Buddhist cosmology

Buddhist cosmology

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Buddhist cosmology is the description of the shape and evolution of the Universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

 according to the canonical Buddhist scriptures
Tripiṭaka
' is a traditional term used by various Buddhist sects to describe their various canons of scriptures. As the name suggests, a traditionally contains three "baskets" of teachings: a , a and an .-The three categories:Tripitaka is the three main categories of texts that make up the...

 and commentaries.

Introduction


The self-consistent Buddhist cosmology which is presented in commentaries and works of Abhidharma
Abhidharma
Abhidharma or Abhidhamma are ancient Buddhist texts which contain detailed scholastic and scientific reworkings of doctrinal material appearing in the Buddhist Sutras, according to schematic classifications...

 in both Theravāda
Theravada
Theravada ; literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching", is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India...

 and Mahāyāna
Mahayana
Mahāyāna is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice...

 traditions, is the end-product of an analysis and reconciliation of cosmological comments found in the Buddhist sūtra
Sutra
Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

 and vinaya
Vinaya
The Vinaya is the regulatory framework for the Buddhist monastic community, or sangha, based in the canonical texts called Vinaya Pitaka. The teachings of the Buddha, or Buddhadharma can be divided into two broad categories: 'Dharma' or doctrine, and 'Vinaya', or discipline...

 traditions. No single sūtra sets out the entire structure of the universe. However, in several sūtras the Buddha describes other worlds and states of being, and other sūtras describe the origin and destruction of the universe. The synthesis of these data into a single comprehensive system must have taken place early in the history of Buddhism, as the system described in the Pāli
Páli
- External links :* *...

 Vibhajyavāda
Vibhajjavada
Vibhajyavāda was an early Buddhist school or a group of early Buddhist schools.-Nomenclature and etymology:The word Vibhajyavāda may be parsed into vibhajya, loosely meaning "dividing", "analyzing" and vāda holding the semantic field: "doctrine", "teachings". According to Andrew Skilton, the...

 tradition (represented by today's Theravādins) agrees, despite some trivial inconsistencies of nomenclature, with the Sarvāstivāda
Sarvastivada
The Sarvāstivāda were an early school of Buddhism that held to 'the existence of all dharmas in the past, present and future, the 'three times'. Vasubandhu's states:-Name:...

 tradition which is preserved by Mahāyāna Buddhists.

The picture of the world presented in Buddhist cosmological descriptions cannot be taken as a literal description of the shape of the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

. It is inconsistent, and cannot be made consistent, with astronomical data that were already known in ancient India. However, it is not intended to be a description of how ordinary humans perceive their world; rather, it is the universe as seen through the
{{Buddhism}}

Buddhist cosmology is the description of the shape and evolution of the Universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

 according to the canonical Buddhist scriptures
Tripiṭaka
' is a traditional term used by various Buddhist sects to describe their various canons of scriptures. As the name suggests, a traditionally contains three "baskets" of teachings: a , a and an .-The three categories:Tripitaka is the three main categories of texts that make up the...

 and commentaries.

Introduction


The self-consistent Buddhist cosmology which is presented in commentaries and works of Abhidharma
Abhidharma
Abhidharma or Abhidhamma are ancient Buddhist texts which contain detailed scholastic and scientific reworkings of doctrinal material appearing in the Buddhist Sutras, according to schematic classifications...

 in both Theravāda
Theravada
Theravada ; literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching", is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India...

 and Mahāyāna
Mahayana
Mahāyāna is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice...

 traditions, is the end-product of an analysis and reconciliation of cosmological comments found in the Buddhist sūtra
Sutra
Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

 and vinaya
Vinaya
The Vinaya is the regulatory framework for the Buddhist monastic community, or sangha, based in the canonical texts called Vinaya Pitaka. The teachings of the Buddha, or Buddhadharma can be divided into two broad categories: 'Dharma' or doctrine, and 'Vinaya', or discipline...

 traditions. No single sūtra sets out the entire structure of the universe. However, in several sūtras the Buddha describes other worlds and states of being, and other sūtras describe the origin and destruction of the universe. The synthesis of these data into a single comprehensive system must have taken place early in the history of Buddhism, as the system described in the Pāli
Páli
- External links :* *...

 Vibhajyavāda
Vibhajjavada
Vibhajyavāda was an early Buddhist school or a group of early Buddhist schools.-Nomenclature and etymology:The word Vibhajyavāda may be parsed into vibhajya, loosely meaning "dividing", "analyzing" and vāda holding the semantic field: "doctrine", "teachings". According to Andrew Skilton, the...

 tradition (represented by today's Theravādins) agrees, despite some trivial inconsistencies of nomenclature, with the Sarvāstivāda
Sarvastivada
The Sarvāstivāda were an early school of Buddhism that held to 'the existence of all dharmas in the past, present and future, the 'three times'. Vasubandhu's states:-Name:...

 tradition which is preserved by Mahāyāna Buddhists.

The picture of the world presented in Buddhist cosmological descriptions cannot be taken as a literal description of the shape of the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

. It is inconsistent, and cannot be made consistent, with astronomical data that were already known in ancient India. However, it is not intended to be a description of how ordinary humans perceive their world{{Citation needed|date=September 2009}}; rather, it is the universe as seen through the
{{Buddhism}}

Buddhist cosmology is the description of the shape and evolution of the Universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

 according to the canonical Buddhist scriptures
Tripiṭaka
' is a traditional term used by various Buddhist sects to describe their various canons of scriptures. As the name suggests, a traditionally contains three "baskets" of teachings: a , a and an .-The three categories:Tripitaka is the three main categories of texts that make up the...

 and commentaries.

Introduction


The self-consistent Buddhist cosmology which is presented in commentaries and works of Abhidharma
Abhidharma
Abhidharma or Abhidhamma are ancient Buddhist texts which contain detailed scholastic and scientific reworkings of doctrinal material appearing in the Buddhist Sutras, according to schematic classifications...

 in both Theravāda
Theravada
Theravada ; literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching", is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India...

 and Mahāyāna
Mahayana
Mahāyāna is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice...

 traditions, is the end-product of an analysis and reconciliation of cosmological comments found in the Buddhist sūtra
Sutra
Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

 and vinaya
Vinaya
The Vinaya is the regulatory framework for the Buddhist monastic community, or sangha, based in the canonical texts called Vinaya Pitaka. The teachings of the Buddha, or Buddhadharma can be divided into two broad categories: 'Dharma' or doctrine, and 'Vinaya', or discipline...

 traditions. No single sūtra sets out the entire structure of the universe. However, in several sūtras the Buddha describes other worlds and states of being, and other sūtras describe the origin and destruction of the universe. The synthesis of these data into a single comprehensive system must have taken place early in the history of Buddhism, as the system described in the Pāli
Páli
- External links :* *...

 Vibhajyavāda
Vibhajjavada
Vibhajyavāda was an early Buddhist school or a group of early Buddhist schools.-Nomenclature and etymology:The word Vibhajyavāda may be parsed into vibhajya, loosely meaning "dividing", "analyzing" and vāda holding the semantic field: "doctrine", "teachings". According to Andrew Skilton, the...

 tradition (represented by today's Theravādins) agrees, despite some trivial inconsistencies of nomenclature, with the Sarvāstivāda
Sarvastivada
The Sarvāstivāda were an early school of Buddhism that held to 'the existence of all dharmas in the past, present and future, the 'three times'. Vasubandhu's states:-Name:...

 tradition which is preserved by Mahāyāna Buddhists.

The picture of the world presented in Buddhist cosmological descriptions cannot be taken as a literal description of the shape of the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

. It is inconsistent, and cannot be made consistent, with astronomical data that were already known in ancient India. However, it is not intended to be a description of how ordinary humans perceive their world{{Citation needed|date=September 2009}}; rather, it is the universe as seen through the {{IAST (Pāli: dibbacakkhu), the "divine eye" by which a Buddha
Buddhahood
In Buddhism, buddhahood is the state of perfect enlightenment attained by a buddha .In Buddhism, the term buddha usually refers to one who has become enlightened...

 or an arhat who has cultivated this faculty can perceive all of the other worlds and the beings arising (being born) and passing away (dying) within them, and can tell from what state they have been reborn
Rebirth (Buddhism)
Rebirth in Buddhism is the doctrine that the evolving consciousness or stream of consciousness upon death , becomes one of the contributing causes for the arising of a new aggregation...

 and into what state they will be reborn. The cosmology has also been interpreted in a symbolical or allegorical sense (see Ten spiritual realms
Ten spiritual realms
The ten spiritual realms are part of the belief of some forms of Buddhism that there are ten conditions of life which sentient beings are subject to, and which they experience from moment to moment....

).

Buddhist cosmology can be divided into two related kinds: spatial cosmology, which describes the arrangement of the various worlds within the universe, and temporal cosmology, which describes how those worlds come into existence, and how they pass away.

Spatial cosmology


Spatial cosmology can also be divided into two branches. The vertical (or {{IAST|cakravāḍa}}) cosmology describes the arrangement of worlds in a vertical pattern, some being higher and some lower. By contrast, the horizontal (sahasra) cosmology describes the grouping of these vertical worlds into sets of thousands, millions or billions.

Vertical cosmology


In the vertical cosmology, the universe exists of many worlds ({{IAST|lokāḥ}}) – one might say "planes" – stacked one upon the next in layers. Each world corresponds to a mental state or a state of being. A world is not, however, a location so much as it is the beings which compose it; it is sustained by their karma
Karma in Buddhism
Karma means "action" or "doing"; whatever one does, says, or thinks is a karma. In Buddhism, the term karma is used specifically for those actions which spring from the intention of an unenlightened being.These bring about a fruit or result Karma (Sanskrit, also karman, Pāli: Kamma) means...

 and if the beings in a world all die or disappear, the world disappears too. Likewise, a world comes into existence when the first being is born into it. The physical separation is not so important as the difference in mental state; humans and animals, though they partially share the same physical environments, still belong to different worlds because their minds perceive and react to those environments differently.

The vertical cosmology is divided into thirty-one planes of existence and the planes into three realms, or dhātus, each corresponding to a different type of mentality. These three (Tridhātu) are the Ārūpyadhātu, the Rūpadhātu, and the Kāmadhātu. The latter comprises the "five or six realms
Six realms
The desire realm is one of three realms or three worlds in traditional Buddhist cosmology into which a being wandering in may be reborn. The other two are the form realm, and the formless realm The desire realm (Sanskrit kāma-dhātu) is one of three realms (Sanskrit: dhātu, Tibetan: khams) or...

". In some instances all of the beings born in the Ārūpyadhātu and the Rūpadhātu are informally classified as "gods" or "deities" ({{IAST
Deva (Buddhism)
A deva in Buddhism is one of many different types of non-human beings who share the characteristics of being more powerful, longer-lived, and, in general, living more contentedly than the average human being....

), along with the gods of the Kāmadhātu, notwithstanding the fact that the deities of the Kāmadhātu differ more from those of the Ārūpyadhātu than they do from humans. It is to be understood that deva is an imprecise term referring to any being living in a longer-lived and generally more blissful state than humans. Most of them are not "gods" in the common sense of the term, having little or no concern with the human world and rarely if ever interacting with it; only the lowest deities of the Kāmadhātu correspond to the gods described in many polytheistic
Polytheism
Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals....

 religions.

The term "brahmā
Brahma (Buddhism)
' in Buddhism is the name for a type of exalted passionless deity , of which there are several in Buddhist cosmology.-Origins:The name originates in Vedic tradition, in which Brahmā appears as the creator of the universe...

" is used both as a name and as a generic term for one of the higher devas. In its broadest sense, it can refer to any of the inhabitants of the Ārūpyadhātu and the Rūpadhātu. In more restricted senses, it can refer to an inhabitant of one of the nine lower worlds of the Rūpadhātu, or in its narrowest sense, to the three lowest worlds of the Rūpadhātu. A large number of devas use the name "Brahmā", e.g. Brahmā Sahampati, Brahmā Sanatkumāra, Baka Brahmā, etc. It is not always clear which world they belong to, although it must always be one of the worlds of the Rūpadhātu below the Śuddhāvāsa worlds.

Formless Realm (Ārūpyadhātu)


{{main|Formless Realm}}
The Ārūpyadhātu (Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

) or Arūpaloka (Pāli
Páli
- External links :* *...

) (Tib:
Tibetan language
The Tibetan languages are a cluster of mutually-unintelligible Tibeto-Burman languages spoken primarily by Tibetan peoples who live across a wide area of eastern Central Asia bordering the Indian subcontinent, including the Tibetan Plateau and the northern Indian subcontinent in Baltistan, Ladakh,...

 gzugs med pa'i khams) or "Formless realm" would have no place in a purely physical cosmology, as none of the beings inhabiting it has either shape or location; and correspondingly, the realm has no location either. This realm belongs to those devas who attained and remained in the Four Formless Absorptions ({{IAST|catuḥ-samāpatti}}) of the arūpadhyānas
Arupajhana
In Buddhism, the arūpajhānas or "formless meditations" are four successive levels of meditation on non-material objects. These levels are higher than the rūpajhānas, and harder to attain...

 in a previous life, and now enjoys the fruits (vipāka
Vipaka
Vipāka is a Buddhist technical term meaning the result of karma , or intentional actions.In Buddhist belief, the law of kamma-vipāka is of great importance. In a discourse the Buddha said “Intention, monks, is kamma I say...

) of the good karma of that accomplishment. Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is either an enlightened existence or an enlightenment-being or, given the variant Sanskrit spelling satva rather than sattva, "heroic-minded one for enlightenment ." The Pali term has sometimes been translated as "wisdom-being," although in modern publications, and...

s, however, are never born in the Ārūpyadhātu even when they have attained the arūpadhyānas.

There are four types of Ārūpyadhātu devas, corresponding to the four types of arūpadhyānas:
  • {{IAST|Naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana}} or Nevasaññānāsaññāyatana (Tib: 'du shes med 'du shes med min) "Sphere of neither perception nor non-perception". In this sphere the formless beings have gone beyond a mere negation of perception and have attained a liminal state where they do not engage in "perception" ({{IAST
    Samjna
    Saṃjñā and sañña can be translated as "perception" or "cognition."-In the Early Buddhist literature:...

    , recognition of particulars by their marks) but are not wholly unconscious. This was the sphere reached by Udraka Rāmaputra (Pāli: Uddaka Rāmaputta), the second of the Buddha
    Gautama Buddha
    Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

    's two teachers, who considered it equivalent to enlightenment.

  • {{IAST|Ākiṃcanyāyatana}} or Ākiñcaññāyatana (Tib: ci yang med) "Sphere of Nothingness" (literally "lacking anything"). In this sphere formless beings dwell contemplating upon the thought that "there is no thing". This is considered a form of perception, though a very subtle one. This was the sphere reached by {{IAST|Ārāḍa Kālāma}} (Pāli: {{IAST|Āḷāra Kālāma}}), the first of the Buddha
    Gautama Buddha
    Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

    's two teachers; he considered it to be equivalent to enlightenment.

  • Vijñānānantyāyatana or {{IAST|Viññāṇānañcāyatana}} or more commonly the contracted form {{IAST|Viññāṇañcāyatana}} (Tib: rnam shes mtha' yas) "Sphere of Infinite Consciousness". In this sphere formless beings dwell meditating on their consciousness (vijñāna
    Vijnana
    Vijñāna or viññāa is translated as "consciousness," "life force," "mind," or "discernment."...

    ) as infinitely pervasive.

  • Ākāśānantyāyatana or Ākāsānañcāyatana (Tib: nam mkha' mtha' yas) "Sphere of Infinite Space". In this sphere formless beings dwell meditating upon space or extension (ākāśa) as infinitely pervasive.

Form Realm (Rūpadhātu)


The Rūpadhātu (Pāli: Rūpaloka; Tib: gzugs kyi khams) or "Form realm" is, as the name implies, the first of the physical realms; its inhabitants all have a location and bodies of a sort, though those bodies are composed of a subtle substance which is of itself invisible to the inhabitants of the Kāmadhātu. According to the Janavasabha Sutta, when a brahma (a being from the Brahma-world of the Rūpadhātu) wishes to visit a deva of the {{IAST|Trāyastriṃśa}} heaven (in the Kāmadhātu), he has to assume a "grosser form" in order to be visible to them. There are 17-22 Rūpadhātu in Buddhism texts, the most common saying is 18.

The beings of the Form realm are not subject to the extremes of pleasure and pain, or governed by desires for things pleasing to the senses, as the beings of the Kāmadhātu are. The bodies of Form realm beings do not have sexual distinctions.

Like the beings of the Ārūpyadhātu, the dwellers in the Rūpadhātu have minds corresponding to the dhyānas
Dhyāna in Buddhism
Dhyāna in Sanskrit or jhāna in Pāli can refer to either meditation or meditative states. Equivalent terms are "Chán" in modern Chinese, "Zen" in Japanese, "Seon" in Korean, "Thien" in Vietnamese, and "Samten" in Tibetan....

 (Pāli: jhānas). In their case it is the four lower dhyānas or rūpadhyānas
Rupajhana
In Buddhism, rūpajhānas are successive levels of meditation in which the mind is focused on a material or mental object: it is a word frequently used in Pāli scriptures and to a lesser extent in the Mahayana scriptures...

. However, although the beings of the Rūpadhātu can be divided into four broad grades corresponding to these four dhyānas, each of them is subdivided into further grades, three for each of the four dhyānas and five for the Śuddhāvāsa devas, for a total of seventeen grades (the Theravāda tradition counts one less grade in the highest dhyāna for a total of sixteen).

Physically, the Rūpadhātu consists of a series of planes stacked on top of each other, each one in a series of steps half the size of the previous one as one descends. In part, this reflects the fact that the devas are also thought of as physically larger on the higher planes. The highest planes are also broader in extent than the ones lower down, as discussed in the section on Sahasra cosmology. The height of these planes is expressed in yojanas, a measurement of very uncertain length, but sometimes taken to be about 4,000 times the height of a man, and so approximately 4.54 miles (7.3 km) or 7.32 kilometers.
Pure Abodes

The Śuddhāvāsa (Pāli: Suddhāvāsa; Tib: gnas gtsang ma) worlds, or "Pure Abodes", are distinct from the other worlds of the Rūpadhātu in that they do not house beings who have been born there through ordinary merit or meditative attainments, but only those Anāgāmins ("Non-returners") who are already on the path to Arhat-hood and who will attain enlightenment directly from the Śuddhāvāsa worlds without being reborn in a lower plane (Anāgāmins can also be born on lower planes). Every Śuddhāvāsa deva is therefore a protector of Buddhism. (Brahma Sahampati, who appealed to the newly enlightened Buddha to teach, was an Anagami from a previous Buddha). Because a Śuddhāvāsa deva will never be reborn outside the Śuddhāvāsa worlds, no Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is either an enlightened existence or an enlightenment-being or, given the variant Sanskrit spelling satva rather than sattva, "heroic-minded one for enlightenment ." The Pali term has sometimes been translated as "wisdom-being," although in modern publications, and...

 is ever born in these worlds, as a Bodhisattva must ultimately be reborn as a human being.

Since these devas rise from lower planes only due to the teaching of a Buddha, they can remain empty for very long periods if no Buddha arises. However, unlike the lower worlds, the Śuddhāvāsa worlds are never destroyed by natural catastrophe. The Śuddhāvāsa devas predict the coming of a Buddha and, taking the guise of brahmins, reveal to human beings the signs by which a Buddha can be recognized. They also ensure that a Bodhisattva in his last life will see the four signs that will lead to his renunciation.

The five Śuddhāvāsa worlds are:
  • {{IAST|Akaniṣṭha}} or {{IAST|Akaniṭṭha}} – World of devas "equal in rank" (literally: having no one as the youngest). The highest of all the Rūpadhātu worlds, it is often used to refer to the highest extreme of the universe. The current Śakra
    Sakra
    Śakra or Sakka is the ruler of the Heaven according to Buddhist cosmology. His full title is |deva]]s". In Buddhist texts, Śakra is the proper name and not an epithet of this deity; conversely, Indra in Sanskrit and Inda in Pali are sometimes used as an epithet for Śakra as "lord".In East...

     will eventually be born there. The duration of life in {{IAST|Akaniṣṭha}} is 16,000 kalpas (Vibhajyavāda tradition). Mahesvara (not to be confused with Hindu god Shiva) the ruler of the three realms of samsara
    Samsara
    thumb|right|200px|Traditional Tibetan painting or [[Thanka]] showing the [[wheel of life]] and realms of saṃsāraSaṅsāra or Saṃsāra , , literally meaning "continuous flow", is the cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth or reincarnation within Hinduism, Buddhism, Bön, Jainism, Sikhism, and other...

     is said to dwell here. The height of this world is 167,772,160 yojanas above the Earth (approximately the distance of Saturn from Earth).

  • Sudarśana or Sudassī – The "clear-seeing" devas live in a world similar to and friendly with the {{IAST|Akaniṣṭha}} world. The height of this world is 83,886,080 yojanas above the Earth.

  • {{IAST|Sudṛśa}} or Sudassa – The world of the "beautiful" devas are said to be the place of rebirth for five kinds of anāgāmins. The height of this world is 41,943,040 yojanas above the Earth.

  • Atapa or Atappa – The world of the "untroubled" devas, whose company those of lower realms wish for. The height of this world is 20,971,520 yojanas above the Earth.

  • {{IAST|Avṛha}} or Aviha – The world of the "not falling" devas, perhaps the most common destination for reborn Anāgāmins. Many achieve arhatship directly in this world, but some pass away and are reborn in sequentially higher worlds of the Pure Abodes until they are at last reborn in the {{IAST|Akaniṣṭha}} world. These are called in Pāli {{IAST|uddhaṃsotas}}, "those whose stream goes upward". The duration of life in {{IAST|Avṛha}} is 1,000 kalpas (Vibhajyavāda tradition). The height of this world is 10,485,760 yojanas above the Earth.

Bṛhatphala worlds

The mental state of the devas of the {{IAST|Bṛhatphala}} worlds corresponds to the fourth dhyāna, and is characterized by equanimity ({{IAST). The {{IAST|Bṛhatphala}} worlds form the upper limit to the destruction of the universe by wind at the end of a mahākalpa (see Temporal cosmology below), that is, they are spared such destruction.
  • Asaññasatta (Sanskrit: {{IAST|Asaṃjñasattva}}) (Vibhajyavāda tradition only) – "Unconscious beings", devas who have attained a high dhyāna (similar to that of the Formless Realm), and, wishing to avoid the perils of perception, have achieved a state of non-perception in which they endure for a time. After a while, however, perception arises again and they fall into a lower state.

  • {{IAST|Bṛhatphala}} or Vehapphala (Tib: 'bras bu che) – Devas "having great fruit". Their lifespan is 500 mahākalpas. (Vibhajyavāda tradition). Some Anāgāmins are reborn here. The height of this world is 5,242,880 yojanas above the Earth.

  • {{IAST|Puṇyaprasava}} (Sarvāstivāda tradition only; Tib: bsod nams skyes) – The world of the devas who are the "offspring of merit". The height of this world is 2,621,440 yojanas above the Earth.

  • Anabhraka (Sarvāstivāda tradition only; Tib: sprin med) – The world of the "cloudless" devas. The height of this world is 1,310,720 yojanas above the Earth.

{{IAST|Śubhakṛtsna}} worlds

The mental state of the devas of the {{IAST|Śubhakṛtsna}} worlds corresponds to the third dhyāna, and is characterized by a quiet joy (sukha
Sukha
Sukha is a Sanskrit and Pāli word that is often translated as “happiness" or "ease" or "pleasure" or "bliss." In Buddhism's Pali literature, the term is used in the context of describing laic pursuits, meditative absorptions and intra-psychic phenomena....

). These devas have bodies that radiate a steady light. The {{IAST|Śubhakṛtsna}} worlds form the upper limit to the destruction of the universe by water at the end of a mahākalpa (see Temporal cosmology below), that is, the flood of water does not rise high enough to reach them.
  • {{IAST|Śubhakṛtsna}} or {{IAST|Subhakiṇṇa / Subhakiṇha}} (Tib: dge rgyas) – The world of devas of "total beauty". Their lifespan is 64 mahākalpas (some sources: 4 mahākalpas) according to the Vibhajyavāda tradition. 64 mahākalpas is the interval between destructions of the universe by wind, including the {{IAST|Śubhakṛtsna}} worlds. The height of this world is 655,360 yojanas above the Earth.

  • {{IAST|Apramāṇaśubha}} or {{IAST|Appamāṇasubha}} (Tib: tshad med dge) – The world of devas of "limitless beauty". Their lifespan is 32 mahākalpas (Vibhajyavāda tradition). They possess "faith, virtue, learning, munificence and wisdom". The height of this world is 327,680 yojanas above the Earth.

  • Parīttaśubha or Parittasubha (Tib: dge chung) – The world of devas of "limited beauty". Their lifespan is 16 mahākalpas. The height of this world is 163,840 yojanas above the Earth.

Ābhāsvara worlds

The mental state of the devas of the Ābhāsvara worlds corresponds to the second dhyāna, and is characterized by delight (prīti
Piti
Pīti in Pali is a mental factor associated with the concentrative absorption of Buddhist meditation. Piti is a very specific joy associated with a state of deep tranquillity...

) as well as joy (sukha
Sukha
Sukha is a Sanskrit and Pāli word that is often translated as “happiness" or "ease" or "pleasure" or "bliss." In Buddhism's Pali literature, the term is used in the context of describing laic pursuits, meditative absorptions and intra-psychic phenomena....

); the Ābhāsvara devas are said to shout aloud in their joy, crying aho sukham! ("Oh joy!"). These devas have bodies that emit flashing rays of light like lightning. They are said to have similar bodies (to each other) but diverse perceptions.

The Ābhāsvara worlds form the upper limit to the destruction of the universe by fire at the end of a mahākalpa (see Temporal cosmology below), that is, the column of fire does not rise high enough to reach them. After the destruction of the world, at the beginning of the vivartakalpa, the worlds are first populated by beings reborn from the Ābhāsvara worlds.
  • Ābhāsvara or Ābhassara (Tib: 'od gsal) – The world of devas "possessing splendor". The lifespan of the Ābhāsvara devas is 8 mahākalpas (others: 2 mahākalpas). Eight mahākalpas is the interval between destructions of the universe by water, which includes the Ābhāsvara worlds. The height of this world is 81,920 yojanas above the Earth.

  • {{IAST|Apramāṇābha}} or {{IAST|Appamāṇābha}} (Tib: tshad med 'od) – The world of devas of "limitless light", a concept on which they meditate. Their lifespan is 4 mahākalpas. The height of this world is 40,960 yojanas above the Earth.

  • Parīttābha or Parittābha (Tib: 'od chung) – The world of devas of "limited light". Their lifespan is 2 mahākalpas. The height of this world is 20,480 yojanas above the Earth.

Brahmā worlds

{{Main|Brahma (Buddhism)}}

The mental state of the devas of the Brahmā worlds corresponds to the first dhyāna, and is characterized by observation (vitarka
Vitakka
Vitakka or vitarka , both in Hinduist yoga and Buddhist meditation, means the action of taking care of any object...

) and reflection (vicāra
Vicara
Vicara means the way mind maintains attention toward any object. It first referred to pre-Hindu yoga, later in Buddhist meditation. It has been translated as "consideration," "deliberation," "examination," and "investigation."-In Buddhism:...

) as well as delight (prīti
Piti
Pīti in Pali is a mental factor associated with the concentrative absorption of Buddhist meditation. Piti is a very specific joy associated with a state of deep tranquillity...

) and joy (sukha
Sukha
Sukha is a Sanskrit and Pāli word that is often translated as “happiness" or "ease" or "pleasure" or "bliss." In Buddhism's Pali literature, the term is used in the context of describing laic pursuits, meditative absorptions and intra-psychic phenomena....

). The Brahmā worlds, together with the other lower worlds of the universe, are destroyed by fire at the end of a mahākalpa (see Temporal cosmology below).
  • Mahābrahmā (Tib: tshangs pa chen po) – the world of "Great Brahmā", believed by many to be the creator of the world, and having as his titles "Brahmā, Great Brahmā, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Lord, the Maker and Creator, the Ruler, Appointer and Orderer, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be." According to the Brahmajāla Sutta (DN.1), a Mahābrahmā is a being from the Ābhāsvara worlds who falls into a lower world through exhaustion of his merits and is reborn alone in the Brahma-world; forgetting his former existence, he imagines himself to have come into existence without cause. Note that even such a high-ranking deity has no intrinsic knowledge of the worlds above his own. Mahābrahmā is 1 {{Fraction|1|2}} yojanas tall. His lifespan variously said to be 1 kalpa (Vibhajyavāda tradition) or 1 {{Fraction|1|2}} kalpas long (Sarvāstivāda tradition), although it would seem that it could be no longer than {{Fraction|3|4}} of a mahākalpa, i.e., all of the mahākalpa except for the {{IAST|Saṃvartasthāyikalpa}}, because that is the total length of time between the rebuilding of the lower world and its destruction. It is unclear what period of time "kalpa" refers to in this case. The height of this world is 10,240 yojanas above the Earth.

  • Brahmapurohita (Tib: tshangs 'khor) – the "Ministers of Brahmā" are beings, also originally from the Ābhāsvara worlds, that are born as companions to Mahābrahmā after he has spent some time alone. Since they arise subsequent to his thought of a desire for companions, he believes himself to be their creator, and they likewise believe him to be their creator and lord. They are 1 yojana in height and their lifespan is variously said to be {{Fraction|1|2}} of a kalpa (Vibhajyavāda tradition) or a whole kalpa (Sarvāstivāda tradition). If they are later reborn in a lower world, and come to recall some part of their last existence, they teach the doctrine of Brahmā as creator as a revealed truth. The height of this world is 5,120 yojanas above the Earth.

  • {{IAST|Brahmapāriṣadya}} or Brahmapārisajja (Tib: tshangs ris) – the "Councilors of Brahmā" or the devas "belonging to the assembly of Brahmā". They are also called Brahmakāyika, but this name can be used for any of the inhabitants of the Brahma-worlds. They are half a yojana in height and their lifespan is variously said to be {{Fraction|1|3}} of a kalpa (Vibhajyavāda tradition) or {{Fraction|1|2}} of a kalpa (Sarvāstivāda tradition). The height of this world is 2,560 yojanas above the Earth.

Desire Realm (Kāmadhātu)


{{Main|Desire realm}}
The beings born in the Kāmadhātu (Pāli: Kāmaloka; Tib: 'dod pa'i khams) differ in degree of happiness, but they are all, other than arhats and Buddhas, under the domination of Māra
Mara (demon)
In Buddhism, Māra is the demon that tempted Gautama Buddha by trying to seduce him with the vision of beautiful women who, in various legends, are often said to be Mara's daughters. In Buddhist cosmology, Mara personifies unwholesome impulses, unskillfulness, the "death" of the spiritual life...

 and are bound by sensual desire, which causes them suffering.
Heavens

The following four worlds are bounded planes. each 80,000 yojanas square, which float in the air above the top of Mount Sumeru
Sumeru
Sumeru or Sineru is the name of the central world-mountain in Buddhist cosmology. Etymologically, the proper name of the mountain is Meru , to which is added the approbatory prefix su-, resulting in the meaning "excellent Meru" or "wonderful Meru".The concept of Sumeru is closely related to the...

. Although all of the worlds inhabited by devas (that is, all the worlds down to the Cāturmahārājikakāyika world and sometimes including the Asuras) are sometimes called "heavens", in the western sense of the word the term best applies to the four worlds listed below:
  • Parinirmita-vaśavartin or Paranimmita-vasavatti (Tib: gzhan 'phrul dbang byed) – The heaven of devas "with power over (others') creations". These devas do not create pleasing forms that they desire for themselves, but their desires are fulfilled by the acts of other devas who wish for their favor. The ruler of this world is called Vaśavartin (Pāli: Vasavatti), who has longer life, greater beauty, more power and happiness and more delightful sense-objects than the other devas of his world. This world is also the home of the devaputra (being of divine race) called Māra, who endeavors to keep all beings of the Kāmadhātu in the grip of sensual pleasures. Māra is also sometimes called Vaśavartin, but in general these two dwellers in this world are kept distinct. The beings of this world are 4500 feet (1,371.6 m) tall and live for 9,216,000,000 years (Sarvāstivāda tradition). The height of this world is 1,280 yojanas above the Earth.

  • {{IAST|Nirmāṇarati}} or Nimmānaratī (Tib: 'phrul dga' )– The world of devas "delighting in their creations". The devas of this world are capable of making any appearance to please themselves. The lord of this world is called Sunirmita (Pāli Sunimmita); his wife is the rebirth of Visākhā, formerly the chief of the upāsikās
    Upasaka
    Upāsaka or Upāsikā are from the Sanskrit and Pāli words for "attendant". This is the title of followers of Buddhism who are not monks, nuns, or novice monastics in a Buddhist order, and who undertake certain vows...

     (female lay devotees) of the Buddha. The beings of this world are 3750 feet (1,143 m) tall and live for 2,304,000,000 years (Sarvāstivāda tradition). The height of this world is 640 yojanas above the Earth.

  • {{IAST
    Tushita
    ' or Tusita is one of the six deva-worlds of the Kāmadhātu, located between the Yāma heaven and the heaven. Like the other heavens, is said to be reachable through meditation...

    or Tusita (Tib: dga' ldan) – The world of the "joyful" devas. This world is best known for being the world in which a Bodhisattva lives before being reborn in the world of humans. Until a few thousand years ago, the Bodhisattva of this world was Śvetaketu (Pāli: Setaketu), who was reborn as Siddhārtha, who would become the Buddha Śākyamuni
    Gautama Buddha
    Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

    ; since then the Bodhisattva has been Nātha (or Nāthadeva) who will be reborn as Ajita and will become the Buddha Maitreya
    Maitreya
    Maitreya , Metteyya , or Jampa , is foretold as a future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. In some Buddhist literature, such as the Amitabha Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, he or she is referred to as Ajita Bodhisattva.Maitreya is a bodhisattva who in the Buddhist tradition is to appear on...

     (Pāli Metteyya). While this Bodhisattva is the foremost of the dwellers in {{IAST|Tuṣita}}, the ruler of this world is another deva called {{IAST|Santuṣita}} (Pāli: Santusita). The beings of this world are 3000 feet (914.4 m) tall and live for 576,000,000 years (Sarvāstivāda tradition). The height of this world is 320 yojanas above the Earth.

  • Yāma (Tib: 'thab bral) – Sometimes called the "heaven without fighting", because it is the lowest of the heavens to be physically separated from the tumults of the earthly world. These devas live in the air, free of all difficulties. Its ruler is the deva Suyāma; according to some, his wife is the rebirth of Sirimā, a courtesan of {{IAST|Rājagṛha}} in the Buddha's time who was generous to the monks. The beings of this world are 2250 feet (685.8 m) tall and live for 144,000,000 years (Sarvāstivāda tradition). The height of this world is 160 yojanas above the Earth.

Worlds of Sumeru

{{Main|Sumeru}}

The world-mountain of Sumeru is an immense, strangely shaped peak which arises in the center of the world, and around which the Sun and Moon revolve. Its base rests in a vast ocean, and it is surrounded by several rings of lesser mountain ranges and oceans. The three worlds listed below are all located on or around Sumeru: the {{IAST|Trāyastriṃśa}} devas live on its peak, the Cāturmahārājikakāyika devas live on its slopes, and the Asuras live in the ocean at its base. Sumeru and its surrounding oceans and mountains are the home not just of these deities, but also vast assemblies of beings of popular mythology who only rarely intrude on the human world.
  • {{IAST or {{IAST|Tāvatiṃsa}} (Tib: sum cu rtsa gsum pa) – The world "of the Thirty-three (devas)" is a wide flat space on the top of Mount Sumeru, filled with the gardens and palaces of the devas. Its ruler is Śakra
    Sakra
    Śakra or Sakka is the ruler of the Heaven according to Buddhist cosmology. His full title is |deva]]s". In Buddhist texts, Śakra is the proper name and not an epithet of this deity; conversely, Indra in Sanskrit and Inda in Pali are sometimes used as an epithet for Śakra as "lord".In East...

     devānām indra, "Śakra, lord of the devas". Besides the eponymous Thirty-three devas, many other devas and supernatural beings dwell here, including the attendants of the devas and many apsarases (nymphs). The beings of this world are 1500 feet (457.2 m) tall and live for 36,000,000 years (Sarvāstivāda tradition) or 3/4 of a yojana tall and live for 30,000,000 years (Vibhajyavāda tradition). The height of this world is 80 yojanas above the Earth.

  • Cāturmahārājikakāyika
    Four Heavenly Kings
    In the Buddhist faith, the Four Heavenly Kings are four gods, each of whom watches over one cardinal direction of the world.The Kings are collectively named as follows:...

    or Cātummahārājika (Tib: rgyal chen bzhi) – The world "of the Four Great Kings" is found on the lower slopes of Mount Sumeru, though some of its inhabitants live in the air around the mountain. Its rulers are the four Great Kings of the name, {{IAST|Virūḍhaka}}, {{IAST|Dhṛtarāṣṭra}}, {{IAST|Virūpākṣa}}, and their leader {{IAST
    Vaisravana
    ' or ' also known as Jambhala in Tibet and Bishamonten in Japan is the name of the chief of the Four Heavenly Kings and an important figure in Buddhist mythology.-Names:...

    . The devas who guide the Sun and Moon are also considered part of this world, as are the retinues of the four kings, composed of {{IAST
    Kumbhanda
    A ' or ' is one of a group of dwarfish, misshapen spirits among the lesser deities of Buddhist mythology. was a dialectal form for "gourd", so they may get their name from being thought to resemble gourds in some way, e.g. in having big stomachs...

     (dwarfs), Gandharva
    Gandharva
    Gandharva is a name used for distinct mythological beings in Hinduism and Buddhism; it is also a term for skilled singers in Indian classical music.-In Hinduism:...

    s (fairies), Nāgas (dragons) and {{IAST
    Yaksha
    Yaksha is the name of a broad class of nature-spirits, usually benevolent, who are caretakers of the natural treasures hidden in the earth and tree roots. They appear in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist mythology. The feminine form of the word is ' or Yakshini .In Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist mythology,...

     (goblins). The beings of this world are 750 feet (228.6 m) tall and live for 9,000,000 years (Sarvāstivāda tradition) or 90,000 years (Vibhajyavāda tradition). The height of this world is from sea level up to 40 yojanas above the Earth.

  • Asura
    Asura (Buddhism)
    Asura in Buddhism is the name of the lowest ranks of the deities or demigods of the Kāmadhātu.-Origins and etymology:...

    (Tib: lha ma yin) – The world of the Asuras is the space at the foot of Mount Sumeru, much of which is a deep ocean. It is not the Asuras' original home, but the place they found themselves after they were hurled, drunken, from {{IAST|Trāyastriṃśa}} where they had formerly lived. The Asuras are always fighting to regain their lost kingdom on the top of Mount Sumeru, but are unable to break the guard of the Four Great Kings. The Asuras are divided into many groups, and have no single ruler, but among their leaders are Vemacitrin
    Vemacitrin
    Vemacitrin or Vepacitti is the name of a leader of the Asuras who figures prominently in many Buddhist sūtras.Vemacitrin is the most prominent of the leaders of the Asuras in their fight with the devas of where they had formerly lived...

     (Pāli: Vepacitti) and Rāhu.

Earthly realms
  • {{IAST
    Human beings in Buddhism
    Humans in Buddhism are the subjects of an extensive commentarial literature that examines the nature and qualities of a human life from the point of view of humans' ability to achieve enlightenment...

    (Tib: mi) – This is the world of humans and human-like beings who live on the surface of the earth. The mountain-rings that engird Sumeru are surrounded by a vast ocean, which fills most of the world. The ocean is in turn surrounded by a circular mountain wall called {{IAST|Cakravāḍa}} (Pāli: {{IAST|Cakkavāḷa}}) which marks the horizontal limit of the world. In this ocean there are four continents which are, relatively speaking, small islands in it. Because of the immenseness of the ocean, they cannot be reached from each other by ordinary sailing vessels, although in the past, when the cakravartin kings ruled, communication between the continents was possible by means of the treasure called the cakraratna (Pāli cakkaratana), which a cakravartin and his retinue could use to fly through the air between the continents. The four continents are:

    • Jambudvīpa
      Jambudvipa
      Jambudvīpa is the dvipa of the terrestrial world, as envisioned in the cosmologies of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, which is the realm where ordinary human beings live...

      or Jambudīpa is located in the south and is the dwelling of ordinary human beings. It is said to be shaped "like a cart", or rather a blunt-nosed triangle with the point facing south. (This description probably echoes the shape of the coastline of southern India.) It is 10,000 yojanas in extent (Vibhajyavāda tradition) or has a perimeter of 6,000 yojanas (Sarvāstivāda tradition) to which can be added the southern coast of only 3 {{fraction|1|2}} yojanas' length. The continent takes its name from a giant Jambu tree (Syzygium cumini
      Jambul
      Jambul is an evergreen tropical tree in the flowering plant family Myrtaceae. Jambul is native to Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia...

      ), 100 yojanas tall, which grows in the middle of the continent. Every continent has one of these giant trees. All Buddhas appear in Jambudvīpa. The people here are five to six feet tall and their length of life varies between 80,000 and 10 years.

    • Pūrvavideha or Pubbavideha is located in the east, and is shaped like a semicircle with the flat side pointing westward (i.e., towards Sumeru). It is 7,000 yojanas in extent (Vibhajyavāda tradition) or has a perimeter of 6,350 yojanas of which the flat side is 2,000 yojanas long (Sarvāstivāda tradition). Its tree is the acacia
      Acacia
      Acacia is a genus of shrubs and trees belonging to the subfamily Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae, first described in Africa by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1773. Many non-Australian species tend to be thorny, whereas the majority of Australian acacias are not...

      . The people here are about 12 feet (3.7 m) tall and they live for 250 years.

    • Aparagodānīya or Aparagoyāna is located in the west, and is shaped like a circle with a circumference of about 7,500 yojanas (Sarvāstivāda tradition). The tree of this continent is a giant Kadamba tree. The human inhabitants of this continent do not live in houses but sleep on the ground. They are about 24 feet (7.3 m) tall and they live for 500 years.

    • Uttarakuru is located in the north, and is shaped like a square. It has a perimter of 8,000 yojanas, being 2,000 yojanas on each side. This continent's tree is called a {{IAST|kalpavṛkṣa}} (Pāli: kapparukkha) or kalpa-tree, because it lasts for the entire kalpa. The inhabitants of Uttarakuru are said to be extraordinarily wealthy. They do not need to labor for a living, as their food grows by itself, and they have no private property. They have cities built in the air. They are about 48 feet (14.6 m) tall and live for 1,000 years, and they are under the protection of {{IAST
      Vaisravana
      ' or ' also known as Jambhala in Tibet and Bishamonten in Japan is the name of the chief of the Four Heavenly Kings and an important figure in Buddhist mythology.-Names:...

      .

  • Tiryagyoni-loka
    Animals in Buddhism
    The position and treatment of animals in Buddhism is important for the light it sheds on Buddhists' perception of their own relation to the natural world, on Buddhist humanitarian concerns in general, and on the relationship between Buddhist theory and Buddhist practice.-Animals in Buddhist...

    or Tiracchāna-yoni (Tib: dud 'gro) – This world comprises all members of the animal kingdom that are capable of feeling suffering, regardless of size.

  • Preta
    Preta
    Preta, प्रेत or Peta is the name for a type of being described in Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, and Jain texts that undergoes more than human suffering, particularly an extreme degree of hunger and thirst...

    loka
    or Petaloka (Tib: yi dwags) – The pretas, or "hungry ghosts", are mostly dwellers on earth, though due to their mental state they perceive it very differently from humans. They live for the most part in desert and waste places.

Hells (Narakas)

{{Main|Naraka (Buddhism)}}

Naraka or Niraya (Tib: dmyal ba) is the name given to one of the worlds of greatest suffering, usually translated into English as "hell" or "purgatory". As with the other realms, a being is born into one of these worlds as a result of his karma
Karma in Buddhism
Karma means "action" or "doing"; whatever one does, says, or thinks is a karma. In Buddhism, the term karma is used specifically for those actions which spring from the intention of an unenlightened being.These bring about a fruit or result Karma (Sanskrit, also karman, Pāli: Kamma) means...

, and resides there for a finite length of time until his karma has achieved its full result, after which he will be reborn in one of the higher worlds as the result of an earlier karma that had not yet ripened. The mentality of a being in the hells corresponds to states of extreme fear and helpless anguish in humans.

Physically, Naraka is thought of as a series of layers extending below Jambudvīpa into the earth. There are several schemes for counting these Narakas and enumerating their torments. One of the more common is that of the Eight Cold Narakas and Eight Hot Narakas.
Cold Narakas
  • Arbuda – the "blister" Naraka
  • Nirarbuda – the "burst blister" Naraka
  • {{IAST|Aṭaṭa}} – the Naraka of shivering
  • Hahava – the Naraka of lamentation
  • Huhuva – the Naraka of chattering teeth
  • Utpala – the "blue lotus" Naraka
  • Padma – the "lotus" Naraka
  • Mahāpadma – the "great lotus" Naraka


Each lifetime in these Narakas is twenty times the length of the one before it.
Hot Narakas
  • Sañjīva – the "reviving" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 162*1010 years long.
  • Kālasūtra – the "black thread" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 1296*1010 years long.
  • {{IAST|Saṃghāta}} – the "crushing" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 10,368*1010 years long.
  • Raurava – the "screaming" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 82,944*1010 years long.
  • Mahāraurava – the "great screaming" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 663,552*1010 years long.
  • Tapana – the "heating" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 5,308,416*1010 years long.
  • Pratāpana – the "great heating" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 42,467,328*1010 years long.
  • Avīci
    Avici
    In Buddhism, ' is the lowest level of the Naraka or "hell" realm, into which the dead who have committed grave misdeeds may be reborn...

    – the "uninterrupted" Naraka. Life in this Naraka is 339,738,624*1010 years long.

The foundations of the earth


All of the structures of the earth, Sumeru and the rest, extend downward to a depth of 80,000 yojana
Yojana
A Yojana is a Vedic measure of distance used in ancient India. The exact measurement is disputed amongst scholars with distances being given between 6 to 15 kilometers ....

s below sea level – the same as the height of Sumeru above sea level. Below this is a layer of "golden earth", a substance compact and firm enough to support the weight of Sumeru. It is 320,000 yojanas in depth and so extends to 400,000 yojanas below sea level. The layer of golden earth in turn rests upon a layer of water, which is 8,000,000 yojanas in depth, going down to 8,400,000 yojanas below sea level. Below the layer of water is a "circle of wind", which is 16,000,000 yojanas in depth and also much broader in extent, supporting 1,000 different worlds upon it.

Sahasra cosmology


While the vertical cosmology describes the arrangement of the worlds vertically, the sahasra (Sanskrit: "thousand") cosmology describes how they are grouped horizontally. The four heavens of the Kāmadhātu, as mentioned, occupy a limited space no bigger than the top of Mount Sumeru. The three Brahmā-worlds, however, stretch out as far as the mountain-wall of {{IAST|Cakravāḍa}}, filling the entire sky. This whole group of worlds, from Mahābrahmā down to the foundations of water, constitutes a single world-system. It corresponds to the extent of the universe that is destroyed by fire at the end of one mahākalpa.

Above Mahābrahmā are the Ābhāsvara worlds. These are not only higher but also wider in extent; they cover 1,000 separate world-systems, each with its own Sumeru, {{IAST|Cakravāḍa}}, Sun, Moon, and four continents. This system of 1,000 worlds is called a {{IAST|sāhasra-cūḍika-lokadhātu}}, or "small chiliocosm". It corresponds to the extent of the universe that is destroyed by water at the end of 8 mahākalpas.

Above the Ābhāsvara worlds are the {{IAST|Śubhakṛtsna}} worlds, which cover 1,000 chiliocosms, or 1,000,000 world-systems. This larger system is called a dvisāhasra-madhyama-lokadhātu, or "medium dichiliocosm". It corresponds to the extent of the universe that is destroyed by wind at the end of 64 mahākalpas.

Likewise, above the {{IAST|Śubhakṛtsna}} worlds, the Śuddhāvāsa and {{IAST|Bṛhatphala}} worlds cover 1,000 dichiliocosms, or 1,000,000,000 world-systems. This largest grouping is called a trisāhasra-mahāsāhasra-lokadhātu or "great trichiliocosm".

Temporal cosmology


Buddhist temporal cosmology describes how the universe comes into being and is dissolved. Like other Indian cosmologies, it assumes an infinite span of time and is cyclical. This does not mean that the same events occur in identical form with each cycle, but merely that, as with the cycles of day and night or summer and winter, certain natural events occur over and over to give some structure to time.

The basic unit of time measurement is the mahākalpa or "Great Eon". The exact length of this time in human years is never defined exactly, but it is meant to be very long, to be measured in billions of years if not longer.

A mahākalpa is divided into four kalpas or "eons", each distinguished from the others by the stage of evolution of the universe during that kalpa. The four kalpas are:
  • Vivartakalpa "Eon of evolution" – during this kalpa the universe comes into existence.

  • Vivartasthāyikalpa "Eon of evolution-duration" – during this kalpa the universe remains in existence in a steady state.

  • {{IAST|Saṃvartakalpa}} "Eon of dissolution" – during this kalpa the universe dissolves.

  • {{IAST|Saṃvartasthāyikalpa}} "Eon of dissolution-duration" – during this kalpa the universe remains in a state of emptiness.


Each one of these kalpas is divided into twenty antarakalpas (Pāli antarakappa, "inside eons") each of about the same length. For the {{IAST|Saṃvartasthāyikalpa}} this division is merely nominal, as nothing changes from one antarakalpa to the next; but for the other three kalpas it marks an interior cycle within the kalpa.

Vivartakalpa


The Vivartakalpa begins with the arising of the primordial wind, which begins the process of building up the structures of the universe that had been destroyed at the end of the last mahākalpa. As the extent of the destruction can vary, the nature of this evolution can vary as well, but it always takes the form of beings from a higher world being born into a lower world. The example of a Mahābrahmā being the rebirth of a deceased Ābhāsvara deva is just one instance of this, which continues throughout the Vivartakalpa until all the worlds are filled from the Brahmaloka down to Naraka. During the Vivartakalpa the first humans appear; they are not like present-day humans, but are beings shining in their own light, capable of moving through the air without mechanical aid, living for a very long time, and not requiring sustenance; they are more like a type of lower deity than present-day humans are.

Over time, they acquire a taste for physical nutriment, and as they consume it, their bodies become heavier and more like human bodies; they lose their ability to shine, and begin to acquire differences in their appearance, and their length of life decreases. They differentiate into two sexes and begin to become sexually active. Then greed, theft and violence arise among them, and they establish social distinctions and government and elect a king to rule them, called Mahāsammata, "the great appointed one". Some of them begin to hunt and eat the flesh of animals, which have by now come into existence.

First antarakalpa


The Vivartasthāyikalpa begins when the first being is born into Naraka, thus filling the entire universe with beings. During the first antarakalpa of this eon, human lives are declining from a vast but unspecified number of years (but at least several tens of thousands of years) toward the modern lifespan of less than 100 years. At the beginning of the antarakalpa, people are still generally happy. They live under the rule of a universal monarch or "wheel-turning king" (cakravartin
Chakravartin
Chakravartin , is a term used in Indian religions for an ideal universal ruler, who rules ethically and benevolently over the entire world. Such a ruler's reign is called sarvabhauma. It is a bahuvrīhi, literally meaning "whose wheels are moving", in the sense of "whose chariot is rolling...

), who conquer. The Mahāsudassana-sutta (DN.17) tells of the life of a cakravartin king, Mahāsudassana (Sanskrit: Mahāsudarśana) who lived for 336,000 years. The Cakkavatti-sīhanāda-sutta (DN.26) tells of a later dynasty of cakravartins, {{IAST|Daḷhanemi}} (Sanskrit: {{IAST|Dṛḍhanemi}}) and five of his descendants, who had a lifespan of over 80,000 years. The seventh of this line of cakravartins broke with the traditions of his forefathers, refusing to abdicate his position at a certain age , pass the throne on to his son, and enter the life of a {{IAST
Shramana
A shramana is a wandering monk in certain ascetic traditions of ancient India including Jainism, Buddhism, and Ājīvikism. Famous śramaṇas include Mahavira and Gautama Buddha....

. As a result of his subsequent misrule, poverty increased; as a result of poverty, theft began; as a result of theft, capital punishment was instituted; and as a result of this contempt for life, murders and other crimes became rampant.

The human lifespan now quickly decreased from 80,000 to 100 years, apparently decreasing by about half with each generation (this is perhaps not to be taken literally), while with each generation other crimes and evils increased: lying, greed, hatred, sexual misconduct, disrespect for elders. During this period, according to the Mahāpadāna-sutta (DN.14) three of the four Buddhas of this antarakalpa lived: Krakucchanda Buddha (Pāli: Kakusandha), at the time when the lifespan was 40,000 years; Kanakamuni Buddha (Pāli: Konāgamana) when the lifespan was 30,000 years; and Kāśyapa Buddha (Pāli: Kassapa) when the lifespan was 20,000 years.

Our present time is taken to be toward the end of the first antarakalpa of this Vivartasthāyikalpa, when the lifespan is less than 100 years, after the life of Śākyamuni Buddha (Pāli: Sakyamuni), who lived to the age of 80.

The remainder of the antarakalpa is prophesied to be miserable: lifespans will continue to decrease, and all the evil tendencies of the past will reach their ultimate in destructiveness. People will live no longer than ten years, and will marry at five; foods will be poor and tasteless; no form of morality will be acknowledged. The most contemptuous and hateful people will become the rulers. Incest will be rampant. Hatred between people, even members of the same family, will grow until people think of each other as hunters do of their prey.

Eventually a great war will ensue, in which the most hostile and aggressive will arm themselves and go out to kill each other. The less aggressive will hide in forests and other secret places while the war rages. This war marks the end of the first antarakalpa.

Second antarakalpa


At the end of the war, the survivors will emerge from their hiding places and repent their evil habits. As they begin to do good, their lifespan increases, and the health and welfare of the human race will also increase with it. After a long time, the descendants of those with a 10-year lifespan will live for 80,000 years, and at that time there will be a cakravartin king named {{IAST|Saṅkha}}. During his reign, the current bodhisattva in the {{IAST
Tushita
' or Tusita is one of the six deva-worlds of the Kāmadhātu, located between the Yāma heaven and the heaven. Like the other heavens, is said to be reachable through meditation...

 heaven will descend and be reborn under the name of Ajita. He will enter the life of a {{IAST
Shramana
A shramana is a wandering monk in certain ascetic traditions of ancient India including Jainism, Buddhism, and Ājīvikism. Famous śramaṇas include Mahavira and Gautama Buddha....

 and will gain perfect enlightenment
Bodhi
Bodhi is both a Pāli and Sanskrit word traditionally translated into English with the word "enlightenment", but which means awakened. In Buddhism it is the knowledge possessed by a Buddha into the nature of things...

 as a Buddha; and he will then be known by the name of Maitreya
Maitreya
Maitreya , Metteyya , or Jampa , is foretold as a future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. In some Buddhist literature, such as the Amitabha Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, he or she is referred to as Ajita Bodhisattva.Maitreya is a bodhisattva who in the Buddhist tradition is to appear on...

 (Pāli: Metteyya).

After Maitreya's time, the world will again worsen, and the lifespan will gradually decrease from 80,000 years to 10 years again, each antarakalpa being separated from the next by devastating war, with peaks of high civilization and morality in the middle. After the 19th antarakalpa, the lifespan will increase to 80,000 and then not decrease, because the Vivartasthāyikalpa will have come to an end.

{{IAST|Saṃvartakalpa}}


The {{IAST|Saṃvartakalpa}} begins when beings cease to be born in Naraka. This cessation of birth then proceeds in reverse order up the vertical cosmology, i.e., pretas then cease to be born, then animals, then humans, and so on up to the realms of the deities.

When these worlds as far as the Brahmaloka are devoid of inhabitants, a great fire consumes the entire physical structure of the world. It burns all the worlds below the Ābhāsvara worlds. When they are destroyed, the {{IAST|Saṃvartasthāyikalpa}} begins.

{{IAST|Saṃvartasthāyikalpa}}


There is nothing to say about the {{IAST|Saṃvartasthāyikalpa}}, since nothing happens in it below the Ābhāsvara worlds. It ends when the primordial wind begins to blow and build the structure of the worlds up again.

Other destructions


The destruction by fire is the normal type of destruction that occurs at the end of the {{IAST|Saṃvartakalpa}}. But every eighth mahākalpa, after seven destructions by fire, there is a destruction by water. This is more devastating, as it eliminates not just the Brahma worlds but also the Ābhāsvara worlds.

Every sixty-fourth mahākalpa, after 56 destructions by fire and 7 destructions by water, there is a destruction by wind. This is the most devastating of all, as it also destroys the {{IAST|Śubhakṛtsna}} worlds. The higher worlds are never destroyed.

Mahayana views


Mahayana Buddhism accepted the cosmology as above. But they believe there are pure land
Pure land
A pure land, in Mahayana Buddhism, is the celestial realm or pure abode of a Buddha or Bodhisattva. The various traditions that focus on Pure Lands have been given the nomenclature Pure Land Buddhism. Pure lands are also evident in the literature and traditions of Taoism and Bön.The notion of 'pure...

 worlds where buddha
Buddha
In Buddhism, buddhahood is the state of perfect enlightenment attained by a buddha .In Buddhism, the term buddha usually refers to one who has become enlightened...

s and bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is either an enlightened existence or an enlightenment-being or, given the variant Sanskrit spelling satva rather than sattva, "heroic-minded one for enlightenment ." The Pali term has sometimes been translated as "wisdom-being," although in modern publications, and...

s teach sentient beings in human forms. A cosmology with some difference is further explained in the Worlds, chapter 5 of Avatamsaka Sutra
Avatamsaka Sutra
The is one of the most influential Mahayana sutras of East Asian Buddhism. The title is rendered in English as Flower Garland Sutra, Flower Adornment Sutra, or Flower Ornament Scripture....

.

See also

  • Buddhism and evolution
    Buddhism and evolution
    As no major principles of Buddhism contradict it, many Buddhists tacitly accept the theory of evolution. Questions about the eternity or infinity of the universe at large are counted among the 14 unanswerable questions which the Buddha maintained were counterproductive areas of speculation...

  • Fourteen unanswerable questions
    Fourteen unanswerable questions
    The phrase fourteen unanswerable questions , in Buddhism, refers to fourteen common philosophical questions that Buddha refused to answer, according to Buddhist Sanskrit texts...

  • Hindu cosmology
    Hindu cosmology
    In Hindu cosmology the universe is, according to Hindu mythology and Vedic cosmology, cyclically created and destroyed.-Description:The Hindu cosmology and timeline is the closest to modern scientific timelines and even more which might indicate that the Big Bang is not the beginning of everything...

  • Jain cosmology
    Jain cosmology
    Jain cosmology is the description of the shape and functioning of the physical and metaphysical Universe and its constituents according to Jainism, which includes the canonical Jain texts, commentaries and the writings of the Jain philosopher-monks...

  • Religious cosmology
    Religious cosmology
    A Religious cosmology is a way of explaining the origin, the history and the evolution of the universe based on the religious mythology of a specific tradition...