“The end of the world” – A Buddhist Perspective

We often hear doomsayers predict the end of the world.  There are religions too which subscribed to the belief. The most recent prediction came from the Mayan Long Count Calendar, announcing that 2012 is the year of the apocalypse.   The fact remains that many doomsday predictions  have come and gone by, and we are still around.  Is there anything in the Buddha exposition that covered such a scenario?

During a session of the Sutta Sharing Class, I was introduced to the Sattasariya Sutta – Seven Suns (Aňguttara-Nikăya, VII, VII, 62) which gave a very interesting look at the topic.  The Lord Buddha expounded that all compound materials are impermanent (annica) and  it must follow too, that the world system is subjected to the same Law of impermanence.

The Exalted One delivered a sermon in Ambapali Grove near Vesali and addressed the Bhikkus and the gist of the Sutta was:

– There will come a time after many hundred thousand of years when it does not rain, all seedlings and vegetation-born plants such as medicinal grass, grasses, palms, trees in the forest and giant trees in the jungle will dry up and wither and are no more.

– After a lapse of time of vast interval a second sun will arise. All the streams, rivulets, brooks and ponds will dry up and are no more.

– At the end of yet another vast period, a third sun will appear.  All the great rivers like the Ganges, Yamună, Aciravati, Sarabhu and Mahi will dry up and whither.

– At the end of same vast period a fourth sun will appear. The great rivers that feed the great lakes will dry up, and so the great lakes like Anotatta, Sihapapata, Rathakara, Kannamunda, Kunalia, Chaddanta and Mandakini dry up and are no more.

– At the end of a vast interval period a fifth sun will appear.  The waters in the great ocean recede for a hundred leagues, then for two hundred, three hundred, and even up to seven hundred leagues until the water stands at only seven, six, five until one fan-palm’s deep.  The water recedes further to the depth of seven men’s stature, six, five, until half a man.  It recedes until knee depth of a man to the ankle depth of a man.  In autumn when it rains in large drops, the waters in some places are like puddles of a cow’s footprint and are even so in the great ocean bed.

– At the end of a vast period of time a sixth sun will appear. Both this earth and Sineru, king of the mountains emit smoke, disgorge smoke, belches forth clouds of smoke like a an oven of a potter, bakes his wares.

– At the end of some vast interval of time a seventh sun will appear.  This earth and Sineru, king of mountains, burst into flames, blaze up and become a single sheet of flame.  The fiery beam of the blaze and the burn of the great earth and of Mount Sineru, thrown up the wind, reaches even to Brahma’s world. The peaks of Mount Sineru, measuring up to five hundred leagues, as it blazes and burns, vanquished and overwhelmed by the vastness of fiery masses, crumble away.  Out of the blaze and the burn of the great earth and Mount Sineru, there is neither cinder nor ash to be found.

In summary, the earth will suffer a drought and all vegetation and lives will vanish from the planet. A second calamity will appear resulting in the evaporation of many streams and ponds. A third sun will appear resulting in the evaporation of great rivers. When a fourth sun appears it will result in the evaporation of great lakes. A fifth sun will appear and the great oceans will dry up slowly until water is ankle-deep. The sixth sun will appear and the earth crust and core will heat up resulting in volcanic explosions, scorch the earth some filled the skies.  The seventh sun will appear the earth will become a fiery ball of flame explode and disappear altogether.

Today we are seeing global warming from the so-called greenhouse effect.  The global warming phenomena has resulted in climate changes, led to disasters like hurricanes, cyclones, droughts, forest fires, rising tides, tsunamis and floods, and devastated many parts of the world.  All the natural calamities we are seeing or facing on this planet is real.

Do we have reasons to fear?  If so, how do we overcome our fear?

The Exalted One cited the story of the Teacher Sunetta who had many hundreds of disciples.  Upon his death and owing to the fellowship gained, he was reborn in the same Brahma’s world with his disciples.

Here, Sunetta, being the teacher had desired to be reborn in a better realm than his disciples.  He cultivated the thought of amity and loving kindness for seven years, and then for seven world-cycles and was reborn in the Brahma’s realm as Maha-Brahma, as Sakka, or as Wheel-turner.  Even though he chief among the retinue of the gods, he was not freed from birth, old age and death, from weeping and lamentation, from pain, grief and tribulation.

The Buddha delivered this sermon to remind his disciples of the impermanent nature of the world and of our existence, which is subject to decay and renewal from which even god like Brahma is not free unless he overcomes it by practicing Dhamma and following the noble Eightfold Path.

Thus experiencing the four things: “Right conduct, concentration, wisdom and full release, understood by the famed Gotama, the Master, who made an end of pain had passed into Nirvana.”

For the benefits and objectives of the Sutta Study Class, readers are invited to refer to the link, Sutta Studies ( http://edhamma.net/?p=1374 ).

Contributor: Chin Kee Thou


One Comment:

  1. For commentary, refer to Buddhagosa’s Visuddahimagga, Path of Purification (XIII, 31 – 1. Pg 408 – 415, 4th Edition, 2010)

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