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Volume 7 no 3


From Celestial Beings to Human Beings

The Abhidhamma Patika and other Buddhist scriptures have stated that the human race originated from the Light-sound heaven. How do they become the human race of today? What will happen to this earth eventually? Venerable Shen-Kai answers these questions and more, in this concluding serial of The Earth People. In addition we learn that the earth, as with all phenomena in the universe, is subject to the four stages of formation, existence, destruction and emptiness. There is no beginning and no end, and the best way for us to live is to emulate the spirit and virtuous deeds of the Bodhisattvas.

In the early days, small groups of people lived in scattered places; each group used its own language for communication. The physical separation between the groups and the lack of efficient means of transportation resulted in the creation of hundreds and thousands of different languages. These people were the ancestors of the many different races in the world today.

The early inhabitants, after losing their “celestial clothing”, moved around naked. While they played, their emotions on love and relationship arose resulting in sexual desires. They began to feel shy and shameful. At that time, grass and other plants were grown on earth and they used leaves as clothes, partly to cover their naked bodies and partly to protect themselves from the cold.

From the perspective of the other worlds, the earth’s light had turned green, separating the seas and the land. The devas from other celestial worlds dared not come anymore. The human beings on earth began to live as husbands and wives. They raised children. They lived in caves and later, they learned to build dwelling houses. With improved conditions, the population grew. The six-sensory organs of the human being (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind) began to differentiate and this resulted in affliction and vexation. The innate bright and innocent celestial nature disappeared, and in their places arose greed, anger, ignorance….thereby formed the basis of Asura sentient beings. The Devas, Human and Asura are beings of the three good realms. With the arising of the evil deeds of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct… resulting in the sentient beings in the three evil realms of animal, ghost and hell. Together, these formed the transmigration process in the six realms of existence. With this, all sentient beings have four modes of birth, namely,

i. Womb-born beings (jalabuja);
ii. Egg-born beings (andaja);
iii. Moisture-born beings (samsedaja);
iv. Gaseous form-born beings (opapatika).

and thousands and millions of different life forms.

These constitute the corresponding living spheres of the seas, land, sky and motion.

The thinking of humanity and their lives changed from simple to complex states. Some portions of the human race turned from the barbaric stage to a civilised world. Some portions of primitive man that fed on raw flesh and blood of birds and beasts gradually changed to civilisation. The introduction of farming and trading is the beginning of agriculture and commerce sectors. Some lived on making of farming tools, cooking utensils and production of building materials, this was the beginning of industry. In order to administer peace and justice arising from arguments and fights caused by greed, anger, ignorance, killing, stealing and sexual misconduct, virtuous and upright people were elected to maintain law and order, and to manage the affairs of people in the society. From these came education, social ethic and democratic government. The advent of languages created written texts which led to the flourishing of modern civilisation. The barbaric era ended. Communities moved from small tribal groups into big societies, from societies to countries, and from the competitive nature between countries, and they further evolved through scientific progress into the atomic age and the cosmic age.

When the human inhabitants first arrived on earth, the average life span at that time was longer than 84,000 years. As the people distanced themselves from good deeds and committed various evil deeds, the life span shortened. For every 100 years, the average life span is reduced by 1 year. The human life span continued to shorten and when the life span dropped down to an average of 10 years, disasters and calamities struck. For those who were cultivating good deeds and had been staying away as hermits, they survived. For those who had survived the disasters and calamities, they realised their past mistakes and repented. Each began to cultivate good deeds and promoted to the society to carry out good deeds. With the effect of the communal good karma, the human life span began to lengthen again. And when the age has reached 84,000 years, the same decreasing process would repeat due to the arising of evil or unwholesome deeds. One cycle of such an increasing-decreasing life span is called a “small Kalpa”[1]. Twenty small kalpas make up a “medium kalpa”. With this, the Stage of Formation is completed.

Next come the Stage of Existence. In this stage, the increasing-decreasing life span of human beings also underwent twenty small kalpas before it reaches the Stage of Destruction.

At the beginning of the Stage of Destruction, everything had developed to the extremes. All the natural resources had been completely exhausted and the earth severely damaged. The destruction process also went through a period of twenty small kalpas. In the final days, the seas dried up. Strong winds, big fires and heavy floods prevail. The Three Disasters (The three major disasters for world destruction – fire, water and wind) and Eight Difficulties (The eight conditions in which it is difficult to encounter a Buddha or hear his Dharma: in the hells; as hungry ghosts; as animals; in Uttarakuru (the northern continent where all is pleasant); in the long-life heaven (where life is long and easy); as deaf, blind and dumb; as worldly philosopher; in the intermediate period between a Buddha and his successor.) all come upon the earth. This is truly the “End of the World”.

When the earth is damaged, it enters into the Stage of Emptiness. This emptiness stage also lasts for a long period of twenty small kalpas. At the end of this period, big golden yellow clouds would appear and heavy rain would pour down from the Light-sound heaven to put out the fires. A new world is thereby created.

According to the above described process, the world has to go through the four stages of Formation, Existence, Destruction and Emptiness which are the four “medium kalpas”. One “Great Kalpa” needs to go through four “medium kalpas” totaling eighty “small kalpas”.

In the Buddhist scriptures, the term “Three Great Kalpas” refers to the Great Kalpas of the three periods of past, present and future.

In the previous world before our present earth world, the era was called “Kalpa of Adornment”. During twenty small kalpas in the Stage of Existence of the Adornment Kalpa, there were one thousand Buddhas in existence to maintain the virtuous adornment of their world, hence its unique naming. Today, the current era is called the “Kalpa of Virtue”. In the twenty small kalpas of the Stage of Existence of this era, one thousand Buddhas will also be born. The present Sakyamuni Buddha is the fourth Buddha. When it comes to the fifth Buddha, his name will be Maitreya Buddha. Today, he is commonly referred to as “Maitreya Buddha – the Buddha to be”. He is presently not a Buddha and hence the name.

The next aeon is called the “Kalpa of Stars”. In this Kalpa of Stars, within the twenty small kalpas of the Stage of Existence, there will also be one thousand Buddhas.

When the earth of the “Kalpa of Stars” era is destroyed, a new earth will be formed again. If the people of our present world wish to lead a long and blissful life, it is really possible to fulfil this wish. All that is needed is for the people to carry out good deeds, to cultivate and emulate the aspiration of the Bodhisattvas, to contribute to the beneficial deeds of Bodhisattvas, … and within the birth-death transmigration in the six realms of existence to continually maintain the human form lifetime after lifetime. When finally the “End of the World” comes, their “nature-soul” will be saved and they will be born in the Heaven of Light-sound where they will enjoy heavenly bliss.

The world may become damaged, but our “nature-soul” is non-ceasing. When a new earth is formed, those beings will come down from the Heaven of Light-sound, and due to the effect of the communal virtuous karma, together a new world is created that will be a brighter, more stable, peaceful and blissful Buddha World.

It is hoped that everyone will emulate the spirit and virtuous deeds of the Bodhisattvas lifetime after lifetime, and never to regress from the Bodhi path and enlightenment, but to continuously cultivate through the aeon of “Three Great Kalpas”. While there are a thousand Buddhas born in each Great Kalpa, if you could meet the Buddha in your lifetime and be guided and blessed; then it is definitely possible to become a Buddha in the next Great Kalpa after the “Kalpa of Stars” era. Therefore, Jen Chen Buddhism advocates the development of a blissful world on this earth. Such virtuous deeds shall bring about boundless blessings and longevity, and in the coming “kalpa” eras, everyone will become a Buddha.


[1] Kalpa:
1 small kalpa = 16.8 million years
20 small kalpas = 1 medium kalpa = 336 million years
80 small kalpas = 4 medium kalpas = 1 great kalpa = 1.344 billion years

Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre