Where is Mount Sumeru?

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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Malcolm » Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:38 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
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.


That's a novel approach. Where, in any work of these two masters, do they claim to have personally visited Meru?

They were great realised beings, so I submit that they had conventionally valid cognitions.


But there is no evidence that they held forth the idea that they had personally visited Meru. So you are merely engaging in proliferation, rank conceptual fabrication.

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).


No, this is false. Asanga had meditational experience of Tushita. He did not observe Tushita with his physical eyes.

We cannot say that something doesn't exist just because we cannot perceive it.


Doesn't it strike you as odd that certain facts about the world never change (sun, moon and stars), while other facts (flat earth --> round earth) do? Basically, all this indicates to me is that we have become better at analyzing and investigating the world, not worse, and that such obsolete cosmologies as the one we are discussing come from a time prior to that ability -- i.e. these suppositions could not be tested.

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)?


Because Mahāyāna sutras and tantras are filled with Indian myths and legends.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Malcolm » Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:39 pm

JKhedrup wrote: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:


Incorrect according to a religious text, much in the same vein as the Buddhist texts which make similar cosmological claims.

Ancient Indian Astronomy texts at least are based on mathematical calculations and centuries of specialized observation and records.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:23 pm

Malcolm wrote:That's a novel approach. Where, in any work of these two masters, do they claim to have personally visited Meru?


Asanga travelled to Tushita Pure Land with Maitreya (not merely had meditational experiences of Tushita) so he would have seen it as it would be below this realm. In Nagajuna's biography it says that during the period of his second Turning of the Wheel he went to the Northern Continent of the four that surround Mount Meru and taught there for two hundred and fifty years, so he would have seen it too.

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).

No, this is false. Asanga had meditational experience of Tushita. He did not observe Tushita with his physical eyes


What's your source for this belief? In the widely accepted biographies of Asanga he physically travelled to Tushita and spent fifty human years there, so of course he saw it.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Malcolm » Wed Nov 27, 2013 11:47 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Malcolm wrote:That's a novel approach. Where, in any work of these two masters, do they claim to have personally visited Meru?


Asanga travelled to Tushita Pure Land with Maitreya (not merely had meditational experiences of Tushita) so he would have seen it as it would be below this realm. In Nagajuna's biography it says that during the period of his second Turning of the Wheel he went to the Northern Continent of the four that surround Mount Meru and taught there for two hundred and fifty years, so he would have seen it too.

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).

No, this is false. Asanga had meditational experience of Tushita. He did not observe Tushita with his physical eyes


What's your source for this belief? In the widely accepted biographies of Asanga he physically travelled to Tushita and spent fifty human years there, so of course he saw it.


If you like reading religious novels and accepting them as truth, go for it. As for the Asanga story, I am basing myself on Chinese sources that are much earlier than Tibetan sources.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Nov 28, 2013 8:58 am

When my parents at the behest of my grandmother sent me to Confirmation classes I was "invited to leave" because I told the group I could not take literally or seriously the story of the red sea parting.
So as a pre-teen I was looking for a "rational" belief system and thought I would find that in Buddhism. Little did I know that I would hear equally fantastic stories and that my "reasoned attitude" would be challenged on many occasions, especially as a practitioner of Vajrayana. It is definitely a challenge at times. I don't think we should dismiss everything that challenges our modern sensibilities, but I agree with Malcolm that in some cases we can see stories and metaphors, as, well, stories and metaphors.
Otherwise to dismiss Christian fundamentalists who champion creation theories for example, while holding onto to equally (according to science) difficult views with great tenacity makes for a bit of hypocrisy, no?
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Thu Nov 28, 2013 10:01 am

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 -- .

Actually sky is also an object that doesn't actually exist if go there to look at it. But it seems to be there.
Mount Sumeru map is logical and coherent, but this doesn't mean that it is correct. Sky seems to be higher than the sun, which is why Sumeru is higher than the sun. This is an apparent truth. Sun and sky are perceivable to the normal eye. They are the basis for the abhidharmic calculations for the distance of the sun's path and of the height of Sumeru. These figures are logical and coherent with the perceivable world, but they are not correct, in fact.

South pole is much more logical than North pole as Mountain Sumeru, because then we actually have four continents around it, ie: Africa, South America, Australia and India(together with Asia). Vasubandhu describes Jambudvipa as a continent which is very narrow at one end and wide at the other end. This is accurate with the existing subcontinent India. It is true also if you add the whole of Asia to India. In traditional Four Continent maps the narrow end of Jambudvipa is towards Mount Sumeru. This is true only with Antarctica as Sumeru. If South pole is taken as Sumeru, we will have the ice sheet of North pole as the surrounding ring.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Thu Nov 28, 2013 11:11 am

JKhedrup wrote:When my parents at the behest of my grandmother sent me to Confirmation classes I was "invited to leave" because I told the group I could not take literally or seriously the story of the red sea parting.....

Otherwise to dismiss Christian fundamentalists who champion creation theories for example, while holding onto to equally (according to science) difficult views with great tenacity makes for a bit of hypocrisy, no?


Of course we need to decide whether these stories are true or not, but I would contend that Buddhism gives us tools for believing the fantastical. If everything is the mere creation of our mind, like in a dream, and nothing exists from its own side, then anything can appear in accordance with karma. The only thing that is impossible is inherent existence. A true scientific understanding of the mind according to Buddha's teachings make many hidden objects logically provable such as past and future lives, karma, the existence of god realms and hell realms and Pure Lands. When it comes to Christian beliefs about creation,they too have to be based on logic to be acceptable. This is why the concept of an all loving and all powerful Creator can be dismissed logically due to the presence of suffering. It just doesn't fly.

In other words, we can't just believe anything that anyone says without sound logical reasons.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Nov 28, 2013 11:43 am

Past and future lives are actually not as hard a sell as people might think, I have translated courses for Geshe la where is able to use reasoning to get people to be at least open to the possibility. Past and future lives and the six realms I would argue are what we could call "fundamental doctrines" of Buddhism. Many pieces of the philosophy depend on those teachings.
Mt. Meru I am not so convinced is that important to believe in in order to practice. The main things we need to worry about are the cycle of suffering in which sentient beings find themselves, and the methods to free ourselves and others from that cycle of suffering. In terms of reducing the causes for future suffering the teachings on cause and effect are indispensable. And logical when presented methodically.
I am not saying that we should dismiss things merely because we see them as "non-essential", but rather that it is a matter of emphasis. We need to have a clear picture of what the most essential aspects of the teachings leading to liberation and enlightenment are. I for one don't think the teachings on Mt. Meru and the earth being flat are that essential. If it is as you say such a vision will naturally unfold anyways as beings progress along the spiritual path, so why not give them the tools to do that rather than emphasizing classical Indian cosmology in a culture driven by science?
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Thu Nov 28, 2013 6:05 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Past and future lives are actually not as hard a sell as people might think, I have translated courses for Geshe la where is able to use reasoning to get people to be at least open to the possibility. Past and future lives and the six realms I would argue are what we could call "fundamental doctrines" of Buddhism. Many pieces of the philosophy depend on those teachings.
Mt. Meru I am not so convinced is that important to believe in in order to practice. The main things we need to worry about are the cycle of suffering in which sentient beings find themselves, and the methods to free ourselves and others from that cycle of suffering. In terms of reducing the causes for future suffering the teachings on cause and effect are indispensable. And logical when presented methodically.
I am not saying that we should dismiss things merely because we see them as "non-essential", but rather that it is a matter of emphasis. We need to have a clear picture of what the most essential aspects of the teachings leading to liberation and enlightenment are. I for one don't think the teachings on Mt. Meru and the earth being flat are that essential. If it is as you say such a vision will naturally unfold anyways as beings progress along the spiritual path, so why not give them the tools to do that rather than emphasizing classical Indian cosmology in a culture driven by science?


Good points, I agree. Mount Meru is not important, it's the eradication of suffering and its causes that is important.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Nov 28, 2013 6:22 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Of course we need to decide whether these stories are true or not, but I would contend that Buddhism gives us tools for believing the fantastical. If everything is the mere creation of our mind, like in a dream, and nothing exists from its own side, then anything can appear in accordance with karma. The only thing that is impossible is inherent existence. A true scientific understanding of the mind according to Buddha's teachings make many hidden objects logically provable such as past and future lives, karma, the existence of god realms and hell realms and Pure Lands.


You realize this is merely medieval style casuistry?
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he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby dzogchungpa » Thu Nov 28, 2013 6:52 pm

Malcolm wrote:You realize this is merely medieval style casuistry?

I've had just about enough of your casuistry bashing.

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The thousands of lines of the Prajnaparamita can be summed up in the following two sentences:
1) One should become a Bodhisattva (or, Buddha-to-be), i.e. one who is content with nothing less than all-knowledge attained through the perfection of wisdom for the sake of all beings.
2) There is no such thing as a Bodhisattva, or as all-knowledge, or as a ‘being’, or as the perfection of wisdom, or as an attainment.
To accept both these contradictory facts is to be perfect.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby sukhamanveti » Thu Nov 28, 2013 10:32 pm

I think that we underestimate ancient scriptures and treatises when we assume that the only way to take them seriously is to read them literally. Ancient languages are filled with metaphors. For example, one of the synonyms for karuṇā in the scriptures is anukampā, which is literally translated as “trembling with.” But the meaning of the word is compassion. If we fixate on the literal translation, we miss the meaning. This is why I think that the Laṇkāvatāra Sūtra is talking about meaning in general and not only ultimate truth when it says that “just like children, foolish worldings end their lives attached to that fingertip which consists of the literal translation and, by neglecting the meaning indicated by the fingertip…they never reach the higher meaning…The spirit is acquired in the company of educated people, and through learning, one should be conversant with the spirit and not conversant with the letter.” In other words, as we learn from The Four Reliances, “Rely on the meaning, not on the letter.”

If I were to read Āryaśūra’s Jātakamālā as history, I think I might reduce much of it to nonsense and probably lose some of the valuable messages it conveys. I might look at jātaka 6 and see it as an actual account of how a rabbit Dharma teacher (yes, a former life of the Buddha) actually became “the rabbit in the moon” (the Indian equivalent of “the man in the moon”). I might read jātaka 16 as an account of a vegan baby quail who stopped a fire by speaking the truth in Sanskrit. But the story of the rabbit is primarily about generosity and self-sacrifice. We don’t have to come up with a scientific or philosophical explanation of “the rabbit in the moon” to value the meaning of the story. The story of the quail teaches that the truth is more powerful than a terrible disaster in this world, that destruction does not overcome truth in the end. Taking it as a recommendation to put out fires with true words diminishes the meaning of the story, rather than enhancing it in my opinion.

My point is not to deny Buddhist doctrine. My point is that a failure to appreciate anything beyond a literal reading of the scriptures might obscure Buddhist doctrines at times. I don’t think that everything in the scriptures and treatises is to be taken literally. Historical and scientific truths are not the only truths.

I’ve missed much of this thread, so my apologies if someone else already made this point.

Ed
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby xabir » Fri Nov 29, 2013 3:25 pm

Because Mahāyāna sutras and tantras are filled with Indian myths and legends.
mt meru cosmology originated from pali suttas yes? http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .piya.html
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Malcolm » Fri Nov 29, 2013 3:35 pm

xabir wrote:
Because Mahāyāna sutras and tantras are filled with Indian myths and legends.
mt meru cosmology originated from pali suttas yes? http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .piya.html


Yes, also the Pali canon is filled with Indian myths and legends.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Berry » Fri Nov 29, 2013 9:25 pm

Malcolm wrote:

You realize this is merely medieval style casuistry?


At last, something I can understand and agree with !
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Mon Dec 02, 2013 10:19 am

sukhamanveti wrote:I think that we underestimate ancient scriptures and treatises when we assume that the only way to take them seriously is to read them literally. Ancient languages are filled with metaphors. For example, one of the synonyms for karuṇā in the scriptures is anukampā, which is literally translated as “trembling with.” But the meaning of the word is compassion. If we fixate on the literal translation, we miss the meaning. This is why I think that the Laṇkāvatāra Sūtra is talking about meaning in general and not only ultimate truth when it says that “just like children, foolish worldings end their lives attached to that fingertip which consists of the literal translation and, by neglecting the meaning indicated by the fingertip…they never reach the higher meaning…The spirit is acquired in the company of educated people, and through learning, one should be conversant with the spirit and not conversant with the letter.” In other words, as we learn from The Four Reliances, “Rely on the meaning, not on the letter.”

If I were to read Āryaśūra’s Jātakamālā as history, I think I might reduce much of it to nonsense and probably lose some of the valuable messages it conveys. I might look at jātaka 6 and see it as an actual account of how a rabbit Dharma teacher (yes, a former life of the Buddha) actually became “the rabbit in the moon” (the Indian equivalent of “the man in the moon”). I might read jātaka 16 as an account of a vegan baby quail who stopped a fire by speaking the truth in Sanskrit. But the story of the rabbit is primarily about generosity and self-sacrifice. We don’t have to come up with a scientific or philosophical explanation of “the rabbit in the moon” to value the meaning of the story. The story of the quail teaches that the truth is more powerful than a terrible disaster in this world, that destruction does not overcome truth in the end. Taking it as a recommendation to put out fires with true words diminishes the meaning of the story, rather than enhancing it in my opinion.

My point is not to deny Buddhist doctrine. My point is that a failure to appreciate anything beyond a literal reading of the scriptures might obscure Buddhist doctrines at times. I don’t think that everything in the scriptures and treatises is to be taken literally. Historical and scientific truths are not the only truths.

I’ve missed much of this thread, so my apologies if someone else already made this point.

Ed


In the well known Praise of the Three Jewels, Triratna Vandana, (which exists also as a short Mahayana sutra but is much less known, Sutra of the Recollection of the Noble Three Jewels), it says that Dharma is "inviting one to come and see, leading onwards, and to be known each wise man for himself".

This praise emphasizes that Dharma is to be verified by one's own experience, each one idividually. The point is that if any buddhist or nonbuddhist person attains personal experience of the six realms, he will see for himself where the six realms are, how they are arranged, how they appear to a human being of the modern era, etc.. Such a person doesn't need to debate with anybody about useless side issues. In the little experience I have of Dharma the Six realms are not so much dependent on time and history as is generally presumed. The Six realms still exist. If You experience them differently, I will not deny it.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Mon Dec 02, 2013 10:35 am

Malcolm wrote:
Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Of course we need to decide whether these stories are true or not, but I would contend that Buddhism gives us tools for believing the fantastical. If everything is the mere creation of our mind, like in a dream, and nothing exists from its own side, then anything can appear in accordance with karma. The only thing that is impossible is inherent existence. A true scientific understanding of the mind according to Buddha's teachings make many hidden objects logically provable such as past and future lives, karma, the existence of god realms and hell realms and Pure Lands.


You realize this is merely medieval style casuistry?


I understand that's how it appears to you. One person's medieval style casuistry is another person's faith and openness, we're all different. Some people view the stories of miracle powers in the Sutras and Tantras and in the biographies of great Masters such as Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti as fanciful stories, whereas others believe these are an indication of how far the mind can be developed and the non-inherence of existent things.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby invisiblediamond » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:31 pm

They were viewing India as center of world. Meru is the Pamir mountains.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:36 am

In Edward Conze's Short PrajñaParamita Texts there is a sutra: Perfect Wisdom for the Five Bodhisattvas. In the chapter of Perfect Wisdom for Candragarbha the Tathagata uses a metaphor of Moon circling the Four Continents. Moon goes around the four continents and sheds its light on them impartially.
The Abhidharma texts say that when moon shines on Jambudvipa, it is day on Uttarakuru, and vice versa. Therefore in early buddhism Uttarakuru was on the other side of the planet.
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