Myriad Worlds: Buddhist Cosmology in Abhidharma, Lalachakra and Dzog-Chen

Myriad Worlds: Buddhist Cosmology in Abhidharma, Lalachakra and Dzog-Chen


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Describes four major cosmological systems found in the Tibetan tradition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781559390330
Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Publication date: 01/01/1995
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Root Verses from
The Encompassment of All Knowledge

In Sanskrit: Yana-sarva-mukhebhyah samucchaya-pravacanamratna-kosa-tri-siksa-sudesika-sastram

The Encompassment of All Knowledge: A treasury of precious
teachings compiled from all the approaches of the systems for
spiritual development, a treatise that effectively transmits the
three trainings

Namah srímám-sad-guru-padaya

[Embodiment] of complete purity and ethics, you stand
    firm like the golden foundation.
Your beauty reflects your countless contemplations, like
    the distinct features of the mountains and continents.
Like the sun and moon, your brilliant wisdom illuminates
    all phenomena.
Supreme sage and achiever of all goals, I revere you.

With the heart of a great hero who protects beings for as
    long as they exist,
You suffused the universe with your excellent conduct.
Though father to the victorious ones, you manifest as the
    victorious ones' son.
Lion of Speech, grant me flawless intelligence.

You nurture the seed — the potential or nature of beings
    — by imparting instructions that mature and liberate

You cause others to purify incidental defilements through
    the twofold path,
And bestow the fruition, the four dimensions of awakening
    distinguished by great bliss.
To you, my mentor, and to the masters of the lineages,
    I bow.

Although I lack the intellectual capacity to compile
    knowledge correctly,
I shall compose a short, clear, comprehensive work
In order to ensure that those with insufficient knowledge
    or interest to understand the texts
Will not lose their opportunity on this isle of treasures.

* * *

This treatise [The Infinite Ocean of Knowledge] as a
    whole has [ten] divisions, equal in number to the ten
The realms that appear during the age of illumination;
    Buddha, the Teacher; the doctrine, both scriptural and
Its continuation and spread in the Land of Jambu;
Maintaining ethical conduct; learning; reflection;
Through successively engaging in these, progression
    through the paths; and realization of the ultimate

* * *

There are general and specific causes and conditions that
    initiate [the creation of realms]:
For as long as infinite space and sentient beings exist,
The compassion of the victorious ones and the actions of
    sentient beings continue without end.
Those to be guided and enlightened guides
Manifest through inconceivable interconnections.
When the characters and dispositions of those to be
    guided are activated,
[The compassion of] the guides [arises], and the configurations
    of the realms and the dimensions of awakening
The miraculous methods of guiding others manifest
    beyond all bounds.
The sphere of reality never changes into something else;
Yet blessings, vows, actions, and natural laws
Cause oceans of realms to appear.
The realm Unsurpassed is free from incidental defilement
And transcends the experience of the three realms: it is
    indivisible pristine wisdom.
In this self-manifesting, spontaneously appearing [realm,]
    Richly Adorned,
Dwells Illuminator, Great Glacial Lake of Wisdom;
A billion realms in his every pore.
Their locations, shapes, sizes, durations, and arrangements
    are inconceivable.
Within the central minute particle in the palm of his hand
    lies the Oceanic World-System
That itself contains many world-systems, in the center
     of which
Lies the realm called Flower-Filled World.
Furthermore, [between the wind] and Unsurpassed lie
    one billion four-continent world-systems,
A great third-order thousand [world-system].
Multiplying that by factors of one billion
[Yields] Infinite Links, Continuums, Oceans,
And Flower-Filled World.
Each rests on an ocean and [is encircled by] an outer rim.
This is the sphere of influence of one supreme manifest
    dimension of awakening.
Inside the great outer rim, in a sea of scented water,
Four jewelled lotuses support
A tiered arrangement of twenty-five world-systems;
The thirteenth is known as Endurance.
This third-order thousand world-system
Is completely encircled by realms — Covered, Surpassing,
    Stainless, Variously Emerged, etc.—
Equal in number to the particles of this thirteenth
[Endurance] is spherical, has a four-vajra demarcation,
And rests on a multicolored configuration of wind and
    a network of lotuses.
Illuminator, the teacher in this ]world-system],
Appears throughout the Unsurpassed realms of the pure
This four-continent [world-system] called Destructible
Is surrounded by ten other four-continent [world-systems].
It is taught that these [world-systems] are formed and
    destroyed together;
This is the experiential domain solely of the lords of the
    tenth stage of awakening.

* * *

In our own world-system, four [ages] occur: formation,
    abiding, destruction, and vacuity.
Of the two, environment and inhabitants, [a description
    of] the environmental world [is presented first]:
After the age of vacuity had elapsed at the end of the
    previous age,
Winds arose from the ten directions, creating a configuration
    in the shape of a cross;
Rain fell from a cloud, and amidst a mass of water,
A thousand lotuses were seen; thus the Fortunate Age
    was proclaimed.
The churning of water by wind produced a golden disc,
Upon which rain fell; [this became] the great ocean.
The churning by wind developed the [ocean's] elements
    — superior, medium, and base;
These elements formed Mount Meru, the seven mountain
    ranges, the four continents and the outer rim.
The mountains and continents all extend eighty thousand
    [leagues] down into the ocean.
Mount Meru rises eighty thousand [leagues] above the
The four sides of Mount Meru are composed of crystal,
    blue beryl, ruby, and gold.
The sky [on each side] reflects these colors.
From sea level to half its height are four terraces.
Beyond it are seven golden mountain ranges, Yoke and
    the others.
The spaces between are filled with seas of enjoyment,
    which have eight qualities.
The four continents and the eight islands
Are semi-circular, trapezoidal, round, and square.
There are numerous unspecified little islands.
The outer rim consists of a mountain range composed
    of iron;
A salt-water ocean fills the area as far as this range.
North from the center of the Exalted Land, beyond nine
    black mountains,
Stand the Snowy Mountains, and north of these the
    Fragrant [Mountains].
Between these two mountain ranges lies Cool Lake; from
    its four sides
Four cascades flow in four directions toward the ocean.
A jambu tree adorns the lake's shore,
And so this continent is known as the land beautified by
    the jambu tree.
The names of Majestic Body and the others indicate their
    distinguishing features.
Tail-Fan Island is inhabited by cannibal demons, and the
    others, by humans.
The hells and the world of the starving spirits are located
    below the earth.
Animals, the inhabitants of the depths, dwell in the great
Demi-gods [live] in the crevices of Mount Meru from the
    water's edge down.
The Four Groups of the Great Kings reside mainly on the
    terraces of Mount Meru.
Beings may also dwell in various unspecified secondary
Above Mount Meru is the heaven of the Thirty-three
In which is found the Victorious Residence, the city called
Parks, playing fields, the All-gathering tree, the fine stone
The Assembly Hall of the Excellent Law, as well as the
    dwelling of the yaksas.
Above, Conflict Free, Joyful, Enjoying Creations, and
    [Mastery Over] Others' [Creations]
Rest on riches like cloud formations in the sky.
There are sixteen heavens in the form realm, beginning
    with Group of the Pure;
Above them all is Lesser Unsurpassed.
The lord bodhisattvas reside above that, according to the
    Five Treatises on the Stages.
[The heavens] double in size and grow increasingly
One third-order thousand world-system is fathomed by
    the vision of the proclaimers and solitary sages,
Who assert that it is composed of indivisible particles of
The nature of each being is unobscured and undetermined.
The four absorptions of the formless realm and the other
    realms arise sequentially; [the beings within them]
Diffuse from higher to lower, down to the hells.
Moreover, the four levels of absorption of the formless
Are only distinctions in contemplation; they have no form
    or location.
The form realm: In the fourth level of meditative concentration,
    [there are] five pure domains and three heavens
    of ordinary beings.
Three [heavens] are located within each of the lower three
    levels of meditative concentration.
The desire realm comprises thirty-six types of beings:
Six groups of gods, [humans of the] four continents,
[Inhabitants of the] eight islands, animals and starving
[Beings in the] eight hot hells, and the eight cold hells.
The twenty existences, ten happy and ten miserable,
May also be classified as twenty-eight.
Within the happy existences—the form realm and the
Lifespans and possessions decrease the lower the level.
In the miserable existences, suffering increases the lower
    the level.
The four [levels] of absorption, the four levels of meditative
    concentration, and the desire realm
Comprise nine levels. In terms of type, there are six
    [classes of] beings.
A classification of five — human, divine, and three
    miserable existences —
May be made in terms of paths and courses.
All these beings may be categorized according to the four
    modes of birth,
Or into pure, corrupt, and indeterminate groups.
During the time of abiding, most beings, except for
Experience consequences that are predetermined.
In our world, humans have a wide variety of lifespans,
    wealth, and physical size.
Lifespan decreases from incalculable to ten,
And then increases to eighty thousand, and so on.
During a decline, a rise, and eighteen intermediate cycles,
There are fluctuations. The three continents are places
    where [consequences] are experienced;
Jambu Land, the most distinguished, is the place of
Beings in this world came down from the heaven of
    Clear Light.
The nourishment derived from meditative concentration
    and other [pristine] qualities gradually deteriorated
    due to craving.
The sun and moon provided light, and King Honored by
    Multitudes appeared.
Then, such distinctions as the four eras and four classes
Wheel-monarchs, who [possess wheels of] gold, silver,
    copper, and iron,
Appear in this world only when the lifespan is no less
    than eighty thousand years.
Some say that they reign totally over the third-order
    thousand world-system.
There are many variations in food, hunger and thirst,
    color of clothing, night and day, etc.
Beings in lower [realm] do not see those in the higher.
At the time of destruction, the miserable realms, beginning
    with the hell realms, empty.
Gods and humans attain meditative concentration and
    are born in the form realm.
As the realms empty of inhabitants, the [beings of] the
    lower realms move higher.
The heavens of the first meditative concentration and
    below are destroyed by fire.
Space alone remains, a vacuity containing nothing at all.
Again formation occurs, and again abiding, and finally
    destruction by fire.
After seven such [sequences], a deluge at the end of the
Destroys the second meditative concentration and below.
Seven destructions by fire alternating with one by water
    occur seven times,
Ending with another seven by fire.
Finally, intense wind destroys the third meditative concentration
    and below.
Because those three contemplations have imperfections
    [they are destroyed];
The fourth, being free of imperfection, is not destroyed by
    the elements.
Altogether, sixty-four great cycles of destruction occur.
Each of the ages of formation, abiding, destruction, and
Lasts for twenty intermediate ages; together, these [four]
    constitute one cosmic age.
Such statements as that in a single age seven fires,
One flood, and one wind arise, destroying the third level
    of meditative concentration and below,
Reflect different points of view of different systems.
The pure realms and the Seat of Enlightenment, etc., are
    not destroyed,
Since they are not the result of the origin [of suffering].

* * *

The King of Tantras of the Primordial Buddha
Refutes erroneous systems and integrates the outer, inner,
And alternative [levels]. In the center of space rest
    spherical foundations
Of wind, fire, water, and earth, [proportional in size to the
    measure between] the soles of the feet and the waist.
Mount Meru, its neck, face, and crowning protuberance
[Are proportional to the measure between] the waist and
    the crown of the head.
The center is green; the east, blue; the north, white; the
    south, red;
And the west, yellow. Each part is composed of a precious
From the [edge of the] vast upper surface hang five
    indestructible enclosures
In a concentric arrangement; the outer ones are progressively
At the base is a ledge which forms an indestructible
Between the six continents — Moon, White, Most
Kusa Grass, Centaur, and Crane —
Are [six] oceans: Honey, Butter, Yogurt, Milk, Water,
    and Beer,
Encircled by the mountains Blue Radiance, Mandara
Night, Jewel Radiance, Vessel, and Cool.
These are lands of experience. The seventh continent,
The Greater Land of Jambu, said to be the land of
    evolutionary action,
Is located between Cool Mountain Range and the edge
    of the salt water ocean.
The seventh mountain range forms the Impenetrable
Surrounded by the fire and wind arising from the
    respective spheres.
Beyond this is vacuity, devoid of any attributes.
The twelve lands of evolutionary action—the great
    continents of wind, fire, water, and earth—
Are situated in the center [of each] of the four directions.
They are semi-circular, triangular, round, and square in
And are flanked by smaller continents. All are positioned
    like lotus petals.
The Exalted Land is situated in the south of the Small
    Land of Jambu.
Situated to the north are, successively, Tibet, Khotan,
China, Sambhala, and the Great Snow Range.
Thirty-one existences — eleven desire, sixteen form, four
    [formless] —
Live within these [environments].
The celestial sphere pervades space between Mount Meru
    and the mountain of fire.
It is a belt of wind, within which the twelve houses
And the twenty-eight constellations formed first.
[The houses] are situated in a clockwise arrangement.
    Planets such as the sun and moon rise above them.
[Eight] move counter-clockwise; Eclipser [moves] clockwise.
A solar day is measured in terms of six breaths and sixty
    minor clepsydra measures constituting one major
    clepsydra measure of time.
Lunar, solar, and house days are determined
In relation to the movement of the moon, sun, and
The [three types of] days are equivalent to one fifteenth
    of a phase of the moon, one revolution of the sun
    around the continents,
And a thirtieth of the time [required for the sun] to move
    through a house.
Each is longer than the preceding one. Based on lunar
    months and house years,
The four seasons occur in natural sequence on earth.
Time-conjunctions affect the quality of life.
Explanations of the four eras of the doctrine
Of the wheel-holders, of the world-system, and of entering
     vacuity supplement the above.
The Victorious One did not base his teachings on the
    belief that a single system is the only valid one,
[But taught] in response to the interests and abilities of
    those he guided.
There are a variety of units for measuring space and time:
Eight minute particles equals one fine particle;
A hair-tip, ketsé seed, louse, barley seed, and finger-width
    [are determined] in a similar manner.
Twenty-four [finger-widths equals one] cubit; four cubits
    equals one bow-length;
Two thousand [bow-lengths equals one] ear-shot; four of
    those equals a league.
The phenomenology system presents units of form and
    time, and components of words.
Seven minute particles [equals] one fine particle;
Iron, water, rabbit, sheep, ox, and sun-ray particles
Louse egg, louse, barley seed, and finger-width are
    similarly determined.
Twenty-four finger-widths [equals] a cubit; four cubits, a
Five hundred [bow-lengths], one ear-shot,
Or the measure to solitude; eight of those, a league.
The third-order thousand [world-system] is described
    and measured with these units.
One sixty-fourth of a finger-snap
Is the smallest unit of time. One hundred and twenty [of
    these units]
Equals an instant. Sixty instants [equals] one moment.
Thirty [moments equals] a period; thirty periods, a solar
Thirty solar days, a month; and twelve months, a year.
Based on these units, the measurable and the immeasurable
    are calculated.
Individual letters are the components of words.
[Groups of words] form sentences.
If examined, [words] do not capture [the essence, but are]

* * *

  What causes create the world?
  The erroneous theories of the non-Buddhists claim that
     [the world]
  Was created by Isvara or the sage, or that it arose from the
     self or naturally.
  It is taught in the scriptures that worlds and beings
  Are created by various actions influenced by subtle and
     proliferating [emotions].
  The factor ensuring actions' results is said to be acquired
     or inevitable,
  The stream of mental consciousness, the fundamental
  The mere individual, clear light, and so forth.
  The Analysts and Traditionists state that the environment
     is created from the wind at the peak [of existence]
     which remains from the time of destruction,
  Or from five types of seeds carried from other worlds.
  The stream [of phenomena] is undispersed and coheres
     through [the effect] of concordant actions.
  Lasting form and time are deceptive impressions within
     naive minds;
  It is taught that the exalted ones comprehend the cessation
     of particles and moments.
  Most agree that in the formation [of the world] the mind
     is the agent, subtle particles and the moving and
     stationary winds are the objects acted upon,
  And the [winds' motions] are the means of creation.
  Six causes and four conditions produce conditioned
  Five results are produced by these [causes].
  The Individualists' system of phenomenology follows
     these excellent explanations.
  The productive cause of [a particular phenomenon] is
     that which is other than the conditioned phenomenon.
  Coemergent causes are [conditioned phenomena] that are
     causes and results of one another.
  Causes of the same outcome are preceding phenomena
     creating later similar phenomena.
  Concomitant causes are mind and mental events that
     share five aspects.
  Omnipresent causes are defiled phenomena.
  Developing causes are non-virtue and contaminated
  Developed results arise after their causes, pertain to a
  And are unobscured and neutral.
  Results concordant with the causes are of a type similar to
     same outcome and omnipresent [causes].
  Freedom results are cessations attained through appreciative
  Caused results are attainments through the power of the
  Owned results [which are exclusively] conditioned
     phenomena arise from non-hindering phenomena.
  It is asserted that [results] are all conditioned phenomena,
     as well as the attainment of freedom,
  And that the two unconditioned phenomena lack causes
     and results.
  Developed [results] arise [from] the last [cause]; owned
     results from the first.
  Results concordant with the cause [from] the third and
     fifth; caused [results] from the second and fourth.
  Except for the productive cause, the five [other] causes
     are causal conditions.
  Mind and mental factors producing results that arise
     immediately are immediate [conditions].
  Phenomena suitable to be objects of the six
     consciousnesses are objective conditions.
  Phenomena that do not obstruct arising are dominant
  The arising, functioning, etc., [of conditions] can be
     learned from [Vasubandhu's] treatise.
  Productive causes which produce [a result]; assisting,
     co-emergent [causes];
  Expanding or same outcome [causes]; concomitant
     causes, sharing four factors;
  Defiled omnipresent causes; developing causes of the
  All may be categorized as productive causes,
  Which the Synthesis of Phenomenology sets forth as twenty
  Causal conditions are the five causes and the fundamental
  The objective condition is the perceived object. The
     dominant condition is the support.
  The immediate condition is asserted in the third way.
  When four conditions are present, consciousness generates
  When there are two or three, consciousness produces
     coarse objects.
  Freedom results are cessations without causes.
  Owned results pertain to external phenomena.
  Developed results pertain to the continuums of beings.
  Caused results [arise from] creating causes; results concordant
     with causes [arise] from same outcome
  Although cyclic life and actions do not exist ultimately,
  Interdependent origination occurs superficially due to
     causes and conditions.
  Thus, the wheel of twelve links continually turns.
  Adherence to a self is the root of cyclic life.
  Emotions produce actions and suffering.
  These lead to [the cycle of suffering] which manifests like
     [dreams during] sleep.
  The beginningless nature of mind is empty, clear, [and]
  But its nature is not recognized.
  [The fundamental consciousness], stirred by mental
     creations, produces dualistic appearances [and] the
  Feeling develops from acceptance and rejection;
     discernment, from objectification-habit.
  [Discernment leads to] mental formations which are
     mental factors; habitual adherence creates form.
  With attachment and grasping as a link, the wheel of
     existence turns.
In summation, three instincts imprinted on the fundamental
  Cause three deceptive appearances: object, subject, and
  The environmental world, the five objects such as form,
  The eight consciousnesses, and virtuous and negative
     actions [develop from objective instincts].
  [Adherence to] the forms of the six [types of] beings, and
     the object, agent, and action
  Generate object and subject, which in turn produce
  [Emotions] create cyclic life without beginning or end.
  When the course of interdependent origination is
     reversed or its causes and conditions collapse from
     the inner core,
  Deceptive [appearances] are exhausted and supreme
     liberation is attained.


Table of Contents

Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama6
Translators' Introduction15
Root Verses from The Encompassment of All Knowledge57
Overview of The Infinite Ocean of Knowledge91
Myriad Worlds
I. The Cosmology of the Universal Way95
II Our Universe according to the Individual and
Universal Ways107
III. Space and Time in the Tantra of the Wheel of Time147
IV. The Causes of Cyclic Life171
V. The Primordial Purity of the Universe203
Appendix: Outline of the Text229
Glossary of Technical Terms235
Glossary of Names245
Bibliography of WorksCited281
Reference Bibliography287

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