Forms of cosmology

In the Lokāyatika Sutta (SN 12:48), the Buddha says,

“Now, then, Master Gotama, does everything exist?”

“‘Everything exists’ is the senior form of cosmology, brahman.”

“Then, Master Gotama, does everything not exist?”

“‘Everything does not exist’ is the second form of cosmology, brahman.”

“Then is everything a Oneness?”

“‘Everything is a Oneness’ is the third form of cosmology, brahman.”

“Then is everything a plurality?”

“‘Everything is a plurality is the fourth form of cosmology, brahman. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathāgata teaches the Dhamma via the middle…"

I’m looking for clarification. What do “everything exists,” “everything does not exist,” “everything is a Oneness,” and “everything is a plurality” mean? And why would dependent origination be an alternative to all these theories?

From my understanding, “everything is a Oneness” refers to the idea that there is a unifying nature of reality, like a bigger self encompassing us all, but why would “everything is a plurality” be wrong? Aren’t they logically exhaustive? (There’s also the possibility that nothing exists, but that is contradicted in the suttas).

Try to reconcile those statements with this one, taking into account the unstated ultimate reality, thereby reducing the realities to two:

“Citta, these are the world’s designations, the world’s expressions, the world’s ways of speaking, the world’s descriptions, with which the Tathagata expresses himself but without grasping to them.”—DN 9

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Dependence is a way of understanding the world without needing to rely on metaphysical assertions that are ultimately incoherent. If everything is one then how is a plurality of things apparent? If everything is plurality then how can we have a unitary perception of that fact? If all exists then how do we experience change? If all does not exist why are we here in the first place? If things are just material how can there be laws of physics? If everything is mental then again, why are we here?

Seeing the futility of these metaphysical positions the Buddha taught the middle way between extremes, without appealing to metaphysics mind and body and choices and so on are apparent right here, directly, as phenomena, and they depend on other phenomena for their arising and their ceasing, this process has no discernible beginning, it is conditionality, the buddhas response to cosmology (and metaphysics, ontology, etc).

Some Therevadan exegesis obscures this by promoting a system that in its appeal to “momentariness” and a metaphysical “notself” makes the Buddhas position seem like just one metaphysics or ontology amongst many, preferable because it’s the “right” one. I think that the Buddha was much more radical than that, wanting to show how we can get beyond all “views” based on reified concepts, ultimately including conditionality itself.



I think Nagarjuna may had dealt with this long time ago, I haven’t read it yet.

Basically dependent origination means this exist, that exist, this cease, that cease.

Everything exist is refuted when we see cesation. Everything doesn’t exist is refuted when we see arising.

Everything is oneness is refuted via the causation is not that everything is caused by the same thing or that every cause produce same effect etc.

Everything is plurality is refuted via seeing that there’s a web of causation of things, apple pie, humans, DNA, planets etc are due to things happening near to the Big bang and then before that.

Something like that. Take the above with a lot of salt. Read Nagarjuna for better clarification.

It’s deep, mere philosophical understanding. Best is to be able to attain to stream winning, then can really see directly.


Not sure I would describe Nagarjuna as “clarifying” :stuck_out_tongue:


According to commentary, as quoted by Bhikkhu Bodhi in his notes of SN translation, “everything exists” and “everything is a oneness (unity)” is eternalist view (sassataditthi); “everything doesn’t exist” and “everything is a plurarity” is annihilationist view (ucchedaditthi).

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Buddhism does not have “cosmology” according to Early Buddhism based on Samyukta/Samyutta sutras.

The Buddha mainly teaches about the arising of dukkha and the cessation of dukkha, which are not cosmology, according to the SA/SN sutras.

Citation needed.

Also, I feel like you’re playing semantics a bit. Cosmology in its broadest definition is just how you see the universe and your place in it. Even “dukkha arises and dukkha ceases” is a cosmology of sorts.

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Citation needed, regarding "“dukkha arises and dukkha ceases” is a cosmology of sorts” in SA/SN.

“Cosmology” is an English word which doesn’t appear in the SN/SA. That’s my point.

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It may be useful to discuss whether dukkha (in SA/SN, or in other agamas/nikayas) is also relevant to cosmos/universe in meaning and in practice in connection with cosmology.

I do consider dukkha is not cosmos.

Hi …

Why not try this (as stated in MN.10) yourself? Focus on those 3 the words, ie.:

  1. Internally
  2. Externally
  3. Internally & Externally

If you do so, I believe you could understand yourself. I cite it below,:point_down::point_down::point_down:

“And so they meditate observing an aspect of the body internally, externally, and both internally and externally.”

Iti ajjhattaṁ vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati, bahiddhā vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati, ajjhattabahiddhā vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati;