Could the Buddha know everything about everything that exists?

Hi

Theravada considers that the Buddha did not have the omniscience of the God of monotheisms.

But Theravada says he did have at least three kinds of knowledge: 1/ knowledge of his past lives; 2/ knowledge of the role of karma in the rebirths of other beings; 3/ knowledge of nibanna.

However, I’ve read some Theravadins say that « not only did the Buddha have these 3 pieces of knowledge, but even if the Buddha didn’t have God’s omniscience (the Buddha didn’t know EVERYTHING at every moment), the Buddha still had the potential to know any object in the universe (even quantum physics) by directing his mind’s attention to the object in question ».

Do you know if there’s a sutta to support this point of view?

I ask this question because I’m trying to better understand the Buddha’s state of mind and the relationship he had with the world. Perhaps a better understanding of this might refine our understanding of his teaching, particularly on matters relating to Buddhist epistemology.

Many thanks in advance.

May all beings put an end to afflictions.

Short answer: No.

The past year I’ve been making it a personal project to read all of the suttas. Disclaimer: I am FAR from done.

The Buddha’s accounts of the origins of life on Earth, his understanding of the natural world ( only 5 elements ), and all of the important questions about contemporary life that he did not address show that the Buddha could not see into the future and was not omniscient.

I don’t understand where all of the sound bytes about Buddhism having a close relationship with science come from. Certainly not the suttas I’ve read so far.

No disrespect to anyone’s beliefs.

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Very interesting, thank you.
Please, if you have time, feel free to support your point with more specific examples.
Also, do you agree that Buddha could see the karmic rebirths of other beings?

Microsoft Word - omniscience.doc (uni-hamburg.de)
The above will be of help. In fact, this topic has been discussed earlier. If you search using the keywords “The Buddha and omniscence” you will find the previous discussions.
With Metta

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MN101

When I said this, those Jain ascetics said to me, ‘Reverend, the Jain ascetic of the Ñātika clan claims to be all-knowing and all-seeing, to know and see everything without exception, thus: “Knowledge and vision are constantly and continually present to me, while walking, standing, sleeping, and waking.”

He says: “O reverend Jain ascetics, you have done bad deeds in a past life. Wear them away with these severe and grueling austerities. And when you refrain from such deeds in the present by way of body, speech, and mind, you’re not doing any bad deeds for the future. So, due to eliminating past deeds by mortification, and not doing any new deeds, there’s nothing to come up in the future. With nothing to come up in the future, deeds end. With the ending of deeds, suffering ends. With the ending of suffering, feeling ends. And with the ending of feeling, all suffering will have been worn away.” We like and accept this, and we are satisfied with it.’

The Buddha follows up on this claim by the Nigantha (and his “advice” based on that claim) by tearing his advice asunder. You can read the whole sutta if you haven’t already. It’s a difficult read on the nature of kamma and how to actually resolve the issue of kamma.

The Buddha also explains his approach to the ending of kamma.

This is the only example of “omniscience” that I’m aware of.

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I would say yes. His teachings on this stuff make no sense if taken literally, but if taken as slight metaphors you can understand that he is actually talking about scientifically accurate concepts. Like in the Agganna Sutta, DN 27, he says formless beings from the sky came down to earth onto land and then gained physical bodies and changed slowly until becoming humans with advancing societies and political/social ideas. Now this seems like nonsense, but there are two things about this:

  1. It isn’t scientifically proven false. The origins of human life are described as being from the Abhissara world which can neither be proven right nor wrong by science. There are no grounds to say he was wrong, science can be equally as wrong.
  2. Then when he actually talks about physical life and the Earth itself, he explains concepts that match science, mainly evolution. These beings who appeared formless (could have been microscopic) slowly evolved into humans over many many years, aka the evolution theory. In fact, DN 27 even says “and in that way the world re-evolved”. Not only life evolved, but also the world itself (continents of the world changed form over time to what they are today, it was completely different a million years ago)

I would say that areas where he was “wrong” can either be seen as metaphors for true concepts, or in cases like the 5 elements, he was simplifying it for his disciples at that time as he didn’t want to go through the whole periodic table with people from the BCE times. I believe he was fully omniscient at every moment after his attainment of enlightenment.

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I respectfully and amicably disagree. I think the Buddha’s creation of the universe story and evolution of life story would require extreme verbal gymnastics to make it look similar to science. Maybe the Mahayana or Vajrayana suttas have more, but I honestly don’t see where the ear worm that Buddhism is close to sciences comes from.

At best, the Kalama Sutta seems friendly to the empirical/scientific method. On the other hand every time I mention that sutta online someone is always quick to post an essay by a mendicant that it doesn’t really mean “come see(for yourself)”, beyond initially exploring Buddhism.

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@Jhana4 The idea that Buddhism is scientific also stems from the fact that Buddhism doesn’t talk about God and denies the existence of the soul.

Personally, do you think we can consider that the Buddha had perfect knowledge of the path leading to the end of suffering, even if we can’t consider that the Buddha had perfect knowledge of the scientific workings of the world (or even perhaps that the Buddha was mistaken)?

Maybe these two suttas are relevant?
sn35.23
sn35.24

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If someone has access to memories from incalculable aeons then they should be able to know pretty much everything, be it history or science. Strangely, in the suttas, we find the Buddha, who has such powers, accepting the drinking of fermented cows urine as medicine.

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Thank you.
And what do you conclude?
And do you have a reference for cow urine?
Thanks in advance

I’ve gone down a bit of a rabbit hole. e.g.

and

Antimicrobial activity of photo-activated cow urine against certain pathogenic bacterial strains

There does seem to be some evidence that cows urine can be used in medicine, and that ‘photo-activation’ will change the results and uses. That was a quite a surprise for me.

I am now wondering if there is any information on the process of ‘fermenting’ cows urine in the EBTs or associated texts?

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Well, there are gods all over the suttas and Judaism doesn’t have an after life and nobody claims Judaism is closer to science. The earworm I was referring to is usually someone saying - or wanting to find those references - that Buddhism has writings that hint at quantum physics. I haven’t seen anything like that, yet.

Of course, if you view the Buddha as being a non-divine ordinary man ( one of us ), who after many rebirths achieves incredible spiritual accomplishments.

It is very consistent that an ordinary man of 2,600 years ago would think there are only 5 elements, have funky views about the origins of the universe, origins of life, and had nothing to say about extremely important issues thousands of years in the future.

No disrespect to anyone or to their beliefs.

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Interesting, thank you.

However, wikipedia says this:

While cow urine and cow dung have benefits as fertilizers, the proponents’ claims about its curing diseases and cancer have no scientific backing.

Furthermore, it reminds me of Muslims citing articles by Muslim scientists purporting to prove the medicinal utility of camel urine (because Islam supports the medicinal utility of camel urine). But since the scientists are Muslim, these studies are likely to be biased.
Similarly for your article, the authors are Gurpreet Kaur Randhawa and Rajiv Sharma. They look Indian. In Indian culture, cow urine has a medicinal use. So I’m wary of this article…

Thank you very much !

urea occurs naturally in mammalian urine and is the foundation for a number of topical and oral medications.

the buddha was before his time on even this :slight_smile:

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I think it’s true, that in Theravada there is the idea of Sabbaññū-Buddha. But it is also said that the scope of knowledge of these Blessed Ones is Acinteyya. I would rather not speculate.

But what about a Sotapanna. If we come across such a Noble one should we make him the president of the country? Would he know anything about how to run a country?

So, for me all these worldly arts and crafts have there place. They anyway change with the age and times.

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