I recently came across the Ten Worlds of Buddhism. Are you familiar with them? These are ten states we experience in life, and we move between them constantly depending on our interactions with what’s going on at any given moment.
There is however one state that we have a tendency to gravitate towards, and I believe that’s due to our conditioning, early experiences, ingrained beliefs, and egoic defense mechanisms.
These Ten Worlds are grouped into The Six Paths or Six Lower Worlds and the Four Noble Worlds. If the state you have a tendency to gravitate towards is one of the Lower Worlds, you will experience more suffering.
Buddhism does teach – and I do agree – that we have all the resources within ourselves to overcome any problem we may encounter, transform our suffering, and rise to a more positive state and experience of life.
The point in learning about these Ten Worlds is to identify where you have a tendency to “live” so that you can awaken from that state and consciously reach for a more Noble World.
I list the Ten Worlds below. The first six states from Hell to Heaven are 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 and our whole identity, on externals.
1. Hell – This is the moment of total suffering and despair, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, marked by a tendency to be self-destructive as well as destroying everything around you. To me, this moment is the experience of total ego-dominance. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder live here on the inside, compensating for it on the outside.
2. Hunger – In this moment, you experience an obsessive desire for money, power, status – the cravings of the ego. If you live in this world, you feel yearning / longing, and have no control over your desires. You think you can only be happy once you get what you seek.
3. Animality – The world of instinct without reason or moral sense – the law of the jungle. In this moment, you admire / are fawning over those stronger than you and you have a tendency to take advantage of those weaker than you. It’s about satisfying your physical needs in the present moment, and your pleasure is equated with happiness.
4. Anger – In this moment, you are ruled by a greedy, distorted ego, bent on being better than others and viewing others with contempt, seeing them as a potential threat. In this world, you need to be constantly seen in the best light, or you become jealous of others. Hmmm… Sounds like people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder live here too?
5. Humanity or Tranquility – This is a passive state of life from which you can easily pass into the other Lower Worlds. You generally behave humanely, but are still vulnerable to strong external influences. You find comfort in the status quo and are uncomfortable trying new things. Your happiness lies in avoiding pain.
6. Heaven or Rapture – This is a state of intense joy that comes from fulfilling some desire, or from a sense of physical well-being, or some other inner contentment. This joy is short-lived and also vulnerable to external influences. It may feel exhilarating and full, but it’s hedonistic, because your happiness is dependent on specific attachments, such as money or things.
You may have recognized some moments in your daily life where you saw your ego behaving in some of the above-described ways!
Just give your ego some love, thank it for keeping you safe, and let it go – realizing that is not the Totality of who you ARE.
According to Buddhism, since most of us are inclined to dwell in one of the above Six Lower Worlds, usually passing from one to another moment by moment, the good news is that you can ALSO use any of the above paths consciously to awaken.
The next two states, Learning and Realization, come when you recognize that everything experienced in The Six Paths is no longer satisfying – it is impermanent, and you begin to seek some lasting truth. Unlike The Six Paths, which are unconscious reactions to the environment, these Four Higher States are achieved through deliberate and conscious effort.
7. Learning – The world of mastery. In this state, you seek the truth through studying the teachings or experience of others. You feel a relentless drive to learn and accomplish something that creates value and meaning, and believe that happiness comes through greater accomplishment (which is still a delusion).
8. Realization – The world of self-improvement. In this state you seek the truth not through others’ teachings but through your own direct perception of the world. Here, you’re obsessed with self-examination and personal growth, and you think that you need to grow to be happy, which can lead to self-absorption.
Although in these previous two states you are becoming more independent of your conditioned reactions, there is a tendency here to be contemptuous of people in The Six Paths who have not yet reached this awareness. And – the search for truth is primarily self-oriented, so there is a great potential for egotism in these two states.
But they are definitely steps in the right direction!
And finally, the last two of the Four Noble Worlds:
9. Bodhisattva or Compassion – The world of love. 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. In this world, fulfillment comes from caring as much about the happiness of others as you do your own. While this sounds good, the delusion is that you believe in order to be happy, you must help others become happy, and that can foster resentment.
10. Buddhahood or Enlightenment – The world of awe. This Tenth World is the true path to happiness. We remain in a continual state of wonder at the sublime order and beauty of the universe, exactly as it is. Buddhahood is a dynamic state that is difficult to put into words. It can be described as a state of perfect freedom, characterized by infinite compassion and boundless wisdom.
In this state, you perceive all seeming contradictions from the previous Nine Worlds as harmoniously resolved, you can hold whatever may seem like a paradox in the space of total embrace and unconditional love. 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 dependent on nothing.
It is helpful to understand which World you have a tendency to live in – it happens to be where most of our beliefs are the most stirred up. Each of the worlds is limited by our beliefs, and therefore puts a ceiling on our happiness. By shining a light on it, you can see through the delusion, become free of it, and choose to live consciously in the World of Eternal Happiness. And happiness IS a CHOICE! Your choice.
And as I have been teaching for so long – you’re not going to be happy when you find love, you will find love when you become happy.
There is a new book about this called The Ten Worlds: The New Psychology of Happiness by Alex Lickerman and Ash El Difrawi. The authors have a quiz you can take that will tell you which World you have a tendency to dwell in, so you can awaken from it.
Let me know the results of your quiz in the comments below or on my Facebook page here.
Sending you blessings for eternal, transcendent happiness with all of life!