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Why is there something instead of nothing?

Why there are clothes , why food , why shelter , why surprise , why anger , why love , why disgust , why father , why mother , why child, why atom , why Einstein , why Buddha and also why Universe?

Buddha said sabbe sankhara anicca (all conditioned things are impermanent) ... therefore all things, whether tangible or intangible are anicca (impermanent) but why? Why not nothing? No conditionality ever?

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    Such a long, thoughtful list and you never mentioned taxation.
    – user17652
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 4:46
  • I think in physics its called as anthrophic principle en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 5:16
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    Is this a question about Buddhism (doctrine or practice)?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 14:04

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This sounds like the type of philosophical questions that is mentioned in the Acintita Sutta:

Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

You just cannot speculate on things like this. It will make you mad, says the Buddha.

It also doesn't help with the path to end suffering - see Parable of the Poisoned Arrow. This means such type of questioning has no practical value.

From MN 63:

“Here, venerable sir, while I was alone in meditation, the following thought arose in my mind: ‘These speculative views have been left undeclared by the Blessed One…If he does not declare these to me, then I will abandon the training and return to the low life.’ If the Blessed One knows ‘the world is eternal,’ let the Blessed One declare to me ‘the world is eternal’; if the Blessed One knows ‘the world is not eternal,’ let the Blessed One declare to me ‘the world is not eternal.’ If the Blessed One does not know either ‘the world is eternal’ or ‘the world is not eternal, ’ then it is straightforward for one who does not know and does not see to say: ‘I do not know, I do not see.’

“If the Blessed One knows ‘the world is finite,’…‘the world is infinite,’…‘the soul is the same as the body,’…‘the soul is one thing and the body another,’…‘after death a Tathāgata exists,’ …’after death a Tathāgata does not exist,’…If the Blessed One knows ‘after death a Tathāgata both exists and does not exist,’ let the Blessed One declare that to me; if the Blessed One knows ‘after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist,’ let the Blessed One declare that to me. If the Blessed One does not know either ‘after death a Tathāgata both exists and does not exist’ or ‘after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist,’ then it is straightforward for one who does not know and does not see to say: ‘I do not know, I do not see.’”

“How then, Mālunkyāputta, did I ever say to you: ‘Come, Mālunkyāputta, lead the holy life under me and I will declare to you “the world is eternal”…or “after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist”’?”—“No, venerable sir.”—“Did you ever tell me: ‘I will lead the holy life under the Blessed One, and the Blessed One will declare to me “the world is eternal”…or “after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist”’?”—“No, venerable sir.”—“That being so, misguided man, who are you and what are you abandoning?

“If anyone should say thus: ‘I will not lead the holy life under the Blessed One until the Blessed One declares to me “the world is eternal”…or “after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist,”’ that would still remain undeclared by the Tathāgata and meanwhile that person would die. Suppose, Mālunkyāputta, a man were wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and his friends and companions, his kinsmen and relatives, brought a surgeon to treat him. The man would say: ‘I will not let the surgeon pull out this arrow until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble or a brahmin or a merchant or a worker.’ And he would say: ‘I will not let the surgeon pull out this arrow until I know the name and clan of the man who wounded me;…until I know whether the man who wounded me was tall or short or of middle height;… until I know whether the man who wounded me was dark or brown or golden-skinned;…until I know whether the man who wounded me lives in such a village or town or city;…until I know whether the bow that wounded me was a long bow or a cross-bow; …until I know whether the bowstring that wounded me was fibre or reed or sinew or hemp or bark;…until I know whether the shaft that wounded me was wild or cultivated;… until I know with what kind of feathers the shaft that wounded me was fitted—whether those of a vulture or a heron or a hawk or a peacock or a stork;…until I know with what kind of sinew the shaft that wounded me was bound—whether that of an ox or a buffalo or a deer or a monkey;…until I know what kind of arrowhead it was that wounded me—whether spiked or razor-tipped or curved or barbed or calf-toothed or lancet-shaped.’ “All this would still not be known to that man and meanwhile he would die. So too, Mālunkyāputta, if anyone should say thus: ‘I will not lead the holy life under the Blessed One until the Blessed One declares to me: “the world is eternal”…or “after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist,”’ that would still remain undeclared by the Tathāgata and meanwhile that person would die.

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    Yes, speculative philosophy might make us an Immanuel Kant, a Hegel, a Jean-paul Sartre, a Camus, nothing more. We may win the Nobel , but will stay angry, vicious, dissatisfied, sad. Let us rather enter the very marrow of Reality, as it were, and go beyond conditionality into the wordless , the Unconditioned Anuttara - Nibbana. Metta.🙏 – Sushil Fotedar Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 5:30
  • @SushilFotedar awesome Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 6:19
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The Buddha thought everything is composed of elements (MN 115) and, for conditioned elements, the process of conditioning, called 'idappaccayatā' (SN 12.20).

Since the Buddha said the cessation without remainder of the four physical elements cannot be known (DN 11), it is inferred how the four elements came to be also cannot be known.

Therefore, the Buddha taught the following:

Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it. Acintita Sutta

'I will not engage in talk that is base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unbeneficial, that does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calm, direct knowledge, self-awakening, or Unbinding — i.e., talk about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not.' In this way he is alert there. MN 122

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Why not nothing?

Is conjoined with or can be posed alternatively

why something?

The answer is

Because something [else]

If one answered

  • Because of not-something

If it is isn't a something among somethings then it can not be a cause. Therefore the answer to 'why something' is always 'because something'.

If you know what kind of answer the questioneer is looking for then one can give a more useful answer but that is only because you know exactly what kind of answer would satisfy the questioneer.

Ie if you are happy and someone asks why you are happy then you do not explain to them the dependent origination of perception, the quantum biology and which exact circumstances lead to here & now. Time is thought of as being beginningless and therefore the amount of information that needs to be conveyed to fully answer a simple "why?" is impossible to calculate or measure and therefore because is generally a good answer.

You can also see that when you flip the question back to

Why not nothing?

It gets trickier because it asserts two things:

  1. That not-something is a truth like something is a truth. So there are two possible states that are antagonistic.
  2. Not-something is being caused by something

Because of the latter assertion this question as posed is useless and harmful in Buddhist training because it asserts

  • there is a not-something which isn't included in everything
  • this not-something is caused not uncaused.

Latter assertion essential makes the whole theory contradict itself because if it is caused then it must be a part of everything which is caused, it must be included in that classification of everything as "everything caused".

To the questioneer this expression 'not something', for meaning, is something imaginary that he conceived of somehow and is essentially asking why his fantasy isn't a truth.

In general, the expression "everything", "something", "not-something" these are crucial terms in the way one arranges the Dhamma in the mind and in the early buddhist texts there is also talk of something not included among everything but it is clearly not the semantic referent of op question because that dhamma is spoken of as 'uncaused' and therefore 'why' doesn't apply to it.

It is very important to not confuse the two not-somethings.

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Annihilation is not Buddha's teaching.

One may freely make a decision if to follow Buddha's teaching, after listening to the dhamma, contemplating the dhamma, practicing the dhamma, but not to accepting or rejecting the dhamma base on one's feeling, understanding and perceptions.

Find out more by experiencing the dhamma yourself.

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Why there are clothes

It seems to me the answer is, "there are (they are), because mother and father made them for us."

Buddha said sabbe sankhara anicca (all conditioned things are impermanent)

A slightly different translation might be, all "fabricated", all "constructed", all "put-together", all "compound" things (are impermanent).

And to some extent we're taught to fabricate things in our mind, and to name what we see.

Why not nothing?

Perhaps there is nothing, instead or as well -- a Buddhist doctrine which says that there is "no thing" -- I'm thinking of sunyata, the doctrine about "emptiness". But I find it complicated to explain.

No conditionality ever?

Now possibly you could be asking about enlightenment (though it doesn't seem you were) -- liberation from the Wheel of Becoming.

Even then I think people agree that, until parinibbana, consciousness continues (including an ability to name things).

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  • i marked this down because it gives the impression dependent origination is about the origination of the physical universe rather than about the origination of sorrow & grief. Also, in the sutta, it appears the only entity thinking & searching for consciousness continuing after the ending of life was Mara Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 6:31
  • You wouldn't say that the Buddha was conscious -- or at least that "consciousness continued" -- knew what was happening, able to talk to people, remember place names, make plans, and so on?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 6:46
  • I'm not sure I distinguish what you call "the physical universe" from mental constructs. Doing so -- the split between subjective and objective, real and ideal, physical and mental -- might be an obsession or assumption of Western philosophy (which I've never really studied).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 7:14
  • I'm not sure I distinguish what you call "the physical universe" from mental constructs = Soliplism Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 11:43

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