Commentarial Explanation:Flat Earth

Is it true that in the commentarial cosmological model, world is flat? This was mentioned in a lecture by Ven. Maggavihari from IIT. So, it’s safe to assume in classical Theravada world (cosmological) is explained using a flat model?

Its somewhat true, because they model it as human “realm” middle, hell realms under and heaven and brahma realms over. With the other “continents” on the same level as the earth and mount sumeru in the middle of the continents. Although i’d say this was more for ease of understanding rather than literal, since most of these realms are invisible to the human eye anyways.


Mumfie and @zerotime had a discussion here:

Mumfie: you can search in internet with the pali term tulamandale . This is the term of reference which means “disk, round flat circle”.

you can search in internet with the pali term tulamandale . This is the term of reference which means “disk, round flat circle”.
A tulamaṇḍala is the name for the dish or pan of a set of scales, in which, or upon which, one places the items to be weighed.




It gets related to the Earth in one of the verses of the Sāriputta Apadāna:

Dhāretuṁ pathaviṁ sakkā,
ṭhapetvā tulamaṇḍale;
Na tveva tava sabbaññu,
ñāṇaṁ sakkā dharetave.

It may be possible to weigh the earth,
having placed it on a scale,
But All-Knowing One,
it’s impossible to measure your knowledge.
But this doesn’t tell us anything about the Earth’s shape, for though the tulamaṇḍalas themselves will most often be circular, the items that you weigh in them can be of any shape.



zerotime wrote: Wed Dec 14, 2022 2:37 very interesting… Then maybe it should be another -mandala word?.

Mumfie: Maybe. There are over fifty Pāli compounds that begin or end with the word maṇḍala. An obvious candidate would be the sutta term paṭhavīmaṇḍala, “earth circle”. However, this term tells us little, for it would be equally compatible with a spherical earth or an earth that’s a circular plane. And so some translators translate it as sphere:

Without force, without weapons,
I conquered this earth.
I ruled it by righteousness,
without violence, by Dhamma,
exercising rulership by Dhamma
over this sphere of the earth.
(AN7.62. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
And others as a circle:

‘Long ago, O Brahman, there was a king by name Wide-realm (Mahā Vijita), mighty, with great wealth and large property; with stores of silver and gold, of aids to enjoyment, of goods and corn; with his treasure-houses and his garners full. Now when King Wide-realm was once sitting alone in meditation he became anxious at the thought: “I have in abundance all the good things a mortal can enjoy. The whole wide circle of the earth (mahantaṃ patha­vi­maṇḍa­laṃ) is mine by conquest to possess. ‘Twere well if I were to offer a great sacrifice that should ensure me weal and welfare for many days.”
(DN5. Thomas Rhys Davids)
As I remarked earlier, I don’t think the Buddha of the suttas is concerned with declaring whether the earth is a plane or a sphere. What really matters (i.e., for samvega purposes) is that it’s a mostly bumpy and hazardous sort of place:

“In this Jambudīpa delightful parks, groves, landscapes, and lotus ponds are few, while more numerous are hills and slopes, rivers that are hard to cross, places with stumps and thorns, and rugged mountains.”