I keep pondering over the below questions and thought of posting it here.

  1. Is the physical universe(the one we observe with stars, galaxies, black holes etc) contained in the 31 planes of existence or the other way around?
  2. A "ten thousand world systems" imply that there are other universes besides ours, which gives support to the multiverse hypothesis in science?
  3. Are there ten thousand of world systems or infinite of them? Just trying to ponder if its infinite, then imagine the probability of being born as a human and able to understand dhamma, that is mind blowing. That also goes to show the sheer magnitude of samsara.

The planes are closer to what we mean by dimensions of a system.

All that can be known to exist can be measured & thought about as a system of information, energy or just formation.

The conception & perception of the system occurs within the system. It is a closed system of all information. We can not have information about a beyond the scope of information, can't know the unknowable.

if one could infer information about something which is analogical to the system of energy or information wherein thinking occurs then that would make the two systems conjoined & connected by inference, it would create a paradox where one conceives of two general systems of information which are neither connected nor are separated.

It's a fallacy and is proven by contradiction to be an impossible assertion.

There is one system, it is perceived & conceived in & by itself here or there by this or that being.

Planes are fields & classes of perception which are a scope of the alliness of formation.

The system is thought to change as it persists and has one most powerful percepient at it's any given state, in the doctrine of self that is either a Buddha or a Brahma.

There are sub systems within this system and these collectively are what is spoken of as a ten thousandfold world system, each is said to have earth, sun, humans, four kings & a sakka god.

When a Buddha arises in the world the this 10 thousandfold system is said to shake.

But we don't see a Buddha or anyone go from one human like system to another, eg we don't see Buddha meeting multiple Sakkas kings of gods.

It is philosophically difficult to work out why not. I have some idea but i don't think this has been addressed anywhere in the texts. I don't see much point in going to detail as to my understanding at this point.

The cosmology of Buddhism isn't philosophically simple and is closer to astrophysics theory. Eg sutta speak of dark cosmic voids where the light of the moon & sun doesn't reach and nobody seems to know what is being spoken of.


"If the mind makes no discriminations, the ten thousand things are as they are, of single essence." -from the early Chinese Zen poem The Xinxin Ming

Compare also

"The named is the mother of ten thousand things." -from The Tao Te Ching

It is interesting to look at the soteriological role of numbers in Indian thought, as discussed in this episode of In Our Time: Indian Mathematics. A kalpa in Buddhist thought has been estimated at millions of years, and a maha-kalpa at tens or hundreds of billions of years - appropriate for geological time, the current age of the universe, and the stelliferous era over which stars will form, respectively. But what is notable is these were not presented as exact:

"it would not be equal to a Maha Kalpa" "even that number will be less than the number of passed kalpas" "will be filled even before the kalpa end"

are typical phrasings. So like with the number of realms, I'd say the import here is to understand our situation in general terms, to gain a sense of perspective.

Physics is very much a work in progress, what we are sure of about time and gravity, is that they don't fit with the other forces which we have a nice integrates quantum field of. A fifth force turned up from muon behaviour a few weeks ago. Dark energy and dark matter are big challenges to our picture of the past and future. Yet in 1900 Lord Kelvin declared:

“There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.”

just five or so years before the beginning of quantum mechanics, and two decades before relativity.

Mixing and matching between physics and Buddhist thought is not I think generally useful. Buddhist thinking forms a coherent whole, best understood in reference to itself, as tools aimed at cultivating awakening.

It is remarkable that Buddhist cosmology seems to have the most accurate timescale from long before Hubble, and point not to an infinite cosmos but one very very large (there are likely a lot more than 10,000 planets with intelligent life in the universe). It is highly well suited to a universe encountering alien species, and to Earth's own animals developing human-level consciousness. But it is better I'd say approached as a way of thinking, rather than as a set of results, or declarations. What I'd say is remarkable, is what is indicated about the power of regular meditation practice to give us good answers to deep questions.

In physics there is no agreement or clarity about the multiverse, the existence of Many Worlds, brane collisions, fracture planes in the E8 mathematical structure, multiple time dimensions, whether the past and future are 'real', whether there are multiple dimensions of time, or why the time dimension behaves differently from space dimensions. Buddhist thought is not waiting for those answers. Like in The Parable Of The Poison Arrow, next to the problem of suffering these are like asking about the material the bow was made from, when we have been struck by an arrow. It may be good to know the poison, to understand why someone might fire such an arrow - but don't forget why: to benefit all sentient beings.

If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that our words are not sufficient to communicate the understanding of an enlightened person to someone who isn't. The cosmos will doubtless prove stranger and more beautiful than we are even beginning to imagine. I suggest a playfulness about cosmology, an inquiry into it for how it can help us be better. This Kurzgesacht video 'The Egg' is a nice example of how different traditions may have been like the blind men who approached the elephant in different ways.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.