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The Rejection of Cosmogonic Speculation


A number of religions have concluded that stories about the creation are irrelevant or simply too speculative. Both Jainism and Buddhism arose in the 6th Century BC as protest movements against the Hinduism of the day. At that point in time, Hinduism was deeply entrenched in philosophic speculation. For many people, this speculation was less than helpful in everyday life. It is therefore not surprising that Jainism rejected questions of cosmogony as useless and even confusing.

The Buddha followed a similar path in rejection speculation not only about cosmogony but about metaphysics in general. He most important teaching on this point is summed up in the story of a man who is shot by a poisoned arrow. The Buddha asks if the man would reject assistance until he knew the identity of the person who shot him, the type of bow he used, etc. His point is that such information is not essential to how one should live in the present moment. The Buddha saw his teachings a practical way to liberation. Of course, the Buddha’s teachings as well as the teachings of Jainism, assume certain things about the true nature of the cosmos and the place of humanity within that order. For these movements, however, the role of cosmogony was very limited. It should be noted that some branches of Buddhism would later embrace very elaborate metaphysics and cosmogonies.