Earthquakes

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Earthquakes (bhumicala) occur all over India but particularly in the north and the ancient Indians made various attempts to explain their cause. The 10th century Adbhuta Sagara says earthquakes are caused by the movement of sea monsters while the Brihat Samhita, written in about the 6th century, says they are caused by flying mountains dropping to earth. Another theory was that they happen when the great elephants that holds up the earth sigh. The oldest explanation, in the Rig Veda, says that Indra, the god of thunder, agitates the four elements – earth, water, fire and air and that this makes the earth quake. The ancient Greeks believed that earthquakes occurred when Poseidon got angry and threw his trident on the ground. The Bible attributes plagues, droughts and other natural disasters to God’s vengeance for mankind’s sins. The well-known TV evangelist Pat Robertson has said that the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed about 200,000 people was God's punishment for the Haitian people doing a pact with the Devil.

Eight causes of earthquakes according to the Buddha

1. This great earth, is established upon liquid, the liquid upon the atmosphere, and the atmosphere upon space. And when, mighty atmospheric disturbances take place, the liquid is agitated. And with the agitation of the liquid, tremors of the earth arise.

2. When an ascetic or holy man of great power, one who has gained mastery of his mind, or a deity who is mighty and potent, develops intense concentration on the delimited aspect of the earth element, and to a boundless degree on the liquid element, he, too, causes the earth to tremble, quiver, and shake.

3. When the Bodhisatta (Buddha-to-be) departs from the Tusita realm and descends into his mother’s womb, mindfully and clearly comprehending.

4. When the Bodhisatta comes out from his mother’s womb, mindfully and clearly comprehending.

5. When the Tathagata becomes fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment.

6. When the Tathagata sets rolling the excellent Wheel of the Dhamma.

7. When the Tathagata renounces his will to live on.

8. When the Tathagata comes to pass away into the state of Nibbana in which no element of clinging remains; then, too, this great earth trembles, quivers, and shakes.

(from Digha Nikaya 16)

Although the Buddha was not one hundred percent in the descriptions, he was clearly attempting to give a naturalistic explanation for the phenomena, which is fitting with science.

References