3:10 (30) The World (Loka Sutta)
Thus it was made known. On one blissful occasion the Blessed One was contemplating near Uruvelā, on the bank of the river Nerañjarā which nearby stood the Bodhi-Tree with its unsullied-roots, having just realized Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi. Throughout that most auspicious occasion the Blessed One remained seated in a singular position for seven days and came to experience the meritorious bliss of Final Release. Upon emerging from that supernal-concentration, the Blessed One measured the World with the Buddha-Eye. That Singular-Eye reviewed the World with its sentient beings being tormented in both mind and spirit, all feverishly born from the raging flames of desire, hatred and delusion.
Thereupon, realizing the great meaning behind it all, the Blessed One uttered the following:
This world is burning-itself out in incessant torment;
Self-afflicted by contact with the disease called self-obsession;
Whatever it conceives itself to be is in fact other than that.
Always becoming something other,
The world becomes attached and bounded to being,
And yet, it delights in that very becoming.
Hence, where there is found delight is also found fear and loathing;
Right-Release is found in abandoning all grasping which leads to becoming.
Whenever recluses and brahmans claim that freedom from becoming comes about through some form of becoming, they are never freed from those forms; and whenever recluses and brahmans state that freedom comes from some form of escape from becoming, they also will experience no such deliverance. All dukkha is dependent upon these forms of clinging. Thus, with the cessation of all grasping, any further dukkha is curtailed.
Behold then this broken-world, which is afflicted by self-ignorance.
Always delighted by what is becoming into being, whilst forever experiencing That all such delusions are impermanent,
Subjected to dukkha and giving birth to endless change.
Through Right Discernment, the Noble One abandons all craving for becoming, Thus never taking delight in what is subject to change.
When all grasping after phenomena is quelled,
All manner of dukkha is stilled.
Victorious is the monk who is unbound and freed from his shackles,
No-longer linked to grasping after re-becoming.
The battle thus won, Mara is vanquished:
He has gone beyond all forms of becoming to the freedom of the other shore.
The familiar setting is the same as the opening sutta in the Udāna. It’s also revisited in many other scriptures as well. This is perhaps the most frequented pericope devised in Buddhism. It depicts the Buddha freshly enlightened concerning the abject struggle within humanity—that mad dependent-origination which branches-out in many forms of ignorance with its suffering and futile attempts of climbing out of the mire of endless re-becoming. This is the first stage, assessing the situation before administering the Noble Truths.
Buddha-Eye: The Dharmakayic-Eye that beholds All As One: the inner supracognition of Its own immutable Absolute Substance that precedes (and at the same moment encompasses) any time-bound notions of past, present, or future. In the Blessed Dharmakayic-cycle of the Tathagatas, all time is as One. Here the Tathagata discerns with unblemished lens a wide-angled snapshot concerning the whole of the human predicament as well. This is in league with Meister Eckhart who proclaimed, “The eye wherein I see God is the same eye wherein God sees me: my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one vision, one knowing, one love.”
We can discern from this sutta that it’s the act of “grasping” which is the main culprit in jump-starting the chain of Co-dependent Origination. It is the cognitive mechanism that leads to the act of Becoming which sparks the germ or seed within the alayavijnana that leads to corporal confinement within the realm of samsara; hence one needs to negate the act of grasping and instead, “turn-about” and rest secure in that Prior-Agency that can forestall all those negative actions that grasping initiates. Recollect that the Sagathakam part (#263) of the Lanka says, “There is nothing grasped, nor grasping, nor one who grasps; there are no names, no objects; those who carry on their groundless discriminative way of thinking lack intelligence.”
The World: Today’s accompanying image is a representation of the Marseille’s Tarot Deck Card, #21 the last of the Major Arcana, Le Monde. It can help serve as an alternative take on the significance and chemistry of the World at large. While the Buddha has served the ascetic-side of the equation, another is extant and also needs to be considered.
The twenty-second Arcanum of the Tarot suggests the idea that the world is to be understood artistically rather than intellectually, since it is movement and rhythm (as the central figure is dancing)
Here “The World” is represented by a globe, analogous to that held in the left hand of the Emperor (fourth Arcanum); above this globe of the world an entirely naked woman is dancing, who is holding up a huge curtain in her right hand, the extremity of which she gathers together in her left hand. Oswald Wirth says: “This is Truth manifesting itself unreservedly, by drawing aside the veil of appearances in order to communicate the secret of the essence of things.” This variant of the Tarot evidently represents Wisdom “rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world”.
There is, therefore, the joy of Wisdom and the joy of intoxication. The former springs from Wisdom, whilst the latter produces a false wisdom which consists of mirages. For a sphere of mirages exists in the invisible world, which constitutes the principal trap for esotericists, gnostics and mystics —for all those who are seeking authentic spiritual experience.
In other words, the Arcanum “The World” has a twofold meaning: it teaches that joy, i.e. the accordance of rhythms, is at the root of creation; and it warns, at the same time, of the danger of seeking for creative joy instead offer creative truth.
Thus he who seeks first and foremost for creative joy will drink from the philtre the intoxicating potion of illusion of the sphere of the “false Holy Spirit”, i.e. the sphere of mirages, whilst he who seeks first and foremost for creative truth will not only find it through the sober effort of vertical elevation but will also participate actively in the accordance of rhythms, i.e. creative joy. He will learn the way of the wand, i.e. to put himself vertically in contact with the “sphere of the Holy Spirit”— the sphere of saints and the celestial hierarchies — by traversing the sphere of mirages unperturbed.
The Arcanum “The World” thus communicates to us a teaching of immense practical sigificance: “The world is a work of art. It is animated by creative joy. The wisdom that it reveals is joyous wisdom —that of creative-artistic elan, and not that of an engineer-technician or industrial designer. Happy is he who seeks wisdom in the first place, for he will find that wisdom is joyous! Unhappy is the one who seeks the joy of joyous wisdom in the first place, for he will fall prey to illusions! Seek first the creative wisdom of the world —and the joy of creativity will be given to you in addition.”
(Taken from the Last Chapter from Meditations on the Tarot, an anonymous text of Christian Esotericism).
As we can discern here, Wisdom herself is never black and white, but a wondrous shade of gray forever giving new perspectives. Nature itself is also temperamental (witness the ever-present danger of Covid-19), but she can never be accused for her actions as being somehow self-induced since she is eternally subject to change, even by outside human interference. Our Tarot-Card also represents this as the Four Temperaments, located on the four corners of the Card:
The four temperaments are, again, a special case of the universal quaternary of impulsion, movement, formation and form, of the four elements —fire, air, water and earth. And at the basis of these four elements the quaternary of the motive instinct immanent in the world is found. This instinct in turn reflects the four cosmic entities which bear the MERKABAH (the divine chariot) — the Angel, the Eagle, the Lion and the Bull from Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot and from the vision of St. John. The latter describes them as follows:
The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature
like an ox, the third living creature had the face of a man, and
the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. (Revelation iv, 7)
A little more middle-of-the-road here when engaging “The World”. Too many dynamics, both natural and otherwise, are continually in play.