Mind and cosmological realms

"The reason why a living being is reborn into a particular realm is because he has generated, in a previous life, the kamma or volitional force of consciousness that leads to rebirth into that realm,and thus in the final analysis all the realms of existence are formed, fashioned, and sustained by the mental activity of living beings."

According to this passage, the world we experience is related to our mental state. Does it mean that Buddhism believes in a phenomenological idealism? Or it means that “there are” some parallel realms in the world which are made by the continuum of the mind? To clarify the point, in the first case, in fact such a thing as “animal realm”, “gods realm” and so on does not exist, only a single world exists which is perceived as the god realm, animal realm and etc. based on the mentality of the perceiver. In this case, these realms are only phenomenological entities not a real separated world (at least in the case of the animal realm, this is true). In the second case, we have “real” parallel realms which are causally created by the mind continuum of the ones who reside in the abovementioned realms. Which one is the case? Is another interpretation of the passage true?

This is another good essay topic

This is another good essay topic. The cosmological realm and mind realm have been a debate.

1. Would this realm also mean that it is actually around us. Such as ghost realm, where there are "hungry ghost" which are condemned to "feed on excrement", could that mean that those that are reborn as a fly around us?
2. Would that also mean that there is actually a "ghost realm" where there are rebirth, born and age as in the human realm, and they will "die" and reborn again based on their karma.

I guess a lot of various sources from theravada/mahayana would explain it differently. Ultimately, the conclusion would be "is it essential" as we are trying to break free from the cycle of rebirth/samsara.

It is true depending on the

It is true depending on the kamma, one takes rebirth into a particular realm but it is not true to say, according to Buddhist teachings, that realms are formed and sustained by mental activities/kamma.

I did not see such passage appearing in the notes. Don't know from where.

Kamma sustains and does not sustain a world

The passage is from Lesson 3: Theravada Cosmology reading 2. I agree with you that kamma does not sustain a world(in its physical interpretation). But it keeps the realms in other way: if a realm becomes empty of beings, virtually it does not exist. I like to utilize Nagarjuna-like language to clarify the point: a realm without beings to live in it, does not exist, without a realm, who are the occupants of that realm? They only exist depending on each other. So in this regard, Kamma sustains a realm.

Denis Wallez's picture

Nagarjuna on Theravada?

There is a strong danger in applying Nagarjuna-like thought to Theravada. Teachings are clever means to liberate us, they have internal consistencies to help us achieve so. Philosophical elaborations, lists of dhammas, etc. are all for a soteriological purpose, not for the sake of establishing a formal 'truth' (which by nature would be conditioned, impermanent, and a cause of suffering if one clings to it being the one and only truth). Mixing teachings from wildly varying schools and/or periods may introduce more inconsistencies than it solves problems.

An example should illustrate how asserting that an empty realm is non-existent is faulty. How does Brahma come to believe he's the Creator? He historically is the first being to populate a realm. And, at some point, he will wish not to be alone. Independently of such wish, other beings will migrate between realms and some will appear in lower realms. Having no other evidence, Brahma will assume his wish was what triggered the apparition of such beings, and will thus conclude that he is the Creator. All in all, empty realms were empty but they're still the recipient where beings appear…
You're stating that an empty glass doesn't exist as a glass if it has no water in. Following Nagarjuna, sure, the glass doesn't exist in 'itself', not with water, not without! On conventional level though, it is clear that the glass is a recipient: it might contain water, regardless of whether it does so right now, or not. The glass is conditioned, at least by how one 'intends' to use it, so it doesn't exist independently.
Similarly, an empty realm doesn't exist independently, but it might still exist in relation to other realms, e.g. as the destination of beings from another realm under specific conditions.

Glass of water not the glass

It seems that a point is ignored: Nagarjuna and philosophers like him used their own language to explain the same truth. Theravada and Mahayana are just names to refer to different approaches in explaining the same reality. With all respect I think your example overlooks some points: a glass is a glass because we call it a glass, glass is a name and no such a thing as glass-ness essentially exists. The “glass” is nothing but an abstraction of mind, without the mind of the observer, there is no glass, but certainly there is a mass of material and conditions outside the mind. The question is what makes for example the realm of hungry ghosts, the realm of hungry ghosts? You assert that there is something called the realm of hungry ghost-ness; on other words there is a place which is essentially the realm of hungry ghosts whether there are any hungry ghost to occupy it or not. This assertion is tantamount to believing in a self for the concerned realm. What exists in the outside word is a mass of continuously changing dharmas and conditions which creates a space to be occupied. It will become the realm of hungry ghosts only if it is occupied by hungry ghosts. The realm is “a glass of water” not a “glass”. A glass can exist without water but a glass of water cannot. Nagarjuna never denies the existence of the glass; he refutes the existence of glass-ness. His beliefs is nothing but another definition of the Theravada principle of Anatta. The realm of hungry ghosts, humans and etc. “exist” only because entities called hungry ghost, human and etc exist. Your interpretation of the existence of hungry ghosts is their presence in a plane of existence or realm while it is not what I mean. What if nothing called hungry ghost exists? Lama Tsong Khaopa uses the metaphor of the rabbit horn to refer to something which does not exist even conventionally. Your example is like that someone says ok, although there is no rabbit horn, the sphere of rabbit horn exists in relation to the human realm and it will be occupied by the rabbit horn in the future. It is obvious that such a realm does not exist because the rabbit horn does not exist. My point is that the realm of hungry ghosts, exists because a being called the hungry ghost exists, if a hungry ghost like the rabbit horn does not exist, the hungry ghost realm does not exist either. So the example of glass and water does not apply here. To correct your example: the glass of water does not exist if there is nothing called water. That is my point.

Denis Wallez's picture

ghosts don't exist without the realm of ghosts

I don't see how me saying "On conventional level" differs from you saying "a glass is a glass because we call it a glass, glass is a name". The 'name' is the 'convention.'

I don't agree that "Theravada and Mahayana are just names to refer to different approaches in explaining the same reality." If it was the case, I don't think so many Theravadins would have rejected the Mahayana teachings… Theravada and Mahayana might both aim to the same Liberation, the same soteriological purpose, yes… but their descriptions of 'reality' are different and the fact is that they don't even need to agree (since they're only 'empty' concepts and clever means to guide us, not absolute Truths).
Because the two presentations of reality don't need to agree to help someone to realise the same nirvana, analysing one presentation with the tools of the other may easily introduce more difficulties than it solves.

"This assertion is tantamount to believing in a self for the concerned realm." No, it isn't, your conclusion is going further (in essentialism) than what I wrote. It is tantamount to 'naming' a destination of rebirth for some (current) karmic processes. If you may 'name' some rebirths "hungry ghosts," then you may also 'name' the plane in which such rebirth will appear. It is a naming convention. So the realm can exist without a self but in relation to future rebirths of actual current karmic streams: it is enough to consider that the rebirth will happen somewhere, and the somewhere is then named the plane of hungry ghosts. If anything, I don't pre-suppose the plane, I only pre-suppose the 12 links of dependent origination. Such an "existence in relation" does not require that such plane is occupied with ghosts at the present moment, and it does not require a 'self' either. If you name the coming rebirths 'rabbits' instead of 'ghosts' (that's just a name), the plane still exists "in relation" and is now the "plane of 'rabbits'." Note that this doesn't tell you if such a plane is the same as or different from the plane of humans (which is why there exists —among Theravadins themselves— a psychological interpretation of planes alongside the 'physical' images).
"It will become the realm of hungry ghosts only if it is occupied by hungry ghosts" is not necessarily true. The "only if" is an assumption. The hungry ghosts have no selves! They don't 'essentially' exist, so the existence of the plane cannot depend on the existence of hungry ghosts… Moreover, if the plane doesn't exist, where would hungry ghosts appear into existence? You're stating that the plane exists because of the ghosts, but the contrary could just be true: maybe 'ghosts' are 'ghosts' only because they arise in the 'ghost' plane. If you name the plane first, and the inhabitants second, you just reversed your logic but it works just as well as before. Logic cannot solve this.

"His beliefs is nothing but another definition of the Theravada principle of Anatta" is debatable. For many people, emptiness is a 'generalisation' of anatta, i.e. the re-definition extended its scope! This can be seen in the fact that many early schools made explicit lists of dharma really existing (e.g. space or the four elements). If anatta was so clearly equivalent to emptiness, such lists would not exist (space is empty, fire is empty…).

"the glass of water does not exist if there is nothing called water. That is my point." I think I got your point. My point is that, even if you're in the middle of a sandy desert and there is no water to be seen now, it does not mean there will never be water. The conditions for the arising of water might already be acting (and water will appear)… In such case, if you are thirsty, you better have your glass ready to collect the water. The 'glass of water' is in a web of conditioned processes, and even though some consequences might not be visible yet, the processes and conditions might be already acting (thus giving valid sense to something which is not visible yet). How you name the web of conditions ('water' or something else) is irrelevant to its empty existence (different from non-existence).

You cannot say you follow Nagarjuna and write "My point is that the realm of hungry ghosts, exists because a being called the hungry ghost exists." You deny the existence of the plane but would accept the existence of the ghosts? If the plane exists dependent on the existence of ghosts, in true Nararjuna-style you'd know that the ghosts are called ghosts only because they will appear on plane of ghosts. See Nagarjuna's "examination of fuel and fire" (mulamadhyamakakarika, chap. 10): with Nagarjuna, dependence cannot be one-way.

As said, mixing the presentations of Theravada and Mahayama can be more confusing than enlightening.

Yes there is no one-way deependence

About the glass, the point is that: the relation between the realm of hungry ghosts and hungry ghosts are similar to the relation between a glass of water and water, not the glass and water. A glass does exist without water but a glass of water cannot. Certainly, a place called a realm exists as a spatial entity but it is not the realm of x unless the x exists. To clarify my point:
1) If certain being for example hungry ghosts or humans were just mythical creatures, what would be the point to call a plane, the plane of hungry ghosts or humans.
2) Is there any specific characteristic which makes a plane, the plane of hungry ghosts or …? Certainly, the most specific characteristic of such a realm is being a plane where hungry ghosts live in. Again I ask you “where is the source of such characteristic?” Is it something essential to the realm? If your answer is yes then you believe in some immutable substance which is the source of the realm’s quiddities. If your answer is no, then you must believe in another source. Certainly, here the source of this characteristic is the at conventional level existence of something called the hungry ghost in external reality, whether such a being is still living in the Desire Sphere or there is no living hungry ghost in that sphere (on other words, there are only potential hungry ghosts). In this regard the realm is dependent on the hungry ghost and because the hungry ghost is the stream of dharmas conditioned by karma, the realm is sustained by karma.

“You're stating that the plane exists because of the ghosts, but the contrary could just be true: maybe 'ghosts' are 'ghosts' only because they arise in the 'ghost' plane.” Here you've reaffirmed my argument. I never said that there is a one way dependence relation between this two.Just recall my sentence which triggered the debate: “a realm without beings to live in it does not exist, without a realm, who are the occupants of that realm?” the point is that they exist in codependence to each other, I never stated that the reverse is not true. It seems that you have ignored the second part of my argument.If here I emphasized one way of the relationship, it is because I tried to avoid repetitions. Otherwise, I argue that these two entities only exist in dependence to each other and also in dependence to other conditions including karmas.

Also you can name many things in relation to other things but as far as the condition for conventional existence is not present, such naming is nothing but mental conceptualization.
“They don't 'essentially' exist, so the existence of the plane cannot depend on the existence of hungry ghosts…” So it seems that you use the concepts of essential existence and conventional existence interchangeably. “To have no self” is another term to describe the conditioned and codependent existence. Otherwise “don’t essentially exist” means they don’t exist at all even at the conventional level.
“…it is enough to consider that the rebirth will happen somewhere, and the somewhere is then named the plane of hungry ghosts.” The sentence is not necessarily true. This somewhere before the rebirth could be a mere mental construction or just a potential not a “real” realm in the external world. “John will certainly die and put on rest in a tomb” but unless this happens that tomb will not be John’s. It is just a piece of land. It is too morbid, sorry . John will buy a firm and become its owner. Before this happens, why do you call the firm, John’s Co.? It is just a firm like other firms.

I don’t think that we can generalize the assumptions of certain schools to the entire Buddhism. There were also some schools which believed in soul-like entities. Many of these schools ceased to exist because among other factors they were marginalized by mainstream Buddhist schools. Although, Mahayana elaborated on the issue, emptiness is nothing but saying “every dharma is empty of a permanent self or essence.” If Nagarjuna refuted the essential existence of dharmas and phenomena, it will not necessarily mean that all Buddhists before the emergence of Mahayana believed in a self or essence for phenomena. If you mean that there were some schools which believed in essence, you are right (I am not explaining the different interpretations of the lack of essence in various Buddhist schools in term of impermanence and etc.)

Do you thing “different approaches to explain the same Reality” is different form “their descriptions of 'reality' are different”? It is quite natural if one rejects the approach of other people and this will not change the reality itself. For example, some surgeons prefer open appendectomy, others might prefer the laparoscopic one and criticize the first approach. The two groups both agree that there is some clinical condition called appendicitis which must be treated surgically. Their rejection of each other’s approach does not change the reality about the condition.
There is an old story about an elephant in a dark room and the people who are trying to find out what in that room is only through touching it. You may find it useful. My teachers have taught me to embrace teachings from various traditions without sectarian tendencies. If Mahayana and Theravada’s philosophical notions are just Upayas to serve the soteriological purpose of Liberation, why are you worried about using these concepts whenever suitable to clarify some points? Why do you think that the issue of realms and the role of karma in sustaining them is only a Theravada concept?

Denis Wallez's picture

is two-way dependence essential?

Oh I definitely use "the concepts of essential existence and conventional existence interchangeably" with good reason: the 'essence' is precisely the illusion (the ignorance) that makes conventional existence dukkha! Essence is definitely denied by Nagarjuna, since that was your reference author, and so essence is the key illusion of conventional existence: naming supposes a stable entity (otherwise the name no longer can be used the very next moment, due to impermanence, and naming is useless), naming assumes an essence.

Again, applying Nagarjuna to Theravada will not lead you to understand Theravada. You seem to reject the very idea that a plane could have an essence, but such rejection is not automatically granted by Theravadins since they list dharma which do exist: 82 dharmas, of which 28 concern rupa (corporality), one of which is 'space.' If space has an essence, the essence might capture the realms.

I agree with you that we cannot "generalise the assumptions of certain schools to the entire Buddhism" since this is precisely what I urge you not to do with respect to Nagarjuna's ideas. My responses started when you started applying Nagarjuna to Theravada realms…

I don't think you've seen my point yet about the empty realm. I admit I did cut short my previous response (which was already long) and maybe the response became unclear as a result of such cut. I apologise for that.

You state you see the co-dependence, but you still seem to consider that the ghosts need to exist, without seeing their non-self. If you consider some karma brings you to the ghost realm, the ghost realm must exist before you reap the fruits (otherwise it doesn't make any sens to say that such karma leads to a non-existent ghost realm!). So the realm must exist before you populate it, but also before even anyone acted in a way that would generate such karma. It still is in co-dependent with you: it exists as your destination, but it does not need to be populated yet (you're not reaping the fruits just yet, you've not even acted yet). It only needs to be a destination. Karma relates to a stream of consciousness, so you must consider realms in relation to processes, not in relation to population or existence at a specific time. So, in that sense, it seems the realm is sustained by karma. But does karma exist independently (of the being experiencing such karma)? Has karma an essence? If no being is in a realm and no being is going toward that realm, does karma support that realm then? And if conditions change, and suddenly a being is now going toward the realm? Does the realm co-appears? Co-appear with what exactly? the being? the karma? the conditions? the conditions of the conditions? If you cannot find the beginning of the world, can you find what sustains the realms?
What about the (Theravadin) dharma of 'space' which exists, and may have the realm structure as its essence? Note that this gives an essence to 'space,' not necessarily to the realms themselves! How does karma relate then? If you accept the world exists, and karma is not sustaining the world, why would karma be needed to sustain the realms? Same 82 elements as constituents… Nagarjuna would reject this, but Theravada accepts 'space' so it doesn't need to reject it, now what?
Is the ghost realm 'essentially' the realm "where ghosts live"? Not necessarily. Has the realm essence? Not necessarily. Can it exist independently of ghosts? Maybe, due to the essence of 'space.' Is it then an un-identified realm, a realm that exists because of the structure of space but is not (yet) labelled "ghost realm" because no ghost is at this point in relation (present or future) with the realm? Or is it already the ghost realm, not because of ghosts existing already, but because of the structure of space and that what we call a 'ghost' is simply a being going 'down' in the realms? Now is there co-dependence between future ghosts (beings currently having karma which leads to ghost realms) and the realm, or is it simply between ghost and space (a structure providing realms to go down to)?
OK, hopefully I'm getting a bit clearer now: ghost and ghost realms are co-dependent (as per previous response) and they're conventional (I suspect that point wasn't so clear in my previous answer, where I insisted on dependence and naming but not on 'dependent naming' being 'convention' itself)! So emptiness will tell you nothing about the realm, because emptiness tells you nothing about conventional truth (except that it is 'conventional' and empty). Hence why I say that applying Nagarjuna to Theravada will not lead you to understand Theravada.

Regarding "John & Co.," you wouldn't conventionally call it like this before the purchase, in usual life. The conventional choice at which point we switch the name to "John & Co." is only that though: conventional. As part of a process, there is no 'essential' moment when the name changes or 'should' change. It is only conventional, only naming. To go back to John & Co, do you think it's becoming John's company once he has enough funds to buy it (without fear of a counter-offer: by then John might call "my future company" while the company itself still ignores the coming offer!), once he meets the lawyers, a second before he signs the paper, when he starts signing, when he finishes signing, once a witness has signed too?

Do you thing “different approaches to explain the same Reality” is different form “their descriptions of 'reality' are different”? Yes, I do think it is different.
When talking of "explaining the Same Reality", you assume such a unique reality does exist and can be explained. This seems strongly debatable to me. It is likely that the common point exists but is unconditioned (i.e. nirvana) and thus cannot be explained, only experienced (hence the classic 'definition' of nirvana in negative terms of what it is not).
When talking of different descriptions of 'reality,' I consider only what can be described, i.e. not the unconditioned. I am voluntarily staying away from the ultimate, the 'same reality.' And the descriptions may seriously differ. Again: see Theravada's 82 dharmas vs. emptiness, the descriptions are just not compatible.
So you see your analogy about appendicitis (conventional reality) doesn't apply to nirvana / emptiness (ultimate reality). And I agree with you, people may agree on appendicitis, or not, and it doesn't change ultimate reality. But that doesn't make the ultimate reality "explainable" either.

And again, if Theravada and Mahayana were so close, Theravadins would not have rejected Mahayana teachings… but they did. You cannot keep telling it's all approximately the same, unless you want to insult many Theravadins for being unable to see so themselves.

I never said karma or realms are Theravada-only. I responded precisely to your reference to a precise philosopher, stating this philosopher will not help you understand Theravada realms and will add more confusion than solution. I'm not worried, I simply avoid abusively "generalising the assumptions of certain schools to the entire Buddhism." The 12 links are a key teaching in Theravada, and Theravadins don't question the emptiness of the chain, they work on not fuelling it. Nagarjuna has a quite different take on the links (chap 26 of the famous verses)… Idem for karma. Analysing how karma may or may not sustain the realms in Theravada description of conventional reality (not ultimate reality) with references to Nagarjuna is not worrying but it introduces confusion.

I'm fully supportive of "embracing teachings from various traditions without sectarian tendencies" but embracing doesn't mean mixing without caution. You can embrace speaking multiple foreign languages but mixing them in the same sentence will likely be more confusing than speaking one language at a time.

The characteristic of space

It is debatable that naming always assumes an essence. For example, you may name an ever-changing process without assuming an immutable essence in it. Whether essence is an illusion or not don’t justify using the two senses of existence interchangeably in philosophical debates. Of course, it is not your fault because I’ve used these two senses interchangeably as we don’t have separate words for them in English. But the point is that, sometimes when I mean the conventional existence you interpret it as essential existence and vice versa.
Regarding the essence of planes, whether they have essence or not would not change anything. According to you, Theravadins believe that the essence of a realm is space. Does the essence of that space is to be occupied by certain being, in my example hungry ghosts? The answer is certainly no. the postulated essence of space has the inherent characteristic of non-obstructiveness (as traditional texts put it). But such characteristic has nothing to do with the hungry ghost. Space might be occupied by human, hungry ghosts and etc. On the other hand, I am not talking about whether the realm is populated by certain being or not. I mean that suppose we don’t have any being called hungry ghost (i.e. hungry ghosts are imaginary creatures like rabbit horns), would it be appropriate to call a realm the realm of hungry ghost? Certainly no, unless we do so without any reason and arbitrarily. On other words, when I talk about non-existence of hungry ghosts I am not talking about temporal non-existence, rather I mean the non-existence of hungry ghosts as an ontological entity. In this sense, regardless of believing in an essence for the space or not, the realm is dependent on its inhabitants and vice versa. “Is the ghost realm 'essentially' the realm "where ghosts live"? Not necessarily. Has the realm essence? Not necessarily. Can it exist independently of ghosts? Maybe, due to the essence of 'space.'” Yes, it is exactly what I say. the mere existence of a space doesn’t make it the space of X.
Why don’t consider the concept of the realms as a Theravadin one while it is common between the two schools, so I did not apply Nagarjuna to “Theravada realms”. About your point: so you accept that the realm depends on you as a would-be inhabitant of that realm even there is no inhabitants of that realm at the moment. That is exactly what I say. The mere fact that “it needs be a destination” means that it is dependent and without the other side of the relation it could not exist.
I never said that karma exists independently and your argument is exactly what codependence means as it is mentioned in the analogy of roof beams.
Regarding the reality, you are right because I used the word “explain” carelessly. I should correct it as using different approach to experience a postulated reality.

Denis Wallez's picture

the characteristics of space (not of realms!)

"According to you, Theravadins believe that the essence of a realm is space." I must have been very unclear: I do not assert this at all! What I asserted is that space has some essential traits of existence, and the 'structure' of space (or set of 'characteristics' associated to space) is to have 31 abodes with some fixed 'order' between them. To say "there are 31 ordered abodes" implies nothing about what an abode itself is, so this does not rely on an 'essence' of realm.
I stated in the previous post: "Note that this gives an essence to 'space,' not necessarily to the realms themselves!" so no, no, no, I do not believe the essence of a realm is space! I mentioned what we call 'ghosts' are a class of beings moving 'down' the order of the realms, and what we call 'ghost realm' is then simply the realm in which such 'ghosts' stay for one life. That is to say the 'ghost realm' does not have an 'essence' of "being where ghosts go." It is a 'ghost realm' only in relation to other conditions, not an essence.

So I'm afraid you did invert what I was saying: I talk about the structure of space as constituted of realms, while you took it as the structure of realms is to have space. The two are very different. Then I agree with you that 'space' would have no relation to 'ghosts' but it happens that I never went in this direction of thought.
If you go back to what I wrote just now, you will also see that the ghost realm doesn't necessarily exist in dependence on "me as a possible future habitant." So I "accept that the realm depends on [me] as a would-be inhabitant of that realm even there is no inhabitants of that realm at the moment" only as far as emptiness goes (and calling a particular being a 'ghost' makes the realm where the being lives a 'ghost realm'). However, I believe —as I just explained— that Theravada accepts 89 'real' dhammas, a fact which allows for an existence of realms out of karma, out of 'me.' It is more like an existence conditioned by space, not karma and not 'beings.' And that was my point: emptiness is not compatible with the Theravada view then. Because space if empty as per Nagarjuna, but is not empty according to Theravada. One tradition doesn't help understanding the other (on that particular point).

Exist in two ways

As I understand, the realms existed in two ways. One is the real existence and another as the perceiver perceived. Traditionally, Chinese Buddhism or especially "Zen" Buddhism stress on one mentality about life. When you are enjoying, you are at heaven realm. When you are angry, you are at yama realm. When you are depressed, you are in the hell. It is more of psychology perception.

Two interpretation of cosmology

This view is a psychological interpretation of the Buddhist cosmology which is true, without necessarily contradicting the ontological interpretation. However, we cannot limit ourselves to psychological interpretation. To support my position I would like to cite those Buddhist teachings which call for action to liberate “all sentient beings” not just humankind (to clarify my point I must say that some of emotions are specific to humans). The psychological interpretation of the cosmological planes is to some extent limited to human beings. Here, we deal with a rather phenomenological interpretation, i.e. the way beings perceive the universe makes the boundaries of various realms. On the other hand, because the beings who live in the same realm have similar Karmic impressions, their mental continuum is conditioned to perceive the world in similar way. Humans view the world in certain ways which is almost common among all people with some variations, and animal species are similar perception of the world too. But I believe those interpretations by some scholars who view some idealist aspects in Buddhism are inaccurate and a direct result of confusing phenomenological notions with ontological ones. Please correct me if I am wrong.


In my opinion many confusions about Buddhist philosophy arise when the thinker superficially applies ontological notion in interpreting Buddhism cosmology for instance descriptions about single world system or Cakravala doses not match with any finding in physics or geographical science.
However, the conceptual and sensual tools of an individual has a significant effect on its perception and interpretation of the world. for instance a worm which just enjoys some forms of tactile and taste senses has a very limited concept and interpretation about the world compared to an animal which enjoys visual perception. The same thing may go with higher sentient being or even human beings who are attached to just sensual perception compared with those who have attained higher means to examine the their world.