Thursday, September 4, 2008

How Human Life Began (Creation Myths)

(photos 1&2)
A Buddhist Genesis

There are many creation myths as all cultures found the need to explain their origins. Buddhism differs from most explanations in that it does not posit an ultimate beginning. Rather, things are cyclical. The universe arises and passes away. On arising, it passes through stages. The most recent stage was commented on by Shakyamuni Buddha. This came to form the Agganna Sutra (PDF, UrbanDharma) or "Discourse on Origins."

The Buddha, as he was wont to do, used this as an opportunity to teach the Dharma. He focused on the importance of virtue and skillfulness in actions (karma). This discourse is sometimes referred to as a "Buddhist Genesis." It should be understood in the context of Buddhist cosmology and timespan rather than mistaking it for a document on the beginning of all things or as a creation of any single being (i.e., intelligent design).

Discourse on Origins
The Dialogue Primeval (DN 27)
Albert J. Edmunds (translator)

O, Vâsetthâ, there is a season, at vast intervals in the lapse of time, when this world is dissolved; and upon the world's dissolution, the inhabitants are mostly brought together in the heaven of the Radiant, and there they dwell for a long, long period, mind-made, feed[ing] on joy, self-resplendent, traversing the sky, and abiding in goodness.

Again, there is a season, at vast intervals in the lapse of time, when this world is re-evolved; and upon the world's evolution, people disappear from the host of the Radiant and come down hither. And they are mind-made, feeders on joy, self-resplendent, traversing the sky, and abiding in goodness. [And so] do they dwell for a long, long period.

Now at that season there is gloom and darkness universally: moon and sun are known not; stars and constellations are not known; nor night and day, nor month and fortnight, nor seasons of the year. Women and men are known not, but people say: "Sentient beings only are considered."

Now for those beings there arises, after a vast interval in the lapse of time, a savory earth everywhere upon the water. Even as the tree of paradise on high is to a self-restrained one who is reaching Nirvâna, such does it appear. It was endowed with color, scent, and savor like unto ghee and butter: such was its color. And even as a little honey undefiled, such was its taste. Then some luxurious person saying, "Oh! What can this be?" tasted with his finger the savory earth, and as soon as he had done so, craving therefore became clothed and entered in. Others also, following the example of that being, tasted the savory earth with a finger. When they had done so, craving became clothed and entered in. More >>
Top Ten Creation Myths
Tom X. Chao and Anthony Duignan-Cabrera (

Several parents won a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania school district in 2005 that had added the controversial theory of "intelligent design" to its curriculum. Unlike the theory of evolution which is taught at most schools as a fact-based science, "intelligent design" -- as argued by the plaintiffs -- was nothing more than a philosophy predicated on the Judeo-Christian belief that the logical sequences found in nature are not random happenings or surprising mutations, but deftly managed events created by a greater omniscient and omnipresent intelligence with a specific plan. In short, the work of God. A federal judge thought otherwise.

But therein lies the rub: Which god? When the founding fathers established the Constitution of the United States, they chose to include the separation of church and state. This was to ensure that the state-sanctioned religious persecutions that plagued much of Europe during the 16th century would not despoil the young, yet grand experiment in democracy that was to become this Republic.

Scientific research has come a long way since Charles Darwin first posited the concept of "natural selection." In the intervening years, humanity has learned much about how we became the dominant species on the planet, how the Earth and the solar system were formed and the ever-changing development of the Universe. Over that time, how we understand the theory of evolution has also changed.

Scientists now think that there is an intrinsic logic to our reality, that there are absolutes, laws of nature. Much remains a mystery, and as one question is answered, many others arise. The question that faced Pennsylvania's Dover School District was whether or not the imposition of one creation belief on a multi-ethnic, secular student body is in keeping with the law that prohibits the creation of a state religion. If they allow one belief system to be taught, surely they must also teach others?

To help out with this dilemma, LiveScience presents a list of those Creation Myths that helped define civilizations both past and present... More >>

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