Four continents 四大部洲

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An illustration of our world system

Four continents (Wyl. gling bzhi) — the four island-continents (Skt. dvīpa; Wyl. gling) which surround Mount Meru according to the cosmology of the Abhidharma. They are:

  1. Purvavideha (Skt. Pūrvavideha; Tib. Lüpakpo; Wyl. lus 'phags po; Eng. 'Surpassing the Body') in the East, which is semi-circular and white in colour;
  2. Jambudvipa (Skt. Jambudvīpa; Tib. Dzambuling; Wyl. ‘dzam bu gling; Eng. 'Rose-Apple Continent') in the South, which is trapezoidal and blue (this is the continent we human beings live in);
  3. Aparagodaniya (Skt.; Tib. Balangchö; Wyl. ba lang spyod; Eng. 'Enjoyer of Cattle') in the West, which is circular and ruby red; and
  4. Uttarakuru (Skt.; Tib. Draminyen; Wyl. sgra mi snyan; Eng. 'Unpleasant Sound') in the North, which is square and green.

Each of the four continents is flanked by two subcontinents (Skt. kṣudradvīpāni; Wyl. gling phreng) of the same shape (see eight subcontinents).

Apart from the Chamara subcontinent of Jambudvipa, which is inhabited by rakshasa demons, all the other island-continents are inhabited by human beings of different characteristics, life styles and life-spans. Each continent also has a specific attribute (see four attributes of the four continents).

Further Reading

  • Jamgön Kongtrul, Myriad Worlds (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1995), pages 110-113 & 138-140.