Bṛhatphala Planes[edit]

These two realms are a result of attaining the fourth jhana. They remain in the tranquil state attained in the 4th Jhana, and is characterized by equanimity (upekṣā).

  • 22 - Unconscious beings (Asaasatta) Realm of mindless beings who have only bodies without consciousness. Rebirth into this plane results from a meditative practice aimed at the suppression of consciousness. Those who take up this practice assume release from suffering can be achieved by attaining unconsciousness. However, when the life span in this realm ends, the beings pass away and are born in other planes where consciousness returns.
  • 21 - Very Fruitful devas (vehapphala deva) In the Jhana Sutta of the Anguttara Nikaya the Buddha said "The Vehapphala devas, monks, have a life-span of 500 eons. A run-of-the-mill person having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, goes to hell, to the animal womb, to the state of the hungry shades."[12]
Śubhakṛtsna Planes[edit]

These three realms are a result of attaining the third jhana. The mental state of the devas of these worlds corresponds to the third jhana, and is characterized by a quiet joy (sukha). These devas have bodies that radiate a steady light.

  • 20 - Devas of Refulgent Glory (subhakinna deva) The Buddha said, "The Subhakinha devas, monks, have a life-span of four eons. A run-of-the-mill person having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, goes to hell, to the animal womb, to the state of the hungry shades."[13]
  • 19 - Devas of Unbounded Glory (appamanasubha deva) The world of devas of "limitless beauty".
  • 18 - Devas of Limited Glory (parittasubha deva) The world of devas of "limited beauty".
Ābhāsvara Planes[edit]

These three are a result of attaining the second jhana. The mental state of the devas of the Ābhāsvara worlds corresponds to the second dhyāna, and is characterized by delight (prīti) as well as joy (sukha).

  • 17 - Devas of Streaming Radiance (abhassara deva) The Abhassara devas have a life-span of two eons. After that period they are reborn in a lower realm.[14]
  • 16 - Devas of Unbounded Radiance (appamanabha deva) The world of devas of "limitless light", a concept on which they meditate. Their lifespan is 4 mahākalpas.
  • 15 - Devas of Limited Radiance (parittabha deva) The world of devas of "limited light". Their lifespan is 2 mahākalpas.
Brahmā Planes[edit]
Main article: Brahma (Buddhism)

The mental state of the devas of the Brahmā worlds corresponds to the first jhana. Like all beings, the brahmas are still tied to the cycle of rebirth, though sometimes they forget this and imagine themselves to be immortal. The Buddha said "The devas of Brahma's retinue, monks, have a life-span of an eon. A run-of-the-mill person having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, goes to hell, to the animal womb, to the state of the hungry shades."[15]

One way to rebirth in the brahma world is mastery over the first jhana. Another is through meditations on loving kindness, compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity. According to the Subha Sutta, the Brahmin Subha asked the Buddha to teach him how to be born in the world of Brahma. And the Buddha said to him:

Then young man, listen carefully I will tell. The young man agreed and the Blessed One said. The bhikkhu pervades one direction with thoughts of loving kindness, so too the second, the third, the fourth, above, below, across, in every respect, in all circumstances, the entire world, he pervades with the thought of loving kindness grown great and immeasurable without anger and ill will. Young man, when the release of the mind in loving kindness, is developed thus, none of the measured actions remain. Just as a clever drummer in no time would make known the message in the four directions. In the same manner, when the release of the mind in loving kindness, is developed thus, none of the measured actions remain. This is the method to be born with Brahma. Again the bhikkhu pervades one direction with the thought of compassion,re. with intrinsic joy,re with equanimity, so too the second, the third, the fourth, above, below, across, in every respect, in all circumstances, the entire world, he pervades with equanimity grown great and immeasurable without anger and ill will. Young man, when the release of the mind in equanimity, is developed thus, none of the measured actions remain. Just as a clever drummer in no time would make known the message in the four directions. In the same manner, when the release of the mind in equanimity is developed thus, none of the measured actions remain. This is the method to be born with Brahma.[16]

  • 14 - Great Brahmas (Maha brahma) One of this realm's most famous inhabitants is the Great Brahma, a deity whose delusion leads him to regard himself as the all-powerful, all-seeing creator of the Universe. According to the Brahmajāla Sutta, a Mahā brahmā is a being from the Ābhāsvara worlds who falls into a lower world through exhaustion of his merits and is reborn alone in the Brahma-world; forgetting his former existence, he imagines himself to have come into existence without cause.

Related Sutta: Kevaddha Sutta

  • 13 - Ministers of Brahma (brahma-purohita deva) The "Ministers of Brahmā" are beings, also originally from the Ābhāsvara worlds, that are born as companions to Mahābrahmā after he has spent some time alone. Since they arise after his thought of a desire for companions, he believes himself to be their creator, and they likewise believe him to be their creator and lord.
  • 12 - Retinue of Brahma (brahma-parisajja deva) the "Councilors of Brahmā" or the devas "belonging to the assembly of Brahmā".

Kama-Loka (The Sense-Sphere realm)[edit]

Main article: Desire realm

Birth into these heavenly planes takes place as a result of giving and moral discipline. The Sense-Sphere Realm is the lowest of the three realms. The driving force within this realm is sensual desire. These devas enjoy aesthetic pleasures, long life, beauty, and certain powers. The heavenly planes are not reserved only for good Buddhists. Anyone who has led a wholesome life can be born in them. People who believe in an "eternal heaven" may carry their belief to the deva plane and take the long life span there to be an eternal existence. Only those who have known the Dhamma will realize that, as these planes are impermanent, some day these sentient beings will fall away from them and be reborn elsewhere. The devas can help people by inclining their minds to wholesome acts, and people can help the devas by inviting them to rejoice in their meritorious deeds.

Related Suttas: Saleyyaka Sutta, Dana Sutta

Higher Kama-Loka[edit]

These devas live in four heavens that float in the air, leaving them free from contact with the strife of the lower world.

  • 11 - Devas Wielding Power over the Creation of Others (Parinimmita-vasavattin deva) These devas enjoy sensual pleasures created by others for them. These devas do not create pleasing forms that they desire themselves, but their desires are fulfilled by the acts of other devas who wish for their favor. Mara, the personification of delusion and desire, lives here.
  • 10 - Devas Delighting in Creation (Nimmanarati deva) These devas delight in the sense objects of their own creation. They are capable of changing appearance to please themselves. The lord of this world is Sunirmita (Pāli Sunimmita).
  • 9 - Contented deva (Tusita deva) Tushita is the home of the contented gods, among whom the future Maitreya abides. Before his birth as Siddhartha, this is the realm where he dwells with other Bodhisattvas. His name was Śvetaketu (Pāli: Setaketu). While this Bodhisattva is the foremost of the dwellers in Tuṣita, the ruler of this world is Santuṣita (Pāli: Santusita).
  • 8 - Yama devas These Yama devas live in the air, free of all difficulties.
Lower Kama-Loka[edit]
Main article: Sumeru

The lower devas of the Kama-loka live on different parts of the mountain at the center of the world, Sumeru. They are even more passionate than the higher devas, and do not simply enjoy themselves but also engage in strife and fighting.

  • 7 - Thirty-three gods (Tavatimsa deva) Beings that live on the peak of Sumeru are like the Olympian gods. Their ruler is Sakka or Śakra, a devotee of the Buddha. Sakka rules by righteousness, patience towards aggressors, and compassionate treatment of wrongdoers. Sakka and the devas honor sages and holy men. He earned his place as ruler of the devas by fulfilling seven vows which embody the standards of the virtuous householder while he was still a human being. The Buddha holds up Sakka's patience and forgiveness as a model for the bhikkhus. Many devas dwelling here live in mansions in the air. Besides the thirty-three devas, many other devas and supernatural beings dwell here, including the attendants of the devas and many apsarases (nymphs).

Related Suttas: Sakka-panha Sutta and the Sakka Samyutta (11th section of the Samyutta Nikaya) which also contains 25 short discourses connected with Sakka.

  • 6 - Four Great Kings (catummaharajika deva) The world of the Four Great Kings includes the martial kings who guard the four quarters of the Earth. The chief of these kings is Vaisravana, but all are ultimately accountable to Sakra. Dhatarattha, king of the Eastern Direction, is lord of the gandhabbas. Virulha, king of the Southern Direction, is lord of the kumbandas. Virupakkha, king of the Western Direction, is lord of the nagas. Kuvera, who rules as king of the Northern Direction, is lord of the yakkhas. The devas who guide the Sun and Moon are also part of this world.

This is home to the four types of earthly demigod or nature-spirit: Gandhabba - the celestial musicians or fairies Yakkha - tree spirits of varying degrees of ethical purity. They are analogous to the goblins, trolls, ogres, and fairies of Western fairy tales. They inhabit remote areas such as forests, hills, and abandoned caves. Though living in misery they have the potential for awakening and can attain the path and fruits of the spiritual life.

Related Suttas: Yakkhasayutta of the Samyutta Nikaya.

According to the Atanatiya Sutta:

"There are non-humans who are fierce, violent, given to retaliation; those non-humans heed neither the (four) great kings, nor their ministers nor their attendants. They are called rebels against the (four) great kings. Even as in the kingdom of Magadha, the thieves heed neither the king of Magadha, nor the ministers, nor their attendants, and are called rebels against the king of Magadha, so there are non-humans who are fierce... (as before). They are called rebels against the (four) great kings."

Kumbhanda (dwarfs) Naga (dragons) Related Sutta: Maha-samya Sutta of the Digha Nikaya

probably also Garuda

Human Beings (manussa loka)[edit]
  • 5 - Human (manussa loka) Birth in this plane results from giving and moral discipline of middling quality. This is the realm of moral choice where destiny can be guided. The Khana Sutta mentioned that this plane is a unique balance of pleasure and pain. It facilitates the development of virtue and wisdom to liberate oneself from the entire cycle or rebirths. For this reason rebirth as a human being is considered precious according to the Chiggala Sutta. In the Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta (The Shorter Analysis of Action), the Buddha taught that:

Killing others lead to short life if one becomes reborn in the human plane instead of the four lower States of Deprivation. By abandoning the very acts of killing and harming, one gets to be reborn in a heavenly world. Alternatively, one gets to be reborn in the human world being endowed with long life.

Injuring of others beings can lead to rebirth in the States of Deprivation. Alternatively, the person comes back in the human plane as someone very sickly. Non-injuring of others leads to rebirth in good destinations. Alternatively, one comes back to the human plane enjoying good health.

The same goes for the following:

  • Beautiful or Unattractive Human Rebirth depends on whether the person has an irritable character in this life.
  • Influential or Ordinary Human Rebirth depends on whether the person is envious of the gain and honor received by others in this life.
  • Rich or Poor Human Rebirth depends on whether one is generous to others, such as providing the requisites of holy people, in this present life.

Related Suttas: Janussonin Sutta, Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta,

States of Deprivation (Apaya)[edit]

Rebirth into these planes results from unwholesome conduct. Beings reborn there have no moral sense and generally cannot create good kamma. However, when the unwholesome kamma that brought them to these planes is exhausted, some stored good kamma can bring them rebirth in some other plane. Only stream-enterers and other ariyans can be sure they will never again be born in these planes of misery.

Related sutta: Saleyyaka Sutta and The Vipaka Sutta

  • 4 - Asura They are demons or "titans" that are engaged in endless conflict with each other. From the Jataka Tales, we are told that the Asuras are always fighting to regain their lost kingdom on the top of Mount Sumeru, but are unable to break the guard of the Four Great Kings.[17] The Asuras are divided into many groups, and have no single ruler, but among their leaders are Vemacitrin (Pāli: Vepacitti) and Rāhu. According to Marasinghe:

"In later texts we find the Asura realm as one of the four unhappy states of rebirth. The Nikāya evidence however does not show that the Asura realm was regarded as a state of suffering"[18]

Related sutta: Rattana Sutta

  • 3 - Hungry ghost (pretha loka) This is the realm where ghost and unhappy spirits wander in vain, hopelessly in search of sensual fulfillment.

Related sutta : Tirokudda Kanda from the Khuddakapatha

  • 2 - Animal(tiracchana yoni) The animal realm includes animals, insects, fish, birds, worms, etc..
  • 1 - Hell realms (niraya)
Main article: Naraka (Buddhism)

These are realms of extreme sufferings are mentioned in the Balapandita Sutta and the Devaduta Sutta.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Jump up ^ Nanamoli Bhikkhu, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. Wisdom Publications,1995, page 1186.
  2. Jump up ^ Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-331-1.
  3. Jump up ^ Nanamoli Bhikkhu, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. Wisdom Publications,1995, page 1070.
  4. Jump up ^ Bhikkhu Bodhi, In the Buddha's Words. Wisdom Publications, 2005, page 588.
  5. Jump up ^ Māpuabhāyi Sutta, Aṅgutarra Nikaya 7.59: Pali Text Society, A iv 88-89
  6. Jump up ^ Bodhi, Bhikkhu (ed.) (2005). In The Words of the Buddha: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-491-1.
  7. Jump up ^ Strong, Dawsonne. ( trans. ) (2010). The Udana: The Solemn Utterances of the Buddha. Charleston: Nabu Press. ISBN 1-149-10776-6.
  8. Jump up ^ Strong, Dawsonne. ( trans. ) (2010). The Udana: The Solemn Utterances of the Buddha. Charleston: Nabu Press. ISBN 1-149-10776-6.
  9. Jump up ^ Bhikkhu Bodhi, In the Buddha's Words. Wisdom Publications, 2005, page 801.
  10. Jump up ^ Bhikkhu Bodhi, In the Buddha's Words. Wisdom Publications, 2005, page 796.
  11. Jump up ^ Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), pp. 31, 95, entries for "Anāgāmin" (retrieved 26 Sep 2007 at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.0:1:735.pali) and "Āgāmin" (at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.0:1:2587.pali).
  12. Jump up ^ Thanissaro, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2010). Jhana Sutta: Mental Absorption(1)" (AN 4.123). Retrieved 2010-09-23 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.123.than.html.
  13. Jump up ^ Thanissaro, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2010). Jhana Sutta: Mental Absorption(1)" (AN 4.123). Retrieved 2010-09-23 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.123.than.html.
  14. Jump up ^ Thanissaro, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2010). Jhana Sutta: Mental Absorption(1)" (AN 4.123). Retrieved 2010-09-23 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.123.than.html.
  15. Jump up ^ Thanissaro, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2010). Jhana Sutta: Mental Absorption(1)" (AN 4.123). Retrieved 2010-09-23 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.123.than.html.
  16. Jump up ^ Nanamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) (1995, ed. Bhikkhu Bodhi). The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-072-X.
  17. Jump up ^ Kavassery, Rajesh (2007). Jataka Tales. Sura Books. p. 118. ISBN 9789555738019. ; also, see, Pali Text Society, Jataka Tales; PTS, J.i.202-4.
  18. Jump up ^ Marasinghe, M.M.J. (2009). Gods in Buddhism. Sarasavi Publishers. p. 87. ISBN 9789555738019. 

External links[edit]