The teaching of Buddha tells us that there is this world and the world beyond this. Many people think that this world refers to the world that we are living in and the world beyond this is some place outside this world. This is wrong. We are living in this world and we remain here even if we become monks or nuns. The Arahats, Bodhisattva and Buddha are saints who have realisations beyond this world but they are still living in this world and giving assistance to us. Thus, "out-worldly" does not mean that one has to go away from this world and go to another place.
What does "worldly" and "out-worldly" mean in Buddhism? According to the Chinese understanding "worldly" has the implication of time. For example, the Chinese regard thirty years as an "age" and in the West, a hundred years make up a century. Anything that exists within the time frame, from the past to the present and from the present to the future, is the "world".
The teaching of the Buddha is also as such. That which is changeable is called "worldly". Within this time frame, from the past to the present, from the present to the future, from existence to non-existence, from good to bad, everything is changing continuously. Anything that is changing is called "worldly". Besides, the word "worldly" also has the meaning of concealment. Normal people do not understand the cause and effect of the past, present and future. They do not know where they come from, how to behave as a human being, where to go after death, the meaning of life and the nature of the universe. They live ignorantly under the influence of the karma of the three births. This is called "worldly".
What does "out-worldly" (supra mundane) mean? "Out" has the meaning of beyond or superior. One who practices the teaching of the Buddha, has wisdom and is able to understand the truth of the life and universe; has no defilements and is pure in one's mind; and experiences the permanent Truth is called the "out-worldly" one. All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are living in this world. They have great wisdom in seeing the Truth and their minds are pure. They are not like the normal "worldly" people.
Thus, the term "out-worldly" encourages all of us who are practising the Buddha's teaching to progress further and become the man above the men, to improve ourselves from a worldly person to an out-worldly saint. It is not asking us to go to another world. Misunderstanding "out-worldly", some think that the principle of Buddhism is to run away from reality.
Was this article helpful?