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The Pāḷi Line: Knowledge of Former Lives for types of rebirth and the various "Lokas" or usual locations for rebirth.


Pāḷi MO Hare Horner Punnaji Bodhi Rhys Davids (Mrs)Rhys Davids Thanissaro Walshe Woodward
Jāti birth birth birth birth birth birth birth birth birth


Pāḷi Text Society
Pāḷi English Dictionary
Edited by T. W. Rhys Davids and William Stede

Jāti: [see janati and cp. Gr. genea/, ge/nesis; Lat. gens; Goth. kind-ins]. ...1. birth, rebirth, possibility of rebirth, "future life" as disposition to be born again, "former life" as cause of this life. Defined...D II.305 = S II.3... - Jāti is a condition precedent of age, sickness and death, and is fraught with sorrow, pain and disappointment. It is itself the final outcome of a kamma, resting on avijjā, performed in anterior births; and forms thus the concluding link in the chain of the Paṭicca-samuppāda. [MO: ?The concuding link is jaramarana, old age and death]... Various rebirths are seen by one who has perfect insight into all happening and remembers his former existences (D I.81; III.50; A I.164; M II.20). Arahantship implies the impossibility of a future rebirth...2. descent, race, rank, genealogy (cp. fuh/, genus), often combd w. gotta. Two grades of descent are enumd at Vin IV.6 as hīnā jāti (low birth), consisting of Candā'a, Veṇa, Nesāda, Rathakāra and Pukkusa; and ukkaṭṭhā j. (superior birth), comprising Khattiyas and Brāhmaṇas. - The var. meanings of jāti are given by Bdhgh at Vism 498, 499 in the foll. classification (with examples) bhava, nikāya, sankhata-lakkhaṇa, paṭisandhi, pasūti, kula, ariya-sīla....3. a sort of, kind of...four kinds of scent J I.265; II.291. 4. (jāti-) by (mere) birth or nature, natural (opp. artificial); or genuine, pure, excellent (opp. adulterated, inferior)... -thaddha conceited, proud of birth... -nirodha the extermination of (the cause of) rebirth... -sambhava the origin of birth A I.142; III.311; J I.168; -saṅsāra the cycle of transmigration, the saṅsāra of rebirths...: pahīna left behind, overcome (by an Arahant) M I.139; A III.84, 86; -ssara the remembrance of (former) births...



Adapted from

Existence - Rebirth and Planes of Existence

By Sunthorn Na-Rangsi

Special Edition Published For Free Distribution by
Inward Path Publisher, Penang, Malaysia in 1998.





Buddhists Believe That The Human World is not the only world where living beings exist, but that there are many other planes of existence where some forms of life flourish. These planes of existence, despite the fact that some are invisible to human eyes, are closely related to our world. They are places where rebirth takes place.

According to Buddhism, the nature of one's future birth is conditioned by kamma. From here one may, after death, go "upwards" to the plane of happiness or "downwards" to the realm of misery.

Viewed from the point of view of rebirth, the human world and other worlds or planes of existence are reciprocally related. Not only do the beings of this world pass away to take rebirth in other planes, but the beings of those planes also come to take rebirth in the human world.

The Pāḷi Canon speaks of three planes of existence called bhava. The Pāḷi term bhava literally means 'becoming', 'state of existence' or 'plane of existence'. The three planes of existence are:

a. Kama-bhava, the plane of desires,
b. Rupa-bhava, the plane of form, and
c. Arupa-bhava, the plane of the formless or incorporeal beings.

In the Sammaditthi Sutta[1] the Venerable Sariputta speaks of the cause, the cessation and the path leading to the cessation of bhava for each and every individual. Attachment (upadana) is described as the cause of bhava.  Because of attachment one is to be reborn again after death, and because he is to be reborn, bhava or the plane of existence is said to exist for him.

The cessation of bhava is the cessation of attachment which is its cause. And the Noble Eightfold Path is the way leading to the cessation of attachment.

The Pāḷi Canon speaks of four types of birth in different planes of existence. The first type is that of a being born from an egg (andaja). Whatever being comes into life by breaking through an eggshell is called a 'being born from an egg'.

The second type is that of a being born from a womb (jalabuja). The being born by breaking through a membranous sheath, like human beings, or some kinds of animals like cows, etc., belongs to this type of birth.

The third type is that of the being born of moisture (sansedaja).  Whatever being is produced out of rotting fish or rotting corpses or in a dirty pool,' is called a 'being born of moisture'.

The fourth type is that of spontaneous uprising (opapatika). Devas or gods in heaven, and those who are born in hell belong to this type of birth.

We may roughly say that human beings belong to the second type of birth or jalabuja; among the beings in the animal kingdom, some belong to the first type of birth or andaja, some belong to the second type or jalabuja, and some belong to the third type or sansedaja; the beings in heaven and in hell belong to the fourth type or opapatika.

The 31 Locations of Existance


purely mental realms of being


(31) N'evasannanasannayatana
The Sphere of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception
84,000 kappas (aeon)

(30) Akincannayatana
The Sphere where there is No Thing There
60,000 kappas

(29) Vinnanancayatana
The Sphere of Limitless Consciousness
40,000 kappas

(28) Akasanancayatana
The Sphere of Limitless Space
20,000 kappas


realms characterized by their materiality


SudhaVasa Realms
or The Pure Abodes

Locations where only Non-Returners are reborn, to attain Nibbana before the end of the possible lifespan there.


(27) Akanittha - 16,000 kappas
(26) Sudassi - 8,000 kappas
(25) Sudassa - 4,000 kappas
(24) Atappa - 2,000 kappas
(23) Aviha - 1,000 kappas


Brahma Realms


(22) Asannasatta - 500 kappas
(21) Vehapphala (Abundant Fruit) - 500 kappas
(20) Subhakinha or Subhakinna (Luminescent)- 64 kappas
(19) Appamanasubha - 32 kappas
(18) Parittasubha - 16 kappas
(17) Abhassara (Radiant) - 8 kappas
(16) Appamanabha - 4 kappas
(15) Patittabha - 2 kappas
(14) Mahabrahma (The Great Maha Brahma) - 1 kappas
(13) Brahmapurohita (Ministers) - 1/2 kappas
(12) Brahmaparisajja (Retinue) – 1/3 kappas


realms characterized by the intent of their inhabitants to pursue pleasure


or the planes of hapiness


Kamavacara (Heavens)


(11) Paranimmitavasavatti-Loka
The Gods of Power over creations
16,000 of their years or 9,216 million human years human world

(10) Nimmanarati-Loka
The Gods of Creativity
8,000 of their years or 2,304 million human years

(9) Tusita-Loka
The Heaven of Delight; where future Buddhas are reborn to await their turn to be reborn here
4,000 of their years or 576 million human years

(8) Yama-Loka
Supervised by the good twin (or side) of The Lord of Judgment
2,000 of their years or 144 million human years

(7) Tavatimsa
The Gods of the 3 and 30, ruled over by Sakka; sort of a higher council for the Catummaharajika Realm;
1,000 of their years or 36 million human years

(6) Catummaharajika
Gods of much the same nature as the Greek and Roman Gods
500 of their years or 9 million human years


Manusa (Human)


(5) Humans
"...but a hundred years if a man live long."


Apaya-Loka or Worlds of misery


(4) Tiracchanayoni (Animal)

(3) Asurayoni (Titan)

(2) Pettivisaya (Unhappy ghost)

(1) Niraya (Hell)

a) Sanjiva Niraya
b) Kalasutta Niraya
c) Saṅghatai Niraya
d) Roruva or Dhumaroruva Niraya
e) Maharoruva or Jalaroruva Niraya
f) Tapana or Culatapana Niraya
g) Mahatapama Niraya
h) Avici Niraya

Each great hell (above) is surrounded on each of its four sides by five minor hells –
Ussada-niraya, viz.; Gutha, Kukkula, Simpalivana, Asipattavana and Vettarani
Bringing the total to 168 hells.

For other names of Hells and for a calculation of the lifespan of some of these Hells, see: DhammaTalk: Subdivisions of Hell



[1]Majjhima Nikaya I. #9: Sammaditthi Sutta (Sammaadi.t.thi, Sammādiṭṭhi), PTS:MN.I.46
WP: Right View, 132
PTS: Discourse on Perfect View, I.57
ATI: The Discourse on Right View (Same as WP link)


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