Buddhism’s Ten Spiritual Realms in Simple Terms

In Buddhism the universe is said to contain ten spiritual realms. See how I reason it out from observing our daily experiences.

In Buddhism the universe is said to contain ten spiritual realms – from Buddha the highest, to Hell the lowest. There are other eight realms in between, including Human, which is about in the middle of the spiritual spectrum. There are beings in each of the realm, visible to our eyes or not, and their experiences of life depend on the spiritual realm or level they are in. The higher the level, the more happiness and blessings; the lower the level, the more sufferings and adversities. Since human beings are about in the middle, most of us have a bit of both in our life course.

All sentient beings in the universe are residing in one realm or another. Which realm one is in doesn’t depend on its outer look or form, but on its inner self or being. So tragic events such as killing or rape is done by someone who is not in the Human level – even though assuming the human form – but a much lower level, perhaps the Hell. Those that we see on news dying of famine and hunger are not in the Human level either, but very likely, the Hungry Ghost (second to Hell on the lower end). In other words, what determines the realm and the nature is the inside rather than the outside.

The “theory” of ten realms seems to explain the phenomena in the world well. But how does it make sense to me – from a personal experience perspective that I can relate to – that it is the law of nature? In fact, I found that the ten spiritual realms are nothing more than “birds of a feather flock together,” or “cliques.” It is natural to see that sports people hang out with each other. Trendy and stylish people tend to bond together, and geeks and nerds tend to bond together. It is natural that human beings like to hang out with people with similar interests and personalities, because we feel comfortable around them. And since human beings are just one form of being on which the law of nature manifests itself, it’s not surprising that this nature applies to all other sentient beings as well.

Indeed, beings in Asura – one of the lower realms – are known to be furious, selfish, and killing. Compassion and love do not exist in their dictionary. Only through fighting and destroying others can their egos be satisfied, and their meanings of life be justified. Compassion and love-filled being like Buddha is the last thing they are interested in. As a result of their distinct nature, two spiritual realms – Asura and Buddha – are separated, naturally.

Again, these spiritual realms refer to the inside. So while our world does not seem to have any being called Asura, it is the Asura on the inside that exists. Therefore, the ten realms of the universe are not anywhere outside or distant – it is the metaphoric representation of our heart and mind.

One thing we can take away from this Buddhist theory is: Be more kind, loving and caring, then we are closer to the Buddha and the Bodhisattva, and consequently, joy, happiness and blessings. Be more kind, loving and caring, then we are farther away from the Asura and the Hell, and consequently, misery, grief and suffering.

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