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The Ten Worlds is a way to describe how life seems to change from moment to moment. Although some of these "worlds" might seem better than others, they are all necessaary parts of life. And we always have the ability to make these worlds more enlightened. The worlds all have positive side as well as negative sides.

The purpose of Buddhism is to make the world of Buddhahood our most frequent state.

A condition in which one feels totally trapped and filled with frustration, rage, helplessness, and destructive impulses. In this state, the person is suffering. 

Being poor or sick or in jail might show what this state is like. The positive thing about Hell is the feeling of "hitting the bottom" this can help the person to change and improve things. 

One example might be a person who has been ill and then uses suffering to become more healthy. This is called "turning poison into medicine."

A person in this state is always craving things. But the feeling doesn't go away, even when he or she gets the thing! So the person just keeps wanting more. 

When hunger is seen positively, it can create an unstoppable drive. For example, people fighting tirelessly for nuclear disarmament are hungry for peace.

This is a condition that is ruled by animal instinct. A person has no sense of reason, living only for the present. One in this state fears the strong and prays on the weak. Because of this he or she may be seen as "two-faced." 

On the positive side, animality protects one from danger and alerts us to basic needs such as food and shelter. 

This is a condition dominated by selfish ego, competitiveness, arrogance and the need to be right about all things. Anger can also be the source of great ideas and fuel for achievement. 

Many organizations which work for social change have been driven by people with a burning sense of anger and indignation at the way people are being treated. This is the positive side of Anger.

In this calm state of life one can pass fair judgment, and can control  desires with reason. A person can act in harmony with the environment. 

However, like most of these ten worlds it is unstable and hard to maintain. So while this might be a good state to be in, it is unable to endure the conflicts which we face in our daily lives.

This is the condition of pleasure, that is often experienced when a person's desires are fulfilled. Unlike the true happiness of Buddhahood, however, this state is only temporary. Like Tranquility, it is easily disrupted by even a slight challenge. And even if things do not change, Rapture simply disappears with the passage of time.

The majority of people spend most of their time moving between these six conditions of life, from Hell to Rapture, totally ruled by their reactions to outside events. They may be easily swayed by things that happen in their lives.

The next four worlds are called the four higher worlds or the Four Noble Paths. A person must make an effort to reveal these worlds within his or her life.

A condition in which one seeks some skill, lasting truth, or self reformation from the teachings of others. When you shonestly study in school, you are in the world of Learning.

A person in a state of learning nevertheless, may not be in a position to make decisions or take action.

REALIZATION (or Absorption)
This is a state where a person discovers a partial truth through his or her own efforts. The worlds of Learning and Realization are closely related.

The problem with  Learning and Realization is that people in these states may become arrogant and self-centered. They may look down on those people who seem "less smart" than themselves. They may start to think that they have nothing to learn. 

Also, people in these states find it hard to admit mistakes.

This is a condition where a person does not just think only of himself (or herself). This person is devoted to helping others. 

Some examples might be nurses or emergency rescue workers or teachers.

But even this state can have a negative side: the Bodhisattva may continue to act for others, but, over time, may come to resent doing it.

The highest of the Ten Worlds, a condition of pure, indestructible happiness which is not dependent on what is happening in one's life. The Buddha is happy, no matter what: problems in life are seen as challenges to be overcome. It is a condition of freedom, full of wisdom, courage, compassion, and life force.

We have the ability to reveal any of our Ten Worlds, including Buddhahood, from the first moment we chant. As we continue to practice Buddhism, Buddhahood becomes our most frequent world. And we begin to show the positive sides of all the other worlds too.

In this way, based on our daily chanting, our lives become charged with positive, value-creating activity. We are able to change our environment our family, our friends, home, school and/or workplace and become happy. 

We can help others to become happy too, by teaching them to chant.

Adapted from with permission.

NOTE: You can get a full-size version of this Ten Worlds presentation (with large pictures suitable for coloring) as a Word document click here.

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