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The Universe by Yogi C. M. Chen

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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The infant sleeps in the cradle with a net around it. When he awakens he sees the curtain and it is like the sky. The cradle is like the earth. This is all he knows. The perception of the Hindu is analogous to that of the infant. The Mundaka Upanishad states:

    "Brahma, indeed, is this immortal.
    Brahma before, Brahma behind, to the right, to the left,
    stretched forth below and above.
    Brahma, indeed, is this whole world, this widest extent."

The small child plays under a big table or a bed. His universe is not more than seven feet high. The rest of the world and heavens which are so vast, according to geographers and astronomers, mean nothing to him.

Once my son, who was then four years old, and I left the town of Yu-Shen and went to a village. It was a fine autumn day and my son pointed up to the sky and said, "The heavens go before us. It nearly reaches the village which is our goal." I looked back and smilingly replied, "The heavens follow us to the village too." Upon hearing my words, my son's small spirit was full of wondering and a smile appeared on his face. Thus the universe of a four-year old child is much like the saying of Confucius' best disciple, Yen Huei, "I looked and it seemed to become higher. I penetrated into it and it seemed to become harder. I gazed at it in front of me, yet suddenly it is behind me." These words were quoted by Chinese scholars to prove that Yen Huei understood the great Tao in the universe of Confucianism. However, Confucius was baffled by the questions of the seven year old child, Hang Tao, about the universe and because of this worshipped this child as his teacher.

The conception of the universe as seen by a poet, a scientist, and a tantric Hindu and a tantric Buddhist differs greatly.

Thomas Carew said in his song, "Ingrateful Beauty Threatened",

    Wise poet that wrote truth in tales,
    Knew her themselves through all her veils.

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) said in his poem, "The Two Voices",

    This truth within my mind rehearse:
    That is in boundless universe,
    Is boundless better, boundless worse?

Talk does not give us the right conception of the universe because the talk may be that of a madman. Robert Ruton made a similar criticism saying that all poets are mad. The two words "universe" and "boundless" are always found in scriptures of every religion, so it is familiar to all peoples but the poets don't know the real universe. This Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883) said in his work "Omar Khayyam":

    "Into this universe and why not knowing.
    Nor whence, like water willy-nilly flowing.
    And out of it as wind along the waste
    I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing."

Other poets are in actuality thinking of their own universe instead of the real universe. An example of this is Robert Browning's "Dramatic Personal" epilogue, third speaker:

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"That one face far from vanish rather grows, or decomposes, but to recompose, becomes my universe that feels and knows."

The four Vedas may be considered more than just a poem because they are praises of hymns to divinities; but if you discuss the universe in reality and the universe as related in those songs, the latter is not exactly correct. I will discuss this more later.

Geographers, it would seem, have included everything in the world on their maps, but when I pilgrimaged in Hsi-Kan I heard that an evil person had sown opium in a field which is not included on any map and so the person and that land are not under the control of the government.

Before October 12, 1492, the first voyage of Columbus, the geographers did not know that Cuba and Haiti existed. Before 1493-1496, Columbus' second voyage, it was not known that Gaudalupe, Antigua, Puerto Rico and Jamaica existed, and before 1498 even the mainland of South America was not known to geographers.

The charting of the sky is even more difficult than of the earth. If a high-powered telescope were used to the fullest, we would learn that there are some 200 trillion stars in the sky, but we can only photograph 150 million. When just using the naked eye, only 5850 can be seen.

Claudius Ptolemy (100-180 A.D.) divided the constellations into 48 seats, but now (since 1930) they are divided into 88 and of all of those stars there are only 346 which have been named.

Before Herschel discovered the seventh major planet from the sun, Uranus, on March 3, 1781, astronomers did not know of its existence. The same is true of Adams and Leverier's discovery of the eighth major planet form the sun, Neptune, on September 23,1847;and the discovery of Pluto on March 12, 1903; and William H. Pickering's discovery of planets P, S, and T not so long ago.

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Science can recognize no other religion but Buddhism. If there are any parts of the Universe still unknown or any Buddhist theories not in agreement with the prevalent scientific theories, we should await further development in science because it is an ironical law that the later the discovery the closer it accords to the findings of Buddhism. But it is as Tennyson said, "Science moves but slowly, slowly creeping on from point to point." Unfortunately, there will never be a day when every star and world known of in Buddhism is discovered by astronomers. If you wait for the proof of the universe before believing in Buddhism, you will be unsatisfied with science and remain a non-Buddhist.

In Buddhism there is knowledge of five kinds of eyes. The layman such as poets, scientists and Confucianists have flesh eyes only. Christians, Jews, Moslems, Jains, Shintoists, Sikhs, Taoists, Hindus and Zoroastrians have the eyes of the flesh and of heaven. Buddhist arhats have the eyes of wisdom in addition to the other two types while the Bodhisattvas have gone further and have the eyes of Dharma, but only Buddhas having the precious eyes of Buddhahood have five kinds of eyes with which the universe in reality is seen. The individual in each of the above groups is limited by different boundaries but it seems to them that the universe they see is limitless. Those who have the eyes of the flesh see only a little of the universe. Since there are limitations to human understanding; scientists are no exception. It is just as Thomas Henry Huxley said, "Science is nothing but trained and organized common sense, differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit and its methods differ from those of common sense only as far as the guardian's cut and thrust differs from the manner in which a savage wields his club."

The ordinary universe in Buddhism is wider than that measured by the geographers and astronomers. This universe is called Tri-sahasra-mahasahasra-loka-dhatu, a great chiliocosm. Mt. Sumeru and its seven surrounding mountains, eight seas, four continents and rim of the iron mountains form one small world. One thousand of these form a small chiliocosm, and a thousand of these small chiliocosms form a medium one, and a thousand of these form a great chiliocosm which thus consists of 1,000,000,000 small worlds. Altogether, they are only equal to the universe of the fourth dhyana rupadhatu.

The highest level of the universe perceived by the tantric Hindu is the rupadhatu with its 20 heavens. Four of the first dhyana, three of the second, three of the third, and then of the fourth. Their names are Brahmakaya, Brahmaparisadya, Brahmapurohita, Mahabrahma, Parittabha, Apramanabha, Abhasvara, Parittasubha, Apramanasubha, Subhakrtsna, Anabhraka, Punyaprasava, Brhatphala, Avrha, Atapa, Sudrsa, Sudarsana, Asanjnisattva, Akinstha, Mahamahesvara.

However, those Hindu sages who have powers equal to their God, Brahma, have heavenly eyes that cannot see beyond the brahmaloka although they can see all the heavens under it such as the heavens of desire, the world of asuras, the world of mankind, the world of animals, the world of ghosts and of hell.

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Beyond the Brahmaloka there is the formless heaven containing four worlds called Caturupabrahmaloka. Above this there is the world of the Sravaka which is one of immortality and without the three great calamities. Only those who have the eye of wisdom can see it. Next is the world of the Pratyeka Buddha and next that of the Bodhisattva who can only be seen by one who has the eyes of the Dharma. There are ten ranks of Bodhisattvahood and thus 10 levels of worlds, the first of which is called Pramudita--Joy at having overcome the former difficulties and now entering on the path to Buddhahood. Here can be seen Buddha's worlds up to 100 in number. The nine next higher ranks are in order as follows: Vimala, Prabhakari, Arcismati, Sudurjaya, Abhimukhi, Duramgama, Acala, Sadhumati, and Dharmamegha. Each level carries with it some 100 Buddha-worlds more than the proceeding one. As those at a lower level cannot see the world of the next higher level, it follows that only a Buddha can see all ten kinds of the worlds in the real universe.

Of the ten kinds of worlds, the lower six from heaven to hell (including asuras, human, animal and ghost) are in the system of ignorance--that is the area of transmigration. The other four kinds of worlds from the Sravaka to the Buddha are worlds of the system of Enlightenment which are in reality the everlasting universe. In spite of the forms of the holy mayas is reality. Therefore what is called the universal soul by the Hindus is not the goal of liberation. Furthermore, the worlds of Enlightenment are much wider than the system of ignorance.

It is said in the Avatamsaka Sutra:

    To the east of this Lotus-treasury-world there is a Buddha world ocean (ocean means unlimited vast)named Pure-lotus-excellent-radiance-adornment.
    The south of this Lotus-treasury-world there is a Buddha world ocean named Gems-moonlight-adornment-treasury.
    To the west of the Lotus-treasury-world there is a Buddha world ocean named Jewel-light-pleasure.
    To the north of this Lotus-treasury-world there is a Buddha world ocean named Full-of-lapis-lazuli-light world.
    In the southeast corner of this Lotus-treasury world there is a Buddha world ocean named Jambu-golden-crystal-banner.
    In the northwest corner of this Lotus-treasury-world there is a Buddha world ocean named Good-light world.
    In the southwest corner of this Lotus-treasury-world there is a Buddha world ocean named Pervading-light world.
    In the northeast corner of this Lotus-treasury-world there is a Buddha world ocean named Gems-light world.
    At the nadir of this Lotus-treasury-world there is a Buddha world ocean named Lotus-perfume world.
    At the zenith of this Lotus-treasury-world there is a Buddha world ocean named Various-gems-lights ocean.

All of the above ten directions are called one-fold of worlds. Besides this fold of worlds there is another fold mentioned in the same sutra as follows:

    To the east of this saha world (the world we are living in) there is a world named Secret Instruction.
    To the south of this saha world there is a world named Boldest.
    To the west of this saha world there is a world named Forsake the Impurity.
    To the north of this saha world there is a world named Jewel Insight.
    In the northeast corner of this saha world there is a world named Ahni.
    In the southeast corner of this saha world there is a world named Benefit.
    In the southwest corner of this saha world there is a world named Rare.
    In the northwest corner of this saha world there is a world named Contentment.
    At the nadir of this saha world there is a world named Renounce the Rolling Rice.
    At the zenith of this saha world there is a world named Liberating Voice.
    These are the twelve worlds of the zenith. It is said in the same sutra:

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    Beyond the easterly direction Buddha worlds in the dust number of ten Buddha lands there is a world named Golden Color.
    Beyond the southerly direction Buddha worlds in the dust number of ten Buddha lands is a world named Pleasure Color.
    Beyond the westerly direction Buddha worlds in the dust number of ten Buddha lands there is a world named Flower Color.
    Beyond the northerly direction Buddha worlds in the dust number of ten Buddha lands there is a world named Jambu (rose apple) Color.
    Beyond the northeastern corner Buddha worlds in the dust number of ten Buddha lands there is a world named Yellow-Gold Color.
    Beyond the southwestern corner Buddha worlds in the dust number of ten Buddha lands there is a world named Gem Color.
    Beyond the northwestern corner Buddha worlds in the dust number of ten Buddha lands there is a world named Vajra Color.
    Beyond the nadir Buddha worlds in dust number of ten Buddha lands there is a world named Crystal Color.
    Beyond the zenith Buddha worlds in the dust number of ten Buddha lands there is a world named True Color.

There are altogether 20 folds of Buddha worlds on nadir and zenith, eleven folds of Buddha worlds all around, each fold containing ten Buddha worlds and each Buddha world contains five folds of worlds, one is the world, the second is the nature of worlds, the third is the ocean of worlds, the fourth is the class of worlds, the last is the just Buddha worlds.

Here I translate only a few of the Buddha worlds from a medium size edition of the Avatamsaka Sutra. The universe of Buddha is described further in the great edition of Avatamsaka than is found in this medium edition I am translating from. All these worlds are the abode of only Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya, as the abode of Dharmakaya is called realm-of-eternal-rest-and-light which has no form nor direction. It is wider than those Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya. All the previous quotations concerned only with size or space of the Buddhist universe. As for time, it states in the same sutra:

The time of one kalpa (a very long time for which there is a method of calculation in Buddhism) in this saha world is equal to one day and one night in the Pleasure world. Again, one kalpa in Pleasure world is equal to one day and one night in Holy-addressed-pennant world. Again, one kalpa in Holy-addressed-pennant world is equal to one day and one night in Unreturn-sound-wheel world. Again, one kalpa in Unreturn-sound-wheel world is equal to one day and one night in Renounce-impurity world. Again, one kalpa in Renounce-impurity world is equal to one day and one night in the Beyond world. Again, one kalpa in Beyond world is equal to one day and one night in Adornment-wisdom world. Again, one kalpa in Adornment-wisdom world is equal to one day and one night in Mirror-Light world. Again, one kalpa in that world which passes through one hundred myriad Asankhya worlds, being the last world, is equal to one day and one night in Victorious Lotus world.

Alas! How wide is the Buddhist universe without boundary? How long is the Buddhist universe without end? It is material yet spiritual. It is spiritual yet material. It is material but not in the same sense of the human elements in the system of ignorance. It is spiritual but not of the heavenly spirit in the system of ignorance. It is a mixture of holy elements and excellent wisdom in the system of Buddhist Enlightenment.

The conception of universe of a scientist is limited to his human understanding. That of a poet is only a statement, just like the idea of Plato which is unobtainable; that of the Vedas may be reached by the good practitioner of tantric Hinduism after death but may be lost again when Brahma wants to emit him out into creation, as they say. The conception of the universe of Buddhism can be reached in this lifetime by practicing the secret methods of tantric Buddhism without it ever being lost.

It is written in the Avatamsaka Sutra, "He who develops his Bodhi-heart desires to comprehend that the subtle worlds are equal to the gross worlds, the lesser worlds are equal to the greater worlds, the wide worlds are equal to narrow worlds, the one world is equal to the many worlds, and the many worlds may go into the one world, the one world may become the many worlds and that the impure world is the pure world and the pure world is the impure world; and that in one pore one can see all the worlds and in all the worlds one can see one pore; and that one world produces all the worlds and all the worlds are like the sky."

It also states, "The Bodhisattva should go into the following ten kinds of worlds: the impure world, the pure world, the small world, the middle world, the dust-like world, the subtle world, the up-looking world, the down-looking world, the Buddha world, the non-Buddha world. He has the power to go to these ten kinds of worlds."

My good readers, please try to think of the Buddhist universe and review Chapter 2 of "Discriminations Between Buddhist and Hindu Tantras" where the microcosm and macrocosm are discussed. You will know that the macrocosm of tantric Buddhism is like the sea and the macrocosm of tantric Hinduism is like a hair only.

Source

By Yogi C. M. Chen
yogichen.org