Buddhism Samsara

Link: The Cause of Suffering: Ignorance and Karma
Link: Introduction to Chart of Samsara

Samsara, the realm of birth and death. In Samsara, there are three distinct levels of existence. The highest is the Formless Realm, in which there are the greatest gods who have transcended the physical body, having mentality only. There are four heavens on this level.

Formless Realm, Form Realm

The next level, the Form Realm, also, only consists of heavens. The gods in these eighteen heavens have a form, but they have gone beyond the greed and lust for the pleasures of the five senses. They have attained a state of very profound and sublime happiness that it is a result of their skill in meditative concentration. Their greed for the five senses has been eclipsed by means of the force of their concentration-power. This is just like when a boulder is placed on grass, the grass is temporarily unable to grow. In the same way, their meditative power and ability has temporarily suppressed their thirst for the pleasures of the five senses, but it is still latent. The only way it can be eliminated forever, is by means of prajna wisdom. The Sages, that is the Arhats and Bodhisattvas as mentioned in Chapter Five, attain permanent states of Enlightenment in which this greed is truly extinguished.

Realm of Sensual Desire

On the next level, the Realm of Sensual Desire, there are six heavens, the realms of Asuras, human beings, animals, ghosts, and the denizens of hell. The minds of all the beings in these states are dominated by the drive for sensual pleasures. Those in the heavens here enjoy an incredible happiness associated with the senses as a result of their practice of good karma in the past.

Three lowest states

Those in the three lowest states, also known as the Three Evil Destinies, that is animals, ghosts, and denizens of the hell, undergo much suffering and difficulty.

As mentioned in the Introduction, the purpose of the Buddha’s teachings is to see that all states of existence in Samsara lack substantial realty. As it says in the Shurangama Sutra (Volume 7) they:

Come into being from false thoughts, and their subsequent karma comes from false thoughts. Within the wonderful perfection of the fundamental mind that is unconditioned, they are like strange flowers in space, for there is basically nothing to cling to. They are entirely vain and false, and they have no source or beginning.

The Wheel of Life

Basically, in Buddhism Samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth is being repeated within Gods, Asuras, Human beings, Animals, Ghosts and Hells.


All the gods in the Form Realm Heavens are without the sense of smell and taste, and they do not eat food, sleep, or have sexual desire. However, the desires for these things are still latent and once their heavenly life comes to an end, they can still return to any lower realm of existence in accordance with their karma. These desires are also latent in the gods in the Formless Heavens. The Third and Fourth Stage Arhats and the Bodhisattvas, because of prajna wisdom, have ended these desires at their origin, so they will never arise again.

In the “comments” above, in the right-hand column, it describes specific things that happen to a human being who enters the levels of dhyana meditation which correspond to the Dhyana Heavens. In addition to the above, when one enters the First Dhyana meditation state one can sit for seven days without getting up from one’s seat. At that time one can also go without eating, drinking or sleeping. In the Second Dhyana one can sit for 49 days. In the Third Dhyana one can sit for three years. And in the Fourth Dhyana one can sit for nine years. The happiness experienced in dhyana meditation far surpasses the happiness connected with the five senses.

Gods in the Desire Heavens still have desires connected with the five senses, including the desires for food, sleep and sex, with marriages as in the human realm. Yet the happiness they experience is much greater than that of the human realm. The human realm compared to even the lowest Desire Heaven is like a toilet pit. The gods in the first two Desire Heavens fulfill their sexual desire in the same way as those in the human realm. In the Suyama Heaven they fulfill it by holding hands. In the Tushita Heaven they fulfill it by smiling at each other, in the Bliss From Transformations Heaven, it is fulfilled by mutual gazing. And the Heaven of Self-Mastery Over Others’ Transformations it is fulfilled by merely glancing. All the heavens beginning with the Suyama Heaven and above do not have a sun or a moon. In those heavens, the bodies of these gods emit their own light.


Although asuras are an individual realm by themselves, they also can appear in both of the other good paths of gods and humans as well as in the three evil destinies of the hells, the ghosts and animals. In general, regardless of what path they are in, they like to pick fights and have bad tempers. They enjoy bossing others around and like to be supervisors, but they cannot stand being supervised by others. Among people, asuras can be good or bad. The good asuras include military officials and troops, and bad asuras are thieves, thugs, murderers and the like.

Asuras are unruly beings that love to fight. Their name means “ugly”. It also means “ungodly” because, although some asuras enjoy heavenly blessings, nonetheless, the lack authority in the heavens.

Shurangama Sutra has talked about the four categories of asuras in the three realms of existence. Asuras in the path of ghosts use their strength to protect the Dharma and can with spiritual penetrations travel through space. They are born from eggs and belong to the destiny of ghosts.

Those who have fallen from virtue and been expelled from the heavens dwell in places near the sun and moon. They are asuras born from wombs and belong to the destiny of humans.

There are also asura kings who support the world with a penetrating power and fearlessness. They vie for position with the Brahma Lord, the God Shakra, and the Four Heavenly Kings. These asuras come into being by transformation and belong to the destiny of gods.

Ananda, there is another, base category of asuras. Their minds dwell on the sea; they live submerged in underwater caves. During the day they roam the skies; at night they return to their watery realm. These asuras come into being because of moisture and belong to the destiny of animals.

Human Beings

All Buddhas become Buddhas in the human realm. The human realm presents the best state of existence for spiritual cultivation because it has a balance of good and bad. In the heavens life is too blissful to arouse concern over the problems of birth and death. In the three evil destinies (hells, animals, ghosts), intense suffering precludes any other awareness. One merely longs to escape the immediate agony, and is unable to consider the deeper significance of suffering as a universal condition of all the states of conditioned existence.

The Buddha once held up a clump of dirt in his hand and asked his disciples which was greater, the dirt in his hand, or the dirt of the whole earth. The disciples answered that of course the dirt of the earth was far greater than the dirt in the Buddha’s hand. The Buddha said that those beings who secure a human form are like the dirt in his hand; whereas those who had human form but have lost it (regressing into the three evil destinies) are as many as the dirt covering the entire earth. Thus we see that human life is extremely precious and fragile.

The Three Evil Destinies

If you wish, you can enter the realms of existence mentioned above to try them out—put on a play—but you should not play around with the three remaining realms. If you try these out you may not be able to escape. It is said that after one life in a human body, 10,000 kalpas may pass before that form can be obtained again. Playing around with the three evil destinies can be very dangerous.


Eager animals feed on greed,
Never sated by a lot.

Because they make what is black white,
They don’t distinguish wrong from right.

There are billions of animals, an infinite variety—flying, crawling, swimming, and walking—on land, in the water and in the sky. Beings become animals as a result of one thing: greed. For them, no matter what it is, the more the better. Animals lack the ability to reason. They become muddled and ignorance envelops them so that they become totally oblivious to anything rational—even to the point that they are greedy to eat excrement.


The ghostly crew delights in hate,
Deluded by effects, confused about cause.

Their ignorance and upside-downness
grows greater each day, deeper each month.

Almost everyone has heard of ghosts, but not everyone believes in them. Ghosts are masses of yin energy which have shadow and no form, or form and no shadow. There are as many different kinds of ghosts as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Some ghosts are affluent and reign as kings over the ghost realm; some ghosts are poverty stricken and devoid of authority—it is often the poor ghosts who bother people. If you want to investigate ghosts in detail, work hard at your spiritual cultivation, open the Five Eyes and Six Spiritual Penetrations, and then explore for yourself.


The hells’ anxiety and suffering
Is devoid of doors yet one bores right in.

Giving rise to delusion deeds are done.
The retribution is born in due accord.

Anyone who would like to take a vacation in the hells can do so at any time at all. I can guarantee that. But the hells are a miserable place. Lamentation plants the seeds for hells; happiness plants the seeds for heavens. Unlike jails, the hells, although man-made by people who commit offenses, haven’t any doors. However, if you are due to go to the hells, when you arrive it is just as if a door opened, because you find yourself worming and boring in where there was no entrance.



























這修羅法界,在天上也有修羅,人間也有修羅,畜生也有修羅,餓鬼道裏也有修羅,在這四道裏頭都有阿修羅。畜生裏頭怎麼有修羅呢?你看那些個畜生,有的畜生就專門要欺負其他的畜生;好像害群之馬 --- 在一群馬裏邊,牠不是踢踢這隻,就是咬咬那隻,這就是修羅。還有在人裏邊,你沒有麻煩,他就給你弄出一個麻煩來,這也就是修羅。
















見惑是粗惑,思惑是細惑。證得初果阿羅漢,見惑都斷了;證到二果阿羅漢,都斷了思惑;證到三果,斷塵沙惑。塵沙惑就是像微塵和沙那麼多的惑,很微細的。要是斷了塵沙那麼多的惑,塵沙那麼多不明白的事情都斷了,都明白了。說:「那不錯啊!」不錯,你就試 一試看,發心往前修行。















在佛說《華嚴經》的時候,二乘人就只看見佛在那兒入定,沒有說法;法身大士才看見佛在那兒說法。二乘人見到佛還是一位丈六的老比丘相在那兒打坐。其實,佛在那兒打坐,正是現清淨法身,說《華嚴經》。可是,二乘人雖然有眼睛,卻看不見盧舍那佛;雖然有耳朵,也聽不見佛的聲音。佛那時候現出清淨法身毗盧遮那 佛、圓滿報身盧舍那佛。

盧舍那佛有多大、有多高呢?有一千丈那麼高──千丈盧舍那;法身則是遍滿一切處的。佛現千丈盧舍那佛身,菩薩都看見佛在那兒說《華嚴經》,可是羅漢就看不見、聽不見。我們現在既不是羅漢,也不是菩薩,為什麼我們現在還能看見《華嚴經》,也能聽聞《華嚴經》這種法呢?或者我們在過去種菩薩的因,所以才有這種 因緣聽聞這種大法、大教。

心就是法界 / 一切唯心造


我們現在來參加暑假佛學講修班,你怎麼來的?說:「我買一張飛機票,坐著飛機,就飛來了。」或者,「我買了一張bus(巴士)票,搭上巴士,就把我運來了。」或者,「我自己開我那量老骨董的車,開了幾天,就來了。」都不是的,你們這都錯了。怎麼錯了呢?是你的心使你來的──你心裏想:「中美佛教會有一個 暑假佛學講修班。第一期是九十六天,第二、第三期也是九十六天,這第四期呢?期間縮短了,大概很容易的,我去參加這個講修班,試一試看。到那個地方只有幾個禮拜,再困難嘛,也可以受得了。」於是心裏就想:「去、去了!」


心是什麼?心就是法界。現在不是說「其唯法界歟」,這不過是換個名稱,其實就是「其唯汝心歟」,就是你的心。說:「哦,原來我以為法界是很大的,現在變成我的心了,我的心很小的。」你心小?你方才沒有聽見這十法界都是現前一念心嗎?你的心怎麼小呢?你的心比虛空都大,比天地都大,不過你不會用它。你的心是 「大而無外、小而無內」的,不過你就知道你有那一個小「心」,像一粒微塵那麼小,那是你境界太小了;你要是境界大,就知道你有一個大心。