Other World Systems
In the light of modern, scientific discoveries, we can
appreciate the limitations of the human world and the hypothesis that other world systems
might exist in other parts of the universe.
On certain occasions, the Buddha has
commented on the nature and composition of the universe. According to the Buddha, there
are some other forms of life existing in other parts of the universe. The Buddha has
mentioned that there are thirty-one planes of existence within the universes. They are:
4 States of unhappiness or sub human realms: (life in
hells, animal life, ghost-worlds and demon-worlds)
1 Human world.
6 Develokas or heavenly realms.
16 Rupalokas or Realms of Fine-Material Forms.
4 Arupalokas or Formless Realms.
The existence of these other-world systems is yet to be
confirmed by modern science. However, modern scientists are now working with the
hypothesis that there is a possibility of other forms of life existing on other planets.
As a result of today's rapid scientific progress, we may soon find some living beings on
other planets in the remotest parts of the galaxy system. Perhaps, we will find them
subject to the same laws as ourselves. They might be physically quite different in both
appearance, elements and chemical composition and exist in different dimensions. They
might be far superior to us or they might be far inferior.
Why should the planet earth be the only planet to
contain life forms? Earth is a tiny speck in a huge universe. Sir James Jeans, the
distinguished astrophysicist, estimates the whole universe to be about one thousand
million times as big as the area of space that is visible through the telescope. In his
book, The Mysterious Universe, he states that the total number of universes is
probably something like the total number of grains of sand on all the sea shores of the
world. In such a universe, the planet Earth is only from the sun which takes a seventh of
a second to reach the earth, takes probably something like 100,000 million years to travel
across the universe! Such is the vastness of the cosmos. When we consider the vastness of
the many universes making up what is popularly known as 'outer space', the hypothesis that
other-world systems might exist is scientifically feasible.
In the light of modern scientific discoveries, we
can appreciate the limitations of the human world. Today, science has demonstrated that
our human world exists within the limitations of the vibrational frequencies that can be
received by our sense organs. And science has also shown us that there are other
vibrational frequencies which are above or below our range of reception. With the
discovery of radio waves, X-rays, TV waves, and micro waves, we can appreciate the
extremely limited vision that is imposed on us by our sense organs. We peep out at the
universe through the 'crack' allowed by our sense organs, just as a little child peeps out
through the crack in the door. This awareness of our limited perception demonstrates to us
the possibility that other world systems may exist that are separate from ours or that
interpenetrate with ours.
As to the nature of the universe, the Buddha said that the
beginning and ending of the universe is inconceivable. Buddhists do not believe that the
world will suddenly end in complete and utter destruction. There is no such thing as
complete destruction of the whole universe at once. When a certain section of the universe
disappears, another section remains. When the other section disappears, another section
reappears or evolves out of the dispersed matters of the previous universe. This is formed
by the accumulation of molecules, basic elements, gas and numerous energies, a combination
supported by cosmic impulsion and gravity. Then some other new world systems appear and
exist for sometime. This is the nature of the cosmic energies. This is why the Buddha says
that the beginning and the end of the universe is inconceivable.
It was only on certain, special occasions, that the Buddha
commented on the nature and composition of the universe. When he spoke, He had to address
Himself to the understanding capacity of the inquirer. The Buddha was not interested in
this kind of metaphysical speculation that did not lead to the higher spiritual
Buddhists do not share the view held by some people
that the world will be destroyed by a god, when there are more non-believers and more
corruptions taking place amongst the human beings. With regard to this belief people can
ask, instead of destroying with his power, why can't this god used the same power to
influence people to become believers and to wipe out al immoral practices from men's mind?
Whether the god destroys or not, it is natural that one day there will be an end to
everything that comes into existence. However, in the language of the Buddha, the world is
nothing more than the combination, existence, disappearance, and recombination of mind and
In the final analysis, the Teaching of the Buddha goes
beyond the discoveries of modern science however startling or impressive they may be. In
science, the knowledge of the universe is to enable man to master it for his material
comfort and personal safety. But the Buddha teaches that no amount of factual knowledge
will ultimately free man from the pain of existence. He must strive alone and diligently
until he arrives at a true understanding of his own nature and of the changeable nature of
the cosmos. To be truly free a man must seek to tame his min, to destroy his craving for
sensual pleasure. When a man truly understands that the universe he is trying to conquer
is impermanent, he will see himself as Don Quixote fighting windmills. With this Right
View of himself he will spend his time and energy conquering his mind and destroying his
illusion of self without wasting his effort on unimportant and unnecessary issues.