This is how I heard. At one time, the Blessed One was living in the city of Sāvatthi, in Jeta’s park, at Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. A certain monk approached the Blessed One, worshipped himrespectfully and sat down to one side. He asked the Blessed One, “Bhante, how long is an eon?”
“An eon is long, monks. It is not easy to count and say that it is so many years, so many hundreds of years, so many thousands of years, or so many hundreds of thousands of years.”
“Then, Bhante, is it possible to give a simile to know the length of an eon?”
“It is possible monks,” The Blessed One said. “Suppose, monks, there was a great rocky mountain ten kilometers long, ten kilometers wide, and ten kilometers high, without holes or gaps, and was one solid mass of rock. At the end of every hundred years, a person would stroke it once with a piece of extremely fine Kāsi cloth. By this effort, after a very long time this great rocky mountain might be worn away and eliminated but the eon wouldn’t have still come to an end. So long is an eon, monk. It is not just one eon that was passed by, not hundreds of eons, not thousands of eons, and not hundreds of thousands of eons.
“What is the reason for that? It is because, monks, this cycle of rebirth is endless. The beginning of this extremely long journey cannot be discovered. These beings, hindered by lack of knowledge of the true nature of life and bound by craving, roam and wander on in this endless journey.
“For such a long time, monks, you have experienced various types of suffering, tragedies, and disasters. You have filled the cemetery with your dead bodies. Therefore, monks, the time has come for you to understand the meaningless nature of all conditioned things. The time has come for you to become detached from them. And the time has come for you to be liberated from them.”