The earliest written record of a total eclipse is in the Chinese text Shujing (written around 4th century B.C.) which reads: “On the first day of the last month of autumn, the Sun and Moon did not meet harmoniously in Fang.” Scholars believe that to have been during the reign of Zhon Kand, emperor of the Xia Dynasty, on October 22, 2137 B.C.1. Today we finally acknowledge the ancients knew the earth was round and the earth revolved around the sun.. But as late as February 24, 1616 two proposals were approved that condemned Copernicus’ heliocentric theory. And in 1633 Galileo began to serve a life sentence because he refused to denounce his discovery that the earth revolves around the sun. It was not until 1992 the Vatican cleared Galileo of any wrongdoing.
Without question, light from the sun is critical, we all know that, then and now. What we all didn’t know were the explanations of why eclipses or for that matter, natural geological and celestial events took place.
We are beginning to understand the “why” some things happen in our almost 14 billion years of history of our universe. But even today, we need to step back and rethink the origins of our universe as the James Webb telescope is sending us images for which no existing theory offers an explanation.
Perhaps that is why the image of Amida Buddha is so powerful for us. It is the infinite light dispelling the darkness of illusion. Throughout recorded history we may have gotten the science wrong but what Buddhism has taught us is we don’t have to allow our illusions to cause us suffering, to cause us dissatisfaction, to cause us dukkha. We can get that right.