Student’s Question: What is the Buddhist view on the creation of the world?

A student asks:

What is the Buddhist thinking on the beginning of the world, or the creation?

Lama Shenpen:

Well there are various answers at various levels within the Buddhist tradition.

Some of the stories sound more like myths to us these days and it’s interesting that many great teachers brought up on traditional creation myths are quite happy to drop them when they run into the scientific way of thinking.

Stories about the creation of the world have always been understood to be provisional in the sense that unenlightened beings are not able to understand the true nature of reality anyway – so all we need is a story that leads us to draw the right conclusions in terms of how we live our life.

It’s like trying to think about how it is that the sun doesn’t really rise but the earth is turning. I find it really hard to think of the earth as turning and why that makes it seem as if the sun is rising and setting – so I just think and talk about it rising and setting and from the practical point of view that works. It’s all I need to know really! It’s a kind of myth isn’t it?

Whatever explanation the scientific establishment comes up with concerning evolution or creation is bound to have some value even if it’s just a stepping stone to a yet deeper level of understanding or disillusionment.

We don’t have to worry that somehow this process is going to undermine our Buddhist beliefs. The most fundamental point from the Buddhist point of view is that there is ultimately no beginning and no end to the nature of reality.

Any beginning is only an apparent beginning and an end is only an apparent end.

In the true nature of reality what we call time is a conceptual approximation of what is actually beyond concepts. Its very nature is beyond concepts – we can only know it by making an intuitive leap of some kind into the true nature of our being – and we can make that leap when we hear phrases like ‘timeless’.

We cannot understand it – nonetheless it’s possible to make some kind of leap isn’t it?

This is an evasive answer but anyway, I hope it helps.

Lama Shenpen Hookham