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Dhammapada; Teachings of the Buddha,

AUDIOBOOK
 

The 31 planes of existence according to the Dhammapada

In this context, existence means life or living.
Planes means realms, levels or worlds, places. In Pàli the word “Loka” is a near equivalent, as the English language does not have an exact translation. We can say that these realms are as much places as they are mental states. For example, if your mind is evil, nasty or unwholesome and you
are constantly following your mind’s will, then you
are already living in the realm of hell. Furthermore, if you perform such unwholesome actions again and again without fear and without being mindful of the results, you will be reborn in a place of suffering: a hell realm. If you are honest, virtuous and your mind is pure and you constantly practise the wholesome acts of
dàna, sãla and bhàvanà (meditation) to develop your purity, then you are living in a heavenly state and are sure to be reborn in a clean,
beautiful and pure place: a heavenly realm or even attain Nibbàna. This cosmology and natural “law” applies to all beings, not just Buddhists, for such laws or Dhamma are not inventions of the Buddha,but are natural and re-discovered by Him when He became Enlightened under the Bodhi tree.
 
The Buddha further said that these 31 Planes of Existence exist not only in this universe but are found amongst millions of other world systems or Multiverses. Every system or world has its 31 Planes of Existence. This unique universal truth was realised by the Buddha on His
Enlightenment 2,500 years ago. It is perhaps worth mentioning that only the Buddha was able to discover this unique truth through the process of a method or discipline known today as "Vipassanà Bhàvanà" (or Insight Meditation).
Thus far no other religious teacher has been known to propound and teach this unique natural law. TheBuddha further exhorted that to strive for the attainment of Enlightenment should be the ultimate goal of His students and disciples. Many of his disciples were able to achieve enlightenment during his ministry and one of the few notable ones, called Anuruddha, was able to confirm what the Buddha saw.
So how many world systems are there in all? Theearly Buddhist texts (Nikàya) sometimes talk in terms of “the thousandfold world system”, “the twice-thousandfold world system”, and the “thrice-thousandfold world system”. According to Buddhaghosa there are 1,000,000,000,000 world systems...
 
Two thousand five hundred years ago the Buddha and His enlightened disciples had witnessed what today, science has just begun to discover: that there are other world systems, each with its lifeforms as are found in this vast Universe. Human beings who are ignorant of the Dhamma neither find the
necessity to develop wholesome or good actions or deeds nor do they fear to do bad
deeds. The Buddha was very clear. If beings do not do good deeds they will not accumulate merits, in which case in their next rebirth they are sure to be reborn into the world of hungry ghosts, animals or wandering spirits. If one disregards good deeds and only performs bad deeds, it is similar to one planting a tree with its root reaching right to the bottom of hell. Beings who advocate against good and wholesome deeds are very unwise: why?
1. This view is supported in the book
Atlas of the Universe
by Patrick Moore, published by Cambridge
University Press in the UK in 1998, Life in the
Universe pp 206; in which is stated: There are 100,000 million stars in our Galaxy, many of which are very like the Sun; we can see 1,000 million galaxies, and it does not seem reasonable to believe that in all this host, our Sun alone is attended by a system of planets.
 
The one who does not perform good deeds, the kammic energy he creates is unwholesome and at every rebirth he will find himself in one of the four woeful planes. It has been said by the wise that whatever seeds one sows, the fruits thereof shall one reap.
The Buddha has said that beings who had performed good deeds in previous existences would find rebirth in one of the twenty-seven planes including the human plane. These twenty-seven planes are known to be
SUGATI,, that is, in a happy world.
The four woeful planes are known as DUGATTI
. These four woeful planes are really sorrowful, as there will be no joy or laughter, only suffering.
Only human beings who regularly practise mental development and those in the habit of doing good deeds will gain merits to be reborn in one of the twenty-seven happy planes. Unfortunately, human beings make up the minority number here. Even in these SUGATI
planes, some humans are laughing and some are crying. Some have plenty to eat and some go starving. Why do all these inequalities come about? All these are the results of kamma. In the final analysis, good things that happen to one;
wealth, having enough to eat and wear, happiness
and peace are due to the sowing of good seeds on fertile ground thus accumulating merits. “One cannot be reborn into any existence as one desires, but will fall into any one of the
31 planes of existence according to one’s past kamma.” ( The Manuals of Buddhism by Ledi Sayadaw)
Ledi Sayadaw further states that: “Dispersion of life” after death is worse than death itself, for the four realms of misery down to the great
“AVACI” Hell stand wide open to a puthujjana
(a worldling who is ignorant of the Dhamma), who departs from the abode of men, like space without any obstruction.
As soon as the term of life expires, he may fall into any of the NIRAYA or realms of misery. Whether far or near on passing away, there is no intervening period of time. He may be reborn as an animal, or as a PETA, a wretched shade or as an ASURA, or titan, in the wink of an eye. The same holds true if he dies in the upper six realms of the devas.
However, if he dies from the higher levels of
RAPA LOKA, and ARAPA LOKA
there is no direct fall into the four realms of
misery, but there is a halt of one existence either in the abode of men or in one of the six realms of the devas, wherefrom conditioned by his kamma and his unskilful actions in the human abode, he may yet fall into one of the four realms of misery.
In our experience in this existence, we know that some people are reborn into wealthy families and some into poor families. Some grow up in golden cradles and some sleep on gunny sacks on the floor. Some are tall or short, beautiful or ugly; some are stupid and some are intelligent. All these inequalities, the Buddha explained, are the results of the merits or demerits of the actions of DANA, and
generosity done in our previous existences.
Giving DANA, keeping of precepts and practising meditation are good wholesome deeds. If human beings practise these three good and wholesome actions they will stand very good chances of finding rebirth in happy planes.
These 31 planes are divided into three types of worlds:
1.KAMA, LOKA or KAMABHAVA (the sensuous world) 11 planes...
2.RAPA,LOKA or RAPABHAVA (the world of form / fine material world), 16 planes...
3.ARAPA, LOKA or ARAPABHAVA (the formless world / immaterial world) 4 planes...
 
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