What is one aeon?

18 March 2011 - 12:09am Comments Off

Question:

I have seen the word ‘aeon’ used in many Buddhist texts. How long is one aeon actually measured in years? What is meant by ‘Fortunate Aeon’?

Answer:

His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche has previously explained what is meant by ‘aeon’. Imagine there is a square hole in the ground, which is one mile in length, one mile wide, and one mile deep. Imagine that it is filled with strands of hair and every hundred years, we remove the dirt and take one hair out. The time it takes to remove all the hairs is considered to be one aeon. It is an infinitely long period of time.

The aeon / eon was formulated as an Indian unit of time. It has been documented in the Sanghata Sutra that the Bodhisattva Sarvashura asked the Blessed One Shakyamuni, “Blessed One, how much is the measure of an aeon?”

The Blessed One responded,

Child of the lineage, listen. It is as follows. To make an analogy, a man might erect an enclosure some twelve yojanas* in height, and that enclosure is completely filled with nothing but sesame seeds. Then, when one hundred years have passed, that man casts away a single sesame seed from that enclosure that is completely filled with sesame seeds. In such a manner, even when that man has used up all those sesame seeds, and even the foundation and base of that enclosure no longer exist, still an aeon would not have been used up.

Generally speaking, ‘aeon’ refers to a period of a billion years (especially in geology, cosmology or astronomy); its more common usage is for any long and indefinite period of time.

The time period that we are in is called the ‘Fortunate Aeon’ because during this time, one thousand Buddhas will manifest. The current Buddha is Shakyamuni who is the fourth Buddha during the ‘Fortunate Aeon’.


*A yojana (Sanskrit) is a Vedic measure of distance used in ancient India. The exact measurement is disputed amongst scholars with distances being given between six to 15 kilometers (four to nine miles).

(Source: An Indian unit of time, an aeon / eon, retrieved from http://www.nalanda-university.com/buddhist-ayurveda-encylopedia/kalpa_kappa_aeon_cosmic-cyclical-period-eon_jye-bwo.htm)

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