‘Digha nikaya’ and the ‘big bang’ theory
Posted on November 23rd, 2018

By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando Courtesy Ceylon Today

According to Western scientists, the most recognized theory on the beginning of the universe is said to be the ‘Big Bang’ theory, but in a latest research by Prof.  Swanda Sugunasiri, in Canada, who entered the priesthood recently as Bhikku Mihitha, states the  Buddha’s ‘Agganna’ discourse in ‘Digha Nikaya’ has a different view that goes even beyond the Big Bang theory claiming the ‘universe evolves and devolves continuously, without a beginning or an end’’.

About a century ago, a pioneer in Pali Buddhism, Dr. T.W. Rhys Davids, commented on the Didha Nikaya theory as a ‘good humoured irony’.  Many current scholars too do not seem to attach much weight to it. Prof. Richard Gombrich, an Indologist and scholar of Sanskrit, Pali, and Buddhist Studies and former Boden Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Oxford, seemed to believe it as a ‘mockery of an earlier Vedic created myth’.

Prof. Steven Collin (University of  Chicago) seemed to consider it as a ‘satire’. However, Prof. Swanda Sugunasiri, who took up robes very recently as   Bhikkhu Mihitha, maintained that by contrast, the latest research on Buddhism has established what was mentioned in Agganna discourse as historically and scientifically accurate, and the universe goes through cyclical cosmic process. Bhikkhu Mihitha maintains that the Big Bang theory of billions of years ago is, in fact the devolution of earlier evolutionary phase. This he revealed to the writer and KB, during a visit to Prof. Sugunasiri in Canada in 2014.

Unique meaning

How did the breakthrough come about? Prof. Sugunasiri (Bikku Mihitha) who goes into original Pali version has apparently managed to comprehend the unique meaning intended by the Buddha about the  new Evolutionary phase” as Abhassara Satt.

It appears that there is some conflict and disagreement between the traditional and Western Buddhist scholars in referring to the Abhassara Brahma realm as photon, but Bikku Mihitha (Prof. Sugunasiri) has viewed this in a different dimension and arrived at the perception of what the Western science referred to a primordial type of photon (elementary part of light),or in the words of Albert Einstein of ‘quantum of energy’.

According to Western science, a ‘photon’ is merely an electrical charge, but according to this Buddhist theory, it has to be interpreted as a sentient or Brahma being” (without a human shape) of the earlier evolutionary form.

Buddha referred to ‘Abhassara being’ as a human being who meditated and attained the 2nd stage of Jhana (super calm stage) and ended up at death in the Brahma World (at the end of the devolutionary phase), when everything went up in flames.

Western theory

Western science completely believes in the Big Bang theory, but according to Bhikku Mihitha’s explanation on Buddhism, the Buddha has explained about an ‘earlier evolutionary phase’, about 4.5 billion years ago, comprising humans, animals, vegetation, mountain rivers and so forth, that was burnt down with the ‘Sweltering Seven Suns’, but  sparing the Abhassara Brahmaloka.

During this phase the whole atmosphere had been filled with ‘complete darkness” and hot temperatures had later turned into ‘water,’ followed by the gradual emergence of the moon, sun and earth, thus evolving the world again. Subsequently, over long stretches of time, the earth had once again become vegetation friendly.

The Buddha has also explained about the evolutionary changes in physical nature of beings where one’s ‘skin colour and quality’ began to give rise to good-looking ones when the unattractive ones began to denigrate, thus giving rise to ‘jealousy’ and ‘ hatred.’ After a lapse of millions of years, sexuality had matured in women  (first) and men later, that led to engagement in sex. Those who disapproved such deeds had started to throw mud at others calling it ‘filth’. Then building of homes had commenced to seek some privacy that led to the creation of families and communities. When those who piled up their aswenna, from their paddy fields, looting had begun to escalate with craving, jealousy and passion, which led the society towards moral deterioration. Finally, people had united and chosen the first Great Elect (Mahasumata) to deal with the ills of society.

The following statistics covering a period from 13.5 (Big Bang) million years to 150,000 modern humans suggest the following:

Universe going through a cycle of Devolutionary and Evolutionary phase known as Samvatta and Vivatta respectively

Sentient life in the Universe prior to the existence of earth goes against the Western science view point of life began after the earth theory

With the appearance of Earth, conditions conducive to sentient life appeared Over a period of billions and thousands of years, sentient life culminated in human life and society later.

In the Buddha’s portrayal of evolution, the physical universe comes up as a backdrop to the story of how Abhassara Beings ending up as human beings. Here the Buddha had not only explained the universal flow, but had set the wheels in motion with regard to the evolution of man and his relationship with nature.

Bhikku Mihitha, referring to seven paragraphs of the ‘Agganna Sutta’ thus has looked at Buddha as the greatest scientist to improve on Western science. Big Bang theory suggests the existence of a God or Gods as the first cause, whereas the Buddha’s description about the universe is cyclic with no beginning or end. Another feature in Buddha’s discourse is about the moral dimension, which is missing in western science
Bhikku Mihitha (Professor Swanda Sugunasiri) migrated to Canada on a Fulbright Scholarship. He did actively engaged in research, primarily on Buddhism. His scholarly paper containing 87 pages, deals with ‘Devolution and Evolution’ in the ‘Agganna Sutta’ in the Canadian Journal of Buddhist Studies.

He has also authored a popular text on Abhidamma, under the title ‘ You are what You  sense’; and ‘Buddha on Mind body’ which are available from the Sri Lanka Buddhist Cultural Centre. Another breakthrough research by him was Arahant Mahinda as the Redactor of the Buddha Puja, in Sihala language, on Buddhism

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