One’s world. I am taking a risk, I believe, in boring or frightening some of my readers.

Since I first started exploring ‘loka,’ four decades back, I have encountered many situations where people, when they get a glimpse of the loka aspect of experiencing, are shocked. There is something about the alonenes of contacting the entirety of your world all in one go – the lack of outer authority, the abandonment of one’s world picture,  the loss of comparison, the loss of the familiar inside-outside made-up world, the falling away of strategies to validate one’s stories about how things are, and so on – which make fully exploring one’s ‘loka’ daunting. It’s a no-go zone for the ego-system. (My first encounters with this were in my late-1960s LSD experimentation, so I had a buffer, on those occasions. Sober intimacy, though, takes away the buffers.)

However, it can be approached slowly. We can familiarize ourselves with the territory. The practice, in Buddhist meditation, of the higher meditations (jhanas) is exactly that familiarization process. We learn to encounter profound dimensions of the loka – especially its space aspect – and to transcend our world-making, while still including it. Bhikkhu Analayo, in his latest book Compassion and Emptiness in Early Buddhist Meditation, says:

“The perception of infinite space includes the whole world, without any limit. The perception of infinite consciousness turns attention to that which has been aware of infinite space, whereby the whole world is now seen to be, in a way, in one’s own mind.”

My point in all this is that, where we are run by our fears, we are resisting the loss of our constructions. But, in death, they all drop away, anyway; and we’re not living fully while we are being run by our world-making and are unaware of its principle dynamics. So, let’s familiarize ourselves with our minds. Our fear of death has to do – not with the biological dimension, which is trivial – but with the ‘end of our world,’ our loka, where death, itself, is constructed.

An important warning: this ‘loka’ concept is not meant to be the foundation of an ‘ontology,’ some theory of what reality is. I’m not saying this is how reality is: for example, that reality is mind-only. That’s not tenable. (Something like that, or some such childhood ‘feeling,’ may well be the root of our everyday narcissism, though.) Rather, I am seeking, here, a terminology to talk about a taboo area of human experiencing – the experience of totality. An English scholar, Sue Hamilton (EARLY BUDDHISM: A NEW APPROACH – The I of the Beholder) says: “…the world [in early Buddhist teachings] is used metaphorically to refer to one’s experience in its entirety.”

And, scholar-monk, Analayo, writes: “[As] far as my subjective experience of the world is concerned, consciousness is its very foundation. My experience of the world is impossible without consciousness. In other words, for phenomena in the world to exist for me, to be experienced by me, consciousness is indispensable. So consciousness is indeed the source of my world, it provides the ground within which my world of experience can unfold.”

And, the purpose of all this is so that, with familiarization, we can cease to cling to our constructed world, freeing ourselves up for a flourishing life, which includes a flourishing in dying and death – no matter how unpleasant the circumstances of our dying. Picture Gandhi going down with the name of his spiritual guide on his lips.

A scholarly note from Sue Hamilton: “In fact the metaphorical usage of ‘world’ pre-dates the Buddha’s teaching and is to be found in the Vedic sacrificial religion. There, in spite of its having the conventional spacial meanings with which we are familiar, it always had what has been described as an ‘inherent vagueness’. One of its applications was that it indicated a state of happiness or stability (perhaps in the sense of orderliness). Its earliest meaning was a “free, open space” or a “safe, sacred space…”

To transform our pain loka into a flourishing, open, free, safe, and sacred space, and to cease to identify with it – this is a good reason to practice dying now.