A Bhante Suvanno’s Discourse
A Jinavamsa Collection
Published by Leong Yok Kee CG – 8 Villa Indah Bukit Tinggi 28750 Bentong Pahang Email: email@example.com Copyright @2009 by Leong Yok Kee All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording without prior written permission from the publisher. Front and back cover by Leong Yok Kee Title: Planes of Rebirth Author: Leong Yok Kee Buddhism - customs and practices Buddhism - doctrines
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all Grateful acknowledgement is extended to all those who have helped special ways Book in their special ways to make this Dhamma Book available. Carol A Very Special thanks must be rendered to Ms. Carol Law for proofpainstakingly proof-read and improving the oft changing draft presented to her on as many occasions. From the myriad times she proofhas proof-read this manuscript she would have realised the inconsistency and impermanence of existence. To those of you who made the request to remain anonymous, grateful thanks are also rendered and to those whom I have missed mentioning, no less are your merits. Special thanks for financial support to: Mooi Seng and Chu, Doris, Sister Quah and family, Sister Tan Teck Beng and Family, The Dhamma Family KL, Fong Weng Meng and Family and Brothers and Sisters of The Gunaratana Memorial Library, 2 Kampar Road, Penang May all beings share in these merits thus acquired. Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu! The publisher is much encouraged by the support and generosity that enabled this Dhamma literature to be printed for Free Distribution. Balance of funds will be channelled to future publications.
FOR FREE DISTRIBUTION This Dhamma book is for free distribution and have been financially brought to you by those who have appreciated and realised the Buddha’s teachings through the talks by Bhante Suvanno in his lifetime of monkhood. A series of his talks will be printed in book form and if you have a desire to contribute to the successful completion of these series, financial donations will be helpful and can be sent to: LAW MI-LAN CAROL Blk 226, ANG MO KIO AVE 1 #08-603 SINGAPORE OR directly credit your donations to Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia for the account of: Law Mi-Lan Carol: a/c no. 388194997462 Giving me your name:……………………………………………. Your address: ……………………………………………………… Person to Dedicate to/In Memory of: ………………………… Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Acknowledgement /Dedication/Introduction /Object Disappearance of the Dhamma Counterfeit Dhamma/Criterion for Acceptance Corruption of Insight Benefits of the True Path Metta Bhavana Sutta Forward Kamma Cause of Rebirth What Happens at Death Part 1 Kamma and its Fruit Kamma and Rebirth The Modifiabilty of Kamma The Five Precepts Evil Actions by Mind Part 2 The Planes of Rebirth/Introduction Description of the 31 Planes 3 Divisions of the 31 Planes 1st Division The Sensuous Planes [A] The Four Planes of Misery (a) Hell Plane Suffering in Hell Where are the Hell Regions/Maha Naraka Hell’s Duration The Buddha Describes Hell (b) Animal Plane Examples of Beings Born as Animals Animals have only Three Perceptions The Naga Mucalinda The Elephant and the Monkey (c) Hungry Ghost Plane The Story of King Bimbisara (d) The Demon Plane [B] 7 Planes of Sensual Desires The Human Plane (5) The Six Deva Planes (6-11) Who’s Who in Devaland Death of Devas nd Division: The Fine Material Planes (12-27) 2 3rd Division: The Non-Material Planes (28-31) Epilogue – Showing the Way 31 Planes – A Summary 3/8 16 17/18 18 21 22 25 27 28 32 34 36 37 41 42 43 46 47 47 47 49 52 57 60 63 64 66 66 67 69 71 74 75 75 78 80 86 87 91 93 100
This book is dedicated to the memory propagated of the Buddha’s Dhamma propagated by The late Venerable
Acara Suvanno Mahathera
Gāravo ca niv to ca ravo nivāto kataññutā Santutthi ca kataññut Kālena dhammasavanam lena Etam mangalamuttamam
Reverence, humility, Reverence, humility, gratitude. Contentment and gratitude. Hearing the Dhamma at the right time, This is the most auspicious sign.
SECOND DEDICATION Beginning A New Beginning
Chace Low Zhuo Jun Brings Great Joy to her new Parents on 5th July 2009 dhamma rediscovered, A new birth, a dhamma rediscovered, page; Etched, a Brilliant New page; Hopes and Aspirations spirations placed; Heavenly placed; Awakened …Pure… Chace world… A bright new world… Stage Your Stage
Jinavamsa: Dear Readers, I am very happy that you have picked up this
copy of a Dhamma literature; for whatever reason. It will surely bring you great rewards. Maybe you like the cover, maybe you saw the name on it and maybe you were actually looking for a book on Bhante Suvanno and his life’s work. Whatever the reason, you are very welcome to begin your investigation of the Buddha’s true Dhamma in the following pages. OBJECT Jinavamsa: The Lord Buddha had reflected that the Dhamma He had rediscovered is; “deep, difficult to see, difficult to realise, peaceful, deep, conjecture, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to be experienced wise”. only by the wise He, knowing the difficulties ignorant humans have in reaching into the Dhamma, did not just leave it to our own devices to seek and realise it; He sign posted the way with specific instructions. For when Ananda asked for some final words in respect of the community of bhikkhus during the Buddha’s passing away; the Blessed One answered him: The Blessed One: What more does the community of bhikkhus without expect from me, Ananda? I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back. Whosoever may think that it is he who should lead the should
community of bhikkhus, or that the community depends upon him, it is such a one that would have to give last instructions respecting them. But, Ananda, the Tathagata has no such idea as that it is he who should lead the community of bhikkhus, or that the community depends upon him. So what instructions should he have to give respecting the community of bhikkhus? Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged, far gone in years. This is my is eightieth year, and my life is spent. Even as an old cart, Ananda, is held together with much difficulty, so the body of the Tathagata is kept going only with supports. It is, Ananda, only when the Tathagata, disregarding external objects, with the cessation of certain feelings, attains to and abides in the signless concentration concentration of mind, that his body is more comfortable.
Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.
Jinavamsa: Those were the final exhortation of the most Unique Teacher ever in the history of humankind; reading between the lines, we should sieve through to the essence of His Dhamma. He taught that the realisation of His Teaching can only be through a gradual training. It is not possible to take a book on the Dhamma, read it, digest it and be enlightened. One needs to practise correctly to realise the Dhamma; just as there is no other way to know a taste but that one must try it for oneself. To get a factual perspective of what we mean, we will begin by rendering a clear vision of the word “realise”; for words convey a mental image and we need to see clearly the true identity of the word “realise”. Funk & Wagnall Dictionary (a very insightful dictionary) gives the meaning as: “to understand and appreciate fully; to make real or concrete; to cause to appear real”.
However, these words are but mundane knowledge and understanding; in the Dhamma context “realise” is experiential knowledge and understanding arising from insight wisdom acquired through contemplative insight meditation; contemplation in regards to viewing all arising phenomena, bodily and mentally, as impermanent, unsatisfactory and of a non-entity nature. The realisation of such Dhamma knowledge is not for worldly intelligence, but wise knowledge of the reality of existence. There are three portals leading to the realisation of the Dhamma; and entering these portals are not necessary your decision. Their openings are conditional. Conditions must arise before the first portal will even open. It has been said by a wise person; when the student is ready the teacher will appear; along the same reasoning, the Dhamma will appear to one who is ready for the Dhamma. When conditions due to arising merits and supportive kamma mature, then events will unfold that will open doors to the Dhamma. Conditions arising will pry open the doors to the ripening of kamma. This will be the first portal that will introduce the Dhamma in various ways; secondly, when this arises the correct thing to do will be to investigate the Dhamma; this second portal involves time and energy in learning the Dhamma intellectually. Faith and confidence deepens and then the third portal will open. The final step, the third portal is to realise the Dhamma by practising it as taught by the Buddha. Only by practise can we experience the Dhamma and in this way we will be living the Dhamma and wisdom will arise that will lead us onto the path to freedom from defilement and thus attain Nibbana. To say “firstly, being introduced to the Dhamma….”, is but just a statement, but the real introduction must depend on conditions being juxtapositioned at a pivotal point at a specific time! These conditions can be a coming together of kamma, natural happenings and the vagaries of life now and the past. So you see to be “introduced to the Dhamma” is not a simple matter at all! That is why a myriad of beings are unable to know the Dhamma due to conditions not arising.
TWO CASES I offer two cases to illustrate the above conditional introduction to the Dhamma. Khoo Eng Kim a/k Bhante Suvanno Khoo Eng Kim’s introduction to the Dhamma happened when he was 12 years old (please read: Striving to be a Nobody). He was born into a very poor family; an abused child without a mother’s love and care. As a school boy he used to pass by a Christian family and often heard the pastor preached. He was very keen to learn more, but he never had the opportunity to pursue Christianity. He was very keen to find out why he had to endure so much suffering. Hearing of the Buddha, he wrote to a publisher in Sri Lanka and obtained a copy of Words of the Buddha by Nyanatiloka Mahathera, a monk of the German sangha. The book’s message was very clear to him and he recalled he knew why he had inherited so much suffering. There and then he wanted to renounce and take up the robes. But at 12 years of age, no Buddhist monastery was about to accept him as a novice. He was not able to fulfil his wish to be a monk though he had serious intention of doing so. He had to wait till the conditions were ready and that took many years. Only when at the age of 60 were the conditions juxtapositioned for him to renounce and take up the holy life. He passed on at the age of 87, having been a monk for 27 years; a strong case of conditioning. YK Leong a/k Jinavamsa Bhikkhu YK Leong (the author of this book) was a business man who retired at the age of 49 and migrated to New Zealand to spend his days in life’s decadent pursuit of worldly pleasures. For some reasons he had to return to Malaysia when he was 60 years of age, where he was enticed to attend a metta meditation session. From then he took up the practice of meditation seriously and as the saying goes, he never looked back and at age 67, ordained for the first time into the Burmese sangha. He subsequently returned to Malaysia, after disrobing and much later at his teacher’s advice, he again ordained for the second time. He had no knowledge and desire to practice the Buddha’s teachings; but due to ripening conditions, he took up life as a renunciate for sometime, till sickness conditioned him to disrobe and return to lay life. He is well and happy being a lay person at the writing of this Dhamma literature at age 72; again another strong case of conditioning.
In apropos to these two stories, Jinavamsa is a student of Bhante Suvanno and had spent quite a number of years studying and practising with the latter. Let us proceed to the second criteria and begin our investigation by observing ordinary happenings around us; for are we not more involved with ordinary things? For, is not our very life bound by the ordinary? For starters, has anyone taken notice about people’s behaviour lately; especially the behaviour of religious people? Has anyone noticed the huge amount of funds going to religious coffers whenever there is noised about that such and such a venerable monastic or holy person is going to build a temple, church or some form of icon of their faith? Do you know of monastics, priests and religious personages getting big fat salaries with expensive perks to go? Have you never seen monastics or religious person staying in 5-star accommodations? Coming nearer home to the Dhamma practice, has anyone paid attention that less people are inclined to meditate for the correct reasons; instead they prefer to offer dana, listen to Dhamma talks, habitually and religiously attend discussions, workshops, chanting sessions and such religious activities other than what was advised by the Buddha Himself? And with the Internet casting a wide web around the globe, those who aspire to propagate their doctrines and teachings sit in their homes and spew them out to the world. Outer space has become such a vast field of sewage dump and many of these blogs and postings are going to join the ranks of spewed garbage into the same sewage field. These postings and Internet messages are easily available to all. Most religious organisations are using these means to entice adherents to their doctrines, should we not by common logic be doing the same thing? Such thinking and deeds, in regards to the Dhamma does not fulfil the essence of the Noble Eightfold Path, which is: The Path should start with the right view or right understanding; followed by right thinking, right speech, right action, right effort, right livelihood, right mindfulness and then right concentration. Thus, when one begins anything with the wrong view, will one be able to get to the path of right thinking? Of course not; then the rest of the
negative and opposite factors following will be the obvious result and those who propagate such ways of learning the Dhamma will have to bear the result of their thoughts, spoken words and deeds. Has anyone noticed that food is being bought from established markets called supermarkets; has anyone noticed that sales of instant food, teas, coffees and what have yous, have become the norm? Has anyone realised that world climatic changes are very apparent and temperature around the globe is rising? And has anyone wondered why there are so many forms of diseases popping up here and there around the world and becoming pandemic? Has anyone really pay attention to habits and pastimes of kids and teenagers? I am sure that you too, will have your own long lists of these ‘have yous…..’ As to the practice of the Dhamma, the third criteria; that will be your own effort and hopefully we will have given you sufficient reasons to carry on the practice yourself. Now you may ask what has all this to do with this book. The point of these things are that human beings desire quick fixes, they want to acquire things; material as well as spiritual, as quickly as possible; they do not want to work for it, they want a pill to take them to peace and calm and Nibbana....peace and calm possible… but Nibbana no! The meditation teacher, Bhante Suvanno has constantly reminded me when I repeat to him what I hear from others…”so and so teacher has a new method to meditate that brings result faster and better…his stock reply was and I want to share this with you… “Jinavamsa, if the Lord Buddha, who is self-enlightened, after going through intense training for four asankheyya and a hundred thousand world cycles, says there is only one way…there must then be only one way; if he knew of a short cut do you think he will not tell us? Jinavamsa read my lips ... there is only this one way to the eradication of defilement of beings…” With that reply and his example of living a Dhamma life, I have always been satisfied that that was the only and correct way, and I stay firmly on the Path; that is why I have only one teacher and one only…a local born and bred guru...the Venerable Bhante Acara Suvanno. Now having repeated that there is only one way:
Let me continue by quoting some words from the Lord regarding Five Dangers in the Future. In Anguttara Nikaya 5: 77-80; there are enumerated 4 sets of 5 dangers that will befall the Dhamma. These Future Dangers are real and we are already living within the parameters of these dangers even as we are reading and writing here. These conditions have been built up through aeons by us in many previous lives and we are now reaping their fruits. The Buddha: There will be, in the course of the future, monks undeveloped in bodily conduct, virtue and discernment (Jinavamsa: I have total belief and faith in this statement to add that it covers all professions and calling, not only bhikkhus, but because we are concerned about the Buddha’s teachings, we will hone in on those who we look up to as leaders and exemplar of our beliefs). undeveloped They, being undeveloped in bodily conduct, virtue, mind and discernment, will not listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata; deep, profound and transcendent are being recited. They will not set their hearts on knowing them, they will not regard Teachings these Teachings as worth grasping or mastering (Jinavamsa: by the way, this is not something new, He had already seen this, the moment He was self enlightened 2600 years ago, that was the reason He was reluctant to teach the Dhamma then). discourses But they will listen when discourses that are literary works; the works of poets, elegant in sound, elegant in rhetoric; the work of outsiders, words of disciples are recited. They will listen and set their hearts on knowing them and regard these teachings as worth mastering. grasping and mastering. Thus from corrupt Dhamma comes corrupt discipline; from corrupt discipline, corrupt Dhamma. Furthermore, being undeveloped in bodily conduct, virtue, mind and discernment, they will become elders living in luxury; lethargic, foremost in falling back, shirking the duties of solitude. They will not make efforts for the attaining of the as-yet-unattained, as-yetas-yetas-yetthe reaching of the as-yet-unreached, the realisation of the as-yetunrealised. Future generations will take them as examples; thus from
corrupt Dhamma comes corrupt discipline; from corrupt discipline, corrupt Dhamma. There will be, monks (in all cases of “monks” also read “other monastics”) desirous of fine robes, lodgings and fine foods, they, being robes, they, so desirous, will neglect the practice of wearing cast-off cloth, will cast neglect isolated forest and wilderness dwellings, will move to towns, cities and royal capitals, taking up residence there. For the sake of their desires they will do many kinds of unseemly, inappropriate things. In the future, there will be monks who will live in close association with nuns, female probationers, and female novices. As they interact with nuns, female probationers and female novices, they can be expected either to lead the holy life dissatisfied or to fall into grosser one of the grosser offenses, leaving the training, returning to a lower way of life. There will be monks who will live in close association with monastery attendants and novices. As they interact with monastery intent attendants and novices, they can be expected to live intent on storing up all kinds of possessions and to stake out properties. properties These, monks, are the future dangers that will arise in the them them. future. Be alert to them and work to get rid of them. Jinavamsa: Thus, the Lord has foreseen the dangers befalling the Dhamma in the future and taught that we should work to get rid of these dangers; but even as in the early times when the Lord was not prepared to teach the Dhamma, even at those times he had seen the corruptness of humans. Today we, especially the young ones, will be fed with more corrupt Dhamma, which if unrecognised will lead the unwary and gullible astray and eventually into the wrong path and suffering for untold aeons. We need to be aware and to safeguard our own personal faith and practice so that we are able to enhance our spiritual development in these times of unwholesome adhamma.
The very fount of the Dhamma has gone after attaining the final goal, PariNibbana; and the Dhamma He left with us as our guide and teacher is fast shrinking and will eventually dry up and be no more; we are already seeing major Dhamma losses in the form of fewer true renunciates and fewer people who are in real earnest to practise solitude. The Dhamma will disappear; this is without doubt. The signs of its disappearance are very clear. We see their shrinking from within daily, in our lives’ moments. Let us hear how the Dhamma will disappear. DISAPPEARANCE OF THE DHAMMA [Samyutta Nikaya (Kindred Sayings) on Kassapa, causes of the disappearance of the Dhamma are outlined]: Ananda (the Buddha’s cousin and attendant): The Exalted One was once staying at Savatthi, at the Jeta Grove, in the Anathapindika Park. Now the Venerable Maha-Kassapa went into the Lord’s presence, saluted Him and sat down beside Him. So seated, the Venerable Maha-Kassapa said to the Exalted One: Maha Kassapa: Venerable Sir, what is the reason, what is the cause, why formerly there were fewer trainings rules but more bhikkhus were established in final knowledge, while now there are more training rules but fewer bhikkhus are established? The Lord Buddha: That’s the way it is, Kassapa, when the purity of beings are deteriorating and the true Dhamma is disappearing, more training rules are needed but even so, fewer bhikkhus are established final in final knowledge. Kassapa, the true Dhamma does not disappear so long as a counterfeit of the true Dhamma has not arisen in the world. But when a counterfeit of the true Dhamma arises in the world, then the true Dhamma disappears. Just as Kassapa, gold does not disappear so long as counterfeit gold has not arisen in the world, but when counterfeit gold arises then true gold disappears, so the true Dhamma does not disappear so long as a counterfeit of the true Dhamma has not arisen in the world.
earth It is not the earth element, Kassapa, that causes the true Dhamma to disappear, nor the water element, nor the heat element, nor the air element. It is the senseless people who arise right here who cause the true Dhamma to disappear. The true Dhamma does not disappear all at once in the way a fully laden ship sinks. There are, Kassapa five detrimental things that lead to the decay and disappearance of the true Dhamma. It is Dhamma. sisters, when brethren and sisters, laymen and laywomen live in irreverence and are unruly toward the Teacher, live in irreverence and are unruly toward the Teaching, live in irreverence and are unruly toward the Order, live in irreverence and are unruly toward the training, live in irreverence and are unruly toward concentration. reverence toward But when they live in reverence and docility toward these Five nonFive, then do these Five things conduce to the longevity, non-decay nonand non-disappearance of the true Teaching. COUNTERFEIT DHAMMA Jinavamsa: This brings us to the question; how do we define counterfeit Dhamma? Mahasi Saydaw and the VisuddhiMagga have recognised the source of counterfeit Dhamma as basically two: Firstly, when people do not take the original text which is the backbone of the Buddha’s True Teaching as enshrined within the Tipitaka as the only words of the Buddha but when they begin to deviate from this Teaching and take refuge in other seemingly true Dhamma. Secondly, when meditators begin to view corruption of insight when developing Vipassana, as non-corruptions and set their goals by such standards; then in both instances we are looking at the counterfeit Dhamma in overdrive and speeding towards the chasm of destruction and suffering. Let us look at the first factor; the Tipitaka is the main testimony of the true Dhamma. In the last hours before the Buddha entered PariNibbana, He told the gathering of bhikkhus that the Dhamma He left behind would
be their teacher. The Dhamma as enshrined within the Tipitaka has been authenticated in Six Highly Profiled Councils within the Theravada stream of the Buddha’s Dhamma for 2600 years as the True Dhamma and is recognised by all Buddhist divisions as the full original authority of the Buddha‘s Dhamma after His PariNibbana. However, nowadays, these pure, pristine Dhamma is rarely taken as our Teacher and instead many other non-Tipitaka texts expounded by “great and elderly” present day teachers are applied as the better Dhamma. Thus here counterfeit dhamma is already overshadowing the true Dhamma. Many have forgotten how to apply the Kalama Sutta in regards to ascertaining the true Dhamma. Let me refresh memory lapses: THE CRITERION FOR ACCEPTANCE The Buddha: Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias toward a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them. Jinavamsa: Thus, did the Buddha taught; as to the second factor, let us see what Mahasi Sayadaw says about what are: CORRUPTION OF INSIGHT (Mahasi Sayadaw) the noting of a brilliant light; which to a meditator will appear like the light of a lamp, to others like a flash of lightning, or like the radiance of the moon or the sun, and so on; with one meditator it may last for just one moment, with others it may last longer. The arising in a meditator of strong mindfulness pertaining to insight. The meditator’s knowledge consisting in insight, here called "noticing," will be likewise keen, strong and lucid. Further, strong faith pertaining to insight arises in the meditator.
There arises also rapture in its five grades, beginning with minor rapture. There arises tranquillity of mind. There also arises a very sublime feeling of happiness suffusing all of the meditator’s body. There arises in the meditator energy that is neither too lax nor too tense but is vigorous and acts evenly. There also arises in the meditator strong equanimity associated with insight. There arises further a subtle attachment of a calm nature that enjoys the insight graced with the "brilliant light" and the other qualities here described.
Taking these phenomena listed above as permanent and perceiving them as correct insights are corruption of insight.
The meditator, however, is not able to discern the above as corruptions but believes them to be just the very bliss of meditation. So meditators speak in praise of it thus: "Only now do I find full delight in meditation!" Having felt such rapture and happiness accompanied by the "brilliant light" and enjoying the very act of perfect noticing, which is ably functioning with ease and rapidity, the meditator now believes: "Surely I must have attained to the supramundane path and fruition! Now I have finished the task of meditation."
Taking all the above arising phenomena as permanent and perceiving them as correct insights; this is mistaking what is not the path for the path, and it is a corruption of insight which usually takes place in the manner just described. But even if the meditator does not take the "brilliant light" and the other corruptions as an indication of the path and fruition, still he feels delight in them. This is likewise a corruption of insight. (Progress of Insight Mahasi Sayadaw)
The Visuddhimagga continues with: When these sensations arise, a wary meditator who is endowed with discretion either defines and examines it with understanding thus: “this thing has arisen, but it is impermanent, formed, conditionally arisen, subject to destruction, subject to fall, subject to fading away, subject to cessation”. Or he thinks: “if these things were self, it would be right to take it as self; but being not self, it is taken as self. Therefore it is not self
in the sense of no power being exercisable over it. It is impermanent in the sense of non-existence after having come to be; it is painful in the sense of oppression by rise and fall’. Having investigated it thus, he sees these things as: “these are not mine, this is not I, this is not myself”. Seeing thus he does not waiver or vacillate about these sensations and passions. So he understands these as imperfections without falling prey to doubts and uncertainties (Vm by
Jinavamsa: When these contemplations and seeking after insight knowledge are faithfully followed then the breakup of the Dhamma will not be so soon; but the fact is the opposite is true for those seeking the easy path. Thus the counterfeit Dhamma is now apparent, leading to the loss of the true Dhamma. Thus, we are at this time witnessing the fading away of the True Dhamma. You will notice that there are so many forms of the Teachings in today’s world that most if not all, supposedly followers of the Buddha’s Path, do not know whether the path they follow are truly the Buddha’s Path! Just ask anyone and you will be given answers to your question in a confused manner. In these “modern” days, people do not practise the Teachings of the Buddha; they practise the “delusions” of the Teachings as they see fit; they practise the glamour of the Dhamma without appreciating and realising the true core of the Teachings. They skim the shallow surface of the Teachings and fail to see the innermost brilliance of the diamond within; they deify the Teachings with layer after layer of cosmetised wrappings and forget the true sweetness of the gift within. They see only the beautiful wrappings and forget the reason for the wrapping. They teach the bliss of the Teachings as the only worthwhile goal and forget that the realisation of that bliss is not within the moment but at the end of the final moment where all suffering are eradicated and true bliss is attained. People fail to see the quagmire beneath the surface of their delusions; they create the delusions believing it is real. They live in a world of adhamma making belief that that is the true Dhamma. Thus is the end of the Dhamma realised.
One of the greatest renunciate that truly followed the True Path of the Lord has passed on and there will be more who follow the True Path disappearing in the days ahead. These true renunciates are a fast disappearing breed and sadly there will be no replacement from the same mould! This short discourse, and others to come, by Bhante Suvanno will put forward for your review what are the True Teachings of the Buddha. May the merits of his work be shared among all beings and that by such merits all beings are guided to the correct path to freedom from suffering. BENFITS OF THE TRUE PATH Jinavamsa: The Buddha taught two forms of meditation; Vipassana and Metta Bhavana. Each one has its goal and benefits, unique in itself. Their practise can be dove-tailed one into the other or stand alone, each on its own. In Vipassana Bhavana the ultimate goal is eradicating of defilement and gaining Nibbana through the arahant path. It took Him six long torturous years to finally arrive at this knowledge to practise Vipassana to be free from defilement and be totally pure. This Knowledge is a Path. This Path is Eightfold.…a very Noble Eightfold Path…the goal of this Path is eradication of defilement and mental effluent. When the mind is totally pure and without blemish, the mind becomes free; suffering is also eradicated, there is no cravings, greed, emotional trappings and delusion. When a mind is of this nature, it is a mind ready for noble state … a state of arahantship…culminating in Nibbana. The benefits that will accrue before this final stage are; mental peace and calm, good physical health and wellness, able to accept the ups and downs of life knowing that all arising things are of an impermanent nature and subject to dissolution. Correct practice of Vipassana will lead to deeper insights as the practice progresses. Results of Vipassana will be cumulative through progressive rebirths; thus when one’s practice has reached the stream entry stage, one has no fear that future rebirths will be towards the suffering planes. In fact when one practises to the stage of stream entry one will be reborn at a maximum of seven more rebirths before one enters Nibbana. This is a great benefit! The Bodhisatta tried many ways to attain this goal, even to the extent of learning from great concentration teachers of the time. After six long years of intense suffering did he finally realised that the only way to the eradication of defilement is through the practice of Satipatthana Vipassana. The practise of Satipatthana is so paramount to His Teachings
that He gave two great identical discourses and many reminders of it throughout His ministry of forty-five years. Other concentration meditations were already taught by great concentration teachers even before the time of the Buddha. The Buddha did make use of these concentration practices and achieve the highest results, even surpassing those of his teachers. Having done so He realised that these practises neither lead him to the eradication of suffering nor attain Nibbana for which he left family and kingdom. These concentration meditation methods only brought Him at best to the planes of the Brahmas at death. In those planes he realises that, he will find rebirth into other suffering planes again. Thus, concentration meditation brings about only a yo-yo sort of result and not the final liberation of Nibbana. Thus, he forsaked those methods and strived alone to find his own salvation. He found it in Satipatthana Vipassana which leads to Nibbana! METTA BHAVANA SUTTA (Loving-kindness Meditation) Jinavamsa: Metta meditation is the second meditation taught by the Buddha. It is a concentration meditation and has for its object, love for all beings; a total untainted universal selfless love for all things. This meditation originated from the Buddha due to the following reason. Scriptural Text: On one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Savatthi when it was the time for the taking up of the residence for the rains retreat. Now on that occasion many bhikkhus from various areas and districts were desirous of taking up residence for the rains and meditation in the Blessed One's presence. It was the Buddha's habit every morning after a discourse to the bhikkhus, He would assign or advise them to practise meditation in the forest and the bhikkhus would go away for meditation in their assigned location. Some would return the same day and some would return after some time seeking further instructions or details on other matters. A group of 500 bhikkhus went to a part of a forest where earth bound Devas were residing. Seeing the bhikkhus arriving, the Devas made room for them and stayed away, thinking that these bhikkhus would be staying for a short time and would be away after their meditation. However, from a week the bhikkhus stayed for another week and yet another week. By this
time the Devas were quite upset as they were not able to return to their abodes in the trees or the rocks now taken up by the bhikkhus. The Devas decided to frighten the bhikkhus so that the bhikkhus would leave them and they could return to their homes in peace. The bhikkhus thus disturbed and frightened by the Devas, decided to return to the Buddha, whereupon they reported the matter to Him. After ascertaining the true situation, He realised that the Devas were unhappy with the bhikkhus for their impolite way of taking over their abodes leaving them with no shelter for their families. The Buddha then advised the bhikkhus to go back to the same place but armed with the good-will of Metta for their comfort and protection. The Buddha then expounded the Metta Sutta for the practice of Loving-kindness. He further enumerated the benefits of Metta Bhavana. The Buddha: O! bhikkhus, bhikkhus, lovingloving-kindness conduces the
lovingunshackling of the mind. One who is familiar with loving-kindness, practises it frequently, becomes good at it until it becomes his nature, such an individual so developed in loving kindness will gain eleven benefits. Jinavamsa: These are the benefits enumerated: 1. He sleeps well. One who is practising Loving-kindness falls asleep comfortably as though entering upon an attainment and rarely snores or turns around restlessly during sleep. 2. He wakes up feeling good without groaning or yawning, is rested and comfortable, like a lotus opening. 3. He does not have bad dreams. If one does dream, one's dreams are of peaceful and spiritually calming scenes. One does not have nightmares and other frightening dreams. 4. He is well-liked by fellow men. The Visuddhi Magga says: "dear and beloved by human beings as a necklace worn to hang on the chest, as a wreath adorning the head." 5. He is well liked by non-humans. 6. He is protected by the Devas. They guard him as a mother and father guard their child. 7. He will not be harmed by fire, poison or weapons. A story to illustrate this is told about a cow that was giving milk to her calf. A
hunter seeing her thought "I shall shoot her," and flourishing a longhandled spear in his hand flung it at the cow. It struck her body and bounced off like a palm leaf, and that was neither to access nor to absorption, but simply to the strength of her consciousness of love for her calf. So mightily powerful is loving kindness! 8. He achieves meditative concentration quickly and easily; the mind of one who abides by loving kindness is quickly calmed and concentrated, there is no sluggishness about it. 9. His facial complexion is healthy and serene. The Visuddhi Magga says: "face has a serene expression, like a palmyra fruit loosed from its stem." 10. His death will not be confused. There is no deluded mentality for one who abides in Loving-kindness, death is like falling asleep. 11. If in this life he does not achieve Nibbana he will be reborn in happy planes. The VisuddhiMagga says: "then when he falls from life, he reappears in the Brahma World as one who wakes up from sleep." After learning the Sutta, the bhikkhus returned to the forest and the 500 bhikkhus chanted the Sutta in unison. The vibrant all compassionate and love-centred Metta Sutta coming from 500 holy bhikkhus conveyed such tremendous, powerful good-will and loving-kindness that the Devas were overwhelmed, so much so that they came to pay respects to the bhikkhus and protected and provided requisites for the bhikkhus for the duration of their meditation. All 500 bhikkhus attained arahantship and ended their stay. It is very beneficial for the reciter and the recipient when the practice of Metta is done habitually. Hopefully, we are clear about our goal in getting this book presented to you; let us investigate further. Jinavamsa Bukit Tinggi Bentong, Pahang email@example.com August 2009
Bhante Suvanno (seated in his kuti, in conversation with Jinavamsa, the lay disciple): The Lord has given us specific guides to suit every situation in our present lives and even into the after life, yet many do not seem to realise the gems of universal truth the Lord has left us. It is our responsibility, Jinavamsa, to share these knowledge with those who are seeking. It is our responsibility to offer them the way to the correct practice. Not knowing the Lord’s Teachings, many have questioned and some have even gone on to séances, mediums, soothsayers, spirits and what-haveyous to allay their fears, pamper their curiosities and feed their superstitious concepts regarding their confusion and uncertainties at and after death. They further question: Is Death Final? Is there life beyond death? What if …what if not? They desperately want to know. They fear the unknown; they seek to ensure that they find continuity to their lives in order to enjoy the material fruits they have garnered in this life. The more material possessions they have the more desperate their need to know. They fear that death may take away all that they have worked for, fought for, cheated for or even traded their morality or for some their so-called “souls” for. Conscious and fearful that death is inevitable, they seek ways to prolong it, to overcome it or even to live beyond death; they seek the security of permanent control of their possessions The Buddha had indicated that none will be able to attain their desires as they neither have the wisdom to realise their impermanence and selflessness nature nor do they realise that their desires are never to be satiated as they set their goals of material gains increasingly higher. All beings, man, and gods included, live bound within concepts that are illusions of their minds, fed by their desires and greed. Thus, all beings find rebirth into existences that they created for themselves through ignorance of the realities within this life and the uncertainties of the future ahead. All living beings live life after life within the causal parameters that
they ignorantly craft for themselves. With muddled intentions, they build iron clad cages that will for many aeons imprison them within the confines of sufferings that they fear; yet the very desires that they crave for, they cannot achieve because they do not understand the wherewithal of their existences. The Buddha had taught that three major root defilement of the mind effectively lock us into our world of suffering and torment; these three are unbridled greed, frustrated anger and ignorant delusion. Confined within the confusing maze-like delusion of our defiled minds, we are unable to rid ourselves of these three root defilement; not that we do not want to but that we do not know that these three defilement exist. Even if we know, we do not know the way to rid ourselves of these three binding cords that confine us life after life within these damning walls of suffering. The Buddha knew and taught us the Only Way, He said: The Buddha: This is the only way for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and grief, for reaching the Noble Path, for the realisation of
Bhante Suvanno: And that only way, Jinavamsa, is Satipatthana
Vipassana; the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
So, Jinavamsa, you see the Buddha had seen the whys and wherefores of living, dying and rebirth and the conditions that set the wheel of life in motion. Best of all, He taught us this Only Way to be rid of these defilement. He taught us how to develop from early beginnings, the Path to Purification that will lead us away from the suffering world and into Nibbana. This Only Way, the Way of Mindfulness (Vipassana) Meditation is not a secret way; it is open to all, religions aside; for the Buddha’s teachings are meant for all beings, applicable universally; for those who have painfully discovered the need to end this suffering. For those few who seek to end this suffering, the Buddha has offered this One and Only Way. There may be paths leading to this Way, but given time and maturity of insight wisdom these paths gyrate towards this One Way, just like tiny rivulets, trickling towards the streams into the river and finally pouring into the great ocean of purity and total freedom.
KAMMA, CAUSE OF REBIRTH Bhante Suvanno: The Buddha has said that all things come into being due to a cause; existing conditionally upon natural phenomena. Birth and death are but a continuing series conditioned by such phenomena in an unending process; death is followed by immediate re-birth in accordance with this dictate of causality. Death only signals the end of a phase in that on-going process. At that point of the process known as death, a new vehicle is charged and the process of life carries on and re-birth occurs in the same or another plane of existence as conditioned by the character of the resultant of past thoughts, speech and deeds of the dying being arising at that moment. The word “rebirth” does not mean that the same being is reborn in exact replica of the one before; and here-in lies the confusing view of re-birth. [Dhamma Note: To know the Dhamma profoundly and realise its intrinsic essence, we have to view it through two forms of understanding; view from a conventional terminology (a commonly spoken language) and a view through universal terminology (conveying the reality of Dhamma). This was because the Buddha was a teacher of gods and men (annuttaro purisa dhamma sarathi sattha deva manussanam). In the course of a discourse, humans and non-humans were his listeners. The non-humans were the devas and brahmas who were also eager to know the Dhamma and who had come from various distant heavenly planes and other world systems to learn the Dhamma from the Buddha himself. Thus, in speaking to humans, the Buddha was also teaching the unseen devas and brahmas gathered around at the same moment. Thus, in most cases where the Lord Buddha discoursed, the nature of the Dhamma is such that he applied conventional terminology to express universal truths. Due to this necessity, those who in the past have taken the Buddha’s words at the level of conventional speech have made grave errors in their interpretation. In some cases those misinterpretation has been passed to us together with major erroneous content. We need therefore to be mindful of the duality of Dhamma terms when the Lord’s Dhamma is discoursed].
Bhante Suvanno: As a result of previous lives’ volitional performances, the being whose life process is ending at this moment is followed by immediate rebirth to an awaiting new being in one of the 31 Planes. That is to say, a new being arises in the appropriate sphere to continue the process. This arising of the new being is conditioned by past volitional actions and habitual tendencies culminating in the last thought-moment of the “being about to die”, leading to re-birth. In “the being about to die”, if its actions in its life before death, had been conditioned and initiated by thought and speech directed by a purified mind, the new being will manifest in a plane appropriate to the condition of the mind at the moment of death; if they had been of mixed type, the kammic energy conditioned by past thoughts, speech and deeds will reappear into a new being anywhere in the 31 Planes. If his kamma (volitional action) has been predominantly unwholesome, with a strong reflex at the moment of death, the kammic energy will manifest in a new being in what are called the unhappy states. Kamma arising at the moment of death (known as death proximate kamma) is an important factor in deciding the immediate rebirth. It may be good or bad, but whichever it is, it tends to be the state of mind characteristic of the individual of the previous life, which takes possession of the last moments of consciousness before it leaves the “about to die” being. Let us digress momentarily to delve a little into kamma and death. Let us begin by reading from a teacher of meditation with international recognition. He wrote: WHAT HAPPENS AT DEATH? Bhante Suvanno: To understand what happens at death, let us first understand what death is. Death is like a bend in a continuous river of becoming. Death is the end of a process of becoming, and certainly it is so in the case of an arahant (a fully liberated being) or a Buddha; but with an ordinary person this flow of becoming continues after death. Death ends all activities of one life, and the very next moment starts the play of a new life. On the one side is the last moment of this life and on the other side is the first moment of the next life. It is as though the sun rises as soon as it sets with no interval of darkness in between, or as if the moment of death is the end of one chapter in the book of becoming, and another chapter of life begins the very next moment.
Although no simile can convey the exact process, still one might say that this flow of becoming is like a train running on a track. It reaches the station of death and there, slightly decreasing speed for a moment, carries on again with the same speed. It does not stop at the station even for a moment. For one who is not an arahant, the station of death is not a terminus but a junction from where 31 different tracks diverge. The train, as soon as it arrives at the station, moves onto one or another of these tracks and continues. This speeding "train of becoming," fuelled by the electricity of kammic energies of the past, keeps on running from one station to the next, on one track or the other, a continuing journey that goes on without ceasing. This changing of "tracks" happens automatically. As the melting of ice into water and the cooling of water to form ice happens according to laws of nature, so the transition from life to life is controlled by set laws of nature. According to these laws, the train not only changes tracks by itself, it also lays the next tracks itself. For this train of becoming, the junction of death, where the change of tracks takes place, is of great importance. Here the present life is abandoned (this is called death). The demise of the body takes place, and immediately the next life starts (a process which is called conception or taking up of the next birth). The moment of conception is the result of the moment of death; the moment of death creates the moment of conception. Since every death moment creates the next birth moment, death is not only death, but birth as well. At this junction, life changes into death and death into birth. Thus, every life is a preparation for the next death. If someone is wise, he or she will use this life to the best advantage and prepare for a good death. The best death is the one that is the last but that is not a junction but a terminus: the death of an arahant. For the arahant or the Buddha, there will be no track on which the train can run further; but until such a terminus is reached, one can at least ensure that the next death gives rise to a good birth and that the terminus will be reached in due course. It all depends on us, on our own efforts. We are makers of our own futures; we create our own welfare or misery as well as our own liberation.
How is it that we are the creators of the tracks that receive the onrushing train of becoming? To answer this we must understand what is kamma. The wholesome or unwholesome volition of our minds is kamma. Before performing any action at the mental, vocal, or physical level, whatever wholesome or unwholesome volition that arises in the mind, is the root of that action. The consciousness arises due to a contact at a sense door, then perception and recognition evaluates the experience, sensations arise, then a kammic reaction takes place. These volitional reactions are of various kinds. How strong is the volition? How slow, deep, shallow, heavy or light? Conditionally, the intensity of these reactions will vary. Some are like a line drawn on water, some like a line drawn on sand and some a line on rock. If the volition is wholesome, then the action will be the same and the fruits will be beneficial; and if the volition is unwholesome, then the action will be the same; it will give fruits of misery. Not all of these reactions result in a new birth. Some are so shallow that they do not give any substantial fruits. Some are a bit heavier but will be used up in this lifetime. They do not carry over into the next life. Others being still heavier, continue with the flow of life into the next birth, but they themselves do not give new birth (end of quote). Bhante Suvanno: We now read from another authority: Thus, the kammic energy of the “about to die” being whose predominant characteristic is a mental attitude of anger and hate will at once remanifest in a new form embodying this unwholesome characteristic, as that is the death-proximate kamma, induced by habitual past thoughts. If he has cultivated loving kindness and compassion (metta and karuna), it is that consciousness that will arise in a higher plane where these characteristics manifest. The most common type of habitual consciousness is neither of active love nor active hatred, but desire (tanha). It is desire and attachment that bind the individual to incessant re-birth. They provide the motives of all activities; hatred and love themselves arise from the root cause of desire; love towards the object of attraction, hatred when the desire is thwarted. Most kamma, therefore, is of a mixed type
and its effects alternate in the experiences of the future life in the sensual world; the world wherein we now find ourselves, as it is one of the spheres dominated by desire and sensual attachment. Another law of nature, equally difficult to comprehend is the reality of selflessness or void of an identifiable self. This truth dictates that even in the earthly life-continuity of the individual, there is no persistent or unchanging entity. All living beings are aggregates of the conditional coming together of mental and material aggregates arising and passing away inexorably in accordance to another natural law; the Law of Dependent Origination. Thus to rid defilement from their minds, people must see the real dangers, only then will they seek the correct remedy; in this case the ills of ignorance and the remedy of Nibbana. It is my sincere aspiration that those who seek will find in this book the need to investigate further and practise the only way to end the continuing rounds of rebirths into suffering. Jinavamsa: Bhante, what the Buddha taught is truly profound and most people would not know where to start seeking the truth. At which point should we begin to investigate? Bhante Suvanno: This will depend on those who are seeking. Some may be quite knowledgeable, some little and some none. Let us first find out what lies ahead after death.
PART 1: KAMMA AND ITS FRUIT
THE BUDDHA: Kammassaka, bhikkhave, satta kammadayada, kammayoni, kammabandhu, kammapatisarana, yam karonti— va— kammam karonti—kalyanam va papakam va—tassa dayada bhavanti.
Oh bhikkhus, beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs of their deeds, born of their deeds, kin to their deeds; their deeds are their refuge. Whatever actions they perform, whether good or evil, such will inheritance. be their inheritance. Bhante Suvanno: The Buddha has said that beings are born into any one of the 31 Planes for rebirth due to kammic result (Majjhima Nikaya 129/130). These planes are physical realities; but for the purpose of getting an insight of their realness, one may even equate them as mental states. For example, in one who is constantly having a mind imbued with evil or unwholesome mental states, he is as if living in a plane of hell; and in one who repeats unwholesome actions without fear and without being
mindful of the results, he is as if born into a place of suffering, a hell plane. These imaginative mental conjectures can never represent the realities of the physical state in its actual equivalent. In one who is honest, virtuous and has a mind that is pure and compassionate; diligently practises wholesome acts of giving, morality and meditation, he is as if living in a heavenly state and if his practice of meditation develops further, he is bound to be born into a heavenly plane and heading towards higher stages of purity to attain Nibbana. This cosmology and natural "law" applies to all beings, whatever their religious beliefs, for such laws or Dhamma are not inventions of the Buddha, but are natural phenomena and re-discovered by him on attaining Enlightenment on that fateful day under the Bodhi tree. It must be realised that without exception ALL things with or without life, including gods and human beings in all the planes are impermanent; excepting Nibbana, nothing whatsoever live forever. Some heavenly beings do live for aeons but eventually, they too die and once they die, they find rebirth in another plane, unless Nibbana has been attained; in which case they are not reborn; they have achieved "emancipation"; freedom from suffering. The law of kamma provides that each and every one of our actions has consequences in line with the skillfulness or otherwise of that action. We often witness this process in our own lives; the effects may not be immediately apparent. But the Buddha also taught that our actions have effects that extend far beyond our present life, determining the quality of rebirth at death; act in wholesome, skillful ways and you are destined for a favourable rebirth; act in unwholesome, unskillful ways and an unpleasant rebirth awaits. In our ignorance, we have stumbled on for aeons through samsara, “becoming” from one birth to the next by the quality of our choices and our actions, not knowing where we shall end up next and unconsciously clinging to and craving for a better existence; rushing helter-skelter, as if blindfolded and mindless to join a speeding train taking us to a destination we know not where. Compare this to a flock of chicken in the farm,
happily scrounging for food, oblivious of the fact that at any time, one or any of its numbers will be picked up and slaughtered! Life after life, we find rebirth originating from delusion and ignorance, we have no knowledge of a previous existence, nor do we know anything about a coming existence. Not knowing where we were from and where we will be going to, we are walking as if blindfolded in the middle of a very busy road without a sense of direction. This will be disastrous. The Buddha taught that, beings existing in the suffering planes will find it very difficult to find rebirth as a human being. Thus if we desire to find future existence in the human plane, we must know, understand and realise the True Dhamma, the ignorance of which will lead us to extreme sufferings the likes of which we can never imagine possible. Many have prayed to Sakka, the King of the 33 Heavenly Gods to grant them rebirth as human beings, but can Sakka or anybody at all fulfil such requests? Neither Sakka, nor any other gods can help us find rebirth in a better future existence. The Buddha is not available to help us. He can only show the way, we have to travel the road to freedom, Nibbana on our own. It is our volitional actions that will shape our future destinies. What then should be done to ensure at the minimum, a rebirth in a human existence, where we will have the only opportunity to strive for the fruits of Nibbana? The answer has been given by the Buddha when He taught that we should avoid evil and do good; we would then not fall into any of the four woeful planes; the Animal, Hungry Ghost, Demon Planes or the great sufferings of the Hellish Regions. KAMMA AND REBIRTH Bhante Suvanno: During their long stay in the hell regions, living beings have been conditioned by many unwholesome thoughts, speech and deeds; the results of which, remains in their kammic stream and may or may not fruit in future existences, depending on conditions arising and on the weightiness of the results of kamma. The most important consideration is that we must not succumb to evil actions or deeds; otherwise we will find ourselves in the hell regions. Once we are in hell all the unwholesome actions will create the conditions
and opportunities for unwholesome kamma to arise, and evil kamma after evil kamma will arise, till conditions change again, for better or for worse. No one knows. In certain cases, having passed away from the human plane, one goes to hell, having then passed away while in hell, one may be reborn again and again in hell or other woeful states for many existences. All our thoughts, speech and deeds, though unseen by anybody or any agencies, will shape the effects of kamma. In Dhammapada Verses 1 and 2, the Buddha said: Verse 1: All mental phenomena have mind as their forerunner; they have mind as their chief; they are mind-made. If one speaks or acts mind(dukkha dukkha) with an evil mind, suffering (dukkha) follows him just as the wheel hoofcart. follows the hoof-print of the ox that draws the cart. Explanation: Our words and deeds spring from a thought. If we speak or act with evil thoughts, unpleasant circumstances and experiences inevitably result. Unwholesome deeds create circumstances that are unwholesome. This is very much like the wheel of a cart following the hoofs of the ox yoked to the cart. The cart-wheel, along with the heavy load of the cart, keeps following the draught oxen. The animal is bound to this heavy load and cannot discard it. Verse 2: All mental phenomena have mind as their forerunner; they have mind as their chief; they are mind-made. If one speaks or acts mindlike with a pure mind, happiness (sukkha) follows him like a shadow that never leaves him. Explanation: All deeds that a man does springs out of his thoughts. If his thoughts are good, the words and the deeds will also be good. The result of good thoughts, words and deeds will be of a wholesome kind. The joy and bliss of such wholesomeness will never leave him, but will follow him like his shadow. Results of our deeds and actions are known as kamma and in due season will ripen and bear fruit. Kammic resultants will be our only heir to the many existences that we are reborn into. It has no distinctions or preferences. Kings, emperors, gods, devas, brahmas, beggars, humans and all beings are the product of their own kamma.
Bhante Suvanno: Similarly, if in our lifetime we have performed wholesome deeds, resultant kamma will be good. Results of our deeds will mature and ripen at the appropriate time; in the present life or in lives to come. Conditions must prevail in the ripening of kamma. All unwholesome deeds done by human beings are mostly due to delusions they harbour and these delusions can only be eradicated by Vipassana Insight Meditation. In this form of meditation, one will realise that the self, “me”, “you” or “mine”, most people are centred on, is nonexistent. Once that is realised, delusions will not arise any more; and when this stage has been attained, due to meditative efforts, people will realise that they are but aggregates of compounded things and they will have done away with numerous delusions and wrong views. If they persist in their meditative efforts having full faith in the teachings of the Buddha, they will be further rewarded with due insights and mental purities that ensure that they are not reborn into any woeful states but only as humans; not ordinary humans, but wise and discerning human beings. THE MODIFIABILTY OF KAMMA Bhante Suvanno: While kamma rules that our deeds and their fruits are related, there is another facet of kamma which is just as important. This is the modifiability of kamma, and the fact that the Law of Kamma does not operate with mechanical rigidity but allows for a considerable range of modifications in the ripening of its fruit. Various external conditions can effect modifications in kamma. Internal conditions such as the total qualitative development of the mind. To one, rich in moral or spiritual qualities, a single offence may not entail the weighty results the same offence will have for one who is poor in such protective virtues. The Buddha compares this with the taste of water from a cup wherein a lump of salt has been added against the taste of water from the Ganges River in which the same quantity of salt has been thrown in. The permutative strands in the arising of kamma are highly complex and unfathomable by any living being, and only a Buddha can trace out the kammic links in the life-dramas of particular beings. Kamma neither ripens in any mechanical, linear nor predictable ways, nor according to any preset time frame. The interaction of many supporting and obstructive factors makes it difficult or almost impossible for anyone to pinpoint the connections between past, present and future events.
Bhante Suvanno: There are some who consider every happening, even our new wholesome and unwholesome actions, as the result of our prenatal kamma. In other words, they believe that the results again become the causes of new results, and so ad infinitum. Thus they are stamping the Buddha’s teaching as fatalistic; and they will have to come to the conclusion that, in this case, our destiny can never be influenced or changed, and no deliverance ever be attained. However, not everything that happens to us is the result of past kamma. We are subjected, by the fact that we exist, to sufferings from natural causes, the deeds of others, and above all, from our ignorance. Certain illnesses are caused by physical phenomena, such as wind, heat, or the change in seasonal conditions, or the imbalance of the physical elements of the body. It is also true that certain kinds of diseases are kamma originated. We are responsible for our actions, and though kamma may condition the circumstances, it cannot make us commit a crime if we do not desire to do so. We do have choices; and we can make better choices with the practise of vipassana meditation as this will enable our decision to be founded on mindfulness practices. THE FIVE PRECEPTS Bhante Suvanno: From the actions of his past, man has shaped his present existence, he is equally capable of being the architect of his own future and with the right guidance he can be sure of it being a happy one. The Blessed One in His vast encompassing wisdom and insight has laid out certain rules of morality that we should train in. The very basic ones are five training rules which make up this training in morality. These moral precepts reflect such values as compassion, respect, selfrestraint, honesty, and wisdom. Observance of the Five Precepts constitutes the minimum moral obligation of a person living in the Dhamma. These Five Precepts are trainings to abstain from killing living beings, abstain from taking what is not given, abstain from sexual misconduct, false speech and use of intoxicating drinks or drugs. These Five Moral Precepts affect one's personal and social life. The fact that they represent a course of training which one willingly undertakes rather than a set of commandments imposed on one by a God or a supreme being is likely to have a positive bearing upon one's conscience and awareness.
Bhante Suvanno: On the personal level, the Precepts guide one to lead a moral life and to advance further on the spiritual path. Moreover, the practice of keeping the Precepts contributes to the accumulation of merits that both support one in the present life and ensure happiness and prosperity in the next. On the social level, observing the Five Precepts helps to promote peaceful co-existence, mutual trust, a cooperative spirit, and general peace and harmony in society. It also helps to maintain an atmosphere which is conducive to social progress and development, as we can see from the practical implications of each precept. On a universal level, the Five Precepts are the base of all moral deeds; thus, they are not religious in essence, though all religions based on moral concepts have these five precepts as corollary to their doctrines. This fact demonstrates the nature of the Buddha’s Dhamma as uniquely universal in practice. The First Precept; I train to refrain from the destruction of life, admonishes against the destruction of life. This is based on the principle of goodwill and respect for the right to life of all living beings. By observing this Precept one learns to cultivate loving kindness and compassion. One empathises with others’ suffering but without personal involvements and attachements and endeavours to do what one can to help alleviate their problems. Consequences of Killing Whosoever kills any living being will be reborn into one of the four lower abodes immediately at death, and when the kammic life term is ended there and, hopefully with the arising of meritorious results of some past good deeds, he finds rebirth in the human plane, he will encounter the following consequences: • Having physical deformities, ill health, feebleness, dullness and lethargy and suffering from diseases. • Having few friends, being separated from loved ones and being killed in youth.
The Second Precept; I train to refrain from taking that which is not given, signifies respect for others' rights to possess wealth and property. Observing the Second Precept, one refrains from earning one's livelihood through wrongful means, such as by stealing or cheating. This Precept also implies the cultivation of generosity, which on a personal level helps to free one from attachment and selfishness, and on a social level contributes to friendly cooperation in the community. Consequences of Stealing When we take what does not belong to us, including taking things without permission, by force or by underhand means, we will not be able to have a happy and peaceful life. Thieves will find rebirth in one of the four lower abodes when they die. When the fruits of previous good kamma condition his release from the suffering planes and he is again reborn as a human, he encounters the following evil consequences: • Having bodily and mental suffering, being tortured by hunger and starvation. • Being poor, wishes unfulfilled, having unstable and easily perishable fortunes and insecured properties. The Third Precept; I train to refrain from sexual misconduct, includes rape, adultery, sexual promiscuity and all forms of sexual misconduct. This Precept teaches one to respect one's own spouse as well as those of others, and encourages the practice of self-restraint, which is of utmost importance in spiritual training. It is also interpreted by some scholars to mean the abstention from misuse of senses and includes, by extension, non-transgression on things that are dear to others, or abstention from intentionally hurting other's feelings. Consequences of Sexual Misconduct By committing adultery, we are actually stealing a person’s most precious treasure. There is a special place in hell for people who commit adultery. Whosoever has sexual relations with another person other than one's spouse is said to have committed sexual misconduct and at death will be reborn in one of the lower abodes. If by good results of past meritorious deeds he finds rebirth as a human being, he will encounter the following unwholseome consequences: • Being disgusted by others, having many enemies, loss of wealth and prosperity. • Being deprived of happiness, encountering disgrace, separated from loved ones.
The Fourth Precept; I train to refrain from falsehood and wrong speech, is an important factor in social life and dealings. It concerns respect for truth. A respect for truth is a strong deterrent to inclinations or temptations to commit wrongful actions, while disregard for the same will only serve to encourage evil deeds. The practice of the Fourth Precept, therefore, helps to preserve one's credibility, trustworthiness, and honor. Consequences of Telling Lies The fourth precepts let us be mindful of our speech. Evil action committed through our speech is lying or uttering false words; carrying tales; scolding and cursing others in anger; engaging in frivolous speech. People who engage in frivolous speech will point a finger, accusing everyone around them. But what they fail to realise is that for every finger they accuse others, three fingers are reverting to themselves, meaning to say, they do not see the faults in themselves, which may be more severe than in those whom they are accusing. Conveying a falsehood, by gestures or words with malicious intent is committing the action of falsehood. The gravity of that offence corresponds to the amount of harm done by such actions. The liar will have to suffer in the miserable planes at death. If he were to be reborn in the human world he will be afflicted with the following defects: • Poor and harsh speech, uneven teeth, foul breath, unhealthy complexion, poor eyesight and poor hearing. • Lacking ability to influence others and restlessness of mind. The Fifth Precept; I train to refrain from intoxicants that cloud the mind and cause heedlessness. On the personal level, abstention from intoxicants helps to maintain balance and a sense of responsibility. Consequences of Indulging in Intoxicants Intoxicants and drugs are addictive. Consuming any of these in the long term leads to drunkenness, forgetfulness and lack of common sense. These in turn lead to killing, lying and adultery, and all manner of unwholesome deeds. Moreover, the user of such poisonous items will suffer from poor health, die young and be reborn in the woeful abodes. If by chance he finds rebirth as a human being, the following evil consequences will be his dues: Being lazy, lack of intelligence and mindfulness. Being ungrateful, lacking moral shame and moral dread. Insane and tendency to commit evil deeds.
EVIL ACTIONS BY MIND Bhante Suvanno: Other evil actions are committed by our mind. First on the list is greed. The second evil action committed by our mind is losing our temper. When a person loses his temper, he is very capable of committing evil actions such as robbing or even murdering someone. These actions will definitely send them directly to hell. Why does a person commit murder? Again, it’s all due to greed. And the third evil action committed by our mind is ignorance. What is ignorance? A lot of people today are filled with ignorance. A good example is a funeral where due to ignorance and misunderstanding, expensive rites and rituals are carried out. It is believed that paper houses, video players, TV and video tapes must be burned so that the deceased can benefit from them when they are in hell. Why would they think that their parents, family members or friends are already in hell? All these are wrong views due to ignorance of the Dhamma. Those who have actually spent huge amount of money on such rites and rituals are actually very foolish. That is why today we have to evaluate and practise the Dhamma to realise the truth of existence. Only with this realisation can we walk the correct path. And we should also teach these truths to our next generation so that they too will be able to distinguish right from wrong. By doing evil deeds we are assured of a place in unfortunate existences. The refrain "I train to refrain from ..." which precedes every precept clearly shows that these are not commandments. They are in fact training rules that the laity willingly undertake out of clear understanding and conviction that they are good for both themselves and for society and that they are gradual training rules to finally rid the mind of defilement. Bhante Suvanno: Let us see what the results are when we do not let these moral precepts shape our lives.
PART 2: THE PLANES OF REBIRTH
INTRODUCTION Bhante Suvanno: The Buddha taught that there are the 31 distinct “planes” into which beings are reborn. No beings have a choice as to which plane he will find rebirth. Beings find rebirth conditioned by the results of thoughts, speech and deeds they have voluntarily performed in their existences at present and in many past lives. As such they have been through extraordinarily dark, grim and painful hell planes, to the most sublime, refined and exquisitely blissful heavens repeatedly. Existence in every one of those planes without exception is impermanent; there is no eternal heaven or hell; beings are born into a particular plane according to both their past kamma and their kamma at the moment of death. When the kammic forces that brings them to that plane is finally exhausted, they pass away, taking rebirth once again elsewhere according to their kamma. And so the cycle of suffering continues on and on, like a play without an end in sight. In these 31 planes, the plane of the greatest suffering is hell, niraya, and in ascending order, the animal plane, the plane of the peta or hungry ghosts and the plane of the asuras; these are the planes of suffering where there is no opportunity to gain merits. Unfortunately, these planes are the most populated, bursting at their seams with beings reaping the fruits of their past evil deeds. These four woeful planes, the most fearsome of which is hell, there being one hundred and thirty-six forms of hell, is also described as compartmented into two hundred and sixty-four sub-hells. In hell, the suffering is intense and there is no let up of suffering for even a single moment.
Bhante Suvanno: Ascending to higher pure states, there are the Seven Planes of beings of Sensual Desires, where the human plane is found; and six planes of Devas and Brahmas of differing purity. Going beyond these Seven Sensual Planes, are another sixteen planes of Devas and Brahmas of superior attainments and deeper meditative progress, and finally there are the four abodes of Brahmas without material bodies, where the life span is so lengthy that it appears to be timeless. The Buddha further spoke of many thousand world systems. Through very powerful telescopes, science has been able to discover the existence of more than 100,000 million stars in our Galaxy, many of which are very much like the Sun. They are also able to observe millions of other galaxies. Two thousand six hundred years ago, the Buddha and his enlightened disciples had personally seen and had knowledge of, what today science has just begun to discover; that there are other universes with their own world systems, each with its life forms as are found in our already vast universe. The Buddha further said that planes of rebirth and existence exist not only in this universe but is found among the other world systems or universes. Every system or world has its 31 Planes where beings are reborn. Each system is very much conditioned by its own energy and conditions; but beings passing away from its exisiting system may find rebirth at another system; time and distance being no barrrier to the workings of kamma. Such is the intricacies of kammic energy. DESCRIPTION OF THE 31 PLANES Bhante Suvanno: The areas most populated and frequented (planes 1-11) are the Sensuous Planes; here sense experience predominates. Next come the Planes of Material Form (planes 12-27). Beyond that are the four Planes without Form (planes 28-31). These 20 Planes (12-31) are attained through practising concentration meditation to certain degree of deep concentration. The Buddha Himself mentioned that many wise deities long for rebirth on the human plane. This is due to the fact that the most
opportune place to practise the Dhamma and attain freedom from suffering is on the human plane. In the four suffering planes (1-4), developing spiritual progress is rare as suffering is gross and unrelenting and the opportunity by beings here to perform deeds of merit is rarely available. On the other end of the scale, the very bliss of the happy planes of devas and brahmas (6-11), beclouds the universal characteristics of all phenomena: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and the non existence of any lasting, controlling self. And without fully comprehending these intrinsic Dhamma, there is no motivation to develop the detachment from continuing existence that is essential to freedom from suffering. The suffering beings and humans (planes 1-5) do not have fixed lifespans, but beings beyond these planes do. From the Sixth Plane to the Thirtyfirst, each successive group of deities lives longer than the group before it. The lifespans of devas and brahmas are measured in multiple centuries. The brahmas of the Planes without Forms live for 84,000 aeons. All beings; human, devas and brahmas are subject to mortality and rebirth. All except arahants are reborn in one or another of the Thirty-one Planes. No being lives forever. Arahants have eradicated all mental defilement and have thereby eliminated the causes for rebirth with its attendant suffering. They are not reborn. Instead, they attain Parinibbana, the complete, permanent cessation of every form of existence. For all non-arahants, death is immediately followed by rebirth. The plane of birth is conditioned by the kamma that arises at the moment of death. This could be any volition created in the present life or in any previous existence. Rebirth is neither by choice nor dictated by a god, gods, groups or individuals. It takes place solely due to kamma; the thoughts, speech and deeds we have voluntarily performed in previous existences. The devas of the sensuous planes are said to enjoy sense pleasures in far greater abundance than can be found in the human world. Their bodies emit beautiful pleasant coloured auras and they have subtle sense organs, similar to ours but far more refined and sensitive. On the deva planes there are stream-enterers and once-returners. For example, Sakka, King of the Gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-three, became a stream-enterer while discussing Dhamma with the Buddha. However, only few among the devas have any understanding of the Dhamma. In fact, all that is needed to
be reborn in these heavens is the meritorious kamma of generosity and morality. Mental development through meditation is not a prerequisite for rebirth on the higher sensuous planes. The brahmas with forms have extremely subtle bodies of light; their powers are great but not unlimited. A being is reborn among these brahmas by cultivating the appropriate concentration meditation, perfecting it, and retaining it at the moment of death. The beings in the brahma planes spend most of their time enjoying their respective meditative attainments and bliss. Brahmas experience no ill will or hatred, but only because they have suppressed these defilement during their meditative concentration, not because they have uprooted them through insight knowledge and wisdom developed through insight meditation. Thus when a brahma is eventually reborn as a deva or human being, he can again be beset by greed, anger and delusion. The brahmas also are prone to conceit and the wrong view that there is a permanent self, as well as to attachment to the bliss of meditative concentration. Brahmas in the Planes of Form can interact with humans if they so choose, but to appear to humans they must deliberately assume grosser forms. The Brahmas of the Planes of Formlessness (27-31), the four highest planes have no material bodies whatsoever. They are entirely mind made. They attained this kind of birth by achieving and maintaining the immaterial concentration. They spend countless aeons in the perfect equanimity of concentration meditation until their lifespan ends. Then they are either reborn in the same plane, a higher formless plane, or as devas. Bhante Suvanno continues: The Buddha had said in many suttas that it is through understanding and practising the Noble Eightfold Path that beings are able to eradicate suffering and realise Nibbana. In fact, Brahmas in the Planes of Formlessness are in the unfortunate position of being unable to practise the Path. That is why the sage Asita, requested by the Buddha's father to examine the newborn Bodhisatta, wept after predicting that Prince Siddhattha would become a Buddha. The sage knew that he was going to die before the prince attained Buddhahood. Not knowing better, he had cultivated these immaterial absorptions and because of his ignorance, he would be reborn into the Formless Planes and would thereby lose all contact with the human plane. This meant he would not be able to escape samsara under Gotama Buddha. He was sorely distressed to realise that he would miss this rare opportunity to gain deliverance and
would have to remain in the round of rebirth until another Buddha appears in the remote future. With his acquired ability to see into the future, he realised the precious opportunity a Buddha offers, but he could neither postpone his death nor avoid rebirth into the Planes without Form. The Buddha saw the reality of the Noble Path, 2600 years ago when he was totally purged of defilement and became self enlightened. Thus enlightened, he was able to acquire powers with which he could see whatever thing that he so wished to see; time and distance being not a barrier to such powers. Thus far, no other religious teacher has been known to propound and teach this re-discovered natural law. The Buddha further exhorted that to strive for the attainment of enlightenment should be the ultimate goal of all. THE THREE DIVISIONS OF THE 31 PLANES These 31 planes are divided into three divisions: First Division: The Sensuous Planes/Planes of Sensual Pleasures: [A] 4 Planes of Misery Hell (Lowest Level) Animals (2nd Level) Hungry Ghosts (3rd Level) Demons (Asuras) (4th Level) [B] 7 Planes of Sensual Desires 1 Human Plane (5th Level) 6 Devas Planes (6th to 11th Level) Second Division: The Fine Material Planes (12th to 27th Level): Consists of 16 Planes whose inhabitants (devas) experience extremely refined degrees of mental pleasure. They are said to possess extremely refined bodies of pure light. The purest of these planes, the Pure Abodes (23rd to 27th Level), are accessible only to those who have attained to ‘nonreturning’, the third stage of arahant-hood. Third Division: The Non-Material Planes (28th to 31st Level): Consists of 4 Planes that are the abodes of those who pass away while meditating in the formless meditation. Beings of these 4 planes are without form.
FIRST DIVISION: THE SENSUOUS PLANES [A] 4 PLANES OF MISERY: (a) Hell Plane (b) Animal Plane (c) Hungry Ghost Plane (d) Demon Plane
(a) HELL PLANE Bhante Suvanno: People do not like to hear or know of hell; they fight shy even to consider that hell may just be real. They try to laugh it off as an old wifes’ tale or a story designed to frighten naughty children. This may be due to superstitious fears of the unknown or a dislike to be associated with something they do not understand. Whatever they wish to think, they cannot escape the fact that hell and all its accompanying suffering does exists and it would be better to know about it, prepare not to be in it, than to be the proverbial ostrich, hiding its head in the sand hoping that by not seeing the unpleasant sights; it will be safe. Here’s some news for them, though; they will still be subjected to the conditions imposed by the natural laws and that these laws will bring them to where they have conditioned themselves to be in; willingly or unwillingly. Hell in all its many facets does exist; however, the good news is heaven or heavens with all its equisite joys, too exist and better still; at the end of the long dark tunnel there is light… Nibbana, freedom from all suffering. Hell, a state of unimaginable suffering and anguish (described in graphic detail by the Buddha Himself in Majjhima Nikaya 129 and 130) is not in any way the equivalent of the eternal hell universally propounded by other religions, since one's time here is, as it is in every plane, temporary.
There are many concepts of hell; some has it as the abode of evil spirits, a place of eternal punishment, of extreme torment, a place where departed spirits abide and are on the lookout to snare unwary beings. In the process of Enlightenment during the second watch of that night, the Buddha was able to see the realities of hell and able to describe the conditions in hell as we shall see: Scriptural Texts: Exercising the power of divine eye, He observed human and other living beings on the verge of death and at the moment of conception into their future existences. He saw the base and the noble, the beautiful and the ugly, the happy and the miserable. He saw the base ones who committed evil by deeds, words and thoughts; by reviling Noble people, by holding wrong views; being reborn in miserable states. He saw the good individuals, by good deeds, words and thoughts; not reviling the Noble people and by holding right views, reborn in the happy realms of Devas and Brahmas. Bhante Suvanno: Hell or Niraya is a place of unimaginable torment. Totally devoid of happiness, only suffering is to be found here. In this life, if one does very harmful things, like killing, patricide or matricide, one will condition the mind to be negative and unwholesome. When passing away in this state of mind, one will surely find rebirth in this plane of great torment, joining other negative-minded beings to partake the fruits of their deeds for a very long time. One must realise that being in hell is neither being punished by anyone, nor is it a reward to be reborn in the heavenly planes; these states are resultants conditional upon natural process of cause and effect. Just as similar grains of sand gather to form a beach and birds of a feather flock together, so do evil beings naturally attract and end up with other evil beings. This same natural "law" applies in all planes. Living beings are habit forming. Once a habit, either good or unwholesome, is ingrained onto the mind, it will be the tendency of the mind to align itself to like-minds especially so while at the moment of death. For at this moment of finality the mind is seeking comfort and assurance and the only thing that it finds comfort with and can relate to is like minds. Then it will cling to like minds. Thus it is extremely difficult for the mind to change its direction at the moment of death.
A drug addict will seek his own level of acquaintances to share their common desires; drugs. They understand and relate to each other. They have situations in common. These are unwholesome habits. Those in the habit of doing wholesome deeds and practise mindfulness meditation will by habit seek those of the same mind. They will be conditioned to find rebirth amidst the same conditions. A great renunciate wrote: “Dispersion of life” after death is worse than death itself, for the four planes of misery down to the great Avici Hell stand wide open to a worldling who is ignorant of the Dhamma. As soon as a being’s kammic life term expires, he or she may fall into any of the planes of misery; there being no intervening period of time. He may be reborn as an animal, as a peta, a wretched shade or as an asura in the next instant. The same holds true for beings in the six planes of devas when they pass away. However, for those beings from the material and immaterial planes who pass away, there is no direct fall into the four planes of misery; there is a halt of one existence either in the abode of men or in one of the six planes of the devas, wherein, when they again pass away, conditioned by kamma and unskillful actions while in the human abode, the being may yet fall into one of the four planes of misery. There is thus no certainty in life that a being will be reborn into this or that plane as desired. SUFFERING IN HELL The Buddha: Were it rightly speaking to be said of anything: ‘That disagreeable’ which is utterly unwished for, utterly undesired, utterly disagreeable’, is it is of hell that, rightly speaking, this should be said, so much so that it is hard to find a simile for the untold suffering in hell. for Bhante Suvanno: The suffering is so intense the Buddha said, that it is not possible to describe fully the sufferings of those beings there. Even their bones, nerves, flesh, heart, lungs, brains etc, are red hot, with tongues of fire springing up from their skins resembling a red hot blazing torch. Thus they remain for thousands or even millions, trillions and descillions of years. Deaths and births of beings arise repeatedly in any of the 31 Planes. The cumulative results of their actions in the many previous life times condition their deaths and rebirths. These resultant of actions that were done in times past, remaining inactive until conditions cause their ripening to bear appropriate fruits.
Hell fire is white hot, immensely hot; very much hotter than any fire we can imagine. A rock as big as a pagoda crumbles instantly in hell fire; thus beings burning in hell are undergoing great pain, yet, said the Buddha: evil They shall not die so long as their evil exhausted. kamma are not yet exhausted Bhante Suvanno continues: Let us take a moment to contemplate the realities of samsara. We see a being reborn into this world; due to some unwholesome deeds that he has performed previous to this existence, he is reborn into a poor, underprivileged family and environment. He struggles for survival. In the process of growing up he undergoes privations, pain, sicknesses, poverty and abuse. He may suffer some terrible disease or have deformities that make him odious to others. Because of his limited intelligence he has to steal, kill or do other unwholesome deeds to stay alive. Finally he passes away and immediately is reborn (this time because of good kamma ripening appropriate to this period) to favourable conditions and he finds himself in a very prosperous situation; he is rich and famous and is able to indulge in all sorts of excesses. After a prosperous life in terms of worldly human values, he passes away. Not having done any meritorious deeds, he may be reborn as an animal; a dog, a horse or even an ant. These changes and processes are repeated indefinitely for aeons and aeons until we lose track of the beginning and we can see no ending to all these rebirths. We see these changes as in a picture show. We have sat there seeing his lives unfold before us and we know what that being has gone through and for how lengthy a time that process has been going on. That particular being had been undergoing that process for ever so long and sadly, he does not see it. He does not see the senselessness of it, but as viewers, we see his sufferings, his ignorance of what is happening to him, we see his tragedies and his victories, his losses and his winnings, his loss of his loved ones, the crimes he has committed, the punishment he has borne for uncountable number of times, the diseases he has suffered for ever so many times. We see his ups and downs; we see the forceful rivers of greed, anger and delusion conditioning all his thoughts, speech and
deeds throughout the show; all these, we see repeated again and again, till we as spectators just cannot bear the monotonous repetitiveness of the process. Youth ends in old age, health in sickness, pain and suffering, life eventuating in death. But to understand the situation in its full depth and gravity, we must multiply these processes by infinity. Numerous times without beginning we have been going to and from the endless rounds of existence, encountering the same experiences again and again in repetitious frequency; birth, ageing, sickness and death, separation and loss and failure and frustration. Repeatedly we have made the plunge into the planes of misery; times beyond counting we have been animals, ghosts and denizens of hell. Over and over we have experienced suffering, violence, grief and despair. The Buddha declares that the amount of tears and blood we have shed in the course of our samsaric wandering is greater than the waters in all the oceans of this world; the bones a single individual have left behind could form a heap higher than the Himalayan Mountains. We have encountered this suffering countless times in the past, and as long as the causes of our becoming and passing away in samsara are not cut off, we risk meeting more of the same in the course of our future wanderings. From the script we know the way out and we are frustrated that he is so forgetful that he does not remember the script, and thus cannot find the way out. He keeps on doing the same thing again and again, exactly like a guinea pig in a laboratory being experimented on. We, who are sitting there watching, are seeking ways to tell that being the way out, but he is too involved in his way of life to lift up his head to look at us or to listen to the solution. Sometimes he is too busy enjoying all the sensuous things that are happening to him to want to get away from the process. Mostly he has been to the deepest pains of hell countless times; and yet he is as blind as a new born mouse each time he finds rebirth in the human plane. That in essence is the way of life of the general populace. They do not see the senselessness of their actions, they are blinded by the cravings that has developed in them through so many life times. Samsara is really tiresome
and yet we are “dying” to return to these suffering planes. We are born into a life that in our ignorance, we think as brand new; because we have forgotten that we have lived before. We go through life blind folded. Those who have “little dust” in their eyes must wonder; which is worse; wanderings in samsara or being in the hellish regions? We must realise that in reality, we are the actors of the picture show we have just seen, and that there is no single supreme being that directs the show, rewards the good or punishes the evil doers; it is the ripening of the results of deeds and the coming together of condition that results in rebirth in samsara; the result of cause and effect. This is the cross each and every being must carry with them without fail. This is the only inheritance each and every being can and will have to bring along with them to their new existence; nothing more, nothing less. Scriptural Texts: All beings are owners of their deeds, the heirs of their deeds, their deeds are the womb from which they sprang, with their deeds they are bound up, their deeds are their refuge. Whatever deeds they do; good or evil, of that they will be the heirs.
AN. Book of Tens, 205
WHERE ARE THE HELL REGIONS? Bhante Suvanno: Hell or Niraya is totally void of happiness. It is a region assigned to those the fruits of whose evil deeds have ripened and conditioned them to be reborn in these planes of suffering. Not only did they perform evil deeds; they have not performed any form of meritorious deeds during that period of their bad kamma, thus they are conditioned to be reborn into the woeful planes. However, as in all conditioned things, this state, or any state of their existence is impermanent. At the end of their present lives, beings here will be conditioned for rebirth to suffering or happy planes in this endless samsara, depending on the conditions at passing away. The Buddha tells us there are altogether eight great hells, which are divided into other sub hells as in the following:
Maha Naraka (Greater Hell) Scriptural Texts: There are eight pits each with 16 lesser hells. Encircled by walls, roofs, floors of iron sheets blazing with white hot fire; the atmosphere within these hellish pits are formidable, hair-raising, fearful,
terrible and so oppressive as beyond imagination. The Buddha said that none can begin to picture the fearsomeness of hell. 1. Sanjiva Naraka: Those who kill and caused beings to be killed out of greed, anger, delusion and fear. Here, they will suffer for thousands of years, being tormented again and again, without losing life or consciousness, as long as their bad kamma is not ended. They are hung upside down and trimmed and cut with axes and knives. Their flesh grows up again to undergo repeated tortures. They possess nails like claws of iron and with these they lash out at one another in their pain and anger. Often their bodies collapse with very cold, icy winds while their limbs are ablaze with hell fire. This is in retribution for the harm they have done to others; harm in robbing, plundering and murdering innocent beings; destroying farms, fields and houses as hostile warring kings, thieves, robbers and soldiers. Their wrong doings involved in cutting up beings and creatures and having them as food and encouraging others to do so. 2. Kalasutta Naraka: Hell warders after lashing suffering beings with black wire, cut them into pieces; even so they do not die and their flesh grows up again. The warders drive them from place to place, cutting them with black wire, hoe, knives, saws, etc. Heated iron sheets are wrapped round their bodies; and after a while and repeatedly, with skin and flesh stuck on, these iron sheets are removed, tearing up skin, flesh and oozing blood. Mercilessly, as they have done to their victims, warders rend them from heel to neck. They suffer horrendous agony. In their unimaginable pain, they dash against one another; seeking relief; screaming and crying with the greatest of agony. Relief do not come and still they do not die; for as long as their bad kamma is not worn off, they will remain in that state to suffer the results of their actions; again and yet again as long as the results of their unwholesome actions remain. What kamma has brought them to this state of affairs? Torturing people, chaining and dragging slaves along, forcing their victims to labour until they drop dead, executing all forms of torment, like cutting off others’ noses, finger; poking them with hot spikes, burning cigarettes butts on their bodies, putting heavy chains on slaves; ill treating slaves, even step children. They cause harm to friends and parents. They lie and use back-biting words. They kill human beings, use bhikkhus robes falsely for the sake of carrying out their criminal acts.
3. Sanghata Naraka: Inmates here have caused agonies to animals by herding and crowding them together. They had tortured animals such as pigs, goats, hares, deer, jackals even insects with overcrowding, with hunger, with poor breathing space, with unliveable conditions and eventually killed them for resale. In hell, they are thus herded together and beaten to death, but they do not die as long as the evil kamma in them has not been worked out. The place is smoky and dark. Two mountains of hot blazing iron move in to crush them like mills crushing sugar cane. Blood flows like a river, but they do not die. Maddened by pain, they dash about and claw at each other. Merciless hell guards beat them up with iron-tipped pestles, but still they do not die; they only know intense pain and suffering. 4. Roruva Naraka: Here beings scream and cry in great pain as fire passes into their nine orifices (eyes, ears, noses, mouths, urinary passages and anuses). When the fire is intense; loud will be their cries and screams; when the fire is reduced, their crying and screaming will be reduced, when the fire ceases their crying and screaming too, will cease. At its lowest, the fire is again intensified; thus the whole torturing process is repeated again and again. The crying and screaming will rise from a low pitch to the highest crescendo, as their agonies ebb and wane so will the cries of their sufferings ebb and wane. Still they will not die and their suffering will continue as long as they have not worked out their bad kamma. What kamma has brought them to such a hell? This is due to their cheating, swindling poor wretched and helpless people, torturing enslaved beings who have no protection or refuge, starting forest fires, setting fire or pungent smoke at entrance of animal dens, rats, snakes, poisoning of monkeys, burning of villages and bhikkhus huts, causing mental and physical pain to others and all manner of atrocities that cause pain and suffering to others. 5. Great Roruva Naraka: Horrible, shore-less, abysmal and impassable. Warders with scourges strike them mercilessly on their heads. The place is one great mass of burning iron. Beings cry very loudly, so loud that they are heard by human beings. What kamma had brought them here? Those who imprison creatures in places without sunlight, moonlight, unhealthy conditions, with no food or improper food, steal from bhikkhus, temples, teachers and hermits. They will be crying loudly: “mother, father”. But no one is there to help them. They alone committed the unwholesome acts, they themselves will have to reap the fruits of their deeds.
6. Tapana Naraka (burning, heat): Flames of fire on four sides, above and below. Warders beat them with iron rods. Hellish vultures devour them; grounded by iron grinders, cold winds blow and their flesh grows again, only to be pushed in again. Warders toast them on iron spits till they look like badly burnt satay. 7. Maha Tapana is a fearful mountain. It is a solid mass of fire and beings are constantly roasted and burnt here. What kamma brings beings here? They are here because they have caused other beings and animals to be hopelessly tied up and cruelly killed; they have caused others to be killed and they have put fear into them before killing them; they have harboured wrong views and beliefs that involve killing virtuous people. 8. Avici Naraka: Here, beings are packed to the full, like mustard seeds in a bamboo tube. It is very crowded here. Beings with remnants of unwholesome kamma are made to lie down on their backs and iron spears are pierced through their hands, legs and chest. They are struck with axes repeatedly and they bleed profusely, and they look as though they are being fried in their own blood. The floor and the four sides are red hot iron sheets. The suffering here are continuous, without a break. Beings become so hot that their bodies are like torches of flames. As they are pinned down by iron spikes, there is “no escape” whatsoever. The gates open at times for those who have ended their stay here; and those beings who still have to endure their suffering, rush to it, hoping to escape, only to see the gates close before they can get near it. They cry in great agony. What kamma brings these beings here? Those who commit the four deadly evils of injuring a Buddha, killing an arahant, causing a division in the monastic order, killing mother or father, and those with very evil wrong views are reborn here. There are further 12 divisions in this Avici Naraka, namely: 1. Pahasa Niraya 7. Atata Niraya 2. Aparajita Niraya 8. Kumuda Niraya 3. Ambuda Niraya 9. Sogandhika Niraya 4. Nirabudda Niraya 10. Uppalaka Niraya 5. Ababa Niraya 11. Pundarika Niraya 6. Ahaha Niraya 12. Maha Paduma Niraya Each of these eight Great Hells has 5 lesser hells:
Gutha Naraka; a hell fermenting with excrement and swarms of worms where those who earn their livelihood by dishonest means are eaten by the worms. Husbands scolding wives for doing dana, vice versa will end up in a hell full of worms and being eaten up by these worms. Kukkula Naraka; a hell where beings are fried like mustard seeds on a burning pan. Simpalivana Naraka; a hell where trees with fruits are seen, and beings on rushing there for shelter are attacked by birds and carnivorous dogs, etc. Here everyone fights with one another. Adulterers and adulteresses embrace figures that are red-hot. Asipattavana Naraka; a hell of forests with great sword leaves. Traitors, thieves are forced to swallow molten copper balls. Butchers are eaten by dogs with large iron-like teeth. Vettarani Naraka; rivers of corrosive acid and filth, hot as molten brass. Women inducing abortion and those who kill aquatic animals and those who fish will find themselves here.
Those who are envious, cherish anger, or become happy at the sight of suffering of others are reborn as birds, etc. Those who are fools are reborn as insects. Those who are haughty and proud are reborn as snakes. Those who neglect friends are reborn as asses and dogs. Those who are envious and miserly are reborn as monkeys. Those who are garrulous, fickle and shameless are reborn as crows. Those who give trouble to elephants, horses and such animals are reborn as parrots and scorpions. Those who are miserable, irritable and fond of backbiting are reborn as tigers, cats, boars, etc. Those who are charitable but angry and haughty are reborn as garudas and nagas with great psychic powers.
• • • • • • • • •
Each minor hell has a population of not less than all of the 27 happy, sensuous planes put together! Beings in hell far out-number all those
in the other 30 planes of existence; they are packed tight as mustard seeds in a jar.
Such are the places of torment that beings whose conduct had been bad in thoughts, words or deeds will find rebirth at death. Those who have been guilty of atrocious crimes, such as that of Devadatta, who tried to kill
the Buddha but the rock that he threw at the Buddha, grazed His foot and drew blood instead, will be destined for Avici hell. Once the King of Kurus mentioned that people left their homes, shaved their heads and put on the yellow robe because of; old age, sickness, loss of relatives and loss of wealth. These are not the best reasons! But there are worse: laziness and desire for an easy life, to get one's belly filled, for instance. There were such bhikkhus in the Buddha's days and now they can certainly be found everywhere. Thus they become bhikkhus with the wrong views and intentions. Most times too, ignorant devotees corrupt bhikkhus and in their ignorance encourage untrained bhikkhus to adopt wrong attitudes. Such actions by untrained bhikkhus and ignorant devotees are unwholesome and they are destined for the unhappy planes at death. Because of the vows that bind the bhikkhus to a strictly holy life of abstinence, the results of their actions reap much, much heavier fruits than those of the ignorant devotees. The Buddha said that untrained monks who perform such actions are better off eating red hot iron balls rather that they continue eating alms of the people, for at death the suffering will be of an untold severity.
HELL’S DURATION Bhante Suvanno: This question was asked by a certain monk during a discourse given by the Buddha, and the Buddha gave a reply that will be demonstrative of the time frame of “how long” suffering is when a being is unfortunate to be reborn into the apaya regions. Bhikkhu: Pray, Lord, how long is the measure of life in Maha Paduma Niraya? The Buddha: Long indeed, bhikkhu, is the measure of life in Paduma bhikkhu, Niraya. Niraya. It were no easy thing to reckon it thus, so many years or so many many centuries or so many thousands of years or so many hundreds of thousands of years. Bhikkhu: But Lord, can a figure be made? The Buddha: It can bhikkhu, suppose a cartload of twenty measures bhikkhu, one of sesamum seeds, and suppose that at the end of every century one took out a single seed. Sooner would that cartload of twenty
measures of sesamum seed be used up and finished by this method Niraya. than the period of the Ambuda Niraya. The Buddha continues: Just as are twenty such, such is one Niraya. these Nirabudda Niraya. Twenty of these make one Ababa…twenty of Niraya; of these one Ahaha…twenty of these one Atata Niraya; of these Niraya; of twenty make one Kumuda Niraya; of these twenty make one Niraya; of Niraya; Sogandhika Niraya; of these twenty make one Uppalaka Niraya; twenty twenty of these make one Pundarika Niraya and twenty of these Niraya. make one Paduma Niraya. (An. Bk. of Tens Ch.9 ) Bhante Suvanno: Compare this time frame of constant suffering in hell against the life span of between seventy to a hundred years of sensual pleasures in our human existence and you can imagine the amount of suffering in the regions of hell! Furthermore, the Buddha said that what he had explained was what he knew for himself. The seeds of results of good or bad are for us to plant and reap for ourselves. We cannot plant grass seeds and expect to reap rice. We cannot remain inactive and expect to gain perfect freedom. This discourse can serve as a very timely warning to us all. The scene that the Buddha describes in which a person reborn in hell is taken to the king of death, Yama, might appear to be judgement being meted out. Yama’s role is one of a counsellor advising incoming beings that the cause of their rebirth in hell was due to their own past deeds and that they were reaping their dues caused by their negligence to heed the signs of the divine messengers. The old, the sick, the suffering and the dying; these are messengers giving a fair warning of the pitfalls ahead, if we but are mindful and be aware of them. They are, in fact, part and parcel of the conditioned world we live in. We ignore them at our own peril! Or, if we try to reason them away, denying the law of cause and effect, we will still be subjected to the workings of this law. As the Buddha said, denying that we will reap the results of our volitional actions; both good and bad; is the most dangerous of all wrong beliefs because this will lead to irresponsible behaviour and to the lowest region in hell.
Bhante Suvanno continues: Another important point to remember is that hell is not a place where beings suffer for eternity. These descriptions of the various hells should not add to our fears and anxieties but should rather serve to spur us on to strive to escape from continual birth, old age, sickness, suffering and death. Like the Bodhisatta, who gave up worldly pleasures on seeing an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a holy man; we can feel a sense of urgency as we observe the realities of life around us and reflect on the results of evil deeds. What we have to do is very simple; we must do good deeds - good deeds through bodily actions, good deeds through what we say; good deeds through what we think. This is very simple, but anyone who has made an effort to do good knows how difficult it is. This is why we need as much help as we can. Our best help, of course, is found in the Buddha’s Teachings, especially the Noble Eightfold Path. We can strive to develop generosity in all our actions; observe the moral precepts at all times; develop control over our minds through learning how to be mindful; deepen our direct understanding of the reality of the conditioned world through meditation and developing insight. And we can be mindful of the many things that help us to accomplish these tasks, such as associating with good friends who have the same goals and who encourage us, studying the Buddha’s Teachings so that our theoretical understanding can enable us to advance in what we know through personal experiences. Thus: “Good people here in this life are warned; do not dwell in ignorance, but practising well the noble Dhamma. Clinging they look upon with fear, for it produces birth and death. And by not clinging they are freed. In the destruction of birth and death, they dwell in bliss for they are safe. And reach Nibbana here and now. They are beyond all fear and hate; they have escaped all suffering”
(MN-Devaduta Sutta 130)
It is no wonder that people choose not to know about hell! Ignorance is bliss and they can go on doing the evil deeds that they are doing without fear. Their cravings are stronger than their fears. Most people think: “Sensuous pleasures are more fun and gratification is immediate, hell is in the indistinct future and may not be true, so why
worry; after all the distant future may never come, anyway I shall have time when I retire to do good, thus I have the best of both worlds, enjoy now and do good later. That should do and I shall still be able to make up for lost time and in the meantime I have enjoyed to my fullest the best of both worlds”! These four lower planes are unhappy or suffering (dukkha) planes. There is no opportunity to be good or to do good here. In the four woeful planes of existence, beings too have the five senses: they see, hear, smell, taste and touch. However, their faculties can only be conscious of sufferings! Their existence in the lower planes has suffering as the sole objective, there is no occasion for happiness, sense of pleasure, recreation or performance of any deeds that causes happiness. Beings here are also unable to choose to do good, hence they do not have any opportunities to accumulate merits. Their consciousness is only for sufferings. They cannot choose to do one iota of good! They can only suffer, so much suffering that the Buddha said: “…it is hard to find a simile for the suffering in hell”. THE BUDDHA DESCRIBES HELL Bhante Suvanno: The Buddha further elaborated on just a fraction of the fruits of evil deeds: The Buddha: Now the wardens of hell torture him with the fivefold redtransfixing. They drive a red-hot iron stake through one hand, they redreddrive a red-hot iron stake through the other hand, they drive a redredhot iron stake through one foot, they drive a red-hot iron stake redthrough the other foot, they drive a red-hot iron stake through his belly. Next the wardens of hell throw him down and pare him with axes. axes. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings. Yet he does not die so long as that evil action has not exhausted its result. Next the wardens of hell set him with his feet up and his racking, head down and pare him with adzes. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings.
Next the wardens of hell harness him to a chariot and drive him back and forth across burning ground, blazing and glowing. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings. Next the wardens of hell make him climb up and down a great mound of burning coals, blazing and glowing. There he also feels painful, racking and piercing feelings. Next the wardens of hell take him feet up first and head reddown and plunge him into a red-hot metal cauldron, burning, blazing cooked and glowing. He is cooked there in a swirl of froth. And as he is being cooked there in a swirl of froth, he is swept now up, now down, now across. Next the wardens of hell throw him into the Great Hell. bhikkhus: Now as to that Great Hell, bhikkhus: It has four corners and is built walled with four doors, one set in each side, walled up with iron and all around, and around, and shut in with an iron roof. Its floor as well is made of iron and heated till it glows with fire. The range is a full hundred leagues allwhich it covers all-pervasively. Thus, these residents of hell feel painful, racking, piercing feelings. Yet they do not die so long as their evil actions have not exhausted the result. Bhante Suvanno: Yes, hell is very real indeed. It can be likened to a huge furnace, flames shooting out from all sides including top and bottom. Doors lead to and from this furnace like chambers. There are altogether eight chambers. The flames are constantly burning and there is no switch to shut off the flame and the great horrendous heat. Their bones, nerves, flesh, heart, lungs, brains and skin are burning hot, so hot that flames shoot out from them. In hell, they will remain for hundreds of thousands of years, even millions of years or trillions, descillions of years*. There they will remain experiencing sufferings. There are many beings in hell, just like mustard
seeds packed into a bamboo tube. (trillion = 1 followed by 18 zeros; descillion = 1
followed by 60 zeros).
The Buddha: Bhikkhus, I could tell you in many ways about hell; so Bhikkhus, tell so simile much so that it is hard to find a simile for the suffering in hell.
(MK.129.7; for more description of the results of wrong deeds see Visudhimagga I.156)
Bhante Suvanno: Suffering in hell is indeed great. Being forewarned by no less a person than the Buddha himself, who, with his enlightened powers, saw actually as it happened; human beings have the good fortune to be able to determine their own course of actions in this present existence to determine in a big way the degree of happiness or suffering in their future existences.
(b): ANIMAL PLANE: Bhante Suvanno: This plane includes all the non-human forms of life that are visible to us under ordinary circumstances: animals, insects, fish, birds, worms, etc. Animals live in unsafe and fearful environment; birds flying in the sky may seem beautiful and carefree, but they are searching for food or material to build their nests with, looking after their young and looking out for danger as a matter of survival. Birds and animals are always afraid that someone or something is going kill them for food, so they live with fear and worry. Animals have no choice but to hunt for food, fight and kill to stay alive. They mark and guard their territory and are hostile to intruders. They do not have many options in life; they are bound and restricted by their environment, intelligence, and instincts. Some animals may appear fortunate, house pets and such, but are they really? On the whole though, animal life is about struggle for survival, about fear and uncertainty. People who do not keep their five precepts well, who are deluded, not differentiating between wholesome and unwholesome deeds, not believing in kamma, desiring sensuous pleasures such as sex, food and craving amusement to the extremes have great potential to be reborn in the animal world. At death and burdened with unwholesome tendencies they are reborn in the animal world. Some are born with eyes, some without, some with legs some without, some with two legs, some with four legs and some with many legs. Some are born on land, some under the earth, some in water, some burrow the ground, wriggle, hop, fly, swim, crawl or walk. Some have good food and homes while others are disliked by all. Some are not able to find food and are liable to be killed or thrown away with eyes still closed. Some have intelligence and some are without. All have delusions of various degrees.
Generally animals have comparatively short life span, though a few species exceed human life span. Whatever it may be, their lives are conditioned by uncertainty and fear, not knowing when their next meal will be and what or who will kill and use them for food! In a way, animals see other animals as their food chain. The animal world is a world of bullies. The larger animals bully the smaller ones, the strong takes advantage of the weak. What are some of the characteristics of animals? Firstly, they do not have sense of shame or morality. Their selfpreservation instincts are such that they procreate with their one-time parents. Animals do not have sense of filial piety, thus they do not have concern for the older animals. Here again, those who do not do much wholesome deeds to gather merits and do not respect their parents, the elderly and those on the holy path, have greater opportunities of being reborn in the animal world. Those who do not observe the no-killing precept have the tendencies of animals and thus seldom practise metta or any form of mental development. They care little for what other beings feel and when they are reborn as animals, they have short life span. As animals, they may be killed for fun, for food or because of undue fear of them. Seldom do animals live a secure life; seldom do they live to a ripe old age. The big and strong will pounce on the small and weak, killing them for food. The larger animals will seek to dominate others of their own breed and fight each other to establish their supremacy. Elephants go alone to the deepest jungle to die on their own when they have lost the leadership of the clan and when they know the time has come. There they die, just as humans do…all alone and by themselves…a lonely death. People who never do any charity, are stingy or try to discourage others who are on their way to do dana can be reborn as animals, suffering extreme hunger and thirst. Undue attachment is another cause of rebirth in the animal world. EXAMPLE OF BEINGS BORN AS ANIMALS Bhante Suvanno continues: Tissa, an elder of Savatthi, was given a length of coarse cloth as a gift and handed it to his sister to be made into a robe. She pounded and spun the cloth into fine yarn and made of it a soft robecloth. At first Tissa would not accept it but was prevailed upon to do so
and had it made into a soft robe by skilled robe makers. He died on the night it was finished and, as a result of his fancy for it, was reborn as a louse in the robe. After his death, the bhikkhus wished to divide the robe but the louse started shouting. The Buddha, hearing this by his power of divine audience, asked the bhikkhus to lay the robe aside for seven days. At the end of that period, the louse died and was reborn in Tusita heaven. (Ref: Dhammapadatthakatha, 5 vol PTS. iii.341 ff) While other ladies were building rest-houses, making gardens and repairing roads for poor travellers, Sujata, one of Sakka’s wives and also another woman, Queen Upari spent their time decorating themselves, thinking that, “so long as I do not do wicked deeds it should be alright”. But the Buddha said, “not doing good is unhealthy, because when the mind is not immersed in good, it will dwell on evil thoughts”. Sujata, immediately at death was reborn as a very beautiful bird living near a mountain stream in the Himalayas. Queen Upari, at death was reborn as a very colourful beetle. The Buddha said that the mind tends toward delight in evil! Those who think bad thoughts, speak bad words, and do bad deeds are people who will in most possibilities be reborn in the animal world. According to their tendencies while they were in the human world they will be reborn accordingly. Such as: People who normally find delight in tastes here and there and do evil actions will at death be reborn in the animal world where they are grass eaters; such as elephants, horses, donkeys, goats, deers and such like animals. Such people too at death will be reborn in the company of dung eaters, such as fowls, pigs, dogs, jackals and such like animals. Smelling dung even from a distance, they will run to it thinking; “we can eat, we can eat”. They live in filth and squalor. These people too may be reborn in dark places on passing away. They will become moths, maggots and earthworms. They may also be reborn in the water and be fishes, turtles, crocodiles and such like watery creatures. They will be reborn and die in the water. They may also be reborn and die as creatures that live in rotting corpses, rotting fishes, in cesspool, sewers and such like places. (Ref: MN. Balapandita Sutta, 129)
It pays to keep the precepts, perform wholesome deeds, take care of parents and the elderly, practise Metta and Vipassana meditation. Thus, even though past unwholesome kamma causes us to be reborn as animals, we will be cushioned by a protective shield of wholesome deeds that will certainly help to reduce unwholesome results of previous kamma at the least or help to overcome their effect totally. ANIMALS HAVE ONLY THREE PERCEPTIONS: Bhante Suvanno: They know only sensual objects; know how to eat; have fear of death and the instinct to procreate.
In the time of the Buddha, a naga after listening to the Dhamma disguised himself as a human being and requested ordination. He was ordained and strived hard at meditation. One day while meditating, he was overcome with tiredness and promptly fell asleep. At rest his body returned to the snake-like form of a naga. This was reported to the Buddha who asked the naga to disrobe. After such an incident the Buddha made a ruling that during ordination, an intending applicant for bhikkhuship, should confirm his human state. No other beings, except human were to be accepted as a candidate for bhikkhuship. In the time of the Buddha, there were many animals capable of performing kusala deeds, such as: THE NAGA MUCALINDA Bhante Suvanno: On Enlightenment, the Buddha contemplated the bliss of Arahantship under the Mucalinda tree. At that time a great rain fell. A very powerful Naga king, Mucalinda, who ruled the Naga abode underneath the lake nearby thought:
Mucalinda: This great rain fell as soon as the Blessed One took shelter in my abode. It will be good if I can provide a proper dwelling place for the Buddha. I will create a great mansion for that purpose; however, it will be of greater benefit if I should render my own personal service to the Buddha. Bhante Suvanno: Thus, with this good intention in mind, he encircled the Buddha seven times providing a shelter with his extended hood so that the cold, heat, gnats, mosquitoes and flies could not harm Him. ELEPHANT AND MONKEY IN THE PARILEYYA FOREST Bhante Suvanno: Once, the Buddha wishing to be alone for some time, set out for the Parileyya Forest. On reaching the forest and after meeting with some of his devoted disciples who were living alone there, the Buddha rested under a huge sala tree. Now a certain full-grown male elephant, the leader of a herd, was living in the forest with females and young ones. Feeling a bit restless, the elephant left the herd and wandered off. After a while it happened to come to the sala tree where the Buddha was alone by himself. The elephant on seeing the Buddha seated at the foot of the sala tree, felt calm like a man who had his grief allayed by the cool waters of a thousand pools. A great feeling of devotion to the Buddha arose in him and he stood gazing at the Buddha. From that moment, he wanted to serve the Buddha and made it his daily duty to sweep the ground where the Buddha sat. Daily he brought water to the Buddha for washing His face, he fetched water for bathing, he offered small twigs as tooth cleaner, he brought sweet, delicious fruits of different sizes and offered them to the Buddha and cared for the Buddha in any way he could. When the Buddha entered the village for alms, the elephant would carry the Buddha’s alms bowl and robe on his head and accompanied him up to the edge of the village. There the Buddha would take the bowl from him and the elephant would await His return, whereupon he would again take
the alms bowl and robes and return to the tree with the Buddha. Whilst the Buddha was meditating, he would stand guard to ensure that the Buddha was not endangered in any way. He would fan and ward off any pests and insects from disturbing the Buddha. In this way, the elephant, protected and served the Buddha during His tenth vassa period in the Parileyya Forest. Later, when the Buddha returned to Savatthi, the elephant died of a broken heart. For the good deed that he had done, the elephant was reborn in Tavatimsa Heaven and lived in a golden palace, where he came to be known as Parileyyaka-devaputta. At this time, a monkey seeing the daily duties of the elephant became inspired and thought to himself; “I too would like to gain some merit by serving the Master”. One day finding some honeycomb devoid of bees, he brought it to offer to the Buddha. The Buddha accepted the honey. The monkey noticed that the Buddha was just holding and not eating the honey. Wondering why, he investigated, and taking the honey-comb he turned it around and saw the bee-eggs still stuck onto the comb. Carefully, he removed the bee-eggs and offered it again to the Buddha. Only then did the Buddha partake of the honey. So elated was the monkey that he danced moving from tree to tree and whilst doing so, a branch on which he was jumping from broke and he fell on a tree stump. The stump pierced his body and with the joy and his mind devoted to the Buddha he died and was straightaway reborn in a golden mansion in the deva abode of Tavatimsa. In the many past lives of the Buddha, as told by Himself in the Jataka Tales He had been reborn as various animals such as a naga, hare, parrot, deer, bull, quail, horse, dog, monkey and various other types of animals.
(c): HUNGRY GHOSTS PLANE Bhante Suvanno: Ghosts or petas and unhappy beings are found wandering about in this plane. They are also referred to as hungry ghosts; they are constantly hungry and can never get enough to eat. They have huge stomachs and tiny, little mouths. Greed, lacking practice in sharing and giving (dana), are some of the conditions to find rebirth here. Beings here are unable to gather merits thus the merits of wholesome deeds we perform should be shared with them as this will help them find better rebirths. Earth bound devas, petas, yakkhas, gandhabbas, nagas, kumbhandas, together with other supernatural beings such as terrestrial devas, tree devas, the guardian spirits of lakes and mountains, demons, troublesome spirits of various nature and animals are our co-residents on the earth plane. Petas are found amongst forests, mountains and hills, water ways and seas, rivers and lakes, tunnels and caves, old and uninhabited dwellings, abandoned and derelict buildings, alongside cross roads, cemeteries, rubbish heaps, under bridges and by-ways. They are found where there are dirt and filth. They alone, suffer from the results of their evil deeds. Their friends, relations and families are not there to help elevate their suffering and pain, because they too are suffering on their very own as he is suffering. Each one reaps the results of his or her own deeds himself or herself! No one is responsible for another’s action! Beings find rebirth as hungry ghosts or petas and animals, due to the degree of anger, greed and delusion in their past lives. In previous existences they had neither shown respect nor treated their parents, relatives, the elderly and others well and had instead done many unwholesome deeds and thus have not been able to accumulate merits to enable good rebirth at the present time. Lacking merits from wholesome deeds, at death they again find rebirth in the peta world, animal world or hell regions for a very long time to come. Already existing in the unhappy
planes due to their unwholesome kamma and unable to gather merits, such unfortunate beings will find rebirth in the human plane extremely rare. Animals enjoy and find happiness in simple things, but the peta and the hell beings are totally devoid of happiness. Their whole existence is suffering according to their deeds. Thus they are far, far away from happiness. Petas and hell beings are different in the respect that hell beings are confined in the different hells. In hell, the beings are as good as being kept in a strongly guarded jail; locked and bonded, unable to have a single moment of freedom from the suffering they are undergoing. The binding strength of their kamma keeps them there; there is no escape for even a brief breathing spell, let alone be left off for a short time to respite and recuperate as is believed by many. Petas roam from place to place, having no abode of any kind. They seek only places where there are no others around. They have such appalling appearances that they do not wish to be seen at all. Petas have large bodies but pin holes as mouths; thus they are always unable to have enough to satisfy their gnawing hunger and are always scavenging for food, which are things like phlegm, spittle, putrid food, thrown away menstruating blood and such like human waste. Some petas being much oppressed with great hunger, have mouths that emit flames just like a furnace emitting flames. Some have very large abdomen but throats about the size of the eye of a needle, thus they cannot take sufficient food and are constantly hungry. They are always roaming in search of food. If they are unable to find food, they will consume other type of substances, such as spilt blood from any creatures including human beings, impure blood and pus from the sick and diseased, even from other petas. Depending on their mental disposition petas have different appearances. Some petas as a result of envy and selfishness during their existence as human beings, have long unkempt beards, distorted faces (due to mental disposition brought on by extreme selfishness and greed when as humans), loose, drooping jaws, lean, coarse and dark coloured parts on their bodies, resembling burnt trees.
Petas are not born as in a human birth but are spontaneously born with memory of their previous lives and the reason why they are reborn in the woeful planes of existence. They also realise why they have the appearance that they possess as petas. Due to their bad behaviour as humans, even as petas, their living relatives will forget their existence and they are often forgotten when merits are shared after a dana or after some meritorious deeds performed by living relatives. This is shown clearly in the story of King Bimbisara below. The sufferings endured by petas can be relieved through the merits transferred to them by dana and wholesome deeds done by friends and relatives. THE STORY OF KING BIMBISARA Bhante Suvanno: At one time, when the Buddha was at Rajagaha and had caused King Bimbisara and his retinue of one hundred and ten thousand Brahmins to be established in stream entry, the first stage of arahanthood, the king invited the Buddha to the Golden Palace on the next day to accept a great dana. Petas who had been relatives of the King in aeons past, came and stood surrounding him with the hope that; ‘Our former relative, King Bimbisara will share his merits with us, he will presently make the announcement of his merit-sharing’. But having performed the great meritorious deed, the King was only thinking, ‘Where would the Blessed One reside’? and failed to share the merits. The petas expressed their indignation by making terrible outcries and groans in the King’s palace at the dead of night. Thoroughly shaken, frightened and alarmed by the uproar, the King went to the Buddha at daybreak and paying respectful homage, asked: King Bimbisara: Lord, I heard such frightful noises last night, what would be their effect on me? The Buddha: Have no fear, Great King, those noises will have no ill fear, King, effects upon you at all. Those are your former relatives, that have peta, been reborn in the plane of peta, are roaming about waiting for you worldthroughout the innumerable world-cycles that intervened between appearance the appearance of one Buddha and another. They had hoped to receive the share of merits of the good deeds done by you. You failed to share your merits with them after your meritorious deeds
yesterday, and deprived of any hope of receiving the share of your they merits, they caused that frightful din. On hearing the Buddha’s reply, the King addressed the Buddha: King Bimbisara: Lord, if I perform a dana again and share my merits gained thereby, will they be able to receive them? The Buddha: Yes, Great King, they will be able to receive them. King, they able King Bimbisara: This being so, may the Blessed One accept the great dana to be performed by me today. I will announce the sharing of merits with my former relatives. The Buddha signified his acceptance by remaining silent. The King went back to the palace and made the necessary arrangements for the offering of a magnificent dana, and when all the arrangements were completed, the time was appropriate to send for the Buddha. The Buddha together with the community of bhikkhus arrived, and sat at the prepared seat. The petas who were the King’s former relatives were also present at the dana, with the hope, “Today, surely we are going to receive the share of merits”, and stood waiting outside the walls. The Buddha, exercising His powers, enabled the King to see the peta relatives. The King then dedicate the merits gained: King Bimbisara: Idam me natinam hotu: May the merits of this dana be for the well-being of my past relatives. At that very moment there appeared ponds with many kinds of lotus for their enjoyment. All his past relatives were able to drink the water in the ponds and took bath in them. Thus freed from miseries, worries, weariness and thirst, they acquired golden complexion. Again, the King offered various hard and soft food to the community of bhikkhus headed by the Buddha, and as before dedicated the merits of the dana to his past relatives. At that very moment, various kinds of celestial food appeared for the petas consumption. Partaking of these divine meals voraciously, the petas assumed fresh, healthy physical appearance complete with all the sense faculties of eye, nose, ear, tongue and body.
Then the King proceeded to offer robes, sleeping and dwelling places to the community of bhikkhus headed by the Buddha, and as the merits were dedicated to the peta relatives, there too appeared divine garments, divine carriages, celestial mansions complete with beds, beddings, bed spreads and various kinds of ornamental clothing for their use. The King was overjoyed. The story of King Bimbisara will not be complete if we do not point out that this was a very special form of dana. This was a dana done specially for the benefit of past relatives of King Bimbisara as advised by the Buddha Himself at the life time of the Buddha. These relatives had been waiting for a period of 92 kappas at the time of the Buddha Phussa for this dana to happen. Thus, this dana bore great fruit for King Bimbisara and also for the petas, as they loudly thanked the King by saying “sadhu, sadhu, sadhu” after the dedication of merits to them. This was a meritorious deed by the petas in itself. Thus they were able to receive direct benefits from the offerings made. From this, it can be assumed that certain type of dana can directly benefit the petas. (Commentary to the Tirokutta Sutta)
(d): THE DEMON PLANE: Asura demons or titans are of gigantic size, powerful and warlike; constantly engaged in relentless conflict with one another. Rahu, an asura chief, is four thousand eight hundred leagues in height. It is said that when he steps into the ocean, the waters in its deepest part reaches only to his knees. Another asura, Kalakancika has a body three gavutas (a little less than two miles) in size, but as he is of scanty flesh and blood, his complexion is like the colour of a weathered leaf. His eyes, lying on his head, protrude like those of a lobster. Since the mouth is the size of the eye of a needle, also lying on the head, he has to bend forward to pick up the food if he finds any at all. There are a few types of asuras. Some are like devas from Tavatimsa Heaven, living at the foot of Mt. Sineru. Some live in the human world as earth bound devas. Some live in forests, mountains, trees, caves and such places. Some are more powerful than others; some are like hungry ghosts; some enjoy at night but suffer in the daytime; some are aggressive and fight each other. The demon plane is so completely dark that no sunlight can penetrate. It is only when a Bodhisatta is conceived (as a human) in his mother’s womb for the last time that a brilliant light would appear, illuminating many a world system including such places described above, where even the most powerful light could not penetrate. The place is not only completely dark but extremely cold. Beings there perch onto the sides of the three cakavalas as bats perch onto the roof of a cave. When they meet they take the others for food and in biting one another, they lose their grip and fall into the cold, corrosive waters below. They dissolve as salt dissolves in water. Those who misuse their power, authority and money to cause distress to others will find rebirth in the asura world.
B. THE 7 PLANES OF SENSUAL DESIRES: One (1) Human Plane and Six (6) other Planes of Devas and Gods. THE HUMAN PLANE (5th Plane): We have spoken about the four woeful planes, we shall now dwell on the human plane and six other planes of heavenly gods (devas). Rebirth as a human being is extraordinarily rare. It is also extraordinarily precious, as its unique mix of pleasure and pain facilitates the development of virtue and wisdom to the degree necessary to set one free from the entire cycle of rebirths. The attainment of stream-entry (sotapatti) is a guarantee that all future rebirths, to a maximum of seven times, will be in the human or higher planes without the danger of falling to a suffering plane. Suffering and joy is the underlying trait of human existence. Human beings live in many varied and sometimes extreme life situations. Some are born into suffering conditions, without proper food or clean water, clothes, money, adequate sanitation, etc. To be alive is a daily struggle. To these unfortunate people, these physical and mental suffering are already hell on earth. A vast majority of human beings live in fortunate circumstances; in good families and are well fed and clothed, with children going to good schools; though neither rich nor poor they do not face much suffering. Some are reborn as princes or princesses and have the best of everything. They do not have much suffering, but have lots of joy. They are as if living heavenly lives in this world. Heavenly beings (devas and brahmas) who have developed wisdom and are discerning, long for rebirth on the human plane; it is only in this human plane that there is pleasant and unpleasant,
happy and unhappy, good and bad, and also everything in between; therefore only human beings can truly experience the nature of existence. In the other four planes of suffering, little progress can be made for any form of spiritual development as suffering is gross and unrelenting; thus, the opportunity to perform deeds of merit is rarely available. On the other hand, the very bliss of the heavenly planes beclouds the universal characteristics of all phenomena; impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and the lack of any lasting, controlling self. And without fully comprehending these characteristics of existence, there is no motivation to develop detachment from sensual desires that is essential to liberation. Those who do not have knowledge of the Dhamma, are seldom able to find rebirth in the happy planes. They habitually seek fulfilment and solace outside of themselves. They seek solely to satisfy their sensuous desires and inclinations, they amass material possessions, gold, silver, land and houses. They live lives of delusion, completely conditioned by greed and nurturing the self. Those who practise Dhamma know that the mind is the forerunner of all things. They look within themselves, and realising the defilement of greed, anger and delusion within, seek to rid them from their minds. They look within to seek the truth and to know their minds. They look inward, and while developing insight wisdom, they realise the impermanence of all things, realising such they then know that suffering is due to their identifying a permanent self within. They are said to be living in the Dhamma; a Dhamma person. The Dhamma person will surely find rebirth in happier planes whereas the person who is not knowledgeable of the Dhamma may not be quite certain of his destination. On dying, a person, by the merits of his or her practice, will be able to maintain a balanced mind and be ready to accept the changing process of life and death, with an equanimous mind, knowing that his accumulated meritorious deeds will enhance his chances of a good rebirth. He should be prepared to relinquish his hold on this worldly state and go calmly to the next phase of the life and death process. The rich and powerful have many family and material ties, sons, relations, properties and material possessions; they are unwilling to relinquish their hold onto the material things they have spent a life time amassing. Their
bond to life and possessions are as strong as steel bands; and in their ignorance of the true Dhamma, they cling to those bonds. Life is extremely dear to them. Death is near, yet they cling on and are unwilling to let go, they are concerned that their possessions so dear to them will be out of their hands and control. They had hoped to live longer to enjoy their wealth and possessions. They cry and they weep, they lament that they have to die, they wish they could stop the process, but alas, the Buddha has said: ‘Life is uncertain but death is certain.’ The final minutes come and the rich goes unwillingly to their next existence. They are assured of a place of unhappiness! If they are reborn into the plane of the peta, they can only hope that their good kamma accumulated at some stage in their long stay in samsara, will find the opportunity to arise and condition them a better rebirth. Here is where friends and relatives, dedicating merits to them, gained by good deeds, will help. Whether these planes are real or whether they are merely fanciful metaphors describing the various mind-states we might experience in this lifetime; we should take the message of the cosmology of the 31 Planes of Existence as this: unless we take steps to break free from the grip of kamma, we are doomed to wander aimlessly in samsara, with true peace and satisfaction always out of reach. The Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path provides us with precisely the tool we need to break out of this cycle, once and for all, to true freedom.
THE 6 DEVA PLANES (6th–11th) The word "deva" also include, devata and devaputta. Although "deva" is often used in the Pali texts to refer to all other beings other than humans, devas and brahmas can be differentiated. "Deva" in its more limited sense refers to beings in the six planes immediately above the human one (planes 6-11), the sensuous heavens. The devas of the sensuous sphere are said to enjoy sense pleasures in far greater abundance than can be found in the human world. Their bodies emit light and they have subtle sense organs, similar to ours but far more sensitive and acute. That is why the supernormal powers of seeing various planes and hearing at great distances are referred to as deva vision and deva hearing. On the deva planes, there are stream-enterers and once-returners. For example, Sakka, king of the gods in the heaven of the Thirty-three, became a stream-enterer while discussing the Dhamma with the Buddha. However, only few among the devas have any understanding of the Dhamma. In fact, all that is needed to be reborn in these heavens is the meritorious kamma of generosity and good morality. Mental development through meditation is not a prerequisite for rebirth on the higher sensuous planes. Devas do not see the misery of human beings in their daily existence. Many devas instantly obtain whatever sense object they wish for. Brahmas dwell in sublime bliss and equanimity. In the formed and formless planes, ill will is suppressed, and without it there is no mental unhappiness. In their nature of existence, it is difficult for devas and brahmas to appreciate that everything changes and to recognise that their present pleasure and bliss will not last forever; many imagine that they are eternal. The subtler forms of suffering tend to escape them as well.
Some devas long to be reborn as human beings because they are aware of the greater possibility of comprehending impermanence, suffering, and non-self on the human plane. The Buddha explained that devas view human existence as an excellent opportunity for growth in morality, giving, faith and understanding. THE HEAVENS There are six Deva Planes included in this group and is known as Heaven in human term. The beings here are not born as babies; they are already adults and they retain the same appearance until they die. The luxuries and sensual pleasures enjoyed by the devas in the six Deva Planes are far more superior than any human pleasures one can dream of. There are beautiful gardens and parks where devas stroll about in almost timeless period. Their dwellings are mansions nestling gently and softly among verdant green foliage and beautiful pleasant lakes where crystal clear waters give them a sense of peace and calmness. Life is mostly very pleasant and they do not encounter much suffering. Those who practise sharing (dana), morality (sila) and meditation (bhavana), particularly loving kindness meditation (metta) may be reborn in these deva planes. The jewelled mansions where devas reside are theirs by reason of their own good kamma. All male devas look as if they are 20 years old, and females, 16. They never age; they remain youthful and beautiful all their lives. They consume only celestial food so their bodies produce no excreta. All these divine abodes are filled with all kinds of sensual pleasures and are fully enjoyed by the celestial beings, so much so that they do not find the necessity to meditate or to keep their precepts. Thus, there is no possibility of doing good or practising the Dhamma in these deva planes. Passing away on exhausting their wholesome kamma, and not having accumulated further merits in these deva planes, they may descend into one of the four woeful planes. To be reborn into the deva planes or celestial planes is not a great comfort as we see clearly that there are many dangers and hindrances towards spiritual progress. Details of these 6 Planes are:
Catumaharajika Heaven:- Devas of the Four Great Kings, home of the gandhabbas, the celestial musicians, and the yakkas, tree spirits of varying degrees of ethical purity. Life span: 500 celestial years or 9 million human years. (1 celestial day = 50 human years). 7 Tavatimsa Heaven:- The Thirty-three Gods with Sakka as their king, a devotee of the Buddha, presides over this plane. Many Devas dwelling here live in mansions in the air. Life span: 1,000 celestial years or 36 million human years. (1 celestial day = 100 human years). 8. Yama Heaven:- Yama Devas. These Devas live in the air, free of all difficulties. Life span: 2,000 celestial years or 144 million human years. (1 celestial day = 200 human years). 9. Tusita Heaven:- World of Contented Devas. A plane of pure delight and gaiety. Bodhisattas abide here prior to their final human birth. Life span: 4,000 celestial years or 576 million human years. (1 celestial day = 400 human years). 10. Nimmanarati Heaven:- World of Devas delighting in creation. These Devas delight in the sense objects of their own creation. Life span: 8,000 celestial years or 2,304 million human years. (1 celestial day = 800 human years). 11. Paranimmita-vasavatti Heaven:- world of Devas wielding power over the creation of others. These Devas enjoy sense pleasures created by others for them. Mara, the personification of delusion and desire, lives here. Life span: 16,000 celestial years or 9,216 million human years. (1 celestial day =1600 human years). WHO’S WHO IN DEVALAND The Great Assembly (Maha-samaya Sutta (Digha Nikaya 20) Ananda: Thus have I heard: On one occasion the Blessed One was living in the Maha-vana (great wood) near the city of Kapilavatthu together with a great retinue of bhikkhus, all of them arahants, and five hundred in number. Devas from ten thousand world-systems frequently assembled for the purpose of seeing the Blessed One and the community of bhikkhus… The Blessed One: Often, bhikkhus, Devas from the ten thousand bhikkhus, worldworld-systems foregather to see the Tathagata and the community bhikkhus. of bhikkhus. Devas have assembled before the supreme Buddhas of the the past; Devas will appear before the supreme Buddhas of the
bhikkhus, future as they do assemble now before me. I will tell you, bhikkhus, Devas, the names of the host of Devas, I will reveal the names of the host of Devas. Devas. Listen, pay attention. I will speak. Bhikkhus: Yes, Venerable Sir. The Blessed One: Bhikkhus, hosts of Devas have assembled. Do Bhikkhus, Devas know know them well. Scriptural Text: And the bhikkhus hearing the word of the Buddha, strove ardently to see and know the host of Devas. And there arose in them knowledge of perceiving the non-humans. Some saw one hundred, some one thousand non-humans (Devas and Brahmas), and others seventy thousand non-humans. Some saw one hundred thousand non-humans, others saw countless numbers, every quarter of the air and land being filled with them. Thereupon the All Seeing One (the Buddha) knowing all things through super knowledge, addressed the bhikkhus: The Blessed One: Bhikkhus, the host of Devas have assembled. I Bhikkhus, will announce them to you in words, and in due order. Know them. Here they are: Seven thousand Terrestrial Yakkhas of Kapilavatthu possessed of super normal power, radiant, comely, and followed by a retinue of attendants. Six thousand Yakkhas from the Himalayan mountain, diverse in hue, possessed of supernormal power, radiant, comely, and followed by a retinue of attendants. Three thousand Yakkhas from the Sata's mountain (satagira), diverse in hue, possessed of supernormal power, radiant, comely and followed by a retinue of attendants. Yakkhas, Sixteen thousand Yakkhas, diverse in hue, possessed of comely followed super normal power, radiant, comely and followed by a retinue of attendants.
Five hundred Yakkhas from the Vessamitta mountain, diverse in hue, possessed of supernormal power, radiant, comely and followed by a retinue of attendants. Vepulla's Kumbhira of Rajagala town, having his dwelling on Vepulla's Mountain, with more than a hundred thousand Yakkhas in his train. Dhatarattha, King of the East, adviser to the Eastern clime, and Chief of the Gandhabbas, followed by a retinue of attendants, and with his many mighty sons (devaputtas), Inda their names, names, possessed of supernormal power, radiant, comely and with a retinue. Virulha, King of the South, adviser to the Southern clime, and Chief of the Kumbhandas, followed by a retinue of attendants, and with his many mighty sons, Inda their names, possessed of supernormal power, radiant, comely and with a retinue of attendants. Virupakkha, King of the West, adviser to the Western clime, followed and Chief of the Nagas, followed by a retinue of attendants and with his many mighty sons, Inda their names, possessed of supernormal power, radiant, comely and with a retinue of attendants. Kuvera, King of the North, adviser to the Northern clime, Yakkhas, followed and Chief of the Yakkhas, followed by a retinue of attendants and with his many mighty sons, Inda their names, possessed of supernormal power, supernormal power, radiant, comely and with a retinue of attendants. Dhatarattha over the East, to the South Virulhaka, Westward Virupakkha, Kuvera over the North; these four great Kings stood illuminating the four quarters of the forest in the vicinity Kapilavatthu. of Kapilavatthu. With them came their crafty, deceitful, cunning slaves: enticing Kutendu, Vetendu, Vitucca, and Vituda. And (also the slaves) Candana, Kamasettha, Kinnughandu, and Nighandu.
There also came Panada and Opamanna and Matali charioteer of Devas as. the Devas. (kara), Citta and Sena, the Ghandhabbas, Nala (kara), Pancasikha, Devas, Janesabha (Janavasabha, Pancasikha, the Devas, Timbaru, the Gandhabba, and Suriyavaccasa (the daughter of Timbaru) also came. Along with these (Gandhabba) kings, other Gandhabba kings, kings, too. Then came the divine Nagas of the lake Nabhasa, those of Nagas the Naga plane Visali together with the Nagas named Tacchaka. Nagas Also came Nagas of Kambala and Assatara and Payaga Nagas accompanied by their relatives. Nagas from Yamuna, and those of their the race of Dhatarattha came with their retinue of attendants, and Eravana, the great Naga, too. Those birds (harpies, garula or suppana) who carry away Nagas Nagas by force, endowed with divine power, and twice born, with middle clear eyes (keen of sight), have flown into the middle of the forest from the sky; Citra and Supanna are their names. time, Nagas) At that time, the Naga king (with other Nagas) were free from fear. The Buddha vouchsafed his protection to the Nagas Nagas from the harpies (suppana). Entreating one another with gentle Nagas words, the Nagas and Suppanas (harpies) took refuge in the Buddha. The Asuras dwelling in the ocean were defeated by Vajirahattha (another name for Sakka). They are brethren of Vasavassa (other name of Sakka) possessed of supernormal power and are followed by a retinue of attendants. The terrible Kalakanjas, the Danaveghasas, Vepacitti, Paharada; Sucitti, and Paharada; all Asuras have also come with Namuci (the Mara, Vasavatti Mara, the Evil One).
Hundreds of the sons of Bali, all of them named after armed Veroca (that is their uncle Rahu), with an armed host of warriors, Asuras), approached Rahu (Asurendra, the lord of Asuras), and said: 'Lord, bhikkhus.' it is time to go to the forest to see the assembly of bhikkhus.' The Devas Apo and Pathavi, Tejo, and Vayo have also and come to the forest, and the Devas Varuna, Varuna, and Soma with MettaYasa. There also came the Devas Metta-kayika and Karunakayika, these followed by their attendants; these ten groups of Devas of diverse hue, possessed of supernormal power, radiant, comely and with a Asama, retinue of attendants. The Devas Venhu, Sahali, Asama, the two Yama, and those who attend on the Moon god came preceded by him. The Devas attending on the Sun god, came preceded by him. The Devas attending the Planets came preceded by them. The Devas of the rain clouds too, came. gods, Sakka, the chief of gods, who is also called Vasava and Purindada, Purindada, also came. The ten groups of Devas of diverse hue, da possessed of supernormal power, radiant, comely and with a retinue of attendants, also came. attendants, came. Then too, came the Deva Sahabhu, shining like unto a flame of fire, along with the Devas Aritthaka, Roja, and Ummapupphanibha. There came also the Devas Varuna Sahadhamma, Accuta and Anojaka, Suleyya, Rucira, and Vasavanesi; all Vasavanesi; all those ten groups of Devas of diverse hue, possessed of supernormal power, radiant, comely and with a retinue of attendants. The Devas Samana, Mahasamana, Manusa, Manusuttama, Khiddapadusika, and Manopadusika all have come.
MahaThen came the Devas Hari, those of Lohita, Paraga, and Mahaparaga with their retinue of attendants. All those ten groups of Devas of diverse hue, possessed of and supernormal power, radiant, comely and with a retinue of attendants. There also came the Devas Sukha, Karumha, Aruna with Veghanasa. The Deva Odatagayha, Pamokkha, and Vicakkhana Missaka also came. Sadamatta, Haragaja, mighty Missaka and Pajjuna, who thundering; all causes rain to pour in every direction, came thundering; all these ten groups of Devas of diverse hue, possessed of supernormal power, radiant, comely and with a retinue of attendants. Katthaka, The Devas Khemiya, Tusita, Yama, the mighty Katthaka, Lambhitaka, Lamasettha, Joti and Asava also came. There also came the Devas Nimmanarati, and Paranimmita (Vasavatthi). All these ten groups of Devas of diverse hue, possessed of supernormal power, radiant, comely and with a retinue of attendants. These sixty (six of ten groups, indicated in the order of Apo Deva, etc.) Devas of diverse hue, according to their name and class, have come with others (similar in name and class). These Devas came saying: Let us see the community of bhikkhus, the Arahant bhikkhus, who have outlived birth, who have removed the stake (of lust, hate and delusion), who have crossed the four currents or streams (of sense-pleasures, becoming, wrong views and ignorance), free from taints. Let us also see the Buddha who has crossed the streams, who is called Naga (in the sense of one who commits no evil) and shining like the unclouded moon. The Blessed One (continuing): The Brahmas Subrahma and Paramatta, came (with other Brahmas) who are possessed of supernormal power, and sons (disciples of the Buddha). The Sanankum Brahmas Sanankumara and Tissa also came to the forest (to see bhikkhus). the assembly of bhikkhus).
There is born a Mahabrahma (for every Brahma world) power, excelling other Brahmas, mighty in power, with a formidable stature glory. and of great glory. Among them, ten chief Brahmas, lords over their retinues have come, and in the midst of them with all his attendants came Brahma Harita. When all the Devas headed by Inda (Sakka), and all Mara Brahmas headed by Haritta had come, there came the host of Mara. Mara, One. Lo! The folly of Mara, the Murky One. Mara: Come on, seize them, bind them, let them all be bound by lust, surrounded on every side, suffer not anybody to escape'. Scriptural Text: Mara thus striking the earth with his palm and thereby producing a dreadful sound as when a storm cloud thunders and causes lightening during rainy season, sent his black army to the midst of the devas. Nevertheless, he was unable to bring the devas under his sway. He became filled with anger and retreated. Then the All Seeing One (the Buddha) knowing perfectly well what had transpired, addressed his disciples who take delight in the word of the Buddha. The Blessesd One: Bhikkhus, the host of Mara have come and gone. Bhikkhus, them them. Know them, beware of them Scriptural Text: And they (non-arahants), hearing the word of the Buddha, strove to gain Deliverance from their defilement. From the passion-free arahants the army of Mara retreated; not even so much as a hair in the arahants was affected. Mara (departing): All those disciples are victors in the war of passions; they are free from fear, glorious and renowned among mankind. They live rejoicing with Aryan disciples. Death of Devas: There is no real illness on the deva planes. When a deva faces death, his aura begins to fade and dirt appears on his clothes for the first time. The nature of Devas is such that even though they eat, they do not have excrement as do humans. Devas who pass away from heavens do not leave corpses behind. Their dead bodies disappear at the same time.
SECOND DIVISION THE FINE MATERIAL PLANES (12th – 27th Plane): The following are the different Planes of Devas in the Fine Material Planes: 12. brahma-parisajja deva - Retinue/servants of Maha Brahma. Life span: 1/3 maha kappa 13. brahma-purohita deva - Ministers/advisors of Maha Brahma, they enjoy varying degrees of jhanic bliss. Life span: 1/2 maha kappa 14. maha brahma - Great Brahmas. Some Brahmas here regard themselves creators of the universe. Life span: 1 maha kappa 15. parittabha deva - Devas of Limited Radiance. Life span: 2 maha kappa 16. appamanabha deva - Devas of Unbounded Radiance. Life span: 4 maha kappa 17. abhassara deva - Devas of Streaming Radiance. Life span: 8 maha kappa 18. parittasubha deva - Devas of Limited Glory. Life span: 16 maha kappa 19. appamanasubha deva - Devas of Unbounded Glory. Life span: 32 maha kappa 20. subhakinna deva - Devas of Radiant Glory. Life span: 64 maha kappa 21. vehapphala deva - very fruitful Devas, they enjoy varying degrees of jhanic bliss. Life span: 500 maha kappa 22. asannasatta - mindless beings, only body is present; absence of sanna cetasika. Life span: 500 maha kappa 23. aviha deva - Devas not falling away. They live their full life span. Life span: 1,000 maha kappa 24. atappa deva - untroubled Devas. They are not troubled by the 5 hindrances. Life span: 2,000 maha kappa 25. sudassa deva - beautiful Devas. They have magnificient and beautiful body forms. Life span: 4,000 maha kappa 26. sudassi deva- clear-sighted Devas. They see things with ease. Life span: 8,000 maha kappa 27. akanittha deva - peerless Devas. Beings who become non-returners in other planes are reborn here, where they attain Arahantship. Life span: 16,000 maha kappa Bhante Suvanno: Those born here are devas. These devas have special virtues, having practised meditation till they have achieved deep concentration (these deep and sustained concentration are also known as jhana) and
are able to enter and maintain such concentration at will. In the Dhamma sense they are morally upright, practise meditation and have developed much insight wisdom. They have pure, healthy minds that are totally joyful and without hindrances. In the worldly sense they have very long life span, beautiful textured skin and are strong in body. Their bodies radiate beautiful and wondrous rays that illuminate large areas around them. They live in mansions that are of great beauty. These devas possess special powers. They are also known as brahmas, due to these superior attainments. Only those who regularly practise mental development (Vipassana Meditation) and those in the habit of doing good deeds will gain merits to be reborn in one of these 16 happy planes. The good things that happen to one; wealth, comfortable living, happiness and peace are due to the sowing of good seeds on fertile ground in the past, 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.” (Manuals of Buddhism by Ledi Sayadaw). All beings, who are reborn in these sixteen planes do so as males. Being a single gender, there is no attachment or emotion due to sex. They are very peaceful beings and they live very pure lives, free from all thoughts of sensual pleasures. In their existence as humans they had preferred the solitude of meditation in quiet places away from town centres, cities, houses, villages and monasteries, remote from worldly and sensual pleasures. These planes are accessible to those who have successfully gain some level of attainment in their meditation and who have thereby managed to eradicate hatred and ill-will to some extent. They are said to possess extremely refined bodies of pure light. There is no need for illumination in this plane as all beings here are beautiful and radiant in different degrees and their faces shine brilliantly, lighting up the surrounding area.
Among these are five of the purest abodes (23-27) of the 31 planes, which are accessible only to non-returners (anagami) and arahants. Those beings that had become non-returners in other planes are reborn here, where they attain enlightenment. The Brahmas, like the other celestials, are not necessarily on the way to complete knowledge; their attainments depend on the degree of their faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha; it is not necessary to be a follower of the Buddha to be born into the Brahma world. Examples are the Buddha’s first two teachers, the ascetic who predicted the Bodhisatta’s future as a Buddha. These were ascetics who practised different faiths. The Buddha tells of ascetics who practise meditation, being born into the Brahma planes after death. Some Brahmas hold false views regarding their worlds, which, like all things, are subject to change and destruction. Buddhas and their more eminent disciples often visit the Brahma planes, both in their mind made bodies and their physical bodies. If a rock as big as the gable of a house were to be dropped from the lowest Brahma-world it would take four months to reach the earth travelling one hundred thousand leagues a day. Brahmas subsist on meditative concentration, abounding in joy, this being their sole food. The beings born in the lowest Brahma plane are Brahma-pārisajjā; their life term is one third of an asankheyya kappa; next to them come the Brahma-purohitā, who live for half an asankheyya kappa; and beyond these are the Mahā Brahmas who live for a whole asankheyya kappa. Immediately after his birth, the Buddha looked around and took 7 steps northward, it was a Maha Brahma with a life span of sixteen thousand kappas, who cradled the baby in his hands and assured him that none was greater than he. Brahmas are known to visit the human plane and take interest in the affairs of men. When the Buddha hesitated to teach the Dhamma, because of its profundity, it was Sahampati who appeared before him and exhorted him to teach the Dhamma for the salvation of the few who had sufficient wisdom to see the truth. The reason for the Buddha’s hesitancy being that, for the Buddha to teach the Dhamma, he had to be invited to do so. As people then were followers of Brahmas; Sahampati's acceptance of the Buddha's Dhamma would impress them deeply and lend weight to His teaching. Sahampatī later visited the Buddha several times subsequently,
illuminating Jetavana with the effulgence of his body. It is said that with a single finger he could illuminate a whole world system. Brahmas appear to have been in the habit of visiting the deva planes too, for a certain Brahma was reported as being present at an assembly of the Tāvatimsa gods and there, singing the Buddha's praises and giving an exposition of his teaching. Mahā Brahmās, though mighty and powerful, are all of them subject to suffering and the laws of Kamma.
Note: Maha Kappa, Asankheyya Kappa (such time periods are aeons spanning from 1 with 140 zeros behind to 47 million zeros behind; also known as an uncalculable period). There are 3 kinds of kappas - namely, antara kappa, asankheyya kappa and maha kappa. The interim period when a comlete universe system disintegrate to its reformation and breaking up again constitutes an antara kappa. Twenty such antara kappa equal one asankheyya kappa; an incalculable cycle. Four asankheyya kappas equal one maha kappa.
THIRD DIVISION: THE NON-MATERIAL PLANES (28th-31st): 28. akasanañcayatanupaga deva - infinite space. Life span: 20,000 maha kappa viññanañcayatanupaga deva - infinite consciousness. 29. Life span: 40,000 maha kappa 30. akiñcaññayatanupaga deva - nothingness. Life span: 60,000 maha kappa 31. nevasaññanasaññayatanupaga deva – neither perception nor non-perception. Life span: 84,000 maha kappa These Four Non-Material (Formless) Planes are where heavenly beings are without bodily forms; the Plane is without form and materiality and there are no dwellings such as mansions as there are in the other Planes. The inhabitants of these planes are possessed entirely of minds; and having no physical bodies, they are unable to hear Dhamma teachings. Beings in these Formless Planes having no-bodily forms at all do not feel physical suffering (dukkha). Life here is very pleasant and extremely long. One may be reborn in such a plane by practising strong and deep absorption concentration meditation techniques. These states are very pure and having become adept at entering into these states one may, upon death, die in this state and be reborn in such a plane. However, this is not to say that one should aspire to be born in this plane as the primary objective of meditation taught by the Buddha is to attain Nibbana and that can only be through Vipassana Meditation. These brahmas have no contact with the human or deva planes, for they have no physical bodies. They spend countless aeons in the perfect equanimity of meditation until their lifespan ends. Then they are reborn in the same plane, the next higher formless plane, or as devas. After that they too can be reborn on any plane at all; so even existence without a body is not the way to permanently eliminate suffering. This is why the Bodhisatta, realising that after attaining to the stage of concentration meditation, at death he would find rebirth into these formless planes, which was not his goal, he decided to leave his two teachers and find his own way to freedom from suffering. It is only through practising the Noble Eightfold Path that we can bring suffering to an end. In fact, these formless brahmas are in the unfortunate position of being unable to start on the path. This is because one has to
learn the Dhamma from the Buddha or one of his disciples to attain the first stage of awakening, to become a stream-enterer. That is why the sage Asita, invited by King Suddhodana to examine the newborn Bodhisatta, wept after predicting that Prince Siddhattha would become a Buddha. The sage knew he was going to die before the prince attained Buddhahood. He had cultivated these formless absorptions so he would have to be reborn in the formless plane and would thereby lose all contact with the human plane. This meant he would not be able to escape samsara under Gotama Buddha. He was sorely distressed to realise that he would miss this rare opportunity to gain deliverance and would have to remain in the round of rebirth until another Buddha appears in the remote future. He could see into the future and thus understood the precious opportunity a Buddha offers, but he could neither postpone his death nor avoid rebirth into the immaterial plane.
EPILOGUE: SHOWING THE WAY
Bhante Suvanno: All this information is not really important if your goal is to attain enlightenment. It's just an interesting subject that many people like to philosophise about. But the Buddha’s teaching is not merely a philosophy; it is a practice, a blueprint for correct living. As we have just mentioned, Vipassana Bhavana is the only way to Enlightenment, the goal of the Buddha’s teaching. For this to happen we need to practise diligently. In the rounds of samsara that beings go through, regardless of the plane they live in, the process of being reborn, getting old, sick, dying and being reborn again had been tediously timeless. All beings undergo these processes many times in as many Great Kappas. In their ignorance and delusion, beings go through endless cycles of rebirths, without realising the sufferings they have experienced in samsara. In their delusion they believe that they are having great enjoyment in their lives and thus at each death they crave to be reborn, even though some of their rebirths are in the planes of animals, hungry ghosts or sometimes as gods in the heavenly planes. In our repeated cycles of rebirth, many Buddhas have appeared and passed on and we have sometimes met with a Buddha and sometimes not. The Buddha has said very clearly that there are as many Buddhas in the many mahakappas as there are pebbles along the two thousand miles of the
banks of River Ganges. So lengthy a time and with so many opportunities to attain the bliss of Nibbana, yet a greater number of humans have not enlightened to the realities of the horrors of repeated rebirths. In their ignorance and delusion, the Buddha said, human beings are unable to realise and remember any single vistage of the sufferings they had experienced in their previous existences and in their deluded cravings for and clingings to sensuous pleasures, they are inevitably reborn to a world where their cravings, clingings and kamma take them. Human beings have experienced so many losses of loved ones in their many existences that the tears they have shed are more than all the waters of the oceans in the world. Yet they are desirous of rebirth, not realising the suffering inherent in it. The Buddha also said that humans are normally desirous of doing unwholesome deeds rather than wholesome deeds. When they are about to die, in the last death moment when they realise that they are going to be reborn into one of the four woeful planes, then only are they confused and terrified, knowing that their concepts were flawed. That is then too late! To be reborn as a human being is already a very rare occasion; to be reborn as a human being in a Buddha sasana with the knowledge to practise the Dhamma is much more singular and unique. Maybe in a thousand rebirths are we able to be so fortunate as to have that happen to us. There are also more times when there will not be a Buddha sasana. These then will be very bleak times indeed. Those who understand the nature of sufferings and are knowledgeable of the Dhamma, fear the results of unwholesome actions and will refrain from doing anything of that nature. Those who are not knowledgeable of the Dhamma are not exempt from the sufferings resulting from unwholesome actions. If their excuse is that since they do not know about the Dhamma, they should not be affected due to their ignorance, they are sadly mistaken because what the Buddha taught are universal laws and will affect everyone whether one is aware of it or not. In the eyes of the law, ignorance of the law is not a valid defence. Even pleading guilty will not draw a lighter sentence.
Bhante Suvanno: If we are ignorant in this existence, we must not go on being ignorant in our next existence. We should work towards gaining knowledge in this present existence. Once we have found the Truth in this existence, we shall have continuity of knowledge of the Truth in our future existences. The way to a better rebirth and happy plane of existence is by observing the precepts, doing good deeds, giving to the needy (dana) and practising Vipassana meditation. Do not view wrongly that the performance of dana is a very simple action. It is possible to do dana only if one has the opportunity and the means. It is of utmost importance to practise giving to the needy, meditation and other good deeds of a selfless nature, without any expectations of material gains. The results of such deeds of different kinds will result in different benefits. Most importantly, we must be aware and mindful of the defilement of greed, hatred and delusion. Not to be wrongly attached to an entity as ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘mine’; all these ‘I’s, ‘I am so and so’; ‘my father is so and so’; all these are very strong egoistic reference to self, and the Buddha has called this, the wrong view of self (sakkaya-ditthi). ‘I’, drives ‘I’ to perform unwholesome action that will cause endless suffering to ‘I’. Thus the most important goal of the meditator or yogi in meditation is to destroy this false concept of ‘I’. If one does not have the wrong view of ‘I’, one does not place importance on ‘I’. Even when we have attained to the top of the happy planes, there is no guarantee that we are safe from future sufferings. Depending on past merits, we can still be having defilement, which if we are not mindful of, will lead us to the lower planes of existence. We have to be constantly mindful to guard the entrance to the six sense doors in order to be aware of our intentions and actions. We sometimes find some young persons and even matured persons behaving very unruly and destructively, even with the things they profess to love. This is because of the results of unwholesome actions accumulated through many lifetimes, conditioned to arise from the depths of their sub-conscious in this present life-time, characterising their every word and action. These results of past unwholesome actions cause much
suffering and give rise to defilement which colour their present deeds. What are these defilement? They are greed, anger or hatred and delusion. Because of these defilement their words and actions will be tainted. Some speak with barbs in their words and some act with unrestrain. All beings reap the fruits of the seeds they sow and are given rebirth by and according to their kammic results. No deity of any sort controls the birth and death of any beings. It is the kammic energies of the past and present that condition the rebirth of beings. The good or bad kamma will determine the happy or suffering planes where they will find rebirth. Having arrived at a destination conditioned by past kamma does not mean that a being need to go through with the result of the cause that brought him, her or it hence; but that depending on the development of mental purity and wisdom of this present life, a living being will be able to reshape future lives thus effectively changing the results of past deeds, if those deeds were not of a very severely unwholesome nature, as in killing living beings. Refrain from evil deeds. Should one be contemplating unwholesome thoughts, now is the time to stop. One should not find pleasure in evil; brush off even a simple act of evil. The Buddha says there will be painful suffering if one does not stop contemplating doing unwholesome deeds. Make haste to do good, check your mind for unwholesomeness. If one is not mindfully and energetically doing good, one’s mind will subconsciously be thinking of unwholesome thoughts and deeds. The mind has a tendency to gyrate to unwholesome thoughts and if one were to let it alone it will start looking for dirt. Thus practise Vipassana meditation to eradicate defilement and achieve purity of mind. The Buddha knows that beings constantly perpetuate their own sufferings from life to life. He taught that if we could completely purify the minds of selfish attachment we would be self-liberated and experience the peace and freedom of Nibbana (enlightenment), the cessation of suffering and the end of rebirth. To be reborn again and again is to experience untold suffering and misery. He asked:
The Buddha: Which is greater, the tears that were shed from samsara, existence to existence while wandering this samsara, crying and weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing, or the waters in the four great oceans? Bhante Suvanno: The Buddha pointed out that the greater was the tears shed through the rounds of samsara. The Buddha: Long have you repeatedly experienced the death of a experienced mother. The tears you have shed over the death of a mother while wandering this long, long samsara, crying and weeping from being samsara, joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing, pleasing, four great are greater than the water in the four great oceans. Long have you repeatedly experienced the death of a father … the death of a brother …the death of a sister… the death of a son… the death of a daughter… loss with regard to relatives… loss with regard disease. to wealth… loss with regard to disease. The tears you have shed over loss with regard to disease while wandering this long, long time, crying and weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing, are greater than the water in the four great oceans. Why Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning comes birth. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are being reborn repeatedly. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling swelling the cemeteries, enough to become disenchanted with all conditioned dispassionate, things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released.
Jinavamsa: This brings us to the question: how enduring is samsara; is there a beginning and does it end? Is it eternal or not eternal? These selfsame questions and others were contemplated by the monk, Malunkyaputta and he went to the Buddha with the intent of getting an answer from him or else he would not continue being a monk (Majjhima Nikaya 63). The Buddha refused to give him an answer but rather declared that He could not see any conceivable point where the beginning was and the ending thereof. To render a simile of the timelessness of samsara, He turned to the group of bhikkhus He was addressing and enquired of them which they thought was greater; the mother's milk they had drunk in the course of their long travels in samsara or the waters of the four great oceans of the world. He stated that the mother's milk they had drunk was the greater, thus demonstrating the lengthy duration of samsara. Therefore, it would appear that we have wandered in samsara from birth to death, from death to rebirth again and again for so great a number of aeons that should we have been conscious of it we would surely have stopped doing so. He further said to Malunkyaputta why He had not made known the answers to those questions: The Buddha: And why, Malunkyaputta have I not made known the answers to your questions? Because it is not beneficial and does not belong to the fundamentals to leading a holy life, it does not lead to dispassion and disenchantment, to cessation, to peace and to Thus Nibbana. Thus have I not declared it to you. Jinavamsa: The Buddha knew many things, but He did not want to burden people with unnecessary knowledge that did not serve to lead them to Nibbana. Why Do We Wander in Samsara? The Buddha: It is because of not understanding and not penetrating time. four things that you and I have wandered on such a long, long time. Which four? Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering Suffering and the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering (i.e. the Noble Eightfold Path).
Jinavamsa: But when noble virtue is understood and penetrated, when noble concentration, noble discernment, noble release is understood and penetrated, then craving for becoming is destroyed; the guide to becoming (craving and attachment) is ended; there is now no further becoming (An iv.1). The ending of samsara is the attainment of the state of Nibbana, Cessation of all Suffering. The Blessed One has given us ample warning of the need to search ourselves and make ready for the day when we have to go to another world to harvest the fruits of the seed we have planted in this present time. Should we be found wanting and end up in the woeful planes where there is no let up in the sufferings, we must endure or if we have taken heed of this advice we may be transported to the worlds where sensual pleasures are beyond our imagination. Better still, if we take notice of the warnings in real earnest, we may never have to return to any worlds but be totally liberated. The choice is yours to make. Going hand in hand with the wisdom of Vipassana, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness; you will definitely make a wise choice!
THE 31 PLANES
PLANES OF REBIRTH The Planes of Rebirth are what the Buddha had seen and had direct knowledge of after His Enlightenment. These planes are very real and beings are reborn into the different planes due to their kamma. There have been speculations and theories as to whereabouts are these planes. One could view them as places either above or below the Earth; or in different dimensions within the universe; or one can be in hell or heaven according to the state of mind one causes oneself to be in. The real reason the Buddha expounded the 31 Planes was to teach us that we must always be aware that our thoughts, speech and deeds will cause us to receive the appropriate fruits depending on the seeds that we sow; so we need to be aware that the fruits can be disastrous or they can be wonderfully blissful. You have the volition to choose your own planes to go to. Your choice can be wisely guided with the practice of Satipatthana Vipassana meditation, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. That is the Only Way.
THE NON-MATERIAL PLANES (arupa-loka) (28-31) (31) Plane of Neither Perception nor Non-perception (30) Plane of Nothingness (29) Plane of Infinite Consciousness (28) Plane of Infinite Space The inhabitants of these Planes are possessed entirely of mind; having no physical bodies, but they can create physical bodies if they want to be seen. Rebirth in these planes can only be achieved by intense samatha meditation and achieving deep concentration during their lives as human; they are unable to hear Dhamma teachings. They are not able to attain wisdom and purity of mind here. Thus, this is not an ideal plane to find rebirth. In the Plane of Neither Perception nor Non-perception (31), Brahmas live a life span that is equivalent to that of 84,000 Maha kappa or world cycles. The ascetic Udaka, one of two teachers who taught the then Bodhisatta, was reborn into this Brahma Plane after passing away on the night before the Buddha decided to teach the Dhamma. The Brahmas in the Plane of Nothingness (30) live a life span of 60,000 world cycles. The Buddha’s first teacher in his quest for the truth was the ascetic, Alara. He was the first person the Buddha decided to pass on his discovery after he decided to teach, but Alara had passed away seven days earlier and was found to be reborn in this Brahma Plane. THE FINE MATERIAL PLANES (rupa-loka) (12-27) The Five Pure Abodes (23-27), within these Planes, are accessible only to non-returners (anagamis), from whence they attain arahantship. These are the purest of all the abodes in the 31 Planes. Brahmas here neither seek nor take delight in sensual pleasures, they have faculties to receive the Dhamma and become enlightened. (27) Peerless Devas (akanittha deva): The supreme heaven where arahants and anagamis reside in a final existence before entering Nibbana. The Brahmas of this Plane can live up to the life span of 16,000 world cycles. (26) Clear-sighted Devas (sudassi deva): The Brahmas of this Plane can live up to the life span of 8,000 world cycles before passing away into Nibbana.
(25) Beautiful Devas (sudassa deva): The Brahmas of this Plane can live up to the life span of 4,000 world cycles before entering Nibbana. (24) Untroubled Devas (atappa deva): The serene heaven where the Brahmas of this Plane can live up to the life span of 2,000 world cycles before entering Nibbana. (23) Devas not falling away (aviha deva): The durable heaven where the Brahmas of this Plane can live up to the life span of 1,000 world cycles before entering Nibbana. (22) Mindless Devas (asannasatta): Beings here only have bodies, but no mind. They can live up to 500 world cycles. (21) Very Fruitful Devas (vehapphala deva). The heaven of gods and noble beings of great merits, who have practised Samatha and Vipassana meditation during their life as humans. Those Brahmas who have practised Samatha only are reborn into lower Planes after dying, but those who have practised Vipassana and have attained the stages to arahanthood are reborn into this Plane again or a higher Plane. The Brahmas of this Plane can live up to the life span of 500 world cycles. The Devas (15-20) have brilliant auras as their distinguishing characteristics; each purer attainment marked by brighter brilliance, thus the names of the appropriate planes. (20) Devas of Radiant Glory ((subhakinna deva) (19) Devas of Unbounded Glory (appamanasubha deva) (18) Devas of Limited Glory (parittasubha deva) (17) Devas of Streaming Radiance (abhassara deva) (16) Devas of Unbounded Radiance (appamanabha deva) (15) Devas of Limited Radiance (parittabha deva) The Brahmas here (12-14) are gigantic in size and are well organised.
(14) Great Brahmas (maha brahma) (13) Ministers of Brahma (brahma-purohita deva) (12) Retinue of Brahma (brahma-parisajja deva) All Devas in the above Planes live in concentration meditation bliss and are reborn here due to practising concentration meditation to high levels of attainment in previous life. THE SENSUOUS PLANES (kama-loka) Happy Destinations (sugati) (11) Devas wielding power and enjoying the creation of others; Mara, lives here. (10) Devas delighting in creation. They delight in their own creations. (9) Contented Tusita Devas: A Plane of pure delight and gaiety; all Bodhisattas abide here prior to their final human birth. (8) Yama Devas: These Devas live in the air, care-free and happy. (7) The Thirty-three Gods (Tavatimsa Devas). Sakka, a devotee of the Buddha, presides over this Plane. Many devas dwelling here live in mansions in the air. It was in this heaven that the Buddha taught the Abhidhamma to the Devas for three months. (6) Devas or gods of the Four Great Kings (Catumaharajika Devas): Home of the Gandhabbas, the celestial musicians; the Yakkhas, tree spirits of varying degrees of ethical purity; the kumbhandas; and home of nagas.
(5) Human Beings (manussa loka): To find rebirth as a human is extremely rare. It is also very precious as only beings in this plane are able to experience happiness, suffering, develop wisdom and find a way out of suffering. Most wise devas and brahmas aspire to find rebirth in this plane. PLANES OF MISERY (apaya): (4) Plane of Demons (asuras), war-like, quarrelsome and are constantly engaged in relentless conflict with each other. (3) Plane of Hungry Ghosts (peta loka), ghosts and unhappy spirits wandering and searching in vain for food. Petas do not have a separate plane, but exist in the human plane (2) Plane of Animals (tiracchana yoni), this plane includes all the nonhuman forms of life that are visible to us under ordinary circumstances: animals, insects, fish, birds, worms, etc. (1) Plane of Hell (niraya), plane of continuous suffering and pain without any let up. There are eight grades of hell where the bitter and suffering fruits vary according to the severity of the unwholesome deeds performed.