Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “lokantarika (intermediate spaces between two worlds)” 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 - Lokāntarikā (intermediate spaces between two worlds)

Note: this Appendix is extracted from Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra chapter XLVII part 4.5 (value of the Buddha fields):

Thus, in the intermediate spaces between two worlds (lokāntarikā) where there is no sun, beings live and die in the shadows (andhakāra). At the time when a Buddha is born, a brilliant light (avabhāsa) shines temporarily, and all see themselves, see one another (anyonyaṃ paśyanti) and see the sun and moon.

Thus illuminated, the beings [of the lokāntarikā] recognize and say:

“Those over there are very worthy; we ourselves are great sinners.”

Sometimes, the Buddha illumines the Buddha fields with his brilliance completely, and the beings of the universes without Buddha, seeing the Buddha’s brilliance, experience great joy (mahāmuditā) and say:

“For us, it was shadows (andhakāra), but for them, great light.”

Notes on Lokāntarikā:

Anguttara, II, p. 130–131 (T 125, k. 17,p. 631b19–c10). –

On four occasions, when the Bodhisattva descends into the womb of his mother (mātu kucchiyaṃ okkamati), comes out of his mother’s womb (mātu kucchismā nikkhamati), attains supreme complete enlightenment (anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambujjhati), or turns the Wheel of Dharma (dhammacakkaṃ pavatteti), there is a grand miracle: a brilliant light illumines the lokāntarikā (fem. pl.). These are the intermediate spaces between the universes of four continents. Grouped into three, these universes, circular in form, touch one another by their outer walls (cakravāla), like three coins brought together. Thus between them they demarcate a surface with the form of a triangle with three arched sides. These lokāntarikās, infinite in number like the universes that demarcate them, are always plunged in deep darkness to the point that their inhabitants cannot even distinguish their own limbs. However, a brilliant light illumines them on the four occasions indicated above. Then the inhabitants of the lokāntarikas notice one another and also discover the beings populating the neighboring universes, normally illumined by the sun and moon.

The illumination of the lokāntarikās is fully described by a stock phrase which, both in the Pāli and the Sanskrit, shows numerous variations:

Pāli, Dīgha, II, p. 12,15; Majjhima, III, p. 120; Saṃyutta, V, p. 454; Anguttara, II, p. 130. – I. B. Horner, Middle Length Sayings, II, p. 165, translates it as follows:

And even in those spaces between the worlds, gloomy, baseless regions of blackness plunged in blackness, where the moon and the sun, powerful and majestic though they are, cannot make their light prevail – even there there appeared the illimitable glorious radiance, surpassing even the deva-majesty of devas. And those beings who had uprisen there recognized one another by means of this radiance, and they thought: “Indeed there are other beings who are uprising here.”

Sanskrit in Sanskr. Mahāpadāna, p. 82–83; Sanskr. Mahāparinirvāṇa, p. 214–216; Mahāvastu, I, p. 41, 229, 240; II, p. 162; III, p. 334, 341; Divyāvadāna, p. 204, 205, 206: lalitavistara, p. 51, 410; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 102; Saddahrmapuṇḍ., p. 163.

F. Edgerton, Dictionary, p. 464–465, translates thus:

And even those world-interstitial-spaces, (which are) miseries and covered over with miseries, darknesses, glooms of darkness, – in which the moon and sun here, which possess such great supernatural power and dignity (pr capacity) are not capable of (producing) light by (their) light… even in them a great, magnificent radiance appeared (at that time).

Dīgha, II, p. 12:

Yā pi tā lokantarikā aghā asaṃvutā andhakārā andhakāratimisā … sañjānant: Aññe pi kira bho sattā idhūpapannā ti.

Saddharmapuṇḍ., p. 163:

Sarveṣu ca teṣu lokadhātuṣu yā lokāntatikās tāsu ya akṣaṇāḥ … anye ’pi bata bhaḥ sattvaḥ santīhopapannā iti.

The Traité departs somewhat from the original texts, themselves poorly established.

Footnotes and references:


Adopting the variant wou fo kouo.