Kalpa (time unit)

Kalpa (time unit)

A kalpa is a Sanskrit word meaning an aeon, or a long period of time in Hindu (cf. Hindu Time Cycles ) and Buddhist cosmology.

There is a mention of the word "kalpa" in the earliest Hindu religious texts. It also occurs in Buddhist texts.


In Hinduism (cf. Hindu Time Cycles), it is equal to 4.32 billion years, a "day of Brahma" or one thousand mahayugas, measuring the duration of the world (scientists estimate the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years, cf. Age of the universe). Each kalpa is divided into 14 manvantara (each lasting 306,720,000 years). Two "kalpa"s constitute a day and night of Brahma. A "month of Brahma" is supposed to contain thirty such days (including nights), or 259.2 billion years. According to the Mahabharata, 12 months of Brahma constitute his year, and 100 such years the life cycle of the universe. Fifty years of Brahma's are supposed to have elapsed, and we are now in the "shvetavaraha-kalpa" of the fifty-first; at the end of a Kalpa the world is annihilated.


In Buddhism, there are four different lengths of kalpas. A "regular" kalpa is approximately 16 million years long, and a "small" kalpa is 1000 regular kalpas, or 16 billion years. Further, a "medium" kalpa is 320 billion years, the equivalent of 20 small kalpas. A "great" kalpa is 4 medium kalpas, or 1.28 trillion years.

The Buddha had not spoken about the exact length of the kalpa in number of years. However, he had given several astounding analogies to understand it.

1. Imagine a huge empty cube at the beginning of a kalpa, approximately 16 miles in each side. Once every 100 years, you insert a tiny mustard seed into the cube. According to the Buddha, the huge cube will be filled even before the kalpa ends.

2. Imagine a gigantic rocky mountain at the beginning of kalpa, approximately 16 x 16 x 16 miles (dwarfs the Everest!). You take a small piece of cloth and wipe the mountain once every 100 years. According to the Buddha, the mountain will be completely depleted even before the kalpa ends.

In one situation, some monks wanted to know how many kalpas had passed away so far. The buddha gave the analogy:

1. If you count the total number of sand particles at the depths of the Ganges river, from where it begins to where it ends at the sea, even that number will be less than the number of passed kalpas. [ cite book | last = Epstein | first = Ronald | authorlink = Ronald B. Epstein | title = Buddhism A to Z | publisher = The Buddhist Text Translation Society | date = 2003 | location = Burlingame, California, United States. | id = ISBN 0-88139-353-3 ]


The Guinness Book of World Records lists the 4.32 billion year Kalpa as the longest measure of time. [ cite book | last = McWhirter | first = Norris | authorlink = Norris McWhirter | title = Guinness Book of World Records 1981 | publisher = Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. | date = November 1980 | location = New York | id = ISBN 0-80690-196-9 ]


External links

* [http://texts.00.gs/kalpa-s.htm names of the kalpa-s]
* [http://hitxp.wordpress.com/2007/05/01/what-vedas-say-about-the-age-of-the-universe/ Vedic Time Measurement, Detailed description by Gurudev]
* [http://vinaymangal.googlepages.com/VedicTimeTravel.pdf Vedic Time Travel, Elaborate depiction by Vinay Mangal]

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