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The End of the World, according to Buddha Posted by on Dec 20, 2012 in Culture, Intermediate

Perhaps the most fundamental, most core belief, of the Buddhist religion is the concept of impermanence: that nothing lasts forever. That which didn’t exist at one time, will cease to exist in another time. Everything you own, everyone you know, all the places you’ve been to, your memories, the entire planet, the sun, the galaxy and even universe, will at some point cease to exist. Not even the heavens – or the magical Phrom – last forever. And once you’ve accepted that, and live your life as such, you have supposedly taken a major step towards reaching Nirvana.

 

Of course, on the inside, we all know nothing lasts forever. But we prefer to live in denial about it, because ignorance is sometimes bliss . . .

Anyway, that now brings us to . . . the end of the world!

So, according to Buddha, how does the world end?

The world ends because 7 suns surround Earth and burn it to a crisp. The trees and other plant life burn away, covering the Earth in a layer of ashes. Oceans dry up. Life, of course, dies off long before the Earth itself is destroyed.

And you know, scientifically, that’s possible. Not likely, but possible. And very similar to what scientists say: the Sun will expand, frying everything on Earth, until the size of the Sun becomes greater than the orbit of the Earth around the Sun (i.e. the Earth will fall into the Sun). And on an even greater scale, our galaxy is predicted to collide with another. And that’s that.

So, will the end of the world happen this month?

Buddha had said,

“จุดจบของโลกอยู่ที่ ๖๐๐๐ ล้านปี และ จุดจบของโลก กับ จุดจบของสัตว์ที่มีวิญญาณครองต่างกัน”

“The world will end at the age of 6 billion years. The end of the world, and the end of life on this world, will not be at the same time.”

I don’t know if ‘the world’ (โลก lok3) just meant Earth, or if it meant everything in the universe. There was likely no concept of anything beyond Earth when Buddha was around.

Anyway, Buddha also said that before him, there were three previous Buddhas. Life on the world ended (mass extinction?) between each one because of water, wind, and fire (natural disasters?). And he said there will be one last Buddha before the world itself is destroyed.

Some have looked at this mathematically. If the world will last 6 billion years, and there are to be 5 Buddhas, that gives us about 1.2 billion years per Buddha. The 4th Buddha died ~2500 years ago, so we have 1 or 2 billion years left to go. (whew!)

But the human species has only been around 4 million years. Assuming that all Buddhas were human (right?), that gives about 1 million years per Buddha. That would mean we still have 1 million years left to go (whew, again!). Assuming, of course, the Buddhas were evenly distributed throughout time, and not all clumped at the end . . .

So, where does Buddha say we will all go when the world ends? There being no physical place left to live, all life will then exist in Phromalok. An entirely new world will then form, life will return back to it, and the cycle of creation will restart again (see previous blog post).

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