Buddhism identifies Ten Worlds — ten states or conditions of life that we experience within our lives, moving from one to another at any moment according to our interactions with our environment and those around us. Each of us possesses the potential to experience all ten, from the prison-like despair and self-hatred of Hell to the expansive joy and wisdom of Buddhahood.
The Ten Worlds are Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Humanity, Heaven, Learning, Realization, Bodhisattva, and Buddhahood. By strengthening our spiritual lives, rather than being at the mercy of our surroundings we can develop the ability to set our own direction and spend more of our lives in the more positive life states.
Each of us has a tendency to gravitate toward a particular life state, and if this is one of the lower worlds, great suffering can be caused to ourselves and those around us. Through raising up our life condition which manifests in the Ten Worlds, we can bring out the positive aspects of any situation we find ourselves in.
The world of Bodhisattva is a state of compassion in which we devote ourselves to the welfare and happiness of others. Buddhahood is a state of completeness and perfect freedom filled with wisdom, vitality, and courage in which even overcoming challenges becomes a source of joy.
Hell: A state of suffering and despair in which we perceive we have no freedom of action. It is characterized by the impulse to destroy ourselves and everything around us.
Hunger: The state of being controlled by an insatiable desire for money, power, status etc. While desires are inherent in any of the Ten Worlds, in this state we are at the mercy of our cravings and cannot control them.
Animality: In this state, we are ruled by instinct with neither reason nor moral sense nor the ability to make long-range judgments. We operate by the law of the jungle and will not hesitate to take advantage of those weaker than ourselves and fawn on those who are stronger.
Anger: Here, awareness of ego emerges, but it is a selfish, greedy, distorted ego, determined to beat others at all costs and seeing everything as a potential threat to itself. In this state, we value only ourselves and tend to hold others in contempt.
Humanity (also called Tranquility): This is a flat, passive state of life, from which we can easily shift into the lower four worlds. While we may generally behave in a humane fashion in this state, we are highly vulnerable to strong external influences.
Heaven (or Rapture): This is a state of intense joy stemming, for example, from the fulfillment of some desire, a sense of physical well-being, or inner contentment. Though intense, the joy experienced in this state is short-lived and also vulnerable to external influences.
The six states from Hell to Heaven are called the six paths or six lower worlds. Any happiness or satisfaction to be gained in these states depends totally upon circumstances and is therefore transient and subject to change. In these six lower worlds, we base our entire happiness, indeed our whole identity, on externals.
The next two states, Learning, and Realization, come about when we recognize that everything experienced in the six paths is impermanent, and we begin to seek some lasting truth. Unlike the six paths, which are passive reactions to the environment, these four higher states are achieved through deliberate effort.
Learning: In this state, we seek the truth through studying the teachings or experience of others.
Realization: In this state, we seek the truth not through others’ teachings but through our own direct perception of the world.
Having realized the impermanence of things, people in these states have won a measure of independence and are no longer a prisoner to their own reactions as in the six paths. However, they often tend to be contemptuous of people in the six paths who have not yet reached this understanding. In addition, their search for truth is primarily self-oriented, so there is a great potential for egotism in these two states.
Bodhisattva: Bodhisattvas are those who aspire to achieve enlightenment and at the same time are equally determined to enable all other beings to do the same. Conscious of the bonds that link us to all others, in this state we realize that any happiness we alone enjoy is incomplete, and we devote ourselves to alleviating others’ suffering. Those in this state find their greatest satisfaction in altruistic behavior.
Buddhahood: Buddhahood is a dynamic state that is difficult to describe. We can partially describe it as a state of perfect freedom, in which we are enlightened to the ultimate truth of life. It is characterized by infinite compassion and boundless wisdom. In this state, we can resolve harmoniously what appear from the standpoint of the nine worlds to be insoluble contradictions. A Buddhist sutra describes the attributes of the Buddha’s life as a true self, perfect freedom from karmic bonds throughout eternity, a life purified of illusion, and absolute happiness.
So, how will you choose? What life condition are you experiencing?
Our world is a 3-D world and death, despair and destruction are the package deal that we received when we appeared. These past few days have been especially 3-D filled with the events in Charlottesville, VA. Perturbed, I’ve had thoughts ranging from, “What a mess” to “How did we come to this?”
My ears, eyes, and heart were initially set afire with the exhibition of separation, dissociation and the cry for love. The unfortunate ignorance and its violent display have been saddening and terrifying. How do I assimilate the stark contrasts that this presents? This event really confronted my ability to feel fearless, unconditional and total compassion and gratitude and find the blessing in even this. I had to make a choice, and so I did.
I believe that there were two ways for me to choose from. Either get on the battlefield myself or find a space above the battlefield and bring my attention to love and peace. Focus on the oneness and non-duality with my brothers and sisters, and not give in to the illusion of separation. It’s like saying your end of the boat is sinking. Sooner or later, we both will drown. So, I must choose love and peace for me, for you, for all of us.
I believe that we are all God’s children, equally created by His love. How then can those whose acts are misguided be made of that which is not also in me? The ten worlds and every propensity in one are also in me. In this instance, we made different choices, but separation is not what our creator intended for us. How do I support a return to love and oneness with love and compassion in my heart? I choose to send love, light, and peace from my being.
Is forgiveness possible in a situation such as this? How do I physically, mentally, emotionally process this and arrive at the notion of forgiveness? Ultimately, how do I do so without condoning the actions that have caused pain and loss of lives?
And then when it comes down to it, what is the alternative? An eye for an eye? A tooth for a tooth? And the whole world will end up blind and toothless? Not to minimize the tragedies that transpired, not to invalidate the fierce and fiery fear that is being experienced. Definitely acknowledge it, embrace it, but don’t take it in, don’t be overcome by it. My hope is that we can awaken and choose again and choose love.
My dear friend Donna Marie Cary, who I have recently have had the pleasure of encountering through the Women of Wisdom group that she created, is a singer-songwriter with incredibly awakening, spiritual music, that I have been listening to non-stop for several days now. I strongly suggest if you are reading this and are even mildly open to it, please buy her album “Real Love”. It is a gem, and a must listen, especially in these times of doubt and crisis. You will hear more about her and her upcoming events with Women of Wisdom from time to time. I intend to share her “ministry of love and forgiveness”, every chance I get. I am so honored to know her and have the privilege of being in her life.
Thank you for reading all the way, this week has been particularly challenging as the life conditions at so many levels have been apparent and always available to me. I have been swinging on the vine of my existence from one to the other and the place that I feel most at home is when I choose love and forgiveness. I do. I choose love and forgiveness. And here there is this peace, there is hope there is access to healing. I can be with this. I need to be with this.
Much love to you on this journey, and may you find your access to peace, love and forgiveness. Thank you for pausing with me.