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3 Dec
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So Many Worlds

Buddhist Cosmology is also one of the topics of this month’s DPP homework, and let me just say….it’s pretty crazy! One of our readings is an article by Thanissaro Bhikkhu with a chart describing the 31 Planes of Existence. I consider myself dubious-but-open on this subject, but as metaphors for states of mind, they could be quite helpful. And from a literary point of view, I think they’re fascinating.

Here’s the list:

The Immaterial World
There are 4 levels here…(1) Neither-peception-nor-non-perception, (2) Nothingness, (3) Infinite Consciousness, (4) Infinite Space. (The inhabitants of these realms are possessed entirely of mind!)

The Fine-Material World
There are 16 levels here…(1) Peerless Devas, (2) Clear-sighted Devas, (3) Beautiful Devas, (4) Untroubled Devas, (5) Devas not Falling Away, (6) Unconscious Beings (only body present, no mind), (7) Very Fruitful Devas, (8) Devas of Refulgent Glory, (9) Devas of Unbounded Glory, (10) Devas of Limited Glory, (11) Devas of Streaming Radiance, (12) Devas of Unbounded Radiance, (13) Devas of Limited Radiance, (14) Great Brahmas, (13) Ministers of Brahma, (15) Retinue of Brahma

The Sensuous World
There are 7 levels here….(1) Devas Wielding Power over the Creation of Others, (2) Devas Delighting in Creation, (3) Contented Devas, (4) Yama Devas (who live in the air, free of all difficulties), (5) The Thirty-three Gods (many of whom live in mansions in the air), (6) Devas of the Four Great Kings (celestial musicians and various tree spirits, analogous to the goblins, trolls and fairies of Western literature, (7) Human Beings…which is where we are…for now!

States of Deprivation
There are 4 realms here…(1) Titans (or Angry Gods, who are engaged in relentless conflict with each other), (2) Hungry Ghosts (unhappy spirits who wander hopelessly searching in vain for sensual fulfillment), (3) Animals, (4) Hell (not some place you’d want to land…but at least it’s not eternal)

(image from “The Buddha Tarot” by Robert M. Place)