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Buddhist cosmology

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Phra Prang Wat Arun during day Buddhist cosmology describes the planes and realms in which all beings can be reborn. The spatial cosmology consists of a vertical cosmology, the various planes of beings, into which beings are reborn due to their merits and development; and a horizontal cosmology, the distribution of these world-systems into an "apparently" infinite sheet of "worlds." The temporal cosmology describes the timespan of the creation and dissolvement of alternate universes in different aeons. The entire universe is made up of the five basic elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. Buddhist cosmology is also intwined with the belief of Karma. As a result, some ages are filled with prosperity and peace due to common goodness, whereas other eras are filled with suffering, dishonesty and short lifespans.

Table of contents
  1. Meaning and origin
  2. Spatial cosmology
  3. Horizontal cosmology - Sahasra cosmology
  4. Temporal cosmology
  5. See also

Meaning and origin

Course of rebirth and liberation

The Buddhist cosmology is not a literal description of the shape of the universe; rather, it is the universe as seen through the divyacaksus (Pali: dibbacakkhu ??????????), the "divine eye" by which a Buddha or an arhat can perceive all beings arising (being born) and passing away (dying) within various worlds; and can tell from what state they have been reborn, and into which state they will be reborn.

Beings can be reborn as devas (gods and Brahmas), humans, animals, asuras (titans), pretas ("hungry ghosts"), and as inhabitants of the hell realms.

The process by which sentient beings migrate from one state of existence to another is dependent on causes and conditions. The three causes are giving or charity, moral conduct, meditative development, and their opposites. Rebirth in the Kama-loka (desire realm) depends on a person's moral conduct and practice of giving. Rebirth in the Rupa-loka (form realm) and Arupa-loka (formless realm) also requires meditation development. Liberation from all rebirth requires wisdom in addition to moral conduct and meditation.


The Buddhist cosmology as presented in commentaries and works of Abhidharma in both Theravada and Mahayana traditions, is the end-product of an analysis and reconciliation of cosmological comments found in the Buddhist sutra and vinaya traditions. No single sutra sets out the entire structure of the universe, but in several sutras the Buddha describes other worlds and states of being, and other sutras describe the origin and destruction of the universe. The order of the planes are found in various discourses of Gautama Buddha in the Sutta Pitaka. In the Saleyyaka Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya the Buddha mentioned the planes above the human plane in ascending order. In several suttas in the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha described the causes of rebirth in these planes in the same order.

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 Pali Vibhajyavada tradition (represented by today's Theravadins) agrees, despite some minor inconsistencies of nomenclature, with the Sarvastivada tradition which is preserved by Mahayana Buddhists.

Spatial cosmology

The spatial cosmology displays the various worlds in which beings can be reborn. Spatial cosmology can also be divided into two branches. The vertical (or cakravada; Devanagari: ???????) 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.

Vertical cosmology - Three Realms

The three realms

See also: Trailokya and Dhyana in Buddhism

The vertical cosmology is divided into three realms, or dhatus: the formless realm (Arupyadhatu), corresponding to the formless jhanas; the form realm (Rupadhatu), corresponding to the rupa jhanas; and the desire realm (Kamadhatu). The three realms contain together thirty-one planes of existence, each corresponding to a different type of mentality. These three realms (tridhatu, trailokya) are the Formless Realm (Arupyadhatu), which consists of four planes; the Form Realm (Rupadhatu), which consists of sixteen planes; and the Pleasure Realm (Kamadhatu), which consists of fifteen planes.

A world is not so much a location 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.

Devas and Brahma

In some instances, all of the beings born in the Arupyadhatu and the Rupadhatu are informally classified as "gods" or "deities" (devah), along with the gods of the Kamadhatu, notwithstanding the fact that the deities of the Kamadhatu differ more from those of the Arupyadhatu 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 Kamadhatu correspond to the gods described in many polytheistic religions.

The term Brahma 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 Arupyadhatu and the Rupadhatu. In more restricted senses, it can refer to an inhabitant of one of the eleven lower worlds of the Rupadhatu, or in its narrowest sense, to the three lowest worlds of the Rupadhatu (Plane of Brahma's retinue). A large number of devas use the name "Brahma", e.g. Brahma Sahampati (??????? ?????????), Brahma Sanatkumara (??????? ??????????), Baka Brahma (?????????), etc. It is not always clear which world they belong to, although it must always be one of the worlds of the Rupadhatu. According to the Ayacana Sutta, Brahma Sahampati, who begs the Buddha to teach Dhamma to the world, resides in the Suddhavasa worlds.

Formless Realm (Arupyadhatu)

The Formless Realm (Arupyadhatu (Sanskrit) or Arupaloka (Pali)) belongs to those Devas who attained and remained in the Four Formless Absorptions (catuh-samapatti ????????????) of the arupadhyanas in a previous life, and now enjoy the fruits (vipaka) of the good karma of that accomplishment. Bodhisattvas, however, are never born in the Arupyadhatu even when they have attained the arupadhyanas.

The 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. The inhabitants of these realms are possessed entirely of mind. Having no physical form or location, they are unable to hear Dhamma teachings.

There are four types of Formless Deva planes corresponding to the four types of arupadhyanas: Form Realm (Rupadhatu)

The Rupadhatu (Sanskrit: ???????; Pali: ??????, romanized: rupaloka; Tibetan: ??????????????, Wylie: gzugs kyi khams; Vietnamese: Gioi Sac; Chinese: ??; Japanese: ??, romanizedshiki-kai; Burmese: ????????????; Thai: ?????? / ???????) 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 Kamadhatu. According to the Janavasabha Sutta, when a brahma (a being from the Brahma-world of the Rupadhatu) wishes to visit a deva of the Trayastrimsa heaven (in the Kamadhatu), he has to assume a "grosser form" in order to be visible to them. There are 16-22 Rupadhatu 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 Kamadhatu are. The bodies of Form realm beings do not have sexual distinctions.

Like the beings of the Arupyadhatu, the dwellers in the Rupadhatu have minds corresponding to the dhyanas (Pali: jhanas). In their case, it is the four lower dhyanas or rupadhyanas (????????). However, although the beings of the Rupadhatu can be divided into four broad grades corresponding to these four dhyanas, each of them is subdivided into further grades, three for each of the four dhyanas and five for the Suddhavasa devas, for a total of seventeen grades (the Theravada tradition counts one less grade in the highest dhyana for a total of sixteen).

Physically, the Rupadhatu 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).

Pure Abodes (non-returners)

Main article: Pure Abodes

The Suddhavasa (Sanskrit: ?????????; Pali: ?????????, romanized: suddhavasa; Tibetan: ??????????, Wylie: gnas gtsang ma; Vietnamese: Tinh Cu Thiên; Chinese: ???/???; Thai: ??????????????) worlds, or "Pure Abodes", are distinct from the other worlds of the Rupadhatu in that they do not house beings who have been born there through ordinary merit or meditative attainments, but only those Anagamins ("Non-returners"), the third level on the path of enlightenment, who are already on the path to Arhat-hood and who will attain enlightenment directly from the Suddhavasa worlds without being reborn in a lower plane. These Pure Abodes are accessible only to those who have destroyed the lower five fetters, consisting of self-view, sceptical doubt, clinging to rites and ceremonies, sense desires, and ill-will. They will destroy their remaining fetters of craving for fine material existence, craving for immaterial existence, conceit, restlessness and ignorance during their existence in the Pure Abodes. Those who take rebirth here are called "non-returners" because they do not return from that world, but attain final nibbana there without coming back. Every Suddhavasa deva is therefore a protector of Buddhism. They guard and protect Buddhism on earth, and will pass into enlightenment as Arhats when they pass away from the Suddhavasa worlds. Brahma Sahampati, an inhabitant from these worlds, who appealed to the newly enlightened Buddha to teach, was an Anagami under the previous Buddha. Because a Suddhavasa deva will never be reborn outside the Suddhavasa worlds, no Bodhisattva is ever born in these worlds, as a Bodhisattva must ultimately be reborn as a human being.

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 Suddhavasa worlds are never destroyed by natural catastrophe. The Suddhavasa 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 Suddhavasa worlds are: Brhatphala worlds (fourth dhyana)

The mental state of the devas of the Brhatphala worlds (Vietnamese: Tu Thien; Chinese: ????/????; Japanese: ????; Thai: ?????????) corresponds to the fourth dhyana, and is characterized by equanimity (upeksa). The Brhatphala worlds form the upper limit to the destruction of the universe by wind at the end of a mahakalpa (see Temporal cosmology below), that is, they are spared such destruction. Subhakrtsna worlds (third dhyana)

The mental state of the devas of the Subhakrtsna worlds (Vietnamese: Tam Thien; Chinese: ????; Devanagari: ??????????; Thai: ??????????????) corresponds to the third dhyana, and is characterized by a quiet joy (sukha). These devas have bodies that radiate a steady light. The Subhakrtsna worlds form the upper limit to the destruction of the universe by water at the end of a mahakalpa (see Temporal cosmology below), that is, the flood of water does not rise high enough to reach them. Abhasvara worlds (second dhyana)

The mental state of the devas of the Abhasvara ??????? worlds (Vietnamese: Nhi Thien; Chinese: ????; Thai: ????????????/???????????? corresponds to the second dhyana, and is characterized by delight (priti) as well as joy (sukha); the Abhasvara 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 diverse perceptions.

The Abhasvara worlds form the upper limit to the destruction of the universe by fire at the end of a mahakalpa (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 Abhasvara worlds. Brahma worlds (first dhyana)

Main article: Brahma (Buddhism)

The mental state of the devas of the Brahma worlds (Vietnamese: So Thien; Chinese: ????; Thai: ????????) corresponds to the first dhyana, and is characterized by observation (vitarka) and reflection (vicara) as well as delight (priti) and joy (sukha). The Brahma worlds, together with the other lower worlds of the universe, are destroyed by fire at the end of a mahakalpa (see Temporal cosmology below). One way to rebirth in the Brahma world is mastery over the first jhana. Another is through meditations on loving kindness, compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity. The Buddha teaches the Brahmin Subha, how to be born in the world of Brahma, in the Subha Sutta, when asked by him. Desire Realm (Kamadhatu)

Main article: Desire realm

The beings born in the Kamadhatu ??????? (Pali: ??????, romanized: Kamaloka; Tibetan: ?????????????, Wylie: 'dod pa'i khams; Vietnamese: Gioi Duc; Chinese: ??; Japanese: Yoku-kai; Thai: ???????) differ in degree of happiness, but they are all, other than Anagamis, Arhats and Buddhas, under the domination of Mara and are bound by sensual desire, which causes them suffering. Birth into these planes takes place as a result of our Karma. The Sense-Sphere (Desire) Realm is the lowest of the three realms. The driving force within this realm is sensual desire.


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 Caturmaharajikakayika world and sometimes including the Asuras) are sometimes called "heavens". These devas enjoy aesthetic pleasures, long life, beauty, and certain powers. Anyone who has led a wholesome life can be born in them.

Higher Heavens (Higher Kama Loka)

These devas live in four heavens that float in the air, leaving them free from contact with the strife of the lower world. In the western sense of the word "heaven", the term best applies to the four worlds listed below: Lower Heavens (Worlds of Sumeru)

Main article: Sumeru

The world-mountain of Sumeru ?????? (Vietnamese: Tu Di; Sineru ??????; Thai: ????????????, ???????????) 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 Trayastrimsa devas live on its peak, the Caturmaharajikakayika 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. They are even more passionate than the higher devas, and do not simply enjoy themselves but also engage in strife and fighting. The foundations of the earth 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. Yojanas are equivalent to about 13 km (8 mi).

Earthly realms Hells (Narakas)

Main article: Naraka (Buddhism)

Naraka ??? or Niraya ???? (Tibetan: ???????, Wylie: dmyal ba; Vietnamese: Dia Nguc hoac Na-Lac-Ca; Burmese: ???; Thai: ???) is the name given to one of the worlds of greatest suffering, usually translated into English as "hell" or "purgatory". These are realms of extreme sufferings. 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 humans.

Physically, Naraka is thought of as a series of layers extending below Jambudvipa 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 Hot Narakas.

Eight Great Cold Narakas Each lifetime in these Narakas is twenty times the length of the one before it.

Eight Great Hot Narakas Each lifetime in these Narakas is eight times the length of the one before it.

Horizontal cosmology - Sahasra cosmology

Sahasra means "one thousand". All of the planes, from the plane of neither perception nor non-perception (nevasanna-asanna-ayatana) down to the Avici - the "without interval" niraya - constitutes the single world-system, Cakkavala (intimating something circular, a "wheel", but the etymology is uncertain), described above. In modern parlance it would be called a 'Solar System'. A collection of one thousand solar systems are called a "thousandfold minor world-system" (Culanika Lokadhatu). Or small chiliocosm. A collection of 1,000 times 1,000 solar systems (one thousand squared) is a "thousandfold to the second power middling world-system" (Dvisahassi Majjhima Lokadhatu). Or medium dichiliocosm.

The largest grouping, which consists of one thousand cubed solar systems, is called (Trisahassi Mahasassi Lokadhatu), The Galaxy Or great trichiliocosm. The Tathagata, if he so wished, could effect his voice and divine power throughout a great trichiliocosm. He does so by suffusing the trichiliocosm with his radiance, at which point the inhabitants of those world-system will perceive this light, and then proceeds to extend his voice and powers throughout that realm.

According to the Buddhavatamsaka Sutra,  There are Innumerable Galaxies exist in the whole Universe (Sarva Lokadhatu). Each one galaxy ruled by only one Buddha with his Transcendent power and All other Galaxies ruled by Omnipotent Buddhas with their own Transcendent Powers.

Temporal cosmology

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 mahakalpa or "Great Eon" (Chn/Jpn: ?? daigo; Thai: ???????? or ????????; Devanagari: ??????? / ???????). The 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.

Maha Kalpa

The word kalpa, means 'moment'. A maha kalpa consists of four moments (kalpa), the first of which is creation. The creation moment consists of the creation of the "receptacle", and the descent of beings from higher realms into more coarse forms of existence. During the rest of the creation moment, the world is populated. Human beings who exist at this point have no limit on their lifespan. The second moment is the duration moment, the start of this moment is signified by the first sentient being to enter hell (niraya), the hells and nirayas not existing or being empty prior to this moment. The duration moment consists of twenty "intermediate" moments (antarakappas), which unfold in a drama of the human lifespan descending from 80,000 years to 10, and then back up to 80,000 again. The interval between 2 of these "intermediate" moments is the "seven day purge", in which a variety of humans will kill each other (not knowing or recognizing each other), some humans will go into hiding. At the end of this purge, they will emerge from hiding and repopulate the world. After this purge, the lifespan will increase to 80,000, reach its peak and descend, at which point the purge will happen again.

Within the duration 'moment', this purge and repeat cycle seems to happen around 18 times, the first "intermediate" moment consisting only of the descent from 80,000 - the second intermediate moment consisting of a rise and descent, and the last consisting only of an ascent.

After the duration 'moment' is the dissolution moment, the hells will gradually be emptied, as well as all coarser forms of existence. The beings will flock to the form realms (rupa dhatu), a destruction of fire occurs, sparing everything from the realms of the 'radiant' gods and above (abha deva).

After 7 of these destructions by 'fire', a destruction by water occurs, and everything from the realms of the 'pleasant' gods and above is spared (subha deva).

After 64 of these destructions by fire and water, that is - 56 destructions by fire, and 7 by water - a destruction by wind occurs, this eliminates everything below the realms of the 'fruitful' devas (vehapphala devas, literally of "great fruit"). The pure abodes (suddhavasa, meaning something like pure, unmixed, similar to the connotation of "pure bred German shepherd"), are never destroyed. Although without the appearance of a Buddha, these realms may remain empty for a long time. The inhabitants of these realms have exceedingly long life spans.

The formless realms are never destroyed because they do not consist of form (rupa). The reason the world is destroyed by fire, water and wind, and not earth is because earth is the 'receptacle'.

After the dissolution moment, this particular world system remains dissolved for a long time, this is called the 'empty' moment, but the more accurate term would be "the state of being dissolved". The beings that inhabited this realm formerly will migrate to other world systems, and perhaps return if their journeys lead here again.

A mahakalpa is divided into four kalpas or "eons" (Chn/Jpn: ? ko; Thai: ???; ?????????), 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 ????????? (Pali: antarakappa ?????????; Chn/Jpn: ??, "inside eons"; Thai: ????????) each of about the same length. For the Samvartasthayikalpa 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 kalpa.


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 mahakalpa. 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 Mahabrahma being the rebirth of a deceased Abhasvara deva is just one instance of this, which continues throughout the Vivartakalpa until all the worlds are filled from the Brahmaloka down to Avici Hell 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 Mahasammata? ????????, "the great appointed one". Some of them begin to hunt and eat the flesh of animals, which have by now come into existence.


First antarakalpa

The Vivartasthayikalpa begins when the first being is born into Naraka, thus filling the entire universe with beings. During the first antarakalpa of this eon, the duration of human lives declines 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" (Sanskrit: cakravartin ?????????; Jpn: ???? Tenrin Jo-o; Thai: ????????????????), who conquer. The Mahasudassana-sutta (DN.17) tells of the life of a cakravartin king, Mahasudassana (Sanskrit: Mahasudarsana) who lived for 336,000 years. The Cakkavatti-sihanada-sutta (DN.26) tells of a later dynasty of cakravartins, Dalhanemi (Sanskrit: Drdhanemi) 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 sramana ?????. 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 Mahapadana-sutta (DN.14) three of the four Buddhas of this antarakalpa lived: Kakusandha Buddha ???????????? (Pali: Kakusandha ??????), at the time when the lifespan was 40,000 years; Kanakamuni ???????? Buddha (Pali: Konagamana ???????) when the lifespan was 30,000 years; and Kasyapa ??????? Buddha (Pali: Kassapa ?????) when the lifespan was 20,000 years.

Our present time is taken to be toward the end of the first antarakalpa of this Vivartasthayikalpa, when the lifespan is less than 100 years, after the life of Sakyamuni ?????????? Buddha (Pali: 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 with swords in their hands 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 antarakalpa.

Second antarakalpa

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 Sankha ???. During his reign, the current bodhisattva in the Tusita heaven will descend and be reborn under the name of Ajita ????. He will enter the life of a sramana and will gain perfect enlightenment as a Buddha; and he will then be known by the name of Maitreya (????????, Pali: Metteyya ?????????).

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 Vivartasthayikalpa will have come to an end.


The Samvartakalpa 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 Abhasvara worlds. When they are destroyed, the Samvartasthayikalpa begins.


There is nothing to say about the Samvartasthayikalpa, since nothing happens in it below the Abhasvara worlds. It ends when the primordial wind begins to blow and build the structure of the worlds up again.

Other destructions

The destruction by fire is the normal type of destruction that occurs at the end of the Samvartakalpa. But every eighth mahakalpa, 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 Abhasvara worlds.

Every sixty-fourth mahakalpa, after fifty six destructions by fire and seven destructions by water, there is a destruction by wind. This is the most devastating of all, as it also destroys the Subhakrtsna worlds. The higher worlds are never destroyed.

See also

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