Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
First Cause be Known?
It is rather difficult for us to
understand how the world came into existence without a first cause. But
it is very much more difficult to understand how that first cause came
into existence at the beginning.
to the Buddha, it is inconceivable to find a first cause for life or
anything else. For in common experience, the cause becomes the effect and
the effect becomes the cause. In the circle of cause and effect, a first
cause is incomprehensible. With regard to the origin of life, the Buddha
declares, 'Without cognizable end is this recurrent wandering in
Samsara(cycle of birth and death). Beings are obstructed by ignorance and
fettered by craving. A first beginning of these beings is not to be
perceived. (Anamatagga Samyutta in Samyutta Nikaya). This
life-steam flows on ad infinitum, as long as it is fed by the muddy
waters of ignorance and craving. When these two are cut off, only then
does the life-steam cease to flow, only then does rebirth come to an end.
It is difficult to
conceive an end of space. It is difficult to conceive an eternal duration
of what we call time. But it is more difficult for us to understand how
this world came into existence with a first cause. And it is more
difficult to understand how that first cause came into existence at the
beginning. For if the first cause can exist though uncreated, there is no
reason why the other phenomena of the universe must not exist without
having also been created.
As to the question how all
beings came into existence without a first cause, the Buddhist's
reply is that there is no answer because the question itself is merely a
product of man's limited comprehension. If we can understand the nature of
time and relativity, we must see that there could not have been any
beginning. It can only be pointed out that all the usual answers to the
question are fundamentally defective. If it is assumed that for a thing to
exist, it must have had a creator who existed before it, it follows
logically that the creator himself must have had a creator, and so on back
to infinity. On the other hand, if the creator could exist without a prior
cause in the form of another creator, the whole argument falls to the
ground. The theory of a creator does not solve any problems, it only
complicates the existing ones.
Thus Buddhism does not pay
much attention to theories and beliefs about the origin of the world.
Whether the world was created by a god or it came into existence by itself
makes little difference to Buddhist. Whether the world is finite or
infinite also makes little difference to Buddhists. Instead of following
this line of theoretical speculations, the Buddha advises people to work
hard to find their own salvation.
discovered many causes which are responsible for the existence of life,
plants, planets, elements and other energies. But it is impossible for
anyone to find out any particular first cause for their existence. If they
go on searching for the first cause of any existing life or thing, they
point certain causes as the main cause but that never becomes the first
cause. In the process of searching for the first cause one after the
other, they will come back to the place where they were. This is because,
cause becomes the effect and the next moment that effect becomes the cause
to produce another effect. That is what the Buddha say, 'It is
incomprehensible and the universe is beginningless.'
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