Where is Mount Sumeru?

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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Zhen Li » Fri May 31, 2013 2:03 am

:bow: This is exactly how it is viewed in Tantric Buddhism.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby smcj » Fri May 31, 2013 2:22 am

smcj wrote:
catmoon wrote:There used to be a Mt. Sumeru in Africa, according to Google maps. But I just checked and it isn't there any more!

There's a Mt. Meru in western Africa. I read newspaper clip about an airplane crashing into it. :shrug:

Oops. Make that Eastern Africa in Tanzania.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Mon Jun 03, 2013 8:51 am

Ben Yuan wrote:The Kamadhatu/Desire Realm:
Image
This is to scale as described in the Abhidharmakośabhāṣyam.

You can figure out what and where everything is with these:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Sumeru
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_cosmology

I also made images for the form and formless realms, but I'm afraid the distances described are so vast as to render the pictures somewhat uninteresting expanses of space.

And no, nothing in this picture is supposed to be "immaterial" from our perspective. It is all rupa, form. That does not mean we have to try and figure out its location. Not everything needs to be presumed true prior to investigation. On the other hand, if you enjoy reveling in fantasy and mythological cosmologies, this can be a whole load of fun to imagine (and in the end, that's the point of it "all," isn't it?).


The heading Kamadhatu is incorrect, because You have the Rupadhatu and Arupyadhatu there as well. Albeit Vasubandhu says that the Arupyadhatus are not situated anywhere specific, because of their nature of infinity.
In Myriad Worlds Jamgon Kongtrul I says that each Deva realm is twice the size of the preceding one, which makes the whole picture quite different.

I have always thought that this picture is a three dimensional representation of a four dimensional world. Mount Meru represents the fourth axis, in this fourth dimension you have the different devarealms. I have discussed this possiblity of a four dimensional universe with several buddhists, several times. We have always arrived at agreement on this issue. The public teachings will not be changed easily, much important material remains outside of the teachings that are aimed at the general public.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Jun 03, 2013 10:57 am

The heading Kamadhatu is incorrect, because You have the Rupadhatu and Arupyadhatu there as well. Albeit Vasubandhu says that the Arupyadhatus are not situated anywhere specific, because of their nature of infinity.

This is indeed the Kamadhatu (and JUST the Kamadhatu). If you want to see a pictoral representation of the scale of Rupadhatu + Kamadhatu, you have something looking more like this. And don't even dare ask what kind of WIDTH these realms have. After the first few heavens, they are wider than they are high. As for the Arupadhatu, it is not form, so pictorial representations don't apply.


Up to the Subhakrtsna Worlds, such that the Kamadhatu is still visible as a strip at the bottom:
Image
Up to the Suddhavasa Worlds, such that the Kamadhatu, if included with all proportions, is relegated to just a pixel.
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As for more than 3 dimensions, you'll have to explain that one to me. As far as I am concerned, there's height, breadth and extension.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Mon Jun 03, 2013 2:09 pm

Thanks. Nice picture. Could You also put the names of the heavenly realms in the picture? Beside their locations? That would make it clearer.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Mon Jun 03, 2013 4:18 pm

Ben Yuan wrote:As for more than 3 dimensions, you'll have to explain that one to me. As far as I am concerned, there's height, breadth and extension.


The idea is implicit in buddhism, hinduism and jainism. This means that in the three dimensional universe at any given place there are, or there can be, beings and their environments, that are not visible to the human eye and/or to the human consciousness. They are said to be existing "on an other level of the material universe", this other level is thought to be a level on a fourth axis of our universe. This idea of a fourth dimension of different levels beings and their different worlds has often not been very clearly enunciated in buddhism. Thus what in buddhism are called "higher worlds" is usually understood to be higher in the three dimensions of our world.
Nowadays we all know that there is no Palace of Indra above the blue sky. But did they know it also in the time of Buddha? This means: did Buddha and Arhats and Bodhisattvas know it?
There are sutras where Buddha says that a meditator, like himself, can rise into the air, rise into the space, and he can touch the Sun and the Moon with his own hand. Other meditators like Maudgalyayana visited other worlds and other levels of existence.
In sutras there are also descriptions of how some Devas, and other beings, manifested themselves here on Earth, i.e. made themselves visible to the Buddha. Apparently they came from other levels of the universe, these levels are popularly called "higher", and they are popularly described as being in the "upward direction".
In the buddhist sutras there is no clear mathematical model of a multidimensional universe, it is there implicitly. Or this model is the Mount Meru universe.
The buddhist, jain and hindu model of a multilevel spiritual universe was made more clear and more explicit by Madam Blavatsky and her followers in 1800's.
Wikipedia article about The Multiverse gives the credit to William James (1895).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Zhen Li » Wed Jun 05, 2013 2:00 pm

I see no reason to force through the idea that they have to "actually" "be" somewhere. They could just not exist. Ultimately, they arise for the same reasons everything else does - mental formations. It doesn't mean much to say something exists or doesn't exist when you are talking in Buddhist terms - everything arises dependent on causes and conditions. When the conditions are not there, they do not arise.

Moreover, nowhere do I see any necessity in the idea that the result of conditions which do not exist, has to exist. If the conditions are not present, the result simply is not present. If the conditions are present, the result is present. Why is it so necessary that all the realms as put forth in the Abhidharma and Sutras have to have all of the conditions required for their arising present? It is not necessary at all - though it may very well be the case that the conditions are present.

On the simple level however, if we are arguing for the non-corporeality of something, we are not discussing stuff in the 'form' realm. It is simple, form consists of the four elements: earth, fire, water, air. :rules:
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:00 pm

That is exactly the point! According to traditional buddhism the various deva realms are corporeal, but the modern mind often sees them as imaginary, or merely mental.

As I understand the Abhidharma the Deva realms are not exactly similar to the corporeal forms of the Kamadhatu.
There are a few descriptions of Deva realms in the sutras, which say that their beauty far surpasses the beauty we find here in the Kamadhatu. Some people, who have witnessed them in the state of dhyana, have said that their colours are so brilliant, that afterwards everything here on Earth seems just like of uniform grey, with no colour to them at all.

The bottom levels in this abhidharmic picture of the world: the spheres of wind, water and gold, are also significant. There is some resemblance to the formation of planets in modern astronomy.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:25 pm

Perhaps, but I still feel it is unnecessary to try to read too much science into it.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Tue Jun 11, 2013 1:35 pm

Ben Yuan wrote:Perhaps, but I still feel it is unnecessary to try to read too much science into it.


I put there very little of science. Buddhism, science and other teachings, like various forms of shamanism, all describe the same phenomenon of existence, or the same world more simply. They all are human ideas, some of them are views based on visionary experiences of how the existing world has arisen, I don't see them as essentially different. Something arises from something else. Even the views like mongolian shamanism how the world has arisen on a back of a giant frog swimming in the great ocean have some truth in them, and they can be compared with modern scientific views.
Modern views are not final either, the human world will continue to change and develop, the views of how the world exists will continue to change and develop.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Mon Jun 24, 2013 10:37 am

Ben Yuan wrote:I see no reason to force through the idea that they have to "actually" "be" somewhere. They could just not exist. Ultimately, they arise for the same reasons everything else does - mental formations. It doesn't mean much to say something exists or doesn't exist when you are talking in Buddhist terms - everything arises dependent on causes and conditions. When the conditions are not there, they do not arise.

Moreover, nowhere do I see any necessity in the idea that the result of conditions which do not exist, has to exist. If the conditions are not present, the result simply is not present. If the conditions are present, the result is present. Why is it so necessary that all the realms as put forth in the Abhidharma and Sutras have to have all of the conditions required for their arising present? It is not necessary at all - though it may very well be the case that the conditions are present.

On the simple level however, if we are arguing for the non-corporeality of something, we are not discussing stuff in the 'form' realm. It is simple, form consists of the four elements: earth, fire, water, air. :rules:


About hells: It is an unpleasant subject, but in Vasubandhu's Abhidharma Kosa Bhasyam he says that there is a sun in the hell realm too, it is 20 000 yojanas below the level of earth! This makes hell look like a Nether World. Other accounts, in the sutras, say that in at least some of hells there is a total darkness, or a nearly total darkness. In Karanda Vyuha sutra there is an account of Avalokiteshvara's visit to the hell realm.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Mon Jun 24, 2013 2:39 pm

A buddhist source to the theme of multidimensionality: In Abhidharmakoshabhasyam chapter II page 176 Vasubandhu says: "This sphere (Arupyadhatu) is not situated above Rupadhatu; but it is said to be above it because it is superior to Rupadhatu from the point of view of absorption: the absorptions of Arupyadhatu are cultivated after those of Rupadhatu; and because it outweights it from the point of view of its mode of existence, form the point of view of the duration of its existence."
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Zhen Li » Wed Jun 26, 2013 3:51 am

Yes, ultimately it's all about mental formations and perceptions.

But I simply hesitate in using the word dimension. I'd generally go with just using the term realm, shpere or dhātu. The reason is, Buddhism deals with the microcosm of the individual rather than the macrocosm of the cosmos or world independent of the individual. It deals with perceptions and mental formations, rather than scientific analyses of what things are independent of such things.

And moreover, it deals with how to overcome suffering within the framework of the microcosm, going beyond space and time, while letting the external world keep time. See Stephen Collins' Nirvāṇa, Time, and Narrative, or Richard Gombrich's Buddhist Prediction: How Open Is the Future? for more on that topic. It's quite interesting.

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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Wed Jun 26, 2013 10:40 am

I think You are misrepresenting buddhism. Dharma is very much concerned about seeing the truth, seeing reality as it is ( yatha-bhuta-jñana-darsana). It is not only about the inner reality, as if the outer world didn't exist at all. All perceptions have to do with objects; matter or rupa. In Dharma there are the teachings about sources of knowledge. Knowlegde in Dharma includes knowledge about the six realms. There is a book Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge by K. N. Jayatilleke. Buddha emphasizes that what he has known is available for others to know themselves, i.e. that others can become independent knowers of reality. Dharma is verifiable by one's own experience.
I don't see so much difficulty in that the Meru universe looks quite different from our modern the universe. You have to remember that in those days respected elders of the society had seen universe to be like that. How could You doubt that as an ordinary citizen (of that past society)?
The point about dimension is that in Mt Meru universe deities don't come down materially like an ufo comes down in a three dimensional universe. Deities manifest here suddenly, this means that they materialize themselves intentionally here. They do not come down from an other place in the three dimensional universe. Same with Buddha or Maudgalyayana or others visiting the deva realms. They go there suddenly and they suddenly disappear from here. That is to say they manifest themselves bodily in a deva realm that is in an other dimension than the three dimensional material universe. Even if the word "dimension" doesn't exist in the sutras, its meaning exists. It is misleading to say, or to imply, that deva realms exist in the three dimensional universe.
There is nirukti pratisamvid, knowledge of the regional use of language. We should know the regional or local language and use it in explaining the reality.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Zhen Li » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:01 am

Jayatilleke's student, Kalupahana, writes, “for the Buddha, ‘all’ or ‘everything’ represented the subject defined in terms of the six senses and the object explained in terms of the six sense objects.” Kalupahana, David J., 1994 (1992). A History of Buddhist Philosophy, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Page 43.

Contrary to Jayatilleke, and in concord with Kalupahana, I prefer to think of the Buddha as a radical empiricist. Extending beyond the bounds of the "knowable" simply is usually not relevant to liberation. However, occassionally the cosmos, and external world is relevant to liberation, and that involves the macrocosmic notion of samsara. The best work on this topic is Emmrich, Christoph, 2012. Die kurze, die lange und die richtige Zeit: Temporale Formen von Welt und Erlösung im Suttapiṭaka, HeiDOK: Der Heidelberger Dokumentenserver. Unfortunately, it is not yet published in English.

I have heard the argument that this kind of stuff is "folk religion," or the language of the region before, but I don't think that's quite true. I do think that under the logic of the psychology presented in the Suttapitaka, there is a legitimate wherein we can talk of being reborn, or being able to commune with, beings which are equivalent to what is called Brahma, Sakra, etc. It's important also to note that these figures in Buddhism, are actually immensely different from their presentations in Brahmanical texts.

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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:48 am

Here we find interesting pictures of buddhist cosmological models
http://web.ccsu.edu/astronomy/tibetan_cosmological_models.htm
K N Jaytilleke is described as an empiricist, and a verificationist, with respect to the Dharma. This doesn't mean that nothing extraordinary exists. It is dull and boring to take away all yakshas, devas, asuras, etc from the Dharma. It is also contrary to the truth, in my opinion. Whether the six realms exist or not has vast consequences for the theory and practice of buddhism. What was taught and practiced in the buddhist universities of Nalanda and Vikramashila can't be called "folk religion" or "village religion". In the phase of large buddhist universities they studied the Abhidharma, and that includes knowledge of the six realms and of the three dhatus.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Zhen Li » Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:55 am

Those are nice diagrams.
Aemilius wrote:This doesn't mean that nothing extraordinary exists. It is dull and boring to take away all yakshas, devas, asuras, etc from the Dharma. It is also contrary to the truth, in my opinion.

I agree. I nowhere spoke to the contrary.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:59 am

Ben Yuan wrote:Those are nice diagrams.


Nice? Psychologically revealing, I'd say. The area of hells is very large and the heavens are miniscule. With the knowledge that the heavens increase in size the higher you go the pictures should be very different. They should be more like Your diagrams. They are good anyway.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Zhen Li » Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:11 pm

Well, it doesn't look like they made any effort to keep scale. Also, in some texts the hells are described as being below Jambudvipa, which would make them rather narrow.
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Re: Where is Mount Sumeru?

Postby Aemilius » Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:26 am

There are more things one could comment upon in those pictures. I think the cylindrical, or pillar like, form of mount Meru has been adopted from modern hinduism, compare for example with the pictures of the universe in Hare Krishna movement. In some buddhist texts the word Jambudvipa is used in the sense "our world", they don't always bother saying the "universe of the four continents". Robert Thurman uses the expression "four sector universes".

In one of the diagrams it says "bodies of light" for the bodies in Rupaloka. This may not be actually correct, Abhidharmakosha doesn't say so. In a private interview a notable lama said that the bodies in Rupaloka are like our bodies. He went even further and said that they are exactly like our bodies, they are not transparent or ethereal as some people imagine. Your emphasis that they are rupa in the sense of being material would appear to be correct.

The writer of these diagrams says that one of the sources is Alex Berzin. Alex berzin has an article Comparison of Abhidharma and Kalachakra Cosmology, in it he sticks to the square model of Mount Meru. I don't agree with Alex Berzin's interpretation of the Trichiliocosm, or Trisahasra-mahasahasra-lokadhatu, his article is interesting anyway.
There is, in the series of Encyclopedia of the First Jamgon Kongtrul, a book Myriad Worlds that also contains descriptions of the Abhidharma and Kalachakra presentations of our world.
None of the diagrams considers the view that there is a sun in the Nether World, which is said to be there in the KoshaBhashyam of Vasubandhu.
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