Buddhist Cosmology
Throughout history there have been many attempts to explain the origin and
workings of our universe. Most every culture has their own cosmogony. Nearly
every individual has his or her own idea of what our universe is. During our
modern era of advanced scientific knowledge, we feel that we have a good grasp
on how the universe works. We have our Chemistry and Physics, along with

Mathematics, to examine the universe with. Any person educated in these fields
will tell you that they know our universe. The point is science in the modern
era is thought to be the correct summation of the universe. We think we are
right. Does this make everyone else wrong? Those that believe in myth over
science, are they wrong? These are some of the questions that I will be
discussing in this essay. I will examine the evolution of cosmological thought
in Ancient Greece (Pre-Socratics through Aristotle). In doing this, I will show
a movement from myth to more science based cosmologies. I will then examine the

Buddhist Cosmology, which is somewhat separated from Ancient Greek thought.

After all of this, I will examine the question of which is more correct, Science
or Myth. Before continuing a clear definition of "myth" needs to be
established. The term myth has multiple meanings. Webster’s II Dictionary,
defines it the three different ways. "1. A traditional story that deals with
supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serve as primordial types in a
primitive view of the world. 2. A real or fictional story that appeals to the
consciousness of a people by embodying its cultural ideals or by giving
expression to deep commonly felt emotions. 3. A fictitious or imaginary person,
idea, or thing." For the sake of this essay, I would like the second
definition to apply to my use of the word myth. The term myth should not be
thought of as fictitious or primitive. The possibility for the myth to be real
should always be considered. Some of the earliest known philosophies on the
creation of the Earth come from the works of Hesiod. In his Theogony he attempts
to explain the creation of the Earth, and all that surrounds him, using myth. In
the myth Hesiod anthropomorphizes the cosmos. He tells of "Chaos" being the
first to come into being, then he goes on to describe how each of the gods of
the cosmos comes in to being. The gods of the cosmos are all related to some
characteristic of our universe. They can be physical parts or concepts (similar
to Plato’s idea of the forms). For example the line, "Earth first bore
starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an
ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods."(Theogony, 126) describes both
the act of birth, which is a human characteristic, and physical parts of the
universe being gods (Heaven meaning the stars, and the Earth). He also has gods,
such as Eros, which represents the concept of Love. Two main issues the come up
during discussions of cosmology are how the universe was created and out of what
was the universe created. In the Theogony, Hesiod has the world created out of
gods that are human by nature and to create this universe the gods reproduced.

Hesiod’s theories of the universe can clearly be classified as myth, since
there is no scientific background for it. The philosophers to follow Hesiod
moved slightly away from this. The Pre-Socratics begin to de-anthropomorphize
the universe. Even later, in the works of Socrates and Plato, the universe is
completely de-anthropomorphized. The Pre-Socratics focus more on what the
universe was made of than how it was created. They typically chose a single
element that everything consisted of and tried to explain the world according to
that element. Sometimes these elements were one of the basic four elements;
earth, fire, air, and water. Sometimes they were more abstract such as

Anaximander’s theory. "...The principle element of existing things was the
aperion... it is neither water nor any other of the so-call elements, but some
other aperion nature, from which come into being all the heavens and the worlds
in them."(Hetherington, pg. 58) The Pre-Socratics based their theories on
insight and observations. For this reason their theories are both mythical and
scientific. Because some of their choices of what the key element is are based
on instinctive feelings, they can be considered myth. On the other hand, they
support their ideas through observations and experience making the ideas
scientific. Science is defined one way in Webster’s II Dictionary to be

"Knowledge that is acquired through