We often hear people make statements like, “I was in heaven,” or “His head was in the clouds.” When we experience great joy, we may feel as if we were floating in air, as if our feet were not touching the ground. The oldest teachings in Buddhism state that there are three subordinate worlds in which the world of Heaven is divided: the world of desire, the world of form and the world of formlessness.
The world of desire refers to the joy one experiences when immediate desires or impulses are fulfilled. The world of form describes physical satisfaction, as one might feel upon overcoming a disease or injury. The world of formlessness is a state of purely spiritual fulfillment.
The joy of the world of Heaven never lasts long. We often see people who save their money to buy something new, like the car they have dreamt about. Seeing their brand new car sitting in the driveway with its attractive paint job, they feel like jumping for joy. But as the days, weeks and months go by, the new car smell disappears the paint dulls and the thrill goes away. Soon they think about owning a better car.
When desires go unfulfilled, people often fall into the world of hunger, or manifest the world of anger, taking it out on their families or acquaintances. Because the world of heaven is a function of our immediate environment or circumstances and depends upon the fulfillment of wants and desires, a change in our environment can instantly transform it into a state of suffering.
With the development of today’s materialistic and technologically advanced civilization, the fulfillment of personal desires has been put at a premium and people tend to feel inadequate if they do not maintain a certain level of material affluence. Therefore, there is a great tendency for us to try to centre our lives in the world of heaven. We must remember, however, that this sort of happiness is related and transient in nature; it is not genuine, absolute or indestructible.