The Great Chariot

by Longchenpa | 268,580 words

A Commentary on Great Perfection: The Nature of Mind, Easer of Weariness In Sanskrit the title is ‘Mahāsandhi-cittā-visranta-vṛtti-mahāratha-nāma’. In Tibetan ‘rDzogs pa chen po sems nyid ngal gso’i shing rta chen po shes bya ba ’...

Part 4 - The impermanence of the Vessel and Contents


The vessel is the world, which has long been stable and motionless. The accompanying essence or contents supported by it is taught to be moving beings.

When the vessel and contents of this impermanent world,
With all their various cycles of creation and destruction,
Are destroyed seven times by fire and once by water,
And blown away like dust by the force of raging wind;
Even Mount Meru, with its four slopes of precious substance,
Encircled by oceans continents, and mountain ranges,
Will not endure when all is turned to a single space.

Thinking that this time must certainly come to pass,
Therefore, let us practice the Dharma from our hearts.

Think about that for a long time. By the example of the external vessel and contents being destructible, the inner vessel and contents too are taught to be impermanent.

In the beginning of the first kalpa, in the accommodating sky, the empty space of nothing whatever, vajra wind was born from a crossed indestructible vajra. Above it was born the disk of water, hard like vajra. Above that was the mighty golden ground. The perimeter extended as far outward as the distance above to the heaven of the first meditative concentration. Within that space rain fell from the sky, and became an expanse of water. From the essence of its churning bubbles the individual mountains and continents arose.

There also on the little island which is this world, was the supreme mountain of precious substances, Mount Meru. The east was made of crystal, the south of blue beryl, the west of ruby, the north of gold.

Reaching to the edges of the surrounding water, with seven lakes between them were Yoke Holder, and so forth, the seven mountain ranges, surrounded by the expanse of the outer ocean.[1] In the outer ocean, in the east was the continent Excellent Body, associated with the islands Body and Majestic Body. They were semi-circular. In the south was this Rose Apple Continent, associated with the continent’s subcontinents Tail Fan and other Tail Fan. They were shoulder-blade shaped.[2] In the west was Bountiful Cow, accompanied by Crafty and Treading the Perfect Path. They were circular. In the north was Unpleasant Sound, accompanied by Unpleasant Sound[3] and Moon of Unpleasant Sound.[4] They were square.

On Mount Meru was the Mansion of Complete victory, and four groves. To the north-east, was the city Beautiful to Behold[5] adorned by the Wishing-fulfilling Tree Piercing the Earth. Outside of Mount Meru along with its mountain ranges was the outer ocean at whose outer perimeter were the iron mountains, of the same height as the mountain range Yoke Holder. This was the vessel, the world, ornamented by the sun and moon.

Supported within it was the essence, sentient beings. The luminous gods were separated from human beings, who were in the four main continents and their eight sub-continents.

Also there were the appearances produced by bad karma, the individual realms of lower beings, the animal, hungry ghost, and Hell realms. In the realm of the animals the great ocean was the foundational place. The foundational place of the hungry ghosts was under the city of Raajaagrha. Under the earth were the of eight hot hells and eight snow mountain cold hells in the shape of joined petals. The Unremitting, or Avici, Hell, and the neighboring hells located in its four directions were the place at the foundation. Widely scattered animals, hungry ghosts wandering in space, and very short lived beings in the human realm were also there.

The six kinds of divinities of the desire realm, (kaama-deva-.satkula), were halfway up Mount Meru, in the rising place of the sun, moon, stars, and planets. First there was the realm of the four, great, noble kings (catur-mahaaraajaa-kaayika, rgyal chen bzhi’i ris). Above them was the heaven of the thirty- three (traya-trimsha, sum cu rtsa gsum pa). Above them with their sky palaces dwelling like the stars and planets, in order there were the desire realm deity heavens of the Strifeless (Yaama, ’thab bral); Joyful (Tusita, dga’a ldan); Delighting in Emanation, (Nirmaanarata ‘phrul dga’); and Mastery over Transformation, (Paranirmitavashavartin, gzhan ’phrul dbang byed).

Inside the rocks of Mount Meru dwelled the jealous gods. Of those, at the border of the water disk was the realm of the lord of the jealous gods Raahu.[6] Between, in the place of the garland of stars, was that of king Necklace Wearer.[7] At the borders of the earth disk were those of the realm of king Well- Aligned[8] The jealous gods contended with the desire realm gods in wealth and enjoyments.

Of the four realms of the gods of meditative concentration, in the Bhramaa realms of the first meditative concentration were the Stratum of Bhramaa (Bhramakaayika, tshangs ris), Priests who Chant before Bhramaa (Bhramapurohita, tshangs pa mdun na ’don) and Great Bhramaa (Mahaabhramaa, tshangs pa chen po). These were in the space above the heaven of Mastery over Transformations, reaching higher and higher for forty thousand pagtse.

Those of the second meditative concentration were the heavens of Lesser Radiance (Pariittaabha, a’od chung), Immeasurable Radiance (Apramaanaasubha, tshad med a’od) and Radiance (aabhasvara, a’od gsal).

Those of the third were Lesser Virtue (Pariitta-shubha, dge chung); Immeasurable Virtue (Apramaana-shubha, tshad med dge); and Vast Virtue (Shubha-krtsna, dge rgyas).

Those of the fourth were Cloudless (anabhraka, sprin med), Producing Merit, (Punya-prasava, bsod nams skyes)[9] and the Great Fruition Born of Merit (Brhatphala, ‘bras bu che). These were the levels of ordinary beings.

Then there were the gods of the five Pure Abodes (Pañca-shuddha-nivaasa, gtsang gnas lnga). These were the Slightest (Avrha, mi che ba), Painless (Atapa, mi gdung ba), Attractive (Sudrsha, gya nom snang ba), Extreme Insight (Sudarshana, shin tu mthong), and the Highest, (Akanista. ‘og min). These five heavens are one above the other.

The four formless realms were those of limitless space, (Aakashaantyaayatana, nam mkha’a mtha’a yas skye mched), limitless consciousness, (Vijñaanantyaayatana, rnam shes mtha’a yas skye mched), nothing whatsoever (Akimchanyaayatana, ci yang med pa’i skye mched) and neither perception nor non- perception, (naivasamjñaasamjñaayatana, a’du shes med a’su shes med min skye mched). These peaks

of cyclic existence, depended on former attainment of the formless absorptions. They were in the place where the one to be reborn there died.

These united aspects of the vessel and contents, as explained, are called one world realm of four continents. A thousand of these, likewise surrounded by iron mountains as high as the place of the thirty-three gods, is called a “first thousand-fold world realm.” A thousand such realms, with surrounding mountains as high as the realm of Mastery over Transformation is called a “middle thousand-fold world realm.[10]” A thousand of those, with surrounding mountains as high as the special first meditative concentration realm, is called a great three thousand- fold world realm.[11] In each of these worlds is shown a body like that of the Buddha’s supreme emanation body (nirmanakaaya, sprul sku), performing the twelve deeds of a buddha that are not performed before or after. By its appearance, these are called “worlds of those to be tamed.”

Other than those, in the ten directions, there are measureless other worlds, round, semi-circular, square, and of other shapes, pervading to the limits of space. They also have immeasurable kinds of sentient beings above, below, and on the same level as humans.

In this Universe of Endurance, the times of arising, enduring, destruction, and vacuity are equal. The first is the time of well-arising. Then there is the present time of well-remaining. It lasts from the time of the coming of the tathagata All-seeing (Vipashyin, rnam par gzigs)[12] when all beings attain immeasurable lives, to when the Lord of the Shaakyas (Shaakyamuni, shaa kya’i dbang po) comes and lives are of about 100 years, and then to the time when beings have lives of ten years. From the long ago time of the beginning, lives decrease by 200 years each generation. Then when they reach 100, they increase by one from 101, reaching 80,000 after Maitreya (byams pa) has come. After diminishing again to 100, they continue to diminish by 1 until reaching 10 years of life.

There are 80 such cycles of increase and decrease, 18 in the present kalpa; Among these, 995 buddhas arise. Then from 200 years lives increase by 1 to measureless. When they go a little lower, after the buddha called Devoted (mos pa) comes, all the deeds, lives and assembled retinues of former buddhas are brought into one, and the same deeds, lives and assemblies arise. Beings not tamed by the former buddhas are tamed. The sound of the three jewels is heard. This continues until even beings who had sundered the basis of discipline and completely slandered those who acted according to virtue are liberated from cyclic existence, and by the power of vows to do so, these deeds are fully accomplished. Until their nirvaana, the holy Dharma also remains that long. The sentient beings of the completely perfect third-thousand-fold universe, however many, are established in liberation.

After those beings’ tenth year of life, that kalpa is entirely burned seven times by destroying fire, into ashes. The fire is the sun. Some sutras say there will be seven suns. Some say that one sun having the heat of seven arises. In reality there will be 700 times ten million suns, and the universe will be annihilated and burned. The ashes will be washed away by water and scattered by wind. Finally, having become a single space, it will be like the former situation where nothing had yet been born. Know all things to be like that.

Like this story of how the outer vessel and contents will be destroyed, the destruction of the inner body too should be viewed. From the single first nature of mind, which is a single space, the wind of ignorance and conceptualization is born. Because of that, arising by the cause of the karma of dwelling in cyclic existence, by the condition of the collector of karma being established, from the nature of water, developing from the semen and blood of the father and mother, the body is Mount Meru. The two eyes are the sun and moon, which internally are those white and red essential natures. The

twelve ayatanas and dhatus are the four continents and eight sub-continents. The eight consciousnesses are the seven mountain ranges and the great perimeter range, making eight altogether.

Supported by body, speech, and mind are the three main energy channels, (naadi), (lalana and rasana, roma and kyangma) to the left and right and the central channel (avadhuuti, dbu ma). With the support of the three gates, the three poisons, and the three kayas of the buddhas, there are the three realms. The petals of the channels form five or six radiating wheels of the energy channels (chakra), which are those of the five or six buddha families of beings.

There are many distinct realms, alike in that within all these thousand-fold world systems appear many joys and sorrows and so forth. Gathered together, they separate. Born, they die. Compounded, they are destroyed.

When the time of death comes, the four external elements, gathered into the four inner elements, are destroyed seven times by fire and once by water, eight altogether. Then there is the situation where the inner elements dissolve into the secret elements, primordial luminosity, and everything becomes a single space.

When the four elements of the body have been gathered together, the emptying of the energy, channels, and vital essence (praana, naadi and bindu) are the seven destructions by fire. Transmigration between lives is the one destruction by water. Cessation of the breath is the final scattering by wind. The individual body disperses, finally becoming nothing at all like space, as it was before the body was born. The Later Tantra of Vast Wisdom: says:

Ripened by the elements of water and air and fire,
The world of the body is engendered as the vessel.
The channels, the energy and the essence of the elements,
Existing as the pure nature of the four great elements,
Then abide in the form of changeless, radiant light.

If we transfer into the pure abode of space,
All the different elements, energies, channels[13] and essences,
Are destroyed, as in the world-destruction by seven fires.
The elements dissolving is the one destruction by water.
Cessation of coarse and subtle is the scattering by wind.
Entering into the light is the realm of spaciousness.

Then there is the primordial lord, enlightenment,
This is reaching the final goal of non-confusion.

We should examine further the subsiding of the worlds of individual sentient beings.  The Friendly Letter says:

As the earth and Mount Meru are burned by seven blazing suns,
Along with all the oceans and all embodied beings,
If not even ashes will be left of them,
Why even speak of fragile human beings?

That is how we should think about it.

Footnotes and references:


gser gyi ri bdun the 7 golden mountains from the Abhidharmakosha: surrounding Mt Meru mu khyud a'dzin, rim rnam a'dud bent, rta rna, horse's ear lta na sdug, Pleasing-to-the-eye seng ldeng can, Acacia Forest gshol mda'a a'dzin, Plow (handle) gnya'a shing a'dzin Yoke Holder ES Beyond Mt Meru and completely surrounding it like curtains are seven mountain ranges, each forming a square. Cf: Myriad Worlds, p. 110.




The name is in fact duplicated here and in a number of other texts.


Following the Abhidharmakosha and the translation in Myriad Worlds, the continents and islands In Sanskrit and Tibetan are: East: (Pūrva)videha : lus a’Phags po Majestic Body, deha :lus Body, videha : lus a’Phags; South: jambudvīpa, a’Dzam bu gLing, cāmara : rNga yab Tail Fan, Avara- or Upa- cāmara : rNga yab gZhan Other Tail Fan; West: Godānīya, ba lang sPyod, shāthā, gYo ldan Crafty, uttara mantrina : lam mchog a’gro Treading the Perfect Path; North: (uttara)kuru : sgra mi snyan, kuru(va): sgra mi snyan Unpleasant Sound, kaurava sgra mi snyan gi zla Moon of Unpleastant Sound.


Sudarshana, lta na sdug.


Sgra gcan. This is also the name of one of the planets, but here it is a king of the jealous gods and his realm.


Mgul ’pheng can.


thags bzangs ris tentatively identified as bimlatsihra. The term often applies to teeth, in which case the Sanskrit is arivala. The same Tibetan is also used to identify Vemacitra, Splendid Robe, the Buddha sage of the realm of the jealous gods, however the tshig mdzod chen mo lists thag bzang ris as a king of the jealous gods.


Sometimes Increasing Merit, bsod nams a’phel.


It contains a thousand squared or a million worlds.


It contains a thousand cubed, or a billion, worlds. However, Mipham argues in his commentary on Kālachakra that the proper meaning is a realm of three thousand worlds like ours, and cites texts that have this approach.


The first buddha of the present eon.


The order of channels and energies was reversed for metrical reasons.

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