Worldbuilding a Buddhist Cosmology

I’m interested in creating a fantasy series which includes all beings dwelling on Mount Sineru. I’m not enlightened or have divine eye by any means, but it would definitely be an epic fantasy which may in turn bring people closer to Right View as a result.
I have a few questions in this regard:

  1. Has it already been done, or does anyone have resources for me to check out for this type of thing? I’m actually a beginner when it comes to fantasy novels in general, but I am reading The Wheel Of Time now to help get some structural influence. I find there’s already a lot of references to Dhamma principles in a lot of these works if we have the discernment to look in the right places. Some passages actually blow me away with their insight.

  2. In regards to Mount Sineru, is there an unlimited free range of realms and beings residing in those realms that we have to create? Yes, I know realms of existence are within samsara and built of delusion as a result, but if we are to tell the stories in a skillful manner they can become the delusion that points to the end of delusion.

  3. Is it possible for all of the world’s mythology fit succinctly, if not loosely into Mount Sineru? I am thinking to include Nisse (house spirits of Scandinavian folklore) into the Bhumma devas, other Elementals also of the terrestrial sphere, Elves of a slightly higher Deva realm, ect ect. If I were to compile beings of different cultural heritage into the Cosmology of ancient India, would that be a corruption or disrespect to the individuality of the culture itself? When I read of Esoteric/Hermetic/Freemasonry doctrine I feel the inclination can sometimes point to a washed out form of the originality. I do feel as if the Buddha had spoken not only in regards to cultural heritage though, but more in terms of a universal matter of factness ex: there ARE many beings in the realms of samsara, many not seen by the average eye.

I’ll leave the questions at that for now, there’s many more points I’m sure I’d like clarification on but any tips and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I am not looking to be doctrinally %100 accurate, but I am looking to portray the Dhamma from a somewhat realistic approach.
To just leave everything up to “that’s delusion” or “its better to point people to striving for a way out of suffering” or “your wasting your time and need to appreciate the life you’ve been given” or “human birth is the only birth worth having” I don’t believe those statements are accurate.
To help interest beings in dhamma principles, for them to develop confidence in goodness, generosity, morality, sense restraint, calmness of mind, and wisdom I feel is much more real than not coloring that world in the first place. Materialistic “Bare Awareness” and reductionism is not in line with right view either.
Anyways, any tips, references, or thoughts would be great. Thanks for reading.

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I’m not particularly knowledgeable about Buddhist cosmology, but I know that Buddhist cosmology developed over time. It might be helpful to clarify what parts of it you mean exactly.

Do you care about which period of Buddhist cosmology? For example, you could base yourself on the cosmology and the worldview of the EBTs, or you could pick and choose elements from different time periods.

One thing I really like about the EBTs is that ‘higher beings’, while virtuous, are not necessarily wise or all-knowing. E.g. the Brahma who mistakenly thinks he is the creator of the universe.

There’s also concepts like rebirth, the stream of consciousness, psychic powers and kamma, which would affect worldbuilding.

There are also several suttas on interactions between devas, e.g.:

Or from SuttaCentral SA 2.17:

The deva replied: “The Buddha is served by many powerful and virtuous deva s gathered around him left and right. I, weak and lowly as I am, will not be allowed to see him. Go and speak to the World-honored One on my behalf. If the Tathāgata out of compassion graciously agrees to listen, I will go and seek his counsel to dispel my doubts.” The monk: “Come along then, I will inform the World-honored One that you seek counsel.” The deva said: “I will follow you to the World-honored One.” There the monk went to where the Buddha was staying, and having paid homage at his feet, stood to one side and put the deva’s questions to the World-honored One.

This deva was not able to see the Buddha without the help of a human. Interesting dynamic perhaps?

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Yeah these are great elements to include. I think it would be a lifelong process. Lol. The EBTs might stand out more if I can pull enough sustenance from them, but I don’t believe I will limit my scope to a time period. At the end of the day it will still be fantasy, but like every author they would like it to hit home at the same time.
Rebirth would add so much complexity, I’m not sure I’ll start there, but it should definitely be portrayed.
Btw if this doesn’t come into fruition any time soon, please feel free to take it off my hands. Lol. I do love this book “Buddhist Cosmology” by Bhante Punnadhammo. I think I will ask for some revision from a few monks once I have something of importance down.

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To focus your vision it might be helpful to start thinking about the characters and the story/plot as well. You have the seeds of a rich landscape/setting and concept, but what foundation will the story rest on? Having the answer about the direction you want the story to take may help you narrow down what elements from Buddhist cosmology you’ll need to research/include in your world building.

As for how to weave in the Dhamma, well, authors tend to use characters as proxies to argue a worldview. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the worldview of the author, but just the writer exploring the consequences of certain actions and beliefs.

Brainstorming situations that would prompt Dhamma questions and answers might be helpful. Perhaps a character (maybe the protagonist?) is not a Dhamma-follower in the beginning, but over the course of the story comes to see and take on the Buddha’s teachings? Who (the antagonist?) would want to stop this development? Who (the influence character?) would show the protagonist the Way?

Others like to figure out the end first. Does your fantasy end in success or failure? And are those results triumphant or tragic?

Just questions to ponder, but it sounds like an exciting project!

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Thanks for those tips. I do need to ground it to a reality now and get to work doing a little bit each day. I have my own journey from the above “scientific” mindset which I’m breaking out of, so I think this will be an insightful journey. Old Thai ladies’ saddha infused smiles demolishing all the intellectual focused manifestation. Many ways I can go about this. Thanks again

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Greetings,
perhaps these references are of some relevance in enhancing your project:

Mettā 2u!

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Why not? Why not just try to be 100% accurate and let your creativity blossom from that solid foundation?

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Just because it seems like accuracy goes out the window when discussing beings that could be considered anything from hungry ghost to deva and yakkha and all the mythology that surrounds these ideas. I guess i could make the best educated guess and stick with that. as long as it portrays the story accurately. And i don’t want to go as far as misrepresent traditional groups by this somehow falling in the wrong category of “sutta commentary” or anything of the sort. i’d like to stay away from that as far as possible so i don’t get in trouble with the critics

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A while back I tried to make connections with the Catummahārājika devas (Devas of the Four Great Kings) and beings in Norse mythology. Might be relevant for your purposes:

King Associated Direction Followers Similarity
Vessavana Rain, Club North Yakkha Giant
Dhātarāstha Lute, Music East Gandhabba Elf
Virūdha Sword, Growth South Kumbhānda Dwarf
Virūpakkha Snake, Water West Nāga Dragon

You also might want to take into account the lifespan differences:

Realm Lifespan (realm years) Lifespan (human years)
Manussaloka (Human Realm) 10 - 80,000 10 - 80,000
Cātummahārājika (Devas of the Four Great Kings) 500 9,000,000
Tāvatiṃsa (Devas of the Thirty-Three) 1,000 36,000,000
Yāma (Devas of Hours) 2,000 144,000,000
Tusita (Contented Devas) 4,000 576,000,000
Nimmānarati (Devas Delighting in Creation) 8,000 2,304,000,000
Paranimmitavasavatti (Devas Wielding Power over the Creation of Others) 16,000 9,216,000,000
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You might want to also check out Ajahn Punnadhammo’s book, “The Buddhist Cosmos

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Yes I have this book, it was a great inspiration to start the journey. Very dense material