Post on "Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27)"

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This topic contains 18 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Rishi 4 days, 10 hours ago.

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  • #21555

    Lal
    Keymaster
  • #21566

    Johnny_Lim
    Participant

    “An even in this kappa, the Gōtama Buddha Sāsana would last only 5000 years, a negligible time in terms of a kappa. This is why we should not waste this rare opportunity.”

    I think this is the most important message of this post.

    Many thanks to Lal for giving us an introduction to this intriguing sutta.

  • #21567

    Dr. J Chakma
    Participant

    This question is to Lal and actually I thought about it prior to this too.
    Out of 4 antakkappas a living being spend 3 anatakkappas (i.e. 75% time of a mahakappa) in Brahma realm (Abhassara) and enjoy jhanic pleasure. However, Buddha told this sansara is full of suffering (dukha and dukkha). So, a being even if it spent rest of the mahakappa in apayas, the being still spends 75% of time in Good realm (abhassara realm). So, theoretically a being enjoys more than it suffers.
    I am not writing this out of ignorance or asaddha (opposite of saddha), but asking this, because if someone points out this point, how do we answer or counter his/her point/question.
    I know suffering in apaya (especially niraya for even a short duration is beyond comprehension, beyond explanation in words) is too much to endure even for short duration of time.
    I hope I could put my question properly. I do not want to discourage anybody (because you can enjoy 75% of time), but trying to make picture clear.

    Metta to all and may all beings attain a magga phala.

  • #21573

    Lal
    Keymaster

    Dr. J Chakma wrote: “Out of 4 antakkappas a living being spend 3 anatakkappas (i.e. 75% time of a mahakappa) in Brahma realm (Abhassara) and enjoy jhanic pleasure. However, Buddha told this sansara is full of suffering (dukha and dukkha). So, a being even if it spent rest of the mahakappa in apayas, the being still spends 75% of time in Good realm (abhassara realm). So, theoretically a being enjoys more than it suffers.”

    That is correct.
    But as you said after that, the suffering, while it lasts, is unbearable.

    To get a perspective consider the following scenario: If one is given the opportunity to enjoy all the comforts in the world for 9 months on the condition that one would then be subjected to various forms of torture (burned alive, cut into pieces only to reassembled instantaneously and to go through the whole process again, etc) incessantly for the next 3 months, would that be acceptable?

    I don’t think one would even agree to one day of such suffering even for 9 months of luxurious living.

    P.S. I just wanted to mention a book that I read recently, which gives a good idea of what it is like in the hell (similar to the descriptions of some suttas): “A Guided Tour of Hell – A Graphic Memoir” by Samuel Bercholz (2016). He first describes an “out-of-body experience” that is similar to many given by others (seeing his body from above), but the second experience is a “trip to the hell”.

  • #21574

    y not
    Participant

    It is often stated that a human birth is very precious,primarily, but not solely,because the balance between pleasure and suffering is optimum to enable one to see into dukkha, its causes, and, with greater difficulty, into its results as also those of sukkha.

    However,living as a human during a Buddha sasana is rare. The human bhavas one lives through outside of a Buddha sasana, without ‘the Dhamma in circulation’, or without any possibility of access to it, even during a Buddha sasana, does away with the value of a human bhava. That will be the case with most, even now. One is left to one’s own devices, as high as those may be, contemplating for instance, the implications of eternity, infinity, even perhaps to getting the fleeting idea from the material world all around as analogy,that all phenomena, even mental ones ,must have causes as well as results. But there is no way one could discover by oneself all that a Buddha reveals out of his once-in-a (or so many)- kappas Purity of Mind: the 31 realms, the 4 Noble truths, Tilakkhana,PS ,the intricate details in Abhidhamma and so on.

    Therefore,on the practical side a human bhava acquires all the more value when one happens to be living through it during a Buddha sasana

    This is to emphasize once more, if there were any need for it, the supreme importance of striving when the conditions happen to be just right.

    Metta to all

  • #21592

    firewns
    Participant

    Hi my friend y not! It is good to see your post again!

    You wrote: The human bhavas one lives through outside of a Buddha sasana, without ‘the Dhamma in circulation’, or without any possibility of access to it, even during a Buddha sasana, does away with the value of a human bhava. That will be the case with most, even now. One is left to one’s own devices, as high as those may be, contemplating for instance, the implications of eternity, infinity, even perhaps to getting the fleeting idea from the material world all around as analogy,that all phenomena, even mental ones ,must have causes as well as results. But there is no way one could discover by oneself all that a Buddha reveals out of his once-in-a (or so many)- kappas Purity of Mind: the 31 realms, the 4 Noble truths, Tilakkhana,PS ,the intricate details in Abhidhamma and so on.

    The human bhava/realm is a pivotal realm, in which beings have the most power to change their destinies, especially during a Buddha Sasana. However, even outside of a Buddha Sasana, it is true too, though to a lesser extent.

    I state the above, having read that beings in the apayas have very little power to effect changes in their destinies, and think that deva and brahma beings also have little opportunities to do meritorious deeds or to develop compassion, as they encounter very little suffering in their realms.

    Outside of a Buddha Sasana, in the human realm, there could be righteous people who could be from other religions, or who live moral lives, as a result of having developed good gati. They have the opportunity to develop their paramitas, waiting for a future Buddha to come along.

    Then there are other moral individuals who can continue to develop the fertile ground to fulfill their aspirations made during any prior Buddha Sasanas. They, too, await a future Buddha.

    Hence it is important to cultivate good knowledge of Buddhadhamma, develop good gati as well as to make aspirations during a Buddha Sasana to attain Nibbana , with or without corresponding conditions attached. For example, when Sariputta and Maha Moggallana many aeons ago, at the time of the Buddha Anomadassi, were born as the brahman youth Sarada and landowner Sirivaddhaka, they made the aspiration for Chief Discipleship, and eventually became the Chief Disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha.

    Then there are the Paccekabuddhas, who realize Nibbana solely through their own efforts, but are unable teach the Dhamma. They realize their ultimate goal outside of a Buddha Sasana.

    So, even outside of a Buddha Sasana, the human bhava has its own value too, though it is of course still anatta.

  • #21593

    firewns
    Participant

    By the way, y not, I left out that I fully agree with you that we need to strive diligently when the conditions happen to be just right. (Since I started typing the previous post more than an hour ago, I thought better of editing it, and just added another post.)

  • #21596

    y not
    Participant

    May I reciprocate that friendly greeting of yours with ‘Hello, friend-in-the-Dhamma firewrns’

    I had said:”…does away with the value of a human bhava.”

    You go on: “..even outside of a Buddha Sasana, the human bhava has its own value too, though it is of course still anatta.”

    Quite true. One can still ‘prepare the groundwork’,as it were, for when a Buddha IS around in the future through moral and virtuous living. I saw only the ‘cosmic aspect’ of it as I wrote. Thank you for reminding me, and others, of this.

    This brings up another point I have been wanting to mention: why should it be that out of 10,000 stellar systems a Buddha appears only on this planet, or more precisely, on re-evolutions of it? What is so special about planet Earth? I am not comfortable with this special status of planet Earth and, all the more,that out of all those humanities, WE happen to be on it; it is true that is of no adverse consequence to the devas and brahmas on those other inhabited planets, but why should those in a human bhava here be so privileged compared to the ones on those other planets?

    Whatever the answer to that, if there is one, as we never tire of reminding ourselves and one another: let not too much importance be attached to it-just a glance to the side. The goal lies straight ahead.

    Metta

  • #21602

    Tobias G
    Participant

    There are 4 kappa: destruction, void, formation, existence. Why does it take a kappa for the destruction? A supernovae would destroy the solar system within a short time (e.g. a few days depending on the distance sun <-> earth). If the star in another solar system would first need to expand before the final supernovae blast we would not be affected during that time. But 10 billion years for the destruction phase is much. Do I missunderstand something?

  • #21603

    Tobias G
    Participant

    Lal, please see #17:
    “…There have been 30 mahā kappa without a single Buddha prior to the current mahā kappa. That is 120 billion years!…”

    A complete cycle takes 40 billion years, thus 30×40 billion = 1200 billion, right?

  • #21604

    y not
    Participant

    Tobias,

    “But 10 billion years for the destruction phase is much”

    I had not thought of that. But now that you are mentioning it…what comes to mind is that it resembles decomposition of a physical body in a way: after physical death, that body will take time to be reduced to the most basic organisms. With stars and planets, the process goes further to atomic particles; followed by re-absorption into ‘nature’ (a long process, admittedly) then the void, no processes of nature taking place. When they start taking pace, formation….etc

    There may be an analogy in the way stars convert hydrogen into helium. The hydrogen is there ‘all at once’ but the entire process takes billions of years. The ‘destruction’ is a process. I am not sure whether this analogy is an apt one.

    Metta

  • #21606

    Lal
    Keymaster

    Tobias wrote: “But 10 billion years for the destruction phase is much. Do I missunderstand something?”

    I do not want to speculate on those things. But that time starts when the Sun (or another star in the 10,000 systems) starts getting hot. If you Google you can see that it is a gradual process. Of course, the last phase of the actual supernova is very short.

    Here we are talking in terms of what is currently known to science. That picture keeps changing.

    On the other point, you are right. It should be 1200 billion years or 1.2 trillion years. I just corrected it. Thanks!

  • #21640

    Aniduan
    Participant

    Hi Lal,

    Is the Pali version of Aggañña Sutta at Sutta Central an original reliable source?(link).

    When I search of some words like “Cakkavāla”, “antakkappa” I couldn’t find them or maybe I am not searching them properly. So I am just curious what source you use as a reference for the original Pali versions of suttas.

    Thanks.

  • #21641

    Lal
    Keymaster

    Hello Aniduan,

    Yes. Aggañña Sutta does not discuss “Cakkavāla” and “antakkappa” (“world systems” and “the four phases of a kappa”).

    As I mentioned in that post, some information come from other suttas. There is no single sutta that covers all that material.

    Aggañña Sutta mainly discusses the “reverse evolution process” starting with humans with fine bodies who “descended” from brahma realms.
    – Basically, by the time their lifetime in those higher realms are exhausted, they gradually come down to lower realms, as their “hidden gati” (“anusaya”) come back.
    – With time, humans also “descend” to lower realms (such as animal realm), when the Earth also changes and vegetation suitable for animal life appear gradually. It takes multi-millions of years.
    – It is interesting to note that scientists have now traced back the appearance of bacteria to about 4 billion years ago (the age of Earth is estimated to be about 4.5 billion years).

    P.S. After bacteria came vegetation and small animals to be followed by more complex animals. So, that phase of the evolution of animals is similar to what is proposed by Darwin.
    – The main difference is that humans first appeared with fine bodies (without sex organs); their bodies got more “dense” with time; sex organs appeared next, etc.
    – Of course, the initial births of humans were “opapatika” (without coming out of a womb).
    – The complex part is that “reverse progression” of humans.

  • #22629

    vin
    Participant

    Hi Lal,

    Just discovered your website. I’m enjoying it very much. Much merit to you!

    Can you please give your references for chakkavala being the solar system and not the Milkyway Galaxy? Someone gave the latter translation a few months ago and I would like some clarity.

    Thanks,

    Vindhya

  • #22649

    Lal
    Keymaster

    Welcome to the forum, Vindhya!

    You asked: “Can you please give your references for chakkavala being the solar system and not the Milkyway Galaxy?”.

    Please see, “31 Realms Associated with the Earth” and “Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27)“.

    There are something like 250 billion stars (i.e. cakkavala) in the Milky Way galaxy according to the scientists. So, it is yet unclear how to make a direct comparison.

  • #23591

    Rishi
    Participant

    Most people read aganna sutta and see differences between the current evolution theory and the Buddhist teachings. Lal even called this a reverse evolution theory but somehow I have managed to see some similarities that I would like to mention here.

    1. Agganna sutta mentions living beings coming from Brahma realms with very fine bodies and tells the story on how the bodies became denser to become the current version. To me, it sounds like a different way of explaining how humans evolved from a single celled organism into living beings with denser bodies consisting of tissues, organs and complex Systems etc.

    2. The sutta explains how at the beginning all their needs were met without having to work hard. in my mind it equals to single celled organisms having all their needs such as food met buy the nature itself.

    3. Apart from the use of the word human everything seems to add up for me. The fact that the sutta uses the phrase humans with less dense bodies sounds like the buddha was referring to humans in a different sense than what we usually call humans. In my head it is a pre evolutionary stage of Being a human.

    4. Sometimes I Wonder If buddha used the word humans at all or was it a mistake in Translation? since I don’t know Pali it’s difficult for me to determine.

    5. Evolution says that humans appeared around million years ago. In science human is defined according to the physical aspects of Being Human. In Buddhism they may be referring to the mental aspects of being born in the human realm. Is it possible that in the age of Dinosaurs there was a certain version of living beings with similar capabilities to humans? May be not with two legs, two hands and two eyes but similar mental emotional functions and intelligence.

    Does these claims make sense to you? I would really like to know your opinion.

  • #23592

    Lal
    Keymaster

    Regarding Rishi’s comments: I may have left out some important facts about those “first humans” on this Earth. This sutta requires many posts to discuss various aspects.

    1. Those “first humans” are called “brahma kayika” because their bodies were very fine. But they had the ability travel through air, see long distances, hear things far away, etc (basically like brahmas).

    2. So, it is not possible to compare them to single-cell organisms. They had more capabilities than present-day humans.

    3. Things started going “downhill” when old “bad gati” started to come back in those early humans. With them came more and more hardships.

    4. After long times (probably hundreds of millions of years), they lost “free food” and had to grow food, for example.

    5. Furthermore, their desire for sexual relationships also cam back, and that is when the bodies got denser and sex organs started to appear. That probably took a few billions of years, but that is just a guess. No precise times are given in the sutta. Always says, “after long times”.

    6. Also, those with “very bad gati” started being born as animals gradually, again “after long times”. Same for beings in the other lower realms. They were all humans at the beginning.

    7. Therefore, any animal, peta, asura, hell being today was a human in the beginning. Thus any single cell organism living today has gone through a “downward path”.

    8. But of course, it is very likely that we had been in those lower realms too before moving up to born human again. Scientists estimate the age of the Earth to be about 4.5 billion years. That is a very long time! We are likely to have had births in most of the 31 realms many times over, especially in the lowest four realms.

    These are things to think about carefully.

  • #23593

    Rishi
    Participant

    I can see why you called it a reverse evolution now. Thanks.

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