The Ten Realms of Existence in Buddhism (2): The Four Higher Realms

Published November 9, 2016 by jptan2012

In the preceding first part of this post, I introduced to you the TEN REALMS OF EXISTENCE IN BUDDHISM and also talked about the SIX LOWER REALMS. Today, I would like to talk to you about the Higher Realms. We should all aspire to reach these realms, although the ultimate goal is that we enter the highest realm. Once one enter into these realms one will no longer go back to the lower realms but again the goal is to reach the highest realm. Once you entered this realm you are considered as enlightened, although not fully enlightened unless you reach the highest level, which is Buddhahood.

The 4 Higher Realms of Existence in Buddhism are the following:

  1. ARHAT. This is the first level of the higher realm. Simply put this is someone who by listening or reading and practicing the Buddha dharma, as extinguishes all defilements and has achieved nirvana. While it may be easier for the Asuras and the Deva (Heavenly Beings) to enter Arhatship, they are a lot of humans who has entered Arhatship also. This is especially true during the time of Sakyamuni Buddha. When an Arhat passes away, their body usually doesn’t decay in the way like most people do.
  2. PRATYEKABUDDHA. Is someone who entered nirvana and has ended samsara. But in Buddhism, there is a time that there will be no Buddha and no Dharma, but if one enters nirvana through meditation this person is considered as a Pratyekabuddha also.
  3. BODHISATTVA. The word is actually a combination of two words. First, Bodhi means awakened or to awaken to the truth. Sattva means sentient beings. In short it means an awakened sentient beings. During the time of Buddha Sakyamuni, it is extremely possible to become a ‘living’ Bodhisattva or to be a human Bodhisattva. To this day, the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa are considered as living Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva is strongly characterized by their compassion, loving – kindness, wisdom, great vows, good deeds. A Bodhisattva also has tremendous power to help all sentient beings. Some of the most well known Bodhisattvas are Avalokitesvara (also known as Kuan Yin, Guan Yin, Kuan Shi Yin, Guan Shi Yin, Kannon), Ksitigarbha (also known as Earth Store, Di Zhang Wang) Samantabhadra (also known as Pu Xian), Manjushri (also known as Wun Shu Shi Li), Maitreya (also known as Mi Luo and colloquially called Happy Fat Buddha), Vajrapani (also known as Chin Kang Shou) and who is the Bodhisattva that controls or has power over the Vajrapani Ruel, Mahasthamaprapta (also known as Da Shi Zhi) and a lot more. In Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, they acknowledge that some people although technically not a Bodhisattva and do not have supernatural powers and still has a body, do manifest the wonderful Bodhisattva traits. At this point, I’m reminded of my reader turned friend BM and Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa. (Incidentally, a saint maybe equivalent to a Bodhisattva).
  4. BUDDHA / BUDDHAHOOD. This is the ultimate goal, and Siddharta Gautama achieved this in human form until he moved on to spiritual form. As a Buddha he is called Sakyamuni Buddha. A Buddha is some who has achieved perfect enlightenment, and one who is has perfect wisdom and perfect compassion. A Buddha is not a God. There are so many Buddhas that existed and still exist before Sakyamuni Buddha, and according to Buddha Sakyamuni the next Buddha is Maitreya Buddha .

 

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