How Cosmic Is the Cosmos?

There is a story that the Buddha was once addressing his sangha, the monastic community who had gathered around to listen to him preach, when one of his bright young followers posed a series of questions. What, he asked his spiritual leader, is the origin of the Universe? Is the cosmos infinite? Is it eternal, or did it have a beginning?

After the student had finished, he looked up to the Buddha to hear his pearls of wisdom, but the older man was silent. Eventually, the young monk left, disappointed, only to come back the next day with the same queries. Once again, however, the Buddha remained quiet. On the third day, the young man returned and said in frustration: “I have asked you these questions twice. If you don’t know the answer, then admit that you don’t know. If you do know but you think I won’t understand, then just say that, but I urge you to try to explain. If, however, you stay silent, then I’m going to leave and not return.”

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