Hi, everyone. I’ve been attempting to locate an authoritative text (preferably with English translation or a European language at least) of the Theravada account of Buddhist cosmology. I’ve surmised that it must be paracanonical, but I can’t seem to locate it online anywhere.
The Buddhist Cosmos
This book is probably not exactly what you want - it isn’t a translation of the texts - but a compilation of the cosmology described in the texts. It does have a chapter listing his sources in the Pali Canon and elsewhere. https://www.arrowriver.ca/book/cosmoBook.php
Also, Ajahn Sona did a 10-part series on Buddhist Cosmology with the author of the book - Ajahn Punnadhammo.
I haven’t finished the book or the interview series, but I’ve been finding both fascinating.
Thanks! Mainly, I want something for comparative work with the text in DA, so a source like this is welcome.
Hmm … I have a vague recollection of a text claiming to present cosmology from a Theravada perspective, but perhaps it was modern like the one @JimInBC has shared (or even same, my recollection is vague).
Yeah. For Pāḷi texts presenting cosmology, there seems to be no early medieval text accepted by the entire tradition. You really would have to troll through all of the commentaries etc to collect everything, and @JimInBC’s link above is the best such survey I know of (though it’s incomplete and uses some non-Theravada texts). I seem to recall a more encyclopedic work composed recently in Burma from all the commenterial material, but I am unable to locate it at the moment…
Here is the chapter on “Cosmological Texts” in the Handbook of Pāḷi Literature: cosmotexts.pdf (126.8 KB) As you can see, there’s not much, and what there is is quite late (and draws heavily from the Sanskrit works too!)
There’s a bundle of topics that tend to be presented together like the heavens, the various hells (which also gets quite convoluted and reads like a modern horror film brainstorming session), the mythological geography of the four continents (which gets quite detailed sometimes), the creation and destruction cycle of the world beneath the dhyana heavens, etc.
Yes, indeed, the Pali text Lokapaññati has the same theme with the Chinese DA 30 which its title 世記 can be rendered as Lokaprajñapti. According to Bhikkhu Analayo, DA 30 in its basic thrust similar to texts like the Jain Ṭhāṇaṅga Sutta, for example, where Mahāvīra is shown to give all kinds of detailed descriptions of cosmological matters.
It’s been some time since I visited this whole topic, but now I see that there was also a Lokaprajnapti text that circulated as part of the old Sarvastivada Abhidharma (as part of the Prajnaptipada). This appears to have been the inspiration for the Pali text (one version of it or another), and it exists in a couple Tibetan and Sanskrit versions (but not Chinese, alas). Then we have this sutra version of the same material in the Dirgha Agama (and three other Chinese translations of the same). Interesting that the Jains also had this type of text.
Thanks for all the suggestions. It would be great to compare these different sources, if only broadly for a lack of time, to see if there’s any significant departures. When I read some of the Visuddhimagga chapter, I recognize almost all of it from drafting DA 30. There may be some minor details that are different, but they are the same stories. So far, it seems remarkably consistent.
I’ll need to look at everything to make any real conclusions, of course. It’s just striking to see nearly verbatim stories in this type of paracanonical material. It does bear mentioning that Buddhaghosa and the Chinese Dirgha Agama translation are roughly contemporaries (5th c. CE), too.