Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Long Discourses

30. Description of the World

Chapter 9: The Three Catastrophes

The Four Measureless Eons

1. The Buddha told the monks, “There are four periods that last a long time, that are measureless and limitless. The number of years, months, and days can’t be calculated.

2. “What are the four? First is the gradual conflagration of the world. When it destroys the world, it’s a very long period that’s measureless and limitless. The number of years, months, and days can’t be calculated. Second is the period of void after the world’s destruction. There’s no world for a very long time, and it extends for a great distance. The number of years, months, and days can’t be calculated. Third is the initial arising of heaven and earth. When the world is forming, it’s a very long period. The number of years, months, and days can’t be calculated. Fourth, the period after heaven and earth lasts after it forms is a very long time that’s measureless and limitless. The number of years, months, and days can’t be calculated.”

3. The Buddha told the monks, “The world has three catastrophes. What are the three? First is the catastrophe of fire. Second is the catastrophe of water. Third is the catastrophe of wind. There are three upper limits to these catastrophes. What are the three? First is the Ābhāsvara Heaven. Second is the Śubhakṛtsna Heaven. Third is the Bṛhatphala Heaven. The catastrophe of fire reaches the Ābhāsvara Heaven and stops there. The catastrophe of water reaches the Śubhakṛtsna Heaven, and stops there. The catastrophe of wind reaches the Bṛhatphala Heaven and stops there.

The Catastrophe of Fire

4. “What is the catastrophe of fire? When the catastrophe of fire is about to happen, the world’s people all practice the correct Dharma. They have right view, aren’t deluded, and cultivate the ten good deeds. When they practice these things, the people attain the second dhyāna, and they leap up into the sky. Those people on the noble path, the heavenly path, and the Brahma path call out from above: ‘Good people, you should know the happiness of the second dhyāna without perception or examination! The second dhyāna is happiness!’

“When the world’s people hear this call, they look up and say to them, ‘Excellent, excellent! Please explain for us the path of the second dhyāna that has no perception or examination!’

5. “When the people in the sky hear that, they explain to them the way of the second dhyāna without perception or examination. When the world’s people hear that explanation, they cultivate the path of the second dhyāna without perception or examination, and they’re born in the Ābhāsvara Heaven when their bodies break up and their lives end.

6. “When sentient beings’ punishment in hell is finished and their lives there end, they’re reborn among humans. They too cultivate the second dhyāna that’s without perception or examination, and they’re born in the Ābhāsvara Heaven when their bodies break up and their lives end. Sentient beings born as animals … hungry ghosts … asuras … four god kings … Trāyastriṃśa gods … Yama gods … Tuṣita gods … Nirmāṇarati gods … Paranirmitavaśavartin gods … Brahma gods are reborn among humans when their lives end. They too cultivate the second dhyāna that’s without perception or examination, and they’re born in the Ābhāsvara Heaven when their bodies break up and their lives end.

7. “As a result of these causes, the destiny of hell is ended … animals … hungry ghosts … asuras … Brahma heavens is ended.

8. “As this happens, hell disappears first, and then animal births disappear after it. After animal births are gone, the hungry ghosts disappear. After the hungry ghosts are gone, the asuras disappear. After the asuras are gone, the four god kings disappear. After the four god kings are gone, the Trāyastriṃśa gods disappear. After the Trāyastriṃśa gods are gone, the Yama gods disappear. After the Yama gods are gone, the Tuṣita gods disappear. After the Tuṣita gods are gone, the Nirmāṇarati gods disappear. After the Nirmāṇarati gods are gone, the Paranirmitavaśavartin gods disappear. After the Paranirmitavaśavartin gods are gone, the Brahma gods disappear. After the Brahma gods are gone, then humans disappear with none remaining. After humans are gone with none remaining, the world is destroyed when the catastrophe takes place. Afterward, no rain falls from the heavens, and the hundred grains, grasses, and trees naturally wither and die.”

9. The Buddha told the monks, “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

The Seven Suns

10. “A long, long time after that,[1] a great, dark gale rises. It blows the ocean’s water, which is 84,000 yojanas deep. The wind then divides into two. They grab the palace of the sun and place it halfway up Mount Sumeru, which is 42,000 yojanas away from the earth in the orbit of the sun. As a result of this, the world then has two suns that rise. When two suns rise, all the small rivers, streams, and brooks in the world dry up.”

11. The Buddha told the monks, “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

12. “A long, long time after that, a great, dark gale rises. It blows the ocean’s water, which is 84,000 yojanas deep. The then wind divides into two. They grab the palace of the sun and place it halfway up Mount Sumeru, which is 42,000 yojanas away from the earth in the orbit of the sun. As a result of this, the world then has three suns that rise. When three suns rise, large rivers such as the Gaṅgā River, Jamunā River, Baraṇa River Aciravatī River, Mahī (?) River, and Sindhu River, all dry up with nothing remaining.

13. “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

14. “A long, long time after that, a great, dark gale rises. [It blows] the ocean’s water, which is 84,000 yojanas deep. The wind then divides into two. They grab the palace of the sun and place it halfway up Mount Sumeru, [which is 42,000 yojanas away from the earth] in the orbit of the sun. As a result of this, the world then has four suns that rise. When four suns rise, the springs, deep lakes, Lake Sudarśana, Lake Anavatapta, and the great lakes in all four directions, utpala lakes, kumuda lakes, puṇḍarīka lakes, and lakes that are fifty yojanas across all dry up completely.

15. “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

16. “A long, long time after that, a great, dark gale rises. It blows the ocean’s water, [which is 84,000 yojanas deep]. The wind then divides into two. They grab the palace of the sun and place it halfway up Mount Sumeru, [which is 42,000 yojanas away from the earth] in the orbit of the sun. As a result of this, the world then has five suns that rise. When five sun rise, the water of the ocean is gradually reduced by a hundred yojanas to 700 yojanas.

17. “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

18. “Then, the ocean is gradually reduced until there’s only 700 yojanas … 600 yojanas … 500 yojanas … 400 yojanas … a hundred yojanas of it left.

19. “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

20. “Then, the ocean is gradually reduced until there’s only seven yojanas … six yojanas … five yojanas … one yojana of it left.”

21. The Buddha told the monks, “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

22. “After that, the ocean is gradually reduced until it’s only seven tala trees … six tala trees … one tala tree deep.”

23. The Buddha told the monks, “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

24. “After that, the ocean’s water dwindles to the height of seven men … six men … five men … four men … three men … two men … one man … up to a man’s waist … to a man’s knees … to a man’s calves … to a man’s ankles.”

25. The Buddha told the monks, “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

26. “After that, the ocean’s water is like a puddle after a spring rain or in a cow’s footprint. Nearly dried up completely, it can’t even wet a man’s finger.”

27. The Buddha told the monks, “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

28. “A long, long time after that, a great, dark gale rises. It blows on the sand at the ocean’s bottom, which is 84,000 yojanas deep. The wind then divides into two whirlwinds. They grab the palace of the sun and place it halfway up Mount Sumeru, [which is 42,000 yojanas away from the earth] in the orbit of the sun. As a result of this, the world then has six suns that rise. When six suns rise, the four continents and 80,000 islands, large mountains, and the mountain king Sumeru are baked and burned like bricks in a potter’s kiln. When six suns rise, it’s like that.”

29. The Buddha told the monks, “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

30. “A long, long time after that, a great, dark gale rises. It blows on the sand at the ocean’s bottom, which is 84,000 yojanas deep. The wind then divides into two whirlwinds. They grab the palace of the sun and place it halfway up Mount Sumeru, [which is 42,000 yojanas away from the earth] in the orbit of the sun. As a result of this, the world then has seven suns that rise. When seven suns rise, the four continents, 80,000 islands, large mountains, and the mountain king Sumeru are all completely incinerated as thought burned up in a potter’s kiln. When the seventh sun rises, it’s like that.”

31. The Buddha told the monks, “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

32. “These four continents, the 80,000 islands, and Mount Sumeru are all completely incinerated. At the same time, the palace of the four god kings, the palaces of the Trāyastriṃśa gods, the palaces of the Yama gods, and the palaces of the Nirmāṇarati gods, Paranirmitavaśavartin gods, and the Brahma gods are also incinerated.”

33. The Buddha told the monks, “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

34. “After the four continents … the Brahma heavens are incinerated, a wind blows the flames up to the Ābhāsvara Heaven.[n] The gods who had recently been born there see these flames and are afraid. They say, ‘Oh! What is that?’

35. “The gods who were born before them tell the recently born gods, ‘Don’t be afraid! That fire has come before. It’ll come right up to here and stop.’ It’s because they remember the brilliance of previous conflagrations that they are called ‘fire remembering gods.’

36. “After the four continents … the Brahma heavens are incinerated, Sumeru the mountain king gradually crumbles by a hundred yojanas … two hundred yojanas … seven hundred yojanas.”

37. The Buddha told the monks, “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

38. “After the four continents … the Brahma heavens are incinerated, then the whole earth and Mount Sumeru completely disappear without any coals or ash remaining.

39. “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

40. “After the whole earth is completely burned up, the water below the earth disappears, and the air below the water also disappears.

41. “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.”

42. The Buddha told the monks, “When the catastrophe of fire happens, no more rain falls from the heavens, and the hundred grains, plants, and trees naturally wither and die. Who would believe that? Only those who witnessed it would, but how could anyone know about it? Thus … the water below the earth disappears, and the wind below the water disappears. Who would believe that? Only those who witnessed it would, but how could anyone know about it? This is the catastrophe of fire.

The First Restoration of the World

43. “How is the world restored after the eon of fire? A long, long time after that, a huge black cloud in the sky releases rain everywhere up to the Ābhāsvara Heaven. The raindrops are the size of cartwheels. It rains like this for countless thousands of years. The water gradually accumulates countless hundreds of thousands of yojanas high, reaching the Ābhāsvara Heaven.

44. “Then, four great winds arise to support this water. What are the four? 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. After that, this water subsides by a hundred thousand yojanas, but it’s still countless hundreds of thousands of yojanas deep. A great wind rises on all four sides of that water, which is called Saṅgha. It blows on the water and agitates it. The crashing of the waves is immense, and a mass of foam accumulates. The wind blows it off of the water and into the sky. It spontaneously hardens there, forming a heavenly palace decorated with the seven treasures. As a result of these events, the Brahmakāyika Heaven’s palace comes to be.

45. “That water continues to subside countless hundreds of thousands of yojanas. A great wind rises on all four sides of that water, which is called Saṅgha. It blows the water and agitates it. The crashing of the waves is immense, and a mass of foam accumulates. The wind blows it off of the water and into the sky. It spontaneously hardens there, forming a heavenly palace decorated with the seven treasures. As a result of these events, the Paranirmitavaśavartin Heaven’s palace comes to be.

46. “That water continues to subside countless [hundreds of] thousands of yojanas. A great wind rises on all four sides of that water, which is called Saṅgha. It blows the water and agitates it. The crashing of the waves is immense, and a mass of foam accumulates. The wind blows it off of the water and into the sky. It spontaneously hardens there, forming a heavenly palace decorated with the seven treasures. As a result of these events, the Nirmāṇarati Heaven’s palace comes to be.

47. “That water continues to subside countless hundreds of thousands of yojanas. A great wind [rises on all four sides of that water, which is] called Saṅgha. It blows the water and agitates it. The crashing of the waves is immense, and a mass of foam accumulates. The wind blows it off of the water and into the sky. It spontaneously hardens there, forming a heavenly palace decorated with the seven treasures. As a result of these events, the Tuṣita Heaven’s palace comes to be.

48. “That water continues to subside countless hundreds of thousands of yojanas. A great wind [rises on all four sides of that water, which is] called Saṅgha. It blows the water and agitates it. The crashing of the waves is immense, and a mass of foam accumulates. The wind blows it off of the water and into the sky. It spontaneously hardens there, forming a heavenly palace [decorated with the seven treasures.] As a result of these events, the Yama Heaven’s palace comes to be.

49. “That water continues to subside countless hundreds of thousands of yojanas. The foam on the water is 68,000 yojanas deep,[n] and it’s bounds are endless. It’s like the foam on the water when a stream flows from an underground spring.

50. “What are the events that cause Mount Sumeru to come to be? A windstorm rises and blows the water’s foam into the form of Mount Sumeru, 68,000 yojanas tall and 84,000 yojanas across. It’s made of the four treasures of gold, silver, crystal, and beryl.

51. “What are the events that cause the four asura palaces to come to be? After that, a windstorm blows the great ocean’s water, blowing it into a great mass of foam. On Mount Sumeru’s four sides, a great palace hall arises. Each of them is 80,000 yojanas across, and they spontaneously form palace halls made of seven treasures.

52. “Again, what are the events that cause the palaces of the four god kings to come to be? After that, a windstorm blows the great ocean’s water, blowing it into a great mass of foam. Halfway up the Mount Sumeru, which is 42,000 yojanas, palaces spontaneously form that are made of the seven treasures. Therefore, they’re called the palaces of the four god kings.

53. “What are the events that cause the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven’s palace to come to be? After that, a windstorm blows the foam on the water, and it spontaneously forms into a palace hall made of the seven treasures at the top of Mount Sumeru.

54. “Again, by what events does Mount Khadiraka come to be? After that, a windstorm blows a mass of foam to a place not far from Mount Sumeru, and it spontaneously forms a treasure mountain. Below it, its root goes 42,000 yojanas into the earth, and it’s 42,000 yojanas across. Its bounds are endless, it has a mix of assorted colors, and it’s made of the seven treasures. As a result of these events, Mount Khadiraka comes to be.

55. “Again, by what events does Mount Īśādāra come to be? After that, a windstorm blows a mass of foam to a place not far from Mount Khadiraka and it spontaneously forms Mount Īśādāra. It’s 21,000 yojanas tall and 21,000 yojanas across. Its bounds are endless, it has a mix of assorted colors, and it’s made of the seven treasures. As a result of these events, Mount Īśādāra comes to be.

56. “[Again, by what events does Mount Yugandhara come to be?] After that, a windstorm blows a mass of foam to a place not far from Mount Īśādāra, and it spontaneously forms Mount Yugandhara. It’s 12,000 yojanas tall and 12,000 yojanas across. Its bounds are endless, it has a mix of assorted colors, and it’s made of the seven treasures. As a result of these events, Mount Yugandhara comes to be.

57. “[Again, by what events does Mount Aśvakarṇa come to be?] [2] After that, a windstorm blows a mass of foam to a place not far from Mount Yugandhara, and it spontaneously forms Mount Aśvakarṇa. It’s 6,000 yojanas tall and 6,000 yojanas across. Its bounds are endless, it has a mix of assorted colors, and it’s made of the seven treasures. As a result of these events, Mount Aśvakarṇa comes to be.

58. “[Again, by what events does Mount Nimindhara come to be?] After that, a windstorm blows a mass of foam to a place not far from Mount Aśvakarṇa, and it spontaneously forms Mount Nimindhara. It’s 3,000 yojanas tall and 3,000 yojanas across. Its bounds are endless, it has a mix of assorted colors, and it’s made of the seven treasures. As a result of these events, Mount Nimindhara comes to be.

59. “[Again, by what events does Mount Vinitaka come to be?] After that, a windstorm blows a mass of foam to a place not far from Mount Nimindhara, and it spontaneously forms Mount Vinitaka. It’s 1,200 yojanas tall and 1,200 yojanas across. Its bounds are endless, it has a mix of assorted colors, and it’s made of the seven treasures. As a result of these events, Mount Vinitaka comes to be.

60. “[Again, by what events does Mount Cakravāḍa come to be?] After that, a windstorm blows a mass of foam to a place not far from Mount Vinitaka, and it spontaneously forms Mount Cakravāḍa. It’s 300 yojanas tall and 300 yojanas across. Its bounds are endless, it has a mix of assorted colors, and it’s made of the seven treasures. As a result of these events, Mount Cakravāḍa comes to be.

61. “Why is there a moon and seven sun palaces? After that, a windstorm blows a mass of foam, and it spontaneously forms a moon palace and seven sun palaces. They have a mix of assorted colors, and they’re made of the seven treasures. A dark wind blows them back to their original places. As a result of these events, the moon palace and sun palace come to be.

62. “After that, a windstorm blows a mass of foam, and it spontaneously forms the four continents and 80,000 islands. As a result of these events, the four continents and 80,000 islands come to be.

63. “After that, a windstorm blows a mass of foam onto the four continents and 80,000 islands, and it spontaneously forms the great vajra mountain chain, which is 168,000 yojanas tall and 168,000 yojanas across. Its bounds are endless, and it’s as hard as diamond and indestructible. As a result of these events, the great vajra mountain chain comes to be.

64. “A long, long time after that, a spontaneous cloud covers the entire sky and releases a great deluge everywhere with raindrops like cartwheels. The water rises to submerge the four continents, Mount Sumeru, and the rest.

65. “After that, a windstorm blows on the earth, gouging a great depression into it. The water fills it up, resulting in the oceans. As a result of these events, the four great oceans come to be.

Three Reasons the Oceans Are Salty

66. “There are three circumstances for the ocean’s saltiness. What are the three? First, a spontaneous cloud covers the entire sky up to the Ābhāsvara Heaven and releases its rain everywhere. It washes over the heavenly palaces and the world. The Brahmakāyika Heaven’s palace, Paranirmitavaśavartin Heaven’s palace … Yama Heaven’s palace, the four continents, 80,000 islands, mountains, great mountains, and Sumeru the mountain king are washed and cleansed. In those places, the pollutants and impure substances are bitter and salty. They flow down into the ocean and combine into a single flavor. Therefore, the ocean’s water is salty.

67. “Second, a great sage in the past cast a spell on the ocean that made it grow salty and bitter so that people couldn’t drink it. Therefore, it’s salty and bitter.

68. “Third, that ocean’s water is home to a variety of sentient beings, and their bodies grow large. Some are a hundred yojanas … two hundred yojanas … seven hundred yojanas in size. They spit, drool, urinate, and defecate in the water. Therefore, the ocean’s water is salty.

69. “This is the catastrophe of fire.”

The Catastrophe of Water

70. The Buddha told the monks, “What is the catastrophe of water? When the catastrophe of water happens, the world’s people uphold the correct Dharma, have right view, don’t have wrong views, and cultivate the ten good deeds. After they cultivate the ten good deeds, there are people who attain the third dhyāna that’s without joy and leap up into the sky. Those people on the noble path, the heavenly path, and the path of Brahma call out from above: ‘Good people, you should know the happiness of the third dhyāna without joy! The third dhyāna that’s without joy is happiness!’

“When the world’s people hear this call, they look up and say to them, ‘Excellent, excellent! Please explain for us the path of the third dhyāna that’s without joy!’

71. “When the people in the sky hear that, they explain the path of the third dhyāna that’s without joy. When the world’s people hear that explanation, they cultivate the path of the third dhyāna, and they’re born in the Śubhakṛtsna Heaven when their bodies break up and their lives end.

72. “When sentient beings’ punishment in hell is finished and their lives end, they’re reborn among humans. They too cultivate the path of the third dhyāna, and they’re born in the Śubhakṛtsna Heaven when their bodies break up and their lives end. Sentient beings born as animals … hungry ghosts … asuras … four god kings … Trāyastriṃśa gods … Yama gods … Tuṣita gods … Nirmāṇarati gods … Paranirmitavaśavartin gods … Brahma gods … Ābhāsvara gods are reborn as humans when their lives end. They too cultivate the path of the third dhyāna, and they’re born in the Śubhakṛtsna Heaven when their bodies break up and their lives end.

73. “As a result of these causes, the destiny of hell is ended … animals … hungry ghosts … asuras … the four god kings … Ābhāsvara Heaven is ended.

74. “As this happens, hell disappears first, and then animal births disappear after it. After animal births are gone, the hungry ghosts disappear. After the hungry ghosts are gone, the asuras disappear. After the asuras are gone, the four god kings disappear. After the four god kings are gone, the Trāyastriṃśa gods disappear. After the Trāyastriṃśa gods are gone, the Yama gods disappear. After the Yama gods are gone, the Tuṣita gods disappear. After the Tuṣita gods are gone, the Nirmāṇarati gods disappear. After the Nirmāṇarati gods are gone, the Paranirmitavaśavartin gods disappear. After the Paranirmitavaśavartin gods are gone, the Brahma gods disappear. After the Brahma gods are gone, then the Ābhāsvara gods disappear. After the Ābhāsvara gods are gone, then humans disappear with none remaining. After humans are gone with none remaining, the world is destroyed when the catastrophe takes place.”

75. “A long, long time after that, a huge black storm rises up to the Śubhakṛtsna Heaven and releases a deluge everywhere. The rain is boiling hot water that cooks the heavens. It washes over all the heavenly palaces there without any exceptions. Like butter put in a fire that’s cooked and melts away until nothing remains, the palace of the Ābhāsvara Heaven is likewise.

76. “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

77. “After that, this rain again soaks the palace of the Brahmakāyika Heaven, cooking and melting it away until nothing remains. Just as when butter is put into a fire and nothing remains of it, the palace of the Brahmakāyika Heaven is likewise.

78. “After that, this rain again soaks the palaces of the Paranirmitavaśavartin Heaven … Nirmāṇarati Heaven … Tuṣita Heaven … Yama Heaven, cooking and melting them away until nothing remains. Just as when butter is put into a fire and nothing remains of it, those heavenly palaces are likewise.

79. “After that, this rain again soaks the four continents, 80,000 islands, the mountains, great mountains, and Sumeru the mountain king, cooking and melting them away until nothing remains. Just as when butter is put into a fire and nothing remains of it, those places are likewise.

80. “Therefore, you should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

81. “After that, the rain cooks the whole earth. When nothing else remains, the water beneath the earth disappears, and then the wind beneath the water disappears.

82. “Therefore, you should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.”

83. The Buddha told the monks, “The palaces [below] the Śubhakṛtsna Heaven are cooked and melt away, but who would believe that? Only someone who witnessed it would, but how could anyone know about it? The Brahmakāyika palace cooks and melts away … the water beneath the earth disappears, and the wind beneath the water disappears. Who would believe that? Only someone who witnessed it would, but how could anyone know about it?

84. “This is the catastrophe of water.

The Second Restoration of the World

85. “How is the world restored after the catastrophe of water? A long, long time after that, a huge black cloud fills the sky up to the Śubhakṛtsna Heaven and releases rain everywhere. The raindrops are the size of cartwheels. It rains like this for countless hundreds of thousands of years. The water gradually accumulates [countless hundreds of thousands of yojanas high], reaching the Śubhakṛtsna Heaven.

86. “Then, four great winds arise to support this water. What are the four? 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. After that, this water subsides [by a hundred thousand yojanas], but it’s still countless hundreds of thousands of yojanas deep. A great wind rises on all four sides of that water, which is called Saṅgha. It blows on the water and agitates it. The crashing of the waves is immense, and a mass of foam accumulates. The wind blows it off of the water and into the sky. It spontaneously hardens there, forming the Ābhāsvara Heaven’s palace, which is decorated with the seven treasures. As a result of these events, the palace of the Ābhāsvara Heaven comes to be.

87. “That water continues to subside countless hundreds of thousands of yojanas. That Saṅgha wind rises. It blows the water and agitates it. The crashing of the waves is immense, and a mass of foam accumulates. The wind blows it off of the water and into the sky. It spontaneously hardens there, forming the Brahmakāyika Heaven’s palace, which is decorated with the seven treasures … Thus, the ocean’s water has the single flavor of salty bitterness again as it did after the catastrophe of fire.

88. “This is the catastrophe of water.”

The Catastrophe of Wind

89. The Buddha told the monks, “What is the catastrophe of wind? When the catastrophe of wind happens, the world’s people uphold the correct Dharma, have right view, don’t have wrong views, and cultivate the ten good deeds. After they cultivate the ten good deeds, there are people who attain the pure equanimity and mindfulness of the fourth dhyāna and leap up into the sky. Those people on the noble path, the heavenly path, and the path of Brahma call out from above: ‘Good people, [you should know] the happiness of the pure equanimity and mindfulness of the fourth dhyāna! The pure equanimity and mindfulness of the fourth dhyāna is happiness!’

90. “When the world’s people hear that voice, they look up and say to it, ‘Excellent, excellent! Please explain for us the path of the fourth dhyāna’s pure equanimity and mindfulness!’

91. “When the people in the sky hear that, they explain the path of the fourth dhyāna’s pure equanimity and mindfulness. When the world’s people hear that explanation, they cultivate the path of the fourth dhyāna, and they’re born in the Bṛhatphala Heaven when their bodies break up and their lives end.

92. “When sentient beings’ punishment in hell is finished and their lives end, they’re reborn among humans. They too cultivate the path of the fourth dhyāna, and they’re born in the Bṛhatphala Heaven when their bodies break up and their lives end. Sentient beings born as animals … hungry ghosts … asuras … four god kings … [Trāyastriṃśa gods … Yama gods … Tuṣita gods … Nirmāṇarati gods … Paranirmitavaśavartin gods … Brahma gods … Ābhāsvara gods] … Śubhakṛtsna gods are reborn as humans when their lives end. They too cultivate the path of the fourth dhyāna, and they’re born in the Bṛhatphala Heaven when their bodies break up and their lives end.

93. “As a result of these causes, the destiny of hell is ended … animals … hungry ghosts … asuras … the four god kings … Śubhakṛtsna Heaven is ended.

94. “As this happens, hell disappears first, and then animal births disappear after it. After animal births are gone, the hungry ghosts disappear. After the hungry ghosts are gone, the asuras disappear. After the asuras are gone, the four god kings disappear. After the four god kings are gone, the Trāyastriṃśa gods disappear. After the Trāyastriṃśa gods are gone, the Yama gods disappear. After the Yama gods are gone, the Tuṣita gods disappear. After the Tuṣita gods are gone, the Nirmāṇarati gods disappear. After the Nirmāṇarati gods are gone, the Paranirmitavaśavartin gods disappear. After the Paranirmitavaśavartin gods are gone, the Brahma gods disappear. After the Brahma gods are gone, then the Ābhāsvara gods disappear. After the Ābhāsvara gods are gone, the Bṛhatphala gods disappear. After the Bṛhatphala gods are gone, then humans disappear with none remaining. After humans are gone with none remaining, the world is destroyed when the catastrophe takes place.

95. “A long, long time after that, a gale rises called Great Saṅgha. It goes up to the Bṛhatphala Heaven and disperses in four directions. It blows on the Bṛhatphala Heaven’s palace and Ābhāsvara Heaven’s palace, causing those palaces to crash into each other. This pulverizes them to dust. Just as a strong man uses a pair of bronze hammers to smash something between them to pulverize it until nothing remains, those two palaces crashing into each other is likewise.

96. “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

97. “After that, this wind blows on the Brahmakāyika Heaven’s palace and the Paranirmitavaśavartin Heaven’s palace, causing those palaces to crash into each other. This pulverizes them to dust until nothing remains. Just as a strong man uses a pair of bronze hammers to smash something between them to pulverize it until nothing remains, those two palaces crashing into each other is likewise.

98. “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

99. “After that, this wind blows on the Nirmāṇarati Heaven’s palace and the Tuṣita Heaven’s palace, causing those palaces to crash the into each other. This pulverizes them to dust until nothing remains. Just as a strong man uses a pair of bronze hammers to smash something between them to pulverize it until nothing remains, those two palaces crashing into each other is likewise.

100. “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

101. “After that, this wind blows the four continents, 80,000 islands, mountains, great mountains, and Sumeru the mountain king a hundred thousand yojanas up into the sky. The mountains collide and pulverize each other to dust. Like a strong man throwing a handful of chaff into the air, the four continents, Sumeru, and the mountains are all pulverized and scatter in the same way.

102. “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.

103. “After that, the wind blows the whole earth away. The water beneath the earth disappears, and then the air beneath the water disappears.

104. “You should know from this that all formed things are impermanent. They are liable to change and disintegrate, which makes them unreliable. Conditioned things are quite troublesome. You should seek the path of freedom that transcends the world.”

105. The Buddha told the monks, “The Śubhakṛtsna Heaven’s palace and Ābhāsvara Heaven’s palace crash into each other, and they’re pulverized to dust. Who would believe that? Only someone who witnessed it would, but how could anyone know about it? … Thus, the water beneath the earth disappears, and then the air beneath the water disappears. Who would believe that? Only someone who witnessed it would, but how could anyone know about it?

The Third Restoration of the World

106. “How is the world restored after the catastrophe of wind? A long, long time after that, a huge black cloud fills the sky up to the Bṛhatphala Heaven and releases a deluge. The raindrops are the size of cartwheels. This heavy rain lasts for countless hundreds of thousands of years. The water gradually accumulates [countless hundreds of thousands of yojanas high], reaching the Bṛhatphala Heaven.

107. “Then, four great winds arise to support this water. What are the four? 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. After that, this water gradually subsides by countless hundreds of thousands of yojanas. A great wind rises on all four sides of that water, which is called Saṅgha. It blows on the water and agitates it. The crashing of the waves is immense, and a mass of foam accumulates. The wind blows it off of the water and into the sky. It spontaneously hardens there, forming the Śubhakṛtsna Heaven’s palace. It has a mix of assorted colors made of the seven treasures. As a result of these events, the palace of the Śubhakṛtsna Heaven comes to be.

108. “The water continues to subside countless hundreds of thousands of yojanas, and the Saṅgha wind rises. It blows the water and agitates it. The crashing of the waves is immense, and a mass of foam accumulates. The wind blows it off of the water and into the sky. It spontaneously hardens there, forming the Ābhāsvara Heaven’s palace. It has a mix of assorted colors made of the seven treasures … the ocean’s water has the single flavor of salty bitterness again as it did after the catastrophe of fire.

109. “This is the catastrophe of wind. These are the three catastrophes and three restorations.”


Endnotes

  1. This story is parallel to the Seven Suns Sutra (cf. AN 7.66 and MĀ 8). [back]
  2. Mount Sudarśana has been omitted from this section, probably an accidental copyist error given that the sizes of the mountains don’t match those found in Chapter 1 from this point until it’s corrected for Mount Cakravāḍa. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 28 June 2022