World

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The Buddha’s primary concern was with the human condition and thus he had little to say about the origins or structure of the world (loka). He was an explorer and transformer of the human heart rather than a geographer.

One of his few comments on this subject was to say that the earth was but one of countless bodies in the universe, brought into being and formed by natural forces (D.III,84). He sometimes referred to the world itself as a cakkavàla, a word which can mean either ‘disk’ or ‘sphere’ and of course to call it a sphere would be quite appropriate.

The Buddha said that the world is supported by water which is supported by air which is in turn supported by space (D.II,107). He also said that there are four great continents on earth, which again is accurate if we remember that he did not divide Europe and Asia but considered them to be a single land mass, as indeed they are (A.I,227; D.II,173).

The Buddha considered that speculating and theorizing about who made the world, when and why, was a rather fruitless pursuit that could take attention away from issues that really matter – the kind and pure heart and how to develop it. He said, ‘Therefore do not brood over whether the world is eternal, or temporal or limited or endless…Such brooding is senseless, it has nothing to do with genuine pure conduct, it does not lead to turning away, to detachment, to stillness, to peace, to complete understanding, to enlightenment or to Nibbana’ (M.I,431).

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