In the Sutta Pitaka we often find "loka" (world) used instead of suffering.
This strongly suggests that a state of mind is meant. An example:
One frequently finds: Suffering, the arising of suffering, the cessation
of suffering, and the path which leads to the cessation of suffering.
Also found is; The world, the arising of the world, the cessation of the
world, and the path which leads to the cessation of the world.
This invites us to regard these as equivalent, and understand "world" as
just the unenlightened state of mind.
In the Dependent Origination formula the words at the end: "and so arises
this whole mass of suffering," are sometimes replaced with: "and so
arises the world," and the same for cessation.
Another well known passage:
"That end of the world wherein one is not born, does not grow old or die, pass away or reappear, that I declare, is impossible to be known, seen or reached by travelling. But, friend, I do not declare that one can make an end of suffering without reaching the end of the world. Friend, I do proclaim that in this very fathom-long body, with its perceptions and consciousness, is the world, the world's arising, the world's cessation and the path leading to the world's cessation." A.N. II.48 Rohitassa (pali text) translated by Nanananda in Concept and Reality page 83.
AN 4.45 Link: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html