Monday, August 12, 2019

The Whole "World" in Three Spheres

Ven. Nyanatiloka, Buddhist Dictionary; Dhr. Seven, Pat Macpherson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

"World" (loka) denotes the three spheres of existence that comprise the whole universe (categorized into 31 Planes of Existence). They are:
  1. the sensual sphere (kāma-loka), the world of the five senses;
  2. the fine-material sphere (rūpa-loka), corresponding to the four fine-material absorptions (see Jhānas 1-4);
  3. the immaterial sphere (arūpa-loka), corresponding to the four immaterial absorptions (see Jhānas 5-8).
The sensual sphere is comprised of:
  1. the hells (niraya)
  2. the animal realm (tiracchāna-yoni
  3. the realm of hungry ghosts (peta-loka
  4. the titan/demon world (asura-nikāya
  5. the human world (manussa-loka
  6. the six lower celestial worlds (see Deva I).
In the fine-material world (see Deva II) the faculties of seeing and hearing, which together with the other sense faculties, are temporarily suspended in the four meditative absorptions (jhanas, zens).

In the immaterial world (see Deva III) there is no corporeality/materiality whatsoever. There are only the four mental aggregates (see "The Five Aggregates clung to as Self" called the khandha) existing there.

Although the term loka is not applied in the sutras to these three spheres, but rather only the term bhava ("existence," e.g., MN 43), there is no doubt that the teaching about the three spheres belongs to the earliest (i.e., the sutra period) Buddhist texts, as many relevant passages show.

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