Did the Buddha know the Earth is round?


It’s by simple logic. If someone was able to see world systems far far beyond what us worldlings could see, it’d simply be illogical to say that person not being able to see the shape of our own planet. Hence my analogy of the 2nd grader trying to evaluate his teacher’s ability to perform 2-digit additions, while the teacher already demonstrated his ability to do far more complex computations way beyond those 2-digit addition operations. My quoting of Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson further demonstrated the point about the limit of our own humans intelligence. It simply takes 1 degree of separation for a higher intelligent life form, and we humans would look and behave exactly like the chimps under their eyes. So there’s absolutely no reason for us to feel cocky about our intelligence just yet.


Ok, I understand your line of reasoning but there may be some things we need to consider before we adopt your default position. It would seem that the Buddha did give indications of what the world’s - deva realms, hell realms and, worlds like ours are structured like - what kind of formations are they? I feel he has stooped down to our level and told us many things - directly and indirectly - that gives us a picture of what our planet, the physical place that we live on, actually looks like. He tells us that we live on an Island? There are many other teachings that give us an indication of what kind of physical world we inhabit. We have to take these teachings into consideration to get a sense of the overall picture the Buddha had of the physical world he walked upon.

Consider the Buddha’s - possible - account of how human life evolved on Earth - from subtle to gross forms. This also tells us something about the place where we reside - planet Earth. There are many pieces of information we can bring together to get a clearer picture. :slightly_smiling_face:


“Feeling” he has stooped down? Obviously He had to. Again, by inference, we don’t need to talk about the Buddha just yet. Remember what Dr. Tyson said in the video? Imagine how difficult it’d be for the intelligent life form 1 degree of separation above us to try to communicate with us! just like how hard it is for us to communicate with the chimps! Whatever the Buddha saw and experienced, and regardless of how hard He tried to convey the idea to us, there’ll always be something we’d not be able to fathom. Why? because we’re yet to penetrate the extra-dimension that He had already penetrated. Not sure if you already saw Dr. Sagan’s flat-lander analogy from a previous post? Worth checking it out if you haven’t…


What Buddha taught was from known to the unknown.
Whether earth is round or flat is nothing to do with his mission.


On the contrary, he knew it wasn’t round.

Strange but True: Earth Is Not Round



I imagine it would be quite the opposite! A chimp would have a harder time communicating with us than we would with them. In fact, we have taught chimps a language system whereby they can communicate with us - not the reverse. Intelligent beings are good at problem solving. Less intelligent beings find it more difficult to solve the same problems.

It would be pointless for an intelligent and compassionate being like the Buddha to communicate to us in a manner that we could not understand. The brilliance of the Buddha is not demonstrated by any arcane knowledge that he shared with us. What is striking about the Buddha’s teachings is there accessibility.

The Buddha gave us teachings that were ‘accessable’ and not at all like the equations in quantum mechanics and similarly abstruse forms of information.

The Buddha’s teachings are very approachable but they certainly do have a deeper dimension to them - to be known by the wise, each for themselves!

I don’t have any difficulty understanding the import of the beautiful teaching you shared. He shared it with Ananda - who was not an Arahant at the time. Presumably, he shared it with his attendant with the expectation that he would be understood?

The questions I am asking are about the way the Buddha perceived the Earth he walked on, breathing in its atmospheric gases etc. Perceptions are colored by the kinds of life-worlds we are brought up in and inhabit.

There are some other possibilities as to why the Buddha perceived the Earth in a particular way and, spoke about it in the way he did. We can think about social conventions. The use of the existing language games that were particular to his time, place and, circumstances?

I remember a quote from an astronaut who saw the Earth from space - he referred to it as ‘something like’ a beautiful island in the void! Perhaps, the Buddha was using metaphors that the people he was teaching could understand?

It could be possible that the Buddha ‘saw’ islands in space because island worlds were part of his perceptual background i.e. worlds are islands not orbs? The Buddha did have ‘perception’ as one of his five aggregates?

The Buddha may not have turned his attention to closely investigate what he was perceiving through his psychic powers. There is the teaching about his ability to understand anything that he ‘turned his attention to’. If he had taken a closer look he may have seen things that did not fit the cosmological model of his time and place?

Perception requires memory - memories are a conditioned phenomena. To warring nations with different cultures can remember the same outcome of a battle in different ways. One may celebrate it as a great victory while the other remembers it as a terrible defeat. The background of the ‘rememberer’ conditions the perception.

Imagine this scenario: I am a New Zealander before the arrival of the English! I have never seen a snake in my life but I have seen lizards. There are no native snakes in New Zealand! Then, a newly arrived colonist shows me a snake - or the picture of a snake. I might have the thought: what an unfortunate lizard - it has lost its legs! I cannot perceive the snake, I can only perceive a deformed or unfortunate lizard, because snakes have never been a part of the world - the environment - where I have lived my life.

Our perceptions are conditioned by the kinds of ‘worlds’ we are familiar with. If the Buddha had perceptions some of them may have been formed by his experience - as a being who lived in a particular culture and time in history?

One difference between a fully awakened being and a being who isn’t would be the ability to understand and recognise perception - for what it is! A fully awakened being would still perceive things that were particular to their own background and experience. There would be no identification with perception as ‘I, me or mine’!


Correct, it is not round it is spheroidal!


True, but completely irrelevant to the question posed at the beginning of the thread. If you want to talk about the four noble truths and the hearts sure release, you may wish to consider contributing to a thread that is directly related to your interests. :slightly_smiling_face:


Ancient Indian cosmology teaches this. You must include all contemplatives; the Buddha learned this from them. His innovation was other than this.

(P.S. We can also say “geodesic ellipsoid” - this one is great at parties.)


Yes, it would have been a teaching that was already in circulation. The difference with regard to the Buddha and other teachers - at that time and before - was their claim that they had confirmed this teaching through direct knowledge and vision.

Spheroidal will do just fine! :star_struck:


Not sure I get what you meant from your rather long post, I mean after all the analogies and stuff, you still think the Buddha had no clue about the shape of the earth?


What did you not get?

I don’t know what the Buddha new about the Earth and I guess this is the situation with most of us on this thread. Thats why I started with a question - not an answer. Do you know? We are discussing something - inquiring - that is all we can do isn’t it? Most people in the thread have been busy stating what they believe and disbelieve - I find that approach useless when it comes to understanding most things. We actually have to take the time to take things apart in order to see how they work?


Yes He did as per repeatedly shown simple logic. Sorry, for being blunt, I don’t think you work in STEM fields 'cuz if you do, you won’t last very long using your approach.


So you are saying you know what the Buddha thought with regard to these things - as a consequence of a few vague associations? The Buddha new - but didn’t say the Earth was round because he was busy with more abstract and supernormal understandings - I don’t buy it! He was a down to Earth teacher with down to Earth teachings - plain and simple. Buddha’s - of the teaching variety - are Buddha’s because they can teach us, that is what I was told by my teachers from the outset.


Please provide any quote where I said “I knew what the Buddha know”? But that doesn’t mean we’re not able to make logical deduction. Now from what you just said, sounds like you’re the one who claim to know more about the Buddha than I do!


Very good, you have used logic - so did I, but I have not come to the same conclusion. I appreciate your efforts! :hugs:


Whatever, but I have to be honest, anyone who does use logic wouldn’t still pondering about whether the Buddha know what shape the earth was like…:sunglasses:


I don’t know how much Ven. @sujato know about music!


Anyone who used logic would provide examples of what it is they have logically discerned. I am not talking about an overarching theory - I am talking about ‘evidence’. Our Buddha was a teaching Buddha not a solitary realiser that could not communicate the Dhamma - in all its aspects and particulars. The metaphor of ‘the handful of leaves’ you cited, is about things that are of no use to us as inquirers. Everything that the Buddha did share with us is ‘accessible’ this includes his teachings on cosmology - they are there for a very good reason. The Buddha’s cosmology is not like science’s cosmology in one important way. Scientific cosmology involves the use of arcane and difficult information - complex equations that many of us have no access to. So, your theory makes sense when talking about the mathematical aspects of astrophysics.

The quote you cited is not arcane, obscure or, difficult to understand. It was a teaching directed at a human being like you and me - for him to understand! Is that quote an example of something that is beyond the ken of human beings? If you want to provide a teaching that is incomprehensible to us as mere mortals then, do so! Something that the likes of the two scientists in the videos would understand that would leave us in the dark. If you cannot produce a teaching like this what are we to make of your theory?


This is exactly why I seriously doubt you use any logic at all. You’re saying 2 completely contradictory phrases in 1 single paragraph: if you already acknowledged that the Buddha had only shown us “just a handful of leaves” while He indeed possessed a forest of leaves, then why are you expecting every single piece of “evidence” from those leaves He did not show us? If the knowledge about a spherical earth was one of the leaves He did not show, how utterly illogical it’d be to say He did not know that because you see no “evidence” of it anywhere!