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The Oasis- Part 17 “The Ten Worlds”

The ten worlds
The ten worlds

Drishti asked Sulochana, “Rani Maa! What are the ten worlds we are talking about? Does every human being experience these ten worlds?” Sulochana affectionately smiled at her and caressing her cheek said, “My child! I’ll explain all the 10 worlds to you tomorrow. Let’s do some chanting today. Let me see what have you learnt from yesterday‘s class. Sulochana could clearly see their faces lit with joy as they heard the word chanting. All of them folded their hands and with eyes open, started reciting Gongyo. The hall echoed with their energetic sound. In voices much more vigorous than the previous day. They were delving deep into the ocean of chanting.

The next day they had woken up early and got ready much before the decided time as they were feeling eager to continue with their today’s practice. Previous few days of practice and chanting had filled them with loads of new zeal and vigour. They took a long stroll along the lotus pond and after few minutes Sulochana also arrived there and all of them went inside the prayer hall. Before Drishti could pose her previous day’s question which was left unanswered, Sulochana smiled at her and started speaking, “Ten Worlds represent the state of life of a human being which are equally inherent within each of us at every moment. If we analyse our day to day life we would find that we experience many different emotions throughout the day. We not only see different people behaving or acting in different manner but also the same person behaving in different manner at different times. The emotions we experience may be from within and maybe because of external circumstances. They can be in the form of joy, sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, happiness etc. 

In our environment we see people who are running behind name, fame, power, money or people who are bullying or dominating the person who is weaker than them. We see pious people helping others without expecting anything in return. So these are the life conditions of a human being through which we act accordingly. It also depends on our basic nature and tendencies which means there may be one or more than one worlds which govern our thoughts and actions. These worlds are called dominant worlds. 

Do you know that we sometimes remain in the clutch of the vicious cycle of these dominant worlds without even realising that we are being ruled by them? We react accordingly as per the circumstances and we behave like puppets in their hands. Completely forgetting that these circumstances are a direct effect of the causes that we ourselves have created in past. In such condition we keep accepting the circumstances blaming the situation of our environment. We must remember the concept of oneness of life and environment which tells us that we and the environment around us coexist in a unison and hence because of our internal causes the situation manifests externally. 

According to the Buddhist preachings prior to the Lotus sutra it was believed that an enlightened life state can be exist even at the time of birth but the Lotus Sutra contradicts and teaches us that the life states of all the ten worlds are inherently present in each one of us. In other words, life manifests one of the ten worlds each passing moment. This can be understood better by understanding these worlds separately. Let me explain you these worlds briefly. A detailed study of these will be a part of your daily learning through the ancient writings and scriptures given to us by our mentors which are provided in our library. 

According to pre-lotus sutra teachings it was understood that if others could not attain Buddhahood then they themselves could not do so. This indicated that the salvation of ordinary people meant the salvation of oneself. The problems and concerns of others were separated for oneself. But the teaching of the mutual possession of the 10 worlds suggested that the attainment of Buddhahood by others are their own attainment and their failure is the failure of oneself. If we start believing that misfortune of others is our misfortune and their happiness ours, this will transform our views of life and the world.

Before you begin your daily self learning from these scriptures let me satiate your inquisition about the ten worlds. Every individual goes through the variety of emotions and life conditions multiple times a day which also governs our action depending on which world we are in at that particular time. These are called the 10 worlds. The first six are lower worlds in which first four are evil paths and remaining four are considered to be noble path:

Hell– This is the state of suffering and despair in which we are rendered without hope in any positive outcome and devoid of power to take action. It’s an extremely weak life force in which somewhere we destroy our own life and everything around us. In this state, one feels shackled in the chains of suffering and completely lacking in freedom. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. The clouds seem to be only dark without any silver-lining and there seems to be no way to come out of this pessimism. No help seems to be coming from any direction. We lose hope and courage and make this sense of defeat invincible.

Hunger – This is a state in which we are governed by the insatiable desire of power, money, status etc. We are at the mercy of our cravings and cannot control them. In order to achieve and fulfil these desires, one tends to go to any extent discarding the sense of right and wrong thus creating bad causes. If he gets what he desires, right or wrong, his ego and pride are elated and if he doesn’t, negative feelings like frustration and revenge are inculcated in him, steering his life to more negative feelings and causes. 

Anger– This is a state in which we have no control on our words, thoughts and deeds. We value only ourselves and tend to hold others in contempt. This prevents us from revealing one’s true self or seeing others as they are. This is called the world of Asuras one starts behaving like a demon in this world. In this world one’s mind is totally driven by a sense of revengeful attitude. They say that the mind controls the body just like a mahout controls an elephant. An angry mind is like a mindless one which takes you in a wrong direction without even realising that the words or deeds said or done in this state may have severe consequences which one may himself regret later when he comes out of this world but it would be too late then as the causes he had created during this will convert into effects which are irreparable.

Animality– This state is ruled by the ‘law of the jungle’ in which bestial instinct is awakened without our volition and we do not hesitate to bully or take advantage of the person who is weaker than us and at the same time we fawn who are strong. We lack moral sense, reason and ability to take any decision. We encage ourselves in the trap of a myth that we are the most powerful and nothing could affect or impact us and no one has the power to defeat us. In this false self-fabricated perception, we start taking advantage of anyone weaker than us, trying to outcast them and treat ourselves as an anarchist king does to his slaves.

Above four states are referred to as the four evil paths because of the destructive negativity that marks them.

Humanity– In this state we control our desires and impulses with reason and act in harmony with the surroundings and people. In this life condition people have enough wisdom to understand the principle of cause and effect. Hence they can clearly draw a distinction between good and evil. This world is in a way on the verge of the lower worlds and the noble world thus very susceptible. This is a passive state of life which needs to be handled very cautiously as there are apt chances of falling back to lower worlds when confronted with negative conditions. 

Heaven-This is a state of intense joy and contentment experienced when our desires are fulfilled or when we are relieved of suffering. The bad incident of past do not haunt us in this state and the future looks promising full of optimism. However the joy experience in this state is superficial and it disappears as the time passes and the situation change accordingly. The joy experienced in this state is short lived and dependent on external influences. 

Above six states from hell to heaven have in common, the fact that their emergence or disappearance is governed by external circumstances. 

Learning – In this state we seek the truth and try to create a better life by learning from the knowledge and experiences of others. This world also known as voice hearers, is a state of life attained by those who gain a partial awakening through the knowledge gained by teachings of Buddha.

Realisation – This is a state in which we try to free ourselves of the suffering of the six lower paths by seeing some truth through our own observations, effort and concentration. We no longer remain prisoner of our own reaction as in the lower worlds. It is also called the world of self awakened ones. In this world we may become satisfied with our progress without discovering the highest potential of human life in the ninth and tenth world. Both these worlds of Learning and Realisation are characterised by the awareness of principle of cause and effect. In these worlds one is exposed to the sublime truth of life that nothing in universe is permanent. Life, people and things are evanescent so attachment to these is always the source of suffering of human beings and liberation can only be achieved by doing away with our attachment to them. Limiting oneself to these State of life exhibits one’s tendency towards self-centredness. Disciples having such sense of self satisfaction have been criticised in the Mahayana Buddhist Scriptures as they are not willing to break free of their partial awakening and zeal for the complete enlightenment of Buddha.

BodhisattvaBodhi (enlightenment) and Sattva (person) means a person who seeks enlightenment and at the same time is equally determined to enable all other beings to do the same. In this stage we realise that any happiness we alone enjoy is incomplete, and we devote ourselves to alleviating others’ suffering. A Bodhisattva is known for his extreme compassion and concern for others. He doesn’t differentiate between his problems and those of others, as helping other people becomes his biggest joy and purpose of life. He has strong empathy for others and is ready to postpone his salvation for helping all sentient beings. Their compassion motivates them to help other beings, their wisdom guides them how to do it and their awakening as a Bodhisattva of the Earth enables them to act in extraordinary ways. It is because of their perseverance that even the impossible becomes possible which is no less than a miracle.

Buddhahood– It is the ultimate state of complete contentment, most difficult to describe in words. It is the state where there is a complete unison of ourselves and the life force of the cosmos. It is the state where no more questions are left to answer as the ultimate truth becomes known to us and the gap between the internal and external realms absolutely diminishes. One’s heart is filled with sheer compassion, unfathomable wisdom and unwavering courage. One starts to find joy and fulfilment even in the trying states of ageing, illness and death. There is no room for pessimism, sorrow and suffering. What one sees and feels is only joy and contentment. The state of Buddhahood is the one which every Buddhist disciple tries to achieve. The objective of all the practices practising to resist ourselves from getting withdrawn from this state by the wicked ‘Mara’ which tries to dissuade us from being in this state for too long.

Nichiren Daishonin says, “Neither the pure land nor hell exist outside oneself. Both lie within one’s heart. Awakened to this, one is called the Buddha. The Lotus Sutra reveals this truth and one who embraces it realises that the hell is itself a tranquil light.” In one moment we may experience misery which is the world of hell. In the same moment we begin transforming our life where we feel an inexhaustible joy of Buddhahood.

Drishti and Sunayana really felt enlightened to listen to this wonderful and elaborate explanation of the ten worlds by Sulochana.

The Oasis- Part 16 “Oneness of Life and Environment”

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Sapna Agarwal
"Welcome to the world of happiness, a unique blog by me, Sapna Agarwal from Gorakhpur. I am a practitioner of Nichiren Daishonin's philosophy which helped me understand life and to unlock numerous victories. Through this philosophy I encountered my mentor Dr. Daisaku Ikeda whose writings transformed my life. This Philosophy completely changed the perspective of my life. It brought a paradigm shift in my heart and mind to the way I was living my life which lead my life to happiness and an unparalleled joy which can't be explained in words but only experienced." ​ I love having the opportunity to share my passions and thoughts with my readers. Happy Reading :)

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