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Wikipedia's Kalpa(aeon) in Buddhism article says,

In another simple explanation, there are four different lengths of kalpas. A regular kalpa is approximately 16 million years long (16,798,000 years[1]), and a small kalpa is 1000 regular kalpas, or about 16 billion years. Further, a medium kalpa is roughly 320 billion years, the equivalent of 20 small kalpas. A great kalpa is 4 medium kalpas, or around 1.28 trillion years.

I just went through the Visuddhimagga, and could not find where or how that time in years is calculated.

I was wondering how to calculate it. Please explain how it's calculated, with reference to scripture where Lord Buddha mentioned it, and/or where the calculation or the result of the calculation is described, perhaps in the Thripitaka or Visuddhimagga?


[1] Wikipedia's reference is to a book:

Epstein, Ronald B.(2002). Buddhist Text Translation Society's Buddhism A to Z p. 204. Buddhist Text Translation Society. ISBN 0-88139-353-3, ISBN 978-0-88139-353-8.

Perhaps that book may have a reference to where they found it, but I still haven't find that book.

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    Wikipedia says, "The definition of a kalpa equaling 4.32 billion years is found in the Puranas (specifically Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Purana)." So doesn't this seem to be a question about Sanskrit, and not a question about Buddhism? Also that Wikipedia article says that, within Buddhism, the word is given various definitions in the Visuddhimagga: therefore not the Tripitaka.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 16:21
  • Aeon(kalpa) is also mentioned in Hindhu Religon. That's why they mentioned about Puranas.I'm not asking about it. Under the topic Buddhism , article says "A regular kalpa is approximately 16 million years long (16,798,000 years[1]), and a small kalpa is 1000 regular kalpas, or about 16 billion years. Further, a medium kalpa is roughly 320 billion years, the equivalent of 20 small kalpas. A great kalpa is 4 medium kalpas, or around 1.28 trillion years." and at the start mentions about Visuddhimagga... I just go through the Visuddhimagga and could not find time in Years. Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 5:37
  • The article has taken the time periods from a book named "Buddhism A to Z" by Epstein, Ronald... I think the book may have a reference about where they found it. I still couldn't find the book. Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 5:46

4 Answers 4

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As far as I know, the words used in Buddhist Kalpa in a lot of cases,

for example: Existence, life reduced (when life human destiny decreased from 84,000 years to 10 years),increased lifetime (as opposed to lifetime reduction),

Sub-Kalpa (approximately 16 million years),

Mid-Kalpa (20 sub-life),

Big-Kalpa (4 centered life = 1.3 billion years),

and countless Kalpa ..etc

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It is not possible for anyone to have any idea of what an aeon (world cycle / kappa) is. It is equivalent to eternity. Only by a simile you will get an idea of it. The Buddha offers two vivid similes to suggest the eon's duration.

A maha kappa or aeon is generally taken to mean a world cycle. How long is a world cycle? In Samyutta ii, Chapter XV, the Buddha used the parables of the hill and mustard-seed for comparison:

Suppose there was a solid mass, of rock or hill, one yojana (eight miles) wide, one yojana across and one yojana high and every hundred years, a man was to stroke it once with a piece of silk. That mass of rock would be worn away and ended sooner than would an aeon.

Suppose there was a city of iron walls, one yojana in length, one yojana in width, one yojana high and filled with mustard-seeds to the brim. There-from a man was to take out every hundred years a mustard-seed. That great pile of mustard-seed would be emptied and ended sooner than would an aeon.

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A paragraph in the Maha-Parinibbana Sutta states:

The Blessed One said: "Whosoever, Ananda, has developed, practiced, employed, strengthened, maintained, scrutinized, and brought to perfection the four constituents of psychic power could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period (kappa) or until the end of it. The Tathagata, Ananda, has done so. Therefore the Tathagata could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period or until the end of it."

Commentary:

Kappam va tittheyya kappavasesam va. Comy. takes kappa not as "world-period" or "aeon," but as ayu-kappa, "life span," and explains avasesa (usually "remainder") by "in excess."

Therefore, a 'kappam' or 'kalpa' is not always calculated in the same way. Sometimes a 'kalpa' ('period of time') is very short.

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As per Lord Buddha " Kalpa" cant be counted in Numbers but he replied for a Monks question " could you give and example of the time of a Kalpa.

Lord Buddha answered "yes I can give you and example"

Imagine a Square wall with the height, width and length of 16 Km. Fill it with Mustard seeds and imagine for every 100 years one mustard seed will be removed. After a unimaginable time the Square wall will have no more seeds but yet a " Kalpa" is not yet over.

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