Buddhism & Modern Science

01 May

(Originally from

Buddhism & Modern Science

By Brother Suranimala

Buddhism and Modern Science

In all present day religions, we commonly find a set of moral teachings, modes of worship and belief in the unseen. The belief in the unseen, such as the cycle of rebirths, various celestial worlds that one could be reborn in his or her next birth and the ultimate objective of life, the attainment of Nirvana as taught in Buddhism, could be accepted as absolute truths, only if the facts belonging to the physical world, as included in the Buddhist scriptures, conform with modern established scientific facts.

With this concept in mind, we invite you to examine the following data found in the Buddhist scriptures in the light of the established scientific facts. We only expect from you an unprejudiced mind, courage to accept the truth and patient reading of the following text in full. You be the judge. Let your judgment be fair and just.

If the author of the scripture or the founder of the religion did not have a perfect knowledge of the physical world or his knowledge is proved to be incompatible with the established scientific facts, how are we to accept his teachings about the unseen? This will make the whole religion to fall to the ground and eventually rejected by the followers who expect to have their salvation through it.

If descriptions found in the Scripture regarding natural phenomena only correspond to the primitive knowledge held by the contemporary generation of the founder of the religion, and do not conform with modern established science, it is a very clear and undisputable evidence that the founder of the religion was limited by the common human knowledge of his time, in spite of claims to the contrary. The scripture satiated with primitive and unscientific facts, surely cannot be a reliable source for anyone to rely on for his or her salvation in the hereafter.

Let us examine a simple example from the Holy Book of Islam, which stands completely in contrast to the views held by the generation that was living at the time of the Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him. In the 7th century, when the Quran was revealed, Arabs of that period had many superstitious and groundless beliefs regarding the physical phenomena. Lacking the technology and scientific knowledge to examine the universe and nature, these early Arabs believed in legends inherited from past generations. They supposed, for example, that mountains supported the sky above. They believed that the earth was flat and that there were high mountains at its both ends. It was thought that these mountains were pillars that kept the vault of heaven high above. However all these superstitious beliefs of Arab society were eliminated with the Quran.

”God is He who raised up the heavens without any support…..” (The Quran 31:10)

This verse invalidated the belief that the sky remains above because of the mountains.

The earth is not exactly round like a ball, but geo-spherical, i.e. it is flattened at the poles. The following verse contains a description of the earth’s shape.

”And the earth, moreover, hath He made egg shaped” (The Quran 79:30)

The Arabic word for egg here is dahaahaa which means an ostrich egg. The shape of an ostrich egg resembles the geo-spherical shape of the earth. Some early translators of the Quran have translated this word as ‘vast expanse’, which is also correct. In many other subjects, important facts were revealed at a time when no one could have known them. (Ref: ‘Miracles of the Quran’ by Harun Yahya and ‘The Quran and Modern Science – compatible or incompatible’ by Dr. Zakir Naik). Let us examine what the Buddhist scripture has to say about the physical phenomena.

Buddhist Universe

(There is some uncertainty about the length of the Yojana or Yoduna, but to be rather below, than above, and for convenience of calculation, we have reckoned it at 10 miles per Yoduna)

The infinite Worlds known to Buddha

The Buddhists are taught that the universe is composed of limitless systems of worlds, called Chakkawala or Sakwalas located on a plane level with the world in which we live. They are scattered throughout space, in sections of three and three and incomprehensible as is their number, they can all be seen by Buddha; who can know whatever takes place in any one of them, if he turns his attention towards it, or wills to know it. (Mahapadana Suttawannana – Sara Sangaha – Wisuddhi Magga)

The present day Buddhism believe that Buddha attained enlightenment and as a result became omniscient (sarvanja), which is an indispensable pre-requisite to formulate a religion involving explanations about the unseen. Very strangely Buddha states the following in the ‘Thevijjavajjagotta Sutta’ of the ‘Majjima Nikaya’ (Sutta Pitaka). “I am not omniscient (sarvanja) and if anyone has stated that I am omniscient, it is not a statement made by me and this is a false allegation made to insult me”. Unfortunately, according to this statement of Buddha, most of the present day Buddhists are insulting him by calling him a sarvanja (omniscient).

Age of the Universe

Age of the universe could be easily understood according to Buddhist scripture from the following description.

The first Buddha ‘Vipassi’ appeared in this world before 91 kalpa, and lived 80,000 years. The second Buddha ‘Siqee’ appeared before 61 kalpa and lived 70,000 years. The third Buddha ‘Vessabu’ appared before 31 Kalpa and lived 60,000 years. In this kalpa four Buddhas have appaered, ‘Kakusanda’, lived 40,000 years, ‘Konagama’, lived 30,000 years, ‘Kasyapa’, lived 20,000 years and the last to appear was ‘Gautama’ and I will not have a long life span as people in the present epoch do not live more than 100 years. (Mahapadana Sutta-Deega Nikaya)

Buddha is indirectly indicating that all the previous Buddhas have had long life span as it had been the normal situation for any human being of the particular period given above. Very interestingly, Dr. A.L. Basham, in his research work ‘The wonder that was India’ indicates in Chapter 7 that one kalpa is equal to 4.32 billion years. Accordingly the first Buddha ‘Vipassi’ has appeard in this world 91 X 4.32 = 393.12 billion years ago, the second Buddha ‘Siqee’ 61 X 4.32 = 263.52 billion years ago and the third Buddha ‘Vessabu’ 31 X 4.32 = 133.92 billion years ago. Unfortunately the Modern Science tells us that the age of the universe is less than 20 billion years. Dr.Kirinde Dhammananda Chief priest in his book ‘What Buddhists Believe’ (Page297) says that ‘The third school of thought says that the beginning of this world and of life is inconceivable since they have neither beginning nor end. Buddhism is in accordance with this third school of thought’. Modern science very categorically says that the universe has a beginning and on this basis only the scientists have calculated the age of the unverse.

“Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an? If it had been from (any) other than Allah, they would have found within it much contradiction” Qur’an 4:82

“And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our servant (i.e. Prophet Muhammed), then produce a surah (chapter) the like thereof and call upon your witnesses (i.e. supporters) other than Allah, if you should be truthful” Qur’an 2:23

The shape of the Earth

The shape of the earth could easily be understood from the following description.

Just prior to the ‘parinibbana’ (death) of Buddha, an earthquake of great magnitude has occurred. Ananda Thera has inquired from Buddha about the causes of earthquakes. Out of the eight reasons given by Buddha, the first one only of physican nature.

‘Ananda, this earth is on water, and the water is on air. When strong winds blow, the water gets disturbed, and when this happens, the earth gets tremors’. (Mahaparinibbana Sutta-Deega Nikaya)

According to above, the earth is floating on water like a boat. Isn’t it Amazing!

The light of the Moon

It is interesting to note that the Bible always refers to the sun and moon with the word ‘light’. To distinguish between them, it adds the adjective ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’. In Genesis it says, ‘the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night’. (Genesis 1:17). If Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) had copied the Qur’an from the Bible, as some claims, he should have also used similar words to describe the light from the sun and the moon. The Qur’an however, very miraculously uses distinct words, nur (light) refers to the moon, while siraj or dhiyaa (burning lamp) refer to the sun. The Qur’an thus acknowledges that the sun is the source of light and the moon only reflects the sun’s light.

Scientists discovered this fact through advances in astronomy, but the Qur’an stated it centuries ago. Similar to the Bible, the Buddhist scripture also states sun and moon as sources of light. Please refer to ‘Maagada sutta’ in the Sanyukta Nikaya of the Sutta Pitaka where Buddha has very clearly stated that the sun and moon are sources of light.

‘And has made the moon a light therein, and made the sun a lamp’ (The Quran 71-16)

The size of Maha Meru

In the center of each system there is a mountain called Sineru or Maha Meru. It is 1,680,000 miles from its base to its summit; half of which mass is below, and half above the surface of the ocean. It is the same size, or 840,000 miles in length and breadth. (Satta Suryuggamana Suttara)

The colour of Maha Meru

On each side it is of a different colour, being like silver towards the east, and like a sapphire towards the south.

It is supported on the three peaked Trikuta rock, like a vessel upon a tripod. Where these rocks rise to the elevation of 40,000 miles, there Maha Meru rests. The three rocks rest upon a World of Stone. On the summit of Maha Meru is Tawutissa, the heaven of Sakra. There are six dewa lokas in all. There are sixteen rupa – brahma lokas, in which there are no sensuous pleasures, and four more in which there are no bodily forms. The residence of the asurs is under Maha Meru.

At the circumference or outer circle of the system there is a ridge of stone called the Sakwala Rock, 12,034,500 miles in diameter and 36,103,500 miles in circumference. (Sara Sangaha – Wisuddhi Magga – Jinalankara)

The size of the Sakwala

Between Maha Meru and the Sakwala ridge there are seven circles of rocks, with seven seas between tham. (Wisuddi Magga)

The Seven circles of Rock

The first or innermost, Yugandhara, is 210,000 miles broad; its inner circumference is 7,560,000 miles, and its outer 8,220,000 miles. From Maha Meru to Yugandhara is 840,000 miles. Near Maha Meru the depth of the sea is 840,000 miles, from which its depth gradually decreases, until near Yugandhara it is 420,000 miles. The second, Isadhara, is 210,000 miles high, and 105,000 miles broad; its inner circumference is 11,340,500 miles, and its outer 11,970,000. The width of the sea between Yugandhara and Isadhara is 420,000 miles. Near Isadhara the depth of the sea is 210,000 milThe third, Karawika, is 105,000 miles high, and 52,500 miles broad; its inner circumference is 13,230,000 miles, and its outer 13,540,050. The width of the sea between Isadhara and Karawika is 210,000 miles. Near Karawika the depth of the sea is 105,000 miles. The fouth, Sudassana, is 52,500 miles high, and 26,250 miles broad. Its inner circumference is 14,175,000 miles, and its outer is 14,332,500. The width of the sea between Karawika and Sudassana is 105,000 miles. Near Sudassana the depth of the sea is 52,500 miles. The fifth, Nemindara, is 26,250 miles high, and 13,125 miles broad. The inner circumference is 14,647,500 miles, and its outer, 14,726,250. Near Nemindara the depth of the sea is 26,250. The sixth, Winataka, is 13,125 miles high and 6,562.5 miles broad. Its inner circumference is 14, 883,750 miles, and its outer 14,923,120. The width of the sea between Nemindara and Winataka is 26,250 miles. Near Winatak the depth of the sea is 13,125. The seventh, Aswakanna, is 6,562.5 miles high and 3,281.25 miles broad.

Its inner circumference is 15,001,860 miles, and its outer, 15,711,700. The width of the sea between Winataka and Aswakanna is 13,125 miles. Near Aswakanna the depth of the sea is 6,562.5 miles. From Maha Meru to the Sakwala rock the distance is 5,597,250 miles; and the rock itself is 1,640,000 miles high, half below the water and half above. The seas between the circles of rock are called Sidanta, because their waters are so light, that the feather of a peafowl would not float in them. (Sara Sangaha, Wisuddi Magga, Jinalankara)

The Seven Seas

There are also seas that have their names from the colour of the rays that fall on them from Maha Meru, or from the gems that they contain. The rays are like the respective sides of the mountain; and the silver rays from the east, mingling with the sapphire rays from the south, cause the seas and skies in those directions to be of the same colour. (Sara Sangaha, Wisuddi Magga, Jinalankara)

The rays pass from Maha Meru to the Sakwala rock

The Great World is 2,400,000 miles in vertical thickness. At its base is the Gal Polowa or the World of Stone, consisting of hard rock, impervious to water, 1,200,000 miles thick; and above that is the Pas Polowa, or the World of Earth, also 1,200,000 miles thick. Underneath the World of Stone is the Jala Polowa, or the World of Water, 4,800,000 miles thick; and below this the Wa Polowa, or the World of Wind, 9,600,000 miles thick. (Sara Sangah, Jinalankara)

The thickness of the Worlds of Stone, Earth, Water and Wind

In the great sea between the Aswakanna and Sakwala rock there are four continents. 1. Jambudipa, in shape like a chariot, is 100,000 miles in length and breadth. 2. Aparagoyana, in shape like a mirror, 70,000 miles. 3. Pubbawideha, in shape like a half moon, 70,000 miles. 4. Uttarakuru, in shape like a seat, 80,000 miles. Around each continent there are 500 islands. The faces of the inhabitants are of the same shape as the continents in which they live (Sara Sangaha). From Maha Meru to the Aswakanna rocks is 2,083,000 miles; from Maha Meru to the center of Jambudipa is 2,798,600 miles; and from Jampudipa to the middle of the Sakwala rock is 2,798,000 miles, a little more or a little less, as the odd yodunas are not reckoned. This continent is situated in the center of the Blue Sea. (Wisuddhi Magga)

The distance from Maha Meru to Jampudipa

If it were not for the circular rocks, all the waters would form one great ocean; then, when the great wind strikes against Maha Meru and the Himala wana, the Sakwala is shaken, the waters would be shaken too, and all running to one side, overflow the continents and islands, and the Sakwala would be destroyed. When the Sakwala is shaken, the waters within it are shaken too, and this causes the sea to ebb and flow. In the Maha Parinibbana Sutra, Buddha enumerates to Ananda, eight causes of earthquakes. The first he mentions is on this wise: “The earth rests on Jala polowa, or World of water, and the water rests on the Wa polowa, or World of Wind. The wind rests on the Akasa, air, or space. Ananda! Whenever the great wind blows, it causes the water to shake, and when the water shakes, the earth shakes”

Each Sakwala has a sun and moon. The sun is 500miles in height, length, and breath, and its circumference is 1,500 miles. The moon is 490 miles in height, length, and breath and its circumference is ,1470 miles. Their orbits are horizontal with Maha Meru, at an elevation of 420,000 miles above the surface of the earth. The orbit of the moon is lower than that of the sun by ten miles. It is 1,000 miles from the lowest part of the moon to the highest part of the sun. The inside of the sun is gold, and the outside is covered over with crystal. Both within and without it is hot. The inside of the moon is a gem, and the outside is covered with silver. Both within and without it is cold. (Jinalankara)

The Sun and Moon

On the day of the dark moon, the moon is immediately under the sun. The sun and moon travel on together, but as the moon does not move so rapidly as the sun, the distance between them increases continually, until, on the day of the full moon, it is 15,000,000 miles from the sun. (Sara Sangaha)

The distance of the Moon from the Sun

In the space of one month the moon moves towards the north, and then towards the south, as the sun does in one year. The planets travel on the two sides of the moon. When the sun travels crosswise, from south to north, or from north to south, it moves more slowly than when its course is straight. On the day after the dark moon, the sun has passed away from the moon a million miles, on account of its greater swiftness.

Are the sun and moon swallowed by the asur Rahu? The scripture says YES. (Jinalankara)

The size of Rahu, and his seizure of the Sun and Moon

Rahu is 48,000 miles in size; his breadth between the shoulders is 12,000 miles; his thickness, from breast to back, is 6,000 miles; his head is 9,000 miles in size; his forehead 3,000 miles; from eyebrow to eyebrow is 1,500 miles; his nose is 3,000 miles long, and his mouth is 3,000 miles deep; the breadth of his palm and of his foot is 2,000 miles; and one joint of his finger is 500 miles long. When Rahu sees the shining of the sun, he descends towards the path in which it moves, and there remaining with his mouth open, the sun falls into it, as if into the Awichi hell. The dewas resident in the sun bawl out, trembling with fear. He sometimes covers the sun and moon with his hand; sometimes hides them under his jaw; sometimes licks them with his tongue; and sometimes moves them up and down in his mouth, like an animal chewing its cud. But he is not able to prevent them from moving onward. Were he to attempt to keep them in his mouth, saying, “I will kill these (bawling) dewas” they would escape through the crown of his head (Sara Sangaha – Sanyutta Nikaya wannana).

There is a great whirlpool in one part of the sea. It is thus caused the gates of the Awichi hell (underneath Jambudipa), are continually opening and shutting, by which a great flame arises, so that the water boils for many miles below the surface, which is thereby greatly agitated. It is this terrible place is called Walabhamukha. The waters become deeper as they recede from the continents, on both sides, gradually, according to the following scale; an inch, two inches, a span, a cubit, a yashtiya, an isba, a half gawwa, a gawwa, a half yojana, a yojana, and so on, until near Maha Meru they are 840,000 miles deep.

From the bottom upwards, for 400,000 miles, they are agitated by large fishes; and from the surface downward, for 400,000 miles, they are agitated by the wind. In the 40,000 miles that intervene between the two agitations, there is a perfect calm. There are waves 600 miles high, called Mahinda; others 400 miles high, called Porana. (Sara Sangaha)

The waters of the Ocean and the size of the Waves.

In them there are fishes called Timinda, 2,000 miles in size, Timingala, 3,000 miles; and Timira Pingala, 5,000 miles. There are four others, Ananada, Timinda, Ajaroha, and Maha Timi, each 10,000 miles in size. When the Timira Pingala shakes his right or left ear, the waters are agitated for the space of 5,000 miles around, and it is the same when he shakes his head or tail. When he moves his head and tail together, the waters are agitated for the space of 8,000 miles. It requires water more than a thousand miles deep to cover his back. (Sara Sangaha, Maha Nidana Sutra Wannana in Deega Nikaya).

In the continent of Jambudipa, there are 40,000 miles that have been swallowed up by the ocean, because the merit of those who were to derive benefit from the land was exhausted; 30,000 miles are covered by the HimalaWana; and 30,000 miles are inhabited by men. (Sara Sangaha)

The size of Jambudipa

In the part in which men live there are fifty six ratnakaras (places where gold, and other ten kinds of treasures are found); 99,000 sea ports, from which customs are levied; and 189,000 cities. The Himalawana is so called, because it is covered with hima, or snow. There are 500 rivers in it, each of which is 500 miles in length, breath, and depth. There are seven large lakes: Anotatta, Kannamunda, Rathakara, Chhaddhanta, Kunala, Mandakini, and Sihappapata, eachof which is 1,500 miles in extent. Around Anotatta are five mountains: Sudassana, Chitta, Kala, Gandhamadana, and Kailasa. Sudassana is golden, and 200 miles high; Chitta is throughout of gold; Kala is of antimony; Gandhamadana is of the colour of mung seed, and there grow upon it ten different kinds of fragrant creepers or trees. There are also caves: golden, gem like, and silver. At the entrance of the gem-like cave, there is a tree called Munjusaka, ten miles high and ten broad, on which grow all kinds of plants, and a wind arises that removes all impurities, now making smooth and even the comminuted gems of which the surrounding sand is composed, and now sprinkling water from the Anotatta lake, that has the fragrance of all sweet scented trees. Seats are at all times prepared for the reception of the Pase-Buddhas, when any appear.

When one Pase-Buddha takes his seat, all the others assemble there at the same time; and if any one recently attained this privilege, he tells how he became possessed of it. All the mountains are of the same height and form. All are 500 miles broad, and in length and height 2000 miles. From its four sides proceed four rivers, called after the mountain from which they issue: Singha, lion; Hasti, elephant; Aswa, horse; and Wrashabha, bull. These animals abound their banks, each of the rivers goes three times round the lake and then passes onward to the sea. The river at the south proceeds in a straight line over a bed of stone 600 miles, then strikes against a rock, rising about ten miles in all directions, and becoming like a lake ten miles in size, then passes 600 miles through the air, and in its fall breaks the rock Tiyaggala in pieces. It then becomes a lake 500 miles in extend, proceeds 600 miles on a bed of stone, and 600 miles underground, and after striking against the rock Windhya, changes into five streams, like the fingers on the hand. Between the eastern and northern mouths of Chhaddantha there is a nuga, or banyan tree, the trunk of which is 50 miles round and 70 miles high; it has branches on its 4 sides 60 miles long; from the root to the highest part is 130 miles; and from the tip of one branch to that of the opposite one is 120 miles. It has 8000 roots, shining like the mountain Munda Mani (Sara Sangaha, Surattha Dipani). There are lions in the Himala wana of four kinds: trina , kala, pandu, and kesara. The trina is dove coloured, and in shape like a cow. It feeds on grass. The kala is like a black cow, and feeds on grass. The pandu is of a yellow colour, and in shape like a cow, it feeds on flesh. The kesara has its mouth, the tips of its nails, and the extremities of its feet, red, like sealing wax; three lines run from the head along the back. He is called murga-raja, or the king of beasts. (Sara Sangaha)

The size of the Jambu Tree

In the same forest there is a Jambu, or Damba tree, from which Jambudipa, or Dambadiwa, derives its names. From the root to the highest part is 1000 miles; the space covered by the outspreading branches is 3000 miles in circumference; the trunk is 150 miles round, and 500 miles from the root to the place where the branches begin to extend; the four great branches are each 500 miles long, and from between these flow four great rivers. Where the fruit of the tree falls, small plants of gold arise, which are washed into the river, and carried onward to the ocean. (Sara Sangaha, Wisuddi Magga)


This summary of what we may call the geography and astronomy of the Buddhists, is taken from works that are considered as authoritative by the followers of Buddha; but nearly every one of the proposition therein contained is proved to be false, unfounded, and unreal, by the demonstrations of modern science. They may say that nobody now believes the tales about Maha Meru; and about waves, trees, or fishes, many miles in size, and about lions as swift as sound; and yet, with strange and reprehensible inconsistency, they still profess to believe that the books containing them are a divine and authoritative canon. They say these things are intended as allegories, figures, and hyperboles; but a moment’s unprejudiced thought must convince them that this is impossible, as they rest upon the same foundation, and possess the same warrant, as the most important of Buddha’s doctrines and revelations. The connection between the one and the other is so indissoluble, that if Maha Meru, and the other things we have enumerated above, are proved to have no existence, or to be impossibilities, we invite our Buddhist brethren to re-examine their religious beliefs. Religious people inherit their religion from their parents. One is a Muslim simply because his father is a Muslim; another is a Christian or a Buddhist or a Hindu through inheritance. In an age where human knowledge has achieved great progress, man should free himself of the bonds of tradition, and, out of understanding and awareness, choose the religion whose truth he can trust and whose tenets he can verify through study and research.


Occasionally a person faces various physical and spiritual sorrows and troubles in the world. Amongst these are feelings so intense that they cannot be compared with any other physical pain. This feeling that causes such great distress in the human soul is a feeling called ‘regret’.

“We have warned you of an imminent punishment on the Day when a man will see what he has done, and the disbelievers will say, ‘ Oh, if only I were dust’” (Quran-Chapter An Naba-Verse 40)

We all will have to face a Day of Judgment or a Day of Reckoning in the hereafter, before the God of all the worlds. To protect us from the Eternal Regret that we may face in the hereafter, it is imperative that we must worship One True God, The Creator, Sustainer, Cherisher and Provider of the Universe.

“Those who reject our signs, We shall soon cast them into fire. As often as their skins are roasted through, We shall change for fresh skins, that they may taste the chastisement. Truly Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise (Quran 4:56)

A Buddhist by birth, Professor Tajatat Tejasen, Chairman of the Department of Anatomy at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, previously Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the same University, was shown the above verse in the Holy Quran at the Eighth Saudi Medical Conference held in Riyadh. He admitted that this verse very clearly shows that the skin is the center of sensitivity to burns. Further, Professor Tejasen conceded that this knowledge was non existent amongst mankind 1400 years ago, at the time the Quran was revealed, and this is a very clear evidence that this Book is undoubtedly from an all Knowing source. He finally became a devout believer in Islam and for him this verse was alone sufficient to open up his mind to the Truth.

“Whoever is given wisdom, has indeed received much good, but none except the men of understanding are mindful” (Holy Quran 2: 269)

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