31 Realms of Existence
May 20, 2016; revised May 30, 2018; December 16, 2019; June 11, 2020; August 24, 2020; September 6, 2022 (#2, #3)
|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 kappa (Note 5)|
|13. Brahma Purohita deva||First jhana (medium)||1/2 kappa|
|14. Brahmakayika (Maha Brahma)||First jhana (highest)||1 kappa|
|15. Parittabha deva||Second jhana (minor)||2 kappa|
|16. Appamanabha deva||Second jhana (medium)||4 kappa|
|17. Abhassara deva||Second jhana (highest)||8 kappa|
|18. Paritta Subha deva||Third jhana (minor)||16 kappa|
|19. Appamana Subha deva||Third jhana (medium)||32 kappa|
|20. Subha kinhaka deva||Third jhana (highest)||64 kappa|
|21. Vehappala deva||Fourth jhana various levels from here and above||500 kappa|
|22. Asañña satta||Body only; no mind||500 kappa|
|23. Aviha deva||Only Anagamis||1000 kappa|
|24. Atappa deva||Only Anagamis||2000 kappa|
|25. Sudassa deva||Only Anagamis||4000 kappa|
|26. Sudassi deva||Only Anagamis||8000 kappa|
|27. Akanittakha deva||Only Anagamis||16000 kappa|
|Arupa Loka (Immaterial Realms); see Note 4|
|28. Ākāsānancāyatana deva||Fifth jhana||20,000 kappa|
|29. Viññāṇañcāyatana deva||Sixth jhana||40,000 kappa|
|30. Ākiñcaññāyatana deva||Seventh jhana||60,000 kappa|
|31. Nevasaññānāsaññāyatana deva||Eighth jhana||84,000 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).”
- In particular, “Sāleyyaka Sutta (MN 41)“ discusses how different types of kamma lead to rebirth among the 31 realms.
- The “Visākhā Sutta (AN 8.43)” gives lifetimes of various deva realms.
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 full 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 any 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 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 jhānic states and the corresponding Brahma realms in “The Thirty-one Planes of Existence.”
7. The names of the four arupa realms describe 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 itself, and nothing else.
- 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.
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)“.