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145. Those Who Restrain Their Own Mind
Irrigators govern water,
fletchers fashion shafts,
as joiners shape their timber
those of good conduct tame themselves.
Explanation: Irrigators direct the water. Fletchers shape the
arrows. Carpenters shape the wood. The wise consciously control themselves.
Dhammapada: Verses and Stories
Udakam hi nayanti nettika
usukara namayanti tejanam
darum namayanti tacchaka
attanam damayanti subbata.
Verse 145: Farmers1 channel the water; fletchers
straighten the arrows; carpenters work the timber; the wise tame themselves.
1. Farmers: lit., makers of irrigation canals.
The Story of Samanera* Sukha
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered
Verse (145) of this book, with reference to a samanera named Sukha.
Sukha was made a samanera at the age of seven years by Thera
Sariputta. On the eighth day after being made a samanera he followed Thera
Sariputta on his alms-round. While doing the round they came across some
farmers irrigating their fields, some fletchers straightening their arrows and
some carpenters making things like cart-wheels, etc. Seeing these, he asked
Thera Sariputta whether these inanimate things could be guided to where one
wished or be made into things one wished to make, and the thera answered him in
the affirmative. The young samanera then pondered that if that were so, there
could be no reason why a person could not tame his mind and practise
Tranquillity and Insight Meditation.
So, he asked permission from the thera to return to the
monastery. There, he shut himself up in his room and practised meditation in
solitude, Sakka and the devas also helped him in his practice by keeping the
monastery very quiet. That same day, the eighth day after his becoming a
samanera, Sukha attained arahatship. In connection with this, the Buddha said
to the congregation of bhikkhus, “When a person earnestly practises the
Dhamma, even Sakka and the devas give protection and help. I myself have kept
Sariputta at the entrance so that Sukha should not be disturbed. The samanera,
having seen the farmers irrigating their fields, the fletchers straightening
their arrows and the carpenters making cart-wheels and other things, trains his
mind and practises the Dhamma. Thus, he has now become an arahat.”
Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:
* This story is the same as that of Samanera Pandita (Verse 80)
** Farmers: lit., makers of irrigation canals
End of Chapter Ten: Punishment (Dandavagga)
FOUR APPLICATIONS OF MINDFULNESS
FOUR FORMLESS REALMS
The Formless Realm or Ārūpyadhātu
or Arūpaloka (Pāli) (Tib: gzugs med pa’i khams) is a realm in Buddhist
It would have no place in a purely physical cosmology, as none of the beings
inhabiting it has either shape or location; and correspondingly, the realm has
no location either. This realm belongs to those devas who attained and remained
in the Four Formless Absorptions (catuḥ-samāpatti) of the arūpadhyānas
in a previous life, and now enjoys the fruits (vipāka) of the good
karma of that accomplishment. Bodhisattvas,
however, are never born in the Ārūpyadhātu even when they have attained the
There are four types of Ārūpyadhātu
devas, corresponding to the four types of arūpadhyānas:
foundations of the earth
Buddhist cosmology which is presented in commentaries and works of Abhidharma
in both Theravāda
traditions, is the end-product of an analysis and reconciliation of
cosmological comments found in the Buddhist sūtra and vinaya
traditions. No single sūtra sets out the entire structure of the universe.
However, in several sūtras the Buddha describes other worlds and states of
being, and other sūtras describe the origin and destruction of the universe.
The synthesis of these data into a single comprehensive system must have taken
place early in the history of Buddhism, as the system described in the Pāli
tradition (represented by today’s Theravādins) agrees, despite some trivial
inconsistencies of nomenclature, with the Sarvāstivāda
tradition which is preserved by Mahāyāna Buddhists.
The picture of the world
presented in Buddhist cosmological descriptions cannot be taken as a literal
description of the shape of the universe. It is inconsistent,
and cannot be made consistent, with astronomical data that were already known
in ancient India. However, it is not intended to be a description of how
ordinary humans perceive their world;
rather, it is the universe as seen through the divyacakṣus
(Pāli: dibbacakkhu), the “divine eye” by which a Buddha
or an arhat
who has cultivated this faculty can perceive all of the other worlds and the
beings arising (being born) and passing away (dying) within them, and can tell
from what state they have been reborn and into what state
they will be reborn. The cosmology has also been interpreted in a symbolical or
allegorical sense (see Ten spiritual realms).
Buddhist cosmology can be
divided into two related kinds: spatial cosmology, which describes the
arrangement of the various worlds within the universe, and temporal cosmology,
which describes how those worlds come into existence, and how they pass away.
Spatial cosmology can
also be divided into two branches. The vertical (or cakravāḍa) cosmology describes the
arrangement of worlds in a vertical pattern, some being higher and some lower.
By contrast, the horizontal (sahasra) cosmology describes the grouping
of these vertical worlds into sets of thousands, millions or billions.
In the vertical
cosmology, the universe exists of many worlds (lokāḥ) – one might say “planes” – stacked one upon
the next in layers. Each world corresponds to a mental state or a state of
being. A world is not, however, a location so much as it is the beings which
compose it; it is sustained by their karma
and if the beings in a world all die or disappear, the world disappears too.
Likewise, a world comes into existence when the first being is born into it.
The physical separation is not so important as the difference in mental state;
humans and animals, though they partially share the same physical environments,
still belong to different worlds because their minds perceive and react to
those environments differently.
The vertical cosmology is
divided into thirty-one planes of existence and the planes into three realms,
or dhātus, each corresponding to a different type of mentality. These
three (Tridhātu) are the Ārūpyadhātu, the Rūpadhātu, and the Kāmadhātu. The
latter comprises the “five or six
realms“. In some instances all of the beings born in the
Ārūpyadhātu and the Rūpadhātu are informally classified as “gods” or
along with the gods of the Kāmadhātu, notwithstanding the fact that the deities
of the Kāmadhātu differ more from those of the Ārūpyadhātu than they do from
humans. It is to be understood that deva is an imprecise term referring
to any being living in a longer-lived and generally more blissful state than
humans. Most of them are not “gods” in the common sense of the term,
having little or no concern with the human world and rarely if ever interacting
with it; only the lowest deities of the Kāmadhātu correspond to the gods
described in many polytheistic religions.
The term “brahmā” is used both as a
name and as a generic term for one of the higher devas. In its broadest sense,
it can refer to any of the inhabitants of the Ārūpyadhātu and the Rūpadhātu. In
more restricted senses, it can refer to an inhabitant of one of the nine lower
worlds of the Rūpadhātu, or in its narrowest sense, to the three lowest worlds
of the Rūpadhātu. A large number of devas use the name “Brahmā”, e.g.
Brahmā Sahampati, Brahmā Sanatkumāra, Baka Brahmā, etc. It is not always clear
which world they belong to, although it must always be one of the worlds of the
Rūpadhātu below the Śuddhāvāsa worlds.
Main article: Formless Realm
The Ārūpyadhātu (Sanskrit)
or Arūpaloka (Pāli) (Tib:
gzugs med pa’i khams) or “Formless realm” would have no place
in a purely physical cosmology, as none of the beings inhabiting it has either
shape or location; and correspondingly, the realm has no location either. This
realm belongs to those devas who attained and remained in the Four Formless
Absorptions (catuḥ-samāpatti) of the arūpadhyānas in a previous
life, and now enjoys the fruits (vipāka) of the good karma of that accomplishment. Bodhisattvas,
however, are never born in the Ārūpyadhātu even when they have attained the
There are four types of
Ārūpyadhātu devas, corresponding to the four types of arūpadhyānas:
The Rūpadhātu (Pāli:
Rūpaloka; Tib: gzugs kyi khams) or “Form realm” is, as the
name implies, the first of the physical realms; its inhabitants all have a
location and bodies of a sort, though those bodies are composed of a subtle
substance which is of itself invisible to the inhabitants of the Kāmadhātu. According
to the Janavasabha Sutta, when a brahma (a being from the Brahma-world of the
Rūpadhātu) wishes to visit a deva of the Trāyastriṃśa heaven (in the Kāmadhātu), he has
to assume a “grosser form” in order to be visible to them. There are
17-22 Rūpadhātu in Buddhism texts, the most common saying is 18.
The beings of the Form
realm are not subject to the extremes of pleasure and pain, or governed by
desires for things pleasing to the senses, as the beings of the Kāmadhātu are.
The bodies of Form realm beings do not have sexual distinctions.
Like the beings of the
Ārūpyadhātu, the dwellers in the Rūpadhātu have minds corresponding to the dhyānas (Pāli: jhānas). In
their case it is the four lower dhyānas or rūpadhyānas.
However, although the beings of the Rūpadhātu can be divided into four broad
grades corresponding to these four dhyānas, each of them is subdivided into
further grades, three for each of the four dhyānas and five for the Śuddhāvāsa
devas, for a total of seventeen grades (the Theravāda tradition counts one less
grade in the highest dhyāna for a total of sixteen).
Physically, the Rūpadhātu
consists of a series of planes stacked on top of each other, each one in a
series of steps half the size of the previous one as one descends. In part,
this reflects the fact that the devas are also thought of as physically larger
on the higher planes. The highest planes are also broader in extent than the
ones lower down, as discussed in the section on Sahasra cosmology. The
height of these planes is expressed in yojanas, a measurement of very
uncertain length, but sometimes taken to be about 4,000 times the height of a
man, and so approximately 4.54 miles (7.31 km) or 7.32 kilometers.
The Śuddhāvāsa (Pāli:
Suddhāvāsa; Tib: gnas gtsang ma) worlds, or “Pure Abodes”, are
distinct from the other worlds of the Rūpadhātu in that they do not house
beings who have been born there through ordinary merit or meditative
attainments, but only those Anāgāmins (”Non-returners”)
who are already on the path to Arhat-hood and who will attain enlightenment directly
from the Śuddhāvāsa worlds without being reborn in a lower plane (Anāgāmins can
also be born on lower planes). Every Śuddhāvāsa deva is therefore a protector
of Buddhism. (Brahma Sahampati, who appealed
to the newly enlightened Buddha to teach, was an Anagami from a previous Buddha).
Because a Śuddhāvāsa deva will never be reborn outside the Śuddhāvāsa worlds,
is ever born in these worlds, as a Bodhisattva must ultimately be reborn as a
Since these devas rise
from lower planes only due to the teaching of a Buddha, they can remain empty
for very long periods if no Buddha arises. However, unlike the lower worlds,
the Śuddhāvāsa worlds are never destroyed by natural catastrophe. The
Śuddhāvāsa devas predict the coming of a Buddha and, taking the guise of
Brahmins, reveal to human beings the signs by which a Buddha can be recognized.
They also ensure that a Bodhisattva in his last life will see the four signs
that will lead to his renunciation.
The five Śuddhāvāsa
The mental state of the
devas of the Bṛhatphala worlds corresponds to the fourth dhyāna, and is
characterized by equanimity (upekṣā).
The Bṛhatphala worlds form the upper limit to the destruction of the
universe by wind at the end of a mahākalpa (see Temporal cosmology below),
that is, they are spared such destruction.
The mental state of the
devas of the Śubhakṛtsna worlds corresponds to the third dhyāna, and is
characterized by a quiet joy (sukha). These devas have bodies that radiate a steady
light. The Śubhakṛtsna worlds form the upper limit to the destruction of the
universe by water at the end of a mahākalpa (see Temporal cosmology below),
that is, the flood of water does not rise high enough to reach them.
The mental state of the
devas of the Ābhāsvara worlds corresponds
to the second dhyāna, and is characterized by delight (prīti) as
well as joy (sukha);
the Ābhāsvara devas are said to shout aloud in their joy, crying aho sukham!
(”Oh joy!”). These devas have bodies that emit flashing rays of light
like lightning. They are said to have similar bodies (to each other) but
The Ābhāsvara worlds form
the upper limit to the destruction of the universe by fire at the end of a
mahākalpa (see Temporal cosmology below),
that is, the column of fire does not rise high enough to reach them. After the
destruction of the world, at the beginning of the vivartakalpa, the worlds are
first populated by beings reborn from the Ābhāsvara worlds.
Main article: Brahma (Buddhism)
The mental state of the
devas of the Brahmā worlds corresponds to the first dhyāna, and is characterized
by observation (vitarka)
and reflection (vicāra)
as well as delight (prīti)
and joy (sukha).
The Brahmā worlds, together with the other lower worlds of the universe, are
destroyed by fire at the end of a mahākalpa (see Temporal cosmology below).
Main article: Desire realm
The beings born in the
Kāmadhātu (Pāli: Kāmaloka; Tib: ‘dod pa’i khams) differ in degree of
happiness, but they are all, other than arhats and Buddhas, under the
domination of Māra and are bound by sensual
desire, which causes them suffering
The following four worlds
are bounded planes. each 80,000 yojanas square, which float in the air above
the top of Mount Sumeru.
Although all of the worlds inhabited by devas (that is, all the worlds down to
the Cāturmahārājikakāyika world and sometimes including the Asuras) are
sometimes called “heavens”, in the western sense of the word the term
best applies to the four worlds listed below:
Main article: Sumeru
The world-mountain of
Sumeru is an immense, strangely shaped peak which arises in the center of the
world, and around which the Sun and Moon revolve. Its base rests in a vast
ocean, and it is surrounded by several rings of lesser mountain ranges and
oceans. The three worlds listed below are all located on or around Sumeru: the Trāyastriṃśa devas live on its peak, the Cāturmahārājikakāyika devas live on its
slopes, and the Asuras live in the ocean at its base. Sumeru and its
surrounding oceans and mountains are the home not just of these deities, but
also vast assemblies of beings of popular mythology who only rarely intrude on
the human world.
Main article: Naraka (Buddhism)
Naraka or Niraya (Tib: dmyal
ba) is the name given to one of the worlds of greatest suffering, usually
translated into English as “hell” or “purgatory”. As with
the other realms, a being is born into one of these worlds as a result of his karma,
and resides there for a finite length of time until his karma has achieved its
full result, after which he will be reborn in one of the higher worlds as the
result of an earlier karma that had not yet ripened. The mentality of a being
in the hells corresponds to states of extreme fear and helpless anguish in
Physically, Naraka is
thought of as a series of layers extending below Jambudvīpa into the earth.
There are several schemes for counting these Narakas and enumerating their
torments. One of the more common is that of the Eight Cold Narakas and Eight
Each lifetime in these
Narakas is twenty times the length of the one before it.
All of the structures of
the earth, Sumeru and the rest, extend downward to a depth of 80,000 yojanas
below sea level – the same as the height of Sumeru above sea level. Below this
is a layer of “golden earth”, a substance compact and firm enough to
support the weight of Sumeru. It is 320,000 yojanas in depth and so extends to
400,000 yojanas below sea level. The layer of golden earth in turn rests upon a
layer of water, which is 8,000,000 yojanas in depth, going down to 8,400,000
yojanas below sea level. Below the layer of water is a “circle of
wind”, which is 16,000,000 yojanas in depth and also much broader in
extent, supporting 1,000 different worlds upon it.
While the vertical
cosmology describes the arrangement of the worlds vertically, the sahasra
(Sanskrit: “thousand”) cosmology describes how they are grouped
horizontally. The four heavens of the Kāmadhātu, as mentioned, occupy a limited
space no bigger than the top of Mount Sumeru. The three Brahmā-worlds, however,
stretch out as far as the mountain-wall of Cakravāḍa, filling the entire sky. This whole group of worlds, from Mahābrahmā
down to the foundations of water, constitutes a single world-system. It
corresponds to the extent of the universe that is destroyed by fire at the end
of one mahākalpa.
Above Mahābrahmā are the
Ābhāsvara worlds. These are not only higher but also wider in extent; they
cover 1,000 separate world-systems, each with its own Sumeru, Cakravāḍa, Sun, Moon, and four continents.
This system of 1,000 worlds is called a sāhasra-cūḍika-lokadhātu, or “small chiliocosm”. It corresponds
to the extent of the universe that is destroyed by water at the end of 8
Above the Ābhāsvara
worlds are the Śubhakṛtsna worlds, which cover 1,000
chiliocosms, or 1,000,000 world-systems. This larger system is called a dvisāhasra-madhyama-lokadhātu,
or “medium dichiliocosm”. It corresponds to the extent of the
universe that is destroyed by wind at the end of 64 mahākalpas.
Likewise, above the Śubhakṛtsna worlds, the Śuddhāvāsa and Bṛhatphala worlds cover 1,000 dichiliocosms,
or 1,000,000,000 world-systems. This largest grouping is called a trisāhasra-mahāsāhasra-lokadhātu
or “great trichiliocosm”.
Buddhist temporal cosmology
describes how the universe comes into being and is dissolved. Like other Indian
cosmologies, it assumes an infinite span of time and is cyclical. This does not
mean that the same events occur in identical form with each cycle, but merely
that, as with the cycles of day and night or summer and winter, certain natural
events occur over and over to give some structure to time.
The basic unit of time measurement
is the mahākalpa or “Great Eon”. The exact length of this time
in human years is never defined exactly, but it is meant to be very long, to be
measured in billions of years if not longer.
A mahākalpa is divided into
four kalpas or “eons”, each distinguished from the others by the
stage of evolution of the universe during that kalpa. The four kalpas are:
Each one of these kalpas is divided
into twenty antarakalpas (Pāli antarakappa, “inside
eons”) each of about the same length. For the Saṃvartasthāyikalpa
this division is merely nominal, as nothing changes from one antarakalpa to the
next; but for the other three kalpas it marks an interior cycle within the
The Vivartakalpa begins
with the arising of the primordial wind, which begins the process of building
up the structures of the universe that had been destroyed at the end of the
last mahākalpa. As the extent of the destruction can vary, the nature of this
evolution can vary as well, but it always takes the form of beings from a
higher world being born into a lower world. The example of a Mahābrahmā being
the rebirth of a deceased Ābhāsvara deva is just one instance of this, which
continues throughout the Vivartakalpa until all the worlds are filled from the
Brahmaloka down to Naraka. During the Vivartakalpa the first humans appear;
they are not like present-day humans, but are beings shining in their own
light, capable of moving through the air without mechanical aid, living for a
very long time, and not requiring sustenance; they are more like a type of
lower deity than present-day humans are.
Over time, they acquire a
taste for physical nutriment, and as they consume it, their bodies become
heavier and more like human bodies; they lose their ability to shine, and begin
to acquire differences in their appearance, and their length of life decreases.
They differentiate into two sexes and begin to become sexually active. Then
greed, theft and violence arise among them, and they establish social
distinctions and government and elect a king to rule them, called Mahāsammata,
“the great appointed one”. Some of them begin to hunt and eat the
flesh of animals, which have by now come into existence.
begins when the first being is born into Naraka, thus filling the entire
universe with beings. During the first antarakalpa of this eon, human lives are
declining from a vast but unspecified number of years (but at least several
tens of thousands of years) toward the modern lifespan of less than 100 years.
At the beginning of the antarakalpa, people are still generally happy. They
live under the rule of a universal monarch or “wheel-turning king” (cakravartin),
who conquer. The Mahāsudassana-sutta (DN.17) tells of the life of a cakravartin
king, Mahāsudassana (Sanskrit: Mahāsudarśana) who lived for 336,000 years. The
Cakkavatti-sīhanāda-sutta (DN.26) tells of a later dynasty of cakravartins, Daḷhanemi (Sanskrit: Dṛḍhanemi) and five of his descendants, who had a lifespan of over
80,000 years. The seventh of this line of cakravartins broke with the
traditions of his forefathers, refusing to abdicate his position at a certain
age, pass the throne on to his son, and enter the life of a śramaṇa. As a result of his subsequent
misrule, poverty increased; as a result of poverty, theft began; as a result of
theft, capital punishment was instituted; and as a result of this contempt for
life, murders and other crimes became rampant.
The human lifespan now
quickly decreased from 80,000 to 100 years, apparently decreasing by about half
with each generation (this is perhaps not to be taken literally), while with
each generation other crimes and evils increased: lying, greed, hatred, sexual
misconduct, disrespect for elders. During this period, according to the
Mahāpadāna-sutta (DN.14) three of the four Buddhas of this antarakalpa lived:
Krakucchanda Buddha (Pāli: Kakusandha), at the time when the lifespan was
40,000 years; Kanakamuni Buddha (Pāli: Konāgamana) when the lifespan was 30,000
years; and Kāśyapa Buddha (Pāli: Kassapa) when the lifespan was 20,000 years.
Our present time is taken
to be toward the end of the first antarakalpa of this Vivartasthāyikalpa, when
the lifespan is less than 100 years, after the life of Śākyamuni Buddha (Pāli:
Sakyamuni), who lived to the age of 80.
The remainder of the
antarakalpa is prophesied to be miserable: lifespans will continue to decrease,
and all the evil tendencies of the past will reach their ultimate in destructiveness.
People will live no longer than ten years, and will marry at five; foods will
be poor and tasteless; no form of morality will be acknowledged. The most
contemptuous and hateful people will become the rulers. Incest will be rampant.
Hatred between people, even members of the same family, will grow until people
think of each other as hunters do of their prey.
Eventually a great war
will ensue, in which the most hostile and aggressive will arm themselves and go
out to kill each other. The less aggressive will hide in forests and other
secret places while the war rages. This war marks the end of the first
At the end of the war,
the survivors will emerge from their hiding places and repent their evil
habits. As they begin to do good, their lifespan increases, and the health and
welfare of the human race will also increase with it. After a long time, the
descendants of those with a 10-year lifespan will live for 80,000 years, and at
that time there will be a cakravartin king named Saṅkha. During his reign, the current bodhisattva in the Tuṣita heaven will descend and be
reborn under the name of Ajita. He will enter the life of a śramaṇa and will gain perfect enlightenment
as a Buddha; and he will then be known by the name of Maitreya
After Maitreya’s time,
the world will again worsen, and the lifespan will gradually decrease from
80,000 years to 10 years again, each antarakalpa being separated from the next
by devastating war, with peaks of high civilization and morality in the middle.
After the 19th antarakalpa, the lifespan will increase to 80,000 and then not
decrease, because the Vivartasthāyikalpa will have come to an end.
The Saṃvartakalpa begins when beings cease to be born in Naraka. This
cessation of birth then proceeds in reverse order up the vertical cosmology,
i.e., pretas then cease to be born, then animals, then humans, and so on up to
the realms of the deities.
When these worlds as far
as the Brahmaloka are devoid of inhabitants, a great fire consumes the entire
physical structure of the world. It burns all the worlds below the Ābhāsvara
worlds. When they are destroyed, the Saṃvartasthāyikalpa begins.
There is nothing to say
about the Saṃvartasthāyikalpa, since nothing happens in it
below the Ābhāsvara worlds. It ends when the primordial wind begins to blow and
build the structure of the worlds up again.
The destruction by fire
is the normal type of destruction that occurs at the end of the Saṃvartakalpa. But every eighth mahākalpa, after
seven destructions by fire, there is a destruction by water. This is more
devastating, as it eliminates not just the Brahma worlds but also the Ābhāsvara
mahākalpa, after 56 destructions by fire and 7 destructions by water, there is
a destruction by wind. This is the most devastating of all, as it also destroys
the Śubhakṛtsna worlds. The higher worlds are
Buddhism accepted the cosmology as above.
But they believe there are pure land worlds where buddhas and bodhisattvas
teach sentient beings in human forms.
A cosmology with some difference is further explained in the Worlds, chapter 5
of Avatamsaka Sutra.
All 84,000 Khandas As Found in the
the are 84,000 Dharma Doors -
84,000 ways to get Awakeness. Maybe so;
certainly the Buddha taught a
large number of practices that lead to
Awakeness. This web page attempts
to catalogue those found in the Pali Suttas
(DN, MN, SN, AN, Ud & Sn 1).
There are 3 sections:
The discourses of Buddha
are divided into 84,000, as to
separate addresses. The division includes all
that was spoken by Buddha.”I
received from Buddha,” said Ananda, “82,000
Khandas, and from the
priests 2000; these are 84,000 Khandas maintained
by me.” They are divided into
275,250, as to the stanzas of the original text,
and into 361,550, as to the stanzas
of the commentary. All the discourses
including both those of Buddha and
those of the commentator, are divided
into 2,547 banawaras, containing
737,000 stanzas, and 29,368,000 separate letters.
WISDOM IS POWER
Awakened One Shows the Path to
Attain Ultimate Bliss
Anyone Can Attain Ultimate Bliss
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