September 11, 2011

億劫: In Japanese, Sometimes a Task Can Take Aeons.

Image ripped (lovingly) from the Buddhist Freedom Ledger.

Lately, I share a lot of kanji, words, and phrases from Japanese in my twitter stream, but today's word demands a bit more of an explanation. Plus it has one of my favorite units of time built into it: the kalpa.

How long is a kalpa, you ask? In Hindu and Buddhist cosmology, they explain it this way sometimes: Imagine an immense block of stone. Every century, an angel decends from heaven to give the stone a brief wipe with a silky cloth. That stone will be worn down a little at a time by this process. But the stone will be gone long before a kalpa can finish.

Less poetically, some clock a kalpa at 4.32 billion years.

Anyways, looking at today's word, 億劫 okku, meaning troublesome or annoying, we can see the kanji 億 (100 million) and 劫 (a kalpa). So it refers to a task that would take 100 million kalpas, or 4.32x10^17 years. Very troublesome indeed.
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Bonus kalpa fun: A webcomic. The kalpa part comes around panel 31.

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