices or even a framework to understand the thoughts of ancient Buddhist and their worldview. Unfortunately, many Buddhists don't see it that way.......
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Re: Cosmology

Postby kirtu » Sat Oct 08, 2011 11:09 pm

Aemilius wrote:about Plato's cosmology in his Timaeus:
Plato's model neatly explains how substances transform from a liquid state to a gaseous state, or to a state of burning. It is strange that his model doesn't include the explanation for molten metals, or for water turning into ice, or ice melting into water.


?? They thought that all substances were composed of the elements earth, air, fire and water in different proportions and that these elements were released under different conditions. The knew that ice was solid or frozen water for example. Ice was composed of the water element and when heated or warmed then water was released. Burning wood similarly released air (smoke), fire, some water and earth.

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Re: Cosmology

Postby Aemilius » Sat Dec 10, 2011 1:57 pm

I read in a foot note of Stephen Anacker, in Seven Works of Vasubandhu, about the theory of atoms in Vaibhasika and Sarvastivada schools, it is very interesting, it says that there are atoms of earth, water, heat, and air, plus atoms of colour etc., these make up what Anacker calls molecules (sanghata) that are the actual smallest particles, the number of atoms in a "molecule" increased gradually to about twenty different atoms !
According to Anacker the theory of atoms found its way to Theravada through Buddhaghosa, it is present in his work Atthasalini.
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 10, 2011 3:53 pm

Classical Indian astronomy actually has a lot of accurate, scientific knowledge contained within it. This will be worth reading if you're interested:

http://www.bhaktivedantacollege.org/bvc ... ronomy.pdf

Richard Thompson's theory is that a more accurate model of cosmology was available in earlier times, but the vicissitudes of the kaliyuga has corrupted that tradition of knowledge. He has his own ideas too about what all the "mythological" elements of said cosmology mean, but nevertheless it is interesting.
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Will » Sat Dec 10, 2011 7:13 pm

The roots of Buddhist cosmology are more likely to come from the Jains: http://jaincosmos.blogspot.com/2009/08/ ... ology.html
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Thug4lyfe » Mon Dec 12, 2011 11:31 pm

literal belief is better than skepticism, because that will soon lead skepticism on other aspects of the Buddhist teaching, and so on, and so on etc.
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Re: Cosmology

Postby catmoon » Mon Dec 12, 2011 11:36 pm

Food_Eatah wrote:literal belief is better than skepticism, because that will soon lead skepticism on other aspects of the Buddhist teaching, and so on, and so on etc.


Goodness we can't have that, it might lead to actual knowledge. Ghasp!
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Thug4lyfe » Tue Dec 13, 2011 2:38 am

humph! >:/
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Re: Cosmology

Postby edearl » Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:59 am

Some people fight change, and others welcome it; the world is a mixture of old and new, which is good.

Knowledge of Buddha makes a more peaceful world. Without knowledge of fungus, bacteria, the virus, etc., our life expectancy would be shorter. A mixture of old and new knowledge reduces suffering. I seek a balance of old and new knowledge. However, seeking this balance is difficult and is not the path for everyone.
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Aemilius » Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:23 pm

Huseng wrote:Classical Indian astronomy actually has a lot of accurate, scientific knowledge contained within it. This will be worth reading if you're interested:

http://www.bhaktivedantacollege.org/bvc ... ronomy.pdf

Richard Thompson's theory is that a more accurate model of cosmology was available in earlier times, but the vicissitudes of the kaliyuga has corrupted that tradition of knowledge. He has his own ideas too about what all the "mythological" elements of said cosmology mean, but nevertheless it is interesting.


Interesting, at the end he mentions Aryabhata ( "for the sake of completeness"), Stephen Anacker regards Aryabhata to be a great mathematician and scientist, Aryabhata knew that Earth rotates around its axis etc, (this too is in the footnotes of Seven Works of Vasubandhu).
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Aemilius » Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:43 pm

Will wrote:The roots of Buddhist cosmology are more likely to come from the Jains: http://jaincosmos.blogspot.com/2009/08/ ... ology.html


The root of buddhist cosmology is in the supranormal vision attained in samadhi. This is said clearly in the sravakayana sutras, no need to repeat it over again, I hope.
There is a meditational vision & experience where the person sees how the human body is composed of atoms and molecules. This is the basis on which the theory of atoms and molecules has developed. This meditational vision exists in the Vipassana meditation, as well as in the Tantra or Ati-yoga meditations.

Hirakawa Akira's History of Indian Buddhism says there are hundreds of inscriptions found in India of offering tablets to the stupas that bear the names of Greek persons, Greek patrons and Greek buddhists. It is quite certain that exhange of ideas between Indian Buddhism and Greek philosophy has taken place to a significant degree. At one time Greece was the neighbouring country to India.
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Re: Cosmology

Postby Indrajala » Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:56 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Huseng wrote:Classical Indian astronomy actually has a lot of accurate, scientific knowledge contained within it. This will be worth reading if you're interested:

http://www.bhaktivedantacollege.org/bvc ... ronomy.pdf

Richard Thompson's theory is that a more accurate model of cosmology was available in earlier times, but the vicissitudes of the kaliyuga has corrupted that tradition of knowledge. He has his own ideas too about what all the "mythological" elements of said cosmology mean, but nevertheless it is interesting.


Interesting, at the end he mentions Aryabhata ( "for the sake of completeness"), Stephen Anacker regards Aryabhata to be a great mathematician and scientist, Aryabhata knew that Earth rotates around its axis etc, (this too is in the footnotes of Seven Works of Vasubandhu).



I'm of the mind that India probably had a vast scientific tradition that was largely lost, just as the author Thompson suggests. The knowledge of astronomy, atomic theory and other things is curious and suggests it.

If you want to see an example of lost science, check out this thing:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism

Until they pulled it up from the sea, they had no idea some people at the time had the knowledge to make such things.
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