Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Ten Worlds and World Politics

In the teachings of the Buddhist scholar and Bodhisattva Tendai, based on the Lotus Sutra, he shares that there are ten worlds. This view includes the six worlds of sorrow in Tibetan Buddhism and four other worlds, that of the compassionate saint, the genius, the bodhisattva, and the Buddha. The world of compassionate saints and the genius are still part of the worlds of sorrow, but have a basis for going beyond sorrow. You could say that these worlds are in the process of being fully healed. Even the bodhisattva worlds still have some trace of sorrow, but the Buddha world does not. The other worlds are the world of demons or endless warfare and conflict, the world of hungry ghosts or endless cravings that never get fulfilled, the world of animals or compulsive habits and addictions, the world of humans or endless plans, ambitions, and goals, the world of asuras or endless intrigues, conspiracies, seductions, power struggles, hidden motives, and subtle manipulations, and world of devas or high achievements, total success, and arrogance. Together all these worlds make ten worlds. What is interesting is that Tendai taught that each of these worlds have the other worlds within them. Each of these worlds interpenetrated all the world others, making one hundred different subworlds. For instance, whenever there are wars on Earth, this is the human demon or hell world. When there are political conspiracies, bribes, manipulation, special interest groups competing with each other, and people pulling against each other with hidden motives, then this is the human asura world. It is possible to go from one world to another through the part of the world that is like the other world. Thus a person will become a human demon before he or she becomes a demon demon or a person will be a human hungry ghost before he or she becomes an actual hungry ghost. It is possible to sensitize oneself to these ten worlds in your own experience. You can feel these worlds as energies and temptations within meditation, looking within, and feeling the part of oneself that wants to become a demon and fight everyone, the part that has longings and needs, the part that wants to get caught up in intrigues and political factions, the part that has achieved many things and is proud of his or her achievements, and so on. It is also possible to feel the part of yourself that is already a Buddha and learn to manifest this more. Soto Zen meditation, based on mudra yoga, is based on this understanding. Dogen Zenji taught the "unity of practice and enlightenment". This means that when you sit in meditation, taking on the posture, breathing, and attitude of a Buddha, then you become a Buddha, you actualize this world immediately. Nicherin Buddhism also has this same understanding that when the mantra "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" is chanted that one actualizes Buddha nature right away.

One teaching that I felt has gotten lost in Buddhist history is the teaching of historical inevitability. The simplest version of the teaching is that once a Buddha teaches in a world, leaves a fully developed sangha behind, and the living dharma is transmitted faithfully from generation to generation, then this world will inevitably and eventually become fully enlightened. It is an evolutionary necessity that we rise up to the level of the Buddha in our growth as a species, just as long ago some apes started to learn how to use their rational cortex and became human beings. It seems that some generalized prophecy also existed about how long this process would take. Nichiren talked of 500 year time periods being relevant to this process. The first 500 hundred being a kind of basic Buddhism, the next 500 years being the Mahayana revolution, the next 500 years being the Vajrayana period, the next 500 years seeing the emergence of the Zen and Dzogchen teachings and the idea of sudden enlightenment, the next 500 years being the Pure Land and Nichirin teachings about grace and rapid karma burning, and next 500 year period being the period of the "Bodhisattvas of the Earth". This is the period of time that seems related to what happens after the 2012 shift point. The phrase "Bodhisattvas of the Earth" is a distinctive teaching in the Lotus Sutra and is described a kind of harvest time, where lots of beings taught by the Buddha who had taken many forms in many lifetimes reach a kind of deep maturity in their process and being enlightened beings. These beings emergence from the Earth, come from the Earth, and are not spiritually advanced visitors from other worlds. It also suggests, too, that this next Buddhism will not really be much of an organized religion. There is a sense of a grass roots movement where the most distinctive feature is people blooming into their own enlightenment through all kinds of paths. This would be the time period of the Kusen Rufu or mass awakening of humankind. Many Buddhist groups do not hold this vision and have a more pessimistic view of progress. It is interesting that in the Lotus Sutra that some of these people are arhants, ones who fully mastered the basics of the first dharma that Buddha had taught. They get upset with the radical teachings of the Lotus Sutra and angrily leave the assembly. The Buddha then says, "Now the group is pure" and proceeds to teach what the people who remain in the assembly are able to hear. The scene has many interesting lessons. Because one version of Buddhist is meant to supercede the previous version. The future version is still true to the older vehicle, but has a wider and deeper vision. It is eventually important to embrace the widest, deepest, and fullest version of the Dharma, which means waking up to being a fully mature Buddha.

In the Lotus Sutra, the teaching of "historical inevitability" is carefully embedded in the giant story that unfolds. At first many individuals are given the prophecy of their future enlightenment. The giving of the prophecy is different in Buddhism compared to the theistic religions. A prophecy is a report given by an all knowing being through a prophet. But Buddhism has prophecies based on cause and effect and "seeing". In other words, a Buddha can see when you have set enough causes for your own enlightenment into motion that it can be seen when these causes will mature into their lawful effect which is your own enlightenment. It can be seen as accurately as many scientists can calculate and predict what will happen in an experiment. In one passage, the Buddha predicts the a young girl will become enlightened. This passage is meant to validate the power of the feminine to become fully enlightened and is stated in the Lotus Sutra to help break down the male to female prejudices of the patriarchal world. Later on, the Buddha gives the prophecy to all sentient beings. This prophecy differs from the earlier more specific ones, because it does not give when and where they will be enlightened. It suggests the time and place are still variable, but enough energy has set into motion to allow all humans to arrive at enlightenment.

The 500 year blocks are not exact. The Kalachakra teachings talk about 2024 being the start of the last 500 year period, with world peace finally happening around 2524. My sense is that the numbers may need to be adjusted to align with 2012 being the start of this last 500 year period. In astrology, there are "orbs." What this means is that the 500 year blocks of time are not airtight compartments. Even before the time period officially starts, the seeds of the next time period are already emerging. This period of emergence is the orb time. It is a future time period influencing the past to bring itself forward. The 2012 orb started in the 1980s and has been growing stronger in its influence. We are within the last 7 years before the 2012 harmonic completion. During this time, the new tone will sound forth and it will take about 500 years more to fully manifest the vision.

I find it interesting when I have mentioned this. I get a dual response. There are some who have gotten cynical and who believe that the Earth will be a place of sorrow, that it will be a place you go to workout your bad karma, and that when you are done you will go to a better place. This type just never believes that people will ever become that enlightened and that loving. Another type gets impatient and gets disheartened that it will take another 500 years. Yet for those who are awakening to past lifetime memories, 500 years will not seem very long at all. In fact, 500 years is barely enough time to make all this happen. This would seem very optimistic if it were not for the Buddha having incarnated many times and teaching everyone on the planet, both collectively and individually, gradually helping the people to learn their lessons, finish their karmas, and become fully mature in their enlightenment. It is bringing a 3,000 year process to completion, and even the advent of the Buddha 2,500 years was prepared for a very long time. There are many things that have permanently changed as a result of this process, but once something is learned, then everyone seems to feel that it has always been this way. Science has finally emerged as a valid form of thinking, democracy has emerged as a form of human thought, equal rights for men and women, and even the feeling that males and females have the same basic potential to become fully enlightened. We see that the Earth is one planet among many, rather than having a more geocentric view of the universe, and we understand universal law and see it expressed, in part, in F=MA and E=MCsquared. There is still a lot of growth yet to happen in this process. 500 years represents a complete cycle of growth in the sensory world (5=number of basic physical senses and 100=completion).

Because of the interpenetration of the 10 worlds, not everyone is going to see the process in this manner. Each of the 10 worlds is going to have its prophetic views. Each world is going to consider the other prophesies to be wrong or limited. It takes a big "stepping back" to see the larger picture which includes all the views that form all the 10 worlds and which humans are keyed into which views. We tend to be locked into our own views, but part of understanding all this is to see how your view links with the common sense of one of the 10 worlds. If you feel the fulifllment never happens, that is the common sense of the hungry ghost. If you feel that there will always be an endless struggle with evil people, that is the common sense of the hell worlds. If you feel everyone is just going to do what they always have done, follow their boring life routines, then that is the common sense of the animal worlds. If you feel everyone is making plans, having goals, getting excited or frustrating about them, then this is the common sense of the human worlds. If you feel that there is a subtle struggle with all these conspiracies trying to take everything over, control and manipulate, seduction and deception, killing key people who get in the way, then this is the common sense of the asura worlds (this is quite popular in America and many places in the world). If you feel that life is just one achievement after another, then this is the common sense of the deva worlds. If you see many loving and patient world servers gradually working to bring the "Kingdom of God on Earth", then this is the common sense of the saint worlds. If you see scientific progress, geniuses inventing things that will make life better, and overcoming ignorance, then this is the common sense of the genious worlds. If you see spiritual progress, higher and higher levels of wisdom and compassion interacting and healing with this world, then this is the common sense of the Bodhisattva worlds. If you see everyone as a potential Buddha who is in the process of awakening to the truth of who and what they are, then this is the common sense of the Buddha worlds.

I am sharing this larger view, because when people watch the news, they can interpret from the vantage point of any of the 10 worlds. You can learn a lot by "watching the watcher". You can notice which world you see the news from and how you slot everything into this perspective. Interpreting everything as a struggle between Democrats and Republicans, seeing corporate interests and special interest groups, bribing, manipulating, killing, and stealing to get ahead is asura realm stuff. Talking about Republican conspiracies, corporate conspiracies, Islamic conspiracies, Jewish conspiracies, super wealthy family conspiracies, reptilian alien conspiracies, and Christian fundamentalist conspiracies is all about the asura realm (a=without, sura=honor). What I find interesting about this particular set of views is that it overlooks what may be called a "conspiracy of light", the work of saints, geniuses, bodhisattvas, dakinis, and Buddhas to fully heal this world. This also fits the 10 worlds teaching in that inside the Asura world is all the other worlds, including the higher worlds and their "conspiracies". It seems that a world level has a hard time seeing more than one level up from where they are. Thus the asuras are jealousy and greedily aware of the deva achievement worlds, the successful rich (in the human world) who no longer need to work hard to achieve something, but can enjoy what they have manifested (until their good karma runs out, unless that are on a path of regeneration which can sustain this level by compassion). They also tend to see the success of the devas in terms that they can understand, rather than through a kind of concentration, patience, good choices, good alliances, honest trade, and effort.

It takes some time to know how to look at the world process in a way that feels the operation of all the ten worlds in human life. There is a saying in the Madyamika Buddhist texts, "Water quenches the thirst of a human being and burns the tongue of a hungry ghost. There is no glass of water that is real for its own side, but it only exists in interdependence with humans, hungry ghosts, and others. It is not that water always quenches thirst and that the hungry ghost experiences the illusion of burning. It is not that water always burns the tongue and that the human being experiences the illusion of quenching thirst. There is no objective isolated truth about the glass of water. Nor is the truth of the glass of water merely subjective and arbitrary either. A Buddha is one who sees all this.

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