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Once lord Buddha pointed at a glistening star and asked a monk, "Do you believe that star still exists where we can see it?"

The monk answered yes.

Then lord Buddha said, "You are wrong. That star was destroyed few years ago. What we can see is the light it has emitted."

I saw people sharing something like this in social networks saying lord Buddha knew many things about the universe thousands of years ago. But they dont reference to any Sutta or Atuwa or anything where I can find this. I want to know if this is true ? Has lord Buddha ever said something like this ? And which Sutta is it ?

Thanks :)

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This is the origin story of Sattasuriyuggamana sutta. During Buddha's time there was a monk who was indulged in astrology and auspicious times. Once he asked Buddha whether the stars or planets have any effect on humans as it's told in astrology. Buddha didn't answer that straight away but chose the night to answer this question. During the night he pointed at the sky and asked the question from that monk.

Do you believe that star still exists where we can see it ...

As a result of this discussion Sattasuriyuggamana sutta was taught by Budddha to show that these planets and stars have no effect on humans and these are just natural phenomena.

I wasn't able to locate this origin story in English in the web, although it's available in Sinhalese here.

  1. Sattasåriyasuttaü- Seven suns.

007.02. I heard thus. At one time The Blessed One was living in Ambapali's mango orchard. The Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus from there:

ßBhikkhus, determinations are impermanent not stable, there is nothing to comfort in them, so it is suitable that you should turn away from, get disentangled from and be releasd from all determinations.

Bhikkhus, the highest peak of the Himalayas, is eighty four thousand yojanas high from sea level. (a yojana is seven miles) Eighty four thousand yojanas in breadth. It is eighty four thousand yojanas deep down in the sea. Bhikkhus, after the lapse of many years, many hundreds of thousands of years there comes a time when it does not rain. When it does not rain, all seed and vegetation born plants such as medicinal grass, plants trees and forests dry up and wither and are no more. Bhikkhus, thus determinations are impermanent not stable, there is nothing to comfort in them, so it is suitable that you should turn away from, get disentangled from and be releasd from all determinations.

Bhikkhus, after the lapse of many years, many hundreds of thousands of years there comes a time when a second sun rises. When a second sun rises whatever streams, rivulets dry up and wither and are no more. Bhikkhus, thus determinations are impermanent not stable, there is nothing to comfort in them, so it is suitable that you should turn away from, get disentangled from and be releasd from all determinations.

Bhikkhus, after the lapse of many years, many hundreds of thousands of years there comes a time when a third sun rises. When a third sun rises, the great rivers such as the Ganges, yamuna, Aciravatie, Sarabhu and Mahi dry up and wither. Bhikkhus, thus determinations are impermanent not stable, there is nothing to comfort in them, so it is suitable that you should turn away from, get disentangled from and be releasd from all determinations.

Bhikkhus, after the lapse of many years, many hundreds of thousands of years there comes a time when a fourth sun rises. When a fourth sun rises, the great ponds mintained by the great rivers such as Anotatta, Sihapapata, Rathakara, Kannamunda, Kunala, Chadanta and Mandakini dry up and wither, they become no more. Bhikkhus, thus determinations are impermanent not stable, there is nothing to comfort in them, so it is suitable that you should turn away from, get disentangled from and be releasd from all determinations.

Bhikkhus, after the lapse of many years, many hundreds of thousands of years there comes a time when a fifth sun rises. When a fifth sun rises, the water in the great ocean recedes one hundred yojanas, two hundred yojanas three hundred yojanas, five hundred yojanas, six hundred yojanas and seven hundred yojanas. The water recedes to the height of seven, six, five, four, three, two palms and even one palm. The water recedes to the height of seven, six, five, four, three, two men, or even one man. It recedes to half the height of a man. It recedes to the knee depth of a man, to the ankle depth of a man. When the fifth sun rises there would not be water in the ocean to wet the fingers up to the knots. Bhikkhus, thus determinations are impermanent not stable, there is nothing to comfort in them, so it is suitable that you should turn away from, get disentangled from and be releasd from all determinations.

Bhikkhus, after the lapse of many years, many hundreds of thousands of years there comes a time when a sixth sun rises. When a sixth sun rises, the great earth and the peak of the Himalayas smokes, and gets filled with smoke. Like when something made by a potter is cooked. It smokes and gets filled up with smoke. In the same manner when a sixth sun rises, the great earth and the peak of the Himalayas smokes, and gets filled with smoke. Bhikkhus, thus determinations are impermanent not stable, there is nothing to comfort in them, so it is suitable that you should turn away from, get disentangled from and be releasd from all determinations.

Bhikkhus, after the lapse of many years, many hundreds of thousands of years there comes a time when a seventh sun rises. When a seventh sun rises, the great earth and the peak of the Himalayas blazes and catch fire. When the great earth and the peak of the Himalayas blaze and catch fire, flames tossed by the winds reach upto the world of Brahma. When the peak of the Himalaya mountain burns, peaks as high as a hundred yojanas, two hundred yojanas, three hundred yojanas, four hundred yojanas and five hundred yojanas crumble. Bhikkhus, when the earth and the Himalaya peak is burning ash or cream of ash is not evident. Bhikkhus, thus determinations are impermanent not stable, there is nothing to comfort in them, so it is suitable that you should turn away from, get disentangled from and be releasd from all determinations. Bhikkhus, when the earth and the Himalaya peak is burning, whatever divine sayings and beliefs be, they also get burnt and are no more, would attained right view remain?

Bhikkhus, in the past, there was a Teacher called Sunetta, one free of greed who helped to cross the ford. The Teacher Sunetta had innumerable hundreds of disciples .Bhikkhus, this Teacher taught, to be born in the world of Brahma. Those who completely knew the dispensation of Sunetta, after death, were born in a good state in the world of Brahma. Some of those who did not know the complete dispensation of Sunetta, after death, were born with those attached to the creation of others. Some attached to creation, soome with the happy ones, some with the Titan gods, some with the gods of the thirty-three and with the guardian gods. Others were born with high clans of warriors, Brahmins and householders.

Then it occured to the Teacher Sunetta. `It is not suitable for me to be born in the same plane as my disciples, after death, what if I develop loving kindness further.'

Then the Teacher Sunetta developed loving kindness for seven years. Having developed loving kindness for seven years, he did not come to this world for seven forward and backward world cycles. During the forward world cycles he was born a radiant god and during the backward world cycles was born in an empty Brahma paradise. There he was Brahma the supreme Lord, not conquered with sure insight wielding authority

There, he was Brahma, Brahma the great, the unconquered lord and master with sure insight, holding authority for seven timesòhirty six times he was Sakka the kng of gods. Innumerable hundreds of times he was the righteous universal monarch, winning the four directions and establishing states. Bhikkhus, he was endowed with these seven jewels, such as the jewel of the wheel, the elephant, the horse, the jewel, the woman, the householder and the advisor. Bhikkhus, he had over a thousand courageous sons with valiant figures, for crushing foreign armies. They lived ruling over the earth righteously, without weapons as far as the limit of the ocean. Bhikkhus, that Teacher Sunetta with long life and long standing was not released from birth, decay, death, grief, lament, unpleasantness and displeasure, I say not released from unpleasantness.

What is the reason? For not realizing and experiencing four things.What four?

Not realizing and experiencing the virtues, concentration, wisdom and release of the noble ones. Now he has realized and experienced the virtues, concentration, wisdom and release of the noble ones. The craving to be is uprooted, the leader of being is destroyed. Now he has no more birth. The Blessed One further said:

Famous Gotama, has realized noble virtues, concentration, wisdom and release

And declaring the Teaching to end unpleasantness is mindfully extinguished. (Source: Sister Uppalavanna from Galla)

  • By "origin story" I suppose you mean, the story of how that sutta came to be, and not the text of the sutta itself. – ChrisW Jan 20 '15 at 13:52
  • Yeah, that's how the sutta came to be. – dmsp Jan 20 '15 at 14:32
  • Would you like to reference/cite the Sinhalese origin story (especially given that the OP is from Sri Lanka)? Do you have an opinion about whether this version of the origin story is (for example) earlier than the 20th century? – ChrisW Jan 20 '15 at 14:40
  • Added the link. I'm not able to say whether the origin story came to exist before or after 20th century. There's no description on that to be found. – dmsp Jan 20 '15 at 15:01
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    @Astro Aṅguttara Nikāya-> Sattaka Nipāta-> mahā vagga Here's the link – dmsp Jan 21 '15 at 15:38
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Buddhism does teach several things which are like that or close to that:

  • There's a doctrine of impermanence, that nothing (even stars) will last forever.

  • There's a doctrine of sense-impressions and consciousness, that our 'perceptions' (e.g. our vision) aren't the same as the 'forms' (e.g. the light of a star).

  • Buddhism even teaches that it's important to distinguish between 'form' and 'consciousness'.

However I don't know any story phrased exactly like the one you quoted; nor any suttas in which the Buddha teaches people about 'the speed of light' inasmuch as that is understood by modern physics.

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