Although sometimes they are described as "real" places, more often these days they are appreciated as allegories.

The nature of one's existence is determined by karma.


This may be Avalokiteshvara, bodhisattva of compassion.

Or it may be Ksitigarbha, who travels to all the realms but who has made a special vow to save those in the hell realm. Further, their privilege and exalted status blind them to the suffering of others, so in spite of their long lives they have neither wisdom nor compassion.

In Buddhist tradition, the Deva realm is populated by godlike beings who enjoy great power, wealth and long life. The privileged Devas will be reborn in another of the Six Realms.

In ancient Buddhist cosmology there are Three Worlds containing a total of thirty-one realms.

There are Arupyadhatu, the formless world; Rupadhatu, the world of form; and Kamadhatu, the world of desire.

Whether it's useful to know anything about the thirty-one realms is a matter to debate, but you might run into them in old texts.)Please note that in some schools the realms of Devas and Asuras are combined, leaving five realms instead of six.

In Buddhist iconography, a bodhisattva is placed in each realm to help beings out of it.

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