In DN 27, the Buddha explains that the universe contracted, then rebuilt itself, and he explains the rebuilding process. He says that at the beginning of reconstruction, there was a body of water plunged into darkness, with no existence of the Sun. Afterwards, a substance was deposited on the surface of the water, and beings ate it. Then, the Sun and Moon appear.
Some people say that this mass of water refers scientifically to the unique ocean that existed on planet Earth, or was the molten rock of planet Earth. Problem: the Sun already existed before the Earth, and the sutta says this body of water existed before the Sun.
What’s more, the sutta explains when the sexual difference between men and women was created by living beings eating rice… That doesn’t sound right.
What’s more, the sutta is strange in that it goes on to talk about the creation of vegetation and man and woman, and yet the sutta doesn’t seem to talk about the creation of planet Earth. It looks as if the sutta thinks that the Earth is actually really on this water and that the Earth existed before the Sun, and that vegetation and mankind seem to be created somewhere on this mysterious water.
Perhaps this has something to do with what the Buddha said:
This great earth is grounded on water, the water is grounded on air, and the air stands in space. At a time when a great wind blows, it stirs the water, and the water stirs the earth.
DN 27 could be understood allegorically to mean that covetousness leads to suffering, pain and decadence, as the story gives examples of how actions driven by greed lead to suffering.
Indeed, in the suttas, the Buddha remarkably always seems to speak in a helpful way, for the end of suffering.
However, this does not appear to be allegorical, as in the sutta, the Buddha establishes a real connection between his own time and this story of origins:
Those who saw them having sex pelted them with dirt, clods, or cow-dung, saying, ‘Get lost, filth! Get lost, filth! How on earth can one being do that to another?’ And even today people in some countries, when carrying a bride off, pelt her with dirt, clods, or cow-dung. They’re just remembering an ancient primordial saying, but they don’t understand what it means.
How do you understand this sutta?
There is a sutta (DN 26) where the Buddha talks about human beings living 80,000 years. In fact, a Pali expression (bhūtapubbaṃ) used at the beginning introduces a fictitious story. But in the case of this topic, the sutta begins like this, and therefore doesn’t seem to introduce a fiction:
There comes a time when, Vāseṭṭha, after a very long period has passed, this cosmos contracts.
Hoti kho so, vāseṭṭha, samayo yaṁ kadāci karahaci dīghassa addhuno accayena ayaṁ loko saṁvaṭṭati.
So the Buddha was saying the wrong things? Why wouldn’t other, much more important parts be false either?
Thank you in advance.
May the Dhamma be preserved forever