What Causes the Three Disasters to Occur?

Ven. Master Hsuan Hua


There are two versions of the three disasters: great and small. The three great disasters are fire, floods, and disasters of wind (hurricanes and tornadoes); the three small disasters are war, famine, and epidemics. This is the time of disasters. A great eon is composed of four middle-sized eons of formation, dwelling, decay, and emptiness. Each middle-sized eon contains twenty small eons. The three small disasters occur at the end of the declining period of each eon of dwelling. The three great disasters occur during the eon of decay within each great eon. Let us discuss the causes behind the three great disasters.

Disasters of floods occur because people are greedy; disasters of fire occur because people are angry; and disasters of wind occur because people are deluded. The three disasters have their origin in the three poisons. We all have these three poisons of greed, anger, and delusion in our mind. They grow in our minds day by day, and when they have increased to a certain extent, the age of great disasters comes upon us.

The three disasters occur in a certain sequence based on the seven human emotions (joy, anger, grief, fear, love, hatred, and desire). These seven emotions gradually increase. For each emotion, one disaster occurs. So there will be seven fires. Following the seven fires, one flood will occur. And since each of the seven emotions can be further divided into seven shares, this cycle of “seven fires and one flood” will happen seven times. Then there will be another seven fires. Finally, a disaster of wind will wipe out the entire world. When a disaster of fire occurs, it will burn all the way up to the First Dhyana Heavens (which include the Heaven of the Multitudes of Brahma, the Heaven of the Ministers of Brahma, and the Heaven of the Great Brahma Lord, in the Form Realm). When a disaster of floods occurs, it will drown everything up to the Second Dhyana Heavens (which include the Heaven of Lesser Light, the Heaven of Limitless Light, and the Heaven of Light-Sound in the Form Realm). When a disaster of wind happens, it will blow everything up to the Third Dhyana Heavens (which include the Heaven of Lesser Purity, the Heaven of Limitless Purity, and the Heaven of Pervasive Purity in the Form Realm). A verse says:

The Five Signs of Decay occur in the Six Desire Heavens,
The disaster of wind strikes the heavens of the Third Dhyana.
Even cultivating to reach the Heaven of Neither Thought nor Non-Thought
Is not as good as going to the West and coming back again.

Where does the disaster of wind come from? It comes from a combination of the seven emotions. The disaster of wind symbolizes the poison of delusion. When people are deluded, they forget everything. Therefore, when the disaster of wind occurs, everything from the Third Dhyana Heaven down to the hells will be wiped out. However, the disasters of fire, floods, and wind will not affect the inner court of Tushita Heaven. Why? Because that’s where a pure land of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is located. Right now, Maitreya Bodhisattva is living in the inner court of the Tushita Heaven. He will descend to the Saha World to teach and transform living beings during the tenth eon of dwelling in the Worthy Eon. (Presently we are in the declining period of the ninth eon of dwelling.)

The various violent energies arising from greed, anger, and delusion are as frightening as the atoms in an atomic bomb. The atoms produced from our own Samadhi fire are even more frightening. These atoms do not come from outside; they are inherent in our nature. The true fire of Samadhi within our nature is originally pure yang. However, due to misuse, it has turned into the fire of desire. There are fires corresponding to three internal organs in the human body (the fire of the upper organ, the middle organ, and the lower organ). The fires of these three organs can develop into the disaster of fire or turn into an atomic bomb and destroy everything.

It is because we have an internal atomic bomb that there are external atomic bombs: There is a mutual correspondence. The same principle holds in regard to the contemporary problems of the world. Whatever is in our minds will also exist outside. If there are no wars going on in our minds, there will be no wars outside. As it’s said, “Everything is made from the mind alone.”

A talk given on July 29, 1985

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