Loka Sutta – Origin and Cessation of the World

The Loka Sutta explains that the origin of the world (origin of suffering) and cessation of the world (attaining Nibbāna) are controlled by how we respond to sensory inputs that trigger the Paṭicca Samuppāda process.

April 16, 2021; rewritten with new chart March 18, 2023; revised June 1, 2024

Download/Print:6. Timeline of Loka Samudaya


1. We are aware of the “world” only when our minds receive sensory inputs (ārammaṇa.

  • We are not aware of the “world” while unconscious or in deep sleep. 
  • We become aware of the “world” after waking up. 
  • Thus, the “arising of the world” starts with a sensory input (ārammaṇa.) Even a living Arahant would experience the world (without attaching to any ārammaṇa) until the death of the physical body. However, that process ends when the mind of an Arahant does not attach to the final ārammaṇa that comes to the mind at death. That is when the “world ceases to exist, and the full Nibbāna or Parinibbāna is attained.”
  • Please think about that carefully and ask questions at the forum if unclear.
Loka Sutta – Arising of One’s World

2. Here is how the Buddha described the “arising of one’s world” in the “Loka Sutta (SN 12.44)” (I separated the verse into five steps to match the above chart): Katamo ca, bhikkhave, lokassa samudayo? (i) Cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṁ. (ii)Tiṇṇaṁ saṅgati phasso. (iii) Phassa paccayā vedanā; (iv) vedanā paccayā taṇhā; (v) taṇhā paccayā upādānaṁ; upādāna paccayā bhavo; bhava paccayā jāti; jāti paccayā jarāmaraṇaṁ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā sambhavanti. Ayaṁ kho, bhikkhave, lokassa samudayo.”

Translated: “And what, bhikkhus, is the origin of the world? (i) In dependence on the eye and forms (rupa), eye-consciousness arises. (ii) That is followed by “contact with the three types of ‘saṅ‘” or “samphassa.” (iii) With samphassa as condition, samphassa-jā-vedanā come to be; (iv) with samphassa-jā-vedanā as condition, taṇhā; (v) with taṇhā as condition, upādāna; with upādāna as condition, existence (bhava); with bhava as condition, birth; with birth as condition, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. This, bhikkhus, is the origin of the world.”

  • The word samudaya comes from “saṅ” + “udaya” which rhymes as “samudaya.” There is “saṅ” again! Now, “udaya” means to arise, and thus, “samudaya” means “arising due to saṅ.” This means not the arising of the whole world with trillions of stars/planets but the re-arising of the world at death with a new rebirth. If “saṅ” (or the defilements of greed, hate, and ignorance) were to have been removed, one would not be reborn and experience this suffering-filled world again.
  • Note that any activity, in general, involves “saṅ.” Even an Arahant generates mano saṅkhāra (vedanā, saññā) but not abhisaṅkhāra.
  • Note that just a sensory experience CANNOT be the root cause of suffering. Rather, the attachment to sensory experience with samphassa is the root cause. That is the KEY POINT of this sutta. This is why I have bolded the verse, “tiṇṇaṁ saṅgati phasso.”
  • Let us discuss the time sequence stated in the whole verse. The above chart is a summary.
Time Sequence in the Above Verse – The First Step Happens to Anyone

3. (Step 1 in the Chart) The whole process starts with a sensory input through one of the six senses.  The above verse describes what happens when someone sees an object they attach to (the other five sense faculties work the same way.) That attachment (taṇhā) eventually leads to suffering in some form.

  • The process starts with “cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṁ.” That means cakkhu viññāṇa arises when one sees an object. It just sees what that object is. No kamma generated here. That “seeing event” or cakkhu viññāṇa occurs with the help of the phassa cetasika. This phassa (contact) is between cakkhu and rupa.
  • As discussed, phassa cetasika is a universal cetasika that arises with ANY sensory event. When you hear a sound or taste food, that involves the phassa cetasika. Any living being, including an Arahant, will experience all six sensory inputs.
  • The next step is “tiṇṇaṁ saṅgati phasso.”
Tiṇṇaṁ Saṅgati Phasso – Misunderstood Key Verse

4. (Step 2 in the Chart.) This short verse is commonly mistranslated as “The meeting of the three is contact.” See the English translation of the Loka Sutta at Sutta Central: “The World (SN 12.44).”

  • It does not make any sense to say “the meeting of cakkhu, rupa, and cakkhu viññāṇa.” Instead, cakkhu viññāṇa (or seeing the object)” happens with the contact or meeting of cakkhu and rupa. There is no “meeting of the three.”
  • Instead, what happens in this second step is “contact with defiled gati” or “samphassa.” Here samphassa is saṅ phassa“(“saṅ” + “phassa,” where “saṅ” are defilements of greed, anger, and ignorance). It rhymes as “samphassa.” Thus samphassa (contact with defilements) is an internal process in mind.

5. To learn about “saṅ” see What is “San”? Meaning of Sansāra (or Saṃsāra)” and “List of “Saṅ” Words and Other Pāli Roots.”

  • There are three main “defiled gati” or “saṅgati“: lobha, dosa, and moha. Those are the “three” referred to in verse. It can also refer to one’s defilements associated with the three entities of cakkhu, rupa, and cakkhu viññāṇa.
  • Such detailed explanations are in the three Commentaries within the Tipiaka. The above explanation of “phassa” as “samphassa” is given here: “Paṭiccasamuppāda vibhaṅga.” For details, see “Difference between Phassa and Samphassa.” 
“Phassa Paccayā Vedanā” Is “Samphassa Paccayā Samphassa-Jā-Vēdanā.”

6. (Step 3 in the Chart) Therefore, the third step, “phassa paccayā vedanā,” that comes after the steptiṇṇaṁ saṅgati phassois “samphassa paccayā samphassa-jā-vēdanā.” This is a “mind-made vedanā” due to samphassa.

  • Note that “” means “generated by,” and thus “samphassa-jā-vēdanā” means “vedanā generated by samphassa.” That vedanā would arise ONLY IF one gets attached to that sensory input. 
  • Now it is clear that the fourth step of “vedanā paccayā taṇhā” really is “samphassa-jā-vēdanā paccayā taṇhā.” An Arahant generatesvēdanā (in Step 1) but not samphassa or samphassa-jā-vēdanā (in Step 3.)
  • One would attach to that ārammana ONLY because it led to “samphassa” with the steptiṇṇaṁ saṅgati phasso.
  • Again, the above analysis is at “Paṭiccasamuppāda vibhaṅga.”
Vedanā Paccayā TaṇhāIs “Samphassa-Jā-Vēdanā Paccayā Taṇhā

7. (Step 4 in the Chart) The critical step of “attaching to the sensory input” happens if one’s mind becomes joyful/stressful. For example, if one sees a beautiful object, hears a pleasing sound, eats tasty food, etc., one would want more of it. Thus, the mind can attach and “get stuck” with that sensory input. That happens with a “new type of consciousness” or a “kamma viññāna” with a desire to fulfill an expectation.

  • As the “Paṭiccasamuppāda vibhaṅga” explains, this “attachment” can take place for all six sensory inputs, i.e., there are six types of taṇhā: Rūpa taṇhā, sadda taṇhā, gandha taṇhā, rasa taṇhā, phoṭṭhabba taṇhā, dhamma taṇhā.
  • That automatic attachment occurs because of the mindset that “it is possible to fulfill expectations and be PERMANENTLY happy by pursuing pleasurable things in this world.”
  • Thus, one would make efforts “acquire such things” without realizing those are defilements (saṅ) that WILL lead to future suffering.

8. With such a mindset, “cetana” become saṅcetanā (defiled intentions); with such “defiled intentions,” one would engage in (abhi)saṅkhāra. Here, “saṅkhāra” meanssaṅ + khāra” or “actions withsaṅ.”

  • That leads to the perpetuation of the rebirth process or Saṁsāra (“sāra” means “fruitful”; thus, Saṁsāra results because of that wrong view/perception of a “fruitful world.”)
  • To remove that wrong view, one must “see” the correct worldview of the Buddha, see the perils of saṅ, and become “Sandiṭṭhiko” at the Sotapanna stage. Thus the verse, “Sandiṭṭhikaṁ Nibbānaṁ in the Nibbuta Sutta (AN 3.55).Note that diṭṭhi here means “to see.” 
Kamma Generation Starting With “Taṇhā Paccayā Upādāna

9. (Step 5 in the Chart) The Akusala-Mula Paṭicca Samuppāda process starts at this point of getting to the “taṇhā paccayā upādāna” step in a sensory event. This is where kamma accumulation (responsible for rebirths) starts. Thus, it is the “origin of the world.”

Loka Samudaya” Will Not Take Place for an Arahant

10. All steps after the first step of “seeing an object” will not arise for an Arahant because an Arahant would not generate samphassa. See #3 and #9 of the post “Difference between Phassa and Samphassa.”

  • Another way to state the same is to say that an Arahant does not have saṅgati (“saṅ gati“) or “defiled gati.” Arahant‘s mind is pure, devoid of greed, hate/anger, and ignorance. Note that “gati” is pronounced “gathi,” like in “Thief.”
  • For an Arahant, a ‘seeing event” is just that. No attachment. Thus, any sensory event would be limited to just experiencing that sensory input. The critical step of tiṇṇaṁ saṅgati phassoWILL NOT take place for an Arahant. Thus, all other steps following it would not be there!
  • That is why Arahant is free from future suffering. The root causes for the “arising of the world” (saṅgati) have been eliminated for an Arahant.
How Can Someone Get to the Arahanthood?

11. Now the question is: “How can someone attain Arahanthood, i.e., stop the rebirth process and attain Nibbāna“?

The Buddha provided the answer in the second part of the “Loka Sutta (SN 12.44)“: “Katamo ca, bhikkhave, lokassa atthaṅgamoCakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṁ. Tiṇṇaṁ saṅgati phassoPhassa paccayā vedanā; vedanā paccayā taṇhā. Tassāyeva taṇhāya asesavirāganirodhā upādāna nirodho; upādāna nirodhā bhava nirodho …pe… evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hoti. Ayaṁ kho, bhikkhave, lokassa atthaṅgamo.”

Translated: “And what, bhikkhus, is the cessation/ending of the world? In dependence on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises. That is followed by “contact with the three types of “saṅ‘” or “samphassa.” With samphassa as a condition, samphassa-jā-vedanā come to be; with samphassa-jā-vedanā as condition taṇhā. But with the remainder-less fading away and cessation of taṇhā result in the cessation of upādāna; with the cessation of upādāna, cessation of existence (bhava); with the cessation of existence, cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering. This, bhikkhus, is the cessation/ending of the world.

The removal of taṇhā starts at the Sotapanna stage by comprehending the above-summarized process. Complete cessation of taṇhā happens in four stages: Sotapanna, Sakadāgāmi, Anāgāmi, and Arahant.

  • Until Arahanthood, anyone COULD generate samphassa, depending on the sensory input. As one attains higher magga phala, fewer ārammana could lead to samphassa or “contact with defilements.” For example, after attaining the Anāgāmi stage, one would not “attach to” any sensual pleasures available in kāma loka.
  • An Arahant would have removed all defilements, and thus, the Akusala-Mula Paṭicca Samuppāda process starting with “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra” would not be initiated. That is the cessation/ending of the world for that Arahant!
  • Thus, cessation of the world (Nibbāna) is realized when a mind would not attach to any sensory input (ārammaṇa.)
A Sensory Experience is a Trigger to Initiate a PS Process

12. As Loka Sutta points out, the accumulation of kammic energy to “power up” future existences starts with sensory experiences. Kamma generation in Paṭicca Samuppāda (PS) process takes place in the “taṇhā paccayā upādānaṁ” step in #8 above. 

  • As discussed in the second part of the Loka Sutta, the critical point is the stopping of the sequence of events following a sensory experience at the arising of taṇhā due to “samphassa-jā-vedanā.” We cannot control it at that time since it happens within a split second.
  • (Additional information: Two critical things need to happen to reduce and eliminate taṇhā over time: (i) First, one must comprehend this whole process that we are discussing and also how the Paṭicca Samuppāda process works. That is the “dassanā pahātabbā” step, where a large fraction of wrong views is removed at the Sotapanna stage by getting rid of wrong views. (ii) Once getting to the Sotapanna stage, one needs to remove the tendency to attach to sensory pleasures with Ānāpāna and Satipaṭṭhāna Bhāvanā. One reaches higher stages of magga phala in this second stage of the “bhāvanā pahātabbā” step. In the Sabbāsava Sutta (MN 2), “dassanā pahātabbā” is the “first removal,” and “bhāvanā pahātabbā” is the “last removal.”)
  • We will discuss that again in future posts. However, it has been discussed in some existing posts. See, for example, “Vipallāsa (Diṭṭhi, Saññā, Citta) Affect Saṅkhāra.”
  • At a deeper level, our attachment to sensory inputs is based on “mind-made illusions” (“distorted saññā“): “Sotapanna Stage via Understanding Perception (Saññā).”
Paṭicca Samuppāda process Is Initiated by a Sensory Experience

13. Therefore, the Akusala-Mula Paṭicca Samuppāda process does not automatically start with “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra.” No one would act with avijjā WITHOUT a cause. The cause for acting with avijjā is a TEMPTATION brought up by a SENSORY EXPERIENCE.

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