You might find it strange but one of my lessons during a Buddhist youth camp revolves around aliens and spacecraft. Monks usually don’t teach all the following stories because modern educated people tend to disbelieve and worse still mock them as fantasy. But I was fortunate that the youths asked and the monk taught.
For people who are familiar with the topic of ancient aliens or ancient civilization, Buddhist scriptures contains some interesting events that may bring them excitement.
Do Buddhist believe that there are other life forms out there? The answer is a resounding yes. Our scriptures is rich with it. The heavenly realms have countless world systems. Some with physical bodies whereas some are only energy bodies.
When we speak of heavenly realms or the Asura realms,we often see them being depicted in temple wall murals as wearing traditional human costumes and wearing traditional headdresses that accord with the time they were painted.
However, the scriptures never really depict them that way. Instead, it records the unique characteristic of that particular heavenly race. And it is not limited to their physical appearance.
I am recalling from memory what I heard from various monks in the past.
For example, in one story, the beings of a particular heaven communicated with lights. In our current world, this is no longer fiction but a reality. Think fiber-optic cable. But 2500 years ago, such an idea will be fairy tales and such beings are known as sky people.
In another record, the Asura race wages war against the gods. Woman folk and family members of the warring Asura keep track of their love ones by staring at magic mirrors. For the modern man, we would probably depict them as looking at monitors or flat screen devise to get updates about their beloved? In ancient world, our TV would probably be known as a magic mirror.
Then we also have record of different time dimension. For example, when the god visited Earth, one day of the heavenly realm is equal to a 100 years on earth. Thus gods such as Sakka had chosen to stay close to Earth when Buddha was physically around. Frequently appearing in person among the human.
Then there is this account of Buddha visiting the heavenly realm to teach. This event is still being celebrated by Buddhist around the world today. When Buddha returned from his trip, it was witnessed by many humans. He descended a heavenly ladder and was accompanied by reverential gods. So for the alien fans. Buddha was not abducted. He was invited.
What did Buddha teach that it interest the gods (Alien?) so much. One of the topic is The ultimate truth of existence (Samsara). According to scriptures, when Buddha reminded the Sky people of their impermanence, that topic shook the core foundation of their palaces. ie Perhaps in our terms today, Buddha taught about the ultimate truth of existence that is beyond their knowledge and civilization.
Then there was a story of how some gods committed themselves to protect our human world, as long as Buddhism exist. Protect from what? I cannot remember that,I think its natural disasters and destruction.
Then there was a story of Naga or serpent race inviting Buddha to teach in their land. Naga race arriving in their strange vessels through river and water ways and disappearing back into the waters. It is said that their world is deep under the sea.
The Buddha also shared in a story that deep under our Earth surface are many creatures. Some as big as a small continent and beyond our imagination.
Then there was this account of how the sky people can twist spatial reality so that a small cave can accommodate hundreds or thousand beings to listen to a sermon. Perhaps that explain why Mahayana scriptures recorded thousands of people on vulture peak (a very small place?
We also have records of ancient giant human race too. That was a time before our current cycle of human existence. And the future world of human race is flat? No mountainous terrain or valley…. maybe a catastrophe flatten the world or humans will be living on spaceship? Who knows? You can imagine how hard it is to explain to people 2500 years ago how the TV works? Perhaps that is why the scriptures recorded key points only.
Then there was a comical moment during the Buddha’s Parinirvana. One of the grieving monk was attending to Buddha in his final moment and Buddha asked him to step aside because he is blocking the views of the sky people! I imagine cameras being focused on Buddha from space ship and perhaps relayed back to other galaxies…live telecast?
If we think and look at the ancient Buddhist scripture with an open mind, it can be both entertaining and enlightening. Of course we do not know what the real situation was like. Just as ancient artist trying to depict such events according to their understanding of the world, we will also be interpreting the stories recorded in the scriptures according to our limited knowledge.
Hope you enjoy this fun and light article for your weekend.
May all be well and happy.