Theological disagreements about the nature and extent the universe are a central focus of buddhism on every level. Although there have been many attempts to catalog the details of Buddhist cosmologies and none of them has attempted an overall interpretation of their intent. This work attempts to start the process of understanding the major phases in Buddhist cosmological speculation. It does this by looking at the dramas of salvation that are tailored to the philosophical or theological preferences of the respective traditions. This interpretation is largely based on an examination of similarities between the Buddhist and hellenistic cosmologies. This study reveals two main cosmological traditions: those that rely upon metaphors for time, and those that rely only on metaphors for space. Both the former and latter are linked to the Hinayana forms of Buddhism, while the former is associated with the Mahayana forms. Each uses images of light and motion to express its vision of the drama that is salvation.