Thread: Meaningful Myth and Buddhist Cosmology

  1. #1

    Meaningful Myth and Buddhist Cosmology

    This is a talk which was given by Ajahn Amaro at Amaravati Monastery UK.

    Gods, demons & kind spirits ,meaningful myth and Buddhist Cosmology

    https://www.amaravati.org/audio/gods...ist-cosmology/

    He says that Buddhist cosmology can be seen as actual realms of existence, or as symbolic of different mental states.

    He also said towards the end of the talk, that the Forest ajahns would talk about rebirth in terms of psychological states.

    Well worth a listen!

  2. #2
    Listening to this again today, because I find it so absorbing!


  3. #3
    Here's a very interesting article on the same subject, by Ajahn Punnadhammo:

    The View from Mount Meru

    https://www.lionsroar.com/the-view-from-mount-meru/

  4. #4
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    I like the View article when it says, "In the end, Buddhist scholars decided that the details of the cosmol­ogy were not essential to the core teachings of suffering and the end of suffering." How much better than a protracted rear-guard action such as the one played out, and still being played out, in Christianity. Recognise stories for what they are, stories which inspired generation after generation of Buddhists, and well worth a look at to get a better understanding when studying any texts arising from that time. I used to teach creation myths from different cultures, and I still re-read some of them from time to time. Like any inspiring work of art, they don't have to tell an absolute 'truth' to be of value.

  5. #5
    I'm adding another article to the topic, its from Bhikkhu Sujato's blog a few years ago:

    "On the interpretation of Buddhist myth"

    https://sujato.wordpress.com/2010/03...buddhist-myth/


    Any further comments about the talk #1, or the articles #3 & #5 ?


  6. #6
    Forums Member trusolo's Avatar
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    Both articles are excellent! I have seen the talk earlier but I will have to see it again. Phil can shed some more light on this since he has studied and taught this but from what I know of Jung’s work, these stories are in line with how our unconscious mind and dream state work - through instinctual imagery. It is interesting that I was lurking on another theravada forum and there was a long debate on Buddhist cosmology and its relevance (which got derailed pretty quickly).

    I seriously doubt even a few hundred years after Buddha people actually believed the full cosmological picture in detail. By 100 AD onwards, there was quite sophisticated progress in astronomy (used for astrology but nevertheless..) and mathematics. Why some people want things to be literally true I don’t understand because it doesn’t diminish the teachings even one bit. At some point this kind of soul searching (to use a colloquial phrase) will have to be done even for abhidhamma - keep some things and revise some of it based on new findings. That will be one fiery debate.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by trusolo
    Phil can shed some more light on this since he has studied and taught this but from what I know of Jung’s work, these stories are in line with how our unconscious mind and dream state work - through instinctual imagery.
    Sorry trusolo - but I'm quite confused in connection with what you're saying about Phil , what is it that he's studied and taught?... Jung? Buddhist cosmology.....?

  8. #8
    Forums Member trusolo's Avatar
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    creation myths and similar literature and stories have similar themes of light vs dark, birth and death, transformation and rebirth, transmuting personalities to higher nobler states etc. I just thought Phil might have studied these connections because they all metaphorically point to unease leading to a journey, fighting obstacles in various exotic realms and finally a rebirth and peace. At least thats how I view them.
    Unless he was talking about strictly creation of the world stories then my claim would be misplaced.
    Last edited by trusolo; 08 May 20 at 18:31.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by trusolo View Post
    creation myths and similar literature and stories have similar themes of light vs dark, birth and death, transformation and rebirth, transmuting personalities to higher nobler states etc. I just thought Phil might have studied these connections because they all metaphorically point to unease leading to a journey, fighting obstacles in various exotic realms and finally a rebirth and peace. At least thats how I view them.
    Unless he was talking about strictly creation of the world stories then my claim would be misplaced.
    Oh, I didn't realise you were refering to when he was a primary school teacher. My apologies!



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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    Oh, I didn't realise you were refering to when he was a primary school teacher. My apologies!


    Hi guys. Yes, I used to teach them as part of the RE Primary curriculum, for 9-10yr olds. 'Creation Myths from different cultures' was a half-term's work. I had complete freedom to choose which myths my children looked at, so over the years I studied quite a number. They got me thinking about the mindset of those cultures the stories arose from and what they might all have in common. Trusolo had it right in that there were journeys that individuals could apply to themselves, although a few were just wonderful stories in themselves. I always used them for my own studies into the Dharma, in that I could look at Buddhist mythology in a similar way. Stories to be used, or stories to be wondered at, or any combination.

    I never judged any stories with the children but presented them as things that people had used or believed in at different times and in different places. Mostly I would say "If you were ... then this is what you believed" and if talking about current beliefs, "If you are ... then this is what is part of that religion." So that's how I approached Buddhist mythology. No value judgements, but look at them in the context of the society at the time and their particular take on Buddhism, and as works of art. As at school, not accepting or rejecting but experiencing, and certainly not comparing them with evolution or scientific descriptions of how the universe came about. Scientific explanations were for when I taught them science.

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