I am agnostic (which can mean, literally, "without knowing") of an even older race's existence.
Some (many) people understand the Agañña Sutta to be a "parody", of contemporary Brahmanical texts -- see e.g. this answer, or this answer.
There are suttas which mention "no discernible beginning"; and which list "unanswered questions".
See also "akalika" -- i.e. the dhamma being timeless, immediate.
The various historical theories seem to me plausible (or well-argued and widely-agreed by experts given the archaeological evidence ... but not, so far as I know, very relevant to Buddhism), e.g.:
- The Buddha lived about 2,500 years ago
- The most recent glacial period ended about 10,000 years ago
- Anatomically modern humans have existed for about 100,000 years (but modern behaviour including language and "stone age" tools for only about 50,000 years), contemporary with the most recent ice age
What about the stories mentioned in the scripts that talk about kingdoms and civilizations with humans with a life expectancy of about 60000/200000 years and etc. those civilizations couldn't have existed according to modern belief.
You're asking about this kind of thing: First antarakalpa (Buddhist cosmology).
I see that the suttas this comes from (e.g. DN 17 and DN 26 and DN 14) aren't translated on Access to Insight.
Here is a comment on how the translator/editor selected which suttas to include on Access to Insight:
The emphasis here is on practice. For the most part I selected books, articles, and sutta translations that I personally found helpful to develop a better understanding of the Buddha's teachings, rather than texts that tend to fuel intellectual debates on abstract philosophical concepts.
Your question asked "Do we as Buddhists have an answer, considering we believe in an even older human race's existence?" --
- I think it's possible for Buddhists to not have that belief (being "agnostic" means you also don't have to deny or contradict the belief)
- If I answer your question about "we", I don't or didn't mean to answer that everyone believes or doesn't believe as explained in this answer. I don't doubt there are some Buddhists who "believe", who may try to reconcile it with (explain it in the language of) modern science, perhaps using words like "other solar systems" or "other universes" etc.
My initial (school) training is more-or-less as a Physicist. My opinion is that every time I see people try to relate Buddhism to Physics, they're wrong (i.e. confused) -- but people do try, you can see it sometimes on this site, trying to relate Buddhism to Einstein's relativity, or to quantum mechanics.
Anyway I think that in general Buddhism describes human perception and psychology (how we feel about the world, how we think, subjective), and sociology (ethics in society), and philosophy (what "good" is, and which are the better "views") ... none of which is in the domain of Physics.
So, I assume that the Agañña Sutta (if it's worth considering at all) is saying something about Buddhism, about human experience (psychological being), and not about Physics (form, astronomy, geology, species etc.). For example maybe the sutta is about the experiences of a single human, and the "long lifetime" at the beginning might be some memory of how the days seemed long when you were young, or something like that.
Anyway, have you read the Agañña Sutta? Does it read to you like a story that you're meant to take literally?
Being from a non-Buddhist background I'm accustomed to reading stories, which aren't meant to be literally true, but which are meant to convey a lesson; including:
- Christian parables
- Muslim pedagogic anecdotes
- Children's tales and fables from all over the world, every times and place, e.g. here and here, and these from Ancient Greece whose author lived maybe just a generation before the Buddha.
- I'm inclined to put the Jataka tales in the same category, and some of the (prose) tales in the commentaries (e.g. this one) which illustrate the Dhammapada.
Have you read the Rigveda and the Upanishads? It seems to me that the Agañña Sutta is of that style:
- Told to Brahmins
- Using a literary style (a "creation myth") which the Brahmins would be familiar with, and which were even part of their trade (wasn't it the Brahmins' job, i.e. their social responsibility and privilege, to study and teach this kind of myth)
- Adapted to convey (or teach) Buddhist values, including some lesson about desire and food and impermanence, and other concerns like that which we know of from other less fanciful, more straightforward suttas.
Takes the story of "the fox and the crow and the cheese". It's an OK story, about flattery, and getting distracted, and loss, and not sharing; it would be missing the point, IMO, to assume that there must have been a (physical) world in which animals could talk to each other like humans do (it's a fictional world).
Anyway, that's my opinion, in more detail.
I'd like to say this, if I may, in answer to this question, but without wanting to disrespect other Buddhist suttas, about the four noble truths and three jewels and so on.