Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Long Discourses

30. Description of the World

Chapter 6: The Asuras

Geography

1. The Buddha told the monks, “The Asura Rāhu’s city is on the coast north of Mount Sumeru. It’s 80,000 yojanas across and has seven fortress walls, seven balustrades, seven nettings, and seven rows of trees encircling it with decorations made of the seven treasures. The walls are 3,000 yojanas tall and 2,000 yojanas wide.

2. “The city gates are 1,000 yojanas tall and 1,000 yojanas wide. The gold walls have silver gates, the silver walls have gold gates … and countless birds sing to each other peacefully as before.

3. “That asura king governs a smaller city inside that large city called *Kṣemāvatī, which is 60,000 yojanas across. It has seven walls, seven balustrades, seven nettings, and seven rows of trees encircling it with decorations made of the seven treasures. The walls are 3,000 yojanas tall and 2,000 yojanas wide.

4. “The city gates are 1,000 yojanas tall and 1,000 yojanas wide. The gold walls have silver gates, the silver walls have gold gates … and countless birds sing to each other peacefully as before.

5. “Inside that city, a separate discussion hall was built called Saptaśirīṣa. The hall has seven walls, seven balustrades, seven nettings, and seven rows of trees encircling it with decorations made of the seven treasures. The foundation of that hall is made of coral.

6. “Its pillars are made entirely of the seven treasures, and the pillars inside of that hall are 1,000 yojanas around and 10,000 yojanas tall.

7. “Beneath these pillars, there’s a throne of the correct Dharma that’s 700 yojanas across, and it’s inlaid with carvings made of the seven treasures.

8. “The hall has four doors, and it’s encircled with balustrades. There are seven stairs, seven balustrades, seven nettings, and seven rows of trees encircling it with decorations made of the seven treasures … and countless birds sing to each other peacefully as before.

9. “North of that discussion hall, there’s an asura palace that’s 10,000 yojanas across. The palace has seven walls, seven balustrades, seven nettings, and seven rows of trees encircling it with decorations made of the seven treasures … and countless birds sing to each other peacefully as before.

10. “East of that discussion hall, there’s a forest park called Śāla, which is 10,000 yojanas across. That park has seven walls, seven balustrades, seven nettings, and seven rows of trees encircling it with decorations made of the seven treasures … and countless birds sing to each other peacefully as before.

11. “South of that discussion hall, there’s a forest park called Most Marvelous, which is 10,000 yojanas across and like Śāla Park.

12. “West of that discussion hall, there’s a forest park called Śālmalī, which is 10,000 yojanas across and also like Śāla Park.

13. “North of that discussion hall, there’s a forest park called Nandana, which is 10,000 yojanas across and also like Śāla Park.

14. “Between Śāla Park and Most Marvelous Park grows a Pārijāta tree, which covers are area of seven yojanas and stands a hundred yojanas tall. It’s limbs and leaves spread out in all four directions to cover fifty yojanas. That tree has seven walls, seven balustrades, seven nettings, and seven rows of trees encircling it with decorations made of the seven treasures … and countless birds sing to each other peacefully as before.

15. “Between Śālmalī Park and Nandana Park, there’s Lake Upananda. Its water is clear and unpolluted. It’s ringed by seven stepped embankments made of treasures, and it has seven balustrades, seven nettings, and seven rows of trees encircling it with decorations made of the seven treasures.

16. “In that lake grow four kinds of flowers with petals that are a yojana wide, and their sweet fragrance fills an area of a yojana. Their roots are like cart axles and produce sap that’s white as milk and tastes sweet as honey. Countless birds sing to each other peacefully as before.

17. “On the shores of that lake are seven stair steps, seven gated walls, seven balustrades, seven nettings, and seven rows of trees encircling it with decorations made of the seven treasures … and countless birds sing to each other peacefully as before.

18. “That asura king’s ministers have lower palaces that are 10,000 yojanas across … 9,000 … 8,000 … the smallest palace is 1,000 yojanas across. These palaces have seven walls, seven balustrades, seven nettings, and seven rows of trees encircling them with decorations made of the seven treasures … and countless birds sing to each other peacefully as before.

19. “The lesser asuras have palaces that are 1,000 yojanas across … 900 … 800 … the smallest palaces are a hundred yojanas across. These palaces have seven walls, seven balustrades, seven nettings, and seven rows of trees encircling them with decorations made of the seven treasures … and countless birds sing to each other peacefully as before.

20. “North of that discussion hall, there’s a stairway made of the seven treasures that leads into the palace. There’s a stairway that leads to Śāla Park. There’s a stairway that leads to Most Marvelous Park. There’s a stairway that leads to Śālmalī Park. There’s a stairway that leads to Nandana Park. There’s a stairway that leads to the Pārijāta tree. There’s a stairway that leads to Lake Upananda. There’s a stairway that leads to the great minister’s palace. There’s also a stairway that leads to the palaces of lesser asuras.

Asura King Rāhu

21. “When the Asura King [Rāhu] wants to go sightseeing at Śāla Park, he thinks of Asura King Vemacitrin. Asura King Vemacitrin then thinks, ‘Asura King Rāhu is thinking of me now!’ He gets himself ready and rides a treasure chariot to Asura King Rāhu while surrounded by a countless assembly of servants. He goes before the Asura King and then stands to one side.

22. “The Asura King also thinks of Asura King *Prahata. Asura King *Prahata also thinks to himself, ‘King [Rāhu] is thinking of me now!’ He gets himself ready and rides a treasure chariot to Asura King Rāhu while surrounded by a countless assembly of servants. He goes before the Asura King and then stands to one side.

23. “The Asura King also thinks of Asura King Śambara. Asura King Śambara then thinks to himself, ‘King [Rāhu] is thinking of me now!’ He gets himself ready and rides a treasure chariot to Asura King Rāhu while surrounded by a countless assembly of servants. He goes before the Asura King and then stands to one side.

24. “The [Asura] King also thinks of the great minister of asuras. The great minister of asuras then thinks to himself, ‘King [Rāhu] is thinking of me now!’ He gets himself ready and rides a treasure chariot to Asura King Rāhu while surrounded by a countless assembly of servants. He goes before the Asura King and then stands to one side.

25. “The [Asura] King also thinks of the lesser asuras. The lesser asuras then think to themselves, ‘King [Rāhu] is thinking of me now!’ They get themselves ready and ride treasure chariots to Asura King Rāhu with many large assemblies. They go before the Asura King and then stand to one side.

26. “King Rāhu then gets himself ready by putting on precious ornaments and clothes. He rides a treasure chariot to Śāla Grove while surrounded by countless great assemblies. A spontaneous wind blows the gate open, a spontaneous wind clears the ground, and another spontaneous wind scatters flowers on the ground until they’re knee-deep.

27. “After entering the park, King Rāhu entertains himself with the others for one day, two days … or seven days. When they’re finished with their recreation, they return to their own palaces. After that, they go sightseeing at Most Marvelous Forest, Śālmalī Forest, and Nandana forest in the same way.

28. “King Rāhu always has five great asura servants who attend to him left and right. The first is named Grasper. The second is named Great Strength. The third is named Barbaric. The fourth is named Chief. The fifth is named Vanquisher. These five great asuras are always serving him left and right.

29. “That King Rāhu’s palace hall is both beneath and above an ocean that’s supported by four winds. The first is called the standing wind. The second is called the holding wind. The third is called the immovable wind. The fourth is called the steadfast wind. They support that ocean’s water, which hangs in the sky like a floating cloud. Even the water that’s 10,000 yojanas away from that asura palace never falls down. Such are the fortune, virtue, and majesty of the Asura King.”


Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 31 May 2022