In Majjhima Nikaya 63, the Buddha says

So, Malunkyaputta, remember what is undeclared by me as undeclared, and what is declared by me as declared. And what is undeclared by me? 'The cosmos is eternal,' is undeclared by me. 'The cosmos is not eternal,' is undeclared by me. 'The cosmos is finite'... 'The cosmos is infinite' ... 'The soul & the body are the same'... 'The soul is one thing and the body another'... 'After death a Tathagata exists'... 'After death a Tathagata does not exist'... 'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist'... 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,' is undeclared by me.

"And why are they undeclared by me? Because they are not connected with the goal, are not fundamental to the holy life. They do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding. That's why they are undeclared by me.

What is the opinion of Buddhism on Cosmology, which tries to deal with these questions (highlighted in bold above) about the cosmos? Is pursuing cosmology discouraged in Buddhism? (Cosmology, in this question, refers to the branch of Science and not metaphysical speculations about the universe. It is understood that Buddhism discourages idle speculations about the universe. But what about the pursuit of the science of cosmology?).

4 Answers 4


A general rule for the modern era — observed by far too few, unfortunately — is that science and religion should not pick fights with each other. There's no value to it, and the tiffs tend to spoil both.

Studying cosmology is a perfectly fine thing to do, as a profession or avocation. Buddhism isn't against the acquisition of knowledge per se; knowledge is quite useful in many practical situations. But knowledge of this practical sort will not lead to liberation, and disputes over the 'truth' of practical knowledge can interfere with the quest for liberation to the extent such disputes de-evolve into anger, jealousy, and/or acrimony. If someone wants to study cosmology as a buddhist, the hope is they will bring the buddhist practice to their acquisition of knowledge: seeking understanding with dispassion, clarity, detachment, and compassion.

Buddhist monasticism doesn't seem to have developed as the Christian monastic tradition did, with monks engaged in intellectual, academic, scientific, and philosophical thought. I don't see any reason why they couldn't, but most established traditions take a conservative and narrow view on monk's activities. But for lay practitioners the question is moot; it isn't what they do to make a living that matters, but how they do what they do.


Cosmology as a scientific endeavour is perfectly fine, and is acceptable as Right Livelihood for lay persons.

From a religious or philosophical perspective, some other religions or religious thinkers, including during the Buddha's time, are concerned with questions like "did the universe always exist, or was it created?" And "will the universe be destroyed in future?".

This leads to metaphysical and philosophical speculations like "where was I before the universe was created?" and "where will I be when the universe is destroyed?"

It is such speculations that the Buddha considered futile and may lead to vexation.

  • +1, but did the people at the time of the Buddha differentiate between metaphysics and physics?
    – user21367
    Oct 17, 2021 at 11:14
  • 1
    @user21367 I'm not sure about that. I think it was a time when physics and metaphysics may have been mixed, and also astrology and astronomy.
    – ruben2020
    Oct 17, 2021 at 15:00

Is pursuing cosmology discouraged in Buddhism

Pursuing Cosmology has nothing to do with the Buddha's teaching which teaches how to become free from suffering, so yes it is discouraged. The time is way better spent on meditation practice, studying the Dhamma and doing good for oneself and others.


The Buddha didn't gave cosmology, e.g. Scientists, secularism (todays largest Religion) much value, actually non at all and also explained why:Lokayatika Sutta, as for example.

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