Evolution, Big Bang

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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salayatananirodha
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Evolution, Big Bang

Post by salayatananirodha » Thu Jun 21, 2018 8:31 am

I'm curious how modern science compares to the suttas. Take a look at DN 27:

There comes a time when, Vāseṭṭha, after a very long period has passed, this cosmos contracts. As the cosmos contracts, sentient beings are mostly headed for the realm of streaming radiance. There they are mind-made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the sky, steadily glorious, and they remain like that for a very long time.

There comes a time when, after a very long period has passed, this cosmos expands. As the cosmos expands, sentient beings mostly pass away from that group of radiant deities and come back to this realm. Here they are mind-made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the sky, steadily glorious, and they remain like that for a very long time.
2. Solid Nectar Appears

But the single mass of water at that time was utterly dark. The moon and sun were not found, nor were stars and constellations, day and night, months and fortnights, years and seasons, or male and female. Beings were simply known as ‘beings’. After a very long period had passed, solid nectar curdled in the water. It appeared just like the curd on top of hot milk as it cools. It was beautiful, fragrant, and delicious, like ghee or butter. And it was as sweet as pure manuka honey. Now, one of those beings was reckless. Thinking, ‘Oh my, what might this be?’ they tasted the solid nectar with their finger. They enjoyed it, and craving was born in them. And other beings, following that being’s example, tasted solid nectar with their fingers. They too enjoyed it, and craving was born in them.
3. The Moon and Sun Appear

Then those beings started to eat the solid nectar, breaking it into lumps....

But so long as they ate that ripe untilled rice, their bodies became more solid and they diverged in appearance. And female characteristics appeared on women, while male characteristics appeared on men. Women spent too much time gazing at men, and men at women. They became lustful, and their bodies burned with fever. Due to this fever they had sex with each other.


The full exposition is too long for me to share for the forum, but no mention of humans evolving from other animals is there. We go it seems from self-luminous to gender-variegated to kings, thieves, brahmans, etc. The tale of Adam & Eve is almost closer to what's in this sutta. The expansion of this cosmos could be called the big bang. There are other suttas I may reference as the discussion evolves. Is scientific theory supported or rejected by this sutta? I wasn't quite sure where to post this, so I will not complain if it is moved to a more appropriate section.
16. 'In what has the world originated?' — so said the Yakkha Hemavata, — 'with what is the world intimate? by what is the world afflicted, after having grasped at what?' (167)

17. 'In six the world has originated, O Hemavata,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'with six it is intimate, by six the world is afflicted, after having grasped at six.' (168)

- Hemavatasutta


links:
https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/index.htm
http://thaiforestwisdom.org/canonical-texts/
http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://www.dhammatalks.org/index.html

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Sam Vara
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Jun 21, 2018 8:42 am

salayatananirodha wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 8:31 am
I'm curious how modern science compares to the suttas. Take a look at DN 27:... Is scientific theory supported or rejected by this sutta?
Personally, I don't think there is much comparison at all, and the reason for this is that the sutta and modern scientific theories were created for different purposes. We might, of course, focus on the similarities between them (the expansion of the universe is often seized upon here...) but otherwise they are apparently at odds if we treat them as models of what actually happened. One would need to take an extremely literal approach to believe that sentient beings preceded the creation of the sun, or fed upon nectar. I see the sutta as myth.

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JamesTheGiant
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by JamesTheGiant » Thu Jun 21, 2018 8:55 am

I remember a conversation between Doctor Bernard Carr of Cambridge University (Physics), Ajahn Brahmali, and Ajahn Brahm, where they all agreed that the similarities were just accidental.
Other religions try to do the same thing all the time... right now there are thousands of Christians out there claiming the bible matches the Big Bang and the evolution of the universe somehow. Let's not do that.
We must be more grown-up than that, more sophisticated in our interpretation of the suttas, and recognise that these are creation myths. Myths. There wasn't some ancient super-civilization back then which had science and radioastronomy, and the Buddha did not sprinkle the suttas with hidden science teachings.

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salayatananirodha
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by salayatananirodha » Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:18 am

Are you saying you don't believe the Buddha spoke of this in a literal sense? Why would he teach a myth?
16. 'In what has the world originated?' — so said the Yakkha Hemavata, — 'with what is the world intimate? by what is the world afflicted, after having grasped at what?' (167)

17. 'In six the world has originated, O Hemavata,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'with six it is intimate, by six the world is afflicted, after having grasped at six.' (168)

- Hemavatasutta


links:
https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/index.htm
http://thaiforestwisdom.org/canonical-texts/
http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://www.dhammatalks.org/index.html

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JamesTheGiant
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by JamesTheGiant » Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:50 am

salayatananirodha wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:18 am
Are you saying you don't believe the Buddha spoke of this in a literal sense? Why would he teach a myth?
Gombrich suggested he was speaking a satire to the vedic-educated audience, an alteration of the vedic creation myth. To a modern audience, we miss the vedic context of the story he told, but his audience back in 500BC knew what he was getting at. They were the elite of the city, and well educated in the religion of the time. So yeah, he was telling a story for teaching effect.

But you are free to believe what you like.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:55 am

salayatananirodha wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:18 am
Are you saying you don't believe the Buddha spoke of this in a literal sense? Why would he teach a myth?
Why would he not teach a myth? Did he say that he would only stick to science?

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robertk
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by robertk » Thu Jun 21, 2018 10:02 am

This is an old reply to an academic

Dear Dighanaka,
I reply to your post about why you think we should look to academics, rather than the Theravada tradition, to find the truth about aspects of what the Buddha taught.

Dighanaka

QUOTE
I should prefer to limit it to modern academic scholars with expertise in some field relating to indology or Buddhist studies. I would also limit it to their peer-reviewed publications on subjects that lie within their field of expertise, ..... there are good reasons for preferring modern academic scholars to Indian Buddhist sectarian writers, *if* it is the truth that one wants. But if one is not at heart really interested in the truth, but only in finding faith-building material, then probably it would be best to avoid modern scholars like the plague.

==========

Your position is accepted in academic circles but it has its own problems. Consider your comments about the Aganna sutta:

QUOTE
Richard Gombrich has shown beyond any reasonable doubt that the Sutta is a lively and ingenious parody ,<snip> Buddhaghosa, unfortunately, saw neither the joke nor the allegory of the Aganna Sutta, took the whole thing literally, and left the Theravada tradition saddled with a creation story so laughable it makes the creationism of Christian fundamentalists seem like sound science.


Certainly an Oxford don like Richard Gombrich has impeccable academic credentials with numerous peer-reviewed publications in his field of pali studies. Nevertheless, there are other academics, well-versed in pali, and published in peer-reviewed journals who reach different conclusions from the esteemed professor.

Dr. Rupert Gethin wrote an article in the prestigious 'History of Religion' journal (Vol.36, No.3,1997),
http://www.saigon.co...ud/ebdha190.htm

QUOTE


""According to Gombrich the first half of the discourse introduces the problem of the relative status of brahmanas and suddas; this question is then dealt with in a tongue-in-cheek satirical manner by the Aganna myth. Gombrich regards the overall form of the Agganna- sutta as we have it as attributable to the Buddha himself and thus original. But for Gombrich the text is "primarily satirical and parodistic in intent," although in time the jokes were lost on its readers and the myth came to be misunderstood by Buddhist tradition "as being a more or less straight-faced account of how the universe, and in particular society, originated."

...Gombrich's arguments for the essential unity of the Agganna text as we have it are extremely persuasive, yet I would DISAGREE with the implication that we should regard the mythic portions of the Agganna-sutta as solely satirical. It....seems to me UNLIKELY that, for the original compiler (s) of and listeners to the discourse, the mythic portion of the sutta could have been intended to be understood or actually understood in its entirety as a joke at the expense of the poor old brahanas. . The question I would therefore ask is, Do we have any particular historical reasons for supposing that it is unlikely that the Buddha should have recounted a more or less straight-faced cosmogonic myth?

My answer is that we do not. Indeed, I want to ARGUE THE OPPOSITE: what we can know of the cultural milieu in which the Buddha operated and in which the first Buddhist texts were composed suggests that someone such as the Buddha might very well have presented the kind of myth contained in the Agganna-sutta as something more than merely a piece of satire. Far from being out of key with what we can understand of early Buddhist thought from the rest of the Nikayas, the cosmogonic views offered by the Agganna-sutta in fact harmonize extremely well with it. I would go further and say that something along the lines of what is contained in the Agganna myth is actually REQUIRED by the logic of what is generally accepted as Nikaya Buddhism.


Note that Dr. Gethin is no strong believer in the sutta (in fact, he considers it a myth); he is not labouring under the weight of piety towards the Theravada like some members of Dsg. Yet, despite Gombrich showing 'beyond any reasonable doubt'(according to you) that the sutta is a parody Gethin reaches an opposite conclusion.

Who is right? Well, another leading academic, Steve Collins, has said he agrees with Gombrich, so I guess the 'Aganna sutta is a hilarious joke' theory is now winning the academic battle.. Then again there is the thesis put forward by Schneider and Meisig that the Aganna sutta had some input from the Buddha but that later monks added on the bulk of the cosmological pieces; so is that the actual truth? Or will another scholar weigh in and support Gethin, or will a completely different theory emerge oneday?

You also wrote:

"And it is only from the commentators that we get the idea that the Buddha's Dhamma has to do with paramattha dhammas and citta-khanas. These terms are not found in the Tipitaka -- not even in the Abhidhamma Pitaka. The shadow of doubt cast by the commentators' judgments on women should reasonably be taken to cover what they say about other things""

I work from an opposite perspective to you. I believe that paramattha dhammas and citta-khanas gradually (very, very incrementally) become evident, and that, unlike Buddhist history, we can see that these are really true. It is in fact because the teaching of paramttha dhammas(which are taught in the suttas, where they are classfied as khandhas, ayatanas or dhatus and nibbana) is so real and true that generally I am accepting of other sections of the suttas and commentaries which cannot be proven .

RobertK

chownah
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by chownah » Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:21 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:55 am
salayatananirodha wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:18 am
Are you saying you don't believe the Buddha spoke of this in a literal sense? Why would he teach a myth?
Why would he not teach a myth? Did he say that he would only stick to science?
Pretty much our entire experience is a myth....the myth of the self....the myth of others....the myth of the "world out there that is real".

I think that the buddha often taught people by entering into their own peculiar established mythos....he had to because that is what our experience is. EVERY time he spoke to anyone about how the world works he was speaking in terms which were understandable within that person's personal mythos......that is one reason why he was such a great teacher.

Consider the phena sutta(https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html):
An excerpt:
"Now suppose that a magician or magician's apprentice were to display a magic trick at a major intersection, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a magic trick? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any consciousness that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in consciousness?
Great sutta....it contains similar ideas about form, feelings, perception, and fabrications. This is our mythos. The buddha had to talk to use with respect to this mythos or else what could he have said? After using our mythical concepts of form, feelings, perception, fabrication, and consciousness in many of his teachings he gave this fine lesson pointing to us that this mythos we cling to is without substance...leading us in the direction of (from the same sutta):
Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he grows dispassionate. Through dispassion, he's released. With release there's the knowledge, 'Released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"
This is what we get when we see our mythos for just exactly what it is.
chownah

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Sam Vara
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Jun 21, 2018 2:57 pm

chownah wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:21 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:55 am
salayatananirodha wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:18 am
Are you saying you don't believe the Buddha spoke of this in a literal sense? Why would he teach a myth?
Why would he not teach a myth? Did he say that he would only stick to science?
Pretty much our entire experience is a myth....the myth of the self....the myth of others....the myth of the "world out there that is real".
You may be right, and science is just one of those myths. But the point is that different myths are incompatible in terms of what they say is existent. The Buddha's creation myth and the myth propagated by modern science - if that's what they are - cannot both be believed in their entirety.

chownah
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by chownah » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:22 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 2:57 pm
chownah wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:21 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:55 am


Why would he not teach a myth? Did he say that he would only stick to science?
Pretty much our entire experience is a myth....the myth of the self....the myth of others....the myth of the "world out there that is real".
You may be right, and science is just one of those myths. But the point is that different myths are incompatible in terms of what they say is existent. The Buddha's creation myth and the myth propagated by modern science - if that's what they are - cannot both be believed in their entirety.
What substance would there be in either?
chownah

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Sam Vara
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:25 pm

chownah wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:22 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 2:57 pm
chownah wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:21 pm

Pretty much our entire experience is a myth....the myth of the self....the myth of others....the myth of the "world out there that is real".
You may be right, and science is just one of those myths. But the point is that different myths are incompatible in terms of what they say is existent. The Buddha's creation myth and the myth propagated by modern science - if that's what they are - cannot both be believed in their entirety.
What substance would there be in either?
chownah
I'm not sure what you mean by "substance" here. Do you mean what use is it?

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salayatananirodha
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by salayatananirodha » Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:41 pm

I'm quite surprised by the responses thus far.

[1] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[2] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[3] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

[4] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[5] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[6] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."

— MN 58

If the exposition in DN 27 were satire, it would be unfactual. We would have to assume this was not what the Buddha said if we agree with that viewpoint.
16. 'In what has the world originated?' — so said the Yakkha Hemavata, — 'with what is the world intimate? by what is the world afflicted, after having grasped at what?' (167)

17. 'In six the world has originated, O Hemavata,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'with six it is intimate, by six the world is afflicted, after having grasped at six.' (168)

- Hemavatasutta


links:
https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/index.htm
http://thaiforestwisdom.org/canonical-texts/
http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://www.dhammatalks.org/index.html

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dylanj
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by dylanj » Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:16 pm

Early Earth was covered in a global ocean and had no mountains

There's lots of theories like this & they are becoming increasing common as the earliest date for life on earth has been pushed back to the very beginnings of its history.

With regard to human history I think people need to keep in mind that the current theories are based on just a handful of fossils & even this keeps getting pushed back. Just a few months ago it was said that the first humans left Africa ~150,000 years ago, now that's been pushed back to 300,000 years ago. Think about how drastic that is. The history of the world from the scientific perspective is being constantly rewritten. "Out of Asia" was once the norm instead of "Out of Africa". There is evidence of tool-using hominins in India 1.5 million years ago. & keep in mind that the further back we go, the more likely it is that any evidence will have utterly decayed to dust, with whatever remains being more representative of the locality that had the proper conditions to preserve it (e.g. more evidence will be found in deserts than coasts) than anything global.

So it's a dangerous degree of guesswork that results in scientific conclusions about the history of Earth & life on it, I don't think it's worthy of putting faith in. The Buddha, however, is. I see no reason for anyone to reject the Agaññā Sutta beyond skepticism based on an excess of faith in modern, dominant "scientific" theories. I see no reason to deny that it was taught by the Buddha. I take the story in the sutta as literally true, as I do with everything taught by the Buddha.
"From the night the Tathāgata fully awakens to the unsurpassed Right Self-awakening to the night he is perfectly extinguished in the extinction element with no fuel remaining, whatever the Tathāgata has said, spoken, explained is just so and not otherwise. Thus he is called the Tathāgata.
Itivuttaka 4.13
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this: 'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I.'
Majjhima Nikāya 70
susukhaṁ vata nibbānaṁ,
sammā­sambud­dha­desitaṁ;
asokaṁ virajaṁ khemaṁ,
yattha dukkhaṁ nirujjhatī


Oh! extinction is so very blissful,
As taught by the One Rightly Self-Awakened:
Sorrowless, stainless, secure;
Where suffering all ceases


etaṁ santaṁ etaṁ paṇītaṁ yadidaṁ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭi nissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṁ

This is peaceful, this is excellent, that is: the stilling of all preparations, the relinquishment of all attachments, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:54 pm

salayatananirodha wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:41 pm
I'm quite surprised by the responses thus far.

[1] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
It might be the case that the Tathagata did not utter words which he knew to be unfactual. He might have uttered words which he believed to be factual, but which nevertheless were not in accordance with modern scientific knowledge. The Abhaya Sutta seems to be more about the Buddha's intentions than his knowledge.

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Re: Evolution, Big Bang

Post by dylanj » Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:07 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:54 pm
salayatananirodha wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:41 pm
I'm quite surprised by the responses thus far.

[1] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
It might be the case that the Tathagata did not utter words which he knew to be unfactual. He might have uttered words which he believed to be factual, but which nevertheless were not in accordance with modern scientific knowledge. The Abhaya Sutta seems to be more about the Buddha's intentions than his knowledge.
From the night when a Realized One understands the supreme perfect awakening until the night he becomes fully extinguished—through the natural principle of extinguishment, without anything left over—everything he speaks, says, and expresses is real, not otherwise. That’s why he’s called the ‘Realized One’.
AN 4.23
susukhaṁ vata nibbānaṁ,
sammā­sambud­dha­desitaṁ;
asokaṁ virajaṁ khemaṁ,
yattha dukkhaṁ nirujjhatī


Oh! extinction is so very blissful,
As taught by the One Rightly Self-Awakened:
Sorrowless, stainless, secure;
Where suffering all ceases


etaṁ santaṁ etaṁ paṇītaṁ yadidaṁ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭi nissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṁ

This is peaceful, this is excellent, that is: the stilling of all preparations, the relinquishment of all attachments, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction.

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