Where is Mount Sumeru?

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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Mon Nov 25, 2013 3:36 pm

Kunzang wrote:Although it's almost certain that Meru doesn't actually correspond to any real geographical location -- certainly not in any literal way as the abhidharma literature describes -- yet, like others, I often indulge in speculating on other and non-literal interpretations of Buddhist cosmology.


No, it doesn't because the world depends upon the purity or impurity of our mind as illustrated by the Agganna Sutta:

www.urbandharma.org/pdf/AggannaSutta.pdf

I believe our relatively impure minds (it's clear that we are in a time of spiritual degeneration) causes us to see the oblate spheroid we call planet Earth, but there are alternative realities for those with the karma to perceive them.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby zamotcr » Tue Nov 26, 2013 12:59 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:I believe our relatively impure minds (it's clear that we are in a time of spiritual degeneration) causes us to see the oblate spheroid we call planet Earth, but there are alternative realities for those with the karma to perceive them.


So... our planet Earth, and other planets are spheroid because our impure minds? So if my mind is pure I will see flat planets? :shock:
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:07 pm

zamotcr wrote:
Tsongkhapafan wrote:I believe our relatively impure minds (it's clear that we are in a time of spiritual degeneration) causes us to see the oblate spheroid we call planet Earth, but there are alternative realities for those with the karma to perceive them.


So... our planet Earth, and other planets are spheroid because our impure minds? So if my mind is pure I will see flat planets? :shock:


You'll see something relatively pure, which might be a flat surface with four continents, Mount Sumeru, etc ;) in accordance with karma.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:15 pm

Malcolm wrote:Well, there are two problems: one your mind is not the only mind. This automatically means that unless you are a solipsist, you automatically must accept the existence of external entities that are not products of your mind, i.e. other minds.

Second, when you claim that everything is a product of one's own mind, including the causes and conditions that give rise to the mind itself, you are locked in an infinite regress, essentially asserting that the mind causes itself.


Interesting! I don't think it's necessary to accept the existence of external entities because there is a dependent relationship between my mind and everyone else's mind. This must be how clairvoyance works - if my mind can perceive the thoughts, past lives and so forth of others, how can I say that others' minds exist outside my own? Also, all our minds and the whole universe exists inside Buddha's mind, or to put it another way, Buddha's mind pervades all the phenomena in the universe.

Secondly, the mind doesn't cause itself insomuch as the mind of this moment brings itself into existence. There is a continuum of mind with each moment acting as the substantial cause for the creation of the next moment so there is no need to assert the existence of self-arising entities. One moment of mind is necessarily different to the previous one and the subsequent one.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby zamotcr » Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:41 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:You'll see something relatively pure, which might be a flat surface with four continents, Mount Sumeru, etc ;) in accordance with karma.


And also spheroid worlds. Form here has nothing to do with pureness.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Nov 26, 2013 2:50 pm

His Holiness the Dalai Lama's very relevant remarks on this particular topic here:
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... ript3.html

There are three ways of understanding things: through sensory perception, through inference based on reasoning, and through relying on the authority of scripture. That means [in the case of scripture] relying on a third person. I often tell people that it’s like our own birthday: We have no way to investigate what’s our real birthday. We have to rely on a third person; for example, our mother. And in order to accept the third person’s description, first we have to prove that person is honest, reliable, and has a normal mind. So we need to test some other field that the third person has mentioned, something that we can investigate. If we investigate and find it’s correct, we know this person is truthful and has no reason to lie or pretend things. Then we can accept that person’s other statements.

So, like that, there might be mysterious phenomena that are beyond our level of understanding and that we have no experience of. If there are people who say they have actually experienced these phenomena, we can check their writings and see if they are reliable concerning other points. If so, we can rely on this third person’s explanation of the things that are beyond our reasoning. We have to take this sort of approach with some of the explanations in Buddhist literature.

Now, according to pramana – logic and epistemology – [there are different types of proof and refutation. One type of refutation involves a phenomenon that should be observable, but isn’t]. For example, according to the Abhidharmakosha, the sun and moon are the same distance from Earth, and as they revolve around Mount Meru, day and night come about. Seemingly we actually experience Mount Meru’s shadow [during the night], but if we experience its shadow, then we should also be able to see the mountain. In ancient times in India, Vasubandhu didn’t have the possibility to check to see if there is a Mount Meru. But now we have spacecraft, so we should be able to see it. If Mount Meru exists, we should be able to see it. But since we cannot see it, we can say it doesn’t exist.

So there are refutations that involve not being able to observe the phenomenon you are trying to prove or where you observe the opposite of it. Dignaga and Dharmakirti clearly mentioned these things in their texts. So utilizing our own Buddhist epistemology, the nonexistence of Mount Meru is easily proved. It’s no problem to refute these things.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:07 pm

JKhedrup wrote:His Holiness the Dalai Lama's very relevant remarks on this particular topic here:
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... ript3.html
So utilizing our own Buddhist epistemology, the nonexistence of Mount Meru is easily proved. It’s no problem to refute these things.


The non-existence of Mount Meru FOR US is easily proved by it not being either a hidden or manifest object, but our view is not inherently the only one. The world is subjectively existent. We don't see pus and blood or nectar when we observe liquid, so those are non-existent for us, but they are valid appearances for a hungry ghost and god respectively. We cannot say that their perceptions are not valid simply because they don't accord with our own.

The Sutras and Tantras clearly talk about Mount Meru. Buddha himself also talked about Mount Meru. It's a reality for some beings. There's no problem with talking about the existence of Mount Meru even though it doesn't exist for us.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Malcolm » Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:54 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:The non-existence of Mount Meru FOR US is easily proved by it not being either a hidden or manifest object, but our view is not inherently the only one. The world is subjectively existent. We don't see pus and blood or nectar when we observe liquid...


This presumes there is a common basis of karmically determined perceptions, i.e. for a single vessel of a liquid, there are six different perceptions.

Now then, the perception of a Mt. Meru and the non-perception of Mt. Meru must have a common basis of perception if we are to accept your analogy.

We are not talking about the conventionally valid cognitions of beings of the six realms, we are only talking about the conventionally valid cognitions of human beings.

I submit that no human being ever perceived Mt. Meru with a conventionally valid cognition. Mt.Meru is and always been a cosmological Indian myth about which there are various and conflicting traditions.

Ancient Indian astronomical works as the Suryasiddhanta clearly describe our world as being round and suspended in space like an iron ball between two magnets. Further:

"The Surya Siddhanta also estimates the diameters of the planets. The estimate for the diameter of Mercury is 3,008 miles, an error of less than 1% from the currently accepted diameter of 3,032 miles. It also estimates the diameter of Saturn as 73,882 miles, which again has an error of less than 1% from the currently accepted diameter of 74,580. Its estimate for the diameter of Mars is 3,772 miles, which has an error within 11% of the currently accepted diameter of 4,218 miles. It also estimated the diameter of Venus as 4,011 miles and Jupiter as 41,624 miles, which are roughly half the currently accepted values, 7,523 miles and 88,748 miles, respectively."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surya_Siddhanta

Indian astronomers, while generally subscribing to a geocentric cosmology, were more advanced in their thinking than the mythic superstitions of Buddhist abhidharmikas, for whom Mt. Meru is only viewable by siddhas.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Nov 27, 2013 9:23 am

I guess it depends on how far you want to take it.
According to traditional Indian (Vedic) cosmology the moon landing could have never happened because the scriptures indicate it is the abode of Chandra and the distance calculations are incorrect. Zealously holding to this view did not win the Hare Krishnas many supporters. Below are the founder, Swami Prabhupada's, comments on the issue:


Prabhupada: They have not gone to the moon planet.
Paramahamsa: Really?
Prabhupada: Yes. It is far, far away. Their calculation is wrong. They are going to a wrong planet.

Paramahamsa: It must be the Rahu planet.
Prabhupada: Yes, or something else. Not moon planet.

Paramahamsa: How many...
Prabhupada: It is above the sun planet.

Paramahamsa: Moon planet is further?
Prabhupada: Yes.

Paramahamsa: Oh. Because they say that the moon planet is the closest planet to the earth. That is their calculation. And they say that it orbits around the earth, and then that the earth orbits the sun.

Prabhupada: All wrong. What is the... According to them, what is the distance of sun planet?

Paramahamsa: Sun planet is 93,000,000 miles.
Ganesa: They say the moon planet is only 250,000 miles.
Prabhupada: It is wrong thing.

Paramahamsa: Is their calculation for the distance of the sun wrong also?
Prabhupada: Yes.

Paramahamsa: 93,000,000? It says in the Bhagavatam exactly what the distance?
Prabhupada: The whole universe, diameter, is panchshat-koti-yojana. One yojana equal to eight miles, and one koti is ten miles, er, ten million. So panchashata, fifty into 10,000,000 into eight.

Paramahamsa: Yeah. So it's fifty crores yojana. Fifty crores yojanas?
Prabhupada: Yes, fifty crore yojanas, panchashat. So one yojana equal to eight miles, one crore equal to ten million.
Paramahamsa: That's eighty million.

Prabhupada: Hmm?
Paramahamsa: Eighty million times fifty.
Prabhupada: Yes.
Paramahamsa: Means 400,000,000
Srutakirti: Hmm. More than that. Four billion.
Paramahamsa: Four thousand million, which is four billion?
Srutakirti: Four billion miles.
Paramahamsa: Four billion miles is the diameter.
Prabhupada: Is the diameter.
Paramahamsa: You gave that in The Teachings of Lord Chaitanya also.
Prabhupada: Yes. And the sun is in the middle.
Paramahamsa: So two billion miles from the edge of the universe.
Prabhupada: Yes. And they say? 93,000,000.

So you have a little background in physics and this makes you the exception to Srila Prabhupada’s comments and/or his purpose for expressing them? [...]

Easy Journey to Other Planets is filled with comments on this so-called “space travel” and they are perfect.

Srila Prabhupada had his reasons for identifying the entire project (moon landing) as a bluff and a hoax. We just accept it – even if we cannot fully explain it to anyone’s, everyone’s or your satisfaction...

I’m sure that devotees who are more erudite than a mere woman can come up with much better citations to substantiate that Srila Prabhupada was not a mere conditioned soul, but an eternally liberated soul descending from the spiritual sky."
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Nov 27, 2013 9:40 am

Why I refer to His Holiness the Dalai Lama in this discussion is not simply due to my respect for him or that he is one of my teachers, but due to his unique experience. He is one of the few lamas (aside from perhaps the Karmapa, who is still young), who has had the opportunity to meet with some of the most eminent scholars from the world's scientific community. During the Mind and Life Conferences for example, there are unprecedented dialogues between leading scientists and eminent Buddhist scholars. So His Holiness' view is nuanced to a degree that that of other scholars might not be due to his unique life experience and countless hours of dialogue with the scientific community. If Buddhism is to remain relevant in the modern world, these dialogues are not only relevant but necessary.

HHDL: For instance, we accept quote “A” from the Buddha, while we do not accept quote “B.” Why? If, for the acceptability of the words of the Buddha, we had to rely on other words of the Buddha, then those would require yet other words of the Buddha and it would be an infinite regression, wouldn’t it? Therefore, in practical terms, we need to explain some of Buddha’s words as having only an interpretable meaning (drang-don) and only selected others as being definitive (nges-don). If that is the case, it means that Buddha’s ultimate meaning has to accord with reason.

Now, in terms of scientific investigation, if something can be proven as fact, then it is accepted. Science works on that basis, doesn’t it? For instance, one scientist does an experiment and something happens. Then, someone else conducts the same experiment and gets the same result. This procedure establishes something as a fact of reality. That is how science works. Thus, the basic attitude of science is that if something is a verifiable fact of reality, accept it; and if it is not verifiable, don’t believe it. http://www.sangye.it/wordpress2/?p=3566


We also have to ask ourselves, is holding to the view of Mt. Meru and the conception of the earth as flat (also indicated by some Buddhist texts) necessary for achieving enlightenment? If it is not, then why cling to this view? We have to understand the path from the key points to be cultivated for enlightenment.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Nov 27, 2013 9:44 am

There is also an interesting discussion with His Holiness here that indicates the Buddhist texts describe Mt. Meru differently, which is interesting. If it is a definitive thing, why the different explanations?
That being so, then Mount Meru and so on explained in Kalachakra, in reality, have a deeper meaning. They are mainly referring to the abiding situation of the body of a human being of the Southern Continent (Jambudvipa). The presentation of an external Jambudvipa is there in Kalachakra because of the necessity for explaining the relation between the external and internal worlds - each of them symbolize and are parallel to the other. In that sense, it is not necessary that Mount Meru exist as a giant mountain standing somewhere in reality in some separate location.



Berzin: Serkong Rinpoche said that Mount Meru in Kalachakra looks as though it is over your head and about to fall on you. What is that referring to?

His Holiness: In the Abhidharmakosha, Mount Meru is square and here, in Kalachakra, it is round and gets larger on top. Jambudvipa is around the bottom of it so that when you look up the wider top portion of Mount Meru, it appears hanging over your head. Thus, it looks as if it is about to fall. http://www.sangye.it/wordpress2/?p=3566



His Holiness on how to balance approaches between science and Buddhism

Berzin: So it would be best not to say that what science says is just like Buddhism?

His Holiness: Science has the same approach as Buddhism does. I think that from this point of view, they come to the same thing. That is one of the basic Buddhist attitudes. For instance, there are two types of distorted antagonistic attitudes (log-lta): those that are interpolations (sgro-’dogs) and those that are totally imaginary (kun-brtags-kyi log-lta) [equivalent to repudiations (skur-'debs)]. What do these categories refer to? An antagonistic attitude believing that something that exists does not exist is a distorted attitude that repudiates. One that believes that something that does not exist does exist is a distorted attitude of interpolation.

For instance, if Mount Meru exists and we say it doesn’t, that is a distorted attitude. If it doesn’t exist and we say it does, that also is a distorted attitude. That means that whatever is the fact, that is what we accept. For instance, if on the ground, there is an elephant and it is visible, we should see it because it is visible. Using this line of reasoning, if something exists (and is visible), we should see it. And, if it should be visible and we don’t see it, then it doesn’t exist.

So like that, concerning whether or not Mount Meru exists, when you explore in spacecrafts and if definitely it should be visible - because it is described as an object of the eye sensors - and if we don’t see it - of course, if it is something that exists but it can’t be seen, that is something completely different - but if it is the case that if it exists it has to be visible, then if it can’t be seen, we can decide that it doesn’t exist. Since the texts say that Mount Meru does exist, then except for them being of interpretable meaning, [there is no other possibility].

If we research scientifically, then if something exists we should be able to confirm it decisively - for instance, the diameters of the sun and the moon. I don’t remember the exact figures, but the diameter of the sun is much greater than that of the moon. We can see this with valid visual perception; it’s been seen. However, Abhidharmakosha says that the diameter of the moon is fifty yojanas and that of the sun is fifty-one - only one yojana difference.

Now, let’s leave aside the possibility that Mount Meru exists but just can’t be seen (because it’s invisible); we can directly see the size of the sun and the moon. We can see the sun and the moon and, if the sun and moon are visible, it can’t be that we cannot see their sizes. We can see their orbs. We can feel their heat; we can see their orbits; and we can see their sizes. Since we can see them, then when we look at them, we can see there is a big difference.

So, when Abhidharmakosha says their diameters are fifty and fifty-one yojanas respectively, this has to be refuted as an interpretable level of meaning. To say that what we see in terms of mathematical calculations is not the case - that it’s a deceptive appearance - and what Vasubhandu said in the Kosha about their being fifty and fifty-one yojanas is true, we couldn’t possibly say that. That is the basic Buddhist attitude: when there is a scientific finding that has been proven, we must accept it.

When science doesn’t find something, there are two possibilities: the not finding of something that doesn’t exist and the case of even though something exists, it can’t be found. They are different. For instance, about past and future lives and not being able to prove them scientifically, it is just that scientists cannot find them, but that doesn’t prove that they don’t exist.
[/quote]
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Lindama » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:09 am

well, if you don't know where Mount Sumeru is.... Do you know the way to San Jose?
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:18 am

Malcolm wrote: I submit that no human being ever perceived Mt. Meru with a conventionally valid cognition. Mt.Meru is and always been a cosmological Indian myth about which there are various and conflicting traditions.


Asanga and Nagarjuna have both seen it. They were great realised beings, so I submit that they had conventionally valid cognitions. To use another example, are we to say that Tushita and Akanishta Pure Lands do not exist because they have never been the objects of human valid cognitions? (actually, while being generally true that humans cannot see Tushita Pure Land, Asanga saw it with his human conventionally valid eye consciousness). We cannot say that something doesn't exist just because we cannot perceive it.

If Mount Sumeru is mythological, why is it referred to in the Sutras and Tantras (for example, Heruka's palace is on top of Mount Meru)?
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:40 am

JKhedrup wrote:There is also an interesting discussion with His Holiness here that indicates the Buddhist texts describe Mt. Meru differently, which is interesting. If it is a definitive thing, why the different explanations?


Nothing is definitive except for emptiness. The different appearances are easily explained to someone who understands about the mind and karma. Mount Meru appears in different ways to beings with different karma. Perhaps the Dalai Lama concluded that it was too difficult for people to understand and accept this view and so he simplified it into "if it exists it must be visible" as if the human way of seeing is definitive.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:42 am

Lindama wrote:well, if you don't know where Mount Sumeru is.... Do you know the way to San Jose?


Finding San Jose is a lot easier! :D
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:47 am

If Mount Sumeru is mythological, why is it referred to in the Sutras and Tantras (for example, Heruka's palace is on top of Mount Meru)?


How would you explain the differences in the descriptions of Mt. Meru contained within the Kalachakra, Heruka Chakrasamvara tantras and the Abhidharmakosha? 3 works by realized beings with different descriptions.

Would you also insist that the earth is flat, because the texts say so and were written by holy beings?
The Dalai Lama talked about Mount Meru, which is, according to traditional Buddhist cosmology, a holy mountain situated at the center of a disc-shaped and flat Earth. This Earth is surrounded on all sides by the sea. This cosmology held until the 16th century, when European explorers arrived in India with a new religion and a new cosmology. The Earth, these visitors insisted, is not flat or disc-shaped, but is instead an enormous ball. http://www.religiondispatches.org/archi ... f_religion


How far do we go? And indeed, how could we hold to the view of Mt. Meru, for example, and choose not to hold on to the view contained in the very same texts that state the earth is flat?

Would you also hold that the classical Indian measurements regarding the moon and sun are correct, and that it is not the earth that orbits the sun but the sun that orbits the earth?

How would you explain to me, Khedrup, that the earth is flat, considering I have flown from Canada to India over Europe, and over Western Canada and Asia, both times arriving in New Delhi? How could any Buddhist teacher who has made use of a modern airplane to fly through the world hold such a view?
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:49 am

catmoon wrote:
Aemilius wrote:

Mount Sumeru is real in the view that perceives Indra's Palace and the Trayastrimsa Devas, and the god realms above Trayastrimsa devaloka. Incidentally, in ancient Europe too the gods Jupiter, Zeus, etc.. live above the blue sky.


Right. And the vast majority of people have no difficulty at all in rejecting the idea (Zeus et al) on the grounds that it is completely bonkers. You probably reject it yourself. What puzzles me is the way most organizations exercise reasonable skepticism selectively, subjecting the beliefs of others to laughter yet hold their own mythologies to be holy and true.


If we accept reincarnation, we will have the three realms (dhatu) and six or five realms (loka), which You probably know very well. Thus we have the god realms in general and basic buddhism, but the map that the scientific view of existence presents to us doesn't include them. They are included in the Mount Sumeru world map. The Mount Sumeru map is thus more comprehensive. I believe that the realms of reincarnation exist, therefore I also believe that the god realms exist. "Completely bonkers" is a prejudice, and it is out of place in a serious discussion about the realms of rebirth.

All realms of rebirth are not visible to the physical eye, they are visible to a more developed and subtle vision in the Five Eyes, or in the Three Knowledges and the Five or Six Abhijña. The vast majority of people do not posses the five eyes or three knowledges and six supernormal powers, but this doesn't render the god realms nonexistent, in the buddhist view.
Mount Sumeru exists on different levels of vision, for different individuals, from different backgrounds.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:54 am

Absolutely. But if we insist on taking Buddhist cosmology literally, it will lead to all sorts of contradictions that would be very difficult to explain! Even the Buddhist texts themselves are not always in agreement on the cosmology. And certainly on many other matters as well (this is why for example there is the explanation of the 4 Tenents systems, because often various texts state different things.)

I do not have Khedrup Je's collected works, and even if I did they are so vast that finding the relevant quotations would be difficult with my capacity. But since he has written commentaries on both the Chakrasamvara and Kalachakra tantras, as well as elucidated points from the Abhidharma regarding cosmology, I wonder how he, back all those hundreds of years, would explain the contradictions.

Once again, I think His Holiness the Dalai Lama says it best:

"Buddha’s mission to the world was not to measure the radius of the Earth and the distance between the Earth and the Moon and the distances to the stars, but to teach the Dharma for the single purpose of relieving all sentient creatures of suffering."

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archi ... f_religion

Nothing is definitive except for emptiness


Which makes this above quote even more relevant. In the end, for most of our spiritual journeys I don't think it is necessary to believe in Mt. Meru or that the earth is flat.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Wed Nov 27, 2013 11:03 am

Tsongkhapafan wrote:Why do people think there has to be some correlation between the earth as it appears and the description of Mount Sumeru, etc, in the Abhidharmas?


What amazes me is a total lack of a sense of historical change and historical development. Imagine Yourself as living in India 2000, 3000 or 4000 years ago, or on other continents of the Earth. How would You have seen the world then?
What would the world have been like to You? What would Your sources of knowledge be at that time? You can make an imaginary investigation of the past.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Malcolm » Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:27 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:if my mind can perceive the thoughts, past lives and so forth of others, how can I say that others' minds exist outside my own? .


But your mind cannot. You do not have the five kinds of clairvoyance. So this argument is not valid.
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" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
Malcolm
 
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Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

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