Six realms of reincarnation in Buddhism

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The six realms of reincarnation in Buddhism, maybe, you have heard. As the normal persons, sometimes, we are curious about how life would be after death.  I am fearful of death, too. Fortunately, I come up with the philosophy of the six realms of reincarnation in Buddhism (Pancagati). It is really meaningful for me to know how the afterlife will be. In fact, death does not mean to come to an end. Similarly, both birth and death are not the opening door or the closed door. Thanks for discovering the six realms of reincarnation in Buddhism, I realize that they are just the entrances to the endless cycle of lives.


According to Mahasihananda Sutta, Lord Buddha had mentioned about the six destinations after death or five “Pancagati”. In various documents, there are many descriptions about Buddhism reincarnation. For examples, 31 planes of existence in Buddhism, 6 realms of reincarnation, three spheres in Buddhism, etc. Depending on each specific approach to Buddhism cosmology, there are different statements about Buddhism by the number.

Today, I would like to introduce the most popular realms in Buddhism and its specific planes inside.

Let get started with the six realms of reincarnation in Buddhism:

  1. The Hell Realms
  2. The Animal Realms
  3. The Hungry Ghost Realms
  4. The Atula Realms
  5. The Human Realm
  6. The Gods & Heaven Realms


The Heavens & Gods Realms in Buddhism

Arupa Brahma Realms: The Immaterial Sphere Planes

Only the Supreme Gods and Brahmas live in this realm. In this place, there are the top four immaterial sphere planes. It has another name as “Arupa Brahma”. The four immaterial planes include:

+Neither perception nor non-perception plane (31)

+Nothingness plane                                                            (30)

+Infinite consciousness plane                                       (29)

+Infinite space plane                                                          (28)

Supreme Gods and Brahmas
Only the Supreme Gods and Brahmas are on the top four highest spheres of existence in Buddhism.

Rupa Brahma Realms: The Fine – Material Sphere Planes

Below the top four immaterial sphere planes are the sixteen fine-material sphere planes. It is also called as “Rupa Brahma”.

First of all, there are seven planes in accordance with the fourth Jhana plane. This is the highest level of practicing meditation in Buddhism. In the seven planes, there are top five Pure Lands.

  • Highest Pure Abode    (27)
  • Clear-sighted Abode  (26)
  • Beautiful Abode            (25)
  • Serene Abode                 (24)
  • Durable Abode              (23)

Depending on the five good organs in the cultivation, the Buddhism cultivators can reborn in the worlds of five Pure Lands. Only the Anagamins are able to reborn in these abodes.

Buddhas in Five Pure Land
Buddhas in the Five Pure Land. It is believed that Amida Buddha is in the highest Pure Land.

Then, the below planes in the seven planes of forth Jhana plane.

  • Non-percipient Realm  (22)
  • Great Reward Realm     (21)

Second, there are three planes in accordance to the third Jhana plane.

  • Steady Aura    (20)
  • Infinite Aura   (19)
  • Minor Aura      (18)

Third, there are three planes corresponding to the second Jhana plane.

  •  Radiant Lustre  (17)
  •  Infinite Lustre   (16)
  • Minor Lustre     (15)

Finally, three planes are available in the first Jhana plane.

  • Maha Brahma               (14)
  • Brahma’s Ministers  (13)
  • Brahma’s Retinue     (12)


The Worlds of The Gods: The Sensuous Blissful Planes

Beneath the worlds of the Brahmas are the worlds of the Gods.

+Paranimmita – Vasavati      (11)

This is the highest Gods’ world in the sense sphere planes. Paranimmita – Vasavati refers the Gods control or enjoys the creatives constructions of other Gods. Unfortunately, Mara – the one who is always haunting Lord Buddha also lives here. Nevertheless, Vasavati Deva is the Great King of this place, and Mara is in a separated corner.

+ Nimmarati                           (10)

Nimmarati itself means the Gods enjoy inventing the creative ones and transforming them freely, depending on their ability.

+ Tusita                                  (09)

Tusita is the realm of happiness of joy where Boddhisattva Mettaya lives. It is believed that Boddhisattva Mettaya is in Tusita to wait so as to reborn as a human in the next life and cultivate to become the Buddha.

world of Bodhisattvas
The World of Bodhisattvas is on different planes.
+ Yama                                   (08)

Yama is the realm of all great happiness and blessing. The Yama King stays here.

+ Tavatimsa                           (07)

Tavatimsa is higher than Catumaharajika. It has another name as “Trayastrimsa” where King Sakka lives. Sakka is considered as the King of Gods and the guardian of Buddhism. In the past, this place belongs to Asura devas. However, Asura devas were attacked by thirty-three Gods that King Sakka was the commander. That’s the reason Tavatimsa is also called as “Trayastrimsa” – meaning “the thirty-three world of the Gods”. In Tavatimsa, each plane is guarded by one God. All sentient beings that reborn into Tavatimsa have the chances to enjoy all happiness.

+ Catumaharajika                 (06)

Catumaharajika is the realm of the Four Great Kings who are responsible for protecting four directions of the world. In which, Dhatarattha or the Eastern Great King guards the Eastern world. And Virulha is the Southern Great King. Virulha is in charge of defending the Southern world where the Petas world live. Virupakkha or the Western Great King is the King of Nagas. At last, Kuvera, the Northern King, manages the Northern world and the ghosts Yakkhas.

“Surely if living creatures saw the results of all their evil deeds, they would turn away from them in disgust. But selfhood blinds them, and they cling to their obnoxious desires. They crave pleasure for themselves and they cause pain to others; when death destroys their individuality, they find no peace; their thirst for existence abides and their selfhood reappears in new births. Thus they continue to move in the coil and can find no escape from the hell of their own making.”

Gautama Buddha


The Human Realm in Buddhism: The Sensuous Blissful Plane (05)

While the Heavens and Gods realms are full of joy and happiness, the human realm is the beach of both suffering and happiness. The ones in the human realm, depending on their karma, can be reborn in either rich or poor family, beautiful or ugly, weak or strong, etc.

being a human, respect Buddha, Bodhisattva, Arahant
Being a human is a rare fortune. Let’s respect our life and make merit so as to express our gratefulness.

According to the Buddha’s talk about a turtle and a log in Samyutta Sutta, we should respect our life and realize how much rare to be a human being.

In Buddhism’s worldview, being a human is one of the top five greatest chance. They are: being a human, meeting the Buddha, becoming a Bhikshus or Nun, trusting in Three Treasures, and listening to Dharma. As a human, we have opportunities to cultivate and make merit. In the higher realms, Gods & Brahmas only enjoy all happiness so they don’t think about the theory of suffering. In contrast, the sentient beings in the below realm must suffer from all kinds of pain caused by their sins and bad karma. To sum up, we should be happy and grateful for being a person.

However, being reborn in the human realm is really a good fortune. Let’s take a look at the population of people in comparison to those of one kind of insect. Only the amount of ant in the Amazon forest is higher the quantum of humans all over the world. Meanwhile, the Heavens and Gods realms are infinitely vast, but the number of Gods and Brahmas are limited. Therefore, it is such a rare chance to be a human being.


The Four Downfalls Realms in Buddhism: The Woeful Planes

There are four downfall planes include:

+Atula Realms in Buddhism (04)

Asuras or Atula are as ugly as Petas – the hungry ghosts. They are full of hatred and always trying to attack others. That’s the reason why Asuras must be punished because of their bad karma.

the hatred and aggression of Atula devils
The Atula devils are extremely aggressive and full of hatred.


+Hungry Ghost Realms in Buddhism (03)

Petas or the hungry ghosts must suffer from an extreme woeful life. They have to wander so as to look for food. No home, no clothes, no food; they are really thirsty, hungry and weak.

hungry ghosts look for food
The hungry ghosts are always in an urge for food.


+Animal Realms in Buddhism (02)

Tiracchana or animal realms are also usually being treated badly by other sentient beings. They are hunted, killed, beaten by various species or human. This is the realm full of fear, suffering, and pains.

the fear and pain in the animal realm
The animal realm is full of fear, pain, and suffering. If they have good chances to meet the ones with kindness and loving, they will be treated well, and vice versa.


+Hell Realms in Buddhism (01)

Niraya or the hell realm in Buddhism is the place for ones with many much bad karmas. Their body and spirit are always being punished terribly. In comparison to the human world, the punishments in the hell realm are thousand times hellish.

suffering in the hell realm
The hell realm is much more painful and suffering thousand times than these in the human realm. The ones in this realm have to suffer from unlimited hellish punishment.


Conclusion about The Six Realms of Reincarnation in Buddhism

As we can see, there are thirty-one planes of reincarnation in Buddhism. And we can divide them into various planes, depending on its prominent nature.

For examples:

  • Top Big Three Sphere Planes: Immaterial Sphere Planes, Fine Material Sphere Planes, Sense Sphere Planes (Sensuous Blissful Planes and Woeful Planes).
  • Top Six Realms of Reincarnation: the Heaven & Gods realms, Human realm, Atula realms, Peta realms, Animal realms, and hell realms.

In fact, the name or number of realms of reincarnation in Buddhism is not the important aspect. First of all, we all should know that being a human being is really a rare and fortune chance. We should learn to respect our life, no matter how hard we have to face in our lifetime. Moreover, we should not make bad karma. As bad karmas can lead us to the downfalls realms, we ought to prevent from doing bad things. In contrast, it is meaningful for us to cultivate the morality, Buddhism meditation, and wisdom. Besides that, the practices of the Eight Noble Paths will help us be far away from the lower realms. These perceptions are extremely vital for all Buddhism cultivators in detail, and people all around the world in general.

In conclusion, death is not an end. On the contrary, death is the entrance for us to a totally new world. And we are the ones who are responsible for our next destinations. Like Lord Buddha had said: “We are the owner of our karmas“. Planting good karmas, we are going on the Dharma pathway to the wonderful destinations, and vice versa.  Therefore, we should always cultivate our morality, Buddhism meditation, and wisdom. At last, we ourselves open our brighter doors in the following lives.

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