A Student Wrote in:
Could you explain the meaning of the quote please…thanks.
There comes a time when the great ocean dries up and evaporates and no longer exists,
but still I say, there is no making an end of suffering for those beings roaming and wandering onward, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.
Connected Discourses on the 5 Collections (Skandas) (22.Khandhasamyutta)
Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Samyutta Nikaya)
Here is my response:
The Buddhist view of the cosmos and of time, space and creation is very vast. It is more vast than anything that I have ever heard anywhere else. In the Buddhist view of creation, there are many world systems within the Buddhist universe. The Buddhist universe is beginningless and endless and what we in the west call a universe is merely a world-system in Buddhism.
Each one of these world systems undergoes a period of arising, a period of maintenance, a period of disintegration and then a gap in creation. This is followed by another arising of a world system from the traces of the previous one. Within the Buddhist Cosmos, this is happening in several locations at the same time. Different world systems are at various points in this arising, maintenance, disintegration and gap (just like we are all experiencing as sentient beings).
This disintegration occurs in several different ways. There is disintegration through the water element, disintegration through the fire element and disintegration through the wind element. It is taught that each world system is destroyed 7 times by water, then 1 time by fire. When this cycle repeats itself 7 times, then there is destruction by wind. Disintegration through the water element (think Noah’s flood) destroys all existence up to a certain level of being. Disintegration by fire destroys all existence up to a higher level of being. At one point in the beginning of destruction by fire, the oceans dry up. Finally, disintegration by wind destroys all existence to a very high level of being. However, there are still levels of being that are not touched by these disintegrations.
The beings who are "destroyed" by these disintegrations are pushed up into higher levels of being. However, they didn’t get there under their own power and they are still under the influence of ignorance of how reality works and they are bound to cyclic existence through longing and attachment (craving and clinging). Because of this, when the force that pushed them into a higher level of being weakens, they then return to lower levels and that is how the cycle of the creation of suffering existence repeats itself.
The Buddha’s point in his quote is that the destruction of lower levels of existence does not end suffering existence forever. Only by eliminating ignorance of the workings of reality and only by getting rid of longing and attachment can you put an end to the cycle of suffering existences, otherwise they will continue to be created. As long as we have ignorance, craving, and clinging, then these types of ways of being will continue to exist beyond the destruction of any world-system.