31 Realms of Existence

May 20, 2016; revised May 30, 2018; August 24, 2020; July 7, 2024 (#5,#6)

RealmDescriptionCause of Birth in Realm (Note 1)Lifetime
The APAYAS (Undesired Kama Loka 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
SUGATI (Desired Kama Loka Realms)
5. Manussa (Human)Most valued birth of all realms.Puñña abhi­saṅ­khāra (thihethuka, dvihethuka, and ahethuka)Variable
(Note 2)
6. Cātummahārājika DevaFine bodies from this realm; no diseases.Puñña abhi­saṅ­khāra.500 CY
(Note 3)
7. Tāvatimsā devaSakka lives in this realm.Puñña abhi­saṅ­khāra.1000 CY
36M HY
8. Yama devaPuñña abhi­saṅ­khāra.2000 CY
144M HY
9. Tusitā devaPuñña abhi­saṅ­khāra.4000 CY
576M HY
10. Nimmānaratī devaPuñña abhi­saṅ­khāra.8000 CY
2304M HY
11. Paranimmita vasavattī devaPuñña abhi­saṅ­khāra.16000 CY
9216M HY
RUPA LOKA (Fine Material Realms)
12. Brahma Parisajja devaJhanic bliss in this and higher realms.First jhana (minor)1/3 kappa (Note 5)
13. Brahma Purohita devaFirst jhana (medium)1/2 kappa
14. Brahmakayika (Maha Brahma)First jhana (highest)1 kappa
15. Parittabha devaSecond jhana (minor)2 kappa
16. Appamanabha devaSecond jhana (medium)4 kappa
17. Abhassara devaSecond jhana (highest)8 kappa
18. Paritta Subha devaThird jhana (minor)16 kappa
19. Appamana Subha devaThird jhana (medium)32 kappa
20. Subha kinhaka devaThird jhana (highest)64 kappa
21. Vehappala devaFourth jhana various levels from here and above500 kappa
22. Asañña satta Body only; no mind500 kappa
23. Aviha devaOnly Anagamis 1000 kappa
24. Atappa devaOnly Anagamis 2000 kappa
25. Sudassa devaOnly Anagamis 4000 kappa
26. Sudassi devaOnly Anagamis 8000 kappa
27. Akanittakha devaOnly Anagamis 16000 kappa
ARUPA LOKA (Immaterial Realms); see Note 7
28. Ākāsānancāyatana devaĀkāsānancāyatana20,000 kappa
29. Viññāṇañcāyatana devaViññāṇañcāyatana40,000 kappa
30. Ākiñ­cañ­ñā­yatana devaĀkiñ­cañ­ñā­yatana60,000 kappa
31. Neva­saññā­nā­sañ­ñāyata­na devaNeva­saññā­nā­sañ­ñāyata­na84,000 kappa


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 “Paṭhamamettā Sutta (AN 4.125).”

3. Tihetuka means kusala kamma done with alobha, adosa, amoha.

  • Dvihetuka means kusala kamma done with alobha/adosa. They have not removed all ten types of micchā diṭṭhi but may have removed many. They grasp the new bhava without fully understanding, i.e., javana citta at the cuti-paṭisandhi moment will have “weak javana power.”
  • In contrast, one with tihetuka birth grasps the new existence with a complete understanding of the laws of kamma. Therefore, amoha means removal of the ten types of micchā diṭṭhi.
  • Ahetuka births occur purely as a vipāka of a good kamma but without generating javana citta. They have not removed most of the ten types of micchā diṭṭhi. Thus, “ahetuka” does not mean “without hetu” there. It just means an “unfortunate birth.”
  • 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. A Mahā Kappa (indicated only as kappa in the Table) is the time for the Solar system to go through a complete cycle. A quarter of this (or an Asaṅkheyya Kappa or 20 kappa) is the life of the Earth or the Solar system. The solar system is born, destroyed, and reborn like living beings. See “Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27).” The Buddha describes the length of one kappa in the “Pabbata Sutta (SN 15.5).” The lifetimes of many realms are given in Ref. 9; in the English translation, the lifetimes can be found in section 18.6.2. Age Limit.

6. The connection between various rupāvacara jhānic states, arupāvacara samāpatti states, and the corresponding Brahma realms in “Dhamma­hadaya­vibhaṅga.” English translation at “18. Analysis Of The Heart Of The Teaching.”

  • For example, the rupāvacara jhānic state can be cultivated at low, intermediate, and superior levels, and the yogis who cultivated the first jhāna at those levels will be reborn in the Brahma Pārisajja, Brahma Purohita and Mahā Brahma realms (the three lowest realms.)
  • The second and third jhānās lead to rebirths in the higher-lying six Brahma levels, with those cultivating the superior level of the third jhāna having rebirth in the Subhakiṇha realm.
  • Those who cultivate the fourth jhāna will be reborn in the Vehapphala realm.
  • Those who cultivate asañña bhāvanā will be reborn in the Asaññasatta realm.
  • Those who cultivate the arupāvacara samāpatti will be reborn in the four arupāvacara realms.

7. The names of the four arupa realms describe their characteristics.

  • Akāsānancāyatana comes from “ākāsa” +”ananta” or infinite +”āyatana,” or the realm where 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 itself and nothing else.
  • Neva saññā nā saññā comes from “na” or not+ “asañña” or without perception +”,” 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.

8. The following video gives a good general description of the 31 realms:


9. All the realms and their characteristics are 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)“.

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