The following is respectfully quoted from “Myriad Worlds: The Treasury of Knowledge Book 1” by Jamgön Kongtrul:
For as long as infinite space and sentient beings exist,
The compassion of the victorious ones and the actions
of sentient beings continue without end.
Those to be guided and enlightened guidesmanifest through inconceivable interconnections.
When the characters and dispositions of those to be guided are activated,
[The compassion of] the guide [arises], and the configurations
of the realms and the dimensions of awakening appear;
The miraculous methods of guiding others manifest beyond all bounds.
For as long as infinite space and the countless dispositions of sentient beings exist, the compassionate strength of the victorious ones [buddhas] and the actions and emotions of beings will never end. The [variety of] characters and dispositions of beings (those to be guided to enlightenment) and the expressions of the compassion of buddhas (those who guide them) manifest fully due to the inconceivable power of natural interconnections.
By way of explanation, sentient beings [are unaware of the pure nature] of the [mind’s] sphere of reality. Consequently, their characters and dispositions [begin to manifest]. That is to say, instinctive unawareness acts as the principle cause and adventitious conceptualization as the contributing factor in activating the propensities of beings. Craving and grasping cause beings to form a connection with three realms.
The compassion of buddhas arises in response to this: inconceivable configurations of realms and the dimensions of awakening within those realms manifest spontaneously and effortlessly. The [buddhas’] methods of guiding beings, such as the four great miracles perceived by all, arise in an immeasurable and inconceivable display.
Particular Causes and Conditions
The sphere of reality never changes into something else;
Yet blessings, vows, actions and natural laws
Cause oceans of realms to appear.
The sphere of reality, the sphere of vision of each of the joyful ones, completely transcends the limited domain of thought, expression, etc., and can be neither measured nor located. It never becomes anything other than itself, even to the slightest degree, nor is it affected by any other substance. At the same time, various causes and conditions–the blessings of the transcendent ones, the extraordinary vows made by bodhisattvas to purify realms, the convergence of sentient beings’ multitudinous actions, and natural law–cause oceans of realms to appear. The Flower Ornament Scripture states:
The boundless oceans of realms that I have described
Have been purified by the Illuminator’s own qualities.
This buddha’s world of pristine wisdom is inconceivable,
As are his blessings and miraculous displays.
The bodhisattvas’ inconceivable oceans of vows,
Cultivated in response to inclinations of [beings],
And the inconceivable oceans of beings’ actions
Cause oceans of realms to manifest in all directions.
The miraculous powers of the bodhisattvas
And their intention to attain omniscience
Cause their oceans of vows to reach fulfillment
And limitless realms to appear throughout infinite space.
While cultivating boundless oceans of excellent conduct,
[Bodhisattvas] enter the infinite sphere of the joyful ones.
They spend endless eons in each realm
And purify all oceans of realms in all directions.
Actions generated by the inconceivable range of beings’ mentalities
Cause oceans of realms to arise.
THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE REALMS
This section has three parts: (1) a presentation of the realm called Richly Adorned; (2) a detailed explanation of the realm called Flower-Filled World; and (3) a description of the distinctive features of our own world-system, known as Endurance.
The Richly Adorned Realm
This section has two parts: (1) a general description of the realm Richly Adorned, and (2) a description of the distinctive features of the realms within Richly Adorned.
A description of Richly Adorned
The realm Unsurpassed is free from incidental defilement
And transcends the experience of the three realms: it is
indivisible pristine wisdom.
In this self-manifesting, spontaneously appearing [realm,]
Dwells Illuminator, Great Glacial Lake of Wisdom;
A billion realms in his every pore.
Enlightenment is attained when the naturally pure sphere of reality [of the mind] is freed from adventitious defilement, and the sphere of reality becomes inseparable from pristine wisdom. The place where this occurs is called Unsurpassed. It is not limited to any one place or direction, just as the images of one’s dream are experienced wherever one falls asleep.
The “Unsurpassed” place of enlightenment is not part of the confused, habitual experience of unenlightened beings, but transcends [everything experienced] in the three realms. This natural expression [of enlightenment] is a pure realm and has a celestial palace of pristine wisdom, without direction or division, adorned with an endless array of ornaments. Clouds of offering and adornments of complete enjoyment appear naturally and fill all space.
In this place so “richly adorned” dwells the expression of the effortless complete enjoyment of all buddhas, known as Illuminator, Appearing Everywhere, Great Glacial Lake of Wisdom. Each pore of his body contains hundreds of billions of realms, not to mention the infinite oceans of realms that exist within his whole body. Moreover, realms as numerous as the atoms in the [entire] realm appear within each atom [of each realm]. infinite oceans of [Illuminator’s] forms appear within his one form. Each form appears as though it were pervading all of the infinite oceans of his forms and realms. This exists by virtue of a great miracle that transcends the sphere of [ordinary] experience. [The Prayer for Excellence] states:
In as little as [the space of] a hair-breadth in every region without exception,
oceans of buddhas and oceans of realms,
As many as exist throughout all time.
As I engage in [excellent] conduct for an ocean of eons,
I resolve to enter them all!
The Distinctive Features of the Realms within Richly Adorned
Their locations, shapes, sizes, durations, and arrangements are inconceivable.
First, distinctions according to location [and configuration]: The Flower Ornament Scripture states:
Some oceans of realms of pure light rest within the infinity of space;
Others have a luminous nature and rest in oceans of jewels.
Many oceans of realms exceed all boundaries and rest in a vast sea of lotuses.
Vast oceans of realms rest within the buddhas’ blessing.
The existence of these realms depends upon four elements, the actions of sentient beings, the blessings of the buddhas, and so forth. These realms appear in a variety of configurations such as intersecting, upside-down, and right-side-up.
Second, distinctions according to shape:
Some realms are round, some or triangular,
Some appear square,
Some are [shaped like] eight-spoked-wheels, jewels, or lotuses;
All are designed by oceans of actions [of beings],
Third, [distinctions according to] size:
Each of the ten world-systems from Saffron Banner up to Resplendent Lotus increases in size and qualities by factors of ten. [Certain realms] that are manifesting now, such as Delightful and Blissful, are vast, whereas our own realm, Endurance, and even more so Thumb-Size (the realm of the buddha called Delight in Stars), and other [realms], are extremely small. The realm of All-Seeing Guide that will manifest in the future, Pure Cluster, will be immeasurably vast. There are many [descriptions] such as these.
Fourth, [distinctions according to] duration:
Some realms [endure] for just an eon,
Some for ten eons,
Some realms are said [to endure for] ten million eons times the number of their particles.
Fifth, distinctions according to arrangements of the decorations:
Some realms are richly embellished
With millions of realm-adornments.
These diversified ornaments of various styles
Appear as myriad optical illusions.
Some distinctions according to the presence of buddhas are expressed in these words:
In some realms, there are no buddhas;
In some realms, there are buddhas;
In some realms, there is one buddha;
In some, many buddhas.
[Concerning distinctions according to] light,
In some realms, there is no light.
Beginning with this reference to realms that are dark, fearsome, and terrifying, there follows:
…the light of palaces
…the light of the sun and moon,
…natural light, light of trees,
…light of mountains,
…light of jewels,
…light of lamps,
…light of buddhas.
In some realms, there is the light of lotuses.
In [others], the light of fragrant waters.
These realms have been purified through the power of bodhisattvas’ vows.
Whether or not [a world-system] comprises four continents forms another distinction. Our own third-order thousand-world-system is divided into many four-continent [world-systems], whereas Blissful, as well as some other realms, are flat like the palm of a hand. Among those that comprise [four continents], there are many different sizes [of continents].
There are also distinctions regarding enjoyment. In Truly Joyous, for instance, the gods wish to be human. The massive mountain [that forms the axis of a four-continent world-system] can differ [from one realm to another]. Differences also exist in the forms of life: some beings have emotions, while others embody purity, and so on. Worlds exist in an inconceivable variety of ways.
The Flower-Filled World
This section has two parts: (1) an overall explanation, and (2) a detailed explanation.
Within the central minute particle in the palm of his hand lies the Oceanic World-System
That itself contains many world-systems, in the center of which
Lies the realm called Flower-Filled World.
Within the single minute particle in the very center of the palm of the hand [of the Buddha] Illuminator, Great Glacial Lake of Wisdom, lies the Oceanic World-System which rests in the center of the Enlightened One’s palm. Furthermore, Great Glacial Lake of Wisdom himself manifests throughout this world-system as an enlightened teacher. The magnitude of this inconceivable place is the sphere of experience solely of buddhas and bodhisattvas who dwell on the [three] higher stages [of awakening].
Numerous world-systems are found within the Oceanic World-System. In the center of these lies Flower-Filled World, the realm of the manifest dimension of awakening of Buddha Illuminator.
Furthermore, [between the wind] and Unsurpassed lie one billion four-continent world-systems,
A great third-order thousand [world-system].
Multiplying that by factors of one billion
[Yields] Infinite Links, Continuums, Oceans,
And Flower-Filled World.
Each rests on an ocean and [is encircled by] an outer rim.
This is the sphere of influence of one supreme manifest dimension of awakening.
The extent of the realm Flower-Filled World is determined in the following way:
First of all, the area that includes four continents, Mount Meru, and the outer rim of mountains–everything from the underlying configuration of wind up to Unsurpassed, the peak of existence–is referred to as four-continent world-system. An identical world-system is located in space at a distance of one thousand times the magnitude of that world-system. A total of one thousand such world-systems [evenly distributed in space], encircled by a rim, is referred to as a first-order thousand world-system. This considered as a single unit, replicated one thousand times and surrounded by a perimeter, is referred to as a second-order thousand world-system. One thousand [second-order thousand world-systems] enclosed by a great rim is called a third-order world-sysetm. Thus, one billion four-continent world-systems is called one great thousand third-order thousand world-system.
(Although teachers of phenomenology base their calculations on the area from the heaven [called] The Pure downwards, the description given here is based on the Marvelous Life of the Buddha, the Pure Golden Light Scripture, and other sources.)
The total number of world-systems comprising one Flower Filled World is calculated by progressively multiplying by factors of one billion: One billion great thousand third-order thousand world-systems constitutes the world-system Infinite Links. A billion of those is the world-system Oceanic Infinity. One billion of those is the extent of one Flower-Filled World. Each world-system rests on its own great ocean and is encircled by a rim. At the same time, one great rim encircles them all.
One [arrangement] of such dimension constitutes the sphere of influence of a single supreme manifest dimension of awakening. To those of limited intelligence, [the sphere of influence] is taught to be only a third-order thousand world-system.
Distinctive Features of Our Own World-System, Endurance
This section has two parts: (1) identification of Endurance, and (2) a supplementary explanation.
Identification of Endurance
Inside the great outer rim, within the seas of scented waters,
Four jeweled lotuses support
A tiered arrangement of twenty-five world-systems;
The thirteenth is known as Endurance.
Within the great outer rim of that [arrangement of one] Flower-Filled World are the indescribable oceans of fragrant waters [descending from] the body of Great Glacial Lake, as numerous as particles in all the buddha realms. In the center of these oceans are seas of scented waters filled with beautiful anthers on which rest four immense jeweled lotuses.
A tiered arrangement of twenty-five world-systems is supported by these [lotuses]. In the spaces between each [of these world-systems] are infinite tiers of world-systems, which define their boundaries. The thirteenth of these [twenty-five world-systems] is our own third-order thousand world-system, known as Endurance.
The Sanskrit term for Endurance is sahā, which denotes possession, forbearance, or capacity. All sentient beings who have taken birth in this realm endure emotions and sufferings. In other words, beings possess these [afflictions] in great measure. “Endurance” also signifies the forbearance of hardship. The bodhisattvas of this realm patiently endure [hardship] with exceptional courage and excel in bravery. Thus, this realm is known as Endurance.
The supplementary Explanation
The third-order thousand world-system
Is completely encircled by realms–Covered, Surpassing, Stainless, Variously Emerged, etc.–
Equal in number to the particles of this thirteenth world-system.
[Endurance] is spherical, has a four-vajra demarcation,
and rests on a multicolored configuration of wind and a network of lotuses.
This third-order thousand world-system of Endurance alone is encircled by buddha realms equal in number to particles of this thirteenth world-system. To the east is Covered; to the south, Surpassing; to the west, Stainless; and to the north, Variously Emerged. In the intermediate directions are Benefitting, Variously Appeared, Complete Joy, and Activator. Above and below are found Resounding Melody, Not Great, and others. Endurance is spherical and has a four-vajra boundary demarcation. It is supported by a multicolored configuration of wind and rests on a network of lotuses.
Illuminator, the teacher in this [world-system],
Appears throughout the Unsurpassed realms of the pure domain.
The enlightened teacher in our third-order thousand world-system [Endurance] is an emanation of the enjoyment dimension of awakening, the great Illuminator. This is a single form whose vast emanations appear throughout all the Unsurpassed realms in the pure domains and teach the Dharma in the midst of all the powerful [Bodhisattvas]. The Centrist scholar Dharmamitra explains:
This form, differentiated [from others] by vows, the power of cultivation [of merit and pristine wisdom], and intention, has attained complete enlightenment in one Unsurpassed domain alone. Therefore, the myriad forms of the enjoyment dimension of awakening that dwell in all the [other] Unsurpassed realms are solely his apparition manifesting in a vast [display].
This four-continent [world-system] called Destructible
Is surrounded by ten other four-continent [world-systems].
Our four-continent world-system, which is situated in the center of Endurance, is known as Destructible. It is said that even this [world-system] alone is surrounded by ten other satellite four-continent world-systems. Beginning from the East, these are, respectively, Well Protected, Joyful, Unbearable, Excellent Essence, Befriended, Fine Land, Lion Inhabited, Well Formed. Above is Bearing Wealth, and below Radiant Light.
It is taught that these [world-systems] are formed and destroyed together;
This is the experiential domain solely of the lords of the tenth stage of awakening.
The view most widely shared by Buddhist systems is that [the worlds within] any single third-order thousand world-system are formed together and destroyed [together]. Another view states that all realms of emanations of a single supreme manifest dimension of awakening (such as the oceans of realms that are located in the Flower-Filled World) are formed and destroyed together. The magnitude of this latter view is unfathomable to proclaimers and others; it remains the domain of experience solely of the lord [bodhisattvas] of the tenth stage [of awakening].