The renowned 20th century Thai monk Bhikkhu Buddhadasa once said:
People language is used by the ordinary people who don't
understand Dhamma very well and by those worldly people who are so
dense that they are blind to everything but material things. Then,
there is the language which is spoken by those who understand reality
(Dhamma), especially those who know and understand reality in the
ultimate sense. This is another kind of language.
About the term "the world" ("loka"), Bhikkhu Buddhadasa said:
Now we shall say something about the word "world" (loka). In everyday
language, the word "world" refers to the Earth, this physical world,
flat or round or however you conceive it. The "world" as the physical
Earth is everyday language. In Dhamma language, however, the word
"world" refers to worldly (lokiya) mental states [SN 3.23], the worldly stages
in the scale of mental development-that is to say, dukkha. The
condition that is impermanent, changing, unsatisfactory-this is the
worldly condition of the mind [SN 35.82]. And this is what is meant by the
"world" in Dhamma language. Hence it is said that the world is
dukkha, dukkha is the world [SN 12.44]. When the Buddha taught the Four Noble
Truths (ariya-sacca), he sometimes used the term "world" and sometimes
the term "dukkha" [AN 4.45]. They are one and the same. For instance, he spoke
the cause of the arising of the world;
the extinction of the world;
the path that brings about the extinction of the world.
What he meant was:
So in the language of the Buddha, the language of Dhamma, the word
"world" refers to dukkha; suffering and the world are one and the
Taken another way, the word "world" refers to things that are low,
shallow, not profound, and fall short of their highest potential. For
instance, we speak of such and such a thing as worldly, meaning that
it is not Dhamma. This is another meaning of the word "world" in
Dhamma language. "World" does not always refer simply to this Earth,
as in everyday language.
Two Kinds Of Language
The idea the Buddha taught the physical universe is expanding and contracting is an entire misunderstanding of the Buddha's teachings.
This materialistic misunderstanding comes from the following stock passage in the suttas:
So evaṃ samāhite citte parisuddhe pariyodāte anaṅgaṇe vigatūpakkilese
mudubhūte kammaniye ṭhite āneñjappatte pubbenivāsānussatiñāṇāya cittaṃ
abhininnāmesiṃ. So anekavihitaṃ pubbenivāsaṃ anussarāmi,
seyyathidaṃ—ekampi jātiṃ dvepi jātiyo tissopi jātiyo catassopi jātiyo
pañcapi jātiyo dasapi jātiyo vīsampi jātiyo tiṃsampi jātiyo
cattālīsampi jātiyo paññāsampi jātiyo jātisatampi jātisahassampi
jātisatasahassampi anekepi saṃvaṭṭakappe anekepi vivaṭṭakappe anekepi
saṃvaṭṭavivaṭṭakappe: ‘amutrāsiṃ evaṃnāmo evaṅgotto evaṃvaṇṇo
evamāhāro evaṃsukhadukkhappaṭisaṃvedī evamāyupariyanto, so tato cuto
amutra udapādiṃ; tatrāpāsiṃ evaṃnāmo evaṅgotto evaṃvaṇṇo evamāhāro
evaṃsukhadukkhappaṭisaṃvedī evamāyupariyanto, so tato cuto
idhūpapanno’ti. Iti sākāraṃ sauddesaṃ anekavihitaṃ pubbenivāsaṃ
The lineage of materialistic blind scholars in worldly Buddhism (who are the same as how the Buddha described the lineage of blind Brahmins in MN 95) misunderstand and mistranslate the following words from the above:
- nivāsa, which means "settling place" or "abode" rather than "life". SN 22.79 explains a "nivāsa" is each time the mind clings to one or more of the five aggregates as "self". for example, SN 35.114 refers to Mara's dwelling place or home:
Mendicants, there are sights known by the eye that are likable,
desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing. If a mendicant
approves, welcomes, and keeps clinging to them, they’re called a
mendicant trapped in Māra’s lair, fallen under Māra’s sway and caught
in Māra’s snare (āvāsagato mārassa, mārassa vasaṃ gato,
for example, AN 10.20 refers to the "vāsā/āvāsā" of Noble Ones:
There are these ten noble abodes in which the noble ones of the
past, present, and future abide. Dasayime, bhikkhave, ariyāvāsā,
ye ariyā āvasiṃsu vā āvasanti vā āvasissanti vā. What ten? A mendicant
has given up five factors, possesses six factors, has a single guard,
has four supports, has eliminated idiosyncratic interpretations of the
truth, has totally given up searching, has unsullied intentions, has
stilled the physical process, and is well freed in mind and well freed
jāti/jātiyo, which refers to a "category or class of beings", which as "farmer", "doctor", "mother", "father", etc. SN 23.2, SN 5.10, MN 98 say such "beings" are mere "views", "conventions" or "verbal designations".
kappa, which can mean a "period of time" rather than an "aeon". For example, in DN 16, the Buddha said whoever has developed and cultivated the four bases of psychic power, if they wish, can live on for a "kappa" ("longer period of time").
ahara, which per SN 12.63 is four types of "food" (rather than merely physical food), namely, physical food, contact, volition & consciousness
cuta, which means to "shift/move" rather than "pass away/die"
ūpapanno, which means to "follow from" rather than "rebirth/reincarnation". For example, MN 148, in discussing the matter of logic, says: "Because the eye is seen to arise & pass, it cannot follow (ūpapanna/upapajjati) the eye can be a self/cakkhu attā’ti yo vadeyya taṃ na upapajjati. Cakkhussa uppādopi vayopi paññāyati"
vaṭṭa, which means "cycle" or "circle", as described in SN 22.99:
Suppose a dog on a leash was tethered to a strong post or pillar. It
would just keep running and circling around that post or pillar.
Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, sā gaddulabaddho daḷhe khīle vā thambhe vā
upanibaddho tameva khīlaṃ vā thambhaṃ vā anuparidhāvati
In the same way, take an uneducated ordinary person who has not seen
the noble ones, and is neither skilled nor trained in their teaching.
They’ve not seen good persons, and are neither skilled nor trained in
their teaching.They regard form … feeling … perception … choices …
consciousness as self, self as having consciousness, consciousness in
self, or self in consciousness.They just keep running and circling
around form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. So
rūpaññeva anuparidhāvati anuparivattati, vedanaññeva … pe … saññaññeva
… saṅkhāreyeva … viññāṇaññeva anuparidhāvati anuparivattati.
In summary, its all fake news. Probably since King Ashoka attempted to convert India to Buddhism, its been 2,300 years of fake news about Buddhism.