The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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The self-consistent Buddhist cosmology which is presented in commentaries and works of Abhidharma in both Theravāda and Mahāyāna traditions, is the end-product of an analysis and reconciliation of cosmological comments found in the Buddhist sūtra and vinaya traditions.
Spatial cosmology can also be divided into two branches.
See also: Formless Realm
The Ārūpyadhātu (Sanskrit) or Arūpaloka (Pāli) (Tib: gzugs med pa'i khams) or "Formless realm" would have no place in a purely physical cosmology, as none of the beings inhabiting it has either shape or location; and correspondingly, the realm has no location either.
- Naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana or Nevasaññānāsaññāyatana (Tib: 'du shes med 'du shes med min) "Sphere of neither perception nor non-perception".
In this sphere the formless beings have gone beyond a mere negation of perception and have attained a liminal state where they do not engage in "perception" (saṃjñā, recognition of particulars by their marks) but are not wholly unconscious.
- Ākiṃcanyāyatana or Ākiñcaññāyatana (Tib: ci yang med) "Sphere of Nothingness" (literally "lacking anything").
- Vijñānānantyāyatana or Viññāṇānañcāyatana or more commonly the contracted form Viññāṇañcāyatana (Tib: rnam shes mtha' yas) "Sphere of Infinite Consciousness".
However, although the beings of the Rūpadhātu can be divided into four broad grades corresponding to these four dhyānas, each of them is subdivided into further grades, three for each of the four dhyānas and five for the Śuddhāvāsa devas,
The height of these planes is expressed in yojanas, a measurement of very uncertain length, but sometimes taken to be about 4,000 times the height of a man, and so approximately 4.54 miles (7.31 km) or 7.32 kilometers.
The Śuddhāvāsa (Pāli: Suddhāvāsa; Tib: gnas gtsang ma) worlds, or "Pure Abodes", are distinct from the other worlds of the Rūpadhātu in that they do not house beings who have been born there through ordinary merit or meditative attainments,
but only those Anāgāmins ("Non-returners") who are already on the path to Arhat-hood and who will attain enlightenment directly from the Śuddhāvāsa worlds without being reborn in a lower plane (Anāgāmins can also be born on lower planes).
The five Śuddhāvāsa worlds are:
The current Śakra will eventually be born there.
- Sudarśana or Sudassī – The "clear-seeing" devas live in a world similar to and friendly with the Akaniṣṭha world. The height of this world is 83,886,080 yojanas above the Earth. (approximately the distance of Jupiter from Earth)
- Sudṛśa or Sudassa – The world of the "beautiful" devas are said to be the place of rebirth for five kinds of anāgāmins. The height of this world is 41,943,040 yojanas above the Earth.
- Atapa or Atappa – The world of the "untroubled" devas, whose company those of lower realms wish for. The height of this world is 20,971,520 yojanas above the Earth.(approximately the distance of Sun from Earth)
- Avṛha or Aviha – The world of the "not falling" devas, perhaps the most common destination for reborn Anāgāmins.
- Asaññasatta (Sanskrit: Asaṃjñasattva) (Vibhajyavāda tradition only) – "Unconscious beings", devas who have attained a high dhyāna (similar to that of the Formless Realm), and, wishing to avoid the perils of perception, have achieved a state of non-perception in which they endure for a time.
- Puṇyaprasava (Sarvāstivāda tradition only; Tib: bsod nams skyes) – The world of the devas who are the "offspring of merit".
The Śubhakṛtsna worlds form the upper limit to the destruction of the universe by water at the end of a mahākalpa (see Temporal cosmology below), that is, the flood of water does not rise high enough to reach them.
The mental state of the devas of the Ābhāsvara worlds corresponds to the second dhyāna, and is characterized by delight (prīti) as well as joy (sukha); the Ābhāsvara devas are said to shout aloud in their joy, crying aho sukham! ("Oh joy!").
The Ābhāsvara worlds form the upper limit to the destruction of the universe by fire at the end of a mahākalpa (see Temporal cosmology below), that is, the column of fire does not rise high enough to reach them.
- Apramāṇābha or Appamāṇābha (Tib: tshad med 'od) – The world of devas of "limitless light", a concept on which they meditate.
See also: Brahma
- Mahābrahmā (Tib: tshangs pa chen po) – the world of Great Brahmā", believed by many to be the creator of the world, and having as his titles "Brahmā, [[Great [rahmā]], the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Lord, the Maker and Creator, the Ruler, Appointer and Orderer, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be."
According to the Brahmajāla Sutta (DN.1), a Mahābrahmā is a being from the Ābhāsvara worlds who falls into a lower world through exhaustion of his merits and is reborn alone in the Brahma-world; forgetting his former existence, he imagines himself to have come into existence without cause.
Note that even such a high-ranking deity has no intrinsic knowledge of the worlds above his own. Mahābrahmā is 1 ½ yojanas tall. His lifespan variously said to be 1 kalpa (Vibhajyavāda tradition) or 1 ½ kalpas long (Sarvāstivāda tradition),
although it would seem that it could be no longer than ¾ of a mahākalpa, i.e., all of the mahākalpa except for the Saṃvartasthāyikalpa, because that is the total length of time between the rebuilding of the lower world and its destruction.
- Brahmapurohita (Tib: tshangs 'khor) – the "Ministers of Brahmā" are beings, also originally from the Ābhāsvara worlds, that are born as companions to Mahābrahmā after he has spent some time alone.
- Brahmapāriṣadya or Brahmapārisajja (Tib: tshangs ris) – the "Councilors of Brahmā" or the devas "belonging to the assembly of Brahmā".
They are half a yojana in height and their lifespan is variously said to be ⅓ of a kalpa (Vibhajyavāda tradition) or ½ of a kalpa (Sarvāstivāda tradition). The height of this world is 2,560 yojanas above the Earth.
See also: Desire realm
The beings born in the Kāmadhātu (Pāli: Kāmaloka; Tib: 'dod pa'i khams) differ in degree of happiness, but they are all, other than arhats and Buddhas, under the domination of Māra and are bound by sensual desire, which causes them suffering.
Although all of the worlds inhabited by devas (that is, all the worlds down to the Cāturmahārājikakāyika world and sometimes including the Asuras) are sometimes called "heavens", in the western sense of the word the term best applies to the four worlds listed below:
- Parinirmita-vaśavartin or Paranimmita-vasavatti (Tib: gzhan 'phrul dbang byed) – The heaven of devas "with power over (others') creations".
- Yāma (Tib: 'thab bral) – Sometimes called the "heaven without fighting", because it is the lowest of the heavens to be physically separated from the tumults of the earthly world.
See also Sumeru
Its base rests in a vast ocean, and it is surrounded by several rings of lesser mountain ranges and oceans.
The three worlds listed below are all located on or around Sumeru: the Trāyastriṃśa devas live on its peak, the Cāturmahārājikakāyika devas live on its slopes, and the Asuras live in the ocean at its base.
- Trāyastriṃśa) or Tāvatiṃsa (Tib: sum cu rtsa gsum pa) – The world "of the Thirty-three (devas)" is a wide flat space on the top of Mount Sumeru, filled with the gardens and palaces of the devas.
Its ruler is Śakra devānām indra, "Śakra, lord of the devas". Besides the eponymous Thirty-three devas, many other devas and supernatural beings dwell here, including the attendants of the devas and many apsarases (nymphs).
- Cāturmahārājikakāyika or Cātummahārājika (Tib: rgyal chen bzhi) – The world "of the Four Great Kings" is found on the lower slopes of Mount Sumeru, though some of its inhabitants live in the air around the mountain.
The devas who guide the Sun and Moon are also considered part of this world, as are the retinues of the four kings, composed of Kumbhāṇḍas (dwarfs), Gandharvas (fairies), Nāgas (dragons) and Yakṣas (goblins).
- Asura (Tib: lha ma yin) – The world of the Asuras is the space at the foot of Mount Sumeru, much of which is a deep ocean. It is not the Asuras' original home,
but the place they found themselves after they were hurled, drunken, from Trāyastriṃśa where they had formerly lived.
- Manuṣyaloka (Tib: mi) – This is the world of humans and human-like beings who live on the surface of the earth. The mountain-rings that engird Sumeru are surrounded by a vast ocean, which fills most of the world.
The ocean is in turn surrounded by a circular mountain wall called Cakravāḍa (Pāli: Cakkavāḷa) which marks the horizontal limit of the world. In this ocean there are four continents which are, relatively speaking, small islands in it.
Because of the immenseness of the ocean, they cannot be reached from each other by ordinary sailing vessels, although in the past, when the cakravartin kings ruled, communication between the continents was possible by means of the treasure called the cakraratna (Pāli cakkaratana), which a cakravartin and his retinue could use to fly through the air between the continents.
The four continents are:
It is said to be shaped "like a cart", or rather a blunt-nosed triangle with the point facing south.
- Pūrvavideha or Pubbavideha is located in the east, and is shaped like a semicircle with the flat side pointing westward (i.e., towards Sumeru).
- Aparagodānīya or Aparagoyāna is located in the west, and is shaped like a circle with a circumference of about 7,500 yojanas (Sarvāstivāda tradition). The tree of this continent is a giant Kadamba tree. The human inhabitants of this continent do not live in houses but sleep on the ground. They are about 24 feet (7.3 m) tall and they live for 500 years.
The inhabitants of Uttarakuru are said to be extraordinarily wealthy.
They do not need to labor for a living, as their food grows by itself, and they have no private property.
- Tiryagyoni-loka or Tiracchāna-yoni (Tib: dud 'gro) – This world comprises all members of the animal kingdom that are capable of feeling suffering, regardless of size.
- Pretaloka or Petaloka (Tib: yi dwags) – The pretas, or "hungry ghosts", are mostly dwellers on earth, though due to their mental state they perceive it very differently from humans.
They live for the most part in desert and waste places.
See also: Naraka
There are several schemes for counting these Narakas and enumerating their torments.
- Arbuda – the "blister" Naraka
- Nirarbuda – the "burst blister" Naraka
- Aṭaṭa – the Naraka of shivering
- Hahava – the Naraka of lamentation
- Huhuva – the Naraka of chattering teeth
- Utpala – the "blue lotus" Naraka
- Padma – the "lotus" Naraka
- Mahāpadma – the "great lotus" Naraka
- Sañjīva – the "reviving" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 162*1010 years long.
- Kālasūtra – the "black thread" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 1296*1010 years long.
- Saṃghāta – the "crushing" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 10,368*1010 years long.
- Raurava – the "screaming" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 82,944*1010 years long.
- Mahāraurava – the "great screaming" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 663,552*1010 years long.
- Tapana – the "heating" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 5,308,416*1010 years long.
- Pratāpana – the "great heating" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 42,467,328*1010 years long.
- Avīci – the "uninterrupted" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 339,738,624*1010 years long.
The foundations of the earth
These are not only higher but also wider in extent; they cover 1,000 separate world-systems, each with its own Sumeru, Cakravāḍa, Sun, Moon, and four continents. This system of 1,000 worlds is called a sāhasra-cūḍika-lokadhātu, or "small chiliocosm".
Likewise, above the Śubhakṛtsna worlds, the Śuddhāvāsa and Bṛhatphala worlds cover 1,000 dichiliocosms, or 1,000,000,000 world-systems. This largest grouping is called a trisāhasra-mahāsāhasra-lokadhātu or "great trichiliocosm".
This does not mean that the same events occur in identical form with each cycle, but merely that, as with the cycles of day and night or summer and winter, certain natural events occur over and over to give some structure to time.
The four kalpas are:
- Vivartakalpa "Eon of evolution" – during this kalpa the universe comes into existence.
- Vivartasthāyikalpa "Eon of evolution-duration" – during this kalpa the universe remains in existence in a steady state.
- Saṃvartakalpa "Eon of dissolution" – during this kalpa the universe dissolves.
- Saṃvartasthāyikalpa "Eon of dissolution-duration" – during this kalpa the universe remains in a state of emptiness.
Each one of these kalpas is divided into twenty antarakalpas (Pāli antarakappa, "inside eons") each of about the same length. For the Saṃvartasthāyikalpa this division is merely nominal, as nothing changes from one antarakalpa to the next; but for the other three kalpas it marks an interior cycle within the kalpa.
The example of a Mahābrahmā being the rebirth of a deceased Ābhāsvara deva is just one instance of this, which continues throughout the Vivartakalpa until all the worlds are filled from the Brahmaloka down to Naraka. During the Vivartakalpa the first humans appear;
they are not like present-day humans, but are beings shining in their own light, capable of moving through the air without mechanical aid, living for a very long time, and not requiring sustenance; they are more like a type of lower deity than present-day humans are.
They differentiate into two sexes and begin to become sexually active.
During the first antarakalpa of this eon, human lives are declining from a vast but unspecified number of years (but at least several tens of thousands of years) toward the modern lifespan of less than 100 years.
The seventh of this line of cakravartins broke with the traditions of his forefathers, refusing to abdicate his position at a certain age, pass the throne on to his son, and enter the life of a śramaṇa.
As a result of his subsequent misrule, poverty increased; as a result of poverty, theft began; as a result of theft, capital punishment was instituted; and as a result of this contempt for life, murders and other crimes became rampant.
Our present time is taken to be toward the end of the first antarakalpa of this Vivartasthāyikalpa, when the lifespan is less than 100 years, after the life of Śākyamuni Buddha (Pāli: Sakyamuni), who lived to the age of 80.
The most contemptuous and hateful people will become the rulers. Incest will be rampant. Hatred between people, even members of the same family, will grow until people think of each other as hunters do of their prey.
The less aggressive will hide in forests and other secret places while the war rages.
After Maitreya's time, the world will again worsen, and the lifespan will gradually decrease from 80,000 years to 10 years again, each antarakalpa being separated from the next by devastating war, with peaks of high civilization and morality in the middle.
The higher worlds are never destroyed.
2. The Fine-Material World (rupa-loka)
3. The Sensuous World (kama-loka)
I. The Immaterial World (arupa-loka)
Realm Comments Cause of rebirth here (31)Neither-perception-nor-non-perception (nevasaññanasaññayatanupaga deva) The inhabitants of these realms are possessed entirely of mind. Having no physical body, they are unable to hear Dhamma teachings. Fourth formless jhana (30)Nothingness (akiñcaññayatanupaga deva) Third formless jhana (29)Infinite Consciousness (viññanañcayatanupaga deva) Second formless jhana (28)Infinite Space (akasanañcayatanupaga deva) First formless jhana
II. The Fine-Material World (rupa-loka)
Realm Comments Cause of rebirth here (27)Peerless devas (akanittha deva) These are the five Pure Abodes (suddhavasa), which are accessible only to non-returners (anagami) and arahants. Beings who become non-returners in other planes are reborn here, where they attain arahantship. (26)Clear-sighted devas (sudassi deva) (25)Beautiful devas (sudassa deva) (24)Untroubled devas (atappa deva) (23)Devas not Falling Away (aviha deva) (22)Unconscious beings (asaññasatta) Only body is present; no mind. (21)Very Fruitful devas (vehapphala deva) Beings in these planes enjoy varying degrees of jhanic bliss. (20)Devas of Refulgent Glory (subhakinna deva) (19)Devas of Unbounded Glory (appamanasubha deva) Third jhana (medium degree) (18)Devas of Limited Glory (parittasubha deva) Third jhana (minor degree) (17)Devas of Streaming Radiance (abhassara deva) (16)Devas of Unbounded Radiance (appamanabha deva) Second jhana (medium degree) (15)Devas of Limited Radiance (parittabha deva) Second jhana (minor degree) (14)Great Brahmas (Maha brahma) One of this realm's most famous inhabitants is the Great Brahma, a deity whose delusion leads him to regard himself as the all-powerful, all-seeing creator of the universe (DN 11). First jhana (highest degree) (13)Ministers of Brahma (brahma-purohita deva) Beings in these planes enjoy varying degrees of jhanic bliss. First jhana (medium degree) (12)Retinue of Brahma (brahma-parisajja deva)
III. The Sensuous World (kama-loka)
Realm Comments Cause of rebirth here Happy Destinations (sugati) (11)Devas Wielding Power over the Creation of Others (paranimmita-vasavatti deva) These devas enjoy sense pleasures created by others for them. Mara, the personification of delusion and desire, lives here. * Ten wholesome actions (MN 41) (10)Devas Delighting in Creation (nimmanarati deva) These devas delight in the sense objects of their own creation. (9)Contented devas (tusita deva) A realm of pure delight and gaiety. Bodhisattvas abide here prior to their final human birth. This is where the bodhisatta Maitreya (Metteya), the next Buddha, is said to dwell. (8)Yama devas (yama deva) These devas live in the air, free of all difficulties. (7)The Thirty-three Gods (tavatimsa deva) Sakka, a devotee of the Buddha, presides over this realm. Many devas dwelling here live in mansions in the air. (6)Devas of the Four Great Kings (catumaharajika deva) Home of the gandhabbas, the celestial musicians, and the yakkhas, tree spirits of varying degrees of ethical purity. The latter are analogous to the goblins, trolls, and fairies of Western fairy tales. (5)Human beings (manussa loka)
You are here (for now).
Rebirth as a human being is extraordinarily rare (SN 56.48). It is also extraordinarily precious, as its unique balance of pleasure and pain (SN 35.135) facilitates the development of virtue and wisdom to the degree necessary to set one free from the entire cycle of rebirths.
* The development of virtue and wisdom (AN 10.177) States of Deprivation (apaya) (4)Asuras (asura) The demons — "titans" — that dwell here are engaged in relentless conflict with each other. * Ten unwholesome actions (MN 10) (3) Hungry Shades/Ghosts (peta loka) Ghosts and unhappy spirits wander hopelessly about this realm, searching in vain for sensual fulfillment. * Ten unwholesome actions (MN 10) (2) Animals (tiracchana yoni) This realm includes all the non-human forms of life that are visible to us under ordinary circumstances: animals, insects, fish, birds, worms, etc. * Ten unwholesome actions (MN 10)
* Lack of virtue, holding to wrong views. If one is generous to monks and nuns, however, one may be reborn as an "ornamented" animal (i.e., a bird with bright plumage; a horse with attractive markings, etc.; AN 10.177).
* Behaving like an animal (MN 57)
(1) Hell (niraya) These are realms of unimaginable suffering and anguish (described in graphic detail in MN 129 and 130). Should not be confused with the eternal hell proposed by other religions, since one's time here is — as it is in every realm — temporary. * Ten unwholesome actions (Saleyyaka Sutta: The Brahmans of Sala|MN 10]])
* Being quarrelsome and annoying to others (Dhammacariya Sutta: Wrong Conduct|Snp II.6]])
- 1. Kalpa of formation (Vivarta)
- 2. Kalpa of existence (Vivatasiddha)
- 3. Kalpa of destruction (Samvarta)
- 4. Kalpa of emptiness (Samvartasiddha)
It also builds a complete astrological system.
However, both these texts never reached us.
There are three cycles within the Kalachakra tantra:
This includes the six types of living beings
Outer Kalachakras and Inner Kalachakras are the bases to be purified, whereas Alternative Kalachakra refers to the yogic practices that effect this purification and produce the three purified results.
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