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Mahākalpa (P. mahākappa; T. bskal chen བསྐལ་ཆེན་; C. dakie 大劫), or great eon, is a vast unit of time in Buddhist cosmology that corresponds to duration of a world system.[1][2]

A mahākalpa is divided in to four periods, each describing a phase in the evolution of a world system:[2][3][4][5]

  1. eon of formation (vivartakalpa),
  2. eon of endurance (vivartasthāyikalpa),
  3. eon of destruction (saṃvartakalpa) and
  4. eon of voidness or nothingness (saṃvartasthāyikalpa or ṡūnyākalpa).

Each of the four periods consists of twenty intermediate kalpas (antarakalpa), resulting in eighty intermediate kalpas over the span of the mahākalpa.[1]

Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics (Vol 1) states:

[In the Abhidharma system] there are the eons of destruction, voidness, formation, and endurance. The combination of these four is referred to, both in the sūtras and in the Abhidharma treatises, as a “great eon.”
From among these, the eon of destruction is posited as beginning from when the new birth of sentient beings in Avīci hell ceases up to the termination of external world systems. The period of destruction of sentient beings who inhabit those worlds is nineteen intermediate eons, and the period of destruction of external worlds is one intermediate eon. Thus it lasts twenty intermediate eons.
The eon of voidness is said to be the period of abiding in a void state from the destruction of former worlds up until but not including the formation of future world systems. It also lasts for twenty intermediate eons.
The eon of formation is posited from the initial development of the wind maṇḍala as the lower foundation up to the birth of the first sentient being in the hells. The formation of external worlds takes one intermediate eon, and the evolution of their inhabitants takes nineteen intermediate eons. Thus it lasts for twenty intermediate eons.
The eon of endurance lasts one intermediate eon in its initial phase and one intermediate eon in its final phase, plus the eighteen intermediate epochs between them. By adding each of these intermediate eons the stage lasts for twenty intermediate eons. The initial phase is the period of one intermediate eon where the lifespan decreases from an incalculable period to a lifespan of ten years.[2]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. mahākalpa.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Thupten Jinpa 2017, s.v. Chapter 25: Measurement and Enumeration.
  3. Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. kalpa.
  4. Internet-icon.svg བསྐལ་པ་ཆེན་པོ་བཞི་, Christian-Steinert Dictionary
  5. Jigme Lingpa & Kangyur Rinpoche 2010, Appendix I.