Another question... Buddhism and Evolution

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Re: Another question... Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Jason » Sun Jun 20, 2010 1:29 am

Zom wrote:
If someone attempts to make a point by means of parody, how is that a "lie"?


Too huge and too detailed sutta for a parody, especially if we take other same ("this topic") passages from other suttas. And what is more, when Buddha uses analogies, even "funny" ones, he usually make it clear that this is an analogy.

Too dangerous to consider it this way - because all suttas can be easily called "a parody", especially that on rebirth, kamma, nibbana, supernatural powers, and other aspects that can't be seen here and now.


No, I don't think DN 27 is a lie; I think it's parody/satire. But you make a good point. If people like Gombrich are correct in that DN 27 was actually meant to make fun of the very need for a cosmology as a foundation for religious development, then as John Holder notes, "it has the unfortunate side effect of opening the doors to endless debate about which parts of the Pali Canon are allegory and which are to be taken literally."

One can certainly subscribe to a literal interpretation of the events described in DN 27, and who's to say that it's not possible? Since the discourse begins as a story about the beginning of life on this world, it's not unreasonable to posit that the Buddha was merely using the story itself to illustrate his point to his audience; nevertheless, that doesn't mean that the story was simply concocted with no factual basis whatsoever. What is more intriguing to me, however, is whether stories like these evolved to counter the prevalent wrong views of the time, or whether they contain actual first-hand knowledge of the way in which our physical universe works.

I suppose that I've leaned more towards agnosticism when it comes to this particular subject — choosing instead to focus on how these teachings relate to the workings of the mind, and in particular, the arising of suffering and the cessation of suffering — but, I feel that it's important to have a clear picture of the context in which the Buddha was teachings in order to avoid misconceptions about those teachings.

While I agree with Gombrich that the basic principles of Buddhism are not affected by intellectual inquiry into the history of Buddhist texts and the development of the religion itself, such an inquiry can have a tremendous impact on how certain teachings are to be understood, and more specifically, the context in which these teachings are provided. Gombrich believes that we can discover the objective meaning of these ancient texts as opposed to the postmodern view that the meaning of a text has no inherent meaning apart from that ascribed to it by each reader or generation of readers, and I think this is an idea that's at least worth exploring.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Another question... Buddhism and Evolution

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Jun 20, 2010 1:34 am

EricJ wrote:How does the theory of evolution relate to the mention of twenty-eight previous Buddhas within this world system, if we can prove that humans evolved and that civilization only emerged a few thousand years before the Buddha taught? Does this mean that the other Buddhas existed in other places within the world-system? Or does is this question contingent upon how "world system" is defined?


Yes, I think it is contingent on how world-system is defined. It could be one of the other (previous) formations of this planet in this world-system (perhaps solar system).

In my opinion, Buddhism is 100 percent compatible with evolution. The Aganna Sutta and Brahmajala Sutta sound very scientific and evolutionary or at least compatible with evolution. And what would be the alternative? A creation myth with a supreme being creator? The Buddha clearly rejected such notions ("no first beginning is discernible") and considered it wrong view (such as in the 62 kinds of wrong view in Digha Nikaya 1).
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Re: Another question... Buddhism and Evolution

Postby EricJ » Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:25 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Yes, I think it is contingent on how world-system is defined. It could be one of the other (previous) formations of this planet in this world-system (perhaps solar system).

In my opinion, Buddhism is 100 percent compatible with evolution. The Aganna Sutta and Brahmajala Sutta sound very scientific and evolutionary or at least compatible with evolution. And what would be the alternative? A creation myth with a supreme being creator? The Buddha clearly rejected such notions ("no first beginning is discernible") and considered it wrong view (such as in the 62 kinds of wrong view in Digha Nikaya 1).
I myself firmly believe in evolution. I feel weird saying that because it's like saying I believe in gravity. I was just curious about the implications of evolution and findings within the social sciences on Buddhist "cosmology" and Buddhology.

I guess with a recognition of timelessness and infinity, it's not so strange to think that a planet exactly like this has come into existence over and over again.
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3
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Re: Another question... Buddhism and Evolution

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:36 am

Personally, I find nothing incompatible with suttas like DN 27 and the theory of evolution.
- Peter

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