“[I]n many contexts the term ‘world’ is used not to refer to the external world, either in the sense of what we see, or of the planet earth in space, or of the universe as a whole, but, rather, to stand for or signify the ‘world’ of an individual: one’s world.”
– Hamilton-Blyth, Sue. Early Buddhism: A New Approach: The I of the Beholder (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism) (p. 93). Taylor and Francis.
I think that’s what phenomenologist Husserl’s concept of ‘lifeworld’ was meant to convey, in the first half of the twentieth century. The Nikaya Buddha used the word ‘loka’ in a like fashion. It could be used, as we do, to refer to the bigger worlds – our peopled world, or our planet, or our universe – and our world of immediate experience. We say “I really get his world.” Just as, when we speak of the ‘world-view’ of the ancient Greeks (or whomever), we are referring to how they experienced the situations they were in – the way they ‘had’ the bigger peopled world, planet, and universe, as experience.
It was this that the Buddha was primarily interested in: How we can become attuned to, transform, and eventually transcend our individual ‘world within the world.’ Where else does the ‘tangle within a tangle’ get untangled?
It seems to me that he approached this by indicating the kinds of experiences we will find as we become familiar with our ‘loka.’ (This ‘loka’ concept, as I see it, was later elaborated into the ‘maṇḍala’ practices of later Buddhism. To know your own subjective world in all its dynamism is to acquaint yourself with a mandala – that is, with a experiential sphere that has (subjectively remember) a centre and periphery.)
The four mindfulnesses – physical body (with death), feeling-tones, mind-states and the dynamics between them – are one such model of what you will find in your ‘loka,’ your experiential world.
The model of the ‘six senses’ (which I’m expanding into seven, to update it) is another important perspective on one’s world as one directly has it in experience. And, so that’s why I’m going into the fine detail of the sensory fields – as a means to becoming intimately equated with our experienced life, both as we imagine it is, and how it actually is.
There’s a sense of something precious that comes with the history of use of the word ‘loka.’ According to Sue Hamilton-Blyth, the word predates the Buddha and is Vedic: “It’s earliest meaning was a “free, open space” or a “safe, sacred space.” We needn’t lose that meaning, though we’ll not be staying with that alone, but will be delving deeply into its metaphorical meanings, and the problems that inevitably come with our ‘world within the world,’ as it usually functions. So, here, notice that the word ‘space’ goes with ‘loka.’ Space itself, in our personal world, is a sense worth exploring, which brings a richness of meaning.