Thursday, 31 March 2011

Buddhist Teachings on the Nature of Universe, Origin & Evolution of Society


From the very beginning of human history, human beings have tried to know and understand the nature of nature his surrounding world and universe. This is common to any ancient culture in the world. Each and every one them have had maintain certain ideas on the nature of universe. The curiosity in the human mind to know, to understand and enlarge the horizon on his knowledge about the world, create much room for this birth of new idea. Some of them developed as religions, some other as philosophies while certain ideas matured as sciences.
In ancient India, religions, philosophies and sciences had their own definitions, interpretations, ideas and dogmas on the origin, nature and future of universe. The BrahmajAlasutta of DN enumerates four such views as follows.

1.  åntavA ca ayaM loko parivaTumo – this world is finite and surrounded.
2.  ånantavA ayaM loko apariyanto – this world is infinite and limitless
3.  åntavA ca ayaM loko anantavA ca – this world is finite or infinite.
4.  ñevAyaM loko antavA na panAnanto – this world is neither finite nor infinite.

Thinkers pay their attentions to the universe to search its origin and evolution when knowledge has widened on the present world and to engage in that kind of pondering, they need economic prosperity and surplus time. In that society the thinkers were holding different views on the nature of universe. But none of them represent a wider understanding. In the above two statements two main concepts about universe have been dealt with, namely end and covering the universe. Some ideas hold that the universe is finite and covered. If we accept the first view that the universe is finite then there arisen the question what is there beyond the universe. If we accept the second statement that the world is infinite then there the question arises who experienced it. Therefore, those statements are not valid comprehensive arguments on the nature of the universe.
Buddhism on this issue holds a unique view that is such speculations are kept aside as unanswered or unexplained points (abyAkata). According to Buddhism, the sky is formless and has no example (AkAso arUpI anidassano). This shows that although not expressed even the Buddha had his knowledge on universe. Even the science seems attempt to explain sky as an unachievable source of knowledge.
Without answering whether the universe is finite or infinite the Buddha explained it as process of evolution. According to åggaJJasutta of DN the world has two epochs, namely: evolution period (vivaTTakappa) and dissolution period (samvaTTakappa).

“Hoti kho Avuso samayo yaM kadAci addhunA accayena ayaM loko saMvaTTati vivaTTati
=O friends! There is the time after a long lapse of time (in which) this world dissolves …evolves.
Those ascetics who developed their knowledge of recollecting former births could see such evolution and dissolution processes individually. The åggaJJasutta is such record by the Buddha on evolution and dissolution process.

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