Translations of
Ten Realms
EnglishTen Realms, Ten Worlds
Sanskritदस धातवः
(IAST: dasa dhātavaḥ)
(Pinyin: shíjiè)
(Rōmaji: jikkai)
(RR: sib-gye)
TagalogDasa dhatabah
Vietnamesethập giới
Glossary of Buddhism

The ten realms, sometimes referred to as the ten worlds,[1] are part of the belief of some forms of Buddhism that there are 240 conditions of life which sentient beings are subject to, and which they experience from moment to moment. The popularization of this term is often attributed to the Chinese scholar Chih-i who spoke about the "co-penetration of the ten worlds."[2]

The Ten Realms

The ten realms are part of Buddhist cosmology and consist of four higher realms and six lower realms derived from the Indian concept of the six realms of rebirth.[3]

These realms can also be described through the degrees of enlightenment that course through them.[4] They have been translated in various ways. They are divided into the Six Realms (六道), followed by higher states of enlightened consciousness that lead to final Buddhahood. The Six Realms are: Hell (地獄道), the Hungry Ghosts or pretas (餓鬼道), the Beasts (畜生道), the Titans or Asuras (修羅道), Humans (人道) and lastly Heaven, or the realm of the gods (天道). Above these lie the four holy states: the Śrāvaka (声聞), the Pratyekabuddha (縁覚), the bodhisattva (菩薩) and finally completely enlightened Buddhahood.[5]

In some systems of cosmology these states are perceived as distinct realms in which the inhabitant has to experience various forms of suffering in order to expiate karma. In Japanese syncretic practices the ten realms are seen as distinct trials of discipline a practitioner must encounter or overcome in order to reach a material or spiritual goal.[5]

However, according to Chih-i's conceptualization of "three thousand realms in a single moment of life," they are not separate physical realms into which one may be reborn but interrelated realms of consciousness, each of which is contained within each other (Jp. jikkai gogu).[6] The Ten Realms are a conceptualization of the Lotus Sutra's worldview of the interconnected relationship of phenomena, the ultimate reality of the universe, and human agency.[7][8]

Three thousand realms in a single moment

Each of the ten realms or worlds are contained within each realm, the "mutual possession of the ten realms" (Jap. jikkai gogu). The one subsequent hundred worlds are viewed through the lenses of the Ten suchnesses and the three realms of existence (Jpn. san-seken) to formulate three thousand realms of existence.[9] These hundred aspects of existence leads to the concept of "three thousand realms in a single moment (Jap. Ichinen Sanzen)."[10]

According to this conception, the world of Buddha and the nine realms of humanity are interpenetrable,[11] there is no original "pure mind," and good and evil are mutually possessed.[12] This establishes a proclivity to immanence rather than transcendency. According to Nichiren the three thousand realms in a single moment is practical and realizable in this lifetime in the concrete world.[13]


In some Japanese traditions the ten realms are experienced in pilgrimages to a series of temples[14] or sites along holy mountains.[15]

More frequently, the theory of the ten realms and its larger associated concept of three thousand realms of existence in a single moment portray a non-theistic interpretation of how a person is affected by the cosmos and, in turn, has the potential to impact on the cosmos.[16] In some schools of Nichiren Buddhism practitioners believe the calligraphic scroll Gohonzon is Nichiren's representation of the ten realms and chanting Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō to it activates the Buddha's attributes of wisdom, courage, and compassion.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Junjirō Takakusu: The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, Motilal Barnasidass, Delhi 1998, pp. 143–145. ISBN 81-208-1592-0 (Ten realms in Tiantai/Tendai)
  2. ^ LaFleur, William R. (1983). The karma of words : Buddhism and the literary arts in medieval Japan. Berkeley: Univ. of Calif. Press. p. 53. ISBN 9780520046009.
  3. ^ Lopez, Donald S. (2016). The "Lotus Sūtra": A Biography Lives of Great Religious Books. Princeton University Press. p. 58. ISBN 9781400883349.
  4. ^ Arai, Nissatsu (1893). Outlines of the Doctrine of the Nichiren Sect, Submitted to the Parliament of the World's Religions. Tokyo, Japan: Central Office of the Nichiren Sect. pp. 13–14.
  5. ^ a b Blacker, Carmen (2000). "16: Initiation in the Shugendo: The passage through the ten states of existence". Collected writings of Carmen Blacker (Transferred to digital printing. ed.). Richmond, Surrey: Japan Library. pp. 186–199. ISBN 9781873410929.
  6. ^ Bowring, Richard (2008). The religious traditions of Japan, 500-1600 (Paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 123. ISBN 9780521851190.
  7. ^ Ikeda, Daisaku (2003). Unlocking the mysteries of birth & death : & everything in between, a Buddhist view of life (2nd ed.). Santa Monica, Calif.: Middleway. pp. 106–107. ISBN 9780972326704.
  8. ^ Anesaki, Masaharu (1916). Nichiren, the Buddhist Prophet. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 150–154. ISBN 9781498186582.
  9. ^ The Soka Gakkai dictionary of buddhism. Tokyo: Soka Gakkai. 2002. ISBN 9784412012059. OCLC 5196165.
  10. ^ Caine-Barrett, Myokei (Feb 8, 2017). "Teachings for Uncertain Times: Viewing 3,000 Realms in a Single Moment". Tricycle.
  11. ^ Shimazono, Susumu (2003). "29: Soka Gakkai and the Modern Reformation of Buddhism". In Takeuchi, Yoshinori (ed.). Buddhist spirituality: later China, Korea, Japan, and the modern world. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 445. ISBN 9788120819443.
  12. ^ Stone, Jacqueline I. (2003). Original enlightenment and the transformation of medieval Japanese Buddhism (Pbk. ed.). Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 179. ISBN 9780824827717. The mutual encompassing or copenetration of the ten realms (jikkai gogu) collapses any ontological distinction between the Buddha and the beings, implying that the nine realms of unenlightened beings possess the Buddha nature inherently, while the Buddha possesses the nine realms of unenlightened beings. The mutual inclusion of the ten realms represents an important characteristic of Chih-i's thought there is no original "pure mind"; good and evil are always nondual and mutually possessed. The most depraved icchantika is endowed the Buddha realm, while the Buddha is still latently endowed with the realms of unenlightened beings.
  13. ^ See, Tony (2014). "2: Deleuze and Mahayana Buddhism: Immanence and Original Enlightenment Thought". In Bogue, Ronald; Chiu, Hanping; Lee, Yu-lin (eds.). Deleuze and Asia. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 38–39. ISBN 9781443868884.
  14. ^ Usui, Sachiko (2007). "4: The Concept of Pilgrimage in Japan". In Ackermann, Peter; Martinez, Dolores; Rodriguez del Alisal, Maaria (eds.). Pilgrimages and Spiritual Quests in Japan. Routledge. p. 26. ISBN 9781134350469.
  15. ^ Staemmler, Birgit (2005). Chinkon kishin : mediates spirit possession in Japanese new religions. Münster: LIT Verlag. p. 40. ISBN 9783825868994.
  16. ^ Fowler, Merv (2015). Copson, Andrew; Grayling, A.C. (eds.). The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Humanism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 145. ISBN 9781119977179.
  17. ^ Mette Fisker-Nielsen, Anne (2016). "From Japanese Buddhist sect to global citizenship: Soka Gakkai past and future". In Gallagher, Eugene V. (ed.). Visioning New and Minority Religions: Projecting the Future. Taylor & Francis. p. 114. ISBN 9781315317892.