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The Threefold Realm

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Wandering through the cycles of Life & Death occurs in what is called The Threefold Realm, which consists of:

  1. The Realm of Desire (kama-dhatu)
  2. The Realm of Form (rupa-dhatu)
  3. The Realm of Formlessness (arupa-dhatu)

This is the realm of self-existence and, since the self is impermanent, it is the realm of mortality. The self is born into this world and must see after its survival, needs and desires. Its greatest fear is death, which is inevitable. It also fears pain and suffering. The most basic needs must be satisfied first, after which there is a progression of ever more refined needs and desires.

Ø The lower spiritual realms are more heavily adulterated with sin (karmic causes of evil), suffering (evil effects) and coarse attachments to sensory desire and all kinds of emotional distress (klesas).

Ø The higher realms of good are progressively lighter, more refined and freer as joy and contentment replace suffering and unfulfilled desire. Simply speaking, suffering and contentment are the rewards (retributions) for the karmas (causes) that are made.

The highest realms are pure of sensory desire (kama), and they are where the pure states of form (rupa) and formlessness (arupa) may be known. These pure realms of form and formlessness are ever before us, even when we abide in the lower realms of desire. However, we do not comprehend their pure states. Although we may not realize it, we perceive them partially or completely as the objects of our sensory desires. Our mind colors them in accordance with our spiritual conditioning.

The Flower Garland Sutra says:

“The mind is like a master artist, creating its various aspects with the five aggregates of self.”

The five aggregates of self (skandhas) – the elements whose aggregate continuity creates the illusion of a permanent and real self-existence. This false self is what creates our mortal existence in the threefold realm of desire, form & formlessness.

Source

tientai.net