Cosmology is an account or theory of the origin of the Universe, and, by extension, humanity’s place in it.
Cosmologies often borrow from one another, creating new cosmologies by applying the scientific discoveries of the day. Some cosmologies develop into religious beliefs; others develop through the lens of scientific thought.
Here is a quick historical tour of cosmologies:
Brahmanda from the Hindu Rigveda (1500 – 1200 BCE) said that the Universe is a cosmic egg that cycles between expansion and total collapse. It claimed the Universe is a living entity bound to the perpetual cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
The Ptolemaic Universe (200 CE) said that the Universe orbits around the Earth. It was the model accepted by many world religions of the time.
During the next 1200 years, the Ptolemaic universe graduated through many models until Copernicus turned the Universe inside out and discarded the Earth centric view.
From the time of the Copernican model in 1543, until Einstein in 1917, alternative models came with scientific discoveries. These included the Kant/Lambert model of endlessly recycled matter that sounds suspiciously like the Hindu model. After Einstein’s relativity theory, the number of cosmological models accelerated with the ability of modern instruments to provide detailed measurements of our environment.
Today, we have many choices dueling it out, including String theory, the Uniformly Expanding theory, Big Bang/Big Crunch theory, and Null Physics.
Baguazhang takes its name from the Daoist cosmology attributed to Fu Xi. It is a foundation to eastern thought and was a new world to me when I started studying the internal martial arts.
The Canon Components introduce three original cosmologies that contributed to the development of China. More than cosmologies, these systems became a way of thinking, forming governments, and making a living. These systems are Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Individually, or in concert, they have left an imprint on Asian martial arts.
I introduce these cosmologies as a survey of Chinese history because such discussions often present the classical Chinese cosmologies as ideas fixed in time, or in polar opposition to each other. This view is encouraged through popular culture—such as martial art movies—where conflict between Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian thought is a storytelling mechanism. When viewed through the long lens of history, however, you find that these systems borrowed from each other as they influenced China’s development.
The Canon Components provide a framework for your understanding of mindfulness and its application in martial art practice. These cosmologies started before the birth of China when Buddha, Confucius, and Laozi were establishing the philosophical systems that would shape the nation. After China organizes as an empire, philosophers, historians, and government officials reflect on this golden age. Some chose Daoism as the example of perfect life, others Buddhism, and others Confucianism. Dynasties rose and fell, and each system had its time, only to be replaced by another in a few years.
Because of this constant turmoil, no one system made it to the modern age without taking on characteristics of the others. The first example of this adaptability was Confucius himself, who took the Yi Jing Ching—a Daoist text filled with superstition—and turned it into a manual on proper living. Then, during a period of turmoil, Buddhism—an already adaptable system—absorbed Daoism to form the Zen branch that sprang from Bodhidarma and the Shaolin Temple.