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What is world (loka) in the context of SN 12.44?

Why is it called "world"?

Is it related to "The All" (SN 35.23)?

“And what, bhikkhus, is the origin of the world? In dependence on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as condition, feeling comes to be; with feeling as condition, craving; with craving as condition, clinging; with clinging as condition, existence; with existence as condition, birth; with birth as condition, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. This, bhikkhus, is the origin of the world.

“In dependence on the ear and sounds … In dependence on the nose and odours … In dependence on the tongue and tastes … In dependence on the body and tactile objects … In dependence on the mind and mental phenomena, mind-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as condition, feeling comes to be; with feeling as condition, craving; with craving as condition, clinging … existence … birth; with birth as condition, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. This, bhikkhus, is the origin of the world.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the passing away of the world? In dependence on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as condition, feeling comes to be; with feeling as condition, craving. But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving comes cessation of clinging; with the cessation of clinging, cessation of existence; with the cessation of existence, cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering. This, bhikkhus, is the passing away of the world.

“In dependence on the ear and sounds … … In dependence on the mind and mental phenomena, mind-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as condition, feeling comes to be; with feeling as condition, craving. But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving comes cessation of clinging … cessation of existence … cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering. This, bhikkhus, is the passing away of the world.”

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The world is whatever a sentient being perceives as "the external world" or "the real world". If the being is sleeping it may be a world of its dream, if the being is a child it may be a child's world, if the being is having a drug trip it may be a nightmare world or a fantasy world, if the being is a business person it may be the world of business, if the being is a Buddhist practitioner in the second jhana it may be the world of the second jhana, if the being is a frog, an owl, a bat, a mosquito - it may be one of their corresponding worlds.

An experience of a world arises based on conditions and circumstances that shape the sentient being's life. These conditions and circumstances are themselves combinations of actions and choices made by this and other beings in the past. The actions and choices (including mental actions and choices) that we perform now shape the world to be experienced in the near and long-term future.

A certain world continues the same way for as long as it has the same sustenance. Certain actions shape certain experiences, these experiences shape certain consciousness, this consciousness conditions certain perspective and interpretation, certain perspective and interpretation leads to certain choices, certain choices lead to certain actions, thus closing the loop. This is called the sustenance of the world.

Sentient beings sustain their worlds and the worlds sustain their beings. This process rolls forward from generation to generation to generation, like a water stream carving a rock or a wheel rolling down a rut formed by the previous passage of the wheels. This phenomenon of the cyclic sustenance of the worlds and the beings is called Samsara.

At the root of the cycle is the fundamental ignorance: the emerging awareness is trapped in a certain cyclic experience and is not aware that its world is a loop. Once a sentient being understands the mechanism by which the awareness emerges and gets trapped in a world, it gets disenchanted, the cyclic process loses its grip and that particular world ceases.

Dharma is also a cycle, embedded within the cycle of Samsara. It's a cycle of getting fascinated with the perspective of The Teaching, craving and pursuing understanding of the Teaching, and shifting the focus of being's experience and activity from sustaining a world to liberation from the cycle of Samsara. Buddha's students are turned by the wheel of Dharma and as they mature they turn the wheel on. In that sense Dharma is also a world with its own cycle of rebirth. It's the rebirth of motivation, rebirth of selflessness, rebirth of good morals, rebirth of peace-making, rebirth of wisdom. It's a good world cycle.

The end result of Dharma is liberation from entrapment in any and all worlds, including the world of Dharma.

P.S.

To clarify, the "world" of SN 12.44 must not be confused with "The All" of SN 35.23. The All of SN 35.23 is simply saying that the immediate phenomenology is all we really have. The world is inferred, it's more than just the objects of the senses, it's one's personal Matrix that emerges with The All as the input, so to speak. The All refers to the phenomenological reductionism as a tool for disconnecting attention from "the world". The two are not the same.

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  • Is it a correct paraphrase of your answer that the "world" in SN 12.44 and "The All" in SN 35.23 are relating the same basic meaning generality? That's at least what I took from the answer... Jul 9 at 14:34
  • Not at all. The All of SN 35.23 is simply saying that the immediate phenomenology is all we really have. The world is inferred, it's more than just the objects of the senses, it's one's personal Matrix that emerges with The All as the input, so to speak.
    – Andrei Volkov
    Jul 9 at 14:52
  • The All is without fabrication and the "world" is full of it? The All is pristine and the "world" is what ignorance superimposes over it? Jul 9 at 15:06
  • 1
    I have spoken :)
    – Andrei Volkov
    Jul 9 at 17:54
  • 1
    Your could update the answer to show the connection of the "world" to The All.
    – ruben2020
    Jul 9 at 18:45
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I'm adding an answer here to quote Piya Tan's commentaries on this, which agree with Andrei's answer. I will not accept my own answer.

In Piya Tan's commentary on SN 12.44, he drew a connection from the arising of feeling to the arising of mental proliferation (papanca).

And what, bhikshus, is the arising of the world10?

Bhikshus, dependent on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises.
The meeting of the three is contact.
With contact as condition, there is feeling.12

10 On the 3 types of “world,” see Rohitassa S
12 From hereon, Madhu,pindika S (M 18.16) continues: “What one feels, one perceives. What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one mentally proliferates. What a person mentally proliferates is the source through which perceptions and notions due to mental proliferation impacts one regarding past, future and present forms cognizable through the eye.”

In Piya Tan's commentary on the Rohitassa Sutta (SN 2.26), he explains the three types of worlds:

In the Rohitassa Sutta, the word “world” (loka) is used in two senses: in the sense of the physical world and the world of formations. Rohitassa asks the Buddha a question on the physical world (cakka-vāla loka, “universe world”), but the Buddha answers him referring to the world of formations. Through-out the Buddhist texts, the word “world” has three senses:

  1. Sankhāra loka - the world of formations,
  2. Satta loka - the world of beings,
  3. Okāsa loka - the world of space (ie the space-time reality).
    (Vism 7.37/204 f; DA 1:173; MA 1:397, 2:200)

The world of formations is defined in the Patisambhidā,magga thus: “One world: all beings are sustained by food.” (Pm 1:122).

So, the "world" of SN 12.44 corresponds to the world of mental formations (sankhara loka) arising from mental proliferations (papanca), that is derived from the feelings (vedana) coming from the contact of consciousness with the six sense media and their sense objects (The All).

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"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range."

That in the world by which one is a perceiver of the world, a conceiver of the world—this is called the world in the Noble One’s Discipline. And what, friends, is that in the world by which one is a perceiver of the world, a conceiver of the world? The eye is that in the world by which one is a perceiver of the world, a conceiver of the world . The ear … The nose … The tongue … The body … The mind is that in the world by which one is a perceiver of the world, a conceiver of the world. That in the world by which one is a perceiver of the world, a conceiver of the world—this is called the world in the Noble One’s Discipline.

"Insofar as it disintegrates, monk, it is called the 'world.' Now what disintegrates? The eye disintegrates. Forms disintegrate. Consciousness at the eye disintegrates. Contact at the eye disintegrates. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the eye — experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain — that too disintegrates.

"The ear disintegrates. Sounds disintegrate… "The nose disintegrates. Aromas disintegrate… The tongue disintegrates. Tastes disintegrate… "The body disintegrates. Tactile sensations disintegrate... "The intellect disintegrates. Ideas disintegrate. Consciousness at the intellect consciousness disintegrates.

Contact at the intellect disintegrates.

And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the intellect — experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain — that too disintegrates.

"Insofar as it disintegrates, it is called the 'world.'"

For example take 'contact'. 'Contact' is a word and it's meaning is a demonstrably inferrable element grasped as the idea of contact.

It is inferrable by smart people who can agree that seeing exists if the eye exist.

I've given this example before;

Seeing demonstrably doesn't exist if;

  • person is unconscious
  • person is without an eye
  • person is in darkness (without visible objects)

Seeing demonstrably exists if there is contact between eye-consciousness, the eye and the visible light.

Therefore we can infer that contact is a truth like the eye is a true requisite.

This is general contact meaning, if we talk about a speacial case of contact, such as the origin of a particular feeling that arose for us, that is then a special case and that there particular instance of contact is the referent for the word 'contact'.

Further any likewise true element we can infer about the truth of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, sensing & cognizing; will be included in the two-fold classification as to;

  • Included in the allness of the all (conditioned & disintegrates)
  • Not included in the allness of the all (unconditioned)

The unconditioned is also here a word, it's meaning is conceived as a truth of extinguishment of the conditioned.

This truth is inferable because if All is demonstrably conditioned and conditions can be known by us and are generally held to be extinguishable. The question arises is this possible in a definitive sense, unlike a qualified cessation seen among the past, present & future classes of phenomena, can percipience be extinguished?

Smart people have to assume that yes it wouldn't be an extraordinary assumption that seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, sensing & cognizing could cease with no sequel and that this wouldn't be the same as change in percepience in this life or the next.

We are conceiving of a totally different truth to be known & seen as it actually is and unlike anything we can otherwise think about as real or unreal.

  • All words are conditioned.
  • All meanings are conditioned.
  • Not all referents are conditioned.

All is of the world All is in the world

'That which isn't included in the allness of the all' is to be held in mind correctly as to the meaning of that expression and it's referent is to be directly known & seen as a release from this world, neither of this world nor the next.

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