With close reference to Buddhist scriptures, here are three interesting articles with the Buddha’s perspectives on the origin of humans and their belief in a creator ‘God’:
Can a ‘Creator God’ be ‘Created’?
Unless out of Bodhicitta,
wanting to create something external
is a sign of internal imperfection,
incompletion and discontentment.
In the Brahmajala Sutta (http://tinyurl.com/sutta1), the Buddha tells of a long time ago, when this world system is naturally and cyclically dissolved after a lapse of many aeons. During this time, beings are mostly reborn as gods with radiant light from their bodies in the Abhassara heaven (the highest of the second jhanic heavens) nurtured by jhanic bliss. (See http://tinyurl.com/31planes for planes of existence) When the world arises again after a long time, a palatial Brahma abode manifests naturally (in one or all of the three first jhanic heavens – of Maha Brahma, his ministers and retinue). One of the Abhassara beings is reborn into this lower heaven due to exhaustion of his relevant positive karma or lifespan. There, he lived alone for many aeons, becoming weary and lonely. Longing for company, he uttered, ‘Would that some other beings come to this place!’ By a string of karmic ‘coincidences’, other beings from the Abhassara ‘fall’ and are reborn there.
‘Seeing this, the ‘first’ god thought, ‘I am Brahma, the great Brahma (Maha Brahma), the conqueror, the unconquered [almighty], omniscient, the subjector of all to his wishes [lord of all], the omnipotent, the maker, the creator, the supreme, the controller… and Father to all that have been and shall be. I have created these other beings…’ These beings revered him as they too assumed that he created them – as he was there before they came into being, and that they too had forgotten about their past lives. However, this was simply because the first god there karmically has a longer life, more beauty and power than the following ones. When the Earth is formed later, one of these gods dies and is reborn as a human, who becomes an ascetic. Through diligent mental cultivation, he is able to recall just one immediate past life, from which he concludes that Maha Brahma creates humans, and that he is ‘eternal’ and ‘unchanging’.
The Buddha thus showed how belief and worship of a creator god arose. Incidentally, the Buddha was first invited to teach the Dharma by Brahma Sahampati from the highest fourth jhanic heaven. Being an enlightened ‘Teacher of Humans and Gods’, the Buddha clearly saw that world systems undergo natural cycles of formation, evolution, dissolution and destruction, which interact with beings’ karma without any creator god. He also realised how beings can be reborn as wondrous gods through meditative virtues, though they are still spiritually short-sighted, unmindful of many past lives and the existence of higher heavens. It is by karmic default that some gods naturally mistake themselves to be perfect, omniscient, omnipotent creators, when they are not – due to their inadequacy, pride and delusion. Though they live the illusion of ‘eternal’ life in ‘eternal’ heavens, they too are trapped in rebirth. Interestingly, the Kevatta Sutta (see Realisation at http://tinyurl.com/kevatta) says Maha Brahma already realised the Buddha’s superiority!
The ultimately enlightened [Buddhas] are so
because they are able
to understand and explain everything ultimately.
How Were The ‘First’ Humans ‘Created’? (Part 1: Sutta Summary)
The Dharma is the best thing
for people in this life
and the next as well.
– The Buddha (Agganna Sutta)
Taught by the Buddha, the Agganna Sutta is fascinating because it demystifies many mysteries, such as how the universe, the Earth, humanity, civilisation, defilements and spirituality evolved – with practical perspectives too. During the previous cyclical contraction of the world system a long time ago, beings were mostly karmically born in the Abhassara (Brightly Radiant) heaven, where they dwelled afloat in bodiless self-radiance for a long time, feeding on jhanic bliss from meditative absorption. When the world began to expand again, most of them are reborn on Earth. After a long time, a sweet savoury earth spread over its dark waters. One of the beings tasted it on a finger out of greed, and craved for more, followed by the others, as they broke and ate pieces of it. As a result, their luminosity disappeared, and the moon and the sun ‘appeared’ in contrast, distinguishing night and day, months and the seasons.
The more the beings ate, the coarser their bodies became. As arrogance and conceit arose when the better looking ones despised the uglier ones, the savoury earth disappeared, leading to lamentations. In replacement, a sweet mushroom-like fungus cropped up, which they ate for a long time, as they became coarser and further differentiated. With more arrogance and conceit, the fungus disappeared and was replaced by bamboo-like creepers, followed by fragrant rice free from powder and husks, which replenished itself over a day or night. After feeding on it for a long time, female and male beings developed sexual organs, as they became lustfully preoccupied with each other. Those seen indulging in sex were barred from villages for a month or two, as they built dwellings to hide their activities.
It then occurs to one of them to be lazy, to gather rice for both breakfast and supper at once instead of twice a day. Gradually, the others also gathered for more and more days. When the rice was stored, powder and husk began to envelope the grain. Where it was reaped, it did not grow again, and they had to work harder and harder to tend to it for food. Lamenting that wicked ways have become rife among them over time, which affected the changes, they divided the rice into fields with boundaries. When a greedy one stole crops from another’s plot, he was caught and reprimanded. However, he repeats stealing, which led some to hit him with fists, sticks and stones.
The beings then appointed the best-looking, most pleasant and capable one to censure and banish those who deserved it, giving him a share of their rice in return. He came to be called Maha-Sammata or ‘the people’s choice’. Thus began the ‘Khattiya’ or ‘Raja’ class, who were supposed to be ‘lords of the fields’ and ‘he who gladdens others with Dharma (Truth and the path to it)’. Some thought that they ought to put aside evil conduct (such as murder, theft, sexual misconduct and deceit) and came to be known as ‘Brahmins’ and ‘Jhayakas’, which means ‘they who put aside evil unwholesome things’ and ‘they who meditate’. They made huts for forest retreats and meditated there, gathering alms for their evening and morning meals in villages. Some who were unable to meditate settled around villages and compiled texts, and came to be known as ‘Ajjhayaka’ or ‘they who do not meditate’.
Some paired off, adopting many trades, and came to be known as Vessa (traders), which means ‘various’. Some went hunting, and were known as ‘Sudda’ (hunters) or ‘they are base who live by the chase’. All the castes’ origins were in accordance to the Dharma (and how it was interpreted), and not by others. Some Khattiyas, Brahmins, Vessas and Suddas who were dissatisfied with their own Dharma, renounced household life to be wandering Ascetics. Karmically, anyone who was ill in thought, word and deed, and had wrong views would be reborn in a lower realm in suffering, while anyone who was good in thought, word and deed, and had right views would be reborn in a higher realm in bliss. Those who have mixed karma experience mixed consequences, while those properly restrained could eradicate their defilements and attain enlightenment, becoming chief among others in accordance with the Dharma, such as the Buddha, whose wisdom and conduct is the best among humans and gods.
Despite being karmically unequal,
we can all strive to be equally liberated
from the shackles of unequal karma.
How Were The ‘First’ Humans ‘Created’? (Part 2: Sutta Analysis)
What is the point of being ourselves [who are imperfect],
if we cannot recreate ourselves [to become perfect]?
Like other natural cycles such as the water cycle, the Buddha taught that the universe undergoes beginningless cyclical expansion and contraction, which is similar to the scientific model of the oscillating universe, that explains how the universe forms and ‘deforms’ through rounds of the Big Bang and Big Crunch. The Abhassara gods are energy beings who attained their heavenly rebirths due to strong loving-kindness and/or meditative mastery of the second jhana. Due to the expiry of their limited heavenly karma, they ‘fell’ to the Earth, where probably moss-like vegetation developed on the seas. Giving rise to physical greed for it, their subtle mind-made forms became progressively material, coarse and complex. The meeting of the first being with this food probably resembles how the primordial soup seems to be given a spark of sentient life. Though ‘equal’ in place of origin, with the proliferation of mental defilements, physiological differences due to gender, appearance and such arose, leading to discrimination.
When sexual attraction and coupling began, it led to the need for property and privacy. Vegetation devolved to be grosser and harder to harvest as an expression of the beings’ increasing negative karma from greed and desecration of nature. Due to rise in crimes, a monarchy was formed via democratic election for the best leader to mete out punishment and manage the masses. The king was seen as worthy because of his righteousness; not due to any ‘divine’ right. The salary to reward his service was voluntarily given, which evolved to be compulsory taxation. Since the Dharma (Truth and the path to it) is the best thing in the world, everything was done, measured, and valued upon it and not anything else. As time passed, a caste system developed, which later became rigid when its origins were forgotten. This corrupted system was the one the Buddha spoke against. However, all could abandon the caste imposed on them to become Ascetics (or monastics) to seek, practise and realise the Dharma – like the Buddha did.
The Agganna Sutta hints of some agreement with Darwinian evolution as it describes increasingly complex graduated changes in flora and fauna due to their cross-interaction over a long time. In Buddhism, there is no first cause of life as rebirth occurs cyclically. The theory that there is a first cause of life which is another lifeform does not explain how did this lifeform originated, while ‘there must be a first cause’ of that life too. Science too does not detect spontaneous unconditioned generation of life. Even evolution can be naturally cyclical, because beings can devolve too, as in the case of the fallen gods. Though the Buddha did not advocate creationism in the usual sense, there is ‘creationism’ in terms of how sentient beings can proactively (re)create their destinies, thus (d)evolving physically and spiritually via their choice of thoughts, words and deeds. This can occur both on an individual or collective karmic level. In this sense, Buddhism can perhaps be seen to present a Middle Path between ‘evolution’ and ‘creationism’.
If beings can spontaneously come into being,
there is no need for a creator god.
If beings cannot spontaneously come into being,
there can be no creator god.
Complete Agganna Sutta
How Baka Brahma Realised He is Not a Creator God
How the Goldilocks Effect Affects You
Why “Intelligent Design” Lacks Intelligence
Where Does Water Come From?
Have You Heard of the Principle of Universal Importance?