Translation and Contents of AN3.80 Culanika Sutta

AN 3.80 Culanika

This sutta has always been fascinating to me. I’ve seen it translated with varying degrees of detail (generally, the more recent the translation, the more fleshed out it gets.)

However, Bhante Sujato’s translation is one of the first (maybe the only one) I’ve seen that runs things out through the “galactic” cluster level. Since I don’t read Pali, I’m curious as to what the basis for including these are, with maybe a little insight how to how these original terms would have been understood in the time period of the EBT’s.


AN3.80:4.1: “Yāvatā, ānanda, candimasūriyā pariharanti, disā bhanti virocanā, tāva sahassadhā loko.
AN3.80:4.1: “Ānanda, a galaxy extends a thousand times as far as the moon and sun revolve and the shining ones light up the quarters.
AN3.80:4.2: Tasmiṃ sahassadhā loke sahassaṃ candānaṃ, sahassaṃ sūriyānaṃ, sahassaṃ sinerupabbatarājānaṃ, sahassaṃ jambudīpānaṃ, sahassaṃ aparagoyānānaṃ, sahassaṃ uttarakurūnaṃ, sahassaṃ pubbavidehānaṃ, cattāri mahāsamuddasahassāni, cattāri mahārājasahassāni, sahassaṃ cātumahārājikānaṃ, sahassaṃ tāvatiṃsānaṃ, sahassaṃ yāmānaṃ, sahassaṃ tusitānaṃ, sahassaṃ nimmānaratīnaṃ, sahassaṃ paranimmitavasavattīnaṃ, sahassaṃ brahmalokānaṃ—
AN3.80:4.2: In that galaxy there are a thousand moons, a thousand suns, a thousand Sinerus king of mountains, a thousand Indias, a thousand Western Continents, a thousand Northern Continents, a thousand Eastern Continents, four thousand oceans, four thousand Great Kings, a thousand realms of the Gods of the Four Great Kings, a thousand realms of the Gods of the Thirty-Three, of the Gods of Yama, of the Joyful Gods, of the Gods who Love to Create, of the Gods who Control the Creations of Others, and a thousand Brahmā realms.
AN3.80:4.3: ayaṃ vuccatānanda, sahassī cūḷanikā lokadhātu.
AN3.80:4.3: This is called a thousandfold lesser world system, a ‘galaxy’.

A sahassī cūḷanikā lokadhātu, a “thousandfold lesser world system” is called a “galaxy” by Bhante Sujato.

AN3.80:5.1: Yāvatānanda, sahassī cūḷanikā lokadhātu tāva sahassadhā loko.
AN3.80:5.1: A world system that extends for a thousand galaxies
AN3.80:5.2: Ayaṃ vuccatānanda, dvisahassī majjhimikā lokadhātu.
AN3.80:5.2: is called a millionfold middling world system, a ‘galactic cluster’.

A dvisahassī majjhimikā lokadhātu, a “millionfold middling world system”, is called a “galactic cluster”.

AN3.80:6.1: Yāvatānanda, dvisahassī majjhimikā lokadhātu tāva sahassadhā loko.
AN3.80:6.1: A world system that extends for a thousand galactic clusters
AN3.80:6.2: Ayaṃ vuccatānanda, tisahassī mahāsahassī lokadhātu.
AN3.80:6.2: is called a billionfold great world system, a ‘galactic supercluster’.

A tisahassī mahāsahassī lokadhātu, a “billionfold great world system”, is called a “galactic supercluster”.

As I understand it, Bhante is adding the modern descriptions that capture in our terms about the same as what has been expressed in the Pali.


I’ve often been tempted to use the modern term “galaxy” for the concept of a world system, but I wasn’t quite ready to go there. Nice to see a translator who did. The whole concept, which became a popular way to tell stories in Mahayana texts, is very much like science fantasy. People traveled through thousands or millions of worlds to visit each other? Sounds like Star Wars without the space ships.


And these are the relevant wiki entries! :anjal:



Greetings !
Although I have always been fascinated by the vastness of worldview of Buddhist cosmology, I found the term ‘galaxy’ not close enough to deliver the exact idea of what is a world system. By no means do I wish to propose that I can translate the word better than Bhante Sujato.
However, the term Galaxy encompasses only the physically observable group of stars observed by telescopes, consisting of normal baryonic matter. It doesn’t include the other heavenly realms and beings which are also a part of the world system, and which are said to be made of a subtle matter (dark matter? :wink:). So, it seems a bit inadequate. On the other hand, 'world system ’ gives a unique and original worldview, which doesn’t have to necessarily parallel modern astronomy (although it surprisingly does) !

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