Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Long Discourses

30. Description of the World

Chapter 12: The Origins of the World

The Repopulation of the World

1. The Buddha told the monks, “After the catastrophe of fire has passed and the earth and heavens of this world are about to reform, the remaining sentient beings’ merits, actions, and lives come to an end. At the end of their lives in the Ābhāsvara Heaven, they are born into an empty Brahma abode. Their minds are stained by attachment to the place. Delighted by that abode, they wish other sentient beings would be born there with them. After they make that wish, the merits, actions, and lives of other sentient beings come to an end. When their bodies break up and their lives end in the Ābhāsvara Heaven, they’re born in that empty Brahma abode.

2. “The first being born in the Brahma Heaven thinks to himself, ‘I am the Brahma King, the Great Brahma Heaven King! I have no creator, I’ve spontaneously come to be, and I’m subject to no one. I’m the highest sovereign of a thousand worlds, skilled in various meanings, my wealth is bountiful, and I’m the creator of all things. I’m both father and mother to all sentient beings.’

3. “After that, the Brahma gods who arrive after him also think, ‘He’s the first Brahma god, the Brahma King, the Great Brahma Heaven King. He spontaneously came to be, and he’s subject to no one. He’s the highest sovereign of a thousand worlds, skilled in various meanings, his wealth is bountiful, and he’s the creator of all things. He’s both father and mother to all sentient beings. We’ve come to exist from him.’ That Brahma Heaven King looked handsome and young, always like a youth. Therefore, that Brahma god was named Kumāra.

4. “At a certain point, this world is restored again. The sentient beings that were born in the Ābhāsvara Heaven are numerous. Born here spontaneously, they’re nourished by joy. Their bodies glow with their own light, and they have the miraculous ability to fly. Their happiness has no obstacle, and their life spans are very long.

5. “After that, the world forms a great body of water that fills up every place. The world then is under a great darkness. There’s no sun, moon, stars, nor day and night. There’s no way to count the years, months, or the four seasons.

6. “Some time after that, the world again changes. The merits, actions, and lives of more sentient beings in the Ābhāsvara Heaven come to an end, and they are born here when their lives end. All are born here spontaneously, and they are nourished by joy. Their bodies glow with their own light, and they have the miraculous ability to fly. Their happiness has no obstacles, and their life spans are very long.

7. “In that time, there’s no male or female, noble or ignoble, high or low, or beings with different names. That host is born together in the world, so they are called ‘host born.’[1]

8. “At that point, the Earth has a spontaneously produced flavor of earth, which solidifies into earth that’s like ghee. When that flavor of earth is produced, it’s likewise. It’s like butter that tastes as sweet as honey.

9. “After that, the sentient beings use their hands to taste what flavor it has. With the first taste, they realize they like it, and then they become attached to tasting it. Thus, they each take turns tasting it without stopping, and then they go after it greedily. They scoop it up with their hands and form it into lumps to eat, and they don’t stop eating it. Other sentient beings see this and emulate them, eating it and not stopping.

10. “The bodies of these sentient beings become rough, and their glow gradually disappears. They no longer have the miraculous ability to fly, either. At that point, there has yet to be a sun or moon, so when the glow of the sentient beings goes out, the world is plunged into a darkness that’s no different than before.

The Sun

11. “A long, long time after that, a windstorm blows on the ocean’s water, which is 84,000 yojanas deep. It divides into two whirlwinds that grab the palace hall of the sun and place it half as high as Mount Sumeru, where it takes up the sun’s orbit. It rises in the east and sets in the west, revolving around the world.

12. “When a second sun palace rises in the east and sets in the west, the sentient beings there say, ‘This must be the sun from yesterday.’

“Others say, ‘It’s not the one from yesterday.’

13. “A third sun palace circles Mount Sumeru, rising in the east and setting in the west. Then, the sentient beings say, ‘That’s definitely the same sun.’ The word ‘sun’ means the first cause of illumination; therefore, it’s called the sun. ‘Sun’ also has two meanings. The first is to abide at a constant frequency, and the second is a palace hall.

14. “The palace hall’s four sides are round because they’re seen from far away. It’s made of heavenly gold mixed with crystal that’s neither cold nor hot. Two-thirds of it is pure and unadulterated heavenly gold, inside and out, and its light shines far away. A third of it is pure and unadulterated crystal, inside and out, and its light shines far away. The sun palace is fifty-one yojanas across, and the palace walls are made of a mineral that’s as light as oak or pine wood.

15. “That palace has seven walls, seven balustrades, seven nettings, seven treasure bells, and seven rows of trees encircling it with decorations made of the seven treasures.

16. “The gold walls have silver gates, and the silver walls have gold gates. The beryl walls have crystal gates, and the crystal walls have beryl gates. The ruby walls have emerald gates, and the emerald walls have ruby gates. The coral walls have gates made of many treasures.

17. “Those balustrades have gold balusters and silver rails, silver balusters and gold rails, crystal balusters and beryl rails, beryl balusters and crystal rails, ruby balusters and emerald rails, emerald balusters and ruby rails, and coral balusters with rails made of many treasures.

18. “The gold nettings have silver bells, and the silver nettings have gold bells. The beryl nettings have crystal bells, and the crystal nettings have beryl bells. The ruby nettings have emerald bells, and the emerald nettings have ruby bells. The coral nettings have bells made of many treasures.

19. “The gold trees have silver leaves, flowers, and fruit. The silver trees have gold leaves, flowers, and fruit. The beryl trees have crystal [leaves], flowers, and fruit. The crystal trees have beryl [leaves], flowers, and fruit. The ruby trees have emerald [leaves], flowers, and fruit. The emerald trees have ruby [leaves], flowers, and fruit. The coral trees have [leaves], flowers, and fruit made of many treasures.

20. “The palace walls have four gates. The gates have seven stair steps, and they’re encircled by balustrades, towers, terraces, forest parks, and lakes alongside each other in that order. Myriad treasure flowers grow in rows along with a variety of fruit trees with flowers and leaves of assorted colors. The fragrance of the trees is sweet-smelling and spreads far away in all directions. Flocks of various birds sing to each other peacefully.

21. “There are five winds that hold the sun palace up. First is the holding wind, second is the sustaining wind, third is the receiving wind, fourth is the turning wind, and fifth is the controlling wind.

22. “The sun god stands in his correct hall, which is made of pure gold and sixteen yojanas tall. The hall has four doors with balustrades encircling it. The sun god’s throne is a half yojana across, made of the seven treasures, and pure and soft as heavenly cloth. The sun god’s own body emits light that shines on his golden hall. The golden hall’s light then shines on the sun palace, and the sun palace’s light shines on the four continents.

23. “The sun god lives for 500 heavenly years, and his descendants who succeed him are no different. His palace is indestructible until it ends after one eon.

24. “As the sun palace moves, the sun god has no notion of that motion. He says, ‘Walking or standing still, I’m always enjoying myself with the five desires.’ As the sun palace moves, countless hundreds of thousands of great gods and spirits are ahead of it leading the way. They do so gladly without tiring of it, being delighted by its speed. This is the reason the sun god is named ‘Quickness.’

25. “The sun god’s body emits 1,000 rays of light. 500 rays shine downwards and 500 rays shine horizontally. As a result of the virtue of his past deeds, he has 1,000 rays of light. Therefore, the sun god is called ‘1,000 Rays of Light.’

26. “What are the virtues of his past deeds? Sometimes, a person gives offerings to ascetics and priests and gives aid to the poor. He gives gifts of meals, clothing, medicine, horses and elephants, vehicles, housing, lamps, and candles. When he distributes such things, he does so according to what’s needed and doesn’t go contrary to people’s wishes. He supports noble people who observe the precepts.

27. “As a result these diverse and countless causes of Dharma joy and light, his heart is good, and he’s joyful. He’s like a water-anointed king who has just ascended to the throne. His heart is good, and he’s joyful in the same way. When his body breaks up and his life ends, he becomes the sun god and attains the sun palace hall because of these circumstances. Because he possesses 1,000 rays of light, these are said to be the good deeds that obtain 1,000 rays of light.

28. “Again, what’s called the past deeds of light? Some people don’t kill beings, don’t steal, don’t engage in sexual misconduct, don’t speak duplicitously, harshly, falsely, or frivolously, aren’t greedy or hateful, and don’t have wrong views. Because of these circumstances, their hearts are good, and they’re joyful. It’s like a major crossroads with a large bathing pool that’s clear and unpolluted. People traveling from far away are exhausted, hot, and thirsty when they arrive at the pool. They go in to bathe and refresh themselves, rejoicing and delighting in it. Those ten good deeds make their hearts good, and they’re joyful in the same way. When such people’s bodies break up and their lives end, they become the sun god. Dwelling in the sun palace, they possess 1,000 rays of light. For these reasons, [these deeds] are called good deeds of light.

29. “Again, what is the reason for called them ‘[good deeds of] 1,000 rays of light’? Some people don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t engage in sex, don’t lie, and don’t drink alcohol. Because of these causes, their hearts are good, and they’re joyful. When their bodies break up and their lives end, they become the sun god. Dwelling in the sun palace, they possess 1,000 rays of light. For these reasons, they are called the good deeds of 1,000 rays of light.

30. “Sixty kṣaṇas are called a lava. Thirty lavas are called a muhūrta. A hundred muhūrtas are called an upamā.[2] The sun palace moves south for six months. The sun moves fifteen kilometers to the south, not going beyond Jambudvīpa. The sun travels north in the same way.

Ten Reasons Sunlight Is Hot

31. “What are the reasons for sunlight to be hot? There are ten causes for this. What are the ten? First, Mount Khadiraka outside of Mount Sumeru is 42,000 yojanas tall and 42,000 yojanas across. Its bounds are measureless, and it’s made of the seven treasures. The sun’s light shines on that mountain, and it creates heat when they come into contact. This is one reason for sunlight to be hot.

32. “Second, Mount Īśādāra outside of Mount Khadiraka is 21,000 yojanas tall and 21,000 yojanas across. Its circumference is measureless, and it’s made of the seven treasures. The sun’s light shines on that mountain, and it creates heat when they come into contact. This is the second reason for sunlight to be hot.

33. “Third, Mount Yugandhara outside of Mount Īśādāra is 12,000 yojanas tall and 12,000 yojanas across. Its circumference is measureless, and it’s made of the seven treasures. The sun’s light shines on that mountain, and it creates heat when they come into contact. This is the third reason for sunlight to be hot.

34. “Fourth, Mount Sudarśana outside of Mount Yugandhara is 6,000 yojanas tall and 6,000 yojanas across. Its circumference is measureless, and it’s made of the seven treasures. The sun’s light shines on that mountain, and it creates heat when they come into contact. This is the fourth reason for sunlight to be hot.

35. “Fifth, Mount Aśvakarṇa outside of Mount Sudarśana is 3,000 yojanas tall and 3,000 yojanas across. Its circumference is measureless, and it’s made of the seven treasures. The sun’s light shines on that mountain, and it creates heat when they come into contact. This is the fifth reason for sunlight to be hot.

36. “Sixth, Mount Nimindhara outside of Mount Aśvakarṇa is 1,200 yojanas tall and 1,200 yojanas across. Its circumference is measureless, and it’s made of the seven treasures. The sun’s light shines on that mountain, and it creates heat when they come into contact. This is the sixth reason for sunlight to be hot.

37. “Seventh, Mount Vinitaka outside of Mount Nimindhara is 600 yojanas tall and 600 yojanas across. Its circumference is measureless, and it’s made of the seven treasures. The sun’s light shines on that mountain, and it creates heat when they come into contact. This is the seventh reason for sunlight to be hot.

38. “Eighth, Mount Cakravāḍa outside of Mount Vinitaka is 300 yojanas tall and 300 yojanas across. Its circumference is measureless, and it’s made of the seven treasures. The sun’s light shines on that mountain, and it creates heat when they come into contact. This is the seventh reason for sunlight to be hot.

39. “Furthermore, 10,000 yojanas above, there’s a heavenly palace called the stellar constellations that’s made of crystal. The sun’s light shines on that palace, and it creates heat when they come into contact. This is the ninth reason for sunlight to be hot.

40. “Furthermore, the sun palace’s light shines on the earth, and it creates heat when they come into contact. This is the tenth reason for sunlight to be hot.”

41. The Bhagavān then spoke in verse:

Thirteen Reasons for Cold Weather in Sunlight

42. The Buddha told the monks, “Why is the sun palace cold and distant during winter, and the weather is freezing even with light? There are thirteen reasons that it’s freezing even with light. What are the thirteen? First, there’s a lake between Mount Sumeru and Mount Khadiraka that’s 84,000 yojanas wide. Its circumference is measureless, and various flowers grow in its water, such as utpala, kumuda, padma, puṇḍarīka, and sugandha flowers. When the sun’s light shines on it, it becomes cold on contact. This is the first reason for sunlight to be cold.

43. “Second, there’s a lake between Mount Khadiraka and Mount Īśādāra that’s 42,000 yojanas wide. Its circumference is measureless, and various flowers grow in its water … When the sun’s light shines on it, it becomes cold on contact. This is the second reason for sunlight to be cold.

44. “Third, there’s a lake between Mount Īśādāra and Mount Yugandhara that’s 21,000 yojanas wide. Its circumference is measureless, and various flowers grow in its water … When the sun’s light shines on it, it becomes cold on contact. This is the third reason for sunlight to be cold.

45. “Fourth, there’s a lake between Mount Sudarśana and Mount Yugandhara that’s 12,000 yojanas wide. Its circumference is measureless, and various flowers grow in its water … When the sun’s light shines on it, it becomes cold on contact. This is the fourth reason for sunlight to be cold.

46. “Fifth, there’s a lake between Mount Sudarśana and Mount Aśvakarṇa that’s 6,000 yojanas wide. Its circumference is measureless, and various flowers grow in its water … When the sun’s light shines on it, it becomes cold on contact. This is the fifth reason for sunlight to be cold.

47. “Sixth, there’s a lake between Mount Aśvakarṇa and Mount Nimindhara that’s 1,200 yojanas wide. Its circumference is measureless, and various flowers grow in its water … When the sun’s light shines on it, it becomes cold on contact. This is the sixth reason for sunlight to be cold.

48. “[Seventh,] there’s a lake between Mount Nimindhara and Mount Vinitaka that’s 600 yojanas wide. Its circumference is measureless, and various flowers grow in its water … When the sun’s light shines on it, it becomes cold on contact. This is the seventh reason for sunlight to be cold.

49. “[Eighth,] there’s a lake between Mount Vinitaka and Mount Cakravāḍa that’s 300 yojanas wide. Its circumference is measureless, and various flowers grow in its water … When the sun’s light shines on it, it becomes cold on contact. This is the eighth reason for sunlight to be cold.

50. “Furthermore, the sun’s light shines on the ocean, rivers, and streams here in Jambudvīpa, and it becomes cold on contact. This is the ninth reason for sunlight to be cold.

51. “Furthermore, the sun’s light shines on a few rivers in the lands of Jambudvīpa and many rivers in the lands of Godānīya, and it becomes cold on contact. This is the tenth reason for sunlight to be cold.

52. “[Furthermore,] the sun’s light shines on a few rivers in Godānīya and many rivers in Pūrvavideha, and it becomes cold on contact. This is the eleventh reason for sunlight to be cold.

53. “[Furthermore,] the sun’s light shines on a few rivers in Pūrvavideha and many rivers in Uttarakuru, and it becomes cold on contact. This is the twelfth reason for sunlight to be cold.

54. “[Furthermore,] the sun palace’s light shines on the great ocean’s water, and it becomes cold on contact. This is the thirteenth reason for sunlight to be cold.”

55. The Buddha then spoke in verse:

The Moon

56. The Buddha told the monks, “There are times when the moon palace’s round form waxes and wanes, and its light decreases and disappears. Therefore, the moon palace is named for its reduction. ‘Moon’ has two meanings. The first is to abide in eternal liberation. The second is the palace hall.

57. “It’s round because it’s seen from far away in all four directions. It’s made of heavenly silver and beryl that’s neither cold nor hot. Two-thirds of it is pure and unadulterated heavenly silver, inside and out, and it’s light shines far away. One-third of it is pure and unadulterated beryl, inside and out, and its light shines far away.

58. “The moon palace is forty-nine yojanas across. The palace’s walls are a mineral that’s light as oak or pine wood. The palace has seven walls, seven balustrades, seven nettings, seven treasure bells, and seven rows of trees encircling it with decorations made of seven treasures … and countless birds sing to each other peacefully.

59. “There are five winds that hold the moon palace up. First is the holding wind, second is the sustaining wind, third is the receiving wind, fourth is the turning wind, and fifth is the controlling wind.

60. “The moon god stands in his correct hall, which is made of beryl and sixteen yojanas tall. That hall has four doors with balustrades encircling it. The moon god’s throne is a half yojanas across, made of the seven treasures, and pure and as soft as heavenly cloth. The moon god’s own body emits light that shines on his beryl hall. The beryl hall’s light then shines on the moon palace, and the moon palace’s light shines on the four continents.

61. “The moon god lives for 500 heavenly years, and his descendants who succeed him are no different. His palace is indestructible until it ends after one eon.

62. “As the moon palace moves, the moon god has no notion of that motion. He says, ‘Walking or standing still, I’m always enjoying myself with the five desires.’ As the moon palace moves, countless hundreds of thousands of great gods and spirits are ahead of it leading the way. They do so gladly without tiring of it, being delighted by its speed. This is the reason the moon god is called ‘Quickness.’

63. “The moon god’s body emits 1,000 rays of light. 500 rays shine downwards and 500 rays shine horizontally. As a result of the virtue of his past deeds, he has 1,000 rays of light. Therefore, the moon god is called ‘1,000 Rays of Light.’

64. “What are the virtues of his past deeds? Sometimes, a worldly person gives offerings to ascetics and priests and gives aid to the poor. He gives gifts of meals, clothing, medicine, horses and elephants, vehicles, housing, lamps, and candles. When he distributes such things, he does so according to what’s needed and doesn’t go contrary to people’s wishes. He supports noble people who observe the precepts.

65. “As a result these diverse and countless causes of Dharma joy and light, his heart is good, and he’s joyful. He’s like a water-anointed king who has just ascended to the throne. His heart is good, and he’s joyful in the same way. When his body breaks up and his life ends, he becomes the moon god and attains the moon palace hall because of these circumstances. Because he possesses 1,000 rays of light, these are said to be the good deeds that obtain 1,000 rays of light.

66. “Again, what are called the deeds of 1,000 rays of light? Some worldly people don’t kill beings, don’t steal, don’t engage in sexual misconduct, don’t speak duplicitously, harshly, falsely, or frivolously, aren’t greedy or hateful, and don’t have wrong views. Because of these circumstances, their hearts are good, and they’re joyful. It’s like a major crossroads with a large bathing pool that’s clear and unpolluted. People traveling from far away are exhausted, hot, and thirsty when they arrive at the pool. They go in to bathe and refresh themselves, rejoicing and delighting in it. Those ten good deeds make their hearts good, and they’re joyful in the same way. When such people’s bodies break up and their lives end, they become the moon god. Dwelling in the moon palace, they possess 1,000 rays of light. For these reasons, [these deeds] are called good deeds of 1,000 rays of light.

67. “Again, what are the causes for obtaining 1,000 rays of light? Some worldly people don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t engage in sex, don’t lie, and don’t drink alcohol. Because of these causes, their hearts are good, and they’re joyful. When their bodies break up and their lives end, they become the moon god. Dwelling in the moon palace, they possess 1,000 rays of light. For these reasons, they are called the good deeds of 1,000 rays of light.

68. “Sixty kṣaṇas are called a lava. Thirty lavas are called a muhūrta. A hundred muhūrtas are called an upamā. The sun palace moves south for six months. The sun moves fifteen kilometers to the south, not going beyond Jambudvīpa. The moon palace then moves south for half a year, not going beyond Jambudvīpa. The moon travels north in the same way.

The Waxing and Waning of the Moon

69. “What’s the reason the moon palace gradually decreases and disappears? There are three causes for the moon palace to decrease and disappear. First is when the moon rises diagonally.[3] This is the first reason the moon decreases and disappears.

70. “Furthermore, the great ministers put on blue robes inside the moon palace. Where they stand becomes blue, so the moon decreases. This is the second reason the moon disappears day by day.

71. “Furthermore, the sun palace has sixty rays of light that shine on the moon palace. They outshine it, which makes it disappear. As parts of the moon are dimmed, it decreases and disappears. This is the third reason the moon’s light decreases and disappears.

72. “Again, what’s the reason the moon’s light gradually becomes full? There are three causes that make the moon’s light gradually become full. What are the three? First, the moon’s facing is a perfect square, so the moon’s light becomes full.

73. “Second, the moon palace’s ministers take off their blue robes. The moon god sits in his place on the fifteenth day to entertain himself. His light then shines everywhere and blocks the light of the heavens, so it’s light is completely full. It’s just as when the flame of a large torch among lit lamps blocks the light of the lamps. That moon god is likewise. On the fifteenth day, the myriad lights of the host of gods are blocked. The moon’s light is the only one that shines in the same way. This is the second reason.

74. “Third, although the sun god has sixty rays of light that shine on the moon palace, the moon god is able to counteract them on the fifteenth day so that the moon’s light isn’t obscured. This is the third cause for the moon palace to become completely full without any decrease.

75. “Again, what’s the reason for a dark shadow to be on the moon? When the moon is in the shadow of the Jambu tree, that causes the moon to have a shadow on it.”

76. The Buddha told the monks, “One’s mind should be like the moon, clear and unheated. When going to a donor’s home, be mindful and unconfused.

Other Features of the World

77. “Again, what’s reason for the great rivers to exist? It’s because the sun and moon have heat. That heat causes hot [weather]. Hot weather causes sweating. The sweat forms large rivers, so the world has great rivers.

78. “What’s the reason for the world’s five types of seed? There are great windstorms that don’t destroy the world. They blows seeds into the world, and they grow in the lands here. The first are root seeds, second are stem seeds, third are joint seeds, fourth are the hollow seeds, and fifth are embryonic seeds. These are the five seeds. For this reason, five types of seed arise in the world.

79. “At noon here in Jambudvīpa, the sun is setting in Pūrvavideha, the sun is rising in Godānīya, and it’s midnight in Uttarakuru. At noon in Godānīya, the sun is setting in Jambudvīpa, the sun is rising in Uttarakuru, and it’s midnight in Pūrvavideha. At noon in Uttarakuru, the sun is setting in Godānīya, the sun is rising in Pūrvavideha, and it’s midnight in Jambudvīpa. At noon in Pūrvavideha, the sun is setting in Uttarakuru, the sun is rising in Jambudvīpa, and it’s midnight in Godānīya.

80. “What’s east in Jambudvīpa is west in Pūrvavideha. What’s west in Jambudvīpa is east in Godānīya. What’s west in Godānīya is east in Uttarakuru. What’s west in Uttarakuru is east in Pūrvavideha.

81. “Jambudvīpa is named after the Jambu [tree]. Under it, there’s a mountain of gold that’s 30 yojanas tall and causes the Jambu tree to grow, so it’s called Jambu’s gold. The Jambu tree has fruit that resembles mushrooms and tastes as sweet as honey.

82. “That tree has five large corners.[4] On it’s four sides are four corners, and one corner is above it. Gandharvas eat the fruit on the east corner. People from the seven countries eat the fruit on the south corner. The first country is Kuru, the second is Koravya (?), third is Videha, fourth is Suvideha (?), fifth is Manda (?), sixth is Bārāṇasī, and seventh is Parikhā (?). Sea serpents eat the fruit on the west corner. Animals eat the fruit on the north corner. Gods of the stellar constellations eat the fruit from the top corner.

83. “North of the seven great countries, there are seven great black mountains. The first is Bare Land, second is White Stork, third is Palace Protector, fourth is Sage Mountain, fifth is High Mountain, sixth is Dhyāna Mountain, and seventh is Land Mountain. On these seven black mountains, there are seven priestly sages. These seven sages who live on them are named Good Lord, Good Light, Palace Protector, Sage, Palace Defender, Gaṇana, and Increase.”[5]

The Devolution of Sentient Beings

84. The Buddha told the monks, “The first sentient beings of the eon eat the flavor of the earth, and they live in the world for a long time. Those that often eat it become cruder in appearance, and those that seldom eat it are shiny in appearance. After a while, they notice that the appearance of the other sentient beings has become superior or inferior, and they argue with each other. ‘I am superior to you! You are not my equal!’ Self and other enter their minds. Because they maintain grudges, the earth flavor dries up.

85. “Next, the earth grows a skin shaped like thin rice cakes, and it’s color, flavor, and aroma is pure. At that point, the sentient beings gather in one place and feel miserable, lament, and beat their breasts. They say, ‘Oh, what a disaster! The flavor of the earth is nowhere to be found now!’ It’s like present-day people who discover a rich and delicious flavor, and they praise it as delicious and good. Later, they miss it and are saddened. Those sentient beings are likewise, feeling miserable and regretful.

86. “After they eat the earth skin, they slowly get its flavor. Those that often eat it become cruder in appearance, and those that seldom eat it are shiny in appearance. After a while, they notice that the appearance of the other sentient beings has become superior or inferior, and they argue with each other. ‘I’m superior to you! You are not my equal!’ Self and other enter their minds. Because they harbor grudges, the earth skin dries up.

87. “After that, another earth skin is produced that’s even cruder. It has the color of heavenly flowers, it’s as soft as heavenly cloth, and its flavor is like honey. The sentient beings again take and eat it, and they live in the world for a long time. Those that often eat it become degraded in appearance, and those that seldom eat it are shiny in appearance. After a while, they notice that the appearance of the other sentient beings has become superior or inferior, and they argue with each other. ‘I’m superior to you! You are not my equal!’ Self and other enter their minds. Because they harbor grudges, the earth skin dries up.

88. “After that, there’s spontaneous rice that lacks any chaff or husks, doesn’t need to be seasoned, and possesses many delicious flavors. At that point, the sentient beings gather and say, ‘Oh, what a disaster! The earth skin is nowhere to be found now!’ They are like present-day people who encounter some unfortunate difficulty and exclaim, ‘What a pain!’ Those sentient beings likewise feel miserable and sigh.

Families and Homes Arise

89. “After that, the sentient beings take the rice and eat it, and their bodies become uglier, having male and female forms. They look at each other and chase after notions of desire. They go to private places together and do impure things. Other sentient beings that see them say, ‘Oh, this is wrong! How can those sentient beings go and do such things together?’ They go to the impure males and rebuke them, telling them to repent their mistake. ‘What you did was wrong!’ Then, they throw them to the ground.

90. “When the female sees that male thrown to the ground, their repentance doesn’t happen. Instead, the woman brings him food. Other sentient beings that see this ask the woman, ‘Who are you going to give that food you’re carrying?’

91. “The woman answers, ‘That repentant sentient being who fell into unwholesome conduct. I’m bringing this food to him.’ Because she says this, the name ‘unwholesome master’ comes to be in the world. Because she brings this food to that man, the name ‘wife’ comes to be.

92. “After that, sentient beings pursue their lust indulgently and unskillful qualities increase. In order to conceal themselves, they build houses. As a result of this, the term ‘home’ comes to be.

93. “After that, sentient beings increasingly indulge in lust, and they seek to become husband and wife. The life span, conduct, and merits of other sentient beings in the Ābhāsvara Heaven come to an end. When their lives end, they’re reborn here in a mother’s womb. As a result, the term ‘womb’ comes to exist in the world.

Cities Are Built and Property Is Invented

94. “At that point, the city of Campā is built. Next, the city of Kāśi is built, and then the city of Rājagṛha is built. They begin building them when the sun rises and complete them when the sun rises. As a result, the world has the names of large cities and districts that are governed by kings.

95. “Sentient beings begin eating the spontaneous rice. When they gather it in the morning, it’s ripe again by evening. When they gather it in the evening, and it’s ripen again by morning. After they gather it, the rice grows back again without stems or stalks.

96. “Some sentient beings then silently think to themselves, ‘I gather this rice every day. It’s tiresome for me to do that. Now, I’ll gather enough to supply myself for several days.’ Then, when they gather the rice, they accumulate enough for several days.

97. “Later, someone else asks that person, ‘Do you want to go gather rice together?’

“They reply, ‘I’ve already stockpiled it, so I don’t need to gather more. If you want to collect it, go do as you like.’

98. “Afterward, that person thinks, ‘I gathered two days of rice before. Why not gather three days of rice?’ They then accumulate three days’ worth of rice.

99. “Again, someone else says, ‘Let’s go gather rice together!’

“They reply, ‘I’ve already gathered three days’ worth of rice. If you want to gather rice, do as you like.’

100. “The other person then thinks, ‘That man can gather three days’ worth of rice. Why couldn’t I gather five days’ worth of rice?’ Afterward, they gather five days’ worth of rice.

101. “Because of these sentient beings competing to accumulate rice, the rice begins to grow chaff and husks, and it doesn’t grow back after being gathered anymore. Instead, it turns to withered stalks.

102. “At that point, the sentient beings gathered in one place and felt miserable, lamenting and beating their breasts. They said, ‘Oh, what a disaster!’ They reproach themselves, saying, ‘Originally, we were born spontaneously and were nourished with thought. Our bodies glowed with their own light, and we had the miraculous ability of flight. Our happiness had no obstacles.

103. “‘After that, the flavor of the earth first arose, which was perfect in color and flavor. We ate this flavor of the earth, and we lived in the world for a long time. Those that often ate it became cruder in appearance, and those that seldom ate were still shiny in appearance. Sentient beings held [notions] of self and other in their minds, and they became arrogant. They said, “My form is superior! Your form isn’t equal to mine!” We fought because of arrogance about our forms, and the flavor of the earth disappeared.

104. “‘Then, the earth skin grew, and it’s form, aroma, and flavor were perfect. Once again, we took it and ate, and we lived in the world for a long time. Those that often ate it became cruder in appearance, and those that seldom ate it were still shiny in appearance. Sentient beings held [notions] of self and other in their minds, and they became arrogant. They said, “My form is superior! Your form isn’t equal to mine!” We fought because of arrogance about our forms, and the earth skin disappeared.

105. “‘Then, the earth crust grew, becoming a cruder substance, but it’s color, aroma, and flavor were perfect. Once again, we took it and ate, and we lived in the world for a long time. Those that often ate it became cruder in appearance, and those that seldom ate it were still shiny in appearance. Sentient beings held [notions] of self and other in their minds, and they became arrogant. They said, “My form is superior! Your form isn’t equal to mine!” We fought because of arrogance about our forms, and the earth crust disappeared.

106. “‘Then, spontaneous rice grew, and it’s color, aroma, and flavor were perfect. Again, we took and ate it. When we gathered it in the morning, it was ripe again by evening. When we gathered it in the evening, and it was ripe again by morning. We would gather it, and it would grow back when we didn’t store what we gathered. It grew chaff and husks when we competed with each other’s stockpiles, and then it didn’t grow back when we gathered it. It turned to withered stalks. Now, we ought to assign fields to houses and make boundaries between the fields.’ They then divide the land into different demarcated fields and assign them to others and themselves.

Law and Crime Are Invented

107. “After that, one of them proceeds to store their own rice and steal from other’s fields. When other sentient beings see this, they say, ‘You are a wrongdoer! You are a wrongdoer! Why are you stealing other’s property when you have your own stores and things?’ Then they rebuke them, ‘Don’t ever do that again!’

108. “Still, that person doesn’t stop stealing. The other people again rebuke them, ‘You were doing wrong! Why didn’t you stop?’ They then hit the thief with their hand, lead them to an assembly, and tell the assembled people, ‘This person has their own store of rice and stole from another’s field.’

“The thief also says, ‘They hit me!’

109. “When they see this happen, the assembled people are saddened and cry. They beat their breasts and say, ‘The world has become evil! How did this evil come about?’ The bonds of sorrow and distress arise, resulting in pain. This is the origin of birth, old age, illness, and death as well as falling to bad destinies. As a result of farmland being divided with boundaries, this fighting happens. No one can decide what brought about these resentments and reprisals. ‘Now, we should designate one equitable chief to safeguard the people, reward those who are good, and punish those who are evil. Our assembly will provide for him to reduce the harm to all of us.’

110. “A man was then selected from that assembly who was physically large, handsome in appearance, and imposing in authority. He said to the people, ‘Now, you’ve made me chief to safeguard the people, reward those who are good, and punish those who are evil. You’ve provided for this to reduce the harm to everyone.’

111. “Those people listened to him and accepted him as their chief who would reward what should be rewarded and punish what should be punished. It’s then that the name ‘chief of the people’ first comes to be.

The Lineages of Kings

112. “The first chief of the people had a son named Treasure.[6] Treasure had a son name Superb Flavor. Superb Flavor had a son named Tranquil Purification. Tranquil Purification had a son named Born from the Crown. Born from the Crown had a son named Good Conduct. Good Conduct had a son named Household Conduct. Household Conduct had a son named Wonderful Flavor. Wonderful Flavor had a son named Lord of Flavor. Lord of Flavor had a son named Water Sage. Water Sage had a son named Hundred Knowledge. Hundred Knowledge had a son named Fondness. Fondness had a son named Good Desire. Good Desire had a son named Cutting Bonds. Cutting Bonds had a son named Great Cutting Bonds. Great Cutting Bonds had a son named Treasure Trove. Treasure Trove had a son named Sudarśana. Sudarśana had a son named Aśoka. Aśoka had a son named Island. Island had a son named Planted Life. Planted Life had a son named Hill. Hill had a son named Spirit God. Spirit God had a son named Bestowing Power. Bestowing Power had a son named Solid Cart. Solid Cart had a son named Ten Carts. Ten Carts had a son named Hundred Carts. Hundred Carts had a son named Solid Bow. Solid Bow had a son named Hundred Bows. Hundred Bows had a son named Nurturance. Nurturance had a son named Good Intent.

113. “From the time of Good Intent, there were ten tribes of noble wheel-turning kings whose lineages was continuous and unbroken. The first [tribe] was named Gaṇotsāha (?), the second was named Uttarapati (?), the third was named Aśmaka, the fourth was named Gandhāra (?), the fifth was named Kaliṅga, the sixth was named Campā, the seventh was named Kuru, the eighth was named Pañcāla, the ninth was named Mithilā, and the tenth was named Ikṣvāku (?).

114. “The Gaṇotsāha kings had five noble wheel-turning kings. The Uttarapati kings had five noble wheel-turning kings. The Aśmaka kings had seven noble wheel-turning kings. The Gandhāra kings had seven noble wheel-turning kings. The Kaliṅga kings had nine noble wheel-turning kings. The Campā kings had fourteen noble wheel-turning kings. The Kuru kings had thirty-one noble wheel-turning kings. The Pañcāla kings had thirty-two noble wheel-turning kings. The Mithilā kings had 84,000 noble wheel-turning kings. The Ikṣvāku kings had 101 noble wheel-turning kings. The last of these kings was named Born From Great Good.

115. “That Ikṣvāku king had a son named Aurava (?). Aurava had a son named Gaurava (?). Gaurava had a son named Nipura. Nipura had a son named Siṃhahanu. Siṃhahanu had a son named King Śuddhodana. King Śuddhodana had a son named Bodhisattva. Bodhisattva had a son named Rāhula. As a result of this history, the name ‘kṣatriya’ came to be.

The Origins of the Four Castes

116. “At that point, there’s a sentient being who thinks, ‘The homes, families, and various things in the world are all thorns and sores. It would be good to seclude myself from it now. I’ll go to the mountains and practice the path in quietude and contemplation.’

117. “He then went far away from the thorns of home to the mountains and lived in quietude. He contemplated under a tree on the mountain and left each day to solicit alms in a village. After the people in the town met him, they treated him with respect and supported him. The people all praised his goodness, ‘This man was able to renounce the ties to home, go to the mountains, and pursue the path. Doing so, he has secluded himself from bad and unskillful things.’ As a result of this praise, he was called ‘brāhmaṇa.’

118. “Among the assembly of priests, some weren’t capable of practicing dhyāna. When they left the mountain forests, they would travel among the people and say of themselves, ‘I’m not able to sit in dhyāna.’ As a result of this, they were called ‘priests without dhyāna.’ They would travel down to the villages and do unskillful and poisonous things. As a result, the name ‘poison’ came into being. As a result of these causes, the world came to have the priestly caste.

119. “Among those sentient beings, those who practice various occupations to support themselves arise. As a result, the householder caste arises in the world.

120. “Among those sentient beings, those who practice the arts and crafts to make their living arise. As a result of this, the worker caste arises in the world.

121. “After the Śākya tribe had come into the world, they became the ascetic caste. Among the warrior caste, some people thought to themselves, ‘Worldly love is defiling and impure. What use are these greedy attachments?’ They then abandoned their homes, cut off their hair and beards, put on Dharma robes, and sought the path. [They said,] ‘I am an ascetic! I am an ascetic!’

122. “Among the assemblies of priests, householders, and workers, some people think to themselves, ‘Worldly love is defiling and impure. What use are these greedy attachments?’

123. “They then abandoned their homes, cut off their hair and beards, put on Dharma robes, and sought the path. [They said,] ‘I am an ascetic! I am an ascetic!’

The Arising of Arhats in the World

124. “Suppose the physical conduct, verbal conduct, and mental conduct of someone in the warrior assembly isn’t good. After they do things that aren’t good, their bodies break up and their lives end, and they only experience suffering. Suppose the physical conduct, verbal conduct, and mental conduct of someone in the priestly assembly, householder assembly, or worker assembly isn’t good. After they do things that aren’t good, their bodies break up and their lives end, and they only experience suffering.

125. “If the physical conduct, verbal conduct, and mental conduct of someone in the warrior assembly is good … they only experience happiness. If the physical conduct, verbal conduct, and mental conduct of someone in the priestly assembly, householder assembly, or worker assembly is good … they only experience happiness.

126. “Suppose someone in the warrior assembly has both kinds of physical, verbal, and mental conduct. They will experience results of suffering and happiness when their bodies break up and their lives end. Suppose someone in the priestly, householder, and worker assemblies has both kinds of physical, verbal, and mental conduct. They will experience results of suffering and happiness when their bodies break up and their lives end.

127. “Suppose someone in the warrior assembly cuts off their hair and beard, puts on the three-piece Dharma robe, leaves home, and seeks the path. They cultivate the seven factors of awakening, leave home for the path with firm faith, and cultivate the unsurpassed religious life. They realize about themselves in the present life, ‘My births and deaths have been ended, the religious life has been established, and the task has been accomplished. I won’t be subject to another existence.’

128. “Suppose a priest, householder, or worker cuts off their hair and beard, puts on the three-piece Dharma robe, leaves home, and seeks the path. They cultivate the seven factors of awakening, leave home for the path with firm faith, and cultivate the unsurpassed religious life. They realize in the present life, ‘My births and deaths have been ended, the religious life has been established, and the task has been accomplished. I won’t be subject to another existence.’

129. “Those among these four castes who accomplish the practice of insight become the best of arhats.

130. “Brahmā then says this verse:

131. The Buddha told the monks, “That verse that Brahma says is well spoken, not unskillfully spoken. It’s well put, not unskillfully put. I approve of it. Why is that? Now, I am the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One, and I also say this verse:

132. Thereupon, the monks who heard what the Buddha taught rejoiced and approved.

133. The Long Discourses is complete. Homage to all knowledge and the happiness of all beings. May sentient beings dwell in the unconditioned, and let me be an example for them!


Endnotes

  1. host born. C. 眾生. This gloss seems to indicate the reasoning for what is commonly assumed to be the early Chinese translation of S. sattva. It appears to have had a direct Indic equivalent in this passage other than sattva. [back]
  2. These are S. units of time. A kṣaṇa is a moment, perhaps a second or two in the length. A lava is roughly equivalent to a minute or two, and a muhūrta is similar to an hour. [back]
  3. diagonally. C. 維. The C. can mean the corners of a square, which is extended in Buddhist texts to mean the directions between the cardinal points (northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest). Here, the term is contrasted against “perfect square” (正方) in the passage below, so I take it to mean a cube that’s turned edgewise. The author(s) imagined the moon palace to be a cube that only appeared round from a distance, so they reasoned that the waning moon was a rotating cube slowly turning edgewise. The waxing moon was a cube seen edgewise that was turning to fully face the viewer. [back]
  4. corner. C. 觚. The Taisho reading 孤 means “orphan,” which doesn’t seem to make sense. I’ve followed the Japanese translator in adopting the alternate reading here. Perhaps the C. is attempting to express the idea of a part of the tree that juts out, allowing access to its fruit. [back]
  5. Both of these lists are found in a couple other C. sources, but they are quite different. I’ve translated the C. names literally here. The one transliteration (伽那那) seems likely to be S. gaṇana, which had the same pronunciation in G. [back]
  6. There are multiple versions of this lineage found in various Buddhist sources that vary widely in both the names and the length of the list. Here, the names are largely translated to C., and I’ve translated them as well for the time being since I lack a matching parallel to use as confirmation for possible Indic names. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 3 July 2022