31 Realms of Existence

May 20, 2016; revised May 30, 2018

RealmDescriptionCause of Birth in RealmLifetime
The Apayas (Undesired Realms)
1. Niraya (Hell)Unimaginable suffering.Anantariya papa kamma, Ten akusala kamma with established wrong views.Variable
2. Thirisan (Animal)Microscopic to large animals.Ten akusala kamma with established wrong views.Variable
3. Peta (Hungry Ghosts)Some live in our world unseen to us.Ten akusala kamma with established wrong views.Variable
4. Vinipatha 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.Eight kusala kamma (thihethuka, dvihethuka, and ahethuka; see Note 1)Variable
6. Chathurmaharajika DevaFine bodies from this realm; no diseases.Eight kusala kamma.500 CY
9M HY
(Note 2)
7. Tāvatimsa devaSakka lives in this realm.Eight kusala kamma.1000 CY
36M HY
8. Yama devaEight kusala kamma.2000 CY
144M HY
9. Thusitha devaEight kusala kamma.4000 CY
576M HY
10. Nimmanarathi devaEight kusala kamma.8000 CY
2304M HY
11. Paranimmitha Vasavatthi devaEight kusala kamma.16000 CY
9216M HY
Rupa Loka (Fine Material Realms)
12. Brahma Parisajja devaJhanic bliss in this and higher realms.First jhana (minor)1/3 MK (Note 3)
13. Brahma Purohitha devaFirst jhana (medium)1/2 MK
14. Brahmakayika (Maha Brahma)First jhana (highest)1 MK
15. Paritthaba devaSecond jhana (minor)2 MK
16. Appamanabbha devaSecond jhana (medium)4 MK
17. Abhassara devaSecond jhana (highest)8 MK
18. Paritthasubha devaThird jhana (minor)16 MK
19. Appamanasubha devaThird jhana (medium)32 MK
20. Subhkinhaka devaThird jhana (highest)64 MK
21. Vehappala devaFourth jhana various levels from here and above500 MK
22. Asanna satta Body only; no mind500 MK
23. Aviha devaOnly Anagamis 1000 MK
24. Athappa devaOnly Anagamis 2000 MK
25. Sudassa devaOnly Anagamis 4000 MK
26. Sudassi devaOnly Anagamis 8000 MK
27. Akanitta devaOnly Anagamis 16000 MK
Arupa Loka (Immaterial Realms); see Note 3
28. Akasanancayatana devaFifth jhana20,000 MK
29. Vinnanancayatana devaSixth jhana40,000 MK
30. Akincannayatana devaSeventh jhana60,000 MK
31. Neva sanna na sanna devaEighth jhana84,000 MK

Notes:

1. The realms and the lifetimes are extracted from various suttas: see, for example, “Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta – Introduction” and “Pathama Metta Sutta“.

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

  1. CE = Celestial Years; M HY = Millions of Human Years.

4. 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.

5. 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 +”“, 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.
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