Buddhism sees the universe as uncreated, eternal. Even if the big bang were true, it could just be part an endless cycle of expansion and contraction.

I'm looking for an argument against the universe being uncreated, eternal, without origin.

  • See Eternal return and Nietzsche's formulation May 17, 2022 at 6:47
  • See Aristotle on the eternity of the world for an argument supporting the eternity of the world. May 17, 2022 at 10:03
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    And see John Philoponus: "in 529 wrote his critique Against Proclus On the Eternity of the World in which he systematically argued against every proposition put forward for the eternity of the world. " May 17, 2022 at 10:04
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    The argument is causality. Finding a lot of smoke inside your bedroom is not normal, and you ask yourself where does it come from. That is, you search for the origin, the cause. Because at the root of such analysis, causality tells you that every fact has an origin, a cause, and knowing the cause will help you perhaps even to survive.
    – RodolfoAP
    May 18, 2022 at 2:42
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    Even if the universe were eternal, it would be reasonable to ask why it exists at all. You can't avoid the question of a first cause by claiming the world is eternal.
    – user4894
    May 18, 2022 at 6:19

5 Answers 5


The historical Buddha refused to answer questions like

Is the world eternal or is the world not eternal?

He left ‚undeclared‘ the issue (E.g., Majjhima Nikaya 63, Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta). Because Buddha did not consider questions like these to be relevant for his doctrine of salvation.

In my opinion, also we today cannot decide these questions. Questions about a possible origin of the universe are far beyond our present knowledge from astrophysics. Even more: Not only we do not have answers, we do not even have suitable concepts to formulate questions like these.

All former and present attempts to deal with these issues is to extrapolate concepts and principles far beyond the domain, where they proved to be useful heuristics to guide our search.


What is the universe? What does it look like?

Since we rely on cosmology to even describe what's there, mainstream philosophy leaves it to cosmology too determine the most probable theory of the creation of the universe.

It is irrational to trust the methods of cosmology to measure what's there, but then reject the models that the measurements are based upon.

The currently preferred model of the universe is of a finite past, an infinite cycle of expansion and contraction is more problematic in cosmology. See Is a cyclical model of time and the universe logically valid, and which philosophers (if any) have proposed such a model? But the main here remains that cosmology, astronomy or physics forums are more reasonable places to consider than philosophy.

There cause of a big bang, if that started the universe, is not easily decidable. But from the chaotic shape of the universe, it seems very unlikely that if there had been intentionality about it, that involved plans about our present lifes as humans on earth. So philosophically whatever started the universe did not likely consider life on earth.

Philosophically there is a possibility of divine intervention or intentionality much more recent in shaping life as we can observe it. Creationism defines arguments such as irreducible complexity to "prove" that intentional design must have been involved in the shaping of life in earth, or the shaping of the planet earth as life supporting planet. But those attempts are transparently attempts to justify religious writings from the bible, and not grounded in science, and not relevant to mainstream philosophy. Other arguments for intentionality of the universe might exists, but typically not from cosmology, which do far has not found any conclusive trace of necessary design.


If you desire a factual answer, or an estimate motivated by the best computer modeling currently available, you are looking in the wrong place. This is a question best posed to practitioners of cosmology, not philosophy.


As the answers above show, if by universe you roughly mean physical reality, this is the wrong place to ask. If by universe you mean all of reality simpliciter, then there are some tools that might guide you in the right direction, in particular

(a): the grim reaper paradox

(b): the cosmological argument from [contingency, motion, etc..]

Note that some arguments for (a) may end up relying on a/b theory of time, which certainly draws evidence from our best physical theories. (b) says nothing about whether the universe is eternal or not (except in the case of the kalam), but it might say things about whether the universe is created or not.


In the Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta Buddha has this discourse:

As he was sitting there he asked the Blessed One: "How is it, Master Gotama, does Master Gotama hold the view: 'The cosmos is eternal: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"


"Then does Master Gotama hold the view: 'The cosmos is not eternal: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"


"Then does Master Gotama hold the view: 'The cosmos is finite: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"


"Then does Master Gotama hold the view: 'The cosmos is infinite: only this is true, anything otherwise is worthless'?"


So it is not really true to say Buddhist thought holds the universe to be uncreated and eternal, those positions are explicitly denied. But so are their opposites. Later in the sutra:

Vaccha, the position that 'the cosmos is eternal' is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. It is accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, & fever, and it does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full Awakening, Unbinding.

Framed in even more direct summary:

"To think ‘it is,’ is eternalism, To think ‘it is not,’ is nihilism: Being and non-being, The wise cling not to either." *-Nagarjuna in Mūlamadhyamakakārikā ('The Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way') *

This is not just a way of avoiding a difficult topic. Consider, what does it mean to say, before time began? How do we grapple with that idea? The idea the universe began with a singularity suggests exactly that. Penrose's Conformal Cyclic Cosmology suggests a kind of equivalence between a universe only containing photons, which don't experience time, and a white hole, making the timeless interval between universes even more explicit, and yet unrelatable to anything we can experience.

You can get to the same point through contemplating: If there was a Creator, where did they come from? In that perspective, Christian thought has an eternal cosmos too. But eternal, or Created, neither are satisfying. What would it mean for either stance to be falsifiable? And what about other options?

When we try to grapple with ideas like the beginning of time, our intuitions are useless, our ordinary framework of thought is unhelpful, and misleading. We should look instead to how we can be making sense of our experiences - that is, to evidence in the world, and towards understanding our minds in it.

  • You prompt the reader "Consider, what does it mean to say, before time began?" - Do you think that your term ‚before time began‘ is a meaningful term? - If yes, then the burden seems up to you - not to the reader - to explain the meaning.
    – Jo Wehler
    May 18, 2022 at 2:11
  • @JoWehler: I was only aiming to point at how simple questions & contemplations unsettle ideas about what eternal means. The nature of time & the origins of the Big Bang are among the biggest questions in cosmology, with a shift towards ideas around emergence, like in Hawking's & Penrose's work - which would challenge simple definitions of eternal or created.
    – CriglCragl
    May 18, 2022 at 12:50

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