Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “definition of trisahasramahasahasralokadhatu” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Act 1.6: Definition of trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu

Sūtra: The rays shoot out across the region of the east and its universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges and the same for the ten directions.

Śāstra. – What is a trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu or trichiliomegachiliocosm?

Answer. – The Buddha defined it (vyākaroti) in the Tsa a han (Saṃyuktāgama):[1]

“A thousand suns (sūrya), a thousand moons (candra), a thousand Jambudvīpas, a thousand [Avara]godanīyas, a thousand Uttarakurus, a thousand Pūravidehas, a thousand Sumerus, a thousand Cāturmahārājikas. a thousand Trāyastriṃśas, a thousand Yāmas, a thousand Tuṣitas, a thousand Nirmāṇaratis, a thousand Paranirmitavaśavartins, a thousand Brahmalokas, a thousand Mahābrahmās: all that is called sāhasracūḍikalokadhātu (chiliomicrocosm) or cūḍika for short.

A group of a thousand universes of the sāhasracuḍika type is called dvisāhasramadhyamalokadhātu (dichiliomesocosm).

A group of a thousand universes of the dvisāhasramadhyama type is called trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu (trichiliomegachiliocosm).”

Thus we have the sāhasralokadhātu ( = 1,000), then the dvisāhasramadhyama ( = 1,000 x 1,000 or a million), finally the trisāhasramahāsāhasra ( = 1,000 x 1,000,000 or a billion). Therefore a billion suns, moons, etc., up to a billion Mahābrahmās is a trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu. The creation (vivartana) and the destruction (saṃvartana) [of the universes within a group] takes place at the same time.

Some say: The period of duration (sthiti) is a kalpa, the period of destruction (saṃvarta) is a kalpa, the period of creation (vivarta) is a kalpa: that is the trisāhasramahāsāsahralokadhātu.[2] The mahākalpa has three disappearances: by water (āpas), by fire (tejas) and by wind (vāyu).[3] [114a] The small kalpa also has three disappearances: by knife (śastra), by plague (roga) and by famine (durbhikṣa).[4]

The trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu rests on space (ākāśa). [On top of space, the circle of wind (vāyumaṇḍala)], on top of wind, [the circle] of water (abmaṇḍala); on top of the water, [the golden] earth (kañcanamayī bhūmi); on the earth, people. Mount Sumeru has the abodes of two classes of gods, the Cāturmaharājikas and the Trāyastriṃśas. The others, the abodes of the Yāma gods, etc., are lands formed of the seven jewels (saptaratnabhūmi) and caused by their merits.[5] The wind arises in space and reaches the Mahābrahmā gods and the levels formed of the seven jewels which all rest on the wind.

It is the trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu that the Buddha’s rays illumine and when these rays die out, other rays arise which go to light up universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. The same phenomenon is produced in the regions of the south, the west and the north, in the intermediate directions and in the regions of the zenith and the nadir.

Question. – Why does not their brilliance disappear the farther out they go out?

Answer: These rays have as their source (mūla) the Buddha’s miraculous power (ṛddhibala), and as long as they persist, they will not disappear. Just as in the sea of the nāgas (nāgahrada), the water does not dry up by the power of the serpents, so these rays illumine the ten directions without disappearing in the course of their route by the mental power of the Buddha.

Footnotes and references:


The passage that follows is taken from three consecutive sūtras of the Saṃyuktāgama: Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 424–426), p. 111c–112a. There is no correspondent in the Pāli Saṃyutta.

The same passage also occurs in various places in the Chinese Āgamas: in the Cosmography of the Tch’ang a han (T 1, k. 18, p. 114b–c) and its three independent versions (T 23, k. 1, p. 177a; T 24, k. 1, p. 310b; T 26, k. 59, p. 799c.

On the other hand, the Pāli Nikāyas contain only one text relating to the three chiliocosms: it occurs in Aṅguttara, V, p. 59): Yāvatā Ānanda candimasuriyā pariharanti disā ‘bhanti virocanā … loko ayaṃ vuccat’ Ānanda tisahassī mahāsahassīlokadhātu.

It is the Greater Vehicle that has specially developed the chiliocosms; see the references gathered by S. Beal, Catena, p. 101 seq. See also Kośa, III, p. 170.


Kośa, III, p. 181–182.


ibid. p. 184, 215.


ibid., p. 207.


ibid., p. 138–141.