May 20, 2016; revised May 30, 2018; December 16, 2019; June 11, 2020
|Realm||Description||Cause of Birth in Realm (Note 1)||Lifetime|
|The Apayas (Undesired Realms)|
|1. Niraya (Hell)||Unimaginable suffering.||Anantariya papa kamma, Ten akusala kamma with established wrong views.||Variable|
|2. Tiracchāna (Animal; Tirisan in Sinhala)||Microscopic to large animals.||Ten akusala kamma with established wrong views.||Variable|
|3. Peta (Hungry Ghosts; Preta in Sinhala)||Some live in our world unseen to us.||Ten akusala kamma with established wrong views.||Variable|
|4. Vinipāta Asuras (Asuras)||Some live in our world unseen to us.||Ten akusala kamma with established wrong views.||Variable|
|Sugathi (Desired Kama Loka Realms)|
|5. Manussa (Human)||Most valued birth of all realms.||Puñña abhisaṅkhāra (thihethuka, dvihethuka, and ahethuka)||Variable |
|6. Cātummahārājika Deva||Fine bodies from this realm; no diseases.||Puñña abhisaṅkhāra.||500 CY |
|7. Tāvatimsā deva||Sakka lives in this realm.||Puñña abhisaṅkhāra.||1000 CY |
|8. Yama deva||Puñña abhisaṅkhāra.||2000 CY |
|9. Tusitā deva||Puñña abhisaṅkhāra.||4000 CY |
|10. Nimmānaratī deva||Puñña abhisaṅkhāra.||8000 CY |
|11. Paranimmita vasavattī deva||Puñña abhisaṅkhāra.||16000 CY |
|Rupa Loka (Fine Material Realms)|
|12. Brahma Parisajja deva||Jhanic bliss in this and higher realms.||First jhana (minor)||1/3 MK (Note 4)|
|13. Brahma Purohita deva||First jhana (medium)||1/2 MK|
|14. Brahmakayika (Maha Brahma)||First jhana (highest)||1 MK|
|15. Parittabha deva||Second jhana (minor)||2 MK|
|16. Appamanabha deva||Second jhana (medium)||4 MK|
|17. Abhassara deva||Second jhana (highest)||8 MK|
|18. Paritta Subha deva||Third jhana (minor)||16 MK|
|19. Appamana Subha deva||Third jhana (medium)||32 MK|
|20. Subha kinhaka deva||Third jhana (highest)||64 MK|
|21. Vehappala deva||Fourth jhana various levels from here and above||500 MK|
|22. Asañña satta||Body only; no mind||500 MK|
|23. Aviha deva||Only Anagamis||1000 MK|
|24. Atappa deva||Only Anagamis||2000 MK|
|25. Sudassa deva||Only Anagamis||4000 MK|
|26. Sudassi deva||Only Anagamis||8000 MK|
|27. Akanittakha deva||Only Anagamis||16000 MK|
|Arupa Loka (Immaterial Realms); see Note 4|
|28. Ākāsānancāyatana deva||Fifth jhana||20,000 MK|
|29. Viññāṇañcāyatana deva||Sixth jhana||40,000 MK|
|30. Ākiñcaññāyatana deva||Seventh jhana||60,000 MK|
|31. Nevasaññānāsaññāyatana deva||Eighth jhana||84,000 MK|
1. See, “Kamma, Saṅkhāra, and Abhisaṅkhāra.” Akusala kamma are the same as apuññābhisaṅkhāra (apuñña abhisaṅkhāra.)
2. The realms and the lifetimes are extracted from various suttā: see, for example, “Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta – Introduction“, Sāleyyaka Sutta (MN 41), “Saṅkhārupapatti Sutta (MN 120),” and “Pathama Metta Sutta“.
- Lifetimes of various deva realms are given in the “Visākhā Sutta (AN 8.43)“.
3. Tihetuka means kusala kamma done with alobha, adosa, amoha.
- Dvihetuka means kusala kamma done with alobha, adosa.
- Ahetuka means kusala kamma done with only alobha, adosa, but also without enthusiasm.
- See, “Patisandhi Citta – How the Next Life is Determined According to Gati” for details.
4. CE = Celestial Years; M HY = Millions of Human Years.
5. MK = Mahā Kalpa, an aeon or the life of the Earth or the Solar system (roughly about 10 billion years). Solar system is born, destroyed, and reborn just like living beings. We will discuss this in the Agganna Sutta in the future.
6. The names of the four arupa realms are descriptive of their characteristics.
- Akāsānancāyatana comes from “ākāsa” +”ananta” or infinite+”āyatana“, or the realm where the infinite space is the focus of the mind (ārammana).
- Vinnānancāyatana comes from “viññāna” +”ananta” or infinite+”āyatana“, or the realm where the infinite viññāna is the focus of the mind (ārammana).
- Äkincnnayatana comes from “ākin” + “ca” or mind +”āyatana”, or the realm where the focus of the mind (ārammana) is only the mind.
- Neva saññā nā saññā comes from “na” or not+ “asañña” or without perception +”nā“, or not + “saññā” or perception, i.e., the realm where one cannot say whether there is either “no perception” or “there is perception”. One could go on for a short time without perception (just like in the asañña realm), but it comes back since the “bhava” is still there.
7. The following video gives a good general description of the 31 realms:
8. All the realms and their characteristics detailed at “Dhammahadayavibhaṅga”
- English translation at “18. Analysis Of The Heart Of The Teaching.”
January 24, 2019: Relevant post: “Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27)“.