Author Topic: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution  (Read 3227 times)

Offline Dharma Flower

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The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« on: December 28, 2016, 11:31:17 pm »
Buddhism, like Hinduism, traditionally teaches that, rather than evolving from lower life forms, we instead devolved from higher beings. In the Agganna Sutta, the Buddha describes how the first humans who appeared on this earth were originally beings of light from a higher realm, who came down to this world because they were tempted by its sensual pleasures like food:
http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/AggannaSutta.pdf

Originally, the people in this world still had their god-like powers, like the ability to fly, and they were still of a non-material form, but over time, as humans became more and more attached to sensuality, we became more and more physical, until we lost our spiritual abilities, and assumed the human form we have today.

This Buddhist understanding is sort of a middle ground between Biblical creationism, which says that a God created everything in the universe 6,000 years ago, and Darwinian evolution, which says that everything originated due to chance chemical processes. In the Buddhist perspective, it’s the outworking of karma which explains the origin of life.

This is Master Sheng Yen explaining human origins based on the Agganna Sutta:
http://ddmbachicago.org/where-did-the-universe-and-life-come-from/

This is Master Hsuan Hua explaining human origins based on the Agganna Sutta:
http://www.liaotuo.org/fjrw/hcrw/xhsr/97880.html

In Forbidden Archeology, Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson documented dozens of archeological discoveries found in mainstream scientific literature, human fossils and tools found millions of years lower in the fossil record than expected. The book explains that, because these evidences challenged the current paradigm, they were either explained away or suppressed by the wider scientific community:
http://www.krishnapath.org/library/vedic-science/hidden-history-of-the-human-race-free-download/

Forbidden Archeology was reviewed in mainstream archeological journals, in which even its critics admitted that the book had thoroughly researched primary and secondary sources from mainstream archeologists in making its case.

Here is one recent example of an archaeological discovery which challenges the Darwinian view, instead fitting the ancient Buddhist and Hindu interpretations:
http://phys.org/news/2015-05-oldest-known-stone-tools-pre-date-homo.html

If we devolved from higher beings, as the Buddha taught, then our purpose on this earth is clear, to find the enlightenment which rescues us from this degenerated state. We are amnesiac spiritual beings having a human experience, in need of re-connecting with the higher consciousness from which we came.

The traditional Buddhist understanding may conflict with modern science, but a committed Buddhist might decide to believe the Buddha’s words over modern science, especially when dealing with prehistory, before witnesses were around to record what really happened:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UM1Hn425Gc&t=1s

As the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn explained, scientists are not purely objective, instead they interpret the data based on whatever prevailing theories will allow. Everyone must evaluate the evidence for themselves and arrive at their own conclusions.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2016, 11:44:52 pm by Dharma Flower »

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2016, 12:40:42 am »
Are there any other sutras I should read about human origins besides the Agganna Sutta? I appreciate your recommendations.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 12:42:51 am by Dharma Flower »

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2016, 02:07:54 am »
Quote
If we devolved from higher beings, as the Buddha taught, then our purpose on this earth is clear, to find the enlightenment which rescues us from this degenerated state. We are amnesiac spiritual beings having a human experience, in need of re-connecting with the higher consciousness from which we came.

Current scientific understanding from the fields of Cosmological Physics and Biochemistry is that all from which living beings are made is derived from the stars, which formed from NOVAs  created when still older stars collapsed in on themsleves and exploded creating the heavier elements.  So the idea that we came from beings of light is true according to current scientific understanding.  'Not sure about the food enticement, though, unless a need for galaxial hydrogen to keep the fusion reaction going in stars counts.   :wink1:

source:  https://www.cnet.com/news/we-are-made-of-star-stuff-a-quick-lesson-on-how/
« Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 02:11:05 am by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2016, 02:20:36 am »
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If we devolved from higher beings, as the Buddha taught, then our purpose on this earth is clear, to find the enlightenment which rescues us from this degenerated state. We are amnesiac spiritual beings having a human experience, in need of re-connecting with the higher consciousness from which we came.

Current scientific understanding from the fields of Cosmological Physics and Biochemistry is that all from which living beings are made is derived from the stars, which formed from NOVAs  created when still older stars collapsed in on themsleves and exploded creating the heavier elements.  So the idea that we came from beings of light is true according to current scientific understanding.  'Not sure about the food enticement, though, unless a need for galaxial hydrogen to keep the fusion reaction going in stars counts.   :wink1:

source:  https://www.cnet.com/news/we-are-made-of-star-stuff-a-quick-lesson-on-how/

I don't see how what you are saying directly ties to the Buddha's words in the Agganna Sutta as originally taught. In addition to the Buddhist masters I've already mentioned, Buddhaghosa's writing about human origins was based on the Agganna Sutta.

Will you please tell me if there are any other sutras besides the Agganna Sutta that speak of human origins? I am new to this genre of Buddhist literature.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2016, 02:48:13 am »
The primary goal of Buddhist studies is "truth", or "The Dhamma", not the collection of knowledge as stated in the suttas, which in fact are not direct quotes from The Buddha's lips to our ears.  Thousands of years and many repetitions of memorization and recitations passed before Buddha's words were placed upon parchment guarenteeing some reduction in variation and error in translation and transcription from Buddha's original dissertation.

That said, I am not aware of any other suttas, which talk of origins, nor did Buddha wish to focus upon this information in his teachings as he stated in The Simpasa Sutta: 

Quote
Simsapa Sutta: The Simsapa Leaves
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997
Alternate translation: Walshe
Alternate format: [SuttaReadings.net icon]
Once the Blessed One was staying at Kosambi in the simsapa[1] forest. Then, picking up a few simsapa leaves with his hand, he asked the monks, "What do you think, monks: Which are more numerous, the few simsapa leaves in my hand or those overhead in the simsapa forest?"

"The leaves in the hand of the Blessed One are few in number, lord. Those overhead in the simsapa forest are more numerous."

"In the same way, monks, those things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught are far more numerous [than what I have taught]. And why haven't I taught them? Because they are not connected with the goal, do not relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. That is why I have not taught them.

"And what have I taught? 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress': This is what I have taught. And why have I taught these things? Because they are connected with the goal, relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. This is why I have taught them.

"Therefore your duty is the contemplation, 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress.' Your duty is the contemplation, 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'"




source:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.031.than.html
« Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 02:52:00 am by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2016, 02:57:33 am »
The primary goal of Buddhist studies is "truth", or "The Dhamma", not the collection of knowledge as stated in the suttas, which in fact are not direct quotes from The Buddha's lips to our ears.  Thousands of years and many repetitions of memorization and recitations passed before Buddha's words were placed upon parchment guarenteeing some reduction in variation and error in translation and transcription from Buddha's original dissertation.

The Buddha claimed to know how the worlds are formed and how they dissolved. What he was willing to tell his disciples depended on their individual circumstances.

To someone not advanced in practicing the Dharma due to being overtly fixated on the origins of things, he would preach the Parable of the Poisoned Arrow. For those more advanced in the Dharma and ready for learning it, he would preach the Agganna Sutta.

It doesn't exactly make sense if you claim that the sutras were written hundreds of years after the Buddha taught them, so then we can't really know what he taught, and then go on to quote a sutra to support whatever other point you are making. That's being inconsistent.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 03:00:40 am by Dharma Flower »

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2016, 03:19:56 am »
We should also keep in mind that ancient India was an oral culture, in which important religious texts like the Rigveda were passed down for hundreds of years before taking a written form:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedic_chant#Oral_transmission

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2016, 04:11:19 am »
Buddhism, like Hinduism, traditionally teaches that, rather than evolving from lower life forms, we instead devolved from higher beings.

Originally, the people in this world still had their god-like powers, like the ability to fly, and they were still of a non-material form, but over time, as humans became more and more attached to sensuality, we became more and more physical, until we lost our spiritual abilities, and assumed the human form we have today.

This Buddhist understanding is sort of a middle ground between Biblical creationism, which says that a God created everything in the universe 6,000 years ago, and Darwinian evolution, which says that everything originated due to chance chemical processes. In the Buddhist perspective, it’s the outworking of karma which explains the origin of life.


In Forbidden Archeology, Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson documented dozens of archeological discoveries found in mainstream scientific literature, human fossils and tools found millions of years lower in the fossil record than expected.

Forbidden Archeology was reviewed in mainstream archeological journals, in which even its critics admitted that the book had thoroughly researched primary and secondary sources from mainstream archeologists in making its case.

If we devolved from higher beings, as the Buddha taught, then our purpose on this earth is clear, to find the enlightenment which rescues us from this degenerated state. We are amnesiac spiritual beings having a human experience, in need of re-connecting with the higher consciousness from which we came.

The traditional Buddhist understanding may conflict with modern science, but a committed Buddhist might decide to believe the Buddha’s words over modern science, especially when dealing with prehistory, before witnesses were around to record what really happened

As the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn explained, scientists are not purely objective, instead they interpret the data based on whatever prevailing theories will allow. Everyone must evaluate the evidence for themselves and arrive at their own conclusions.

I find it strange that people don't see the wonder in science, in the process of evolution. That, rather than follow the unraveling of a million year old mystery, they would rather invent some magical mysterious beings. Do they think that the Buddha would have done that had he lived today? Or that he would insist that we all used to be Harry Potters? When every breath we take is much more magical than anything like that?

There is no middle ground between creationism and Darwinism. You either see the universe as it is using the tools we construct, or you invent some God like being who did everything. You can't meet half way. It's an either-or situation.

There is no forbidden archaeology. It doesn't exist except in the minds of people writing books and magazines. Anyone finding something like that would publish and instantly become the most famous archaeologist in history. Nobel prizes and everything. They would rewrite the history of the world. They just don't like publishing stuff from people out to make a fast buck rather than do the hard work of real archaeology. It's fun to read, but so is Harry Potter.

If the Buddha ever taught that we devolved from higher beings then he was wrong. And he's allowed to be, by the way. He didn't claim to find revealed knowledge from on high, but that if you sit and act in the right way, then you will gain enlightenment, and see things as they are. The same things, with no new 'knowledge'. And so can we. There is nothing to 'believe', but a path to follow. Belief is a different path, leading to religious belief, which is not Buddhism. Or at least not one the Buddha taught. If a 'committed' Buddhist believed the word of the Buddha over modern science, then they are treading a path not indicated by the Buddha.

I'm sorry, but did you actually read Kuhn? Scientists are people who live in the same world as us, trying to make sense of it. Kuhn pointed out the nature of paradigm shifts in human-based scientific communities, that some people stick to ideas for different reasons. Which explained why plate tectonics took a while to be accepted science, and to take over from the previous accepted science, which is how science works. When better ideas come along, they should be accepted immediately, but people being people they aren't.

I make no apologies for my views about science. It's a big part of my life, and so is Buddhism. There is no contradiction between the two as there is no conflicting 'evidence'. There is no scientific 'evidence' in any Buddhist writing from history. Any evidence is merely opinion as to the actual origins of different writings, not about whether any of them have any scientific basis.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2016, 04:25:57 am »
There is no forbidden archaeology. It doesn't exist except in the minds of people writing books and magazines. Anyone finding something like that would publish and instantly become the most famous archaeologist in history. Nobel prizes and everything. They would rewrite the history of the world. They just don't like publishing stuff from people out to make a fast buck rather than do the hard work of real archaeology. It's fun to read, but so is Harry Potter.


You are posting as if you don't know anything about the book Forbidden Archeology:

Quote
Cremo states that the book has "over 900 pages of well-documented evidence suggesting that modern man did not evolve from ape man, but instead has co-existed with apes for millions of years!",[1][2]:13 and that the scientific establishment has suppressed the fossil evidence of extreme human antiquity.[3]

...In a twenty-page review in Social Studies of Science, Jo Wodak and David Oldroyd describe the book's argument: Early paleoanthropologists, in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, interpreted much empirical information as evidence favoring the existence of human beings in the Tertiary period (about 65.5 million to 2.6 million ago). But starting from about the 1930s, paleoanthropologists turned to the view that human beings first evolved in the next era, the Pleistocene (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago). The older evidence, Cremo and Thompson say, was never shown bad; it was just reinterpreted in such a way as to rule out tertiary humans. So what Cremo and Thompson have done is "comb the early literature in great—indeed impressive—detail"[6]:196 and argue, on the basis of their historical study, "that the old arguments were never satisfactorily disproved and should be reconsidered with open minds".[6]:206–207

...Reviewing the book in the French journal L'anthropologie, paleontologist Marylene Patou-Mathis wrote that the book is "a provocative work that raises the problem of the influence of the dominant ideas of a time period on scientific research. These ideas can compel researchers to publish their analyses according to the conceptions permitted by the scientific community."[8]:159 The evidence Cremo and Thompson bring forward for the very ancient origin of humanity, she wrote, "isn't always convincing (far from it)," but "the documentary richness of this work, more sociological than scientific, isn't to be overlooked."

...Writing in Geoarcheology,[9]:338 anthropologist Kenneth L. Feder said, "While decidedly antievolutionary in perspective, this work is not the ordinary variety of antievolutionism in form, content, or style. In distinction to the usual brand of such writing, the authors use original sources and the book is well written. Further, the overall tone of the work is far superior to that exhibited in ordinary creationist literature. Nonetheless, I suspect that creationism is at the root of the authors' argument, albeit of a sort not commonly seen before."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forbidden_Archeology


It's not just the work of early archeologists that the book surveys, though it does form a great deal of the evidence that the book provides. The book presents more recent evidence as well.

For example, Mary Leaky discovered three million year old footprints of anatomically modern humans, and then explained it away because it didn't fit the evolutionary paradigm:

Quote
So what do we have here? We have evidence that the Laetoli footprints are like those of modern humans, in terms of both their shape and gait. But none of the above mentioned scientists believed that the Laetoli footprints were made by humans like us. Why not? According to their theories, humans like us had not evolved yet. Supporters of the current evolutionary theories of human origins believe that humans like us first came into existence between one hundred and two hundred thousand years ago. Before that, there were (supposedly) only more primitive apelike an­cestors of modern humans. So according to these scientists and their colleagues, who actually did make the Laetoli prints? They have various theories. Mary Leakey, for example, believed that the footprints were made by some kind of apeman who had feet exactly like those of modern human beings. That is an interesting idea, but there is no skeletal evidence to support it. We have the skeletons of the apemen who existed at that time, three or four million years ago. And none of them have foot bones like those of modern human beings. Their toes are longer than modern human toes. In particular, the apemen of that time period have long first toes that can extend out to the side, sort of like the thumb of the modern human hand. Altogether, the feet of the apemen from that time (Australopithecus, Ardipithe­cus, Kenyanthropus, etc.) resemble those of apes. Actually, the only creature known to science today (from skeletal remains) that has a foot exactly like that of a modern human being is, in fact, the modern human species.
http://atlantisrisingmagazine.com/article/modern-humans-over-three-million-years-ago/


If the Buddha ever taught that we devolved from higher beings then he was wrong. And he's allowed to be, by the way.


I'm sorry. As a Buddhist, I cannot take your views seriously if you don't trust in the Buddha's enlightenment. As a Buddha, he never taught falsely, and was trustworthy in everything he taught. Please read the Agganna Sutta if you haven't already done so.

What the Buddha describes in the Agganna Sutta is not that humans were specially created by a theistic God. Instead, we devolved from beings who came from a higher realm.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 04:36:04 am by Dharma Flower »

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2016, 11:54:21 am »
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Dharma Flower:  "It doesn't exactly make sense if you claim that the sutras were written hundreds of years after the Buddha taught them, so then we can't really know what he taught, and then go on to quote a sutra to support whatever other point you are making. That's being inconsistent."

Yes.  I was thinking exactly the same thing as I was writing it.   :wink1:

The difference is that the preponderance of what appears in The Suttas has to do with recognizing and eliminating the causes of dukkha.  Origins of the species only appears in one sutta so far as you and I know, as no one else has chimed in on the topic.

I will go with the bulk of the data, given no other choice.
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2016, 01:23:28 pm »
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Dharma Flower:  "It doesn't exactly make sense if you claim that the sutras were written hundreds of years after the Buddha taught them, so then we can't really know what he taught, and then go on to quote a sutra to support whatever other point you are making. That's being inconsistent."

Yes.  I was thinking exactly the same thing as I was writing it.   :wink1:

The difference is that the preponderance of what appears in The Suttas has to do with recognizing and eliminating the causes of dukkha.  Origins of the species only appears in one sutta so far as you and I know, as no one else has chimed in on the topic.

I will go with the bulk of the data, given no other choice.

What you might be neglecting is that, in describing human origins in the Agganna Sutta, the Buddha explained how human suffering originated in the first place on this planet. There is nothing about the Agganna Sutta that is inconsistent with the rest of the Buddha's teachings.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2016, 02:35:48 pm »
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Will you please tell me if there are any other sutras besides the Agganna Sutta that speak of human origins? I am new to this genre of Buddhist literature.
Most of the Mahayana Sutras speak to human origin. But it’s an origin that is not found in the (illusory) past or future, but right here. There are always those who are afraid to let go of the grasping intellectual mind and empty out. Instead they latch onto this or that idea and like a monkey picking up an object and then discarding it, they look for something new to fasten onto. When will they ever step back and stop long enough to really see?
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2016, 06:19:32 pm »
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Will you please tell me if there are any other sutras besides the Agganna Sutta that speak of human origins? I am new to this genre of Buddhist literature.
Instead they latch onto this or that idea and like a monkey picking up an object and then discarding it, they look for something new to fasten onto.

Wanting to learn from the Buddha's teachings as contained in the sutras is nothing like a monkey picking up an object and then discarding it, if one is sincere is learning from the Buddha.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 07:14:13 pm by Dharma Flower »

Offline IdleChater

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2016, 07:15:42 pm »
Personally, I don't  see how the origin of the species has anything to do practice ir the reasons for it.  It has no bearing on the siritual path whatsoever.  It makes a fine intellectual pursuit, one I engage in myself, but as far as The Path goes, there is no need, really.  Other may have different needs, though. 

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: The Agganna Sutta and Human Evolution
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2016, 07:48:25 pm »
Personally, I don't  see how the origin of the species has anything to do practice ir the reasons for it.  It has no bearing on the siritual path whatsoever.  It makes a fine intellectual pursuit, one I engage in myself, but as far as The Path goes, there is no need, really.  Other may have different needs, though.

Why would the Buddha have taught the Agganna Sutta if there were no reason to teach it in the first place? The sutta teaches the beginning of human history and the origin of human suffering.

 


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