DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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How do you explain this blatant error?

The Buddha was not omniscient and only had the three knowledges. He could have been wrong about other things.
7
30%
The Buddha was omniscient but spoke what was understood at his time, like the explanation about Nibbāna and a🕯️.
3
13%
Geologists are wrong. The Buddha is right.
4
17%
Scribal error.
0
No votes
Later edition of the sutta (since it's not found in the equivalent Agama).
3
13%
Other.
6
26%
 
Total votes: 23

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rhinoceroshorn
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DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by rhinoceroshorn »

“There are these eight reasons, eight causes, Ānanda, for the occurrence of a great earthquake.

Which eight?

This great Earth, Ānanda, stands in the water, the water stands in the atmosphere, the atmosphere stands in space. There comes a time, Ānanda, when great winds blow, with the great winds blowing, the waters move, the waters having moved, the Earth moves. This is the first reason, the first cause for the occurrence of a great earthquake.
Please, don't try to convince me this is any right. It's obviously wrong.
How to explain this blatant error? The Buddha was not omniscient? The Buddha only knew about suffering and its end? Scribal error? Later addition (this part of the sutta is not in the equivalent Agama. Some could explain it's the Mahāyāna influence :rolleye: )?
Please vote and/or post!!
Last edited by rhinoceroshorn on Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Eyes downcast, not footloose,
senses guarded, with protected mind,
not oozing — not burning — with lust,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.
Sutta Nipāta 1.3 - Khaggavisana Sutta
Image
See, Ānanda! All those conditioned phenomena have passed, ceased, and perished. So impermanent are conditions, so unstable are conditions, so unreliable are conditions. This is quite enough for you to become disillusioned, dispassionate, and freed regarding all conditions.
Dīgha Nikāya 17
Mr. Seek
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by Mr. Seek »

One statement of knowledge against another. Why bother trusting in science, and why bother trusting in sutta, when neither of these two statements, about the origin of earthquakes, lead to the cessation of stress and suffering?
Snp 5.11—"Having nothing, free of clinging: That is the island, there is no other."
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rhinoceroshorn
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by rhinoceroshorn »

Mr. Seek wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:36 pm One statement of knowledge against another. Why bother trusting in science, and why bother trusting in sutta, when neither of these two statements, about the origin of earthquakes, lead to the cessation of stress and suffering?
The old excuse... :coffee:
Eyes downcast, not footloose,
senses guarded, with protected mind,
not oozing — not burning — with lust,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.
Sutta Nipāta 1.3 - Khaggavisana Sutta
Image
See, Ānanda! All those conditioned phenomena have passed, ceased, and perished. So impermanent are conditions, so unstable are conditions, so unreliable are conditions. This is quite enough for you to become disillusioned, dispassionate, and freed regarding all conditions.
Dīgha Nikāya 17
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Coëmgenu
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by Coëmgenu »

rhinoceroshorn wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:33 pm
“There are these eight reasons, eight causes, Ānanda, for the occurrence of a great earthquake.

Which eight?

This great Earth, Ānanda, stands in the water, the water stands in the atmosphere, the atmosphere stands in space. There comes a time, Ānanda, when great winds blow, with the great winds blowing, the waters move, the waters having moved, the Earth moves. This is the first reason, the first cause for the occurrence of a great earthquake.
Please, don't try to convince me this is any right. It's obviously wrong.
How to explain this blatant error? The Buddha was not omniscient? The Buddha only knew about suffering and its end? Scribal error? Later addition (this part of the sutta is not in the equivalent Agama. Some could explain it's the Mahāyāna influence :rolleye: )?
Please vote and/or post!!
The earth stands in the water because certain rocks and/or rafts made of trees, etc., float. The water stands in the atmosphere because that is how there is mist, clouds, and rain. The atmosphere stands in space based on the previous principles just set out. None of these assertions are scientific, but each is observable in its way to an ancient person. When you don't have a sense of "gravity," what holds the cosmos together becomes the innate mutually-corresponding properties of the 4-5 mahābhūtas, such as the coarser element standing amidst the more refined and subtle element as we see in the above quote.

Earth
Water
Fire
Wind
Space

There is no "fire" in the above, but the five elements here are listed from coarse to subtle and we can see the Buddha observing this ordering in the quote. We can see the same order in the creation of the elements by Brahma in the Rigveda, but I'm having trouble finding the quote to substantiate. He creates the world in reverse order, starting with space that he may hear, air that he may smell, fire that he may see, water that he may taste, and earth that he may touch. Other para-Vedic cosmologies have these as empty blackness beneath, then howling winds, then a lake of fire, then subterranean waters, then the earth on top. That is observing this same coarse-to-subtle or subtle-to-coarse principle.

For instance, there is no reason for Buddhists to place the arupya dhyanas "above" the rupa dhyanas in diagrams of the Iron Age "classical" Buddhist cosmos. But this is done based on the principle of coarse-to-subtle, bottom-to-top.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Sat Nov 28, 2020 3:01 pm, edited 5 times in total.
Then, the monks sang this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and rots.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.

(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
Mr. Seek
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by Mr. Seek »

rhinoceroshorn wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:38 pm
Mr. Seek wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:36 pm One statement of knowledge against another. Why bother trusting in science, and why bother trusting in sutta, when neither of these two statements, about the origin of earthquakes, lead to the cessation of stress and suffering?
The old excuse... :coffee:
Why are you under the impression that the sciency information you have access to is omniscient, or can be omniscient? Just because something is proclaimed as proven to be factual by many scientists doesn't mean it's an absolute, everlasting truth.

It's possible that this part of the sutta is a late addition. It's also possible that the Buddha really did say this. And it's possible that he was omniscient all the while, having said that statement with merely simplified language, or with the intention of making a point, I don't know. It's possible the world 2500 years ago was different?!?

I don't see why that statement is weird anyway. Earth is engulfed in water. Water is engulfed by the atmosphere. The atmosphere is engulfed by space. Great galactic winds and gravitational forces make an impact on our little planet all the time, maybe they make earthquakes too. Maybe 'water' in this context encompasses lava too, as that's a liquid, no? Doesn't the gravitational force of the moon make the water on Earth move along with it as well, for example, ebb and flow, etc.?

EIther way, it's not a statement that leads to the cessation of stress. Whoever remembered it being spoken, if it was really spoken, didn't pay attention to what he ought to have been paying attention to! :D
Snp 5.11—"Having nothing, free of clinging: That is the island, there is no other."
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rhinoceroshorn
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by rhinoceroshorn »

Coëmgenu wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:46 pm
rhinoceroshorn wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:33 pm
“There are these eight reasons, eight causes, Ānanda, for the occurrence of a great earthquake.

Which eight?

This great Earth, Ānanda, stands in the water, the water stands in the atmosphere, the atmosphere stands in space. There comes a time, Ānanda, when great winds blow, with the great winds blowing, the waters move, the waters having moved, the Earth moves. This is the first reason, the first cause for the occurrence of a great earthquake.
Please, don't try to convince me this is any right. It's obviously wrong.
How to explain this blatant error? The Buddha was not omniscient? The Buddha only knew about suffering and its end? Scribal error? Later addition (this part of the sutta is not in the equivalent Agama. Some could explain it's the Mahāyāna influence :rolleye: )?
Please vote and/or post!!
The earth stands in the water because certain rocks and/or rafts made of trees, etc., float. The water stands in the atmosphere because that is how there is mist, clouds, and rain. The atmosphere stands in space based on the previous principles just set out. None of these assertions are scientific, but each is observable in its way to an ancient person. When you don't have a sense of "gravity," what holds the cosmos together becomes the innate mutually-corresponding properties of the 4-5 mahābhūtas, such as the coarser element standing amidst the more refined and subtle element as we see in the above quote.

Earth
Water
Fire
Wind
Space

There is no "fire" in the above, but the five elements here are listed from coarse to subtle and we can see the Buddha observing this ordering in the quote.
I will be the devil's advocate:
How can you see the workings of the cosmos, expansion, retraction, beings passing away and arising in accordance with their kamma, the Brahma world, and can't explain gravity or give a better explanation about a simple earthquake? :reading:
Eyes downcast, not footloose,
senses guarded, with protected mind,
not oozing — not burning — with lust,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.
Sutta Nipāta 1.3 - Khaggavisana Sutta
Image
See, Ānanda! All those conditioned phenomena have passed, ceased, and perished. So impermanent are conditions, so unstable are conditions, so unreliable are conditions. This is quite enough for you to become disillusioned, dispassionate, and freed regarding all conditions.
Dīgha Nikāya 17
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rhinoceroshorn
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by rhinoceroshorn »

Mr. Seek wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:49 pm Why are you under the impression that the sciency information you have access to is omniscient, or can be omniscient? Just because something is proclaimed as proven to be factual by many scientists doesn't mean it's an absolute, everlasting truth.
Well, science isn't omniscient but it is able to explain how a earthquake works, and definitely it's not wind or water the cause.
I don't see why that statement is weird anyway. Earth is engulfed in water. Water is engulfed by the atmosphere. The atmosphere is engulfed by space. Great galactic winds and gravitational forces make an impact on our little planet all the time, maybe they make earthquakes too. Maybe 'water' in this context encompasses lava too, as that's a liquid, no? Doesn't the gravitational force of the moon make the water on Earth move along with it as well, for example, ebb and flow, etc.?
Even if you explain it using the properties of the mahabhutas it's wrong and highly forced. :shrug:
Eyes downcast, not footloose,
senses guarded, with protected mind,
not oozing — not burning — with lust,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.
Sutta Nipāta 1.3 - Khaggavisana Sutta
Image
See, Ānanda! All those conditioned phenomena have passed, ceased, and perished. So impermanent are conditions, so unstable are conditions, so unreliable are conditions. This is quite enough for you to become disillusioned, dispassionate, and freed regarding all conditions.
Dīgha Nikāya 17
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Ceisiwr
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by Ceisiwr »

rhinoceroshorn wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:33 pm
“There are these eight reasons, eight causes, Ānanda, for the occurrence of a great earthquake.

Which eight?

This great Earth, Ānanda, stands in the water, the water stands in the atmosphere, the atmosphere stands in space. There comes a time, Ānanda, when great winds blow, with the great winds blowing, the waters move, the waters having moved, the Earth moves. This is the first reason, the first cause for the occurrence of a great earthquake.
Please, don't try to convince me this is any right. It's obviously wrong.
How to explain this blatant error? The Buddha was not omniscient? The Buddha only knew about suffering and its end? Scribal error? Later addition (this part of the sutta is not in the equivalent Agama. Some could explain it's the Mahāyāna influence :rolleye: )?
Please vote and/or post!!
If I remember correctly this idea is found in the Upanishads, so he’s just referencing a common understanding of the time.
Paññaṃ nappamajjeyya, saccamanurakkheyya, cāgamanubrūheyya, santimeva so sikkheyyā’ti

“One should not neglect wisdom, should preserve truth, cultivate relinquishment and train for peace.”

Dhātuvibhaṅga Sutta
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rhinoceroshorn
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by rhinoceroshorn »

Ceisiwr wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 3:07 pm
rhinoceroshorn wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:33 pm
“There are these eight reasons, eight causes, Ānanda, for the occurrence of a great earthquake.

Which eight?

This great Earth, Ānanda, stands in the water, the water stands in the atmosphere, the atmosphere stands in space. There comes a time, Ānanda, when great winds blow, with the great winds blowing, the waters move, the waters having moved, the Earth moves. This is the first reason, the first cause for the occurrence of a great earthquake.
Please, don't try to convince me this is any right. It's obviously wrong.
How to explain this blatant error? The Buddha was not omniscient? The Buddha only knew about suffering and its end? Scribal error? Later addition (this part of the sutta is not in the equivalent Agama. Some could explain it's the Mahāyāna influence :rolleye: )?
Please vote and/or post!!
If I remember correctly this idea is found in the Upanishads, so he’s just referencing a common understanding of the time.
I also considered that. Hindus love to put those 5 elements everywhere. I am reading a book on Ayurveda and even food is classified like that. Sweet taste is water and earth, for example. :rolleye:
Last edited by rhinoceroshorn on Sat Nov 28, 2020 5:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Eyes downcast, not footloose,
senses guarded, with protected mind,
not oozing — not burning — with lust,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.
Sutta Nipāta 1.3 - Khaggavisana Sutta
Image
See, Ānanda! All those conditioned phenomena have passed, ceased, and perished. So impermanent are conditions, so unstable are conditions, so unreliable are conditions. This is quite enough for you to become disillusioned, dispassionate, and freed regarding all conditions.
Dīgha Nikāya 17
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Coëmgenu
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by Coëmgenu »

rhinoceroshorn wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:59 pmI will be the devil's advocate:
How can you see the workings of the cosmos, expansion, retraction, beings passing away and arising in accordance with their kamma, the Brahma world, and can't explain gravity or give a better explanation about a simple earthquake? :reading:
Well, clearly the particular workings of the cosmos that the Buddha saw was not plate tectonics!

I'll raise you something else -- why did the Buddha believe that there were four continents in four seas of diverse materials (milk, water, fire, etc.) around a golden cosmic mountain that is about one lightyear high? Because the material workings of the cosmos are unrelated to the Buddhadharma except in the most general way. You can be a Buddha and believe this stuff, because it is (was?) actually reasonable, even if it does not seem reasonable. Now, I said "reasonable," not "correct." That is my opinion. Ancient Buddhist Arhats, the Buddha himself, possibly believed in Sumeru because it was reasonable from their/his perspective. I actually suspect the Buddha did not believe in Sumeru, because I am a modern and Sumeru is a belief that smacks of Iron Age geographical naivety (right down to the four seas of diverse materials), but avoided pointlessly attacking a "good enough" system. For instance, it might seem ridiculous to believe in a sea of milk, but it happens at localized levels.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_seas_effect

All you would need to do is imagine somewhere there is an algae bloom much larger. A sea of fire can be the memory of volcanism. Sometimes these things that seem ridiculous are not that ridiculous when you put yourself in an ancient person's shoes. The "seven suns" in the Agannasutta that rain fire can be the memory of a meteor impact that broke up in the atmosphere before striking the earth. People remember disasters like that, and great volcanism, and they re-tell these stories by the fireside. I imagine many of these tales were very old in the sramana community by the time that the Buddha was involved in it.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Sat Nov 28, 2020 5:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Then, the monks sang this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and rots.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.

(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by Spiny Norman »

Obviously they didn't understand what causes earthquakes back then.

In any case, the suttas are spiritual texts, not scientific texts.
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Ceisiwr
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by Ceisiwr »

rhinoceroshorn wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 3:15 pm
I also considered that. Hindus love to put those 5 elements everywhere. I was reading a book on Ayurveda and even food is classified like that. Sweet taste is water and earth, for example. :rolleye:
Yes it’s quite common in the old texts. There is even a Upanishad that originates from the Buddha’s time which analyses the body in terms of the 4 elements in a near identical manner to what we see in the suttas. The Buddha would have known about the Vedas and the Upanishads and these ideas seem quite common to all of the religious and philosophical schools at that time. It seems to be something that is just accepted as a given. Sometimes the 4 elements seem to be described as literally material “stuff” but other times simply as “qualities”. Going back to the OP, I don’t think the Buddha was interested in if there is matter or not or scientific theories (or we should say, proto-scientific theories back then) about how the world out there functions, but more our experience and how that functions. As such I can see why he would simply accept this theory of earthquakes as a given. He probably didn’t give much thought to it at all.
Paññaṃ nappamajjeyya, saccamanurakkheyya, cāgamanubrūheyya, santimeva so sikkheyyā’ti

“One should not neglect wisdom, should preserve truth, cultivate relinquishment and train for peace.”

Dhātuvibhaṅga Sutta
Mr. Seek
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by Mr. Seek »

Coëmgenu wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 3:24 pmSometimes these things that seem ridiculous are not that ridiculous when you put yourself in an ancient person's shoes. The "seven suns" in the Agannasutta that rain fire can be the memory of a meteor impact that broke up in the atmosphere before striking the earth.
The Chinese myth of the three-legged sun crow comes to mind.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-legged_crow wrote:According to folklore, there were originally ten sun crows which settled in 10 separate suns. They perched on a red mulberry tree called the Fusang, literally meaning "the leaning mulberry tree", in the East at the foot of the Valley of the Sun. This mulberry tree was said to have many mouths opening from its branches. Each day one of the sun crows would be rostered to travel around the world on a carriage, driven by Xihe, the 'mother' of the suns. As soon as one sun crow returned, another one would set forth in its journey crossing the sky. According to Shanhaijing, the sun crows loved eating two grasses of immortality, one called the Diri, or "ground sun", and the other the Chunsheng, or "spring grow". The sun crows would often descend from heaven on to the earth and feast on these grasses, but Xihe did not like this; thus, she covered their eyes to prevent them from doing so. Folklore also held that, at around 2170 BC https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4.2_kiloyear_event, all ten sun crows came out on the same day, causing the world to burn; Houyi, the celestial archer saved the day by shooting down all but one of the sun crows. (See Mid-Autumn Festival for variants of this legend.)
Snp 5.11—"Having nothing, free of clinging: That is the island, there is no other."
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by Ceisiwr »

rhinoceroshorn wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 3:15 pm
I also considered that. Hindus love to put those 5 elements everywhere. I was reading a book on Ayurveda and even food is classified like that. Sweet taste is water and earth, for example. :rolleye:
I mean also remember that annihilationists like Ajita Kesakambali accepted the 4 elements and incorporated them into his philosophical system. They are accepted as being simple facts of the world.
Paññaṃ nappamajjeyya, saccamanurakkheyya, cāgamanubrūheyya, santimeva so sikkheyyā’ti

“One should not neglect wisdom, should preserve truth, cultivate relinquishment and train for peace.”

Dhātuvibhaṅga Sutta
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Re: DN16: How to explain this WRONG explanation about earthquakes?

Post by rhinoceroshorn »

Coëmgenu wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 3:24 pmAncient Buddhist Arhats, the Buddha himself, possibly believed in Sumeru because it was reasonable from their/his perspective. I actually suspect the Buddha did not believe in Sumeru, because I am a modern and Sumeru is a belief that smacks of Iron Age geographical naivety (right down to the four seas of diverse materials), but avoided pointlessly attacking a "good enough" system. For instance, it might seem ridiculous to believe in a sea of milk, but it happens at localized levels.
That's why I prefer to adopt the comfortable position of: The Buddha was not omniscient at all, but he discovered the path to Nibbāna which is verifiable. That itself is enough. What is not related to that can be left aside.

This (((commentarial))) notion that the Buddha was omniscient creates scenarios difficult to explain, like this one.
Last edited by rhinoceroshorn on Sat Nov 28, 2020 3:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Eyes downcast, not footloose,
senses guarded, with protected mind,
not oozing — not burning — with lust,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.
Sutta Nipāta 1.3 - Khaggavisana Sutta
Image
See, Ānanda! All those conditioned phenomena have passed, ceased, and perished. So impermanent are conditions, so unstable are conditions, so unreliable are conditions. This is quite enough for you to become disillusioned, dispassionate, and freed regarding all conditions.
Dīgha Nikāya 17
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