Realms according to Theravada

I understood that there are a total of 31 planes of existence, which can be grouped into 5 destinations: Heavens, human, animal, spirits, Hells.

Of course, all of us will die one day sooner or later, inevitably. Consider that we are not advanced in meditation, not keeping best virtues (just Pancasila also not really perfect sometimes), not full time monastics… I think Nibbāna in this life is pretty impossible for me, but definitely the final goal is Nibbāna. I hope to just attain Sotapatti Magga Phala in this present life before death…

I read saṅkhārupapattisutta in Majjhima Nikaya, where the Buddha taught us how properly to make aspiration to be reborn in realms according to our wish and other virtues, which I think it is very beneficial for us that couldn’t attain Nibbāna in this very life. And I think it is crucial for us laymen to practice according to this sutta too, by making such aspiration and practice accordingly to the Sutta, is just like shooting an arrow and just a matter of time to hit the target (of course there will be obstacles but if really faithful to the teachings, it is not far from the goal).

For me, I couldn’t establish any Jhanas on Four Divine Abidings, so Brahma worlds definitely out of the question.

To other realms like Yama, Nimmanarati, Paranimmitavasavatti, I basically know nothing about these realms and little info about these realms in the Suttas too.

I can work hard, trying develop Saddha, Sila, Suta, Caga, and Paññā.

Left three options:
Tusita, Catumaharajikā, or Tavatimsa.

Now I like the Tusita heaven but when I tried to settle my mind on it, it is quite difficult to recollect it. For both Tavatimsa and Catumaharajikā realms, it is very easy to make relations and recollections, very easy to establish the mind on these realms especially during my Devatanussati meditation session. Yet, the realms there are not really peaceful, having political struggles, too much pleasure, coarse faculties’ experience much like us human. It is quite difficult to progress as I have worries at such things. But it is quite encouraging too as I read that there are many Sotapannas in those two realms, such as Sakka Devaraja, Vessavana Maharaja, Javanasabha, Suciloma, etc. (which most probably they are still living there and remember what Buddha taught too).

Anyone here read Saṅkhārupapattisutta?

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I actually tried to find the patthanā reference but cannot (the grammar must be different than the famous chant). I heard it was written in the middle ages. I learned this at Na-Uyana and chant this almost everyday. Ironically, I got this unicode text from SBS which is now a Buddhavacana EBT monastery :slight_smile:

Recently, I told my teacher that this is the last life that we can learn the proper Dhamma. I told him about this daily chant (along with Dullabho ovāda) and why I prefer Na-Uyana over Pa-Auk chanting. The answer is no aspirations are in Pa-Auk chanting which is strange since it is one of the few places that teaches proper dependent origination (in practice).

Evening Chanting Pali-English[Na-Uyana].pdf (544.9 KB)

Iminā puññakammena
By this meritorious action
Mā me bālasamāgamo
May I not associate with fools
Sataṁ samāgamo hotu
With the wise may I associate
Yāva nibbānapattiyā
Until the attainment of nibbāna

(ehem… a reason why exists)

In short the Vissudhimagga explains this in the 5th method. However, even though it is tempting, one should only wish for the requisites for Nibbāna rather than a specific life to attain Nibbāna. Unconsciously, you will be wishing a new and specific life though. Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.

That said, the intelligence of the Deva realm dwarfs that of the humans and there are sure to be Enlightened beings there (like Sakka). Some have doubts about enlightenment existing in the Human Realm today, but there are explanations of why there are Ariyas still existing in the human realm today.

If you look at Dhammacakkappavattanasuttaṃ you will notice that only one human attained the first level of enlightenment, but countless Brahmas and Devas attained.


Hi Bhante.

Thank you for the information.

I am aware of that aspiration chant and I did recite it for quite some time along with another stanza:

"Ayurārogya sampatti, sagga sampatti meva ca; atho Nibbāna sampatti, iminā me samijjhatu

Yes, I always keep my mind fix on Maggaphala & Nibbāna. Just that, I am trying to be realistic to myself, that it seems Nibbāna is pretty impossible for me within this lifetime (maybe I don’t have much Paramitas).

I think now human society is indeed slowly degenerating… Wars, diseases, environmental problems, climate change, distorted definition of moral values (e.g. putting down old aged pets is good, hedonism & SJWs are good, assisted suicide is good, etc.), and Buddhism is slowly degenerating into new age philosophy… I don’t think I want to reborn as a human being (ps: just conventional expression) in the immediate next life.

I always think there is a reason why Lord Buddha taught Saṅkhārupapattisutta. Now, I think this Sutta might just help those of us like me, a layman without higher development yet, to escape unnecessary miseries in Samsara while still striving for Nibbāna.

Meanwhile, once I read online there was an article saying that a person could attain lower heavenly bliss according to his/her meritorious deeds and aspiration, but it doesn’t lasts long as all merits accumulated wasn’t based on Dhamma understanding and used up pretty quick. Once lifespan is finished, he/she might reborn in Hell and suffered for many aeons for his/her past Akusala deeds. I think there is a Sutta too saying that those Brahmas, without understanding in Buddha Dhamma, may fall into Hells after lifespan finished. But those Brahmas who understood the Dhamma, will go upward and attain Nibbāna sooner in one of the Suddhavasa heavens. I think this is the danger.

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Habitual kamma is very important. For 5th method (or any method), one actually does merit and aspiration at the same time. Often that can be forgotten during the busy times of life.

My donor chants twice per day and puts $2 in a box each time for donation. You can do the same or an amount that suits your budget. Daily habit is what matters. It is very powerful kamma if done daily. Remember cause and effect while placing the donation into the box. Furthermore, you can do the same when you actually make a donation with the allocated funds. There are many hungry people in the world these days who need help.

You can also volunteer at a food pantry and make lots of merit that way too even though many are Christian related.


Traditional classification
Two groups:

  1. Sugati Bhumi: Brahma, Natha (Deva Loka), Manusa;
  2. Dugati Bhumi: Tiracchana, Peta, Asura, Naraka;

A good explanation is found here The 31 Planes of Existence

The Buddha’s advice is we should try for liberation.
One of the prominent monks (Moegoke Sayadaw) once explained in his Dhamma lecture. The Buddha appeared in the world only for one purpose: to teach the path to liberation (the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path). The Buddha did not teach anyone or ever advised anyone he/she should strike for being born in sugati bhumi. Nobody needs Buddhism to be born in sugati bhumi. Beings are born in both sugati and dugati bhumi all the time. They don’t need the Buddha’s teaching. So aiming for birth (sugati or dugati) is not a part of Buddha’s teaching. Trying to be born again is an attempt to gain a loss once again.

Good to read the story of Baka Brahma. The important part is the conversation between the Buddha and Baka Brahma.

I do not extol any existence because I see danger in it. I have renounced the craving for existence because I am aware of its evil.
Story Of Baka Brahma [Chapter 11]

Whenever one pays homage (puja) to the Buddha, the mind should not be directed to another birth. Or one is not really paying homage to the Buddha. Actually, most Buddhists are not aware of that. The monks should teach them about it clearly.

If I am going to die soon, since 31 planes of existence are real as the Buddha taught us, I think I would like to reborn to one of these realms:

(1) Tusita Heaven (there I can meet a lot of Buddhist Devas including Metteyya Bodhisatta)

(2) Tavatimsa Heaven (there I can meet a lot of Buddhist Devas too, including Sakka Devaraja and others)

(3) Catumaharajikā Heaven (there I can meet Yakkha King Vessavana (a Sotapanna), then Janavasabha, etc. There I can devote myself to protect virtuous beings of both devalokas and human world.

But I hope I can at least attain Sotapannahood this life before I die.

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To enter the stream of Noble Eightfold Path, that is, to attain Sotāpanna (often called Stream Enterer), there are four conditions. See, Sotā­patti­phala Sutta (SN 55.55) and Dutiya Sāriputta Sutta (SN 55.5).

The four requirements for someone to attain the Stāpanna stage of Nibbāna are as stated: “Cattārome, bhikkhave, dhammā bhāvitā bahulīkatā sotā­patti­phala­sacchi­kiriyāya saṃvattanti. Katame cattāro? Sap­purisa­saṃ­sevo, saddham­mas­savanaṃ, yoniso­ma­nasikāro, dhammā­nu­dhammap­paṭi­patti ”.

First condition: sappurisasaṃsevo = sappurisa + saṃsevo = noble person + associating = associating with a noble person. This noble person has been wrongly mistaken as kalyāna mittā referring to good friend but should be good noble friend.

Second condition: saddhammassavana = saddhamma + savana = true dhamma + hearing = hearing the true dhamma (with correct meaning for some concepts, example anicca, dukkha, and anattā) from the associated noble person. While reading (the true dhamma) is enough to get to the Sotāpanna Anugāmi (or Cūḷa Sotāpanna) stage (path/magga), hearing is necessary to attain the Sotāpanna stage (fruition/phala).

Third condition: act with yonisomanasikāro = yoni + so + manasikāro = origin + oneself + with this in mind = act with the origin [refers to origin of bhava (existence) and origin of jāti (birth)] of oneself in mind (meaning understanding and follow the process of Paṭicca Samuppāda [those twelve factors lead to whole mass of suffering, with understanding of true dhamma, slowly stop these twelve factors from arising and end suffering!] with the understanding from Second condition of true dhamma).

Fourth condition: dhammā­nu­dhammap­paṭi­patti = dhamma + a­nu­ + Dhamma + ­paṭi­patti = true dhamma one follows + according to + Buddha Dhamma + practice, or ‘pursuance’ of the teaching = practice the true dhamma one follows according to the Buddha Dhamma. There is a series of four suttā, starting with the Anudhamma Sutta (SN 22.39).

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Why not just aim for Tusita? The happiness of tusita is incomparable to the happiness of the lower realms. And im pretty sure you can meet the ones from tavatimsa and catumaharajika from tusita as well. Considering the Buddha’s mom lived in Tusita and came down to tavatimsa to hear the Buddha preach.


“Associate with noble ones.”

It is difficult to see which one is noble and which is not. And I don’t have real serious practicing buddhist friends at all in real life or workplace (majority are either atheists, Christians or Muslims). Let alone “noble ones”.

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Be always humble, there is always two sides to a coin, see the right and wrong. Slowly, you will gets to meet a “noble ones”.

First condition is required for second condition, to hear correct Dhamma, to hear correct instructions, to remove wrong views, to get the right views necessary to start practicing. First condition also means to have faith in Tisarana or one’s teacher.
In ancient time, there was no book or record so one needs to approach a teacher. Now there are books and records to rely on as the instruction of the noble ones.

One can practice Samatha Vipassana to become a sotapanna, and even an arahant.

As the Second Condition states that hearing from a noble person is a necessary to attain the stage of Sotāpanna magga/phala, practice Samatha Vipassana to become a Sotāpanna is not possible.

If you hear the dhamma from the noble person and reached Sotāpanna, you have seven existences (bhava) to reach arahant. In the case, practice Samatha Vipassana to reach arahant is possible.

What’s the difference between hearing directly and reading the Dhamma instruction? And what prevents someone from attaining insight if he only read the books and follow and practice the instructions?

If you see the word “Sotāpanna" = Sota + āpanna where sota means the organ of hearing and āpanna means entered upon, thus “Sotāpanna" means entered upon hearing.

“Entered upon hearing” does not means you are able to reach Sotāpanna by hearing from anyone, it is only “entered upon hearing” from a noble person (ariya) when you meet all the four conditions listed above. As I am not able to post any link, this is my last post. Bye!

I would say listening scripture recitation in Pali is a form of listening to Dhamma. Provided you understand the meaning correctly.

And I would say that it is not only listening the Dhamma from enlightened people can be upon fruition attainment. But because of the merits and paramis accumulated and the understanding that make the “click”.

Tusita … is difficult I think. We will need much merits to reborn there. And mostly, 8 precepts is a must as frequent regular practice.

True, but its definitely the one worth aiming for. Just as you should aim for arahantship not sotapanna if you were seeking enlightenement, if you dont make it no worries.

Good point, always aim for total liberation.