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Buddhist Cosmology

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#61

This is a very important point, if I may indulge in a bit of bhikṣulardie (coined from French papalardie, “fattening the pope” or “religious showmanship”).

Related, but not from the EBTs:

These learnt, they became intoxicated with pride, thinking to themselves: “The Supreme Buddha knows just the Three Piṭakāni, and we know them too. So what is the difference between us?”
-Ja 245

Very wise on occasion, IMO, these “later” Buddhists.


#62

This raises questions for me ‘unreliability’ is an interesting word. If we use words like unpredictable, or, we may say, there are limits to control and, at times there is the complete absence of control, all of this is true. Any control we assume we have may be an illusion.

We can see all this but when we refer to unreliability this can have another connotation. One of disappointment! An ego gets disappointed or distressed at the lack of control.

However, the ego is a delusional phenomena. What does all this uncertainty look like from the vantage point of selflessness (anatta)?

Another question that comes up for me is what are the implications of this way of looking, when it comes to the way we relate to all this changing - arising and ceasing - flux and flow?

Things don’t last but does that mean that nothing matters?

My car is not going to last, it will end up at the wreckers, but I need it for work. If I say it is unreliable and don’t put any effort into keeping it operational I will get hungry because I can’t get to work without difficulty and I won’t be able to pay my bills.

How does this vision translate in the real world with real needs, responsibilities and duties of care?

There seems to be a nihilistic tendency I pick up on in all this - when some of us meet the Dhamma - and its unfortunate (IMO).

Another thing I find peculiar is the context in which Nibbida is arising. The revulsion arises when we see the unreliability. Why?

If something, anything, everything, is unreliable then, it is just unreliable - that is simply the way it is! We all know everything will eventually go down the gurglar - where is the surprise in that? I don’t find this situation is something to celebrate but I don’t see why I should spend time gagging over it either.

I can understand how Nibbida arises in relation to desire. Desire is the cause of suffering! If we lose enchantment with desire we begin to feel release from the state of affliction that follows as a consequence.

Whether things last for only one second or for an aeion makes no difference if we are free from desire. The impermanent nature of existence carries on - as always - but we don’t take it personally because there is no desire.

If there was know impermanence we would all suffocate as no one would be able to take another breath.

Instead of revulsion at the realisation that things change and cease - completely - we could/should be relieved.

The fact that this body/mind will become null and void is a good thing - not repulsive and revulsive. Just natural and appropriate! If we all hang around to long and newcomers arrive where are we all going to live?


#63

You mentioned the sense of good fortune you felt about being a monk but, not to be attached to that identity as it is unreliable, impermanent. That makes sense to me with regard to annicca. Things don’t last but we can appreciate them for the service they provide, how they help us to live and move towards the realisation of final liberation - if we relate to things wisely, without desire and attachment.

Can’t we be glad that things are unreliable? If our relationships were not unreliable we would have trouble getting out of them once they exceed there use-buy date.

I remember Ajahn Brahm saying he felt gratitude about the fact that his girlfriends had dropped him because if they hadn’t he may not have become a monk.

If Samsara did not have impermanence as a characteristic we would have to remain in cyclic existence forever. There would be know way off the merry-go-round!

If the body was not unreliable we would be trapped in an embodied situation for ever! If our minds were reliable we would never make mistakes and be able to learn or say sorry or forgive.

There is a lot to be said for the unreliability of existence. Life would not be livable without it and, death would be escapable.

Death is not a mistake it is a biological necessity. If we lived in a world where nothing died how would that work? Why would there be a need to realise the deathless if we had reliable lives that go on indefinitely?


#64

And how do you end that desire? By seeing the undesirability of the things you want. This is what the focus on impermanence is all about.


#65

That which is desired is impermanent! That which is not desired - in cyclic existence - is impermanent. Everything in this world ceases - things get recycled etc.

I thought how liberation happened is when we lose desire for anything - subtle or gross. Particularly, the craving for existence!

We can see the shortcomings of desire when we ‘desire less’. We feel happier when we seek less and crave less. Is that not sufficient motivation to renounce worldliness. Do we need a stick or a carrot?

Aversion for existence is the flip-side of craving for existence. It’s another kind of craving - the craving for non-existence - correct?

How do we discriminate between Nibbida - as described in the EBT’s - and escapism?

Subtle and gross things still exist - after a being awakens - and can serve a useful purpose if they are used to serve, help, and awaken others - when they are related to skilfully without attachment.

When we see the uselessness and meaninglessness of desires it does not mean we throw away things that serve a useful purpose.

We still appreciate and take care of our bowls and robes and dwelling places and cars and tractors and property etc. Without all this unreliable stuff where would we live, how would we be able to live a good life?

All this impermanent phenomena can either help or hinder depending on our relationship to it - correct? How could we seek the deathless, why would we even bother, if things were not unreliable and impermanent?

If there was no dukkha how would there be the realisation of its ending?

Pain serves a purpose - when people feel no pain they don’t realise what to avoid (effectively). They may get burned or injured ‘unknowingly’ and fail to move away from the danger in time.

There are people who have no pain receptors or, they don’t work. They get knocked about and damaged and don’t realise what has happened until the damage is done.

It’s dangerous not feeling pain! Without it how would we know the importance of empathy and compassion? Why would an awakened being teach if there was no suffering and no ending of suffering?

Cyclic existence simply ‘is’ and it inevitably involves pain and difficulty, sometimes small sometimes humungous.

What we do about that is important - that much I understand.

I don’t see much of a point in being sickened by it and as a consequence, wanting to run away, escape or, register a complaint. There is no one in the ‘Complaints Department’.

There is nobody ‘driving the bus’ - nobody is driving our lives. Should I blame myself if the bus careers into a wall or, over a cliff? It has to happen sooner or later! Life is very messy - that’s a fact - it can be catastrophic and … what do I do with that situation?

I am not being argumentative these are genuine questions I have about the teachings.


#66

Once again, thanks everyone for your kind and thoughtful comments on my essay. It’s wonderful to be able to work with people who are committed to truth rather than to argument for argument’s sake. I try to live up the same standard myself. As a consequence of your feedback I have made several significant changes:

  • I have added a section at the beginning on caveats, in which I try to put the whole essay into a broader perspective. The idea is to clarify some of the limitations of my overall argument.
  • I have altered my “Prediction” sections to reduce any sense of unwarranted hubris.
  • I have taken greater account of Greek and pre-Indian sources of cosmology. I have not entered into this area in any detail, because it would involve too much additional research. Instead I have rephrased some of my earlier statements so as to allow for greater openness.

#67

Indeed. In part because we know how impermanent and fragile it all is.

If there were no suffering, there would be on need for awakening.


#68

Yes, so we see the dissatisfaction and misery that results from tanha and we lose our thirst for unworthy forms of behaviour. But, we still have gratitude for that which is noble and worthy - that supports our practice - in an impermanent world.

There’s a lot of stuff that goes into supporting our practice. Like, the physical-body and our friends and the trees and the sun and moon and the galactic swirls - practically everything!

Why not respect and honour our life as sentient beings? We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water? Babies need to be cared for - IMO.

There is a difference between appropriate care and concern and a wish to annihilate our existence - isn’t there? :slight_smile:


#69

It’s about time and place. I don’t think there is any contradiction between repulsion and appreciation for the things that sustain us. If anything, the repulsion just increases our sense of appreciation and gratitude.


#70

I understand now - thankyou for the important clarification. It can be easily overlooked and then we err on the side of nihilism. The Dhamma is subtle making for peace! So, the repulsion is for that which is unworthy not for that which is ‘worthy’ - like appropriate care of fragile things and gratitude for the support we receive in a difficult and imperfect world - correct? Or, am I still missing something?

We find self-indulgence and the neglect of proper care, concern and, gratitude unworthy and problematic. Isn’t that the middle-way?


#71

[quote=“laurence, post:65, topic:8213”]
We can see the shortcomings of desire when we ‘desire less’. We feel happier when we seek less and crave less. Is that not sufficient motivation to renounce worldliness. Do we need a stick or a carrot?[/quote]
As you may imply, that truth is enough carrot and stick to practice. for some of us. Delicious and satisfying, Painful and frustrating. These can be helpful.

[quote=“laurence, post:65, topic:8213”]Aversion for existence is the flip-side of craving for existence. It’s another kind of craving - the craving for non-existence - correct? [/quote] I think so.

[quote=“laurence, post:65, topic:8213”]How do we discriminate between Nibbida - as described in the EBT’s - and escapism?
[/quote] Escapism seeks to numb and obscure mental formations, lacks compassion, lacks honesty, lacks good judgement and excellent effects for living beings.

Hoping this is helpful.


#72

It’s interesting, when we discover the beauty of deep meditation and understand the quality of awareness and behaviour in daily life that supports it, the process of awakening unfolds organically.

The lightness - the ease - of putting down the burden of an unworthy way of being in the world gives rise to great liberating joy.

This has nothing to do with a preoccupation with the unworthy but a celebration of the good and the ennobling.

The more we celebrate goodness and make much of it, the higher we rise until everything vanishes. There is no one left to complain but plenty of good reasons to lend a hand!

I guess I just don’t understand some of the important aspects of the Buddha’s teachings.

I am curious as to whether a state of chronic boredom - or some other afflictive emotional state - might be mistaken for Nibbida. Is this possible?

I remember being on a retreat and I was suffused with an intense disinterest in where I found myself and what I was doing. I was doing some walking meditation and I was going to pull my hair and fall to my knees in sheer frustration. I suddenly recognised the absurdity of my reaction - it was amusing - from then on the retreat went swimmingly. I wonder, if that state had not been arrested if, that would turn into Nibbida or, if it would just be an indication that I was board out of my skull?

It is not hard to imagine a situation - many of us have experienced something similar - where there is so little going on of any interest that we need to meditate to escape the flat-land of our daily lives? I wonder if that has got anything to do with awakening?

Thanks for your reflection it did help! :upside_down_face:


#73

Bhante, thank you for the renewed reference.

Overall it is remarkable consistent with science too, and even personal observation, for example when it comes to the simple fact that we do still the exact same process of ingestion everyday which is described as being the initial cause for or physical grossness, happening seemingly since time immemorial.

I thought one may infer that if there are similar heavenly realms one may expect similar grosser levels too, but very much uncertain as to details, yes.

Cosmic blessings


#74

I think it is the unfortunate usage of word repulsion as it is commonly associated with aversion. Nibbida repulsion is disinterested, thus no need to hold on to stuffs. It contains no illwill or aversion. Disinterested is because one sees the unreliablity of stuffs. It’s like disinterested to build sandcastles with the intention and hope of achieving lasting happiness there. Sandcastles disappear due to the weather soon enough, to find happiness there is to invite suffering. So one is no longer interested in it. Not that one is aversed to building sandcastles. If an arahant with compassion sees that building a particular sandcastle can help people to let go of building their sandcastles in life, he/she would likely gladly build it. That is to give dhamma talks, retreats, advices etc…


#75

Recently, I have found a astronomical simulation software which can simulate our solar system accurately. I have simulated if a star identical with sun come near our solar system, then the second sun will be scatter our sun and all the planets including our earth.

Although this is only a simulation, I think it’s hardly possible our earth will have two or more suns shining on it (as said in Seven Suns Sutta) . When the second sun appear, our earth soon will be scattered in no time becoming a wandering planet without sun and all life on it will be doomed.


#76

Won’t the gravitational pull of the suns suck the earth in?

Or could it be that the what is being seen as 7 suns are the burning planets of the solar system?

with metta


#77

and

and

Astrophysics is still learning surprising things about size speed light etc. All three of the above or extremely recent work. So maybe trying to understand 7 suns is not possible using current known science.


#78

There is a possibility for a planet to have more than one sun, but this solar system was formed from the beginning as many stars system and the distance among the stars is far away (more than 100 AU). For our solar system which has been formed from the beginning as single star system with it’s planets, appearing of another sun on a close distance from the sun will destroy the stability of solar system.


#79

Sure. Or perhaps slow (to our species) collide of two galaxies will cause the appearance of 7 “suns” in the sky, right before it all gets torn appart.

I really do not understand what might be tricky about this. The sutta does not say anything about stable orbits, sustainable system,…


#80

Not true, it was orange. :slightly_smiling_face: This video and link will be informative.