While reading Sutras, sastras and other
Buddhist works, one might come across some words about the six
realms of rebirth and wonder what existence in these realms is like.
All living beings have been gods, humans, hungry ghosts, animals,
inhabitants of the hells and asuras, and have worn out a heap of
bodies as big as a mountain moving in these six paths. Each being
continues to be born in these realms because of past karmic deeds.
Existence in the heavens is very blissful. In
one heaven, the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, one day and one night is
equivalent to one hundred earth years, and the inhabitants of this
heaven live for one thousand years. Existence in all heavens is said
to be so rapturous that no one ever knows of suffering.
In the realm of hungry ghosts, the beings are
always hungry. One species has a stomach as big as a beer keg and a
throat as small as a pin. Some of the ghosts are faster than jets or
rockets, but what good does this do them if they are constantly hungry?
The animals' karmic retribution is stupidity.
Animals are so stupid that they can not think beyond their next
meal. They are motivated only by their desires, yet are not
conscious of this. They are in a cloudy existence, struggling to survive.
The hells have been called resorts because
living beings enjoy creating the bad karma that sends them to this
lowest place of existence. One might think of a resort as a long
sandy beach with rows of white, brown and pink bodies stretched out
on the sand, and brightly colored umbrellas scattered in between.
Screaming children frolic among the light blue waves, which feather
at their crests, break, and transform into frothing foam.
In the hells, this bright blue sea is molten
iron. The children scream out of pain, not excited joy. The people
on the beach are devoured or forced into the sea by roaring hideous
flesh-eating beasts. The whole scene is filled with limitless suffering.
Asuras can be born in their own realm or in any
of the other five realms. Their favorite pastime is fighting. They
argue, fight and cause misery to others. Anyone who gets angry has
some asura in him.
It may be hard to conceive of these places of
rebirth, yet while experiencing the human realm, they become a
little easier to understand. Look for yourself:
In the early morning dawn a young man leaves
for work. Walking out onto the cold sidewalk, he sees mounds of
garbage everywhere: beer bottles; wads of paper; spoiled vegetables;
firecracker wadding and a large heap in a doorway, an old wino
sleeping off last right's drunk. He makes his way through the refuse
and reaches his car, which he hopes, hasn't been stripped or damaged
too badly. So begins another day in the Saha World.
Motoring over the majestic bridge, he sees a
golden sun shining through the tall buildings of the city.
He arrives at the hospital, where he is a
janitor, and sees the tired nurses who have been working all night
and just wanting to get home to their husbands, children and sleep.
At the time clock he is greeted by people eager to punch in and make
the day's wages. Brushing the last bit of sleep out of his eyes,
looking down a long shiny corridor he sees a cart heaped with red
and brown plastic bags. Underneath the bags is a form with a very
swollen midsection, and covered by a sheet. A week ago this lady's
legs were so infected that no bandage or sheet was allowed to touch
them, lest they stick to the wound and really hurt when removed. But
now the body has lost the fight; she died this morning.
Later on, as the janitor mops the floor near
the room where the bodies are kept, two pale-faced men in black
suits whisk by with their red covered body cart. They return shortly
with the body and the janitor notices that one of the ghostly men
wears a red carnation in his lapel as if he were trying to liven up
the whole dead scene. The janitor wonders where the lady goes from here.
All people constantly strive for five basic
things: food; beautiful forms; sleep; wealth; and fame. It is just
these five desires that keep living beings caught in the wheel of
birth and death. But in one respect, humans are lucky. They have a
consciousness, which enables them to understand suffering, cultivate
the Buddha path, and attain liberation from this six-spoke
imprisoning wheel of birth and death.