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What Buddhists Believe

What Buddhists Believe

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Published by: Animesh_Singh1 on Jan 05, 2012
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It is rather difficult for us to understand how the world came into

existence without a first cause. But it is very much more difficult to
understand how that first cause came into existence at the beginning.

ACCORDING to the Buddha, it is inconceivable to find a

first cause for life or anything else. For in common experience,

the cause becomes the effect and the effect becomes the cause.

In the circle of cause and effect, a first cause is incomprehensible.

With regard to the origin of life, the Buddha declares, ‘Without

cognizable end is this recurrent wandering in Samsara (cycle of birth and

death). Beings are obstructed by ignorance and fettered by craving. A first

beginning of these beings is not to be perceived.’ (ANAMATAGGA SAMYUTTA in

SAMYUTTA NIKAYA). This life-stream flows on ad infinitum, as long as it

is fed by the muddy waters of ignorance and craving. When these two

Buddhism: Essence and Comparative Approaches ! 167

are cut off, only then does the life-stream cease to flow, only then does

rebirth come to an end.

It is difficult to conceive an end of space. It is difficult to conceive

an eternal duration of what we call time. But it is more difficult to

conceive time when there is no time. Likewise it is rather difficult for

us to understand how this world came into existence with a first

cause. And it is more difficult to understand how that first cause

came into existence at the beginning. For if the first cause can exist

though uncreated, there is no reason why the other phenomena of

the universe must not exist without having also been created.

As to the question how all beings came into existence without a

first cause, the Buddhist’s reply is that there is no answer* because the

question itself is merely a product of human beings’ limited compre-

hension. If we can understand the nature of time and relativity; we

must see that there could not have been any first beginning. It can

only be pointed out that all the usual answers to the question are

fundamentally defective. If it is assumed that for a thing to exist, it

must have had a creator who existed before it, it follows logically that

the creator himself must have had a creator, and so on back to infinity.

On the other hand, if the creator could exist without a prior cause in

the form of another creator, the whole argument falls to the ground.

The theory of a creator does not solve any problems, it only complicates

the existing ones.

Thus Buddhism does not pay much attention to theories and

beliefs about the origin of the world. Whether the world was created

* See the section on “The Buddha’s Silence” in Chapter 2.

168 ! WHAT BUDDHISTS BELIEVE

by a god or it came into existence by itself makes little difference to

Buddhists. Whether the world is finite or infinite also makes little

difference. Instead of following this line of theoretical speculations,

the Buddha advises people to grasp the fact that their present existence

is suffering and to work hard to find their own salvation.

Scientists have discovered many causes which are responsible for

the existence of life, plants, planets, elements and other energies. But

it is impossible for human beings to find out any particular first

cause for their existence. If they go on searching for the first cause of

any existing life or thing, they point certain causes as the main cause

but that never becomes the first cause. In the process of searching for

the first cause one after the other, they will come back to the place

where they were. This is because, cause becomes the effect and the

next moment that effect becomes the cause to produce another effect.

That is why the Buddha says, ‘a first cause is incomprehensible and

the universe is beginningless’.

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