Category: Glossary

Divine Cosmology in Buddhism

In this article we will touch upon some basic concepts and ideas not so commonly discussed in Buddhism. Often taken purely metaphorical, these ideas appear in some important Buddhist texts, so we should be familiar with them.

The Buddhist view on Cosmology is the one of infinite space, infinite time, and more than 30 realms or worlds inhabited by beings of different degrees of development, power, knowledge, and consciousness.

Even though there is no systematic cosmology in Buddhism, we can find some common concepts present in all main schools of Buddhist thought and philosophy.

By the way, we should mention what the main schools of Buddhism are: Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Vajrayana Buddhism.

Please note that some cosmological ideas have been adapted from the Vedic texts and Indian cosmology.

The main principles of Buddhist cosmology are:

  1. The cause of the existence of the Universe is in the principle of Pratītyasamutpāda or dependent origination.
  2. The Universe is limitless, both temporally and spatially.
  3. All beings in the Universe are born and reborn in different realms of existence depending on their past Karma. The ultimate aim is to escape this endless cycle by reaching final liberation – Nirvana.
  4. There are various levels of existence in a hierarchical order.

Different Types of Beings

While considering the different realms of Buddhist cosmologz, we can distinguish several types of Beings. These beings are Devas, or god-like individuals, Asuras, or titans, or demigods, Narakas or demons, Humans, Animals, and Ghosts.

All beings, even the most advanced ones, live in a state of illusion, samsara. Because of that they are not free from the laws of karma.

The main Deities in Buddhist mythology are:

Brahma, the supreme Deva. Indra, the major Deva, Prajna, the goddess of knowledge, Mara, the deva who tempted Buddha on the path of His enlightenment, Gandharvas, angelic beings.

Not too unlike the metaphor of the mountain Olympus from where the Greek god Zeus ruled the other gods and humans, Buddhist people also keep an image of Mount Meru, at whose peaks the land of the Buddha resides.

The Devas are found on the upper slopes, the titans are on the lower slopes. The plains around the mountain Meru are reserved for the humans and animals. The ghosts live below the surface, whereas the hell is deep down into the earth.

Let’s now consider the different realms of existence:

31 Levels of Existence

Throughout the sacred texts of Buddhism, we find reference to 31 realms of existence. That means Buddhism knows of as many as 31 levels of existence. Here we find a vast range of worlds, starting from painful hell-like realms to the most refined heavenly worlds.

However, Buddhism knows of no lasting heaven or hell. They are all temporary. Beings are born there, live a particular period of time, and then they move on to another world, according to their karma.

A being can be incarnated in any of them. It is believed that most of us during the course of cosmological time incarnate in most of these levels.

A basic division of these levels is in three groups:

  • The levels of sensual existence (material levels). The sense world is also called kama loka. Here we have 11 worlds, and seven of them offer favorable existence, including our Earth and some other realms inhabited by more advanced beings (Devas). The lowest four realms are unfavorable, hell like realms.
  • The levels of pure form (subtle material levels). These fine material realms are called rupa loka. Here we have 16 worlds with relatively blissful existence and mental and emotional pleasures. The beings incarnated here have bodies of light, while the highest four realms are the pure abodes.
  • The formless levels. These immaterial worlds are also called arupa loka (loka means world). Here we have four worlds in total.

The lowest levels are the levels of sense existence, inhabited by individuals with physical senses and cognition. This group has a higher and lower division. In the lower division (various hells), there are unfavorable incarnations as a result of various misconducts, like killing or greed in the previous incarnations. In the higher division, wherein we also can include our present human existence, there are also realms of the various Devas in the sense-based heavens.

The middle levels are the levels of pure form. These are also heavenly worlds of higher Devas. The Buddhist teachings state that beings born here have only 2 senses (hearing, and sight), rather than the usual 5.

To be born in the middle levels means spending your previous lives in meditation, stilling your mind, practicing concentration and contemplation. The highest of the middle levels (also known as pure abodes). Pure abodes are reserved for those who have attained high stages of enlightenment, or awakening, or are just about to reach enlightenment (nirvana).

The most sublime realms of existence are found in the formless worlds. The beings present here are distinguished by their pure consciousness and independence from any bodily form.


The highest four realms are as follows:

The realm of “Neither-perception-nor-non-perception“.

Next comes the Nothingness.

The 29th realm is the Infinite Consciousness and bellow is

the Infinite Space.

Rupa Loka

The next 16 realms are the following:

Pure abodes (5 in total):

Peerless Devas,

Clear sighted,

Beautiful Devas,

Untroubled Devas, and

Devas not Falling,

Next we have the Unconscious beings, and then come the beings who enjoy different degrees of bliss:

Very Fruitful Devas,

Devas of Refulgent Glory,

Devas of Unbounded Glory,

Devas of Limited Glory,

Devas of Streaming Radiance,

Devas of Unbounded Radiance,

Devas of Limited Radiance,

Great Brahmas,

Ministers of Brahmas, and

Followers of Brahmas.


Happy Places

Here we have Devas with power of the creation of other beings. They enjoy the pleasure created for them by others.

Next are the Devas that enjoy in Creation of their own objects,

Contented Devas who enjoy pure bliss and cheerfulness, and

Yama Devas who live liberated from any difficulty,

Sakka who are devotees of Buddha, and

Devas of the Four Great Kings, who possess different degrees of purity.

The fifth realm is reserved for Human beings who strive to develop virtue and wisdom.

Unhappy Places

In the lower realms we find the Ausaras, demons who are in constant conflict with each other,

Hungry Shades, ghosts who are without hope and who wander lost in search for sensual pleasures,

Animals, and

Hellish beings, who suffer great pains in this temporary condition.

Cosmological Time in Buddhism                                   

Kalpa is the basic unit of time in Buddhist cosmology. One kalpa is 4,320,000,000 years. It takes exactly one kalpa for the world to come into being, evolve, and dissolve into emptiness. After a period of inactivity, it all starts all over again.


We all go through life in a unique world created by our preconceptions, beliefs, and karmic circumstances. Our own subjective reality paints how we look at the objective reality. In order to be able to look at the truth as it is, we have to climb the ladder of personal and spiritual development and expand the faculties of the mind, such as, mental clarity and objectivity. Then, all our subjective mental barriers will be destroyed and the Universe we see is going to be different. That also means choosing a higher level of existence in our next incarnation.

Photo courtesy of hubblesite

Filed under: Glossary, Metaphysical

The Yoga of Swami Dev Murti Ji

swami-dev-murtiThe Yoga philosophy and practice of Swami Dev Murti Ji is presented in the book “Yoga in Daily Life” written by Jack Boulton and John More. Jack and John were students of Swami Dev Murti more than 25 years. They also wrote another book, “Yoga in Practice”.

Swami Dev Murti started practicing the ancient practice of yoga at the age of three.At the age of 5 Swami Dev Murti was introduced to a great yoga master in the Himalayas who took the boy the secrets of yoga in the Himalaya caves.

In 1958, his teacher, Matiji Maharaj (who lived approximately 140) sent him to spread the art and science of yoga throughout the world.

His system of special exercises for the spine was developed with the needs of the modern people in mind. It gives great results with just seven minutes of daily practice. .

Here is a demonstration of these exercises (crocodile exercises, as they are conveniently called)  by a Swamid Dev Murti’s student of Yoga.

Swami Dev Murti passed away in 2011, at the age of 108 years. He was one of the grandfathers of yoga. Although he didn’t want to expose to the public very much, he had a lot of students all around the world, who in turn set up several ashrams, as well as yoga societies, and associations. He was known for his teaching of three or more generations of students from the same family.

In his early age, to kindle the interest of the public for the little known science of yoga, he used to demonstrate his mastery of yoga performing in shows in public. Check the video below for a stunning demonstration of his powers:

In addition to the Hatha yoga exercises, Swami Ji developed and research the Kundalini yoga practice. He adjusted this powerful technique to the ordinary people living in the West.

Filed under: Glossary

Ganesha — the Elephant

GaneshaThe stories, symbolism, attributes and legends surrounding Lord Ganesha are so numerous and varied, that we can only hope to lift the curtain and shine a little light.

I will share some of my favourite attributes and symbolism in this first part. After that, I leave the door open for you to share and comment on whatever experience and knowledge you may have regarding Sir Ganesh, The lord of the hosts, Ganapati, the destroyer of obstacles.

Where to start but at the beginning? Ganesha is the first born son of Shiva and Parvati and within his name Ganesh, ‘Ga’ symbolizes Buddhi (intellect) and ‘Na’ symbolizes Vijnana (wisdom).

Because of these two qualities, Ganesha is considered the master of wisdom and intellect. His big belly symbolizes the prosperity of nature, and is thought to contain infinite universes.

With equanimity, Ganesha swallows the sorrows of the universe, to protect the world.

His wide ears indicate wisdom. This is the type of wisdom that comes from the ability to listen to people’s problems, but also from our own meditation and contemplation over spiritual truths.It is important for everyone to learn how to listen as one of the best ways of assimilating ideas in the world around us. In this way Ganesh’s ears are used to gain knowledge. In Hindu belief, the huge ears indicate that whenever a person knows God, at the same time they come in possession of all knowledge.

The broken tusk of Ganapataya stands primarily for his ability to overcome or “break through” the illusions of duality, to see that we are one.

Ganesh is escorted, attended to and occasionally carried by a mouse. According to some interpretations, the dive vehicle of Ganesha, the mouse, represents talent, wisdom, and intelligence. Because a mouse usually leads his life below ground, one could argue that it can also be a symbol of ignorance, the kind of ignorance originating in fear and darkness that should be lifted up by light and knowledge.

The mouse of Lord Ganesha can teach us how to remain on alert, to be aware of the illusory reality and to light up the flame of inner knowledge and wisdom.

Philosophically, Ganesha, denotes the person who has found the Divine within himself. Ganesha’s is the first sound, OM, from which all songs were brought forth. When Shakti (Energy) and Shiva (Matter) were joined together, both Light (Skanda) and Sound (Ganesha) were born.

Ganesha is a symbol of the perfect balance of beauty and kindness on one side and power and force on the other. Given these qualities, Ganesha teaches us to be able to discriminate between the illusion and the truth, to be able to see the real versus the unreal.

All in all, Ganesha is a frequently invoked Deity, because he is the God of Good Fortune capable of bringing abundance and prosperity. In fact, Ganesha can help us destroy the obstacles on our spiritual and material paths.

To bring prosperity and release blockage in households and businesses, it is a tradition to place Ganesha in the first left hand corner, as you enter.  You can built an alcove for Ganesh, even before you have a beautiful statue of this Deity.

Filed under: Blog Posts, Glossary