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(skt.: kalpa/yuga; tib.: kal pa) In ancient Indian cosmology, an extremely long period of time.
In general, a small kalpa is represented as 16,800,000 years, a kalpa as 336,000,000 years and a mahakalpa is 1,334,000,000 years. There is also another kalpa, even longer than mahakalpa, which is called Countless eon. This is the time it takes after you decide to begin collecting virtue to become a Buddha to actually become a Buddha. Master Vasubandhu says in his Abhidharmakosha that Countless eon is a period of three countless (countless actually means a number: about ten to the sixtieth power) mahakalpas.
There are various views on the length of kalpa:
1. According to The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom kalpa is longer than the time required to wear away a cube of rock forty ri (one ri being about 450 meters) on each side, by brushing it with a piece of cloth once every hundred years. Great Perfection of Wisdom also defines a kalpa as being longer than the time needed to remove all the mustard seeds filling a city forty ri square, if one takes away one seed every hundred years.
2. According to Abhidharmakosha world perpetually repeats a four stage cycle (whole cycle is called maha kalpa) and periods correspodning to these four stages are called the four kalpas and each of these lasts twenty small kalpas. The four kalpas are:
a) Kalpa of Formation. In this kalpa, a world takes shape and living beings appear in it.
b) Kalpa of Continuance. World continues to exist in a relatively stable state along with its inhabitants.
c) Kalpa of Decline. World is gradually destroyed.
d) Kalpa of Disintegration. The kalpa of disintegration is the period lasting from the annihilation of a world at the end of the kalpa of decline until the formation of a new world.