WARREN: BUDDHISM IN TRANSLATIONS
§ 69. World-Cycles
The Fourth High Power
Translated from the Visuddhi-Magga (chap. xiii.)
Can call to mind -- Can remember by following either the succession of the groups, or the sequence of births and deaths. For there are six classes of persons who can call to mind former states of existence: members of other sects, ordinary disciples, great disciples, chief disciples, Private Buddhas, and Buddhas. Now members of other sects can call to mind former states of existence for forty world-cycles, and no more.
And why? On account of the weakness of their wisdom. For their wisdom is weak, as they are unable to define name and form. Ordinary disciples can call to mind former states of existence for one hundred or even one thousand world-cycles, on account of the strength of their wisdom. The eighty great disciples can call to mind former states of existence for one hundred thousand world-cycles; the two chief disciples, for one immensity and one hundred thousand world-cycles; Private Buddhas, for two immensities and one hundred thousand world-cycles, for such is the limit of their earnest wish. But The Buddhas have their power unlimited.
Members of other sects follow only the succession of the groups; they cannot leave the consideration of that succession and follow the sequence of births and deaths, for they are like blind men, in that they cannot go freely where they please. Just as the blind cannot walk without a staff, so they cannot remember if they let go the succession of the groups. The ordinary disciples can call to mind former states of existence by following either the succession of the groups, or they can travel along by the sequence of births and deaths. So, likewise, the eighty great disciples. But the two chief disciples do not need to make use of the succession of the groups; they behold the death of a person in one existence and his rebirth in another, and again his death in that existence and his rebirth in a third. Thus they travel along the sequence of births and deaths. So, likewise, the Private Buddhas. The Buddhas, however, do not need to make use of the succession of the groups, nor yet of the sequence of  births and deaths. For any point which they choose to remember, throughout many times ten million world-cycles, becomes plain to them, and that in either direction. Thus they contract many times ten million world-cycles, as one would make an abridgment in a Pāli text, arriving at the desired point with the stride of a lion. Just as an arrow shot from the bow of a skilled archer, trained like Sarabhanga to shoot at a hair's breadth, goes straight to the mark, and is not caught in the way by any tree or plant, nor sticks fast, nor misses its aim, so the intellect of The Buddhas is not caught by any intervening birth, nor do they miss their aim, but go straight to the wished-for place.
Now the power possessed by members of other sects to perceive former states of existence resembles the light of a glow-worm; that of the ordinary disciples, the light of a lamp; that of the great disciples, the light of a torch; that of the chief disciples, the light of the morning star; that of the Private Buddhas, the light of the moon; that of The Buddhas resembles the thousand-rayed disk of the autumnal sun.
The power possessed by members of other sects to call to mind former states of existence is like the groping of a blind man with the aid of a stick; that of the ordinary disciples, like walking with the aid of a staff; that of the great disciples, like walking without a staff; that of the chief disciples, like riding in a cart; that of the Private Buddhas, like riding on camel-back; that of The Buddhas, like rolling in a chariot on a great highway.
But our present text concerns itself only with disciples and their power to call to mind former states of existence. Therefore was it I said: "'Can call to mind' -- Can remember by following either the succession of the groups, or the sequence of births and deaths."
The priest, then, who tries for the first time to call to mind former states of existence, should choose a time after breakfast when he has returned from his begging-rounds, and is alone and plunged in meditation, and has been absorbed in the four trances in succession. On rising from the fourth trance, the one that leads to the High Powers, he should consider the  event which last took place. namely, his sitting down; next the spreading of the mat; the entering of the room; the putting away of bowl and robe; his eating; his leaving the village; his going the rounds of the village for alms; his entering the village for alms; his issuing forth from the monastery; his paying worship in the courts of the shrine and of the Bo-tree; his washing the bowl; his taking the bowl; what he did between his taking the bowl and rinsing his mouth; what he did at dawn; what he did in the middle watch of the night; what he did in the first watch of the night. Thus, in retrograde order, must he consider all that he did for a whole day and night.
As much as this is plain even to the ordinary mind, but it is exceedingly plain to one whose mind is in preliminary concentration. But if there is any one event which is not plain, then he should again enter upon the trance that leads to the High Powers, and when he has risen from it, he must again consider that past event; this will be sufficient to make it as plain as if he had used a lighted lamp. In this retrograde order must he consider what he did the day before, the day before that, up to the fifth day, tenth day, half-month, month, year: and having in the self-same manner considered the previous ten, twenty years, and so on up to the time of his conception in this existence, he must then consider the name and form present at the moment of his death in the previous existence. For a clever priest is able at the first trial to penetrate beyond conception, and to take as his object of thought the name and form present at the moment of his death. But whereas the name and form of the previous existence utterly ceased, and another one came into being, therefore that point of time is like thick darkness, and difficult to be made out by the mind of any stupid person. But even such a one should not despair, and say, "I shall never be able to penetrate beyond conception, and take as my object of thought the name and form present at the moment of my death in the last existence," but he should again and again enter upon the trance that leads to the High Powers, and each time he rises from it, he should again consider that point of time.
Just as a strong man, in cutting down a mighty tree to be used in making the peaked roof of a pagoda, if the edge of his axe become turned in lopping off the branches and twigs, will not despair of cutting down the tree, but will go to a blacksmith's shop, and have his axe made sharp, and return, and go on with the cutting; and if the edge of his axe again become turned, he will again have it sharpened, and return, and go on with the cutting; and inasmuch as nothing that he has chopped needs to be chopped again, he will, in no long time, when there is nothing left to chop, fell that mighty tree. In exactly the same way, the priest, rising from the trance that leads to the High Powers, without considering what he has already considered, and considering only the moment of conception, in no long time will penetrate beyond the moment of conception, and take as his object the name and form, present at the moment of his death. This matter can be illustrated by the wood-splitter, extractor of hair, and other similes.
Now the knowledge which has for its object the events from the last sitting down to the moment of conception, is not called the knowledge of former existences, but knowledge belonging to preliminary concentration. Some call it knowledge of past time. This knowledge does not concern itself with the realm of form. When, however, the priest, passing beyond the moment of conception, and taking the name and form present at the moment of his death, considers them with his mind; and when, after he has ceased considering them, the four or the five swiftnesses based on the same object hasten on, of which the first three or four, in the manner aforesaid, are called by such names as preliminary etc., and belong to the realm of sensual pleasure, while the last belongs to the realm of form, and is the attainment-thought belonging to the fourth trance; then the knowledge which accompanies that thought is termed the knowledge which calls to mind former states of existence.
His alert attention, laving become possessed of this knowledge, He can call to mind many former states of existence, to wit, one birth, two births, three births, four births, five births, ten  births, twenty births, thirty births, forty births, fifty births, one hundred births, one thousand births, one hundred thousand births, many destructions of a world-cycle, many renovations of a world-cycle, many destructions and many renovations of a world-cycle: "I lived in such a place, had such a name, was of such a family, of such a caste, had such a maintenance, experienced such happinesses and such miseries, had such a length of life. Then I passed from that existence, and was reborn in such a place. There also I had such a name, was of such a family, of such a caste, had such a maintenance, experienced such happinesses and such miseries, had such a length of life. Then I passed from that existence, and was reborn in this existence." Thus he can call to mind many former states of existence, and can specifically characterize them.
Here one birth is the series of the groups, beginning at the moment of conception and ending at the moment of death, and comprised in one existence. Similarly as respects two births, and so on.
As respects, however, many destructions of a world-cycle etc., when a world-cycle is on the wane, that is known as the destruction of a world-cycle; when it is on the increase, that is known as the renovation of a world-cycle. Here destruction includes the continuance of destruction, from being its beginning, and renovation includes the continuance of renovation. Accordingly the four immensities of the following quotation are all included: "There are four immensities, O priests, to a world-cycle. And what are the four? The destruction, continuance of destruction, renovation, and continuance of renovation."
Now there are three destructions: the destruction by water, the destruction by fire, the destruction by wind. And there are three boundaries: the Heaven of the Radiant Gods, the Heaven of the Completely Lustrous Gods, the Heaven of the Richly Rewarded Gods. When a world-cycle is destroyed by fire, it is consumed by fire from the Heaven of the Radiant Gods down. When it is destroyed by water, it is engulfed by water from the Heaven of the Completely Lustrous Gods down. When it is destroyed by wind, it is demolished by  wind from the Heaven of the Richly Rewarded Gods down. In lateral expansion it always perishes to the extent of a Buddha's domain.
Now a Buddha's domain is threefold: birth-domain, authority-domain, knowledge-domain. Birth-domain comprises ten thousand worlds; all these quake at various periods in the life of a Tathāgata, as, for instance, when he is conceived. Authority-domain comprises one hundred thousand times ten million worlds; over all of these extends the protective power of the Ratana-Sutta, of the Khandha-Paritta, of the Dhajagga-Paritta, of the Ātānātiya-Paritta, and of the Mora-Paritta. Knowledge-domain is endless and boundless, and the passage which says, "Or as far as he may wish," means that the knowledge of a Tathāgata extends to any place or to any subject he may wish. Of these three Buddha-domains, it is the authority-domain which perishes; but when that perishes, the birth-domain perishes likewise, They perish coincidently, and they exist coincidently. Now the perishing and the existing of a world-cycle are after the following manner:
When a world-cycle perishes by fire, there arises in the beginning a cycle-destroying great cloud, and a great rain falls throughout one hundred thousand times ten million worlds. The people are delighted and overjoyed, and bring forth seed of all kinds and sow; but when the crops have grown just large enough for cow-fodder, the clouds keep up a braying noise, but do not allow a drop to fall; all rain is utterly cut off. Concerning which the following has been said by The Blessed One:
"There comes a time, O priests, when, for many years, for many hundreds of years, for many thousands of years, for many hundreds of thousands of years, the god does not rain."
Those creatures who depend on rain die, and are reborn in the Brahma-world; likewise the divinities who live on flowers and fruits. When thus a long time has elapsed, here and there the ponds of water dry up. Then, one by one, the fishes and turtles also die and are reborn in the Brahma-world; likewise the inhabitants of the hells. But some say the inhabitants  of the hells perish with the appearing of the seventh sun.
But it may be said: "Without the trances, there is no being born into the Brahma-world. Yet some of these beings were overcome by famine, and some were incapable of attaining the trances. How could they be born into that world?" Because of their having attained the trances in the lower heavens.
For when it is known that after the lapse of a hundred thousand years the cycle is to be renewed, the gods called Loka-byūhas, inhabitants of a heaven of sensual pleasure, wander about through the world, with hair let down and flying in the wind, weeping and wiping away their tears with their hands, and with their clothes red and in great disorder. And thus they make announcement:
"Sirs, after the lapse of a hundred thousand years the cycle is to be renewed: this world will be destroyed; also the mighty ocean will dry up; and this broad earth, and Sineru, the monarch of the mountains, will be burnt up and destroyed, -- up to the Brahma-world will the destruction of the world extend. Therefore, sirs, cultivate friendliness; cultivate compassion, joy, and indifference; wait on your mothers; wait on your fathers; and honor your elders among your kinsfolk."
When the people and the terrestrial deities hear these words, they, for the most part, become agitated, and their minds soften towards each other, and they cultivate friendliness, and do other meritorious deeds, and are reborn in the world of the gods. There they have heavenly ambrosia for food, and induce the trances by means of the air-kasina. Others, however, are born into the world of the gods by the alternation of the rewards of their good and evil deeds. For there is no being in the round of rebirth but has an alternation of the rewards of his good and evil deeds. Thus do they attain the trances in the world of the gods; and having there attained the trances, all are reborn in the Brahma-world.
When now a long period has elapsed from the cessation of the rains, a second sun appears. Here is to be supplied  in full what was said by The Blessed One in the Discourse on the Seven Suns, beginning with the words, "There comes, O priests, a time."
When this second sun has appeared, there is no distinction of day and night; each sun rises when the other sets, and an incessant heat beats upon the world. And whereas the ordinary sun is inhabited by its divinity, no such being is to be found in the cycle-destroying sun. When the ordinary sun shines, clouds and patches of mist fly about in the air. But when the cycle-destroying sun shines, the sky is free from mists and clouds, and as spotless as a mirror, and the water in all streams dries up, except in the case of the five great rivers. After the lapse of another long period, a third sun appears, and the great rivers dry up. After the lapse of another long period, a fourth sun appears, and the sources of the great rivers in the Himalaya Mountains dry up, namely, the seven great lakes, Sīhapapātana, Hamsapapātana, Kannamundaka, Rathakāradaha, Anotattadaha, Chaddantadaha, Kunāladaha. After the lapse of another long period, a fifth sun appears, and the mighty ocean gradually dries up, so that not enough water remains to moisten the tip of one's finger. After the lapse of another long period, a sixth sun appears, and the whole world becomes filled with smoke, and saturated with the greasiness of that smoke, and not only this world but a hundred thousand times ten million worlds. After the lapse of another long period, a seventh sun appears, and the whole world breaks into flames; and just as this one, so also a hundred thousand times ten million worlds. All the peaks of Mount Sineru, even those which are hundreds of leagues in height, crumble and disappear in the sky. The flames of fire rise up and envelop the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. Having there burnt up all the mansions of gold, of jewels, and of precious stones, they envelop the Heaven of the Thirty-three. In the same manner they envelop all the heavens to which access is given by the first trance. Having thus burnt up three of the Brahma-heavens, they come to a stop on reaching the Heaven of the Radiant Gods. This fire does not go out as long as anything remains; but after everything has  disappeared, it goes out, leaving no ashes, like a fire of clarified butter or sesamum oil. The upper regions of space become one with those below, and wholly dark.
Now after the lapse of another long period, a great cloud arises. And first it rains with a very fine rain, and then the rain pours down in streams which gradually increase from the thickness of a water-lily stalk to that of a staff, of a club, of the trunk of a palmyra-tree. And when this cloud has filled every burnt place throughout a hundred thousand times ten million worlds, it disappears. And then a wind arises, below and on the sides of the water, and rolls it into one mass which is round like a drop on the leaf of a lotus. But how can it press such an immense volume of water into one mass? Because the water offers openings here and there for the wind. After the water has thus been massed together by the wind, it dwindles away, and by degrees descends to a lower level. As the water descends, the Brahma-heavens reappear in their places, and also the four upper heavens of sensual pleasure. When it has descended to its original level on the surface of the earth, mighty winds arise, and they hold the water helplessly in check, as if in a covered vessel. This water is sweet, and as it wastes away, the earth which arises out of it is full of sap, and has a beautiful color, and a fine taste and smell, like the skimmings on the top of thick rice-gruel.
Then beings, who have been living in the Heaven of the Radiant Gods, leave that existence, either on account of having completed their term of life, or on account of the exhaustion of their merit, and are reborn here on earth. They shine with their own light and wander through space. Thereupon, as described in the Discourse on Primitive Ages, they taste that savory earth, are overcome with desire, and fall to eating it ravenously. Then they cease to shine with their own light, and find themselves in darkness. When they perceive this darkness, they become afraid. Thereupon, the sun's disk appears, full fifty leagues in extent, banishing their fears and producing a sense of divine presence. On seeing it, they are delighted and overjoyed, saying, "Now we have light; and whereas it has banished our fears and produced a sense  of divine presence [sura-bhāva], therefore let it be called suriya [the sun]." Hence they named it suriya. After the sun has given light throughout the day, it sets. Then they are alarmed again, saying, "The light which we had has perished." Then they think: "It would be well if we had some other light." Thereupon, as if divining their thoughts, the disk of the moon appears, forty-nine leagues in extent. On seeing it, they are still more delighted and overjoyed, and say, "As if divining our wish [chanda], has it arisen: therefore is it canda [the moon]." And therefore they named it canda. When thus the sun and the moon have appeared, the constellations and the stars arise. From that time on night and day succeed each other, and in due course the months and half-months, seasons and years. Moreover, on the same day with the sun and the moon, Mount Sineru, the mountains which encircle the world, and the Himalaya Mountains reappear. These all appear simultaneously on the day of the full moon of the month Phagguna. And how? Just as when panick-seed porridge is cooking, suddenly bubbles appear and form little hummocks in some places, and leave other places as depressions, while others still are flat; even so the mountains correspond to the little hummocks, and the oceans to the depressions, and the continents to the flat places.
Now after these beings have begun to eat the savory earth, by degrees some become handsome and some ugly. Then the handsome despise the ugly, and as the result of this despising, the savoriness of the earth disappears, and the bitter pappataka plant grows up. In the same manner that also disappears, and the padālatā plant grows up. In the same way that also disappears, and rice grows up without any need of cultivation, free from all husk and red granules, and exposing the sweet-scented naked rice-grain. Then pots appear for the rice, and they place the rice in the pots, and place these pots on the tops of stones. And flames of fire spring up of their own accord, and cook the rice, and it becomes rice-porridge resembling the jasmine flower, and needing the addition of no broth or condiments, but having any desired flavor. Now when these beings eat this material  food, the excrements are formed within them, and in order that they may relieve themselves, openings appear in their bodies, and the virility of the man, and the femininity of the woman. Then the woman begins to meditate excessively on the man, and the man on the woman, and as a result of this excessive meditation, the fever of lust springs up, and they have carnal connection. And being tormented by the reproofs of the wise for their low conduct, they build houses for its concealment. And having begun to dwell in houses, after a while they follow the example of some lazy one among themselves, and store up food. From that time on the red granules and the husks envelop the rice-grains, and wherever a crop has been mown down, it does not spring up again. Then these beings come together, and groan aloud, saying, "Alas! wickedness has sprung up among men; for surely we formerly were made of mind." The full account of this is to be supplied from the Discourse on Primitive Ages.
Then they institute boundary lines, and one steals another's share. After reviling the offender two or three times, the third time they beat him with their fists, with clods of earth, with sticks, etc. When thus stealing, reproof, lying, and violence have sprung up among them, they come together, and say, "What if now we elect some one of us, who shall get angry with him who merits anger, reprove him who merits reproof, and banish him who merits banishment. And we will give him in return a share of our rice." When, however, the people of this, our world-cycle came to this decision, our Blessed One, who was at the time a Future Buddha, was of all these beings the handsomest, the most pleasing of appearance, possessing the greatest influence and wisdom, and able to raise up and put down. Then they all came to him, and having gained his assent, they elected him their chief. Thus, inasmuch as he was elected by the multitude, he was called the Great Elect, and as he was lord of the fields [khetta], he was called khattiya [lord, the name for a member of the governing or warrior caste]. And as he pleased [sam-rañj-eti from root raj] his fellows by his even justice, he was called rājā [king]. Thus did he acquire these three  appellations. A Future Buddha always becomes chief in that position in life which is most highly esteemed by mankind. When thus the association of warriors had been formed, with the Future Buddha at its head, by degrees the Brahmans and the other castes arose.
Now from the cycle-destroying great cloud to the termination of the conflagration constitutes one immensity, and is called the period of destruction. And from the cycle-destroying conflagration to the salutary great rains filling one hundred thousand times ten million worlds is the second immensity, and is called the continuance of destruction. From the salutary great rains to the appearing of the sun and moon is the third immensity, and is called the period of renovation. From the appearing of the sun and moon to the cycle-destroying great cloud is the fourth immensity, and is called the continuance of renovation. These four immensities form one great world-cycle.
This, then, is the order of events in a world-cycle when it perishes by fire.
But when a world-cycle perishes by water, it perishes in the manner above described, where it was said, "There arises in the beginning a cycle-destroying great cloud." But there are the following points of difference: -- Instead of the second sun, there arises a cycle-destroying great cloud of salt water. At first it rains with a very fine rain which gradually increases to great torrents which fill one hundred thousand times ten million worlds, and the mountain-peaks of the earth become flooded with saltish water, and hidden from view. And the water is buoyed up on all sides by the wind, and rises upward from the earth until it engulfs the heavens to which access is given by the second trance. Having there flooded three of the Brahma-heavens, it comes to a stop at the Heaven of the Completely Lustrous Gods, and it does not settle as long as anything remains, but everything becomes impregnated with water, and then suddenly settles and disappears. And the upper regions of space become one with those below, and wholly dark. This is all as described above; only in this case the world begins to appear again at  the Heaven of the Radiant Gods, and beings leave the Heaven of the Completely Lustrous Gods, and are reborn in the Heaven of the Radiant Gods, or in a lower heaven. Now from the cycle-destroying great cloud to the termination of the cycle-destroying rain is one immensity; from the termination of the rain to the salutary great rains is the second immensity; from the salutary great rains to the appearing of the sun and moon is the third immensity; and from the appearing of the sun and moon to the cycle-destroying great cloud is the fourth immensity. These four immensities form one great world-cycle.
This is the order of events in a world-cycle when it perishes by water.
When a world-cycle is destroyed by wind, it perishes in the manner above described, where it was said, "There arises in the beginning a cycle-destroying great cloud." But there are the following points of difference: -- Instead of the second sun, there arises a wind to destroy the world-cycle. And first it raises a fine dust, and then coarse dust, and then fine sand, and then coarse sand, and then grit, stones, etc., up to boulders as large as the peak of a pagoda, and mighty trees on the hill-tops. These mount from the earth to the zenith, and do not fall again, but are there blown to powder and annihilated. And then by degrees the wind arises from underneath the earth, and turns the ground upside down, and throws it into the sky, and areas of one hundred leagues in extent, two hundred, three hundred, five hundred leagues in extent, crack, and are thrown upwards by the force of the wind, and are blown to powder in the sky and annihilated. And the wind throws up also into the sky the mountains which encircle the earth, and Mount Sineru. These meet together, and are ground to powder and destroyed.
Thus are destroyed all the mansions on earth, and in the skies, also the six heavens of sensual desire, and a hundred thousand times ten million worlds. Worlds clash with worlds, Himalaya Mountains with Himalaya Mountains, and Mount Sinerus with Mount Sinerus, until they have ground each other to powder and have perished. From the earth  upward does the wind prevail, until it has embraced all the heavens to which access is given by the third trance. Having there destroyed three of the Brahma-heavens, it comes to a stop at the Heaven of the Richly Rewarded Gods. When it has thus destroyed everything, it perishes. And the upper regions of space become one with those below, and wholly dark. All this is as described above. But now it is the Heaven of the Completely Lustrous Gods which first appears, and beings leave the Heaven of the Richly Rewarded Gods, and are reborn in the Heaven of the Completely Lustrous Gods, or in some lower heaven.
Now from the cycle-destroying great cloud to the termination of the cycle-destroying wind is one immensity; from the termination of the wind to the salutary great cloud is the second immensity; from the salutary great cloud to the appearing of the sun and moon is the third immensity; and from the appearing of the sun and moon to the cycle-destroying great cloud is the fourth immensity. These four immensities form one great world-cycle.
This is the order of events in a world-cycle when it perishes by wind.
Why does the world perish in these particular ways? It is on account of the special wickedness that may be at bottom. For it is in accordance with the wickedness preponderating that the world perishes. When passion preponderates, it perishes by fire; when hatred, it perishes by water. -- But some say that when hatred preponderates, it perishes by fire, and that when passion preponderates it perishes by water. -- When infatuation preponderates, it perishes by wind.
Now the world, in perishing, perishes seven times in succession by fire, and the eighth time by water; and then again seven times by fire, and the eighth time by water. Thus the world perishes each eighth time by water, until it has perished seven times by water, and then seven more times by fire. Thus have sixty-three world-cycles elapsed. Then the perishing by water is omitted, and wind takes its turn in demolishing the world; and when the Completely Lustrous Gods have reached their full term of existence of sixty-four world-cycles, their heaven also is destroyed.
 Now it is of such world-cycles that a priest who can call to mind former existences and former world-cycles, can call to mind many destructions of a world-cycle, and many renovations of a world-cycle, and many destructions and renovations of a world-cycle.
And after what manner?
"I lived in such a place," etc.
[Samyutta-Nikāya, xv.5.6]--"It is as if, O priest, there were a mountain consisting of a great rock, a league in length, a league in width, a league in height, without break, cleft, or hollow, and every hundred years a man were to come and rub it once with a silken garment; that mountain consisting of a great rock, O priest, would more quickly wear away and come to an end than a world-cycle. O priest, this is the length of a world-cycle. And many such cycles, O priest, have rolled by, and many hundreds of cycles, and many thousands of cycles, and many hundreds of thousands of cycles. And why do I say so? Because, O priest, this round of existence is without known starting-point, and of beings who course and roll along from birth to birth, blinded by ignorance, and fettered by desire, there is no beginning discernible. Such is the length of time, O priest, during which misery and calamity have endured, and the cemeteries have been replenished; insomuch, O priest, that there is every reason to feel disgust and aversion for all the constituents of being, and to free oneself from them."