Buddhist Cosmology

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Thank you for a very interesting and thought provoking essay Bhante. It accords with some of my own rationalisations about aspects of the dhamma and science and I have enjoyed reading it very much.

Like @brahmali I take the 7 suns to be analogous with stages of the suns expansion and contraction as it runs out of hydrogen and begins to expand into a red giant before eventually becoming a white dwarf star in about 5 billion years time. There are a number of stages involved in that process and from memory it was around 7 in number.

I had already thought something similar after stumbling across the 7 suns sutta and like brahmali I was struck by how similar it was to modern understanding of how the sun will eventually die. A very thought provoking article that resonates quite strongly with me.


No, it won’t. If the second sun is too close to the sun, the two suns will collide each other and the earth will be thrown away; if the second sun is not very close, the earth still will be thrown away and the two suns will revolve each other.

Even if the nearby planets (Mars, Venus, and Mercury) is burned, we can’t see them like a burning body as big as sun in the sky, but just a tiny star. These can’t be “other suns” of our Seven Suns Sutta.


Yes, but the sutta said about “after the lapse of many years, many hundreds of thousands of years there comes a time when a second … third … [etc] … seventh sun rises”, I think this indicated a stable orbit of earth with other suns because hundreds of thousands of years of seeing many sun require a stable solar system.


To bring up another aspect of Buddhist cosmology that is incredibly detailed - MN 129 and MN 130 give precise accounts of the hell-realms. Are we now trying to find scientific evidence for that as well?

The ‘seven suns’ myth of the suttas are to me an artifact. If it said “There comes a time when Mahabrahma moves a seventh sun close to the earth” nobody would bother. But because we like ‘scientific Buddhism’ this stands out. Let’s take all the precise predictions and descriptions of cosmology, the details about the heavens and hells, and see how well Buddhism fares in terms of science. I’m afraid we’re cherry-picking and reading tea leaves here.

See for comparison how people seriously try to ‘scientify’ the creation-myth of the Old Testament, or Vedic astronomy, etc…


:slight_smile:You inspire more study, which is welcome (unless it becomes obstacle of course). Thank you, friend.


Thank you, yes, a hazard to self and others to engage in. Thank you, friend.

Gratitude for SC and SCD&D.


Three suns have already appeared in China!


… there is low overcast in that sky, somewhat obscured by the presence of the left factory plume which tricks eye to think sky is clear?

edit: This observation was actually made by my partner, as I asked him about lens flare (which is NOT the cause of this appearance in the video). But his better eyes caught the distraction and the cloud bank, which I could then see.


Yes, we are cherry-picking. And the reason we are cherry-picking is because it is the anomaly that needs to be explained. Finding strange cosmological ideas in these texts is what we would expect. This is why finding something realistic is such a shock. At least it is to me.

If there is one piece of evidence that does not fit a given theory, then an explanation is needed. This is how science works, and I cannot see any reason why it should not also apply here. Maybe you right, maybe this is just a coincidence where the speculations and limited observations of the past just happen to coincide with out modern outlook. Maybe, but I am not convinced. The overlap just seems too good to be true. I find it quite interesting, really. When you discover something odd and unexpected it may open a new window on reality.

But in the end, whatever way this is resolved - if it ever is - it does not have any bearing on the core Buddhist teachings, including the idea of rebirth.


There were atomists among the ancient Indians and Greeks (of course, atom is itself a Greek word meaning un-cuttable). Epicurus thought that atoms would occasionally “swerve”, of course we know now that the atomists were kind of right at one level and Epicurus was kind of right at a deeper level. Jains had theories of infinitie(s) that weren’t “discovered” until much later in Western mathematics.

I’m reminded of a bit of those that look at Nostradamus’s predictions, it’s easier to make things fit after the fact.

Anyway, it’s an interesting study and I’m glad somebody is doing it even if I’m a bit skeptical of what it implies.


Thanks Bhante. There is yet another complication, coming from conducting ‘meta-analysis’.
Meta-analysis is a mathematical tool that helps evaluating e.g. if a certain treatment in medicine or psychotherapy works. For that I take all available reliable studies/publications for a treatment and put it into the system. The odd thing is that if a treatment doesn’t work among 100 studies we still expect a few to have positive results.

It’s a statistical artifact - we expect from 100 cases random circumstances to be just so that it appears to look like as if something works in single cases. That’s why patterns and repeat-ability are so crucial in scientific evaluation.

And that’s why for me the odd one out is not convincing in itself, it could be part of the same mythological influxes, just without the markers that usually come along with them - gods, spirits. etc. And I don’t see a pattern of scientific or astronomical correctness in general in the suttas (the opposite rather) that would allow me to conclude otherwise. The Babylonians were surely more advanced in this department.

In the end it’s a matter of opinion, I guess, of how to assess those odd ones - and that the core domain of the Dhamma, the development of the mind, is indeed scientific and extraordinary in any historical way.


It’s called sundog, but not real suns:


Thanks for this, @seniya. I was only joking, if that wasn’t obvious .


@SCMatt, maybe you should use emojis :smiley:




…Orange is the new black?
pop reference to televisuon show; hey this life is atm lay, plus… actually have never seen it. Just wanted to touch humor.


Thought of 6 or 7 meteors raining down on earth but the time span in between each one would be too short!

With metta


You can’t have 7 suns together stably, unless you assume earth is flat and sun is like a giant spotlight revolving the earth centered on Sineru mountain:

In this model, you can even have infinity number of suns shining on the earth because there is no gravity. Perhaps, we should create our own Buddhist Flat Earth Society for this :joy:


… feeling a bit of attachment to a globe world view here…



Memories of an acquaintance who loved building abstract sandcastles. He worked with great care, and i think he preferred to work on these complex structures just below the high tide line. Sometimes he watched the sea take the sculpture, sometimes came by later to see the devastation. It seemed to be his spiritual practice and very satisfying to him.

But it was common for observers to be aghast; “too close” “such a waste” “when will you work on a real project/ material”. Part of his … reason for the work was as an experience of time, as he made it, as it fell, as the wind and water and light and passersby all interacted with this donation to the world.

Nice metaphor for a life, i think.