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How To Understand The Multiple Levels of the Universe: Buddhism

Updated on April 11, 2013

Many Eastern religions teach the universe is composed of the World of Truth, also called Paradise, Absolute Heaven, the Highest Excellence, Nirvana, Wu Chi and a myriad of other names. Outside of Absolute Heaven there is the so-called ‘Triple World’, which is composed of the Formless World, the World of Form, and the World of Sensual Desire.

The World of Truth is absolute; it is the only reality that is unchangeable and permanent. Where is the World of Truth? Although called by many names, the Absolute is an eternal plane above life and death. Beings that have entered the World of Truth are liberated from the wheel of karma, and enjoy an everlasting existence of peace, tranquility and freedom.

It is said Sakyamuni Buddha cultivated himself to the highest state. He was able to understand all worlds in all universes. During more than fourty -five years of teaching, he revealed the organization of the multiple planes of the universe in his discourses.

Sakyamuni Buddha taught the Triple World exists outside of the World of Truth. Buddha said the three worlds are merely illusions. The worlds were created to manifest the Truth, and for sentient beings to enjoy.

Although inherently unreal, the Triple World appears to be real for beings drawn to these worlds, and exists within the mind of all unenlightened sentient beings.

The Triple World According to Buddhism:

Within the Triple World there are twenty -eight divisions (see diagram). The closest heaven to the World of Truth is the Formless World. The Formless World is the uppermost level of the Tai Chi Heavens; although it is very near to the World of Truth, it is still subject to the constant waxing and waning of the positive and negative power of chi (life force) energy.

The Formless World:

Sentient beings that inhabit the four heavens in the Formless World have cultivated themselves to a near perfect state, but because they have not found the entrance to the World of Truth they are still controlled and subjected to Chi-energy and experience the affects of karma. In the Formless World, there are no physical or spiritual forms. For sentient beings that have intuitively realized that form is unreal and who, consequently, are desireless, there is no need for form. Through countless lifetimes, they have cultivated their nature until only the activity of their consciousness remains. Buddha called these beings Arahants.

A Buddha Sutra entitled, ‘A Discourse on Ready Eloquence’ describes the nature and attainment of Arahants: “Thus have I heard. Once the Buddha was dwelling in the garden of Anathapindada in the Jeta Grove near Sravasti, accompanied by the thousand great monks. Except for Ananda, those monks were all Arahants. Having ended all their defilements, they no longer suffered any afflictions. They were at ease with everything. They had done what they had set out to do, laid down the heavy burden [of samsara]1, acquired benefit for themselves, and broken the ties of existence. Through right knowledge, they had achieved liberation, both from passions and from ignorance.

They were mentally free; their minds, like great elephant kings, were subdued. They had reached the other shore and had entered the eightfold liberation.” A Treasury ofMahayana Sutras, translated by C.C. Chang.

The name Arahant means ‘To kill thieves.’ The thieves are the ‘Six Dusts, the Six Consciousness, and the Six Desires.’ We call them thieves because they rob the mind of its original purity and defile our absolute nature. Another name for an Arahant is the ‘Worthy One’ or ‘Need not be borne again’.

Arahants are worthy because they possess great virtue and have overcome all attachment to desire and have freed themselves from the delusions of thought and view. Arahants have transcended the cyclic effects of the lower worlds and suffer no bitterness in their lives because they have ceased to sow the evil seeds of delusion.

There are four heavens in the Formless World:

1. Neither Thoughtful nor Thoughtless Heaven

2. Heaven of Nothingness

3. Heaven of Vast Knowledge

4. Heaven of Boundless Void

The four heavens in the Formless World are differentiated by the degree of awareness possessed by the Arahants in these heavens. Arahants in the first heaven of the Formless World have neither thought nor thoughtlessness. Their minds abide in contemplation without preconceived ideas or biases.

The second heaven in the Formless World is the Heaven of Nothingness; Arahants who reside in this heaven contemplate on that which is without form, taste, touch, smell, sound, or dharma.

The third heaven is called the Heaven of Vast Knowledge. Arahants in this heaven have complete knowledge and total comprehension of all three planes of existence. Arahants who have attained thisawareness are not attached to form, but attach to the idea of separate or individual consciousness.

The fourth heaven is called the Heaven of Boundless Void. The Heaven of Boundless Void is for Arahants who have freed themselves of any need for form. It is the lowest level in the Formless World.

The World of Form:

The World of Form was created for sentient beings that have overcome sensual desire, but are possessed by delusion of thought or view and who are still attached to form.

The World of Form can be divided into four Dhyana Heavens. Dhyana is a Sanskrit word which means ‘Ch’an’ or ‘Zen’ (in English it is best translated as contemplation). Zen or Ch’an is the realization within oneself of the imperturbability of absolute nature; it is the complete absence of confusion within. To be in a Zen state is to be detached from all external forms, conditions and circumstances2.

The World of Form is inhabited by Anagamins. Anagamins are sentient beings that have abandoned all delusion of thought. The name Anagamin is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘no coming’, or freedom from reincarnation to the World of Sensual Desire.

Anagamins are beyond the karmic pull of the World of Sensual Desire, but they transmigrate within the World of Form and can be promoted to the Formless World. In these realms, there is no distinction between male and female.

The Nine Heavens of the Fourth Dhyana Heaven:

Heaven of End of Form:

This is the highest level in the Dhyana Heavens, it is closest to the Formless World. Anagamins in this heaven have annihilated most of their delusion of thought and view and realized that the essence of mind is beyond all forms.

Beautiful to See Heaven:

Anagamins in this heaven have obtained complete reality through the visualization of beauty. The visualization is beyond the beauty understood with the eye and encompasses the beauty inherent in all creations of God.

Anagamins must cultivate themselves in order to free their mind from the illusion of form so that they may realize that all forms are empty. True beauty is beyond all forms and does not lie within the confines of visual light. Real beauty can be distinguished only with the Dharma Eye and the Buddha Eye.

Beautiful Appearing Heaven:

Anagamins in this heaven enjoy the beauty of form. Through form, they endeavor to awaken their minds to the truth of differentiation.

Lao Tze said that beauty and ugliness are dualistic concepts and have no basis in reality. Breaking free of dualistic conception frees the mind from attachment to form and eliminates delusion of view.

Heaven of No Heat:

Anagamins in this heaven have purified their nature beyond the desires of sensual existence. Free of sensual desire, one is spared the constant flux of the Seven Passions. Free from the heat of passions, this heaven is called ‘no heat’.

Heaven of No Vexation:

Anagamins in the Heaven of No Vexation are unperturbed by conditions and circumstances.

Heaven Above Thought:

Thought is dualistic and creates delusion. When all thought is obliterated, intuitive insight appears. A single thought of self is enough to destroy countless merits and leads to attachment to sensual desire.

Heaven of Large Fruition:

Anagamins who transmigrate to this heaven enjoy the benefits of abundance. Anagamins in the Heaven of Large Fruition have yet to transcend the realm of thought and attach themselves to forms that create the delusion of fulfillment

After a period of time in this heaven, Anagamins whose awareness has increased will understand that the possession of forms or ideals, regardless of beauty or abundance, does not bring peace and tranquility. Anagamins that reach this conclusion contemplate the false nature of forms and ideals in the hope of finding the truth of formlessness.

Heaven of Blessings:

The heaven of blessings was created for the Anagamins so they may awaken to the truth of the ephemeral nature of all blessings.

Heaven of No Cloud:

Heaven of No Cloud is a heaven in which all Anagamins are free from the suffering caused by the Six Dusts and the Seven Passions. No ‘clouds’ are present to obscure the bright light of their self- nature. The Heaven of No Cloud is the lowest level of the Fourth Dhyana Heaven.

The Third Dhyana Heaven:

The third Dhyana Heaven was created for sentient beings that have abandoned sensual desire, still retain some delusion of thought, and will abandon mental consciousness. We call these sentient beings ‘Inclinable Anagamin,’ a Sanskrit word meaning ‘One who will come to or return to the World of Sensual Desire no more.’

The Three Heavens of the Third Dhyana Heaven:

Heaven of Omnipresent Purity:

The Heaven of Omnipresent Purity is the highest of the Third Dhyana Heaven, just below the Fourth Dhyana Heaven. Inclining Anagamin live in the Third Dhyana Heaven, just below the Fourth Dhyana Heaven. Inclining Anagamin cultivate themselves to free their minds from the delusion of thought. When the mind is without delusion, then the intrinsic purity of mind manifests itself in every aspect of being. Elimination of our delusions of thought and view enables us to perceive the subtleties of non-being. Inclining Anagamins in the third Dhyana Heaven suffer from delusion of thought and view. The more deluded one’s thoughts and view, the more one suffers. However, the delusion of thought and view in the Dhyana Heavens is very slight compared to the human world.

Heaven of Vast Purity:

Purity is a dualistic concept; therefore purity and contamination are illusion. The idea of purity disappears when the mind no longer attaches to the belief in the existence of ego. Inclining Anagamins may be promoted to a higher consciousness when they realize intuitively that all sentient beings are originally uncontaminated. The purification of one’s nature is simply returning to one’s original self.

Heaven of Slight Purity:

Anagamins in this heaven are at the beginning of their examination of purity. It is in this heaven that they have the chance to overcome much of their delusion. Anagamins and Inclining Anagamins are beyond the karmic force of the Sensual World. When they transmigrate, they reincarnate into the World of Form or are promoted to the Formless World. Sentient beings in the Second and First Dhyana Heavens are not yet able to detach themselves completely from the Six Consciousness, so they transmigrate to the Sensual World.

The Second Dhyana Heaven:

The Second Dhyana Heaven can be divided into three heavens. The sentient beings in these three heavens are called Sakrdgamin. ‘Sakrdgamin’ is a Sanskrit term meaning one who is ‘Once more to come’.

Sakrdgamin have eradicated five of the six consciousnesses and are no longer bound by the desires of the ear, nose, tongue, eye, or body. They have liberated themselves from the shackles of desire and abandoned six of the nine delusions of thought, but remain attached to mind consciousness or the idea of the separateness of the self. Although they are detached from the circumstances of sensual desire, they will eventually return to the World of Sensual Desire one more time.

Three Heavens of the Second Dhyana Heaven:

Heaven of Bright Sound:

Sakrdgamins in this heaven communicate using light rather than sound. Heaven of Bright Sound is closest to the Third Dhyana Heaven and if Sakrdgamin can illuminate mind- consciousness they will reincarnate to the higher realm.

Heaven of Vast Light:

Sakradgamins in the heaven of Vast Light are unattached to desire and are without delusion of view. In the heaven of vast light Sakradgamin contemplate the idea of mind consciousness to rid them of the delusion of thought.

Heaven of Slight Light:

Beings in this heaven are on the lowest plane of the Second Dhyana Heaven. This signifies they still have delusion of thought that must be overcome if they are to be promoted to a higher level of existence.

The First Dhyana Heaven:

Just beyond the World of Sensual Desire is the First Dhyana Heaven. Sentient beings in this heaven transmigrate between the World of Form and the World of Sensual Desire. Sentient beings that have cultivated themselves to this heaven are called ‘Srota -Apanas,’ or ones who have entered saintdom and go against the stream of life and death.

To become an Srota -Apana and attain rebirth in The World of Form, one must be enlightened to the Four Noble Truths3, and practice the Six Perfections and Six Perseverances. Srota-Apanas also study the meaning of the Twelve Dependent Originations and have cultivated themselves through Zen contemplation.

When Srota-Apanas have accomplished these tasks they will have successfully eradicated the desire of eating and sex. They have detached from the Six Dusts and subdued the Five Desires. Having accomplished this, they have abandoned the delusion of view and eliminated hatred from the delusions of thought.

Three Heavens of the First Dhyana Heaven:

Maha Brahma:

Srota-Apanas in this heaven are without contamination of desire. This heaven is the highest level of the First Dhyana Heaven. Srota-Apanas here are free from desire and have overcome most delusions of view. In this heaven, Srota-Apanas contemplate mind activity to cultivate their awareness in order to eradicate any remaining delusions. The beings in this heaven have great dignity and superior virtues.

Brahma Kayika:

Srota-Apanas in this heaven are without contamination of desires and act in accordance with heavenly rites to cultivate themselves. They can act in accordance with rules and establish good behavior.

Brahma Parisadya:

The beings in this heaven are without greed. This heaven is the lowest Dhyana Heaven, closest to the World of Sensual Desire. Like Srota-Apanas in the other two heavens, beings here are no longer bound to tongue and body

consciousness and are free from the contamination of greed and desire. This is the lowest level of the First Dhyana Heaven and the Srota-Apana in this heaven have abundant delusion of thought, hence their remaining affinity with the World of Sensual Desire.

The World of Sensual Desire:

The physical world is the most familiar world to human beings. The physical world, however, is only one of several levels in the World of Sensual Desire. The World of Sensual Desire contains six heavens above the physical world and three levels below the physical world. To be born to the six heavens above the earth, one will have accumulated many good deeds in this world that benefit society.

All sentient beings in the six heavens above the earth, (human beings in the physical world, and sentient beings in the three levels below the earth) are, to one degree or another, attached to desire and remain deluded in thought and view. Sentient beings in the World of Sensual Desire have not cultivated themselves to the level of awareness of beings in the World of Form or the Formless World; therefore they suffer greater afflictions than those beings in the higher planes.

Sentient beings in the six heavens of The World of Sensual Desire may be regarded as deities, devas, and fairies. They enjoy good food and lightweight, beautiful clothes. They have accumulated a high class of good deeds and have annihilated the delusions of view.

The Six Heavens above the Physical World:

Paranirmita Vasavartin:

This heaven is the closest of the six heavens to the World of Form. Sentient beings in Vasavartin Heaven enjoy the delights created by others. Vasavartin Heaven is the dwelling place for Papiyan the Mara, the chief demon who creates hindrances for sentient beings in their Dhyana practice. These beings can create pleasurable things for themselves and others.

Nirmanarati Heaven:

Sentient beings in Nirmanarati Heaven can transform their heaven into a happy sphere and enjoy the blessings of this world. It is called the ‘Heaven of Transformation Delight.’

Tusita Heaven:

Also known as the ‘Heaven of Contentment,’ from this heaven all Buddhas descend to earth. Buddhists believe it is the dwelling place of Maitreya, the next Buddha of the world. This heaven has an inner palace called the ‘Pure Land’, where all Buddhas reside for a time. The outer palace is for common heavenly beings. In this heaven, one day and one night are equal to 400 human years.

Yama Heaven:

Yama Heaven is the ‘Heaven of Constant Joy.’ In this heaven there is no sunlight or moonlight; the heavenly beings themselves are illuminated.

Trayastrimsat Heaven:

This heaven is called ‘The Heaven of Thirty-Three.’ There are Thirty-three heavens in this heaven: eight to the north, south, east, and west, and one in the center. One day and one night are equal to one hundred years on earth.

Catur Maharaja Kayika:

This heaven is the closest heaven to the physical earth. In this heaven, according to Buddhist teachings, there are Four Kings of Deva—beings celestial that protect the physical world against Asuras. All beings in these heavens are subject to reincarnation. As the time of their death approaches, five signs appear to proclaim the end of life:

Five Declinations:

1. Flower on top of the head will shrivel.

2. Clothes become dirty.

3. Body develops an odor.

4. Agitation, uneasiness in their seats.

5. Sweat appears from armpits.

The Physical World:

Human beings and the four categories of animals inhabit the earth. Sentient beings that have accumulated an intermediate number of good deeds transmigrate to the human world as men and women. To become a human being requires that one have approximately an equal amount of good and evil karma which influences one’s lifetime on earth.

People who have an abundance of good karma will receive a long and fruitful life, while those who have much evil karma will lead a life filled with trouble and bitterness. Most humans are attached to the Six Desires and the Seven Passions and cling to delusion. All blessings and tribulations are predominantly dependent upon karma. “Once the Buddha was at Sakya’s resort in Kapilavastu. He was accompanied by twelve hundred and fifty Bhiksus. The fasts of September were finished. They went to the garden of Jetavana in the state of Sravasti. Between these two states there was a big tree. It was 7 miles high, and its branches spread over 20 square miles. There were hundreds of millions of fruits on it. They tasted sweet as honey. When the fruit ripened and fell to the ground, the people ate it; all diseases were cured and all eyes became bright. The Buddha sat under the tree.”

“The Bhiksus took the fruit and ate it. The Buddha told Ananda; ‘I believe that there is a causation from previous existence for all people and all things’ Then Ananda moved forward, paid homage to the Buddha, and asked, ‘What is this causation from previous existence? All your disciples wish to know. Please explain it to us.’ Then the Buddha said to Ananda, ‘It is good that you wish to know. Listen to me carefully.’

“The Buddha explained, ‘Man must be blessed like a tree. Its origin was a kernel, and it grew gradually until it became exceedingly blessed. The man who is honorable and distinguished has a heart that respects the “Three Gems”4.

The man who is rich and possesses great wealth is graced because of his almsgiving. The man who is strong, lives long, and has no diseases wins his bounty by keeping the precepts. The man who is upright, whose skin is white, whose countenance is smooth, whose hands and body are tender, whose breath is sweet and clean, receives his reward for his patience and long-suffering. The man who is diligent and likes to perform great blessings grows in strength from his fortitude. The man who is quiet and careful in speech and deed gains his strength from meditation. The man who is intelligent and knows the Dharma thoroughly, who can preach the fine meaning to enlighten dullness, grows in his nurturance of wisdom. The man whose voice is clear is gifted from the singing and repeating of the “Three Gems”. The man who is clean and healthy is joined by kindness.”

“The man who is tall gains stature because he respected others. The man who is short is small because he did not respect others. The man who is ugly is shamed because he angered easily. The man who is ignorant is so because he did not learn. The man who is stupid is without understanding because he taught no one. The man who is dumb is lessened because he defamed others. The man who is deaf and blind is muted because he did not read the sutra and listen to it. The man who is a servant is indentured because he did not pay his debt. The man who is common is base because he did not respect the “Three Gems.” The man who is ugly and black is dark because he covered the light of the Buddha. The man who is born in the state of nakedness is undone because he entered the resort of Buddha without proper dress. The man who is born with hooves is shod because he passed by the Buddha without removing his shoes. The man who is born with the pierced breast is so because he gave alms to others and then regretted it. The man who is born with the nature of a deer is likened because he liked to frighten others. The man who is fallen to the dragon is surrendered because he liked to flirt. The man who has a malignancy which will not heal suffers because he liked to beat others. The man who is liked by everyone is loved because he liked everyone in his former life. The man who is disliked by everyone is unloved because he liked no one in his former life. The man who is often punished by the magistrate and put in jail is one because he bound living beings in his former life.

“The man who likes disruption and does not listen to the good word or the preaching of Buddhism will be born as a dog with pendent ears. When one listens to preaching, holding the idea that he will not follow it, he will be born as a donkey or horse with long ears. The man who is greedy and a glutton will fall into the group of hungry ghosts. He who keeps the good for himself and gives the bad to others will fall into the category of pigs and dung beetles. The man who robs will become a sheep. The man who takes pleasure in the death and skinning of animals will be born into the ephemeral of the water, which are born in the morning and die at night. The man who violates men’s wives and daughters will fall into hell; the male will embrace the hot pillar; the female will lie on the iron bed; if born into this world they will become one of the group of chickens and ducks. The man who likes to speak wildly and talk about the faults of others will fall into hell and melted copper will fill his mouth, and his tongue will be pulled out and will be ploughed by an ox. He will be born as one of the group of owls or mynahs, for when one hears their call; it is considered an evil omen. The man who likes to drink and get drunk will be born a fool. A couple who are not living in harmony will be born as doves or pigeons. The man who is greedy for power will be born as an elephant. And the man who serves as a magistrate, who takes his salary from the government, if he punishes the innocent, will fall into hell and will endure sadness for a period of several billion years. Later, he will be born into the family of water buffalo; his nose and mouth will be pierced through with iron, to pull boats or carts, and he will be beaten by sticks in order to pay off its debt.

“The man who is not clean used to be a pig; the greedy, a dog. The man who offends and will not take advice used to be a sheep. The man who is loud and cannot endure used to be a monkey. The man who smells used to be a fish or a turtle. The man who is evil and cruel, with a hurtful mind, was a cobra. The man who likes the slaughter of animals was a wolf or an eagle. He will die before his time and will not develop. His punishment will be billions of years. Be careful, and memorize the truth.” Tripitaka, Volume 17.

The World of Asuras:

Asuras are sentient beings that dwell in the lower heavens; they are a type of demi-god. The name ‘Asura’ is a Sanskrit word meaning the unrighteousness. Asuras are jealous, quarrelsome and their minds are full of envy and hatred. Because they would like to cause harm to other sentient beings, including humans, they often fight with devas who protect humans from the wrath of the Asuras.

Sentient beings that have accumulated slight good deeds will transmigrate to the World of Asuras, the lowest level of the three good existences. Some humans act like Asuras, who are ugly in appearance but intelligent. Asuras have greater attachment to anger and hatred. Because of their anger and hatred, they tend to produce many evil deeds.

Asuras have a mind consumed by the three poisons of greed, hatred, and ignorance. When the mind is saturated with this venom there is little room for cultivation. Those who manage through sincere effort to overcome their virulent nature can calm their minds down and cultivate.

The Animal World:

Animals are sentient beings with much evil karma. Sentient beings that reincarnate into animal form generally suffer severely the harshness and danger of their environment. Regardless of form, animals are limited in their ability to cultivate themselves. One who has accumulated bad deeds (acting against reason; telling lies or slandering, putting bad designs on affairs; lusting after lucre; madly pursuing sexual activities; angrily disposed) will wander in the animal world. Animals can be divided into four categories:

Four Forms of Birth in the Animal World:

1. Womb—Viviparous—As with mammals: cow, horse and elephant.

2. Egg—Oviparous—As with birds, reptiles: chicken, snake.

3. Moisture or water born—As with worms, fishes.

4. Metamorphic—As with moths, from the chrysalis.

The World of Hungry Ghosts:

All sentient beings have had countless lives and have darkened their absolute nature. If one was extremely greedy or too stingy in giving alms to the people in need, one is reborn into the World of Hungry Ghosts.

Hungry Ghosts are sentient beings who have much evil karma germinating. In their past existence, they caused suffering and torment to others, and now because of their evil deeds they must endure the tortures of the Hungry Ghost World.

When a sentient being violates the precepts of killing, stealing, lying, and adulterous behavior and indulges in alcohol or drug abuse, he will obscure the purity of his nature. Evil deeds create wrong views, thoughts and actions and causes delusion and desire.

Hungry Ghosts suffer many kinds of suffering and must endure their punishment until the karmic recompense has been satisfied. Once they have repaid their debts, they, like all sentient beings, fall again into the never-ending cycle of life and death.

Seven Kinds of Hungry Ghost:

Wealthy Ghost:

The term wealthy ghost sounds paradoxical, but in the World of Hungry Ghosts this is the most fortunate level of existence. Wealthy ghosts receive, as much food as they need and are allowed to fulfill a limited number of other basic needs.

Needle-Throat Ghost:

Needle throat ghosts have huge stomachs, but they have very tiny throats and food cannot pass easily. Because of this they can never fulfill their hunger.

Fire-Mouth Ghost:

Perhaps an even more frustrating existence than the Needle -Throat ghost is the life of a Fire-Mouth Ghost. The Fire-Mouth Ghost receives food, but as he opens his mouth to eat, fire appears from his mouth and destroys most of his food.

Big Tumor Ghost:

This ghost suffers the agony of a large tumor on his neck. The puss from the tumor is his only food.

Foul-Mouth Ghost:

The breath from the mouth of a Foul-Mouth Ghost reeks with an extremely feted smell. Whenever a Foul-Mouth Ghost opens his mouth the foul odor of his breath engulfs his senses and makes it terribly difficult for him to eat.

Needle Hair Ghost:

The Needle Hair Ghost exists on the bottom level of the Hungry Ghost World. This level of existence is just above the Hell Worlds, so Needle Hair Ghosts suffer more than other hungry ghosts. Needle Hair Ghosts derived their name from the needle like hair around their bellies. This hair is hard and when a ghost moves the sharp points often stab him. How often and how intensely a ghost is stabbed is dependent upon his past evil deeds. Some ghosts will be tormented quite often, while others will be free of pain for relatively longer intervals.

Foul-Hair Ghost:

This kind of ghost has foul hair growing around his body, which agonizes the ghost with its fetid smell.

The Multiple Planes of Hell:

Most cultures and religions have the idea or conception of the two extremes of the ultimate bliss of heaven and the total darkness of hell. The names and images of heaven and hell are as varied and diverse as the people within the numerous cultures and religions.

Gehenna (from the Hebrew word ‘ge-hinnom’) means ‘The valley of the son of Hinnom.’ In the Old Testament in the Assumption of Moses 10:19 and in the Syiar Apocalypse of Bareech 59:10 there is a geographical reference to the valley, as the division of ancient Jerusalem from the hills to its south and west.

In Esdras 7:36, it is called the place of fire, like a furnace, where sentient beings endure the torments of the fiery abyss. Equally graphic and in greater detail are the descriptions of the multiple planes of hell in the Buddha Sutras.

According to the Law of Cause and Effect, different worlds come into existence for different kinds of minds. The religions offer diverse descriptions and names of the hell planes and the beings that reside on those planes.

Sentient beings that are not enlightened to the Absolute Truth are drawn to and affected by the manifestations of phenomena and form. People usually experience the phenomena and forms of planes, demons and deities that have minds similar to them.

Hell beings are sentient beings full of evil karma. They are condemned to hell for the many evil actions they have perpetrated upon others in the past and will suffer the appropriate administration and punishment.

The Ten Halls of Hell:

According to Buddha, there are ten great halls in Hades, four of which are for administration and six halls for punishments. Within the six halls of punishment there are many prisons with incalculable numbers of cells. The hall and prison one is sent to, is dependent upon the number and gravity of one’s transgressions.

The First Hall:

At the end of life, the soul of a sentient being will travel down to hell. Here the soul is guided to the ‘Gate of Dead Spirits,’ which is located in limbo between the dimensions of yin and yang.

Upon arrival at the gate, all souls must report to the officer of the gate. They are then escorted to the first hall. The first hall is the storage department for the karmic records of all sentient beings. The soul is then called forward, and the ‘Lord of the First Hall’ examines the karmic record.

Good souls are sent to the ‘Good Assembly Department’ and reside in this department until the correct conditions and affinities allow for their reincarnation to one of the other planes of existence. The length of time a being resides in this community may vary from a few seconds to many years and is determined by their karma.

Sentient beings that have a great multitude of bad karma will be sent to ‘The Evil Punishing Department’, the Second Hall of Hell. Before a soul transmigrates to one of the prisons in hell, it is asked to confess all sins.

There are some deluded souls that refuse to confess and accept responsibility for their transgressions. Hell beings that refuse to confess are placed in front of the ‘Mirror Stand of Evil,’ where their evil deeds from previous lives appear before them. After looking into the mirror it is impossible for them to deny their evil deeds.

The Second Hall:

In the Second Hall, the officers review the ‘Secret Inspection Book’, which contains the karmic records of the soul. When the examination of records is completed, the soul is brought before the Lord of Hades for judgment and sentencing.

The Lord of Hades is an enlightened being appointed by God to administer the divine justice of The Law of Cause and Effect. The Lord of Hades should not be confused with the Chief Demon known as Mara or as Satan, whose purpose is to tempt. Once the Hell being has been sentenced, he will transmigrate to the level of hell suitable for his punishment.

The Third Hall:

The Third Hall, also known as the Hall of Administration, is in charge of the management and administration of the various halls and prisons in Hell.

The Fourth Hall:

The Fourth Hall is the uppermost level of imprisonment in Hell. Sentient beings condemned to this plane of hell are guilty of lesser crimes and are not punished as harshly as Hell beings in the lower levels of Hell.

The Fourth Hall is divided into sixteen separate prisons, the number of cells increasing or decreasing with the number of inmates. The Fourth Hall, like the other planes of Hell, has methods of punishments that best suit the crimes of the Hell beings being punished.

The Fifth Hall:

This hall is in charge of the judgment of serious crimes and special culprits. The Fifth Hall contains ‘The Hades of Shouting and Crying.’ The souls in this level of Hell suffer many punishments and must endure severe treatment. Like the Fourth Hall, the Fifth Hall has sixteen separate prisons with many cells.

The Sixth Hall:

This hall is in charge of ‘The Hades of Great Shouting and Crying.’ The lower the level of Hell, the higher the degree of pain and misery. The punishment is proportional to the anguish caused to other sentient beings in the past lives. The Sixth Hall contains sixteen prisons to administer an appropriate punishment for each crime.

The Seventh Hall:

This hall is in charge of ‘The Hades of Heating and Irritating.’ The Seventh Hall has no prisons or cells. Instead, Hell Beings who are sentenced to this level of Hell encounter the ‘Three Hundred Mile Road.’

The Three Hundred Mile Road was constructed from millions of bricks that are continuously baking in a sizzling heat. The temperature of the bricks, the speed that one can progress and the length of time necessary to complete a journey along the Three Hundred Mile Road is dependent upon the karma of the Hell Beings.

The Eight Hall:

This hall is in charge of the supplemental punishment to the sinners that were punished from the First to the Seventh Hall. This is called ‘The Hades of Great Heating and Irritating’ and also has sixteen prisons.

Punishments are administered to eradicate the evil mind, but when punitive action is ineffective, Hell Beings are delivered to the Eighth Hall for supplementary punishment. Sincere repentance for past crimes will always shorten one’s sentence.

The Ninth Hall:

In each successively lower level of Hell, the soul’s castigation is intensified to match the seriousness of the past evil deeds. Here in the Ninth Hall is the nethermost Hades; it is called O-Bi Hell or Avici Hades.

Within its borders are eighteen different planes. Hell beings in O-Bi Hell are the most foul of offenders. The penalties imposed upon them are dreadful and they experience incredible pain and misery.

Punishments are not arbitrary in the Ten Halls of Hell; it is the divine justice of karmic law. Punishment is used as a vehicle to persuade evil beings to relinquish the evil mind. By purging the soul of evil, an evil one can be made to realize the effect that evil has on his pure absolute nature.

The Tenth Hall:

After a Hell being has been punished and judged, he is summoned to the Tenth Hall. The Tenth Hall is in charge of the rebirth of souls. In this hall the soul’s karmic records will be examined and the soul will once again be reborn according to his karma.

Sentient beings that have been sent to the Good Assembly Department after their judgment must wait there until their karma and affinity facilitates their reincarnation to the other worlds. Hell Beings that have been punished will also reincarnate to the other planes of existence, but they too must remain in hell until their karma and affinities mature.

The Pavilion of Meng Po:

When all of the necessary conditions for reincarnation have been satisfied, the soul is guided to the ‘Meng Po Pavilion.’ Once inside the pavilion, Meng Po, the woman in charge of this gate, gives the soul an elixir of forgetfulness called O Wang Tang, ‘Drink and Forget Soup.’ This soup erases the memories of past lives from the consciousness of most minds. After the soul drinks the soup of forgetfulness, the soul is lead to the Platform of Transmigration.

The Platform of Transmigration:

It is from this platform that transmigration begins. The Platform of Transmigration is a hexagram shape, with a Tai Chi chart (see diagram) . It has six channels. Depending on which channel the soul passes through its next existence will be determined. The soul is then drawn to the Six Bridges to cross a bridge that is karmicly attuned with the next life. Just where the soul will reincarnate is dependent upon which bridge the soul crosses.

Platform of Reincarnation
Platform of Reincarnation | Source

The Six Channels:

The First Channel:

Souls who go through the first channel will be reborn as a nobleman.

The Second Channel:

Souls who go through the second channel will be reborn as plain people.

The Third Channel:

Souls who go through the third channel will be reborn as viviparous animals.

The Fourth Channel:

Souls who go through the fourth channel will be reborn as oviparous animals.

The Fifth Channel:

Souls who go through the fifth channel will be reborn as water-born animals.

The Sixth Channel:

Souls who go through the sixth channel will be reborn as metamorphic animals.

The Six Bridges:

The Golden Bridge:

The Golden Bridge is the passageway to the upper levels of Tai Chi Heaven. To reach this level you need an abundance of good deeds.

The Silver Bridge:

Sentient beings that traverse the Silver Bridge have accumulated an intermediate amount of good deeds. They are then inducted to the ‘Good Assembly Hall’ to cultivate where, upon completion of various tests, they are guided to the ‘Nine Fountain Waterfall,’ to purify their soul. They may be appointed to be gods or deities and preside over the temples of the earth.

The Jade Bridge:

Those who cross the Jade Bridge have accumulated enough good deeds to be reborn into the physical world, where they will enjoy a happy and prosperous life. The Jade Bridge is also known as the First Channel to lead one into a life of wealth, authority and power.

The Stone Bridge:

Those who have approximately an equal share of good deeds and evil karma will be reborn as plain people. This bridge is also known as the Second Channel.

The Wooden Bridge:

The Wooden Bridge is the gateway through which the poor and humble enter the physical world. A sentient being that has more evil karma than good karma will be reborn to a poor and humble life.

The Bamboo Bridge:

The Bamboo Bridge is for sentient beings that have a great deal of evil deeds. These beings are born into the world as animals (viviparous, oviparous, moisture born, or metamorphic) and will suffer the hardship of the physical environment. This bridge corresponds to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Channels.

The purpose of the Buddha Sutras was to enlighten mankind to the Ultimate Truth. Buddhist thought makes it possible to view the multiple planes of the universe through the eye of the Buddha, who had the capability to experience all realms with equal insight.

The teachings of the other four religions: Taoism, Kontzeism, Christianity and Islam enable us to view the universe from other perspectives.

To View My Previous Article: Karma and Rebirth in Christianity and Islam


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