World Cycles When Buddhas Appear
1. Buddhist Timescale
2. Great Aeon or World Cycle (Maha-kappa)
3. Incalculable Aeon or Epoch (Asankheyya-kappa)
4. Included Aeon or Era (Antara-kappa)
5. Human Lifespan (Ayu-kappa)
6. World Cycles When Buddhas Appear (Buddha Kappa)
7. Twenty-Four Buddhas Preceding Lord Gotama Buddha
8. Eight Qualifications of a Future Buddha (Bodhisatta)
9. Length of Time to Cultivate the Perfections (Paramis)
10. Reasons for the Differences in Time to Fulfill Paramis
11. Rare is the Appearance of a Buddha
12. Eight Unfortunate Existences in Samsara (Cycle of Births)
13. The Fulfillment of the Perfections by Pacceka Buddhas, Chief Disciples and Great Disciples
14. The Pre-eminent Disciples of the Buddha
16. Explanatory Notes 112
1. Buddhist Timescale
How long is a world cycle?
Suppose there was a city of iron walls, one yojana in length, one yojana in width, one yojana high and filled with mustard-seeds to the brim. There-from a man was to take out every hundred years a mustard-seed.
That great pile of mustard-seed would be emptied and ended sooner than would an aeon.
“So long, brother, is an aeon.
And of aeons thus long more than one has passed, more than a hundred have passed, more than a thousand, more than a hundred thousand.
How is this? Incalculable is the beginning, brother, of this faring on.
These four incalculable epochs are:
(i) Enveloping Epoch – period of destruction or dissolution of the world system. In the Sun Discourse (Anguttara iv, 99), the Buddha described the destruction of the world by fire that even reaches the realm of Great Brahma.
It commences with the falling of the great rain and terminates with the extinction of flames if the world system is to be dissolved by fire; or the receding of floods if dissolved by water; or the cessation of storms if dissolved by air.
(iii) Developing Epoch – period of evolution.
(iv) Developed Epoch – period of continuance after having been reinstated.
Buddhism Course Explanation of Lifespan in First, Second & Third Jhana Planes Regarding the destruction of the world by the three great elements, fire destroys the world up to the three planes of the First Jhana.
“If a man were to count the number of years by the grains of sand, picked up one by one from one league of the Ganges, the sands would be exhausted sooner than the years of one included era were all counted.”
At the completion of 64 included eras, the developed epoch comes to an end.
Sara-kappa in which one Buddha appears
Manda-kappa in which two Buddhas appear
Vara-kappa in which three Buddhas appear
Saramanda-kappa in which four Buddhas appear
Bhadda-kappa in which five Buddhas appear
the fifth Mettaya has yet to appear.
The interval of time that elapses between one Buddha kappa and the next can vary from one kappa to one asankheyya of kappas.
‘Asankheyya’ literally means ‘innumerable’ while Childers’ Pali Dictionary defines asankheyya as the highest of the numerals 10140 or 1 followed by 140 zeros! An asankheyya of kappas, 10140 or World Cycles When Buddhas Appear
117 innumerable number of world cycles is a mind-boggling time period that defies the imagination!
It should not be confused with asankheyya-kappa, which is just ¼ of a kappa.
Our Lord Buddha Gotama received his confirmation when as the hermit Sumedha, he made his aspiration to become a Supreme Buddha at the feet of Dipankara Buddha, four asankheyyas of kappas and one hundred thousand kappas ago.
Since then there have been 11 Buddha kappas, the present one being the eleventh. 7.
Twenty Four Buddhas Preceding Lord Gotama Buddha It should not be construed that there were no Buddha kappas before that of Dipankara Buddha or that no more Buddhas will arise after the present kappa.
The numbers of Buddhas who have come and gone in the past, or who will come and go in the future, are as countless as the sands of the Ganges.
The names of the twenty-four Buddhas who preceded our Lord Gotama beginning from Lord Dipankara and time intervals are listed below. • 4 asankheyyas of kappas + 100,000 kappas ago:
asankheyyas of kappas + 100,000 kappas ago:
2 asankheyyas of kappas + 100,000 kappas ago:
1 asankheyya of kappas + 100,000 kappas ago:
Anomadassin, Paduma, arada • 100,000 kappas ago:
Padumuttara • 30,000 kappas ago: Sumedha, Sujata 118
18,000 kappas ago:
94 kappas ago:
92 kappas ago:
91 kappas ago: Vipassin
31 kappas ago:
even the stage of development of one to receive the prophecy of Buddhahood and be confirmed as a Bodhisatta or Future Buddha, can be realized only when one is endowed with eight qualifications, namely:
(i) Must be a human being
(ii) Must be a male person
(iii) Must have fulfilled all conditions such as Perfections necessary for realization of Arahantship in that very life. (iv) Must meet with a living Buddha.
(v) Must be a Kammavadi ascetic (one who believes in the Law of Kamma) or a member of the community of bhikkhus during the dispensation of a Buddha.
(vi) Must be endowed with jhana attainments
(vii) Act of merit i.e. must be prepared to lay down his life for the sake of the Buddha.
(viii) Must possess wholesome desire (chanda) strong enough to aspire after Buddhahood even though he fully knows that he has to suffer much through repeated births, even in woeful states, to reach the ultimate goal.
Only those who are endowed with these eight qualifications are eligible to receive the -iyata Vivaranam or definite assurance of becoming a Buddha.
Even when as a Bodhisatta, it is so difficult to receive the prophecy of Buddhahood, what can be said of Buddhahood itself, which takes a minimum time of four asankheyyas
and a lakh of kappas for the future Buddha to develop the Perfections to their highest levels without any regard for even own his life!
Why does a Bodhisatta aspire to become a Buddha, which is so difficult, when he can easily obtain Enlightenment for himself?
It is because of his Great Compassion (Mahakaruna).
“What is the use of crossing over alone, being a man aware of my strength? Having reached Omniscience (as a Buddha), I will cause the world together with the devas to cross over.” (Chronicle of Buddhas I, 56) 9.
Length of Time to Cultivate the Perfections (Paramis) “Paramo” means highest and is used to designate a Bodhisatta because he is the highest of being, endowed with extraordinary virtues of dana, sila, etc.
Although he has the ability to attain Arahantship in that very life, yet he chooses to postpone it in order to gain Supreme Enlightenment out of Great Compassion to save others by teaching them the way to escape from the cycle of Samsara.
The ten noble qualities, which the Bodhisatta has to practise and fulfill for an enormous period of time, are called the Ten Paramis or Perfections.
According to the Commentaries, once a person has been confirmed as a Bodhisatta (future Buddha), he has to fulfill the ten Paramis or Perfections, namely:
(i) Dana (generosity)
(ii) Sila (morality)
(iii) ekkhama (renunciation)
(iv) Panna (wisdom)
(v) Viriya (effort)
(vi) Khanti (patience)
(vii) Sacca (truthfulness)
(viii) Adhitthana (resolution)
(ix) Metta (loving-kindness)
( x) Upekkha (equanimity).
The three types of Bodhisattas are:
(i) Pannadhika or wisdom predominant Bodhisatta is one with the factor of predominant wisdom always present in his endeavours and becomes a Buddha after fulfilling the Perfections for 4 asankheyyas and 100,000 world cycles.
(ii) Saddhadhika or faith predominant Bodhisatta is one who relies more on faith rather than wisdom in his endeavours and becomes a Buddha after fulfilling the Perfections for 8 asankheyyas and 100,000 world cycles.
(iii) Viriyadhika or effort predominant Bodhisatta is one who relies solely in his own effort, placing less emphasis on faith or wisdom, in his endeavours and becomes a Buddha after fulfilling the Perfections for 16 asankheyyas and 100,000 world cycles.
It must be emphasized that these 3 designations apply to Bodhisattas only.
One cannot say which Buddha is more accomplished than the other in each of these aspects.
1) and Patisambhida ana
3). With Uggatittanu Bodhisattas, the degree of maturity of their Perfections leading to enlightenment is so strong that they have to practise only 4 asankheyyas and 100,000 world cycles to accomplish the Perfections.
To sum up:
Uggatittanu Bodhisattas are identified with Pannadhika Bodhisattas (Wisdom predominant).
Vipancittanu Bodhisattas are identified with Saddhadhika Bodhisattas (Faith predominant).
eyya Bodhisattas are identified with Viriyadhika Bodhisattas (Effort predominant).
As an example, just the krill population in the Southern Ocean (estimated at 600 trillion) exceeds the human population (6 billion) by a ratio of 100,000:1.
Truly it is hard to be born as a human being!
After being warned by a good friend about these dangers, the person concerned wants to escape from all these dangers. To reach safety, he has to cross a wide river using a raft and striving with arms and legs.
The raft that takes us to safety is the Noble Eightfold Path.
It is difficult to get the opportunity to hear the True Doctrine.
But it is only during a Buddha Sasana that one gets the opportunity to hear teachings about the true nature of body and mind especially the noble dhamma of Satipatthana Vipassana (Foundations of Mindfulness),
Good Buddhists who now regularly attend talks and meditation lessons where Satipatthana Vipassana is taught should consider themselves indeed fortunate, to be able to benefit from the Noble Dhamma of the Buddha preserved by the Sangha till the present day.
Buddhism Course 12. Eight Unfortunate Existences in Samsara The Dasuttara Sutta of Digha-Nikaya and the commentary of the Anguttara-Nikaya enumerate eight existences, which are considered as unfortunate when a Supreme Buddha appears.
f) Existence in a remote border region which is not accessible to the Sangha or other disciples of the Buddha and being unable to perform meritorious action, as one has no opportunity to listen to the Dhamma.
g) Existence as a holder of wrong views is a very unfortunate existence because one is unable to listen to the Dhamma and perform meritorious action, even though one lives in the Middle Country (Majjhimadesa) where a Buddha appears and His Dhamma reverberates throughout the land.
h) Existence as a deformed human or degraded deva of the Catumaharajika realm, whose rebirth consciousness is devoid of the three good roots (ahetuka) so that one is unable to understand or practise the Dhamma, even though one is living in the Middle Country and does not hold any wrong view.
ii) Pacceka-Bodhi: Enlightenment consisting of the fourfold insight knowledge of the Path (Magga-nana) by oneself without a teacher’s help. Such a Buddha is called a Pacceka Buddha or Lone Buddha− ‘an enlightened one who is on his own’ because he does not reveal the Dhamma or preach it to the people.
So he is alone in enlightenment because he does not possess the ability to share it with others.
In the Illustrator of Ultimate Meaning, the commentary to the Khuddakapatha VI, 42-43, a Pacceka Buddha is higher than the Chief Disciples but lower than a Samma Sambuddha in terms of greatness of qualities;
Although this group of Pacceka Buddhas is mentioned as living together, it is more for practical considerations and is not connected with their practice towards enlightenment, which has to be acquired individually without instructions from others.
i) Must be a human being
ii) Must be a male person
iii) Must meet with an enlightened person, i.e. Buddha, a Pacceka Buddha or an Arahant.
iv) The aspirant must have renounced the household life.
v) Must possess wholesome desire (chanda) strong enough to aspire for the goal even though he fully knows that he has to suffer much through repeated births, even in woeful states.
The Pre-eminent Disciples of the Buddha In Samyutta the Buddha had pointed out that the group of bhikkhus who followed each of these Maha Arahants, possessed the same special qualifications as that particular Maha Arahant, just as “like attracts like.”
Thus in Anguttara-Nikaya I, 23, we read that the Buddha singled out for honour the pre-eminent disciples (etadagga) in the particular branches of the Dhamma, thereby fulfilling the wish they had made in the past.
Some notable personalities are named below together with their field of pre-eminence:
Sariputta – First Chief Disciple, foremost in wisdom
Mahamoggallana – Second Chief Disciple, foremost in psychic powers
Mahakassapa – foremost in ascetic practices
Mahakaccayana – foremost in exegesis (exposition and analysis)
Mahakotthita – foremost in knowledge of Discrimination
Ananda – foremost in wide learning, retentive memory, good behavior, resoluteness, attending to the Buddha
Upali – foremost in knowledge of the Discipline
Punna Mantaniputta – foremost in the preaching of the Dhamma
Kumara Kassapa – foremost in brilliant speaking
Revata Khadiravaniya – foremost among forest recluses
Anuruddha – foremost in the divine eye or clairvoyance
Subhuti – foremost of those worthy of offerings
Sivali – foremost of those who receive offerings
Maha Kappina – foremost of admonishers of monks
Bahiya – fastest to win Arahantship just on hearing an address, without previous study
Rahula – foremost among monks anxious for training For more details about the eminent male and female disciples of the Buddha, the reader should refer to “Pen Portraits − Ninety
Three Eminent Disciples of the Buddha” by C. de Saram7.
1) Niyama Dipani or Manual of Cosmic Order in The Manuals of Buddhism by Mahathera Ledi Sayadaw, Aggamahapandita.
2) The Great Chronicle of Buddhas, Volume 1, Part 1 by the Most Venerable Mingun Sayadaw Bhaddanta Vicittasarabhivamsa.
3) A Dictionary of the Pali Language by Robert Caesar Childers. Reprinted by Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi.
4) The Book of Gradual Sayings (Anguttara Nikaya), Volume I. Translated by F. L. Woodward, Pali Text Society, London 1979.
5) The Pacceka Buddha: A Buddhist Ascetic by Ria Kloppenborg. The Wheel Publication No. 305/306/307.
6) The Illustrator of Ultimate Meaning (Paramatthajotika) − Commentary on the Minor Readings (Khuddakapatha) by Bhandantacariya Buddhaghosa. Translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. Published by Pali Text Society, 1978.
The first five knowledges are mundane and can be attained through intense tranquility meditation (Samatha) while the last knowledge is supramundane and can only be attained by Insight meditation (Vipassana).
There are four Patisambhidas, namely:
i) anything conditionally produced,
(ii) nibbana, (iii) the meaning of what is spoken,
(ii) the Noble Eightfold Path,
(iii) what is spoken,
(iv) what is profitable, and (v) what is unprofitable.
In the examples given above, there is lucidity in the understanding of four sorts of meaning, lucidity in the understanding of four sorts of law, lucidity in the understanding of World Cycles When Buddhas Appear
According to the Puggala-Pannatti (Designation of Human Types) Chapter IV, 5 and Anguttara Book of Fours No. 133, beings who are fortunate to encounter the Buddha Sasana or Dispensation, can be classified into four types, namely:
Examples of persons of such superior wisdom are Ven. Sariputta who attained the 1st stage of Sainthood immediately upon hearing the first two lines of a four-line stanza uttered by Ven. Assaji; Ven. Maha Moggalana who attained the 1st stage of Sainthood immediately upon hearing the whole stanza repeated by Ven. Sariputta;
the person to whom comprehension of the doctrine comes by recitation, questioning, and earnest attention and by serving, cultivating and waiting upon lovely friends i.e. he has to be led on by instructions.
d) Padaparama: the person to whom comprehension of the doctrine would not come in this life, however much he may hear and bear in mind or recite i.e. he who learns by heart, is word-perfect but without understanding it.
Note: In Abhidhamma, the first three types of persons are those who are born with the three good roots (tihetuka) of non-greed, non-hate, nondelusion while the fourth type person is born with only two good roots (dvihetuka) and lacking the root of wisdom or non-delusion. </poem>