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Buddhist eschatology

The eschatology of Buddhism and is nearly identical to Hinduism’s, with the major difference being that the “beginningless ­samsāra,” a life cycle for the universe without start or end, is not presided over by any deity.  Propelled by the karma of living beings, the universe rises and falls naturally on its own.  There are alternating periods of cosmic manifestation and non-manifestation.

The universe gradually comes into being at the peak of perfection, from which it slides downward.  When it hits the nadir of its cycle, most of the universe is destroyed by fire, water, and wind (a few of the highest heavens survive untouched), and then the universe lies dormant in a non-manifest state for a period until the stage of renovation starts the cycle over again.   Some have tried to assign lengths of time to each stage; however, most have been content with saying just that it will take a really, really long time.

The thing Buddhists are sure of, a stance possibly unique in world eschatologies, is that the universe is not under any immediate threat of annihilation.  Though we are far from perfect, we still have a long way to fall before we hit bottom (Nattier 152).


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