Rebirth and the universe

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Rebirth and the universe

Postby Collective » Sat Nov 21, 2009 11:16 am

Scientists say the universe is expanding, that it wasn't always here. They also say one day it may collapse, revert back to it's initial mode of not being.

Where were we all before the universe came into being and where will we go after it collpases? The second part about collapsing, I'm not sure if it's a widely held theory, but the expanding from nothing is. Did we somehow exist in whatever way shape or form before the universe came to be?
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby Ben » Sat Nov 21, 2009 11:33 am

Hi Collective
A couple of years ago i went to a teaching with the Dalai Lama where he talked about conditionality and the universe. 'The universe was caused by the big bang, but what caused the big bang? Another big bang and there was one before that and before that...countless big bangs' or words to that effect. And that appears to be in keeping with the cosmology as presented in the Theravada as well.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby Moggalana » Sat Nov 21, 2009 11:46 am

You may want so look into The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet by Matthieu Ricard and Trinh Xuan Thuan.
The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet explores questions such as how did the universe come into being and what is the meaning of human life against the blackness of infinity? Religion and science have many answers to these and similar questions, answers that sometimes meet but more often diverge.

In this book-length conversation, French Buddhist monk Ricard and Vietnamese-born astrophysicist Trinh explore how Buddhism and modern science address life's big questions. Among the matters they touch on, sometimes fleetingly and sometimes in depth, are the illusory nature of phenomena, the guiding intelligence of nature, and the search for the mechanisms that drive planets and humans alike. Both authors, each conversant in the other's medium, argue against reductionist views of nature. And both provide plenty of data that support Albert Einstein's declaration that "if there is any religion that could correspond to the needs of modern science, it would be Buddhism".

Hard-nosed sceptics will perhaps find Ricard and Trinh's reconciliation arguable. Still, the record of their conversation makes both for fascinating reading and for a useful overview of scientific reasoning and spiritual inquiry.


I don't think there is anything similar from a Theravada point of view?
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:03 pm

Greetings Collective,

Whatever the answer to the question, interesting as it might be, it will only ever be a speculative view and not one that is particularly conducive to enlightenment.

As the suttas tell us, not knowing the nature & cause of form causes Speculation to arise:

link - http://what-buddha-said.net/drops/II/Be ... nowing.htm

At Savatthi the wanderer Vacchagotta approached the Blessed One & greeted him.
Having concluded their compliments, he sat down and asked the Blessed Buddha:
Master Gotama, what is the cause, condition & reason why these various speculative
views arise in the world:
This Universe is eternal, or This Universe is not eternal. &;
This Universe is finite, or This Universe is infinite. &;
Vitality & the body are the same, or biological life is one thing, the body is another. &;
The Tathagata exists after death, or The Tathagata does not exist after death. Or;
The Tathagata both exists & does not exist after death. Or;
The Tathagata neither exists, nor does not exist after death ?
The Blessed Buddha replied:
It is, Vaccha, because of neither knowing form, nor the cause of emergence of form,
nor the cause of the ceasing of form, nor the Way to cease form, that those various
speculative views, such as: "This Universe is eternal etc...etc..." arise in the world...!!!
This ignorance, this not seeing, this not understanding, Vaccha, is the cause, & reason,
why those various speculative views arise in this world...!!!


In other words, if you focus on Theravada meditation techniques, particularly those connected with emptiness, you will come to see how things really are, and it will provide the wisdom that shows the truth and shows the error in all those speculative views. What error is that? The dichotomy of the extremes of 'existence' and 'non-existence' and the tendency to cling to these perceptions and views. The same error applies to the 62 wrong views espoused in the Brahmajala Sutta (DN1).

So don't be discouraged... just be mindful to put attention in the areas suggested by the Buddha.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby Ben » Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:09 pm

Similar to what Moggalana?
A discussion between an astrophysicist and a monastic?
My own opinion is that while such discussions and explorations into the possible reconcilliation of science and Dhamma are interesting - they're essentially a distraction from the main game.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby Collective » Sat Nov 21, 2009 3:10 pm

retrofuturist wrote:In other words, if you focus on Theravada meditation techniques, particularly those connected with emptiness, you will come to see how things really are, and it will provide the wisdom that shows the truth and shows the error in all those speculative views.

Meditative techniques, those especially concerened with emptiness? When I mediate I just focus on the breath, and nothing else. Am I missing something here? It's been so long since I read any books on Buddhism,and right now I'm reading books about the fallacious claims of the bible and christianity. I'm testing my faithig Gid and my faith as a result is being sorely tested.

So I am now wondering, meditation on emptiness? Am I doing something wrong? How does one go abut this?

EDIT: Thank you to everyone who replied :) Very insightful
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby Moggalana » Sat Nov 21, 2009 3:42 pm

Yes, Ben, you are right. Distractions they are - at least ultimately. But to someone who has been interested in science for his whole life they are very interesting distractions. Books like this played a very important role in my journey towards the buddhist path. Practice, which leads to direct experience of the nature of existence, is of utmost importance, of course.
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Nov 21, 2009 3:47 pm

Collective wrote:Scientists say the universe is expanding, that it wasn't always here. They also say one day it may collapse, revert back to it's initial mode of not being.
Where were we all before the universe came into being and where will we go after it collpases? The second part about collapsing, I'm not sure if it's a widely held theory, but the expanding from nothing is. Did we somehow exist in whatever way shape or form before the universe came to be?


All of the above is compatible with the Buddha's teachings:

"He recalls to mind his various temporary states in days gone by – one birth, or two or three or
four or five births, 10 or 20, 30 or 50, a 100 or a 1,000 or a 100,000 births, through many cycles
of cosmic contraction and cosmic expansion . . . Now there comes a time, when sooner or later,
after the lapse of a long, long period of contraction, this world-system passes away. And when
this happens beings have mostly been re-born in the World of Radiance, and there they dwell
made of mind, feeding on joy, radiating light from themselves, traversing the air, dwelling in
glory; and thus they remain for a long, long period of time. Now there comes also a time,
friends, when sooner or later, this universe begins to re-evolve by expansion
."
(Brahmajala Sutta, Digha Nikaya, Sutta Pitaka)
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby acinteyyo » Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:20 pm

Collective wrote:Where were we all before the universe came into being and where will we go after it collpases? [...] Did we somehow exist in whatever way shape or form before the universe came to be?

Hi Collective,
like the others already said, better don't bother yourself with those questions.
Sabbasava Sutta (MN2) wrote:"This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'

(S.56.41) wrote:"Therefore, o monks, do not brood over the world as to whether it is eternal or temporal, limited or endless .... Such brooding, O monks, is senseless, has nothing to do with genuine pure conduct, does not lead to aversion, detachment, extinction, nor to peace, to full comprehension, enlightenment and Nibbāna, etc."

brooding over the world (loka-cintā), especially over an absolute first beginning of it is one of the four unthinkables (acinteyya).
Acinteyya means:
Buddhist Dictionary, Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines, by NYANATILOKA MAHATHERA wrote:"That which cannot or should not be thought, the unthinkable, incomprehensible, impenetrable, that which transcends the limits of thinking and over which therefore one should not ponder."


best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.
Pathabyā ekarajjena, saggassa gamanena vā sabbalokādhipaccena, sotāpattiphalaṃ varaṃ. (Dhp 178)
Sole dominion over the earth, going to heaven or lordship over all worlds: the fruit of stream-entry excels them.

:anjali:
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Nov 21, 2009 9:41 pm

Greetings Collective,

Collective wrote:Meditative techniques, those especially concerened with emptiness?


I was referring primarily to things like anapanasati and vipassana, especially the latter.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby Ben » Sat Nov 21, 2009 9:52 pm

Hi Moggalana

Moggalana wrote:Yes, Ben, you are right. Distractions they are - at least ultimately. But to someone who has been interested in science for his whole life they are very interesting distractions. Books like this played a very important role in my journey towards the buddhist path. Practice, which leads to direct experience of the nature of existence, is of utmost importance, of course.


My apologies if i appeared to be diminishing your interest - it was not my intention. If you find inspiration from the literature on the reconciliation of Buddhism and Science, then it is excellent.
metta

Ben
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby cooran » Sat Nov 21, 2009 10:24 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
Collective wrote:Scientists say the universe is expanding, that it wasn't always here. They also say one day it may collapse, revert back to it's initial mode of not being.
Where were we all before the universe came into being and where will we go after it collpases? The second part about collapsing, I'm not sure if it's a widely held theory, but the expanding from nothing is. Did we somehow exist in whatever way shape or form before the universe came to be?


All of the above is compatible with the Buddha's teachings:

"He recalls to mind his various temporary states in days gone by – one birth, or two or three or
four or five births, 10 or 20, 30 or 50, a 100 or a 1,000 or a 100,000 births, through many cycles
of cosmic contraction and cosmic expansion . . . Now there comes a time, when sooner or later,
after the lapse of a long, long period of contraction, this world-system passes away. And when
this happens beings have mostly been re-born in the World of Radiance, and there they dwell
made of mind, feeding on joy, radiating light from themselves, traversing the air, dwelling in
glory; and thus they remain for a long, long period of time. Now there comes also a time,
friends, when sooner or later, this universe begins to re-evolve by expansion
."
(Brahmajala Sutta, Digha Nikaya, Sutta Pitaka)


Thanks David. I think the Brahmajala Sutta covers it nicely.

metta
Chris
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby pink_trike » Sat Nov 21, 2009 10:39 pm

I don't see any incompatibility with science's interest in the universe (actually multiverse - it is highly unlikely that there is only one universe). Everything that appears "out there" operates in the same way that everything that appears "in here" does. With that in mind, the Dharma is visible wherever we look if we wake up to it, and everywhere we look helps us to wake up to it.
Last edited by pink_trike on Sun Nov 22, 2009 12:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby Ben » Sat Nov 21, 2009 11:31 pm

Good morning Mr Pink!
Mr Pink wrote:Everything that appears "out there" operates in the same way that everything that appears "in here" does. With that in mind, the Dharma is visible wherever we look if we wake up to it, and everywhere we look help us to wake up to it.

It reminds me of something Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote in 'A comprehensive manual of the Abhidhamma' on the nature of consciousness and the world (or 31-tiered planes of existence) Unfortunately, I cannot find my transcription of the section 'consciousness and the world' at this point in time.

Ben

EDIT: found it!

The compendium of process-freed consciousness opens with a survey of the topograpgy of the phenomenal world, charting the planes of existence and the various realms within each plane. The author (Acariya Anuruddha) undertakes this survey before examining the types of process-freed consciousness because the external universe, according to the Abhidhamma, is an outer reflection of the internal cosmos of mind, registering in concrete manifest form the subtle gradations in states of consciousness. This does not mean that the Abhidhamma reduces the outer world to a dimension of mind in the manner of philosophical idealism. The outer world is quite real and possesses objective existence. However, the outer world is always a world apprehended by consciousness, and the type of consciousness determines the nature of the world that appears. Consciousness and the world are mutually dependent and inextricably connected to such an extent that the hierarchical structure of the realms of existence exactly reproduces and corresponds to the hierarchical structure of consciousness.

-- Vithimuttasangaha, Bhikkhu Bodhi, 2000, Abhidhammatthasangaha: A comprehensive manual of Abhidhamma, Pariyatti

"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby pink_trike » Sun Nov 22, 2009 12:46 am

-- Vithimuttasangaha, Bhikkhu Bodhi, 2000, Abhidhammatthasangaha: A comprehensive manual of Abhidhamma, Pariyatti


Thanks for the reference. Amazon is rushing it to me as I write this.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby Ben » Sun Nov 22, 2009 1:05 am

pink_trike wrote:
-- Vithimuttasangaha, Bhikkhu Bodhi, 2000, Abhidhammatthasangaha: A comprehensive manual of Abhidhamma, Pariyatti


Thanks for the reference. Amazon is rushing it to me as I write this.


Its good stuff, Mr Pink. I highly recommend it.
metta

Ben
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Nov 22, 2009 1:21 am

Hi Moggalana,
Moggalana wrote:I don't think there is anything similar from a Theravada point of view?

I don't think so either. I'd love to see one. I've asked this question before on E-Sangha and have never seen any books/articles/etc with particularly interesting discussion of physical science from someone who practises Theravada. Unlike the reference you give, and B Alan Wallace's (Not Watts) books (Wallace has an undergraduate major in physics so knows something about it...).

Metta
Mike
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby pink_trike » Sun Nov 22, 2009 2:14 am

Ben wrote:Good morning Mr Pink!
Mr Pink wrote:Everything that appears "out there" operates in the same way that everything that appears "in here" does. With that in mind, the Dharma is visible wherever we look if we wake up to it, and everywhere we look help us to wake up to it.

It reminds me of something Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote in 'A comprehensive manual of the Abhidhamma' on the nature of consciousness and the world (or 31-tiered planes of existence) Unfortunately, I cannot find my transcription of the section 'consciousness and the world' at this point in time.

Ben

EDIT: found it!

The compendium of process-freed consciousness opens with a survey of the topograpgy of the phenomenal world, charting the planes of existence and the various realms within each plane. The author (Acariya Anuruddha) undertakes this survey before examining the types of process-freed consciousness because the external universe, according to the Abhidhamma, is an outer reflection of the internal cosmos of mind, registering in concrete manifest form the subtle gradations in states of consciousness. This does not mean that the Abhidhamma reduces the outer world to a dimension of mind in the manner of philosophical idealism. The outer world is quite real and possesses objective existence. However, the outer world is always a world apprehended by consciousness, and the type of consciousness determines the nature of the world that appears. Consciousness and the world are mutually dependent and inextricably connected to such an extent that the hierarchical structure of the realms of existence exactly reproduces and corresponds to the hierarchical structure of consciousness.

-- Vithimuttasangaha, Bhikkhu Bodhi, 2000, Abhidhammatthasangaha: A comprehensive manual of Abhidhamma, Pariyatti



This view isn't unique to Buddhism. Its explicit in all complex shamanic systems - early Egyptian, Mayan, Native American, Icelandic, Siberian (as are the planes of existence - which are all simultaneously related to the astronomy of the heavens and mind states) - and implicit in most premodern folk tales, systems of magic, and codes of existence in the form of "As above, so below - as within, so without". Even Christianity has its unsophisticated version: "...on Earth as it is in the heavens".
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby christopher::: » Sun Nov 22, 2009 3:12 am

Collective wrote:Scientists say the universe is expanding, that it wasn't always here. They also say one day it may collapse, revert back to it's initial mode of not being.

Where were we all before the universe came into being and where will we go after it collapases? The second part about collapsing, I'm not sure if it's a widely held theory, but the expanding from nothing is. Did we somehow exist in whatever way shape or form before the universe came to be?


I think contemplating questions like can be helpful as a way of exploring the Buddha's teachings of anicca and anatta. Everything that can be observed in the world is impermanent, continuously changing. Forms come into being, then dissolve and flow into new patterns. All the atoms in our bodies have come from the world around us, from Nature, from the stars. There is no lasting permanent self, and yet we are all related to one another, flow from this Universe.

What happened before the Big Bang is a mystery, but the very earliest activities of our Universe have given rise to everything and everyone that exists today. And yet, paradoxically, there is no "you" or "I" to be found in any of this.

If considered this way dharma inspired observations of Science and the everyday world around us can be quite liberating, imo.

:namaste:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Rebirth and the universe

Postby Moggalana » Sun Nov 22, 2009 7:50 am

mikenz66 wrote:...Unlike the reference you give, and B Alan Watts' books (Watts has an undergraduate major in physics so knows something about it...).

Wallace not Watts ;)
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