Last week, in Dhamma Letter No. 34, we discussed the 31 realms of existence, or the 31 dimensions where rebirth can take place, and we divided them into three (3) basic categories: the sensuous realm, the form realm and the formless realm.
This week, we will look at how the 31 realms of existence can be further divided into four (4) basic categories:
1) The formless realm (arupaloka),
2) The form realm (rupaloka),
3) The heaven and human realm (kamaloka), and
4) The fall or hell realm (apaya).
The first category, the formless or intangible realm (arupaloka), is inhabited by beings that have no bodies and are made entirely of mind, but they can create bodies if they wish to see them. This level consists of 4 planes of Arupa brahmas (one of the principal deities). Even though the suffering they experience here is much less strong than what they experienced in the rupaloka, they are not completely free from the shackles of suffering, because -having no body- they do not have ears to hear the Buddha's teachings (the Dharma) and to realize it for themselves.
The second category, the realm of forms (rupaloka), is inhabited by beings with fine material bodies. Therefore, they cannot experience sensual pleasures or intense pain. This level consists of 16 planes of Rupa brahmas (one of the principal deities), each plane being commensurate with one of the four meditative absorptions they have attained. These rupa beings can be realized for yourself once you know the Dhamma.
The third category, the realm of sensuous desire (Kamaloka), is inhabited by beings with sensuous bodies. This level consists of 7 planes of happiness (6 planes of deities and 1 plane of human beings). All the well-known worldly religions are combined in this level and next level.
The fourth / bottom category, the realm of the unfortunate and the miserable, 4 planes is inhabited by ghosts with physical forms of varying sizes invisible to the naked eye, animals due to evil deeds done and ignorance, demons, and miserable hell beings where existence pays the price for the akusala (unwholesome acts) committed in a previous life.
The goal of Buddhist practice is to get beyond all of these realms. However, we first try to understand what it means to be human as well as non-human.
May all beings accumulate the pāramī to realize Nibbana!
May all beings be happy and well through our practice in this very life!
Ayyā Kosallā & Mahāpajāpatī Bhikkhunī Sangha
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Buddha Sāsanaṁ Ciraṁ Tiṭṭhatu!
May the Buddha’s teachings last a long time!
Bhavatu Sabba Sotiṁ ca Maṅgalaṁ ca!!
May everyone be led on the path of peace and blessing!!
Sādhu Sādhu Sādhu !