Tien Tais conceptual theory of Life Condition,
Life Moment, and the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds gives you
a window into your own and others spiritual aspect. Having
just discussed the Six Lower Worlds it may seem strange to consider
those miserable (for the most part) descriptions as having anything
at all to do with our spiritual self. After all, when we think of
the term spirit dont we all conjure up thoughts
of wispy, ghost-like, mostly-good, other-worldly beings? Thats
what theists have led us to believe, but its far from the
truth. Or we may think of spiritual people as being somber, tranquil
priests, men devoted to learning about the mysterious. On a day-to-day
basis, we neglect the fact that our very own everyday lives have
a spiritual aspect. That aspect is with each and every one of us
at this very moment, even as we read this, and it is an essential
part of our lives. Its always there, whether we focus on it
and are aware of it, or not.
The Ten Worlds, and how we use each of them, is both the cause
and effect of our spiritual development. A person in the world of
Animality, reaching for a higher status, may not seem like a spiritual
person, but their spiritual presence is very strongly felt by those
around them, especially those who get knocked down as that entity
races toward its goal.
Whats misleading when thinking about the Six Lower Worlds
is that these lower conditions have just exactly as much spiritual
quality to them as any other Life Condition. But until you learned
about these Six Lower Worlds, if youre like most people, you
just couldnt bring yourself to think of a greedy World of
Hunger politician, for example, as being the slightest bit spiritual.
Heres a test for you on the part of your spiritual self we
just discussed in the last chapter. If youve been looking
around yourself at others appearance and asking yourself which
of the Ten Worlds you think theyre in, you may actually have
developed an eye for seeing the Ten Worlds on people.
And when considering your own Life Condition, well, you have even
more than just appearance to go on. During this past week have you
been able to spot other people or yourself in these life conditions?
Hell - depressed hopelessness; Hunger desire for what you
just know will make you happy; Animality taking care of #1
in this dog-eat-dog world with the fierceness necessary to survive;
Anger knowing your own power and not settling for just surviving,
but a driving purposefulness to dominate; Tranquility lazily
obsessed with conflict avoidance, protecting yourself from change;
Rapture amazed at how elated you feel, by comparison to the
other moments that continually define your daily existence.
Seeing that there is a real spiritual aspect to both yourself and
others can be enough to start you wanting to do something with it.
After all, many, if not all of you reading this, did not really
think about your spiritual self this way before now. You likely
thought of your spiritual self as a separate entity that lives within
your body, which floats around without a body once you die. Or perhaps
you didnt believe in a spiritual aspect at all. But heres
the important thing about Tien Tais theory: It
makes most of us believe that not only do we have a spiritual side,
but that our spiritual aspect influences or even wholly determines
the decisions we make, the causes we create, and the very personality
People believe that they have no control over their spiritual self,
that it is beyond the realm of cause and effect and therefore is
something that just is and over which they can do nothing.
In addition, its counter-intuitive for people with theistic
backgrounds to associate their spiritual self with anything that
has any negative connotation to it, like the Six Lower Worlds, for
instance. Certainly many people recognize Hellish hopelessness in
themselves, but then try to address this hopelessness to an imaginary
god-spirit that they believe dwells outside of their life. But Buddhism
hypothesizes, and then validates through practice, that you really
can affect your spiritual aspect, in any of the Ten Worlds, and
do so by yourself. Buddhism thereby enables you to look realistically
at your spiritual self, seeing both positive and negative as potentials
within any World, and using the inherent power within your spiritual
aspect to then influence and change both that reality and also your
If you are true to the statistical 94% of our global population
that are theists, you cannot imagine anything spiritually good coming
from, say, the Worlds of Anger or Hell. The same holds true for
your speculation about what good can come from your addictions within
the World of Hunger. But this is a crucially important point to
understand. Every World contains within it the potential to do both
good and harm, sometimes even at the same time. And, as we will
come to see, not one of the Ten Worlds can go unused by a Buddha.
To do so would limit and constrict your potential to the point of
imprisoning your highest potentials and your ability to do what
we started out to do: overcome all suffering and become a Buddha.
So lets take stock of our spiritual selves before we go on
to the Four Higher Worlds, shall we? Imagine: You look red faced
and angry. Your voice is loud and your eyes are glaring. You look
like youre in the World of Anger, and you are. Your World
of Anger does not necessarily have to produce negative karma, negative
cause and effect. In fact, while in the World of Anger, you are
far more likely to do something constructive for both yourself and
the world in general than anyone is likely to do in the World of
Tranquility (although Tranquility is a sub-potential for you too).
Whether Anger is a condition that yields positive results or negative
results depends largely on your lifes purpose at that moment
in the World of Anger. We might say it all depends on whether or
not you chose the World of Anger as a vehicle to accomplish something
good or if it just consumed and overtook you unawares.
Yet you are most likely embarrassed to even think of yourself in
the World of Anger, even if its for some important purpose,
arent you? People will berate you as being uncivil, and perhaps
more disturbing, unreligious, without even knowing what religion
you are. They may even say, Youre so angry
I thought you were a practicing Buddhist!
But if you are to be successful at overcoming your own suffering
and the suffering of others on this planet, you will disregard societys
view of life and realize that in order for you to help yourself
and other people, you will need to use every single aspect of your
life for that purpose.
Those who present a wise, unflappable appearance all the time are
merely hiding out in the World of Tranquility. They will do little
for either the whole of society or themselves toward eliminating
suffering and accomplishing enlightenment. They spend all of their
time trying to present themselves as wise and unaffected. If they
accomplish this aim, they have learned to completely lack real compassion.
As an acolyte (by the way, a completely useless term in real Buddhist
practice) of such a person you would even draw criticism for getting
angry about the suffering you see around you. The Master of
Tranquility cannot fathom the depths of the potential that
lies in passion nor the reality of peoples suffering around
them, and will slander anyone who doesnt follow in their own
footsteps. This is not the kind of Buddhist any of us
wants to become, right? We want to learn how to utilize all of the
Ten Worlds at our command, and use the positive potential within
each to accomplish the ends we seek -- to eliminate suffering.
If you are to be a Buddha, you must be willing to be mocked and
shunned on account of your bold actions within the Lower Six Worlds,
as guided by the Higher Four Worlds. You must be willing to put
aside your craving for being praised and accepted by others. What
Im saying is that you have to throw yourself into your practice
of Buddhism considering the benefit to both yourself and others
as your entire motivation, unafraid to have people criticize you
for looking very unenlightened according to their (unenlightened)
version of what that means.
Changing your spiritual aspect can alter the course of your whole
life and the course of lives that you are linked with
(those people whom you care about). And as weve just discussed,
changing your spiritual aspect doesnt mean that youll
look a whole lot different than you always did. It means understanding
yourself and others more deeply and then doing something about it
to make it better, right now! Imagine being able to change your
karma! What would it be like to not be caught in the frustratingly
boring and evil cycle of the Six Lower Worlds? What would it be
like to make life-changing, personality-changing causes, then see
the effects of those changes in people you care about? Is it really
possible to affect people from thousands of miles away by strengthening
and improving your spiritual self? Can you alter the whole course
of your destiny? Yes, by becoming a Buddha you can do more than
you ever considered humanly possible. You can change the suffering
course of your own and others lives.
Tien Tais Ten Worlds is the philosophical foundation
and also the door that can be opened to allow you a great deal of,
if not entire, control over your life. That this door opens the
spiritual aspect rather than the physical one does not make it any
less valid or valuable. But opening that door thats
the tough part. In order to make changes to the Six Lower Worlds
you will need to learn about and deal with the Four Higher Worlds.
And doing that will take extreme effort on your part.
Because you, if you are true to the statistic I used above, currently
believe that a mythical being (God, Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, et al)
controls your spiritual self, it will be highly unlikely that you
are going to be capable of either exerting enough effort or exerting
it consistently enough to ever determine for yourself whether or
not this Buddhism stuff is really true or not. Your theistic belief
really does block your spiritual development. If you can overcome
your fears enough to search your spiritual self for the answers,
I believe that you will be surprised, no, shocked and mystified
about what is so close at hand yet was so far from reach for you
I say all this before introducing the Four Higher Worlds because
youre going to need a lot of tough love about
who you can be as opposed to this person youve come to settle
for being and living with. And youll likely need much encouragement
and repeated coaxing before you really listen. Look at what youve
become: Are you afraid of offending others beliefs? Are you
afraid of what your family will think of you? Are you afraid of
death and a hell that might await you (that has been used for years
to keep people in line) if you dont bow and scrape and say
Im sorry for everything Ive ever thought or done
in my miserable life every waking moment of every day? Are
you philosophically cowardly? This is a fantastic opportunity for
your religiously maligned spiritual self to develop some spiritual
Heres where you can really make an awesome change for the
better in your life, if you can bring yourself to challenge this
frustrating cycle youre now enduring. By practicing Buddhism,
you can change your Central Life Tendency from being one of the
Six Lower Worlds to that of Buddhahood.
As I had mentioned earlier, most people stay around a single World,
within the Six Lower Worlds, most of the time. The World that a
person hovers around is known as their Central Life Tendency. The
Central Life Tendency of most humans is Tranquility (a.k.a. Humanity).
Lets face it; we put pressure on each other, acting as Society,
to remain in Tranquility as much as possible. Acting out
in any of the Lower Four Worlds is held up to public disdain (in
some societies more than others) and there are laws written and
enforced to prohibit the unabated exercise of action within them
(Hunger has laws against theft, Animality laws against killing,
Social laws wont enable you to break free from the cycle
of the Six Lower Worlds. And since breaking free from these lower
conditions takes more effort than most people are willing to exert,
most people have grown quite content with only the few brief glimpses
of, say, the World of Rapture in their lives. Or theyve settled
for Tranquility as being as good as it gets. We know how weve
been successful in maneuvering our lives through this cycle and
how weve obtained some external goals with our maneuvering.
Then, too, we look around ourselves and see that everyone around
us is experiencing this cycle, just like we are. We think that this
must just be how life is. That is, until we know about the next
Learning. As the name of this World implies, the World of Learning
is exhibited when you are gaining knowledge about the World around
you or your own life. To begin to learn, that is to be in the World
of Learning, you must exert effort. It is said that a seeking mind
is the key to wisdom, and youve probably heard teachers say
that without effort on the part of their students, learning will
not take place. Put another way, your external environment cannot
make you learn. It can provide great circumstances to learn, but
it cannot make you learn or be in the World of Learning.
Just think, how much of your time today was spent with your focus
of attention eagerly engrossed in seeking out information, versus
spent in, say, the World of Hunger where youre focused on
escaping the situation youre in and getting on with a different
and better part of your life (like eating or sleeping or entertainment)?
The point is that this World is typically only briefly experienced,
and then only with what seems like an extreme effort on your part.
You can experience the World of Learning anywhere and at any time.
In fact, most life lessons occur while exerting effort to understand
life, how things work, and why they work that way, all while struggling
within the Six Lower Worlds. Tien Tais theory
of the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds postulates that while
youre stuck in a holding pattern of the cycle of the Six Lower
Worlds, the potential for any other World exists within that World.
The World of Hell can be vacated for the World of Learning the instant
that you actively seek hope for your life in whats learned.
The same is true of Hunger, Animality and the rest.
With the seeking mind required to be in the World of Learning,
comes the benefit of longer enduring positive effects. Put another
way, a short moment or two of experiencing the World of Learning
can have a profound impact on your life that you will probably recollect
for years to come. And the mere respite of having left the Six Lower
Worlds is refreshing to a long-bludgeoned life condition in them.
There is a negative to being in the World of Learning, though.
It is a Life Condition that tends to separate us from the rest of
society. The World of Learning actually requires a bit of escapism
like that of the World of Tranquility, and steals our focus away
from dealing with the nastiness of others in the Six Lower Worlds
while we refocus ourselves on important matters concerning our own
life. While this is pleasant at the time, it serves to plateau
the growth of our lives for a bit.
Still, being in the World of Learning is amazingly refreshing after
spending years of uninterrupted time in the Six Lower Worlds. And,
as I have said, it is a Life Condition that, just like all the other
Ten Worlds, can be obtained anywhere you are, and at any moment.
Its just difficult to attain it. But if you think the World
of Learning is difficult to attain, the next one is even harder.
Realization. The World of Realization takes Learning one step further.
It requires even more effort. Perhaps the easiest way to describe
what takes place within the World of Realization is to look to the
arts. Just because you know the notes that a guitar can make doesnt
make you a great musician. Similarly, Learning and knowledge about
painting does not make you a great artist. By internalizing the
knowledge and adding something of yourself and your creativity to
it, you can take your learning a step further and actually go beyond
the level of your teachers. This World is sometimes spoken of as
the Aha! experience or a special and very personal understanding
of how a brief instance of Learning intersects with your life, and
connects you with the lives of others.
Another example of Realization can be related directly to this
article, or to all of your learning about Buddhism. Knowing about
the Ten Worlds is one thing. Reading about them and coming to understand
what they are on an intellectual level requires the World of Learning.
To apply them to yourself and others and utilize your knowledge
of the Ten Worlds to further your development toward enlightenment
is the World of Realization.
The World of Realization, while harder to attain, is more readily
at your fingertips at any moment than Learning. You have learned
things in the past. You can always ponder what youve already
learned and find new ways to apply and utilize that knowledge.
Adding further knowledge to what youve already learned, or
relearning something, may help add moments of Realization. And Realization
may add to a thirst for more knowledge. These two Worlds, like the
next two Worlds, come as a pair and work symbiotically.
These two Worlds, Learning and Realization, are much higher
and allow you much more control than the Six Lower Worlds did. For
one thing, as Ive said, the respite from the grueling cycle
of the Six Lower Worlds is rewarding in and of itself. But these
two Worlds still have their shortcomings. First of all, to remain
for long in these Worlds you must become somewhat self absorbed.
They can actually be thought of as a limited sort of enlightenment,
but one that excludes most others around you.
While in Learning and Realization, people become ever consumed
with Learning more and understanding more. They become engrossed
by their own knowledge and develop a perpetual thirst for more of
it. But this is a selfish quest, one that helps the individual but
does others no good.
In real life, the Worlds of Learning and Realization most frequently
lead you back to the World of Anger. Once one has developed considerable
knowledge, beyond what others know, the person becomes arrogant
about their knowledge, believing they are superior to others in
So much effort is required to remain even a short while in these
two Worlds that people trying to remain in them begrudge any time
spent helping others. Its just that they know theres
not much time and they feel that they have little means of helping
other people anyway, while they can clearly see just how far they
must go and how much effort and time they must spend to help themselves.
So they just carry on with improving their own lives within these
In Shakyamuni Buddhas day, people who were focused just on
these two Worlds were called people of the Two Vehicles. The Two
Vehicles are legitimate means for improving peoples lives;
theyre just not enough to complete the task of eliminating
human suffering altogether and attaining Buddhahood. In fact, Shakyamuni
pointed out that those who followed his own early teachings were
doomed to be trapped in these two Worlds and would likely never
escape from them within their lifetime. He was sharply critical
of his own followers who focused on nothing but these Two Vehicles
because he knew they were in a trap. Certainly these two Worlds
caused people who focused on nothing but them to adopt a new cycle
within the Ten Worlds. The people of the Two Vehicles (Learning
and Realization) experienced a modified Lower Six Worlds during
the numerous moments they were not in the seventh and eighth Worlds.
They learned about Buddhism and life in general, yet their own lives
had little affect or impact on other people, either directly or
even as an example to them. Their efforts within the Worlds of Learning
and Realization became the pinnacle of their lifes achievements,
yet the power of their lifes impact on the world was miniscule.
You will see that by comparison to the next two Worlds, achievements
in these Worlds are really minor. And, it is said that minor accomplishments
can be harmful in that they stop one from reaching higher potentials.
This is the true aspect of these two Worlds. In them, you trade
being trapped in the Six Lower Worlds for being caught in the Two
Vehicles ultimately a selfish, self-satisfied place to be.
Bodhisattva. The World of Bodhisattva is a condition of caring
and compassion. Just to be consistent in my explanation of these
Four Higher Worlds, let me insert here that this World is the most
difficult to be in of any weve discussed so far.
Now before you tough guy mentalities out there start
thinking this is just not for you, that no one is going to turn
you into a Flower Child or Do-Gooder, you
need to stop for a moment and consider this: the Bodhisattva Life
Condition is the Life Condition of true heroes. Being in this Life
Condition for any length of time at all requires a strength of will
equivalent to actually offering your life for the sake of another.
It is not merely cheap talk about peace and love. It can make even
the toughest guy squirm with fear, a fear that will be his or her
decision to overcome and overcome for the right reasons.
So if the Life Condition of the World of Bodhisattva is one in
which you actually care about another persons life, happiness
and well being more than you do your own, and if youve spent
much time in a war zone, youve probably either seen or heard
of someone who appears to have taken the actions of Bodhisattva.
Or, on a rare occasion, you may have experienced something like
this yourself. Say, for instance, that there is someone in a life-threatening
situation. To make a decision to risk your own life to save anothers
out of nothing but concern and caring for them, is the condition
But dont be fooled by all heroic actions. Many people who
seem outwardly to be choosing to risk their lives for the sake of
others on a continual basis, such as soldiers or rescue workers,
for instance, actually choose their occupation based on the egotistical
World of Anger or Animality. For them, its not caring for
others that really drives them. Some, who choose to put themselves
heroically in harms way, may actually be acting
out a socially acceptable form of suicide, which is driven by the
World of Hell. Other soldiers may feel a social obligation to provide
for their families back home and know of no other way, also showing
characteristics of the World of Hell (or more accurately Bodhisattva
within Hell). Some carry on a family tradition of military pride,
a.k.a. World of Anger. There are many things that may look like
caring, but relatively few that actually spring from the Life Condition
And while Im on the topic of actions that appear to be in
the World of Bodhisattva, let me recite some statistics. Approximately
one hundred soldiers per year stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan have
committed suicide in recent years predominantly because of
relationship or money problems, yet also influenced by the stressful
environment. When it comes to suicide, it is reasonable to say that
it is never an act of Bodhisattva compassion. It never comes from
someone in the World of Bodhisattva. If such soldiers were really
considering what is best for the person or people they love but
are having troubles with, it could never happen that suicide would
be the answer. But, perhaps ironically, if these very soldiers were
to develop and strengthen their own Life Conditions they would almost
assuredly be able to resolve all their suffering resulting from
relationships and at the same time make a powerful impact on the
people they are having trouble with back home, all while they are
still active in a war zone. Yes, the World of Bodhisattva is so
powerful that it can reach across thousands of miles and deeply
impact another person, but well talk more about this later.
For now, just understand that most people do not consistently act
out of Bodhisattva compassion, where it is the love and concern
they feel for another person that drives their every action. This
is readily understandable. But even a single moments occurrence
of this Life Condition will change the life of both the person in
Bodhisattva and the recipient of their compassion, on a very deep
level. Thats how powerful it is. The Life Condition of Bodhisattva
can actually break the chain of karmic causality and alter the destiny
of the lives of all involved. Unfortunately, it is so difficult
to maintain, that the stay in it is brief and the space of time
between occurrences is vast.
But therein lays the limitation of the World of Bodhisattva. Recall
that we were looking for the means to break free from the cycle
of the six lower Worlds the cycle that is a fundamental element
of human suffering. Breaking free from these cyclical Life Conditions
requires repeated efforts of the magnitude of World of Bodhisattva.
Another way to put this is that the level of cause and effect (the
fundamental building block of karma) that is required to avoid slipping
back into your Central Life Tendency cannot be accomplished with
surface-level causes. Instead, causes based on the very depths of
life are required. And this brings us to the Tenth and final World,
Buddhahood, which is the only World where such causes can be made.
Before we leave the topic of the Ninth World, please keep in mind
that the World of Bodhisattva will continue to play an important
part in the actual attainment of enlightenment enlightenment
defined as having replaced your previous Central Life Tendency (in
the lower Worlds) with the Central Life Tendency of Buddhahood.
Recall that, like Learning and Realization, Bodhisattva and Buddhahood
are symbiotic Life Conditions, working together and enhancing each
other. They do this by acting reciprocally to lengthen the duration
and strengthen the impact of the other World. Another way to say
it is that the World of Buddhahood brings out our wisdom and compassion
which compels us to move toward the World of Bodhisattva; the World
of Bodhisattva is given wings, muscle, or
wisdom, by our World of Buddhahood. This new cycle is the most rewarding
Heres another important point for you to keep in mind. You
can only re-establish your Central Life Tendency to the World of
Buddhahood by yourself, as an individual. It will not be done within
a group. This point makes questions of which Buddhist group to belong
to and which sensei/mentor to follow completely unnecessary.
If youre in the military, and in a war zone while reading
this, you may not think you have a choice of which group
youll belong to. This is another important aspect of practicing
Buddhism in a war zone you should face. You are your own group.
Those who discourage your caring for others based on political affiliations
(the enemy) are doing so to encourage you to take actions requiring
you to disregard all personal feelings. You can start fighting this
dark plot by choosing to stand alone and in control of your emotional
choices. The starting point for Bodhisattva compassion, while in
a war zone or anywhere else for that matter, is empathy. Putting
yourself in the place of another; feeling what another person is
feeling, is empathy and is a significant cause you can make toward
using the World of Bodhisattva in your life.
Ill discuss the World of Buddhahood in the next section,
and will hopefully put all this in a clearer light for you. In preparation,
Id like you to look at what it means to be in these Nine Worlds
without the World of Buddhahood.
In the Six Lower Worlds it feels like they are happening to you.
In the Worlds of Learning and Realization (Worlds Seven and Eight),
they came about by your efforts to develop yourself. In the World
of Bodhisattva (the Ninth World), you got there purely by caring
for another person. Can you see the focus being shifted? Youre
a victim in the Six Lower Worlds; Selfishly knowledgeable in the
Two Vehicles; A caring martyr in the World of Bodhisattva. You might
say that Im being too harsh here. But I dont think so.
Im describing characteristics within these lower Nine Worlds
that are their unenlightened aspects. The way Ive just now
described them is, I believe, the best you can hope for in these
Nine Worlds without adding whats known as Daimoku.
Daimoku is meditation based on chanting Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. It
is focused on your eternal, enlightened self and has an almost unimaginably
powerful impact on your life within the Nine Worlds. And without
both an understanding of the Ten Worlds and practical experience
chanting Daimoku, it will be impossible to fully grasp the potential
of Buddhism the potential to eliminate human suffering.