II. Nidāna Vagga
I. Paṭhama Vagga
The Book of the Kindred Sayings
II. The Book Called the Nidāna-Vagga
Containing Kindred sayings on Cause
and Other Subjects
15. Kindred Sayings on the Incalculable Beginning
Originally Published by
The Pali Text Society
Now a certain brother came to the Exalted One,
and saluting him
sat down at one side.
Seated at one side
he said this to the Exalted One:
"How long, lord, is an aeon?"
"Long, brother, is an aeon.
It is not easy to reckon how long
by saying so many years,
so many centuries,
so many thousand centuries."
"Can it be told, lord, by a parable?"
"It can, brother", said the Exalted One.
"Suppose, brother, there were a city of iron [walls]
one yojana in length,
one in width,
one yojana high,
filled up with mustard-seed
[to the top as if] turban-bound.
Therefrom a man were to take out
at the end of every hundred years
That great pile of mustard-seed, brother,
would in this way
be sooner done away with and ended
than an aeon.
So long, brother, is an aeon.
And of aeons thus long
more than one has passed,
more than a hundred have passed,
more than a thousand,
more than a hundred thousand.
Why is this?
Incalculable is the beginning, brother, of this faring on.
The earliest point is not revealed
of the faring on, running on,
of beings cloaked in ignorance,
tied to craving.
Thus many a day, brother,
have ye been suffering ill,
have ye been suffering pain,
have ye been suffering disaster,
have the charnel-fields been growing.
Thus far enough is there, brother,
for you to be repelled
by all the things of this world,
enough to lose all passion for them,
enough to be delivered therefrom.
 Cuḷikābaddhaŋ = top-knot-bound - a quaint conceit meet for such a fanciful simile.