Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “kalpa and mahakalpa” 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.

Appendix 2 - Kalpa and Mahākalpa

Note: This appendix is extracted from Chapter XLVI part 2.2 (do the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas fulfill wishes without exception?):

“When the kalpa is finished and by virtue of actions collectively accomplished, the great rain (mahāvarṣa) comes down without interruption, it cannot be governed by the other three great elements (mahābhūta); only the winds (vāyu) that come from the ten directions at the end of the kalpa and come up against one another can withstand this water (ap).”

The Mahākalpa, or great cosmic period, is divided into four incalculable periods (asaṃkhyeyakalpa) each lasting twenty small kalpas (antarakalpa):

1) one period of disappearance of the world (saṃvartakalpa) resulting from one disappearance by fire (tejaḥsaṃvartanī), one disappearance by water (apsaṃvartanī) and one disappearance by wind (vāyusaṃvartanī);

2) one period during which the world remains destroyed (saṃvartasthāyikakalpa);

3) one period of creation (vivartakakalpa);

4) one period during which the world remains created (vivartasthāyikakalpa).

At the moment when the second period is consumed and the third is about to begin, as a result of the collective action of beings light winds arise in space that are the first signs of the future receptacles (sattvānāṃ karmādhipatyena bhājanānāṃ pūrvanimittabhūtā ākāśe mandamandā vāyavaḥ syandante). They constitute the ‘primordial wind’ (prāgvāyu). With the increasing of these winds, there arises the circle of wind (vāyumaṇḍala) which rests on space (ākāśa). Then on this circle of wind, by virtue of the [collective] actions of beings, masses of clouds arise, jets of water like axle-trees begin to rain down, and that becomes the circle of waters (tasmin vāyumaṇḍale sattvānāṃ karmabhir meghāḥ saṃbhūyākusamātrābhir dhārābhir abhivarṣanti, tad bhavaty apāṃ maṇḍalam).

– See Kośabhāṣya, p. 158 and 179.

The Saṃyukta, T 99, k. 34, p. 243a23–26 alludes to this primordial rain, and its text is cited in Kośabhāṣya, p. 113, l. 23–26:

Īṣādhāre deve varṣati nāsti vīcir vā antarikā vā anatīkṣād vāridhārāṇāṃ prapatatīnām |
evaṃ pūrvasyāṃ diśi nāsti vīcir vā antarikā vā lokadhātūnāṃ saṃvarttamānānāṃ vivarttamānānāṃ ca |
yathāpūrvasyāṃ diśi evaṃ dakusiṇasyāṃ paścimāyām uttarasyām iti |