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Buddhism's Viewpoint On The Universe

The First Cause

The origin of the universe is a controversial issue often debated and confused. Theism results from the suffering arising from this uncertainty. Each theistic doctrine exclusively claims a deity responsible for the creation of the universe. These deities include Brahma, Allah, Jehovah, and God. Humans cannot understand the nature of these deities. These deities’ abilities to create, to save, and to punish cannot be understood by humans. Regarding these deities, human logic does not apply; humans can only have faith and accept the deities.

That faith is a source of comfort, a mental tranquilizer to alleviate the stress, confusion, and suffering of the uncertainty above. These deities created by man have hindered mankind’s understanding. Primitive people, upon experiencing strange natural phenomena, could not scientifically explain these phenomena and simply attributed them to the supernatural deities. Winds are the result of a passing wind god. Floods result from the rage of a water god. If science accepted these explanations, then how could science progress to explain through cause and effect that winds result from atmospheric activity, that floods result from excessive water flow?

Buddhism declares that there is no origin to the universe. The concept of an origin is illogical and attempts to compensate for our ignorance. If we understood Buddhism, then we would see that the concept of an origin is incredible, ridiculous, and not worthy of controversy or confusion. According to Buddhism, all phenomena are in a constant state of change, of becoming and of annihilation. The existence and destruction of these phenomena have both causes and conditions. The becoming of a phenomenon is not the result of a singular cause, but instead also relies on numerous other conditions. These conditions too do not spontaneously arise. They too are the results of numerous other conditions. Hence, a phenomenon is dependent (whether directly or indirectly) on all the phenomena of the universe.

To speak of a phenomenon in this sense refers to an actual chain of phenomena. When speaking of a phenomenon, we are actually referring to its birth, its development, its degradation, and its destruction.

To experience birth, development, degradation, and destruction does not result in change, but rather change results in birth, development, degradation, and destruction. A "phenomenon" is not simply a singular phenomenon, but rather a chain of phenomena because the phenomenon a moment later is not the same phenomenon as it was a moment ago. Similarly, we often claim that before the existence of a phenomenon, it did not exist. Actually, the phenomenon had already existed through its constituent predecessors; we simply could not recognize it with our superficial perspective.

A friend of mine had assembled a bicycle in Saigon back in 1945, of Dur-Ford brand, costing VN$400. That bicycle was old and broken down, and it had undergone several repairs, including its spokes, rims, wheels, and tires. He even replaced the handlebars, and just when the frame broke, he discarded it to a corner of his patio and did not use it anymore. He points to it and tells me, "That is a bicycle that I bought in Saigon back in 1945 for $400." He does not realize the changes that the bicycle had undergone and insists that the bicycle today is one and the same with that of 12 years ago. He should realize that during the course of change by the bicycle that the bicycle tomorrow is different from the bicycle from yesterday and furthermore that the bicycle of the following moment is different from the bicycle of a moment ago.

Even worse is that he recognizes that the bicycle only started to exist the moment he bought it and ceases to exist after its frame broke. He does not realize that the bicycle existed before he bought it and had always existed through its causes and conditions. He also does not realize that it continues to exist despite its broken frame and defects, back in the corner of his patio. The bicycle lies there and continues to change to perpetuate its chain of cause and effect, interacting with innumerable other objects. It’s possible that my friend’s child could remove the bell to place it on the child’s bicycle. His nephew or niece could remove the pin and sharpen it into something else. It’s possible that the remaining scrap metal may one day become some other metallic tool.

My friend sees it only as an unchanging bicycle, but in reality, it is a constantly changing phenomenon, in which one of its states is a "bicycle." That is the first misconception. My friend, because of his "selfish" perspective, sees the bicycle as only existent during his time of use and nonexistent before and after that short interval of time. This misconception of being and nonbeing is the second misconception.

Everyone shares these two misconceptions.

Everything changes, and as a result, becomes, changes, degrades, and expires. As a result, we believe everything as either existent or nonexistent. Our perception of being and nonbeing results from the innumerable arising and expirations of phenomena. In reality, these phenomena simply succeed each other and arise dependent on their interactions. The notion of being and nonbeing is simply an illusion of our deluded minds—nothing more, nothing less. Thus, being and nonbeing is simply an illusion arising out of the endless arising and expiration of phenomena. We see things as "existent" when conditions result in a phenomenon; we see things as "nonexistent" when those conditions have deteriorated.

We use various words to describe and identify phenomena and believe them to be constant and unchanging. In reality, nothing is constant and unchanging, and yet we see everything as arising and expiring, as having a beginning and ending, forcing our minds to find their cause

Chánh Thiện

  1. Ngài Ma Ha Ca Diếp - Ma-Ha Ca-Diep
  2. Ngài A Nan Ðà - A Nan Da
  3. Ngài Nguyên Thiều - NguyenThieu
  4. Ngài Liễu Quán - LieuQuan
  5. Bốn Sự Thật Cao Thượng(Tứ Diệu Ðế) - The Four Noble Truths
  6. Mười Hai Nhân Duyên (Thập nhị nhân duyên) - The Principle of The Dependent Origination (Paticca samuppada)
  7. Tám Chánh Ðạo - The Eight-Fold Noble Path
  8. Kinh Mười Ðiều Thiện - The Sutra of The Ten good deeds
  9. Thiện Ác Nghiệp Báo  - Karma
  10. Sáu Ðộ - The Six Perfections
  11. Phép Quán Tưởng và Niệm Phật - The Methods of Meditating on Buddha
  12. Bát Quan Trai - The Eight Retreat Precepts
  13. Phật Giáo Việt Nam Từ Ðời Trần đến Cận Ðại - Buddhism in Vietnam from The Tran Dynasty to Present
  14. Tình Thần Không Chấp Thủ, Tinh Thần Tùy Duyên Bất Biến
  15. Phật Giáo Là Triết Học Hay là Một Tôn Giáo?
  16. Quan Ðiểm Của Phật Giáo Về Con Người - Vấn Ðề Tâm Vật Trong Ðạo Phật -  Buddhist viewpoint On Human Beings. About Spirit and Matter In The Buddhism
  17. Quan Ðiểm Của Phật Giáo Về Vũ Trụ - Vấn Ðề Nguyên Nhân Ðầu Tiên - Buddhism's Viewpoint ON The Universe The First Cause