Original Research - Special Collection: Johan Buitendag Festschrift

Theology and cosmology in the Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosa

Kobus Krüger
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 79, No 2 | a8577 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i2.8577 | © 2023 Kobus Kruger | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 February 2023 | Published: 05 July 2023

About the author(s)

Kobus Krüger, Department of Systematic Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, Tshwane, South Africa

Abstract

The need to find clarity concerning (1) the relationship between scientific and religious cosmological discourses and (2) the imagining of a space where various religions could meet in fruitful conciliation as far as (1) is concerned, formed the basis of the article. The aim of the article was to investigate the relevance of Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga (5th CE, Pali compendium of Theravāda Buddhism) with regard to the above problems.

The methodology employed involved clarifying the historical context of the Visuddhimagga; understanding the subjective intentions of Buddhaghosa and extrapolating non-emphasised but promising underlying tendencies in his magnum opus, conducive to a perspective of ultimate, universal peace as far as Cosmos, all of humanity and its various religious discourses are concerned.

The reading of the Visuddhimagga revealed a mythology of many deities, tolerated but demoted to a status lower than that of enlightened humans; the denial of a Creator God; no notion of an analogia entis between humans and a living Cosmos, nor any tendency towards pantheism and a commitment to the ideal of universal happiness for all beings.

The main conclusion was that Theravāda Buddhism (and, to a lesser extent, Christian theology) could be extended towards the notion of a living, evolving Cosmos, appearing from and disappearing into non-substantial silence. It is not claimed that Buddhaghosa succeeded in achieving a great cosmology. It remains an unrealised possibility, latently possible as an extension of Theravāda.

Contribution: The contribution of the article is that it uncovers deeply hidden lines in Buddhism (and Christianity) that are emerging and converging. ‘Theo-logy’, re-interpreted as mystical ‘cosmo-sophy’, would not amount to a cynical debunking or irresponsible annexation of Buddhaghosa for utterly unthinkable ends, but as a topic worthy of investigation. The article is part of work in progress.


Keywords

analogia entis; analogia relationis; apokatastasis; Buddhaghosa; cosmos; cosmosophy; God; gods; mysticism; Visuddhimagga.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

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