On the tenth day of Christmas, my True Self gave to me;
10 Realms of Existence;
(9 Points of Death Meditation; 8 Great Tenets of Mahayana; 7 Factors of Awakening; 6 Paramitas; 5 Indriyana; 4 Noble Truths; 3 Dharma Seals; 2 Satyas; and a Buddha by the Bodhi Tree)
The Ten Realms of Existence are;
the World of Hell
the World of Hungry Spirits
the World of Animals
the World of Asuras
the World of Humanity
the World of Heavenly Beings
the World of Learning
the World of Realisation
the World of Bodhisattvas
the World of Buddhas
The first 6 realms are viewed as lower realms and the last 4 are described as noble realms, which are available through diligent practice of the Dharma. I’m not going to try and tell you what these realms actually are or where they are; for me the Lotus Sutra resonates. Whether you reside in the realm of the hungry spirits, never satisfied, or you indulge yourself and bathe in the nectar of Heaven, all other realms reside as potentialities. In one, the other 9 are there. Often hidden, maybe, but never impossible.
Recently, this has been quite obvious to me. Plunged into the state of Hell; hopeless agony of the Heart. Where all seems bleak, whatever I may want to do, I cannot do. Freedom is not right away present. The mind-body is trapped in torment, even among loved ones, joy is right away inaccessible. I become desperate. But even Hell is impermanent, subject to the arising and falling away, as is all conditioned phenomena. When all is cold and bleak and I am cramped into a claustrophobic state, something occurs. Something occurs out of desperation, out of hopelessness. The mind-body has been forced into a perfected asana and samadhi has never been so clear. The dust of Hell settles, as all dust must do, and Humanity is possible once more- and Hope, most energetic in Humanity is present. The ability to stop, to realise samadhi, to realise prajña, to be aware of awareness, smriti. And out of this realm, the World of Realisation is actualised. Where has Hell gone? Well, it’s right here. I have not moved anywhere, I have not done anything. Yet, everything is done. I can see Hell, but from a state of equanimity, it looks different. Hell is Hell- nothing more, no power is given to it.
I could use examples from any of the 6 lower realms, but Hell for me is most poignant. I shall revisit each of these realms in later posts but will describe them briefly now.
We will all come to know Hell (naraka), if we have not already. In this realm we are under the spell that life is suffering, and anything else that comes to visit, whatever its intentions, will only cause more suffering. Freedom seems to have left us out in the cold dark dust. Space, if you can find it, is filled by suffering before anything else even has a chance. But even Hell is impermanent.
For me, the realm of the Hungry Spirits (preka) is best characterised in society’s current consumerist obsessions. Never sated are those who reside in this realm; their bellies ever growing with desires, and whatever is consumed, however wonderful, is just not enough. Everything comes to taste of dissastifaction, and all one can do is want more. Maybe in the hope one can finally be fulfilled, or maybe it’s just a habit of greed. Desires are not wrong, or right, but in this state such desires grow uncontrollably and leads to a certain kind of irrationality. But even Hunger is impermanent.
Life in this realm can be a struggle; filled with paranoia and distrust. It becomes second nature to harm others in order to protect oneself. It’s a competition just to survive.The inability to distinguish what is skilful and not-yet-skilful. The wisdom of non-self just sounds like pure nonsense (and not the good kind of nonsense!). But this ignorance will too pass.
It’s easier to say others reside in this realm than ourselves. A realm filled with angst, jealousy, and a grave tendency to feel superior to others. Life is not a competition to survive, but a competition to win. And if that means hypocrisy and betrayal then that is all the better! But, this life of contempt is impermanent.
Being a human is very special, but humanity is more than 46 chromosomes of Homo sapiens genome. Residing in this realm we are able to distinguish the skilful from the not yet skilful and make decisions and distinctions based on that. There is hope, there is an innate decency that is born of the human. Even though this realm is too prone to negative external circumstances, it is in this realm we encounter the Dharma. And thus, humanity is too impermanent.
In Heaven, we indulge in the wine of delusion, we bathe in the nectar of false immortality. We laugh, we sing, we dance, we engage in sexual practices. And it is joyous! But the joy experienced here cannot be held, it is still governed by external circumstance. It is fleeting. As Heaven is also impermanent.
In these six paths we are prone one way or another to let our life be governed entirely by external circumstance. But by practising the Dharma, we realise happiness is not governed by external circumstance alone, and True Freedom is possible. Of (7) learning the dharma, (8) realising the dharma, (9) helping others reach liberation and (10) actualising the dharma.
Which realm are you in? Whichever realm you find yourself in, please know that whatever is occuring, True Love is present. Remember that Buddhahood is possible; it is not somewhere up there, but is literally the closest it’s ever been, and no other state can be closer, nor as genuine.
Thank you for visiting Only Yoking today,
Wishing you well on the path,