'Life-bearing Orbs'

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Wayfarer
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'Life-bearing Orbs'

Post by Wayfarer » Wed Mar 25, 2020 5:53 am

I've read about Mahayana cosmology that says there are countless 'life-bearing orbs' - i.e. other planets - scattered throughout the Universe. Part of this mythology (if that's what it is!) is that the Buddha/s appear on other worlds. I even recall reading about a scripture where the Buddha 'recalls' Manjusri from another world.

I would be very interested to know what the sources are for these accounts. Are they Mahayana sutras or commentaries? Any books or references appreciated.

:namaste:
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: 'Life-bearing Orbs'

Post by jake » Wed Mar 25, 2020 10:07 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 5:53 am
I've read about Mahayana cosmology that says there are countless 'life-bearing orbs' - i.e. other planets - scattered throughout the Universe. Part of this mythology (if that's what it is!) is that the Buddha/s appear on other worlds. I even recall reading about a scripture where the Buddha 'recalls' Manjusri from another world.

I would be very interested to know what the sources are for these accounts. Are they Mahayana sutras or commentaries? Any books or references appreciated.

:namaste:
I'll have to check, but I recall this being mentioned in the Avatamsaka Sutra. I've got a copy here and will find the relevant chapters later today.

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Re: 'Life-bearing Orbs'

Post by tingdzin » Wed Mar 25, 2020 7:56 pm

the Mahayana sutras, and especially the Avatamasaka, are based in a vision of the cosmos far broader than the prevailing cosmologies of their day. For sources, any commentaries or academic writings on the Avatamsaka should provide plenty of information.

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Re: 'Life-bearing Orbs'

Post by jake » Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:55 am

jake wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 10:07 am
I'll have to check, but I recall this being mentioned in the Avatamsaka Sutra. I've got a copy here and will find the relevant chapters later today.
I've thumbed through Cleary's The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of The Avatamsaka Sutra. https://tinyurl.com/s7cbak6

Chapter One mentions things similar to what you reference, there are numerous other allusions and mentions as well (1643 pg book).
Cleary 1993, pg 56 wrote:At that time, the Buddha, the World Honored One, in this setting attained to supreme, correct awareness of all things. His knowledge entered into all times with complete equanimity; his body filled all worlds; his voice universally accorded with all lands in the ten directions. Like space, which contains all forms, he made no discrimination among all objects. And, as spaces extends everywhere, he entered all lands with equanimity. His body forever sat omnipresent in all sites of enlightenment. Among the host of [bodhisattvas], his light shone clearly, like the sun emerging, illumining the world. The ocean of myriad virtues which he practiced in all times was thoroughly pure, and he constantly demonstrated the production of all the buddha-lands, their boundless forms and spheres of light extending throughout the entire cosmos, equally and impartially.
There are a number of other examples I can cite if it's helpful.

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Re: 'Life-bearing Orbs'

Post by Wayfarer » Thu Mar 26, 2020 10:45 am

Thanks Jake - actually I have that translation. I must admit, I have been a bit daunted by the depth of it, but now you've pointed that out, I will take another look.
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Re: 'Life-bearing Orbs'

Post by jake » Thu Mar 26, 2020 11:32 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 10:45 am
Thanks Jake - actually I have that translation. I must admit, I have been a bit daunted by the depth of it, but now you've pointed that out, I will take another look.
I find it difficult because of it's density and length but also the somewhat archaic choices the translator has made.

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Re: 'Life-bearing Orbs'

Post by Aemilius » Fri Mar 27, 2020 10:39 am

There are previous related discussions, like viewtopic.php?f=77&t=8503
and viewtopic.php?f=63&t=15066
and viewtopic.php?f=36&t=21978
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)

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Re: 'Life-bearing Orbs'

Post by Aemilius » Fri Apr 03, 2020 4:57 pm

I'll try to give a proper answer, there is a book Buddhist Cosmology; Science and Theology in the Images of Motion and Light, by W. Randolph Kloetzli, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 2007.
Many canonical sources are referred to in it, too numerous to enumerate, an interesting one is for example Anguttara 1.227. If you have The Book of Gradual Sayings you can look it up.

Sravasti Dhammika says in Guide to Buddhism A 2 Z:
"Extraterrestrial life
People of different cultures have long believed that beings of various types - gods, angels, spirits, etc., - have existed beyond the Earth, usually in a place called heaven. Since the development of modern astronomy and after a more realistic knowledge of the universe became widespread, people have speculated about whether there could be life, even intelligent life, on other planets. In the Acchariya abbhuta dhamma Sutta, the Buddha spoke of `the black, gloomy regions of darkness, between the world systems, where the light of our moon and sun, powerful and majestic though they are, cannot reach' or what we would call intergalactic space. Then he said that there are beings there (M.III,123-4)..."
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)

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Re: 'Life-bearing Orbs'

Post by Malcolm » Fri Apr 03, 2020 5:22 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Fri Apr 03, 2020 4:57 pm
In the Acchariya abbhuta dhamma Sutta, the Buddha spoke of `the black, gloomy regions of darkness, between the world systems, where the light of our moon and sun, powerful and majestic though they are, cannot reach' or what we would call intergalactic space. Then he said that there are beings there (M.III,123-4)..."
This actually refers to the oceans.

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Re: 'Life-bearing Orbs'

Post by Aemilius » Sat Apr 04, 2020 9:08 am

I don't think so. It says "between the world systems", it clearly refers to the darkness of space. The Abhidharma or atleast Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakoshabhashyam knows that there are vast distances between the four continent worlds. Vasubandhu gives the distance in millions of yojanas. It isn't quite enough to the nearest star Proxima Centauri, but it shows that they knew that there are great distances between the four continent worlds in a great chiliocosm.

Acchariya abbhuta sutta: “I heard and learned this from the Blessed One’s own lips: ‘When the Bodhisatta passed away from the Tusita heaven and descended into his mother’s womb, then a great immeasurable light surpassing the splendor of the gods appeared in the world with its gods, its Māras, and its Brahmās, in this generation with its recluses and brahmins, with its princes and its people. And even in those abysmal world interspaces of vacancy, gloom, and utter darkness, where the moon and the sun, mighty and powerful as they are, cannot make their light prevail – there too a great immeasurable light surpassing the splendor of the gods appeared. And the beings born there perceived each other by that light: “So other beings, indeed, have appeared here.” And this ten-thousandfold world system shook and quaked and trembled, and there too a great immeasurable light surpassing the splendor of the gods appeared.’ This too I remember as a wonderful and marvelous quality of the Blessed One."
(translation of Bhikkhu Ñanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi)

A similar passage with interesting further details appears in the Lotus of the True Law, Chapter 7, Ancient Devotion, tr. of H. Kern:
"Then, monks, as the Lord Mahâbhigñâgñanâbhibhû, the Tathâgata Arhat Samyak Sambuddha, reached supreme, perfect enlightenment, fifty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of (world-)spheres in each of the ten directions of space were shaken in six different ways and became illumined with a great lustre. And in the intervals between all those (world-)spheres, in the dreary places of dark gloom, where even the sun and moon, so powerful, mighty, and splendid, have no advantage of the shining power they are endowed with, have no advantage of the colour and brightness they possess, even in those places a great lustre arose instantly. And the beings who appeared in those intervals behold each other, acknowledge each other, (and exclaim): Lo, there are other beings also here appearing! lo, there are other beings also here appearing! The palaces and aerial cars of the gods in all those spheres up to the Brahma-world shook in six different ways and became illumined with a great lustre, surpassing the divine majesty of the gods. So then, monks, a great earthquake and a great, sublime lustre arose simultaneously. And the aerial cars of the Brahma-angels to the east, in these fifty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of spheres, began excessively to glitter, glow, and sparkle in splendour and glory. And those Brahma-angels made this reflection: What may be foreboded by these aerial cars so excessively glittering, glowing, and sparkling in splendour and glory? Thereupon, monks, the Brahma-angels in the fifty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of spheres went all to each other's abodes and communicated the matter to one another."
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)

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