Heaven - Buddhism

Buddhism

See also: Nirvana

In Buddhism there are several heavens, all of which are still part of samsara (illusionary reality). Those who accumulate good karma may be reborn in one of them. However, their stay in the heaven is not eternal—eventually they will use up their good karma and will undergo a different rebirth into another realm, as humans, animals or other beings. Because heaven is temporary and part of samsara, Buddhists focus more on escaping the cycle of rebirth and reaching enlightenment (Nirvana).

There are several different types of heavens also based on how the human lives a life along career lines. It is declared that a warrior who fights for good, and dies for his or her duties will enter the realm of the "devas of passionate delight," while an actor that makes audiences laugh will enter the realm of the "laughing devas."

According to Buddhist cosmology the universe is impermanent and beings transmigrate through a number of existential "planes" in which this human world is only one "realm" or "path".

These are traditionally envisioned as a vertical continuum with the heavens existing above the human realm, and the realms of the animals, Hungry ghosts and hell beings existing beneath it. According to Jan Chozen Bays in her book, Jizo: Guardian of Children, Travelers, and Other Voyagers, the realm of the asura is a later refinement of the heavenly realm and was inserted between the human realm and the heavens. One important Buddhist heaven is the Trāyastriṃśa, which resembles Olympus of Greek mythology.

In the Mahayana world view, there are also pure lands which lie outside this continuum and are created by the Buddhas upon attaining enlightenment. These should not be confused with the heavens as the pure lands are abodes of Buddhas, which the heavens are not and heavens are looked at "impermanent" places to be reincarnated in, as heavenly beings still have to die and be reincarnated into lower realms. This confusion can be made worse when writers use such words 'paradise' to denote such pure lands.

One notable Buddhist pure land is the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha. Rebirth in the pure land of Amitabha is seen as an assurance of Buddhahood for once reborn there, beings do not fall back into cyclical existence unless they choose to do so to save other beings, the goal of Buddhism being the obtainment of enlightenment and freeing oneself and others from the birth-death cycle.

One of the Buddhist Sutras states that a hundred years of our existence is equal to one day and one night in the world of the thirty-three gods. Thirty such days add up to their one month. Twelve such months become their one year, while they live for a thousand such years though existence in the heavens is ultimately finite and the beings who reside there will reappear in other realms based on their karma.

The Tibetan word Bardo means literally "intermediate state". In Sanskrit the concept has the name antarabhāva.

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