Thursday, September 14, 2017

Samsara is suffering - description and contemplation of the suffering of the six realms of samsaric existence

last update 2nd November 2017
This article is the 4th part of the teaching series
The Four Profound Thoughts that Turn the Mind Toward the Dharma

The Wheel of Life representing all
the Six Realms of Samsaric Existence
 As Shinran said in Tannisho, "it is hard for us to abandon this old home of pain, where we have been transmigrating for innumerable kalpas down to the present". Our minds are conditioned by our habitual karma from beginingless time to think that we can find hapiness and fulfilement in the samsaric states of existence, and so we continue to project false images of beauty to various objects of desire and make ourselves dependent on them. However, if we look more deeply at samsaric existence with eyes influenced by the Buddha Dharma we come to realize that everything, from the worlds of the gods, to the hell realms, is nothing but an ocean of suffering and insatisfaction. This awareness, as well as the previous three profound thoughts, will naturaly lead us to the only wish that worths something - to go out, to escape samsara and to attain the state of Buddhahood for us and all beings, including our dear ones.

In order to help us become aware of the painful reality of the samsaric existence and to make us desire to escape from it, Shakyamuni Buddha and all the Masters of our lineage and other lineages put great efforts in describing the six planes of existence:

"Leaving the unclean world means to abhor and to depart from this impure world. It means to depart not only from this human world but also from the entire six realms. These all taken together constitute what is called the Three Worlds.
There is no peace in the Three Realms. The Buddha explained them by comparing them with a burning house and by saying that it is like living in a house which is on fire. It is a thing above all others from which to separate oneself with a feeling of disgust".[1]

Thus, let us all carefully contemplate the various pains of samsaric existence until we are deeply impressed by them. Then, quickly turn our minds toward Amida Buddha, entrust our karmic destiny to Him and wish to be reborn in His Pure Land after death. As Master Genshin stated:

"Truly this world is a prison-house and the Pure Land is our true country. We should therefore make haste to dislike and escape from this prison-house and turn to our true country of the Pure Land".[2]

As death comes to each one of us, we'll certainly die one day, due to the exhaustion of our karma which provided us with the present human life, and if we haven't yet entrusted ourselves to Amida Buddha, we'll be reborn in one of the samsaric realms impelled by the power of our karma. So please, contemplate the suffering inherent to all the six realms, and try to imagine yourself there, because you''ll surely remain in samsara if you do not accept Amida's helping hand.   

            As slaves to their own delusions, blind passions and karma, unenlightened beings are reborn in a threefold manner:
1) in terms of the three planes of existence, they are reborn in the world of desire (kamadhatu), the world of form (rupadathu) and the world of non-form (arupuadathu);
2) in terms of the types of beings they are reborn as the six kinds of beings: hell dwellers (naraka), hungry ghosts (pretas), animals (tiryanc), humans (manusya), demi-gods (asuras) and gods (devas);
3) in terms of the type of birth, they are reborn in four ways, from the womb, like human beings, some animals and devas (gods) inhabiting the earth, from the egg, like birds and fishes, from heat and moisture, like some insects and worms, and by spontaneous birth, such as gods, pretas (hungry spirits) and hell-dwellers.

The world of desire (kamadhatu) is the lowest of the three planes of existence, and it contains (from the bottom to the top) the realm of hells, the realm of hungry ghosts, the realm of animals, the realm of humans, the realm of fighting spirits (asuras) and some realms of the gods. The world of form (rupadhatu) and the world of non-form (arupyadhatu) contain only the realms of superior gods. Now lets describe them in detail and contemplate the various sufferings and insatisfactions associated with each one of them:

[1] Ojoyoshu, by Master Genshin, translated from Japanese by A.K. Reischauer  and published in The Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, second series, volume VII, 1930,
[2] Ojoyoshu, by Master Genshin, translated from Japanese by A.K. Reischauer  and published in The Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, second series, volume VII, 1930,

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