Arthur Schopenhauer on his famed work titled “On the suffering of the world” relate as quoted below as to how he think Buddhism's doctrine describe how the world of suffering came into being.

Are there any proper Buddhist reference to support his claims? Is in Samsara beginning-less cycle? And can there be any inexplicable disturbance in Nirvana?

According to the doctrines of Buddhism, the world came into being as the result of some inexplicable disturbance in the heavenly calm of Nirvana, that blessed state obtained by expiation, which had endured so long a time — the change taking place by a kind of fatality.

Studies in Pessimism,On the Sufferings of the World

  • Perhaps Mr. Schopenhauer had something in mind similar to this description by one of my teachers (not related to Buddhism per se): There are two real things - the Void (like shunyata), and Experience (everything that can be known). In the beginning was only the Void, but "the Void can't know itself", so it gave rise to Experience. So, the 'disturbance' is completely explicable, although we may not be able to comprehend it. I don't think that it is worthwhile to waste any effort on beginning stories like these, but they can help take the mind off of the question, by giving a plausible answer. – user2341 Jan 20 '17 at 1:14

There is a similar question here: What is the starting of Samsara?.

I would be surprised if there was any Buddhist reference supporting Schopenhauer's claim that "the world came into being as a result of some disturbance in the heavenly calm of Nirvana." To me, this statement even sounds "plain weird."

Samsara refers to two phenomena:

  1. A place
  2. The contaminated aggregates

In Buddhism, the expression "the world" might refer to either, depending on the context -- see What does the word “world” mean in the Buddhist context? In either case, although it is said that the world is produced due to karma and afflictions, it is usually said to be without beginning. There are countless traditional texts and authoritative teachings establishing this statement. Here are a few:

In Cutting the Root of Samsara, Lama Zopa Rinpoche says:

[Suffering] comes from the past karma created by the self-cherishing thought and it is also dependent on our present-life attitude as well. From beginningless rebirth, it's been like this.

The Abhidharma Sutra says:

It is said: "Though beginningless, it entails an end - What is naturally pure and consists of permanent dharmas Is not seen, since it is obscured by a beginningless cocoon[...]

The third Karmapa's commentary to it reads:

Consequently, though samsara is beginningless, once the reality[...]

There are four types of nirvana. Without going in details, nirvana is the final analytical cessation achieved in dependence upon a union of calm abiding (shamata) and special insight (actual vipassana) directly apprehending the nature of reality, emptiness. According to Mahayana, abiding nirvana is the complete and definitive abandonment of afflictive obscurations while non-abiding nirvana is the complete and definitive abandonment of afflictive and knowledge obscurations. There is no disturbance "in" nirvana.

It is definitely not like we ever abided in nirvana and subsequently "fell" from it. There is no such "genesis" in Buddhism.

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Digha Nikaya 27 https://suttacentral.net/en/dn27 is a 'Genesis' within classical Buddhist thought, and it gives a glimpse into how Samsara grows and prospers, so in a way giving people access away from it into a stable Nibbana. Bear in mind this account is one of the 62 discounted in the Brahmajala Sutta https://suttacentral.net/en/dn1 - and is therefore, in my opinion, not the core teaching of the Buddha, which is the understanding of stress, its origin, and cessation. The Buddha never claimed a beginning for Samsara. It is not 'a circle', without a beginning, but simply not evident.

"Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a father... the death of a brother... the death of a sister... the death of a son... the death of a daughter... loss with regard to relatives... loss with regard to wealth... loss with regard to disease. The tears you have shed over loss with regard to disease while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans. "Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."

(dunno the reference)

'This whole mass of suffering' starts with ignorance in the 12 links https://suttacentral.net/en/dn15

Nibbana is beyond coming and going, beyond conceptual construction, as Nagarjuna would say.

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There can not be an inexplicable disturbance in nibbana because there are no conditions with nibbana. Nibbana is an experiencial state of mind.

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  • +1. I agree and good answer. Maybe you could further improve content-quality by adding a sutta reference describing Nibbana? – Lanka Jan 19 '17 at 16:01

The Brahmanistic folk-lore in Digha Nikaya 27 is probably the closest to Arthur Schopenhauer's viewpoint. However, DN 27 does not support Schopenhauer's viewpoint because it states:

Hoti kho so, vāseṭṭha, samayo yaṃ kadāci karahaci dīghassa addhuno accayena ayaṃ loko vivaṭṭati. Vivaṭṭamānevivaṭṭa loke yebhuyyena sattā ābhassarakāyā cavitvā itthattaṃ āgacchanti. Tedha honti manomayā pītibhakkhā sayaṃpabhā antalikkhacarā subhaṭṭhāyino ciraṃ dīghamaddhānaṃ tiṭṭhanti.

There comes a time, Vāseṭṭha, when, sooner or later, after the lapse of a long, long period, this world passes away [devolves]. And when this happens, beings have mostly been reborn in [shifted to] the World of Radiance; and there they dwell, made of mind, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, traversing the air, continuing in glory; and thus they remain for a long, long period of time.

This 'Abhassara World' seems to be the purest state found in DN 27, which equates to the 2nd meditative jhana (rather than is Nibbana), for example:

Again, there is the case where an individual, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. He savors that, longs for that, finds satisfaction through that. Staying there — fixed on that, dwelling there often, not falling away from that — then when he dies he reappears in conjunction with the Abhassara devas. The Abhassara devas, monks, have a life-span of two eons. AN 4.123


Here, Udayi, the bhikkhu... abides in the second jhana...this is the... world (lokassa) of only pleasant feelings (ekantasukhassa). MN 79

Also, in this Abhassara state/world, there is the idea or perception of "beings" ("sattā"), which can only occur in 'samsaric' becoming fueled by ignorance & craving.

....beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are roaming around & wandering on.

SN 22.99


'A being (sattā),' lord. 'A being,' it's said. To what extent is one said to be 'a being'? Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for form, Radha: when one is caught up there, tied up there, one is said to be 'a being.' Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for feeling... perception... fabrications... Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for consciousness, Radha: when one is caught up there, tied up there, one is said to be 'a being.' SN 23.3

Therefore, this purest state of Abhassara in DN 27 is not Nibbana nor it is Buddhist thought. It is Brahmanistic folk-lore, as stated in the sutta, as follows:

Surely, Vāseṭṭha, the brahmins have quite forgotten the past (the ancient lore) when they say so?

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