According to prophecy Maitreya Buddha will appear in India. I have heard that there are Tibetans, devoted Buddhists and perhaps even monastics that say Maitreya Buddha will be a Tibetan. Maitreya Buddha's going to be a Tibetan and that's that.
But if Maitreya Buddha arrive during a period of advanced technology and world society is more unified than it is now, we hope that Maitreya Buddha will be a world citizen and not exclusively belonging to Tibet or to India or even to America. We don't know where Lord Buddha Maitreya will appear.
It is said that Maitreya Buddha will appear in the Southern Continent. So that brings up interesting ideas about cosmology of Buddhism, and exactly where is the Southern Continent? According to Indian Buddhism, the Southern Continent is only India, although the great minds that developed this I'm sure did not have that limited agenda.
I hesitate to really go into cosmology in the details because I'd need the text here to really be careful. However, after Buddhism went to Tibet, the Southern Continent was described as India and Tibet. And so now I'm going to say, because Buddhism is becoming strong in the West, oh-- let's just call the Southern Continent the entire earth.
Not only our earth but also other worlds are within the Southern Continent. Cosmology say that the world is flat. Copernicus and others before him who said the world was round were vilified for that belief. It was considered to be against all reason and logic because if it was round everyone would fall off it. Early peoples had a belief that the world was flat so that they wouldn't fall off of it. If sailors sailed near the edge of the world they had to be very careful because there were sea monsters waiting near the edge of the world. On the Discovery Channel not long ago I saw a computer-generated image of the Milky Way. And lo and behold if the Milky Way isn't as flat as a pancake.
Mount Meru is at the center of the Milky Way and the reflection of the light to the Southern Continent produces a certain-colored sky. I could get into trouble with scholars on this because they don't use the name of "Milky Way," but they know that there is a vast system to which we belong.
Tibetan cosmology was based on Indian system and its study gave a quasi-scientific basis. And as time goes on and as scientific instruments become more and more sensitive, some things that Eastern early sciences had but didn't have the outer instruments to verify are now known.
There are some Tibetans in the West who are making a dharmic connection between the macrocosm of the sun and the moon and the stars, the outer universe and the microcosm of one's internal energies that might seem like Tibetan cosmology but it is not – to my knowledge. Tibetan astrology is that branch and not studied at all as a monastery subject.
Cosmology is related to studies that are part of sets of knowledge. For example, music, archery, wrestling and one other were skills and sets of knowledge important at the time Lord Buddha Shakyamuni was being trained as a future king. In the Tibetan monastery some will study cosmology but just an aside, really. We don't really study mathematics. These three, and...writing is in there somewhere. Poetry. These were the traditional subjects for a king.
Astrology, cosmology...cosmology is not analyzed because it is what it is. One would memorize the facts without questioning. Through the logical process, what the original teacher said could be verified because the basis of their very being was authentic. And when authentic says this is true, this is not an extrapolation, this is not joking or a commentary – this is an authentic pronouncement. Then those pronouncements were believed.
Not too much to say about cosmology here because these things were taught as a whole subject as a series of steps that began with the earliest arisal of living beings in the universe and ended with the destruction of the universe. It was part of a series of teachings to do with...not impermanence, although that's a good idea. They were part of a set of teachings having to do with how life started...
There is some concern in modern Tibetan scholarship that we need to hold onto the traditional learnings, especially as the endangered Tibetan culture need to have world light shining on this struggle for national identity। Many refuse to learn scientific knowledge because they feel it will damage other traditional values.
However, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is front row center learning science and encouraging others to as he says keep what it valuable in Tibetan culture and other parts will need to be abandoned.
The discussion will go on…