Ten Dharma Realms
This is the general term for the "things", noumenal or phenomenal. In Buddhism, there are ten states of existence, which are also called Ten Dharma Realms. Each Dharma realm has its own characteristics, and its existence is attributed to the retribution of the beings. These ten realms do not appear to be discrete in their forms, as their existence is virtually determined by the state of mind. Therefore, it is important to note that the ten Dharma realms are not beyond a single thought.
The lowest six realms are known as the Six Paths or Six Realms. These six states of existence are subjected to birth and death, and then rebirth for many lives. One's state of existence depends on one's karmic activities. With evil karmic power, one will be born in the lowest three realms, known as Three Evil Path (of transmigration). With good and kind karma, one will be born in the upper three realms, known as Three Good Paths (of transmigration).
Suffering is most severe, continuous and everlasting. Those beings must have committed unforgiveable and evil deed, with no regret or repent. The evil karma determines their existence in hell. They suffer until they are completely retributed or the evil karma vanishes. However, for those who committed the Five Offenses, they will stay in hell without any specific time to be liberated.
In this realm, most of the ghosts always live in the atmosphere of anxiety, illusion and fear. Their desires are never satisfied. The hungry ghosts cannot eat as their throat is as narrow as a pin, but their stomach is as large as a drum. Apart from hungry ghosts, there are also Yaksa, Raksa, Spiritual Ghosts, etc.. Spiritual ghosts are dwelling in the nature, e.g. trees, mountains and seas, and protecting the creatures, while Yaksa and Raksa are evil, malignant and violent.
It is a peculiar path in the Six paths. In terms of material enjoyment and psychic power, it is similar to Deva. However, in some aspects, it is even worse than Human Path. The male Asura is extremely ugly, while the female is as beautiful as an angel. The male Asura always fights with each other as they are cruel and furious. They are proud of themselves, and reluctant to learn and practise the Buddhist teachings.
It is the Dhama realm which we are most familiar with. In this realm, we have both happiness and suffering. It is a material world, and the mind activities are always connected with the principles of matter. Joy and happiness are limited as freedom is also limited by the body and other sensual organs of a man. On the other hand, suffering can be the main cause or condition to allow man to possess a kind heart, thus to pursue the Buddhist Way. In this respect, Man Path is better than Deva Path.
It is a heaven for those who are wise and kind as the retribution for their good deed. Their major desires will be satisfied. In this path, it is divided into Three Heavenly Realms, namely Desire Heaven Realm, Form (or Rupa) Heaven Realm, Formless (or Arupa) Heaven Realm. In the Desire Heaven Realm, the living beings have strong desire in material and can be easily and fully satisfied with enjoyment. In the Form Heaven Realm, the living beings are not interested in material. Instead, their bodies and mind pursue the spiritual happiness, such as philosophy, music, art and meditation.
In the Formless Heaven Realm, the living beings do not attach to the material nor their own bodies. They are free from any hindrances, and they live in a state of joy, freedom and psychic power. It is the wisdom and the karma of the Deva to determine which heaven realm they live in.
It is the first path of the Four Holy Paths (or Four Sagely Paths). An Arhat is one who has attained the renunciation of all desires and no attachment to anything. Thus he will be liberated from the reincarnation of the Six Paths as soon as his karmic causes are completely retributed. In this path, it is the joyful state of existence beyond the worldly birth and death because they are enlightened that the worldly phenomena are unreal and impermenent. Sravaka is enlightened while they listen to the Four Noble Truths. Therefore, it is also known as Sound-Hearer Arhat.
Praetyka-Buddha (Those enlightened to conditions)
- Srota-aparnna --- the one who has entered the stream of holy living. It is the first stage of the arhat, that of a Sravaka.
- Sakradagamin --- the one who comes to be born once more. It is the second grade of arhatship involving only one birth.
- Anagamin --- the one who will not be reborn in this world (i.e. Six Paths), but in the Form Realm or Formless Realm, where he will attain to Nirvana.
- Arhan --- the one who enters Nirvana. All Karma of reincarnation is destroyed. He also reaches a state of no-lower learning. He is the highest Saint in Hinayana in contrast with the Bodhisattva as the saint in Mahayana.
Bodhisattva is an enlightened being. However, he has the affection to other sentient beings. With his Four Immeasurable Minds, he practises the Six Paramitas to cross over the sentient beings from suffering. What Bodhisattvas do is to enlighten themselves, and enlighten others, benefit themselves and benefit others. They cross over the sentient beings in pursuit of attainment of Buddhahood. All these relationships are mutual and interdependent.
Buddha is the highest state of existence of all sentient beings. There are many many titles of Buddha, but the most common ones are summarized in Ten Titles of Buddha, which respresent the characteristic of Buddha.
The Ten Titles of Buddha are:
- Tathagata --- the Thus Come Ones
- Arhat --- Worthy of offerings
- Samyak-sambuddha --- Of proper and universal knowledge
- Vidyacarva-sampauna --- perfect in understanding and conduct
- Sugata --- skilful in leaving the world through liberation
- Lokavid --- perfect and complete understanding of all worldly Dharma
- Anuttara --- unsurpassed kights
- Purusa-damya-sarathi --- taming heroes
- Sasta deramanusyanam --- teachers of gods and people
- Buddha-lokanatha or Bhagavan --- Buddha, the World Honoured Ones
- Dharma body --- the Buddha-body in its essential nature
- Retribution body --- a body of bliss, which he/she "receives" for his/her own "use" and differentiation from all other Buddha
- Response and transformation body --- Buddha can appear in any form to cross over the sentient beings.
- to eliminate or change the karmic retribution
- to cross over those who reject Buddhism
- to cross over the entire sentient beings in the Dharma Realms
also known as ten states of existence, which are
- 1 Hell
- 2 Ghost
- 3 Animal
- 4 Asura
- 5 Man
- 6 Deva
- 7 Sravaka (Sound-Hearer Arhat)
- 8 Praetyka-Buddha
- 9 Bodhisattva
- 10 Buddha
Each Dharma realm has its own characteristics, and its existence is attributed to the retribution of the beings. The lowest six realms (1-6) are known as the Six Paths or Six Realms. These six states of existence are subjected to birth and death, and then rebirth for many lives. The upper four realms are known as the Four Holy Realms. These four states of existence are beyond birth and death and liberated from the Samsara
For details, please refer to Part 2 of Buddhism In A Nutshell, which appeared in Vol. 1 No. 4 of Buddhist Door, March 1996.