In my studying of the suttas and the Abhidhammattha Sangaha I have noticed something that I haven’t heard discussed before in books, essays or in the many talks online.
According to MN 81 the Ghaṭīkāra Sutta, Buddha Gotama recounts a past life during the Buddha Kassapa’s lifetime when he was a brahmin student named Jotipāla and his friend a potter named Ghaṭīkāra takes him to meet Buddha Kassapa. Interesting, Jotipāla has to basically be dragged to him. Jotipāla ends up becoming a disciple of Budddha Kassapa.
While the sutta’s main focus is on Ghaṭkāra’s devotion to Buddha Kassapa, the reason the sutta is named after him, it is important to note Gotama’s presence with Buddha Kassapa.
Now once Gotama’s life as Jatipāla ends to my knowledge we don’t know exactly how many lives later(doesn’t matter), but after his life as the human Vessantara, Gotama is reborn in the Tusita heaven (MN 123 Acchariya-abbhūta Sutta). He lives a full life span in the Tusita heaven presumably which is roughly equivalent to 576 million human years. He is then reborn as Gotama, his last birth.
So… we can extrapolate fairly easily, depending on our confidence in these suttas, that there was a minimum of 576 million years between Buddha Kassapa’s life(supposedly 140,000 years long) and Buddha Gotama’s dispensation. And if we take into account the overwhelming scientific evidence that the Cambrian Explosion took place only 541 million years ago, that would mean planet Earth would have only had basic multicellular organisms during the lifetime of Buddha Kassapa. Thus it couldn’t have possibly been on Earth.
Did Buddha Kassapa live on a different planet? Could it have been in a different solar system?In a different galaxy, even? I don’t know and I personally haven’t seen this mentioned by anyone anywhere.
If that’s so, does that also suggest that MN 81 was possibly told to his Indian audience using Indic culturally relatable circumstances like the caste differences between Ghaṭīkāra and Jotipāla and the location where it happened. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that the civilization in which it happened in didn’t have a very similar culture to Northeastern Indian at the time of Gotama, because I would think that for a civilization to foster a Buddha it would need certain conditions such as a tradition of wondering ascetics and a population that supports them.
I might be far off, but I’ve been pondering on this for about 18 months and would like to hear other people’s thoughts on it.
Of course this has no bearing on practicing the Dhamma and I see it merely as a curiosity. Legends abound.