31 Realms of Existence

May 20, 2016; revised May 30, 2018; December 16, 2019; June 11, 2020; August 24, 2020 (revised #5 and many lifetimes, added #6)

RealmDescriptionCause 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
(Note 2)
6. Cātummahārājika DevaFine bodies from this realm; no diseases.Puñña abhi­saṅ­khāra.500 CY
9M HY
(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 4
28. Ākāsānancāyatana devaFifth jhana20,000 kappa
29. Viññāṇañcāyatana devaSixth jhana40,000 kappa
30. Ākiñ­cañ­ñā­yatana devaSeventh jhana60,000 kappa
31. Neva­saññā­nā­sañ­ñāyata­na devaEighth jhana84,000 kappa

Notes:

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“.

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

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 just like living beings. See, “Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27).” The length of one kappa is described by the Buddha in the “Pabbata Sutta (SN 15.5).” The lifetimes of many realms 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 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.

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

9. All the realms and their characteristics detailed at “Dhamma­hadaya­vibhaṅga

January 24, 2019: Relevant post: “Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27)“.

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