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Buddhist cosmology - Dhamma Wheel

Buddhist cosmology

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Lazy_eye
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Buddhist cosmology

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Mar 03, 2009 5:33 pm

Hi,

I'm curious about how folks here at Dhamma Wheel interpret the traditional Buddhist cosmology -- i.e. the 31 planes of existence. Do you:

-- see them as literal truths, exactly as set out in the Canon
-- see them as physical destinations
-- see them as mind states
-- see them as both (i.e. the two amount to the same thing)
-- see them as provisional expressions, couched in the worldview of an ancient
culture, of something that is true in essence...but would be understood differently today
--see them as metaphors, or as figurative -- similar to mythical stuff in the Old Testament
-- see them as not really relevant to your practice
-- reject them...rebirth only takes place in the human realm, or doesn't take place at all

And what are your reasons? Note -- I am not seeking to start an argument here. Bhikkhu Bodhi has said such arguments are pointless, and I believe him. Just wanted to get an idea of what people think.

Thanks! :namaste:

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retrofuturist
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:04 am

Greetings Lazy_eye,

I think there's merit in each of the first five approaches you list above. I'm inclined to lean towards options 3 and 4.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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David N. Snyder
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:26 am

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Prasadachitta
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:27 am

Last edited by Prasadachitta on Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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retrofuturist
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:34 am

Greetings,

I always find it interesting to ask, "On which plane of existence did the Buddha exist?"

To what extent did he "exist" in the human realm.

There's a sutta somewhere, but unfortunately I can't find it, which discusses the Buddha's definition of the extent to which things exist, and the arahant (or Buddha of course) has transcended all of the criteria by which someone could be said to exist.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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puthujjana
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby puthujjana » Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:08 am

I see them as point one, because I can't see why a sammā-sambuddha should give metaphorical lectures without making clear that he uses metaphors.

But that's faith. As long as I'm a and haven't seen the planes of existence for myself (remembering past lives, seeing beings passing away and reappearing, devas contacting me, or something like that), I just can't say for sure.

with metta
:anjali:
"Once you understand anatta, then the burden of life is gone. You’ll be at peace with the world. When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness and we can truly be happy."

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clw_uk
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby clw_uk » Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:27 am

I see them as

-- see them as mind states
-- see them as both (i.e. the two amount to the same thing)

but I focus more on the first one since thats what is important


i say they are mind states because there are instances where the Buddha states that when one is practicing metta for example he reappears in the Brahma realm, since he isnt dead it obviously doesnt relate to after death (forgive me for not providing a quote but my internet is broke at home so writting this in work)

As for the second point, i see no reason that mind states cant correlate to a realm after death, but as i said i dont think this aspect is that important and its pure speculation on my part as all i can know is this life
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

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jcsuperstar
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Mar 04, 2009 10:18 am

I see them as what ever i need to see them as depending on the situation. who i'm talking to etc.

i've been able to remain quite fluid in this regard, and that i feel is a very helpful thing to be when dealing with things you have no real proof of.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Lazy_eye
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:14 pm

Thanks for your responses. :smile:

Since I should probably answer my own question, I'll go for #3, #4 and #5. It seems to me that if we conceive of the realms purely in physical terms, then we are espousing a kind of materialism -- because we would be saying that the quality of experience depends on the physical circumstances.

But beings might exist who do not find hell (as a physical place) unpleasant, or heaven pleasant.

Metta,
LE

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David N. Snyder
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:58 pm

When I mention animals, humans,some deva realms as physical destinations, I mean in terms of conventional, mundane truth, in as much as we seem to "exist."

There are many places in the Tipitaka that seem to show the 31 planes as real physical places (mundane), but then there are also a couple of other places that could allow other interpretations:

Mara’s three offspring are named Lobha, Dosa and Moha, meaning Greed, Hatred and Delusion (mental states). Samyutta Nikaya 1 Mara-samyutta

When the average ignorant person makes an assertion that there is a Hell under the ocean (or other freezing or burning, fire ridden place), he is making a statement that is false and without basis. The word ‘hell’ is a term for painful bodily sensations.” Samyutta Nikaya 36.4
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puthujjana
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby puthujjana » Thu Mar 05, 2009 7:26 pm

"Once you understand anatta, then the burden of life is gone. You’ll be at peace with the world. When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness and we can truly be happy."

DarkDream
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby DarkDream » Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:22 am


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Dhammanando
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Mar 06, 2009 7:59 am

For another PTS scholar's view (and a more careful and sensitive reader of texts than Gombrich) see Rupert Gethin's Cosmology and Meditation:


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puthujjana
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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby puthujjana » Fri Mar 06, 2009 8:02 am

"Once you understand anatta, then the burden of life is gone. You’ll be at peace with the world. When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness and we can truly be happy."

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Re: Buddhist cosmology

Postby Individual » Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:13 pm

The best things in life aren't things.



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