Per the commentaries, are the selections of DN 27, AN 7.66, and DN 1, quoted below, describing real places, events and beings? Or are they strictly thought exercises and meditative techniques?

Are these selections of DN 27, AN 7.66, and DN 1 talking about real places, beings, and events? Or merely, and strictly, meditative techniques and thought exercises? I’m looking for quotes from the commentaries that confirm them as real, rather than mere metaphor.

Also, what about the six realms, and all their levels, and inhabitants, generally, in the suttas? Are they considered real by the commentaries, or mere metaphor? Where is this confirmed?

“There comes a time when, Vāseṭṭha, after a very long period has passed, this cosmos contracts. As the cosmos contracts, sentient beings are mostly headed for the realm of streaming radiance. There they are mind-made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the sky, steadily glorious, and they remain like that for a very long time.There comes a time when, after a very long period has passed, this cosmos expands. As the cosmos expands, sentient beings mostly pass away from that host of radiant deities and come back to this realm. Here they are mind-made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the sky, steadily glorious, and they remain like that for a very long time.2. Solid Nectar AppearsBut the single mass of water at that time was utterly dark. The moon and sun were not found, nor were stars and constellations, day and night, months and fortnights, years and seasons, or male and female. Beings were simply known as ‘beings’. After a very long period had passed, solid nectar curdled in the water. It appeared just like the curd on top of hot milk as it cools. It was beautiful, fragrant, and delicious, like ghee or butter. And it was as sweet as pure manuka honey. Now, one of those beings was reckless. Thinking, ‘Oh my, what might this be?’ they tasted the solid nectar with their finger. They enjoyed it, and craving was born in them. And other beings, following that being’s example, tasted solid nectar with their fingers. They too enjoyed it, and craving was born in them.3. The Moon and Sun AppearThen those beings started to eat the solid nectar, breaking it into lumps. But when they did this their luminosity vanished. And with the vanishing of their luminosity the moon and sun appeared, stars and constellations appeared, days and nights were distinguished, and so were months and fortnights, and years and seasons. To this extent the world had evolved once more.”-DN 27

“Sineru, the king of mountains, is 84,000 leagues long and 84,000 leagues wide. It sinks 84,000 leagues below the ocean and rises 84,000 leagues above it. There comes a time when, after a very long period has passed, the rain doesn’t fall. For many years, many hundreds, many thousands, many hundreds of thousands of years no rain falls. When this happens, the plants and seeds, the herbs, grass, and big trees wither away and dry up, and are no more. So impermanent are conditions, so unstable, so unreliable. This is quite enough for you to become disillusioned, dispassionate, and freed regarding all conditions.There comes a time when, after a very long period has passed, a second sun appears. When this happens, the streams and pools wither away and dry up, and are no more. So impermanent are conditions …There comes a time when, after a very long period has passed, a third sun appears. When this happens, the great rivers—the Ganges, Yamunā, Aciravatī, Sarabhū, and Mahī—wither away and dry up, and are no more. So impermanent are conditions …There comes a time when, after a very long period has passed, a fourth sun appears. When this happens, the great lakes from which the rivers originate—the Anotattā, Sīhapapātā, Rathakārā, Kaṇṇamuṇḍā, Kuṇālā, Chaddantā, and Mandākinī—wither away and dry up, and are no more. So impermanent are conditions …There comes a time when, after a very long period has passed, a fifth sun appears. When this happens, the water in the ocean sinks by a hundred leagues. It sinks by two, three, four, five, six, or even seven hundred leagues. The water that remains in the ocean is only seven palm trees deep. It’s six, five, four, three, two, or even one palm tree deep. The water that remains in the ocean is only seven fathoms deep. It’s six, five, four, three, two, one or even half a fathom deep. It’s waist high, knee high, or even ankle high. It’s like the time after the rainy season, when the rain falls heavily and water remains here and there in the cows’ hoofprints. In the same way, water in the ocean remains here and there in puddles like cows’ hoofprints. When the fifth sun appears there’s not even enough water in the great ocean to wet a toe-joint. So impermanent are conditions …There comes a time when, after a very long period has passed, a sixth sun appears. When this happens, this great earth and Sineru the king of mountains smoke and smolder and give off fumes. It’s like when a potter’s kiln is first kindled, and it smokes and smolders and gives off fumes. In the same way, this great earth and Sineru the king of mountains smoke and smolder and give off fumes. So impermanent are conditions …There comes a time when, after a very long period has passed, a seventh sun appears. When this happens, this great earth and Sineru the king of mountains erupt in one burning mass of fire. And as they blaze and burn the flames are swept by the wind as far as the Brahmā realm. Sineru the king of mountains blazes and burns, crumbling as it’s overcome by the great fire. And meanwhile, mountain peaks a hundred leagues high, or two, three, four, or five hundred leagues high disintegrate as they burn. And when the great earth and Sineru the king of mountains blaze and burn, no soot or ash is found. It’s like when ghee or oil blaze and burn, and neither ashes nor soot are found.”

-AN 7.66

“There comes a time, bhikkhus, when after the lapse of a long period this world contracts (disintegrates). While the world is contracting, beings for the most part are reborn in the Ābhassara Brahma-world. There they dwell, mind-made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the air, abiding in glory. And they continue thus for a long, long period of time.
“But sooner or later, bhikkhus, after the lapse of a long period, there comes a time when this world begins to expand once again. While the world is expanding, an empty palace of Brahmā appears. Then a certain being, due to the exhaustion of his life-span or the exhaustion of his merit, passes away from the Ābhassara plane and re-arises in the empty palace of Brahmā. There he dwells, mind made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the air, abiding in glory. And he continues thus for a long, long period of time.
“Then, as a result of dwelling there all alone for so long a time, there arises in him dissatisfaction and agitation, (and he yearns): ‘Oh, that other beings might come to this place!’ Just at that moment, due to the exhaustion of their life-span or the exhaustion of their merit, certain other beings pass away from the Ābhassara plane and re-arise in the palace of Brahmā, in companionship with him. There they dwell, mind-made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the air, abiding in glory. And they continue thus for a long, long period of time.”

-DN 1

Edit: seems to me that Venerable Buddhaghosa taught them as real:

  1. Of gods and men: devamanussánaí = devánañ ca manussánañ ca (resolution of
    compound). This is said in order to denote those who are the best and also to
    denote those persons capable of progress. For the Blessed One as a teacher
    bestowed his teaching upon animals as well. For when animals can, through
    listening to the Blessed One’s Dhamma, acquire the benefit of a [suitable rebirth
    as] support [for progress], and with the benefit of that same support they come,
    in their second or third rebirth, to partake of the path and its fruition.
  2. Maóðúka, the deity’s son, and others illustrate this. While the Blessed One
    was teaching the Dhamma to the inhabitants of the city of Campá on the banks
    of the Gaggará Lake, it seems, a frog (maóðúka) apprehended a sign in the
    Blessed One’s voice. [209] A cowherd who was standing leaning on a stick put
    his stick on the frog’s head and crushed it. He died and was straight away
    reborn in a gilded, divine palace, twelve leagues broad in the realm of the Thirtythree (Távatiísa). He found himself there, as if waking up from sleep, amidst a
    host of celestial nymphs, and he exclaimed, “So I have actually been reborn here.
    What deed did I do?” When he sought for the reason, he found it was none other
    than his apprehension of the sign in the Blessed One’s voice. He went with his
    divine palace at once to the Blessed One and paid homage at his feet. Though
    the Blessed One knew about it, he asked him:
    “Who now pays homage at my feet,
    Shining with glory of success,
    Illuminating all around
    With beauty so outstanding?”
    “In my last life I was a frog,
    The waters of a pond my home;
    A cowherd’s crook ended my life
    While listening to your Dhamma” (Vv 49).
    The Blessed One taught him the Dhamma. Eighty-four thousand creatures
    gained penetration to the Dhamma. As soon as the deity’s son became established
    in the fruition of stream-entry he smiled and then vanished.
    -Vism. VII.50-51
  1. On the following day the Blessed One stood on the summit of Sineru and
    surveyed the eastward world element. Many thousands of world-spheres were
    visible to him as clearly as a single plain. And as the eastward world element, so
    too he saw the westward, the northward and the southward world elements all
    clearly visible. And he saw right down to Avìci, and up to the Realm of the
    Highest Gods. That day, it seems, was called the day of the Revelation of Worlds
    (loka-vivaraóa). Human beings saw deities, and deities saw human beings. And
    in doing so the human beings did not have to look up or the deities down. They
    all saw each other face to face.
  2. The Blessed One descended by the middle flight of stairs made of crystal;
    the deities of the six sense-sphere heavens by that on the left side made of gold;
    and the deities of the Pure Abodes, and the Great Brahmá, by that on the right
    side made of silver. The Ruler of Gods held the bowl and robe. The Great Brahmá
    held a three-league-wide white parasol. Suyáma held a yak-tail fan. Five-crest
    (Pañcasikha), the son of the gandhabba, descended doing honour to the Blessed
    One with his bael-wood lute measuring three quarters of a league. On that day
    there was no living being present who saw the Blessed One but yearned for
    enlightenment. This is the miracle of becoming apparent that the Blessed One
    performed here
    -Vism. XII.78-79
  1. Then this evil view arose in Nandopananda the royal nága: “There go
    these bald-headed monks in and out of the realm of the Thirty-three directly over
    my realm. I will not have them scattering the dirt off their feet on our heads.” He
    got up, and he went to the foot of Sineru. Changing his form, he surrounded it
    seven times with his coils. Then he spread his hood over the realm of the Thirtythree and made everything there invisible.
  2. The venerable Raþþhapála said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, standing
    in this place formerly I used to see Sineru and the ramparts of Sineru,19 and the
    Thirty-three, and the Vejayanta Palace, and the flag over the Vejayanta Palace.
    Venerable sir, what is the cause, what is the reason, why I now see neither Sineru
    nor … the flag over the Vejayanta Palace?”—“This royal nága called
    Nandopananda is angry with us, Raþþhapála. He has surrounded Sineru seven
    times with his coils, and he stands there covering us with his raised hood,
    making it dark.”—“I will tame him, venerable sir.” But the Blessed One would
    not allow it. Then the venerable Bhaddiya and the venerable Ráhula and all the
    bhikkhus in turn offered to do so, but the Blessed One would not allow it.
  3. Last of all the venerable Mahá Moggallána said, “I will tame him, venerable
    sir.” The Blessed One allowed it, saying, “Tame him, Moggallána.”
    -Vism. XII.109-111
  1. After that, at the end of a long period, a seventh sun appears. And when
    that has appeared, the whole world-sphere together with the hundred thousand
    million other world-spheres catches fire. Even the summits of Sineru, a hundred
    leagues and more high, crumble and vanish into space. The conflagration mounts
    up and invades the realm of the Four Kings. When it has burnt up all the golden
    palaces, the jewelled palaces and the crystal palaces there, it invades the Realm
    of the Thirty-three. And so it goes right on up to the plane of the first jhána.
    When it has burnt three [lower] Brahmá-worlds, it stops there at the Ábhassaraworld. [417] As long as any formed thing (formation) the size of an atom still
    exists it does not go out; but it goes out when all formed things have been
    consumed. And like the flame that burns ghee and oil, it leaves no ash.
  2. The upper space is now all one with the lower space in a vast gloomy
    darkness. Then at the end of a long period a great cloud arises, and at first it
    rains gently, and then it rains with ever heavier deluges, like lotus stems, like
    rods, like pestles, like palm trunks, more and more. And so it pours down upon
    all burnt areas in the hundred thousand million world-spheres till they
    disappear. Then the winds (forces) beneath and all around that water rise up
    and compact it and round it, like water drops on a lotus leaf. How do they
    compact the great mass of water? By making gaps; for the wind makes gaps in
    it here and there.
  3. Being thus compressed by the air, compacted and reduced, it gradually
    subsides. As it sinks, the [lower] Brahmá-world reappears in its place, and worlds
    divine reappear in the places of the four upper divine worlds of the sensual
    sphere.14 But when it has sunk to the former earth’s level, strong winds (forces)
    arise and they stop it and hold it stationary, like the water in a water pot when the
    outlet is plugged. As the fresh water gets used up, the essential humus makes its
    appearance on it. That possesses colour, smell and taste, like the surface film on
    milk rice when it dries up.
    -Vism. XIII.41-43

So all these [482] things are called “bases” because they actuate, because they
are the range of the origins, and because they lead on what is actuated.
5. Furthermore, “base, (áyatana) should be understood in the sense of place of
abode, store (mine),3
meeting place, locality of birth, and cause. For accordingly
in the world in such phrases as the lord’s sphere” (áyatana) and “Vásudeva’s
sphere” (áyatana), it is a place of abode that is called “base”; and in such phrases
as “the sphere of gold” and “the sphere of silver” it is a store (mine) that is called
“base.” But in the Dispensation, in such passages as:
“And so in the delightful realm (áyatana)
Those flying in the air attend him” (A III 43),
it is a meeting place; and in such phrases as “The southern land is the realm
(áyatana) of cattle” (?) it is the locality of birth; and in such passages as “He
acquires the ability to be a witness of it … whenever there is an occasion (áyatana)
for it’” (M I 494; A I 258), it is a cause.
-Vism. XV.4-5

  1. [207] Herein, the moon’s disk is forty-nine leagues [across] and the sun’s
    disk is fifty leagues. The realm of Távatiísa (the Thirty-three Gods) is ten
    thousand leagues. Likewise the realm of the Asura demons, the great Avìci
    (unremitting) Hell, and Jambudìpa (India). Aparagoyána is seven thousand
    leagues. Likewise Pubbavideha. Uttarakurú is eight thousand leagues. And
    herein, each great continent is surrounded by five hundred small islands. And
    the whole of that constitutes a single world-sphere, a single world-element.
    Between [this and the adjacent world-spheres] are the Lokantarika (worldinterspace) hells.18 So the world-spheres are infinite in number, the worldelements are infinite, and the Blessed One has experienced, known and penetrated
    them with the infinite knowledge of the Enlightened Ones.
  2. Therefore this world of location was known to him in all ways too. So he is
    “knower of worlds” because he has seen the world in all ways.
    -Vism. VII.44-45

Contraction and expansion can be understood as Big Bang theory, which is not the case in Buddhism.
The Buddha’s explanation is about the ways of Maha Bhuta - the four dhatu: Pathavi, Tejo, Vayo, Apo.
We can see the way a plant develops from sprouting and at its final stage of existence, decaying. Big Bang theory does not explain what a tree is, what constitute a tree. Can we say the same about the earth, the moon, the star, and a cakkavala (a galaxy)?

The lifespans of different beings
31 planes of existence - Dhamma Wiki

See Fourfold Rebirth

  1. (i) rebirth in a Woeful State,
  2. (ii) rebirth in a blissful Sense-sphere,
  3. (iii) rebirth in a Rūpāvacara plane, and
  4. (iv) rebirth in an Arūpāvacara plane.

Also see Abhidhamma Teachings - Types of Gods and Their Life-spans

Book - page 199

17 Summary
Patisandhi bhavangan ca tatha cavanamanasam…

Another book

page 275 - the same Pali is provided here

Patisandhi bhavangan ca tatha cavanamanasam…

Patisandhi is translated as rebirth, which probably leads to misunderstanding of the nature of mind.

Edit: another book

Dhammapada Commentaries (a part of above book)

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Thanks. Are you saying the six realms are real? Or metaphors (unreal)?

As per page 199 of the V Bodhi work, it speaks of the lifespans of the gods, which sounds quite real, and would be bizarre if a metaphor. I’ve always read them as very real locations, but saw this challenged, hence looking for the usual wonderful clarity of the commentaries.

In the V Narada Thera book, these quotes are pretty clearly talking about real places and beings, otherwise, the delineation of mind and matter in talking about the realms would make no sense:

In the Formless-Spheres there is no body but only
mind. As a rule, both mind and body are interrelated,
interdependent, and inseparable. But by will-power there
is a possibility for the mind to be separated from the body
and vice versa temporarily. Beings born in celestial realms
and Form-Spheres are supposed to possess very subtle
material forms. - p 64

Rebirth (pañisandhi) in the animal kingdom, and in
peta and asura realms takes place with upekkhàsahagata
santãraõa (akusala vipàka). Bhavaïga and cuti of that particular life are identical with this pañisandhi citta. - p 197

All beings (species of beings) have lifespan. Real or not real is perceptual. In Buddhist point of view, they are mere the five aggregates (panca Uppadanekkhanda).
See Abhiññā Sutta pdf

If someone can understand these five things as they arise at the moment with conditions and they cease instantly, that person is ready to overcome suffering and unsatisfoctoriness. Further, he realizes all his experiences arise and cease at the moment, nothing comes to the present from the past and nothing goes to the future from the present.

We call a being due to his/her perception (sakkaya ditthi) thinking he is, he exists - just as I am, I exist. Other than perception, or delusion (ignorance/moha), there is no actual being but the formation made of these five aggregates.
Concerning the senses, 3 relevant suttas are here

Yes, that’s a good point to consider how beings don’t exist. In terms of arupa-brahma or formless-sphere, the five aggregates are missing, but bhavanga-citta (comatic state I should say). In another case, rupa and bhavanga-citta are present but still in comatic state. In this case, the five niyamas play a role: (See page 548)

kamma-niyama , order of act-and-result; utu-niyama , physical (inorganic) order; bīja -niyama , order of germs, or seeds (physical organic or-der); chitta-niyama, order of mind, or conscious life; dhamma-niyama , order of the norm, or the effort of nature to produce a perfect type…

As there is no being, there is no rebirth - here the term ‘anicca’ should be understood. Anicca means impermanence or change, so 're’birth is not quite the right word, as there is no ‘re’ but patisandhi should be understood as a new or another birth. Re and new are totally different obviously, as the term ‘re’ causes confusion about atta/self/soul.

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Thank you. So, then, if one were to say the six realms do not exist in any way, that they are entirely unreal, and have absolutely no reality, and were purely thought experiments/metaphors/language tools used by the Buddha, like a hare’s horn, or the child of a barren woman, would they be speaking rightly?

These realms can be compared with a mango tree bearing lots of fruits, which can be compared with lots of sakkaya ditthi that is for the beings to exist. Fruits come to exist due to the existence of this mango tree as supporting condition. We can expect this mango tree will always have the mango fruits. We can expect this mango tree will always exist because there are holders of sakkaya ditthi to be born here.
As long as holding sakkaya ditthi, a being exists. But sakkaya ditthi is mere ditthi, or illusion, so is a being who is holding it.

There are four paramattha dhamma:

  • Citta, Cetasika, Rupa: dukkha, samudhaya,
  • Nibbana: the cessation of above three, or relief from them
    Nibbana is real, as being relief.
    Citta, cetasika and rupa are impermanent - but are also real. Beings built with these three are real too although anicca destroys them constantly and there is no chance to pin point who is who for citta and cetasika are too fast.

Thanks. So, rupa is real, and is produced by heat, sometimes independent of kamma, for example, like land. Thus, any realms that have rupa are real, in that, even if no beings exist there, there will still be rupa existing. Hence, saying they are mere metaphor, or only exist as a perception for those with sakkaya ditthi, seems false. There are very real areas of the cosmos where rupa is generated independently of kamma and perception. The other realms are surely real as well, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to explain why (which is why I made this post asking if others know). However, realms with rupa are inarguably real.

“Tejo is the element of heat. Cold is also a form of tejo. Both heat and cold are included in tejo because they possess the power of maturing bodies. Tejo, in other words, is the vitalizing energy. Preservation and decay are also due to this element. Unlike the other three essentials of matter, this element has the power to regenerate matter by itself.”

-Abhidhammattha Sangaha Narada Thera pages 318-19

Material phenomena originating from temperature
…Externally temperature or the fire element also produces inorganic material phenomena, such as climatic and geological transformations.
-Abhidhammattha Sangaha, Bhikkhu Bodhi, IV guide to 12

“All form is that which is…
void of idea,
neither feeling, nor perception, nor synthesis,
disconnected with thought,”
“form exists which is not due to karma having been wrought”
-Ds 2.2.3

  1. Having attributed the three characteristics to that arising from nutriment,
    etc., he again attributes the three characteristics to natural materiality. Natural
    materiality is a name for external materiality that is not bound up with faculties
    and arises along with the eon of world expansion, for example, iron, copper, tin,
    lead, gold, silver, pearl, gem, beryl, conch shell, marble, coral, ruby, opal, soil,
    stone, rock, grass, tree, creeper, and so on (see Vibh 83).
    -Vism XX 73.7
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Mahabhuta catudhatu - four primary elements that bind and form into various particles. Heat is one of the four. They are unstable so formation (sankhara) is impermanent. Hence, the dhamma is “sabbe sankhara anicca ti.”

Kamma is volition - i.e. intentional act. What things can do something with intention? Things with consciousness can. What are they? They are the sankhara (formation) of citta, cetasika and rupa.

We should always keep in mind about the four paramattha dhamma. Three are sankhata and one is asankhata.

Yes, they are real - including human domain/realm.
Animals are eating each other after a kill. What left after a kill? Rupa - corporeal body that is eaten.
But brahma don’t eat rupa. They still eat, but they eat glee, rupture produced from jhana.