Agganna Sutta

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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby son of dhamma » Sat Dec 25, 2010 11:58 pm

Jason wrote:
Just for clarification, I wasn't suggesting that there's only two competing theories, I just added the two that I thought were most relevant. The first was referenced because it's the more likely scenario, i.e., if the current data about the size and shape of our universe is correct, it's very likely that our universe will continue to expand indefinitely because the density of the universe is less than or equal to the critical density, hence no 'Big Crunch' or cosmic contraction. The second I offered as evidence in opposition in an attempt to be fair, evidence which may (if the data and observations check out) actually support a continually expanding and contracting model of the universe, which seems to be more in line with how Buddhist cosmology is often presented (i.e., expanding and contracting world-systems).


Just as thought-input. I don't consider that the world being talked about in the Agganna Sutta is "the universe". In fact I don't see why anyone would have this notion after considering the context. I also don't think that those words should be translated as "expansion" and "contraction", in a controversy I think that those words are being supposed into this context to support the idea that the Buddha was talking about this big universe that we study "expanding" and "contracting" according to present scientific theory. The translation of those words is more like "this world dies" or you might even say "dissolves", but "contraction" is just uncalled for.
These people did not know what the solar-system looked like. They didn't know that there we galactic structures, or that these were clustered together. They didn't know about the universe that we scientifically study today. In the Agganna Sutta the Buddha clearly describes a world forming, with the sun and the moon and firmament and a body of water. It would not make any sense at all to apply this to scientific understand, by saying that he was talking about all planets in the universe forming simultaneously and yet describing it as one planet? He didn't say they were on a sphere, and that their world was the system of a star.
However it is said that above the first-jhanic planes, the three planes of Radiance are above the "system-of-a-thousand-worlds". And the third-jhanic planes are above the "system-of-a-thousand [of those]", and the fourth jhanic planes (including Suddhavasa planes) are above the "system-of-a-thousand-[of those]". So there is talked about a thousand-world system, a million-world system, and a billion-world system, and above that are planes of formlessness in which there is infinite space and no relative location.
I think that if one is going to consider the Agganna Sutta in regards to science (which is in itself a strange thing to do), then they should consider what "a world" is according to the Pali Canon and not just say "oh, he was referring to this big universe that all these people knew nothing about," and calling it "contraction" and "expansion". That theory would have made no sense to them, and neither would a round world.

with metta
Sometimes no Buddhas arise in the world. Sometimes they do. When it happens, it is for the welfare and happiness of men, out of compassion for all creatures. For a long, long time he has been working to become a Buddha. He met other Buddhas along the way. And after his long striving he attains his final life, yet not without showing everyone else how to get there.
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby Jason » Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:19 am

Jason wrote:
yuttadhammo wrote:Actually, a much bolder assumption is Jason's (that I erroneously followed), that DN 27 should not be taken too seriously for the reason that material science says there may not be a big crunch. This argument assumes that the word "sa.mva.t.tati" in the Agganna Sutta means "contracts", which it doesn't. Actually, this is the word used at AN and Vism. as well. Where exactly in the tipitaka does it say that the world contracts?


Just for reference, I'm going by Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of DN 27, which has the following passage: "There comes a time, Vasettha, when , sooner or later after a long period, this world contracts. At the time of contraction, beings are mostly born in the Abhassara Brahma world" (409). Unfortunately, I don't have the time to look up the Pali for this part, so I'm unable to say what word he's translating as 'contraction' here and whether it's an appropriate translation.


So I had a chance to look at the Pali, and the words used are samvattati and vivattati for 'contraction' and 'expansion' respectively. I agree that 'contraction' and 'expansion' aren't generally the best translations, ('dissolve' and 'evolve' might be better), and I'm not sure why Bhikkhu Bodhi translates them this way. Perhaps it's due to something in the commentarial literature, or maybe he just thought it was more appropriate given the overall context. Either way, I think it's something that merits further discussion.

In addition, since the Buddha uses the word loko or 'world,' which is often used as a metaphor for the six sense spheres, I agree with son of dhamma that given the context here, 'the world' being referenced isn't the universe but the world of sense experience, which makes even more convinced that this sutta is a lively and ingenious parody that's actually meant to make fun of the very need for a cosmology as a foundation for religious development. However, it should be noted that according to Nyanatiloka's Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines, the term loka denotes "the 3 spheres of existence comprising the whole universe," so perhaps this term should be analyzed in more detail as well.
Last edited by Jason on Mon Dec 27, 2010 5:35 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby son of dhamma » Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:45 am

Jason these are wonderful points to make. I agree that these scriptural points are quite parodied. I think that taking a side with the extremes of scientific theory and the extremes of literal interpretation of scripture outside dense context is just unhelpful. Is it--I don't know--like a middle way or something, that we're looking for?
Good stuff.
with metta
Sometimes no Buddhas arise in the world. Sometimes they do. When it happens, it is for the welfare and happiness of men, out of compassion for all creatures. For a long, long time he has been working to become a Buddha. He met other Buddhas along the way. And after his long striving he attains his final life, yet not without showing everyone else how to get there.
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby Will » Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:10 pm

I only skimmed this thread, so may have missed any explanation of "made of mind" around verses 10-13? Why throw that word into the rebirth into higher, then lower realms?

Also curious is that the particular Abhassara realm we first abide in is about 12 realms above the present Manussa realm of humans. Depending on how one counts, adding up the degeneration steps approaching the Manussa, we get about 12 steps.
This noble eightfold path is the ancient path traveled by all the Buddhas of eons past. Nagara Sutta
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Re: Agganna Sutta

Postby gavesako » Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:39 pm

New video with nice graphics to illustrate the meaning:


Bhante Anandajoti: Devolution and Evolution

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFaoyp_wrlY

This video is built around a talk given in the Vivekavana Buddhist Society, Bukit Mertajam, Penang, Malaysia on January 6th 2013.

The talk is illustrated with infographics describing the planes of existence and with photographs and complimentary text.

The talk describes the various ways the universe comes to destruction, and how it re-evolves.

It also talks about the moral devolution of humans, before a reversal happens which eventually leads to the emergence of Metteyya (Maitreya) Buddha.

The talk is mainly based on two discourses in the Dīghanikāya, Aggaññasutta (DN 27) and Cakkavattisīhanādasutta (DN 26).

The first video in this series on The Planes of Existence is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzPIeCaV-is
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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