Buddhist Cosmology: Science and Theology in the Images of Motion and Light

Disagreements concerning the nature and extent of the universe constitute a focus of theological debate which permeates buddhism at every level. While there have been numerous attempts to catalogue the details of the Buddhist cosmologies, none has attempted a general interpretation of their underlying intention. This work attempts to begin the process of interpreting the major phases of Buddhist Cosmological speculation by seeing in them various dramas of salvation tailored to the philosophical and theological predilections of their respective traditions. To a large extent, this interpretation relies on an examination of continuities between the Buddhist cosmologies and those of the hellenistic world as a whole. In the course of this study, two major cosmological traditions emerge; those which rely on metaphors of time and those which rely on metaphors of time and those which rely on metaphors of space. The former are associated with the Hinayana and the latter with the Mahayana forms of Buddhism. Each draws on images of motion and light to articulate its vision of the drama of salvation.