Visuddhimagga (the pah of purification)

by Ñāṇamoli Bhikkhu | 1956 | 420,758 words | ISBN-10: 9552400236 | ISBN-13: 9789552400236

This page describes (4) Recollection of Past Lives of the section Other Direct-knowledges (abhiññā-niddesa) of Part 2 Concentration (Samādhi) of the English translation of the Visuddhimagga (‘the path of purification’) which represents a detailled Buddhist meditation manual, covering all the essential teachings of Buddha as taught in the Pali Tipitaka. It was compiled Buddhaghosa around the 5th Century.

13. As to the explanation of knowledge of recollection of past lives, [the text is as follows:] He directs, he inclines, his mind to the knowledge of recollection of past lives. He recollects his manifold past lives, that is to say, one birth, two births, three births, four births, five births, ten births, twenty births, thirty births, forty births, fifty births, a hundred births, a thousand births, a hundred thousand births, many eons of world contraction, many eons of world expansion: many eons of world contraction and expansion: “There I was so named, of such a race, with such an appearance, such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life span;and passing away from there, I reappeared elsewhere; and there too I was so named, of such a race, with such an appearance, such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life span; and passing away from there, I reappeared here.” Thus with its aspects and particulars he recollects his manifold past lives” (D I 81). [Herein,] to the knowledge of recollection of past lives [means] for knowledge concerning recollection of past lives. Past lives is aggregates lived in the past in former births. “Lived” [in that case means] lived out, undergone, arisen and ceased in one’s own [subjective] continuity. Or alternatively, [past lives] is mental objects lived [in the past in one’s former births]; and “lived” in that case means lived by living in one’s [objective] resort, which has been cognized and delimited by one’s own consciousness, or cognized by another’s consciousness, too. In the case of recollection of those [past Enlightened Ones] who have broken the cycle, and so on,[1] these last are only accessible to Enlightened Ones. Recollection of past lives: the mindfulness (memory) by means of which he recollects the past lives is the recollection of past lives. Knowledge is the knowledge associated with that mindfulness. [411] To the knowledge of recollection of past lives: for the purpose of the knowledge of the recollection of past lives in this way;for the attaining, for the reaching, of that knowledge, is what is meant.

14. Manifold: of many kinds: or that has occurred in many ways. Given in detail, is the meaning.[2] Past lives is the continuity lived here and there, taking the immediately previous existence as the beginning [and working backwards]. He recollects: he recalls it, following it out by the succession of aggregates, or by death and rebirth-linking.

15. There are six kinds of people who recollect these past lives. They are: other sectarians, ordinary disciples, great disciples, chief disciples, Paccekabuddhas, and Buddhas.

16. Herein, other sectarians recollect only as far back as forty eons, but not beyond that. Why? Because their understanding is weak for lack of delimitation of mind and matter (see Ch. XVIII). Ordinary disciples recollect as far back as a hundred eons and as far back as a thousand eons because their understanding is strong. The eighty great disciples recollect as far back as a hundred thousand eons. The two chief disciples recollect as far back as an incalculable age and a hundred thousand eons. Paccekabuddhas recollect as far back as two incalculable ages and a hundred thousand eons. For such is the extent to which they can convey [their minds back respectively]. But there is no limit in the case of Buddhas.

17. Again, other sectarians only recollect the succession of aggregates; they are unable to recollect according [only] to death and rebirth-linking, letting go of the succession of aggregates. They are like the blind in that they are unable to descend upon any place they choose; they go as the blind do without letting go of their sticks. So they recollect without letting go of the succession of aggregates. Ordinary disciples both recollect by means of the succession of aggregates and trace by means of death and rebirth-linking. Likewise, the eighty great disciples. But the chief disciples have nothing to do with the succession of aggregates. When they see the death of one person, they see the rebirth-linking, and again when they see the death of another, they see the rebirth-linking. So they go by tracing through death and rebirth-thinking. Likewise, Paccekabuddhas.

18. Buddhas, however, have nothing to do either with succession of aggregates or with tracing through death and rebirth-linking; for whatever instance they choose in many millions of eons, or more or less, is evident to them. So they go, and so they descend with the lion’s descent[3] wherever they want, even skipping over many millions of eons as though they were an elision in a text. And just as an arrow shot by such a master of archery expert in hair-splitting as Sarabhaṅga (see J-a V 129) always hits the target without getting held up among trees, creepers, etc., on its way, and so neither gets held up nor misses, so too, since Buddhas go in this way their knowledge does not get held up in intermediate births [412] or miss; without getting held up or missing, it seizes any instance required.

19. Among these beings with recollection of past lives, the sectarians’ vision of past lives seems like the light of a glow-worm, that of ordinary disciples like the light of a candle, that of the great disciples like the light of a torch, that of the chief disciples like the light of the morning star, that of Paccekabuddhas like the light of the moon, and that of Buddhas like the glorious autumn sun’s disk with its thousand rays.

20. Other sectarians see past lives as blind men go [tapping] with the point of a stick. Ordinary disciples do so as men who go on a log bridge. The great disciples do so as men who go on a foot bridge. The chief disciples do so as men who go on a cart bridge. Paccekabuddhas do so as men who go on a main footpath. And Buddhas do so as men who go on a high road for carts.

21. In this connection it is the disciples’ recollection of past lives that is intended. Hence it was said above: “‘He recollects’: he recollects it following it out by the succession of aggregates, or by death and rebirth-linking” (§14).

22. So a bhikkhu who is a beginner and wants to recollect in this way should go into solitary retreat on return from his alms round after his meal. Then he should attain the four jhānas in succession and emerge from the fourth jhāna as basis for direct-knowledge. He should then advert to his most recent act of sitting down [for this purpose], next, to the preparation of the seat, to the entry into the lodging, to the putting away of the bowl and [outer] robe, to the time of eating, to the time of returning from the village, to the time of wandering for alms in the village, to the time of entering the village, to the time of setting out from the monastery, to the time of paying homage at the shrine terrace and the Enlightenment-tree terrace, to the time of washing the bowl, to the time of picking up the bowl, to the things done from the time of picking up the bowl back to the mouth washing, to the things done in the early morning, to the things done in the middle watch, in the first watch. In this way he should advert to all the things done during the whole night and day in reverse order.

23. While this much, however, is evident even to his normal consciousness, it is especially evident to his preliminary-work consciousness. But if anything there is not evident, he should again attain the basic jhāna, emerge and advert. By so doing it becomes as evident as when a lamp is lit. And so, in reverse order too, he should advert to the things done on the second day back, and on the third, fourth and fifth day, and in the ten days, and in the fortnight, and as far back as a year.

24. When by these means he adverts to ten years, twenty years, and so on as far back as his own rebirth-linking in this existence, [413] he should advert to the mentality-materiality occurring at the moment of death in the preceding existence; for a wise bhikkhu is able at the first attempt to remove[4] the rebirth-linking and make the mentality-materiality at the death moment his object.

25. But the mentality-materiality in the previous existence has ceased without remainder and another has arisen, and consequently that instance is, as it were, shut away in darkness, and it is hard for one of little understanding to see it. Still he should not give up the task, thinking, “I am unable to remove the rebirthlinking and make the mentality-materiality that occurred at the death moment my object.” On the contrary, he should again and again attain that same basic jhāna, and each time he emerges he should advert to that instance.

26. Just as when a strong man is felling a big tree for the purpose of making the peak of a gable, but is unable to fell the big tree with an axe blade blunted by lopping the branches and foliage, still he does not give up the task; on the contrary, he goes to a smithy and has his axe sharpened, after which he returns and continues chopping the tree; and when the axe again gets blunt, he does as before and continues chopping it; and as he goes on chopping it in this way, the tree falls at length, because each time there is no need to chop again what has already been chopped and what has not yet been chopped gets chopped; so too, when he emerges from the basic jhāna, instead of adverting to what he has already adverted to, he should advert only to the rebirth-linking, and at length he removes the rebirth-linking and makes the mentality-materiality that occurred at the death moment his object. And this meaning should also be illustrated by means of the wood cutter and the hair-cutter as well.

27. Herein, the knowledge that occurs making its object the period from the last sitting down for this purpose back to the rebirth-linking is not called knowledge of recollection of past lives; but it is called preliminary-workconcentration knowledge; and some call it “knowledge of the past” (atītaṃsañāṇa), but that is inappropriate to the fine-material sphere.

However, when this bhikkhu has got back beyond the rebirth-linking, there arises in him mind-door adverting making its object the mentality-materiality that occurred at the death moment. And when that has ceased, then either four or five impulsions impel making that their object too. The first of these, called “preliminary-work,” etc., in the way already described (§5), are of the sense sphere. The last is a fine-material absorption consciousness of the fourth jhāna. The knowledge that arises in him then together with that consciousness is what is called, “knowledge of recollection of past lives.” It is with the mindfulness (memory) associated with that knowledge that he “recollects his manifold past lives, that is to say, one birth, two births, …”[414] thus with details and particulars he recollects his manifold past lives (D I 81).

28. Herein, one birth is the continuity of aggregates included in a single becoming starting with rebirth-linking and ending with death. So too with two births, and the rest.

But in the case of many eons of world contraction, etc., it should be understood that the aeon of world contraction is an aeon of diminution and the aeon of world expansion is an aeon of increase.

29. Herein, what supersedes the contraction is included in the contraction since it is rooted in it; and so too what supersedes the expansion is included in the expansion. This being so, it includes what is stated thus: “Bhikkhus, there are four incalculables of the aeon. What four? The contraction, what supersedes the contraction, the expansion, and what supersedes the expansion” (A II 142 abbreviated).

30. Herein, there are three kinds of contraction: contraction due to water, contraction due to fire, and contraction due to air (see MN 28). Also there are three limits to the contraction; the Ābhassara (Streaming-radiance) Brahmāworld, that of the Subhakiṇha (Refulgent-glory), and that of the Vehapphala (Great-fruit). When the aeon contracts owing to fire, all below the Ābhassara [Brahmā-world] is burnt up by fire. When it contracts owing to water, it is all dissolved by water up to the Subhakiṇha [Brahmā-world]. When it contracts owing to air, it is all demolished by wind up to the Vehapphala [Brahmā-world].

31. In breadth it is always one of the Buddha-fields that is destroyed. For the Buddha-fields are of three kinds, that is, the field of birth, the field of authority, and the field of scope.

Herein, the field of birth is limited by the ten thousand world-spheres that quaked on the Perfect One’s taking rebirth-linking, and so on. The field of authority is limited by the hundred thousand million world-spheres where the following safeguards (paritta) are efficacious, that is, the Ratana Sutta (Sn p.39), the Khandha Paritta (Vin II 109; A II 72), the Dhajagga Paritta (S I 218), the Āṭānāṭiya Paritta (D III 194), and the Mora Paritta (J-a II 33). The field of scope is boundless, immeasurable: “As far as he wishes” (A I 228), it is said. The Perfect One knows anything anywhere that he wishes. So one of these three Buddhafields, that is to say, the field of authority is destroyed. But when that is being destroyed, the field of birth also gets destroyed. And that happens simultaneously; and when it is reconstituted, that happens simultaneously (cf. M-a IV 114).

32. Now, it should be understood how its destruction and reconstitution come about thus. On the occasion when the aeon is destroyed by fire [415] first of all a great cloud heralding the aeon’s destruction appears, and there is a great downpour all over the hundred thousand million world-spheres. People are delighted, and they bring out all their seeds and sow them. But when the sprouts have grown enough for an ox to graze, then not a drop of rain falls any more even when the asses bray. Rain is withheld from then on. This is what the Blessed One referred to when he said: “Bhikkhus, an occasion comes when for many years, for many hundreds of years, for many thousands of years, for many hundreds of thousands of years, there is no rain” (A IV 100). Beings that live by rain die and are reborn in the Brahmā-world, and so are the deities that live on flowers and fruits.

33. When a long period has passed in this way, the water gives out here and there. Then in due course the fishes and turtles die and are reborn in the Brahmāworld, and so are the beings in hell. Some say that the denizens of hell perish there with the appearance of the seventh sun (§41).

Now, there is no rebirth in the Brahmā-world without jhāna; and some of them, being obsessed with the scarcity of food, are unable to attain jhāna, so how are they reborn there? By means of jhāna obtained in the [sense-sphere] divine world.

34. For then the sense-sphere deities called world-marshal (loka-byūha) deities come to know that at the end of a hundred thousand years there will be the emergence of an aeon, and they travel up and down the haunts of men, their heads bared, their hair dishevelled, with piteous faces, mopping their tears with their hands, clothed in dyed cloth, and wearing their dress in great disorder. They make this announcement: “Good sirs, good sirs, at the end of a hundred thousand years from now there will be the emergence of an aeon. This world will be destroyed. Even the ocean will dry up. This great earth, and the Sineru King of Mountains, will be consumed and destroyed. The destruction of the earth will extend as far as the Brahmā-world. Develop loving-kindness, good sirs, develop compassion, gladness, equanimity, good sirs. Care for your mothers, care for your fathers, honour the elders of your clans.”

35. When human beings and earth deities hear their words, they mostly are filled with a sense of urgency. They become kind to each other and make merit with loving-kindness, etc., and so they are reborn in the divine world. There they eat divine food, and they do the preliminary work on the air kasiṇa and acquire jhāna. Others, however, are reborn in a [sense-sphere] divine world through kamma to be experienced in a future life. For there is no being traversing the round of rebirths who is destitute of kamma to be experienced in a future life. They too acquire jhāna there in the same way. [416] All are eventually reborn in the Brahmā-world by acquiring jhāna in a [sense-sphere] divine world in this way.

36. However, at the end of a long period after the withholding of the rain, a second sun appears. And this is described by the Blessed One in the way beginning, “Bhikkhus, there is the occasion when …” (A IV 100), and the Sattasuriya Sutta should be given in full. Now, when that has appeared, there is no more telling night from day; as one sun sets, the other rises. The world is uninterruptedly scorched by the suns. But there is no sun deity in the aeondestruction sun as there is in the ordinary sun.[5] Now, when the ordinary sun is present, thunder clouds and mare’s-tail vapours cross the skies. But when the aeon-destruction sun is present, the sky is as blank as the disk of a lookingglass and destitute of clouds and vapour. Beginning with the rivulet, the water in all the rivers except the five great rivers[6] dries up.

37. After that, at the end of a long period, a third sun appears. And when that has appeared, the great rivers dry up too.

38. After that, at the end of a long period, a fourth sun appears. And when that has appeared, the seven great lakes in Himalaya, the sources of the great rivers, dry up, that is to say: Sīhapapāta, Haṃsapātana,[7] Kaṇṇamuṇḍaka, Rathakāra, Anotatta, Chaddanta, and Kuṇāla.

39. After that, at the end of a long period, a fifth sun appears, and when that has appeared, there eventually comes to be not enough water left in the great ocean to wet one finger joint.

40. After that, at the end of a long period, a sixth sun appears, and when that has appeared, the whole world-sphere becomes nothing but vapour, all its moisture being evaporated.

And the hundred thousand million world-spheres are the same as this one.

41. After that, at the end of a long period, a seventh sun appears. And when that has appeared, the whole world-sphere together with the hundred thousand million other world-spheres catches fire. Even the summits of Sineru, a hundred leagues and more high, crumble and vanish into space. The conflagration mounts up and invades the realm of the Four Kings. When it has burnt up all the golden palaces, the jewelled palaces and the crystal palaces there, it invades the Realm of the Thirty-three. And so it goes right on up to the plane of the first jhāna. When it has burnt three [lower] Brahmā-worlds, it stops there at the Ābhassaraworld. [417] As long as any formed thing (formation) the size of an atom still exists it does not go out; but it goes out when all formed things have been consumed. And like the flame that burns ghee and oil, it leaves no ash.

42. The upper space is now all one with the lower space in a vast gloomy darkness. Then at the end of a long period a great cloud arises, and at first it rains gently, and then it rains with ever heavier deluges, like lotus stems, like rods, like pestles, like palm trunks, more and more. And so it pours down upon all burnt areas in the hundred thousand million world-spheres till they disappear. Then the winds (forces) beneath and all around that water rise up and compact it and round it, like water drops on a lotus leaf. How do they compact the great mass of water? By making gaps; for the wind makes gaps in it here and there.

43. Being thus compressed by the air, compacted and reduced, it gradually subsides. As it sinks, the [lower] Brahmā-world reappears in its place, and worlds divine reappear in the places of the four upper divine worlds of the sensual sphere.[8] But when it has sunk to the former earth’s level, strong winds (forces) arise and they stop it and hold it stationary, like the water in a water pot when the outlet is plugged. As the fresh water gets used up, the essential humus makes its appearance on it. That possesses colour, smell and taste, like the surface film on milk rice when it dries up.

44. Then the beings that were reborn first in the Brahmā-world of Streamingradiance (Ābhassara) fall from there with the exhaustion of their life span, or when their merit is exhausted, and they reappear here. They are self-luminous and wander in the sky. On eating the essential humus, as is told in the Aggañña Sutta (D III 85), they are overcome by craving, and they busy themselves in making lumps of it to eat. Then their self-luminosity vanishes, and it is dark. They are frightened when they see the darkness.

45. Then in order to remove their fears and give them courage, the sun’s disk appears full fifty leagues across. They are delighted to see it, thinking, “We have light,” and they say, “It has appeared in order to allay our fears and give us courage (sūrabhāva), so let it be called ‘sun’ (suriya).” So they give it the name “sun” (suriya). Now, when the sun has given light for a day, it sets. Then they are frightened again, thinking, “We have lost the light we had,” and they think, “How good if we had another light!” [418]

46. As if knowing their thought, the moon’s disk appears, forty-nine leagues across. On seeing it they are still more delighted, and they say, “It has appeared, seeming as if it knew our desire (chanda), so let it be called ‘moon’ (canda).” So they give it the name “moon” (canda).

47. After the appearance of the moon and sun in this way, the stars appear in their constellations. After that, night and day are made known, and in due course, the month and half month, the season, and the year.

48. On the day the moon and sun appear, the mountains of Sineru, of the World-sphere and of Himalaya appear too. And they appear on the full-moon day of the month of Phagguna (March), neither before nor after. How? Just as, when millet is cooking and bubbles arise, then simultaneously, some parts are domes, some hollow, and some flat, so too, there are mountains in the domed places, seas in the hollow places, and continents (islands) in the flat places.

49. Then, as these beings make use of the essential humus, gradually some become handsome and some ugly. The handsome ones despise the ugly ones. Owing to their contempt the essential humus vanishes and an outgrowth from the soil appears. Then that vanishes in the same way and the badālatā creeper appears. That too vanishes in the same way and the rice without red powder or husk that ripens without tilling appears, a clean sweet-smelling rice fruit.

50. Then vessels appear. These beings put the rice into the vessels, which they put on the tops of stones. A flame appears spontaneously and cooks it. The cooked rice resembles jasmine flowers. It has no need of sauces and curries, since it has whatever flavour they want to taste.

51. As soon as they eat this gross food, urine and excrement appear in them. Then wound orifices break open in them to let these things out. The male sex appears in the male, and the female sex in the female. Then the females brood over the males, and the males over the females for a long time. Owing to this long period of brooding, the fever of sense desires arises. After that they practice sexual intercourse.

52. [419] For their [overt] practice of evil they are censured and punished by the wise, and so they build houses for the purpose of concealing the evil. When they live in houses, they eventually fall in with the views of the more lazy, and they make stores of food. As soon as they do that, the rice becomes enclosed in red powder and husks and no longer grows again of itself in the place where it was reaped. They meet together and bemoan the fact, “Evil has surely made its appearance among beings; for formerly we were mind-made …” (D III 90), and all this should be given in full in the way described in the Aggañña Sutta.

53. After that, they set up boundaries. Then some being takes a portion given to another. After he has been twice rebuked, at the third time they come to blows with fists, clods, sticks, and so on. When stealing, censuring, lying, resorting to sticks, etc., have appeared in this way, they meet together, thinking, “Suppose we elect a being who would reprove those who should be reproved, censure those who should be censured, and banish those who should be banished, and suppose we keep him supplied with a portion of the rice?” (D III 92).

54. When beings had come to an agreement in this way in this aeon, firstly this Blessed One himself, who was then the Bodhisatta (Being due to be Enlightened), was the handsomest, the most comely, the most honourable, and was clever and capable of exercising the effort of restraint. They approached him, asked him, and elected him. Since he was recognized (sammata) by the majority (mahā-jana) he was called Mahā Sammata. Since he was lord of the fields (khetta) he was called khattiya (warrior noble). Since he promoted others’ good (rañjeti) righteously and equitably he was a king (rājā). This is how he came to be known by these names. For the Bodhisatta himself is the first man concerned in any wonderful innovation in the world. So after the khattiya circle had been established by making the Bodhisatta the first in this way, the brahmans and the other castes were founded in due succession.

55. Herein, the period from the time of the great cloud heralding the aeon’s destruction up till the ceasing of the flames constitutes one incalculable, and that is called the “contraction.” That from the ceasing of the flames of the aeon destruction up till the great cloud of rehabilitation, which rains down upon the hundred thousand million world-spheres, constitutes the second incalculable, and that is called, “what supersedes the contraction.” That from the time of the great cloud of rehabilitation up till the appearance of the moon and sun constitutes the third incalculable, and that is called the “expansion.” That from the appearance of the moon and sun up till [420] the reappearance of the great cloud of the aeon destruction is the fourth incalculable, and that is called, “what supersedes the expansion.” These four incalculables make up one great aeon. This, firstly, is how the destruction by fire and reconstitution should be understood.

56. The occasion when the aeon is destroyed by water should be treated in the way already described beginning, “First of all a great cloud heralding the aeon’s destruction appears …” (§32).

57. There is this difference, however. While in the former case a second sun appeared, in this case a great cloud of caustic waters[9] appears. At first it rains very gently, but it goes on to rain with gradually greater deluges, pouring down upon the hundred thousand million world-spheres. As soon as they are touched by the caustic waters, the earth, the mountains, etc., melt away, and the waters are supported all round by winds. The waters take possession from the earth up to the plane of the second jhāna. When they have dissolved away the three Brahmāworlds there, they stop at the Subhakiṇha-world. As long as any formed thing the size of an atom exists they do not subside; but they suddenly subside and vanish away when all formed things have been overwhelmed by them. All beginning with: “The upper space is all one with the lower space in a vast gloomy darkness …” (§42) is as already described, except that here the world begins its reappearance with the Ābhassara Brahmā-world. And beings falling from the Subhakiṇha Brahmā-world are reborn in the places beginning with the Ābhassara Brahmā-world.

58. Herein, the period from the time of the great cloud heralding the aeon’s destruction up till the ceasing of the aeon-destroying waters constitutes one incalculable. That from the ceasing of the waters up till the great cloud of rehabilitation constitutes the second incalculable. That from the great cloud of rehabilitation … These four incalculables make up one great aeon. This is how the destruction by water and reconstitution should be understood.

59. The occasion when the aeon is destroyed by air should be treated in the way already described beginning with the “first of all a great cloud heralding the aeon’s destruction appears …” (§32).

60. There is this difference, however. While in the first case there was a second sun, here a wind arises in order to destroy the aeon. First of all it lifts up the coarse flue, then the fine flue, then the fine sand, coarse sand, gravel, stones, etc., [421] until it lifts up stones as big as a catafalque,[10] and great trees standing in uneven places. They are swept from the earth up into the sky, and instead of falling down again they are broken to bits there and cease to exist.

61. Then eventually wind arises from underneath the great earth and overturns the earth, flinging it into space. The earth splits into fragments measuring a hundred leagues, measuring two, three, four, five hundred leagues, and they are hurled into space too, and there they are broken to bits and cease to exist. The world-sphere mountains and Mount Sineru are wrenched up and cast into space, where they crash against each other till they are broken to bits and disappear. In this way it destroys the divine palaces built on the earth [of Mount Sineru] and those built in space, it destroys the six sensual-sphere divine worlds, and it destroys the hundred thousand million world-spheres. Then world-sphere collides with world-sphere, Himalaya Mountain with Himalaya Mountain, Sineru with Sineru, till they are broken to bits and disappear.

62. The wind takes possession from the earth up to the plane of the third jhāna. There, after destroying three Brahmā-worlds, it stops at the Vehapphalaworld. When it has destroyed all formed things in this way, it spends itself too.

Then all happens as already described in the way beginning, “The upper space is all one with the lower space in a vast gloomy darkness …” (§42). But here the world begins its reappearance with the Subhakiṇha Brahmā-world. And beings falling from the Vehapphala Brahmā-world are reborn in the places beginning with the Subhakiṇha Brahmā-world.

63. Herein, the period from the time of the great cloud heralding the aeon’s destruction up till the ceasing of the aeon-destroying wind is one incalculable. That from the ceasing of the wind up till the great cloud of rehabilitation is the second incalculable … These four incalculables make up one great aeon. This is how the destruction by wind and reconstitution should be understood.

64. What is the reason for the world’s destruction in this way? The [three] roots of the unprofitable are the reason. When any one of the roots of the unprofitable becomes conspicuous, the world is destroyed accordingly. When greed is more conspicuous, it is destroyed by fire. When hate is more conspicuous, it is destroyed by water—though some say that it is destroyed by fire when hate is more conspicuous and by water when greed is more conspicuous. And when delusion is more conspicuous, it is destroyed by wind.

65. Destroyed as it is in this way, it is destroyed for seven turns in succession by fire and the eighth turn by water; then again seven turns by fire and the eighth turn by water; then, when it has been seven times destroyed by water at each eighth [422] turn, it is again destroyed for seven turns by fire. Sixty-three eons pass in this way. And now the air takes the opportunity to usurp the water’s turn for destruction, and in destroying the world it demolishes the Subhakiṇha Brahmā-world where the life span is the full sixty-four eons.

66. Now, when a bhikkhu capable of recollecting eons is recollecting his former lives, then of such eons as these he recollects many eons of world contraction, many eons of world expansion, many eons of world contraction and expansion. How? In the way beginning, There I was

Herein, There I was: in that eon of contraction I was in that kind of becoming or generation or destiny or station of consciousness or abode of beings or order of beings.

67. So named: [such forenames as] Tissa, say, or Phussa. Of such a race: [such family names as] Kaccāna, say, or Kassapa. This is said of the recollection of his own name and race (surname) in his past existence. But if he wants to recollect his own appearance at that time, or whether his life was a rough or refined one, or whether pleasure or pain was prevalent, or whether his life span was short or long, he recollects that too. Hence he said with such an appearance … such the end of my life span.

68. Here, with such an appearance means fair or dark. Such was my food: with white rice and meat dishes as food or with windfall fruits as food. Such my experience of pleasure and pain: with varied experience of bodily and mental pleasure and pain classed as worldly and unworldly, and so on. Such the end of my life span: with such a life span of a century or life span of eighty-four thousand eons.

69. And passing away from there, I reappeared elsewhere: having passed away from that becoming, generation, destiny, station of consciousness, abode of beings or order of beings, I again appeared in that other becoming, generation, destiny, station of consciousness, abode of beings or order of beings. And there too I was: then again I was there in that becoming, generation, destiny, station of consciousness, abode of beings or order of beings. So named, etc., are as already stated.

70. Furthermore, the words there I was refer to the recollection of one who has cast back retrospectively as far as he wishes, and the words and passing away from there refer to his reviewing after turning forward again; consequently, the words I appeared elsewhere can be understood to be said with reference to the place of his reappearance next before his appearance here, which is referred to by the words I appeared here. But the words there too I was, etc., [423] are said in order to show the recollection of his name, race, etc., there in the place of his reappearance next before this appearance. And passing away from there, I reappeared here: having passed away from that next place of reappearance, I was reborn here in this khattiya clan or brahman clan.

71. Thus: so. With its aspects and particulars: with its particulars consisting in name and race; with its aspects consisting in appearance, and so on. For it is by means of name and race that a being is particularized as, say Tissa Kassapa; but his distinctive personality is made known by means of appearance, etc., as dark or fair. So the name and race are the particulars, while the others are the aspects. He recollects his manifold past lives: the meaning of this is clear.

The explanation of the knowledge of recollection of past lives is ended.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

For the term chinna-vaṭumaka (“one who has broken the cycle of rebirths”) as an epithet of former Buddhas, see M III 118.

[2]:

Saṃvaṇṇita—“given in detail”; Vism-mhṭ glosses by vitthāritan ti attho. Not in this meaning in PED. See prologue verses to the four Nikāyas.

[3]:

A commentarial account of the behaviour of lions will be found in the Manorathapurāṇī, commentary to AN 4:33. Vism-mhṭ says: Sīh-okkamana-vasena sīhātipatanavasena ñāṇagatiyā gacchati (p. 408).

[4]:

Ugghaṭetvā: see X.6; the word is obviously used here in the same sense.

[5]:

“The ‘ordinary sun’ is the sun’s divine palace that arose before the emergence of the aeon. But like the other sense-sphere deities at the time of the emergence of the aeon, the sun deity too produces jhāna and reappears in the Brahmā-world. But the actual sun’s disk becomes brighter and more fiery. Others say that it disappears and another appears in its place” (Vism-mhṭ 412).

[6]:

The five are the Ganges, Yamunā (Jumma), Sarabhu, Sarassatī, and Mahī (Vism-mhṭ 412).

[7]:

Haṃsapātana is another name for Maṇḍākinī. (Vism-mhṭ) For seven Great Lakes see A IV 101.

[8]:

“At the place where the Yāma Deities are established. The places where the Cātumahārājika and Tāvatiṃsa heavens become established do not reappear at first because they are connected with the earth” (Vism-mhṭ 412).

[9]:

Khārudaka—“caustic waters”: the name given to the waters on which the worldspheres rest (see M-a IV 178).

[10]:

Kūṭāgāra: see Ch. XII, n.14; here this seems the most likely of the various meanings of the word.

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