A Description of an Alien Visit in the Buddhist Lotus Sutra

A Description of an Alien Visit in the Buddhist Lotus Sutra

by Capers Jones 

The Buddhist scripture called Saddharma Pundarika or the Lotus of the True Law was first written circa 300 A.D. (Note that the word “Sutra” means “scripture.”)   The exact date of the original Sanscrit version from India is not known with certainty, but the first Chinese translation was made sometime between 265 and 315 A.D.  Buddha himself was born in 563 BC, so the Lotus Sutra was obviously written by Buddhist monks around eight centuries after his death.

The English language version cited here was translated by H. Kern and originally published in 1884 by the Clarendon Press.  This same translation was republished by Dover Books in 1963 in unabridged form and is the source of this paper.

As background before proceeding, Buddhist cosmology is surprisingly modern.  Buddhism recognizes the existence of millions of other worlds and casually asserts that they are inhabited.  Indeed, each inhabited world is stated to have a Buddha of its own.  (The word “Buddha” means an enlightened being.  In Buddhist teachings, anyone is theoretically capable of becoming a Buddha, although actually accomplishing this goal is rare.)  One Buddhist scripture mentions in passing that on earth sermons are given with words, but on other worlds sermons may be given with light or with scents or by other non-verbal means.


Another modern aspect of Buddhist cosmology is the recognition that the universe has existed for many millions of years.  Time in Buddhist cosmology is measured in terms of “kalpas.”  A kalpa is figuratively defined as the amount of time it would take to wear away a mile-high mountain if a bird landed on it and sharpened its beak once every thousand years.

Kalpa is a Sanskrit word  meaning an aeon, or a relatively long period of time (by human calculation) in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. The concept is first mentioned in the Mahabharata. The definition of a kalpa equaling 4.32 billion years is found in the Puranas (specifically Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Purana).

Buddhist cosmology also overlaps modern quantum theory, in that the Buddhists think that the void or emptiness is the source of both material objects and energy.  As in quantum theory, particles can flash into existence from the void.  The fact that material objects are constructed from millions of small particles is also part of Buddhist teaching.  A central teaching of Buddhist philosophy is that all objects composed of such particles are fated to decay.  This entropy or decay applies to living creatures, material objects, and the universe itself.  Since Buddhist cosmology dates back prior to 525 BC, it is interesting that there are so many similarities between Buddhist cosmology and modern cosmology.

Incidentally at about the time the Lotus Sutra was being written, the famous University of Nalanda was being created in Northern India.  Nalanda was the first university to teach astronomy and cosmology, as well as teaching mathematics. 


Although Nalanda was a Buddhist university, it was surprisingly eclectic and attracted students of other religions and students from many Asian countries.  For example, translations from Sanscrit into Chinese carried out at the University of Nalanda preserved many valuable scientific documents whose originals were later destroyed during the Muslim invasions of the 11th century.


In the Lotus Sutra the beginning of each chapter provides some context of where the specific sermon was supposedly given when Buddha spoke.  The names of the major disciples who attended are supplied as well.


Chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra is entitled “Gadgadasvara” and begins on page 393 of the Dover edition.  Because the original 1884 translation uses many Indian names and very long titles (such as a distant world called “Vairokanarasmipratimandita.”) I will paraphrase the section that deals with a visit by an alien from another world.

In Chapter 23, when the terrestrial Buddha was about to give a sermon, he darted a flash of light from a circle between his brows.  This flash of light was seen on other worlds, including the one with the very long name cited in the previous paragraph.


On this other world the resident Buddha (who also has a very long name) perceived the ray of light from earth.   One of his students, named Gadgadasvara, also sees the ray of light and realized what it meant, i.e. that the Buddha on this world was about to give an important sermon.

The student asks his master for permission to visit earth and listen to the sermon of Sakyamuni, the terrestrial Buddha.  Permission is granted, but the master gives Gadgadasvara some interesting cautions about what to expect on earth:

“On coming to earth you must not conceive a low opinion of it.  The earthly Buddha Lord Sakyamuni will seem small compared to you, as are his disciples.   He looks different from us and he and his followers will seem to be ugly, so do not behave rudely.  The earth itself has parts that are ugly like sewers, so do not form a low opinion of it.”

(It is rather surprising that a Buddhist religious text would describe the historical Buddha as being “small and ugly.”   In fact as a young man the historical Buddha was described by many eye witnesses as being athletic and comely.  Even at an advanced age Buddha was described as having good posture and a face that reflected wisdom, a benevolent nature, and peacefulness.  Of course from the point of view of an alien, it is hard to say what the surface appearance of a human would look like.)

At this point in chapter 23, Gadgadasvara enters a deep meditation and then appears psychically on earth before Sakyamuni and his students.  One of the earthly students, Manjusri, asks about this mental appearance.  Sakyamuni replies that the visitor is a student from another world.

Manjusri asks if he can learn the same kind of meditation used to travel between worlds.  Manjusri also asks if Gadgadasvara can come in person, because he wants to see what he looks like.

Gadgadasvara agrees, and comes to earth in physical form “accompanied by the noise of hundreds of thousands of musical instruments.”  He arrived by moving through the sky on a “large tower.”  Once he arrived, his appearance on earth was described as follows: 

“His face showed eyes resembling blue lotuses, his body was gold colored…and sparkled with a luster.”

Upon arrival Gadgadasvara has a curious but polite conversation with Sakyamuni.  He inquires about this world and about terrestrial students.  Gadgadasvara expresses hope that earthly students are not too troublesome or too difficult to instruct.  This is an interesting conversation because it deals casually with the topic that every inhabited world will have students and teachers and that the students on some worlds may be easier to teach than students on other worlds.

Sakyamuni asks Gadgadasvara to show the earthly students his true shape and body which he does.  But Sakyamuni also points out that Gadgadasvara has the ability to assume many different forms and to take on many other appearances if he wishes to do so.

Gadgadasvara listens to Sakyamuni’s sermon, and then gives a polite “goodbye” to the terrestrial Buddha and returns to his own world:

“he again mounted the tower and with the noise of hundreds of thousands of musical instruments he returned to his own world.”

This brief discussion of an alien visitor in chapter 23 is the only spot in the sutra that deals with interplanetary travel.   The purpose of the discussion appears to be to indicate that Buddhist principles and teachings are valid on all inhabited worlds.  No doubt the discussion in chapter 23 is allegorical rather than describing an actual event.  It is easy to dismiss the account as fiction, but it does contain seven interesting aspects:

  1. The existence of many other inhabited worlds is casually accepted.
  2. Both psychic and physical travel between worlds is casually accepted.
  3. Forms of communication other than words are casually accepted.
  4. Visiting aliens can apparently assume human shapes if desired.
  5. A surprising alien motive for visiting earth is to learn and share knowledge.
  6. Human beings and the earth are described as being ugly to aliens.
  7. At least some aliens visiting earth are cautioned not to be rude to humans.

Considering that the Lotus Sutra was written around the 3rd century AD and the English translation was made in 1884, the concept of interstellar travel is surprisingly matter of fact.  It is stated explicitly in the chapter that extra-terrestrials can travel between worlds and that visits to earth are not uncommon.  Somewhat more surprising is the concept that instantaneous mental communication between enlightened beings on many worlds is possible and indeed a common activity.  This is surprisingly similar to the idea of “entanglement” from physics, or instantaneous communication between widely separated particles.

It is also interesting that chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra states explicitly that contacts between humans and non-human aliens can be in the form of polite discussions and scholarly exchanges of information.

It is intriguing that the historical Buddha was not at all surprised by an alien visit, and rather casually explained to his followers what was taking place.  The inference is that Buddha’s on various planets are aware of one another.

Since most of the literature dealing with alien contacts tacitly assumes superior wisdom on the part of the aliens, it is also interesting that chapter 23 describes a visit by an alien specifically to listen to a sermon by a human teacher.

In conclusion, chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra does not contain ambiguous discussions that have to be twisted and distorted to reflect some form of alien contact.  Chapter 23 asserts specifically that interplanetary travel and contacts between humans and aliens actually occur.  Further, the same chapter asserts that such contacts can be benign and cause no harm to either terrestrial or extraterrestrial participants.

September 3, 2013

Copyright 2013 Capers Jones



  1. chaminda dharmarathna says

    I was referenced your blogsite related with”A Description of an Alien visit in the buddhist Lotus Sutra”
    .abviously my friend this knowledge belongs to mahayana philosophy; according to “Saddharma pundarika sutra” it says about remote beings who visited to the planet earth.really that the holy chapter delivered to gods & brahmas by LORD BUDDHA in their plane.but lord buddha taught us in THERAVADA philosophy about cosmogony as well than the others.
    when sun and moon emitted their own light and passed them alongs the naked space,as a so far called galaxy or chakraawaata.such a thousand of galaxy set named “chulani lookadhathuva”.again its 1000 to power 2 called Dvisahassi lookadhathu.and also such a thousand of dvisahassi lokadhathu defined as maha lokadhathu(1000*1000*1000). considering of the composition chart of the worlds in a galaxy it included with seven divine world,twenty brahma realms,one earth and one of each hades,goblin world,demon world and an animal. this is the minimum calculation what buddha told,and further explaine if anyone able to put thousand of maha lokadhathu in to pin tip,in naked eye range in darken consist immense of world which alience may live.those planets away from us by trilliones of light years,but physically some of alien beigns space travelling using hightech destroying barrigeds of space and time.among them some of being ability to using ESP powers.such as telepathy,clairvoyance etc.
    telling something about lord Buddha,he wasn’t a god or brahma or demon or man ,but a human being ,not a layman but enlightmented omnicent almighty the great for whole universe.all the celestial beings kneedown under his supreme compassion.he is not a messenger of any other,he never connect to this samsara becourse he attained with nibbana….by…chaminda dharmarathna.

  2. Arindama Randika says

    Actually, WORLDS in buddhism doesn’t actually means another planet but another realm. like as we differentiate the human world and animal world.
    And beings of higher realms than the human realm are called as gods or devas.
    and when it says UNIVERSE, it’s more likely to be describing the planet earth or earth like planets.
    and the solar systems we call today are explained as lokhadhatu.
    try to read the agganna sutra, buddha explains how humans evolved from abhasvara lokas or realms.

    visit this and check, it says more about Buddhist cosmology.

    • Tara says

      They do mean other planets also, because Buddha clearly explains many realms and in some of them they live for a very very long time, thousands of years but still die and take lower births due to the exhaustion of good karma if we speak of good realms. This is all in the Pali Canon.

  3. David A. says

    According to Ahbidhamma, there will be only ONE supreme Buddha in one universe in at least four ions. There could be hundred and thousand of Pacceka Buddha in the same universe. But in other dimension, there could be other Supreme Buddha and Pacceka Buddha as well..

  4. kewal says

    We think ourself as an earthly person and others alien.why do forget it is a time limited stay on earth.what about before birth we are also aliens and not permanent to earth. why do we consider ourself non aliens when we know that we were not here but somewhere else before and will be anywhere at unknown plane afterwards… so my dear friends don’t erect the pillar of me and my don’t be cruel to other creatures only because of their flesh it looks horrible of humans eating flesh of species sharing earth with us do not call them animals.

  5. T says

    Dr. Steven M.Greer , the Director of CSETI, the disclosure projects, who has been trying to disclose prohibited info about Alien visiting earth. He also talks about how alien travel through space=time and the universe by using conscious and through meditation. You need to watch this maybe on you tube and you will be even more surprise how coincide this is. As a Buddhist I understand him right away and tried to go thru PraTripeedok to see if it say something about that and it does.

  6. Ravi Singh says

    This is interesting, I read few articles from various suttas and I found. The word Deva’s used in Buddhist literature is for people of other worlds.

    Interestingly Deva’s means Demi God or God, in both Buddhist and hindu literature. Like Zues or Hades were in Greek literature.

    But in Hindu literature they are never shown as extraterrestrials, whereas in Buddhist literature they are.

  7. Maunagarjana says

    There is a favorite story of mine involving the Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna and his visit by some Nagas, which are serpent beings in Indian lore. According to the story, a pair of them showed up at a lecture by Nagarjuna (notice the “Naga” in his name….this story, presumably, is where that comes from.)

    Nargarjuna noticed them standing in the back during his lecture, and they approach him after everyone had left, and he notices they smelled strongly of sandalwood, and when he asks them about it, they tell him they smeared themselves with sandalwood paste to protect themselves from impurities. Then they tell him they want to take him to their underwater lair, and (as the story goes) he goes with them for three days to their home under the ocean.

    While he is there, they give him some scriptures called the Prajnaparamita Sutras (the central texts of Mahayana Buddhism, by the way), saying that they were sermons given by the Buddha, but at the time the Buddha gave them they didn’t think anyone would comprehend, so they recorded them and preserved them until such time that someone like Nargarjuna would appear.

    I’m sure some might be tempted to interpret this story in some kind of sinister way, because of stories in the ET contactee community involving reptilians, but if you take the story at face, these ones seem to be quite helpful, I would say.

  8. Dafirestar says

    Who better to represent Earth and the people of Earth than Buddha. Knowing that the enlightened from our planet are in contact with the enlightened from other planets in the Universe make the prospect of Earth’s permanence much more likely than if our Earthen Ambassadors were politicians, we would have no chance.

  9. Alex SABO says

    When I travelled to India I visited the Sacred Nalanda University, I was told near by there are these most unsual Chariot wheel marks with hand written shell characters. Check it out – Nyiwin’s Blog In The Steps Of The Buddha http://nyiwin.wordpress.com/…/in-the-steps-of-buddha…-

  10. Ann says

    Thank you! This is so interesting. Can you tell me who the artist is for the beautiful image of the Buddha sending light into the universe?

  11. Rudra Pandit Das says

    Nice Post Thank You.,I am a Hindu monk 40 + years.I follow the Vedas and teach, we chant mantras in Sanskrit.We accept the Buddha teachings and also say he is a god of the highest and a incarnation of Krishna who also came to earth about 5,000 years ago.thank you and please post again.

    • Tara says

      Do you know what was before the Vedas, because Shiv is pre vedic. I would like to hear from a Vedic perspective. I have been doing research on Aliens and studied both Vedic and Buddhist studies all my life. It seems like there are many similarities between Summerians and Hindu Gods. Seems like all forms are just one of many realms Buddha speaks of. I would like to know though, what was there before Prajapati started the Bhramanical system according to your own studies. thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *