(Sanskrit kalpa): 'world-period', an
inconceivably long space of time, an aeon. This again is subdivided into 4
- world-dissolution (samvatta-kappa) dissolving world),
- continuation of the chaos (samvatta-tthāyī),
- world-construction (vivatta-kappa),
- continuation of the formed world (vivatta-tthāyī).
"How long a world-dissolution will continue, how long
the chaos, how long the construction, how long the continuation of the formed
world, of these things; o monks, one hardly can say that it will be so many
years, or so many centuries, or so many millennia, or so many hundred thousands
of years" (A.IV.156)
A detailed description of the 4 world-periods is given in
that stirring discourse on the all-embracing impermanence in A.VII.62.
The beautiful simile in S.XV.5 may be mentioned here:
"Suppose, o monks, there was a huge rock of one solid mass, one mile long,
one mile wide, one mile high, without split or flaw. And at the end of every
hundred years a man should come and rub against it once with a silken cloth.
Then that huge rock would wear off and disappear quicker than a world-period.
But of such world-periods, o monks, many have passed away, many hundreds, many
thousands, many hundred thousands. And how is this possible? Inconceivable, o
monks, is this samsāra, not to be discovered is any first beginning of
beings, who obstructed by ignorance and ensnared by craving, are hurrying and
hastening through this round of rebirths."
Compare here Grimm's German fairy-tale of the little
shepherd boy: 'In Farther Pommerania there is the diamond-mountain, one hour
high, one hour wide, one hour deep. There every hundred years a little bird
comes and whets its little beak on it. And when the whole mountain is ground
off, then the first second of eternity has passed."