What role does Brahma play in Buddhism

History of religion Creation myths of mankind

Sumerians

The oldest known creation myths include those of the Sumerians, a people who lived in Mesopotamia from the 3rd millennium BC. As the first people in the world, the Sumerians brought about a high culture and a script (cuneiform). According to the Sumerian religion, the goddess Nammu, who represented the primordial sea, first created the earth goddess Uras and the sky god An. Numerous other gods emerged from them. In about 1,800 BC The Sumerian Atrahasis epic, which originated in BC, is reported as a council of elders of the highest heavenly gods after a rebellion of the lower gods, the igigu, who had committed them to labor. From then on they were to bear the hardships of the Igigu and be at the service of all gods - high and low.

Ancient Greece

After the "theogony" (origin of the gods) of the 7th century BC. Living Greek poet Hesiod, the cosmos (world order) started out of chaos (disorder). From him five primordial deities arose, one of which was Gaia - mother earth giving birth. From it came the sky, mountains and the sea. But Gaia is also the ancestor of all gods, who in turn created people in their own image. In the 5th century BC Living philosopher Plato saw the world created by a divine craftsman - a "demiurge". In the 4th century BC Scholar Aristotle, living in the 4th century BC, assumed an "unmoved first mover" as the starting point of creation.

Zoroastrianism

The oldest monotheistic religion (belief in an all-embracing God) emerged in the 2nd or 1st millennium BC. Zoroastrianism in Iran. At the center of the belief, named after the founder of the religion Zarathustra (life dates unknown), is the creator god Ahura Mazda. This first created the sky, the earth and the plants and in a second act the primeval animals and primitive man. Zoroastrianism is shaped by the constant opposition between Ahura Mazda, who stands for the good, and his adversary Ahriman, who represents the destructive and later found entry into Judaism and thus also into Christianity as Satan and God's adversary.

Judaism and Christianity

According to the book of Genesis of the Old Testament, whose writings are sacred to Judaism as well as to Christianity, an omnipotent one and only God created the sky (universe) with sun and moon, earth with land and seas, plants out of nothing in six days and animals, day and night. And with Adam and Eve he created the first man and the first woman - in his own image. With paradise, he gave the first human couple a beautiful place to live where they lacked nothing. They should only avoid the fruits of the tree of knowledge. But in the form of a serpent, Satan sneaked into paradise and seduced them. They nibbled on the forbidden fruits and so angry God that he drove them out of paradise. From then on, people had to work and fight hard for their daily lives.

Hinduism

Hinduism sees the universe in perpetual cycles of becoming and passing away. In these cycles (kalpa) there is neither a beginning of creation nor a final annihilation. The principle of creation in the cycle is represented by the main god Brahma. The other two main gods Vishnu and Shiva each stand for the preserving and destructive element. According to the Hindu view, a creation cycle comprises several trillion human years. Afterwards the creator god Brahma sinks together with all the worlds created by him in the highest cosmic spirit, the Brahman. This inexhaustible, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being is the beginningless and eternal soul of the universe, which knows no before and no after. It was always there and always will be. The question of beginning and end does not arise.

Buddhism

Of the five existing world religions, Buddhism is the only one that does not know a specific story of creation. Basically, in Buddhism the idea of ​​a creator of whatever kind is considered to be irrelevant. The founder of the religion Buddha Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BC) justified this with the fact that contemplating creation and the origin of life was pointless, as these questions could never be fully answered. It is true that in the writings of Theravāda, the oldest still existing school of Buddhism, there are deities such as Brahma or Indra who see themselves as the eternal creators of the world. However, because of their old age, these gods, with whom the Buddha himself is said to have come into contact, cannot even remember their own origins.

Germanic peoples

According to the North Germanic Edda song Voluspa, written in the Middle Ages, at the beginning there was nothing in which there was neither earth nor "heaven". The prehistoric giant Ymir lived there, from whose armpit sweat a man and a woman and from whose feet the family of giants arose. According to another song, Ymir was nourished by the primeval cow Auðhumla, who was born from melting ice and at the same time laid free Buri, the progenitor of the gods, from a salty stone. According to another Edda poetry, the gods, including the main god Odin, are said to have created the world from Ymir later. The sea emerged from the blood of the primeval giant, the earth from its flesh, the mountains from its bones and the sky from its skin. According to the Roman historian Tacitus (58-ca.120 AD), one of the old Germanic gods was Tuisto, who, through his son Mannus, became the progenitor of the Germanic peoples, who - like many other peoples - themselves as the only true people ( Mannus = human) saw.

China

According to the Chinese creation myth, the primordial chaos of the "world ice" gave rise to the cosmic principle of yin and yang, which later became heaven and earth. Pangu, the first living being, also hatched from this first egg. As a world axis, Pangu was at the center of heaven and earth. After growing into a giant that reached from earth to sky for over 36,000 years, he sacrificed himself: Pangu's breath became the wind, his voice the thunder, the left eye the sun, the right the moon. Four poles and five main mountains emerged from his body, the rivers fed from his blood. Teeth and bones turned to metal, hair gave rise to plants, and saliva gave rise to rain. Its seeds and bone marrow became pearls and jade. And humans emerged from the vermin on Pangu's body.

Bushmen

The groups of hunters and gatherers in southern Africa known as the Bushmen or San have worshiped an omnipresent, wise and powerful supreme god who created everything. According to their belief, all animals and natural phenomena were human in a mythical prehistoric age. This also applies to the stars. According to one of those ancient myths, the sun was once a Bushman. His armpit was the light and when he raised his arm, it became bright and warm on the earth. If he took it down, it was night and cold. When the Bushman grew old and weak, the children persuaded him to catch something with his arms raised. At that very moment they threw him into the sky and summoned him to stay up there forever. Since then, the old Bushman, as the sun, has ensured that the earth is warm and bright. The moon was once a man too. But even though people worshiped him too, he remained cold.

Maori

In the New Zealand Maori creation story, Heaven Rangi and Mother Earth Papa are the founders of the world. The couple, who once lay close together in a close embrace, had many sons who had to grow up in the cramped darkness between their parents and wanted to end this condition. Tumatauenga, the grimest of the gods sons, wanted to kill the parents. But his brother Tane, the god of forests and birds, pleaded for only separating heaven and earth, which he ultimately succeeded in using his feet. But his brother Tawhirimatea, the god of winds, was angry about the act and from then on waged war against all his brothers. Only the grim Tumatauenga or Tu for short - who stands for humanity - he could not defeat. As a result, he took revenge on his cowardly brothers by making Tane's birds and the children of his other god-brothers like fish and earth fruits for his food. Only the wind god Tawhirimatea could not grasp the grim Tu, which is why winds and storms plague mankind to this day.

Pueblo Indians

In the creation myth of the Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico, Awonawilona ("The one who receives everything") was the creator of the world. He formed the sun and the ocean. And he created Mother Earth and Father Heaven, from which in turn the first living beings emerged, hidden in four caves deep under the earth. Mother Earth's first children were snakes, monsters, and two giants who ravaged the ground. They built a rope ladder out of trees and vines, on which the first people could climb up from the underground. These plowed, sown and brought in the first harvest. According to the myth of the Zuni, who belong to the Pueblo Indians, the first man Poshaiyankya brought all creatures to light.

Inca

The Inca, who ruled a huge empire with over 200 peoples in the South American Andes region from the 13th to the 16th century, claimed to be the sons of the sun. But in addition to the sun god, they also worshiped the creator god Pachakamaq, which means "creator of the world" in the Quechua language. According to his myth, this created the first man and the first woman. However, he did not give his two human creatures any food, which is why the man soon died. After all, he gave fertility to the woman who cursed the Creator God for his evil deed. But Pachakamaq cut the woman's firstborn son to pieces to create the various fruits and vegetables. The second son, Wichama, escaped, whereupon the Creator God killed his mother. Wichama retaliated for the bloody act by driving Pachakamaq into the sea. This is probably one of the reasons why Pachakamaq was worshiped as Viracocha ("foam of the sea") in the Inca Empire.

Islam

There is no classic creation story in Islam. Various passages in the Koran indicate the creative act of God. For example in Sura 23 of the Koran, verses 12-14. Here it is described how the human being is formed by an unspecified "we" from a substance made of clay, which is gradually developed into blood, flesh, bones and finally into "another creation".

Editor's note: The overview of the creation myths was supplemented by the section on Islam in September 2020.