Thailand is a country where 95% of its inhabitants are Buddhists, and its language is very much linked to its religion. Since the world will end this month (due to running out of days on the Mayan calendar), I thought it appropriate to describe the Buddhist version of the end of the world.
But with an end, there must first be a beginning. So let’s start with Buddhist creation story.
Creation was first described by Buddha พระพุทธเจ้า (pra4 put4ta4jaow3) more than 2500 years ago to his followers. Where did the world come from, they asked?
Buddha’s answer has since been passed down through countless generations to finally reach my current Thai language teacher, a Thai man who has been a Buddhist monk for over 30 years. He has done his best to pass that knowledge onto me. To fill in the missing gaps, I’ve also trawled the internet for more answers. And if it’s on the internet, it must be true, no?
The world, as Buddha described it, began when the Earth and stars spontaneously formed on its own. Water and air then collected and became seas on the Earth. But life did not yet exist.
And then came what is called the Phrom พรหม (prom1), or what are basically unfathomable ‘beings’ in what best can be described as another ‘dimension’ beyond and above heaven called Phromalok พรหมโลก (prom1 ma1 lok3). These Phrom supposedly came first.
So where did the Phrom come from? The Phrom are ancient ‘beings’ which are the ‘evolved’ form of that which resides in heaven (angels and what not). So where did the angels come from? That which is in heaven สวรรค์ (sa2waan5) came from humans that have reached enlightenment and nirvana. So where did humans มนุษย์ (ma4nut4) come from? Humans came from both the creatures of Hell นรก (na4rok4), and supposedly Phrom which have eaten the dirt of the Earth (because it smelled too good to resist, supposedly).
This sounded like one big logic circle to me, so I pointed this out to my teacher monk. I also asked about where all the materials needed to create the world came from. He agreed these were good questions, and responded that Buddha never explained that part.
Let’s go back to the Phrom. The best way to describe them is like ‘light’. Heaven is ‘light’ to humans. And Phromalok is ‘light’ to heaven. Phrom have no emotions, but are capable of expressing emotions. They don’t consist of matter or energy, and cannot be seen by people (unless you are a psychic, supposedly). They exist beyond the concepts of good and evil. While humans can only live a few decades, and angels can “live” for thousands of years, the Phrom can “live” for millions of years before they “expire”. What happens afterwards I don’t know. The monk didn’t, either.
In Buddhism, creation is just one part of the big cycle. To really understand the creation of the world, you must also understand the destruction of the world. I will explain this in my next post.