In this following context, how is different between ''the world'' and ''a world''?

Should I take ''a world of'' as the figurative meaning: ''a very great deal of''?

The context:

An eternally surging sea of feelings, perceptions, volitions and states of consciousness: such is existence, such is Samsara, the world of arising and passing away, of growing and decaying, a world of sorrow, misery, lamentation and despair.

Source: Page.7 ''Fundamentals of Buddhism'' by Nyanatiloka Mahåthera

2 Answers 2


In this context, "a world of X" means "an unimaginably huge amount of X".

Merriam-Webster has this definition:

11 : an indefinite multitude or a great quantity or distance
// makes a world of difference
// a world away

It's metaphorical, as if the amount of X is comparable to the size of the whole world. It's usually used with overwhelming amounts.

Here are some more examples:

Your help after Jim died made a world of difference to me, and I can't thank you enough.
There's a world of opportunity in data analysis these days.
You're entering a world of pain.


The definite article (the) is used before a noun to indicate that the identity of the noun is known to the reader. The indefinite article (a, an) is used before a noun that is general or when its identity is not known. Source

So "a world" shows how the "world" they are describing is "known". So it seems this text "creates" a world, before re-describring another world but with the complete opposite "emotions" in play.

  • Please a little more explain. I'm not clear enough yet. @DialFrost.
    – Sakya Kim
    Sep 29, 2022 at 14:13

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