Rūpadhātu (T. gzugs khams གཟུགས་ཁམས་; C. sejie; J. shikikai; K. saekkye 色界) is translated as "form realm," "realm of fine materiality," "realm of subtle materiality," etc. It is one of the three realms of cyclic existence (samsara) within Buddhist cosmology.
This realm is characterized by the internal bliss of absorption. If explained further by means of body, feelings, and resources: "beings there have bodies in the nature of light, their experience is permeated mostly by feelings of bliss, and they do not rely on coarse food." The beings who live in this realm are considered to be celestial beings.
This realm is divided into four sub-realms, which are further divided into additional sub-realms or heavens. In the Sanskrit tradition, there are seventeen heavens in total; in the Pali tradition there is one less heaven, for a total of sixteen heavens.
The cause for being reborn in one of these heavens is the favourable karma accumulated through the practice of one of the dhyanas, each 'causal meditative dhyana' acting as a cause of rebirth in one of the corresponding 'resultant dhyana levels'.
Divisions of the form realm
The form realm is divided into four sub-realms, each corresponding to one of the four meditative absorptions of the form realm (rūpāvacaradhyāna). These sub-realms are places of rebirth in cyclic existence (samsara). Each sub-realm is accessible only through mastering the corresponding stage of meditative absorption.
These sub-realms are divided further:
- seventeen heavens of the of the form realm (Skt. rupadhatuvasiñjati; T. gzugs khams gnas ri bcu bdun, གཟུགས་ཁམས་གནས་རི་བཅུ་བདུན་) are identified in the Sanskrit tradition
- sixteen heavens, or "Brahmā realms," are identified in the Pali tradition
The distinction between these traditions is noted in the sections below.
The fourth dhyana (Skt. caturtha-dhyāna; T. བསམ་གཏན་བཞི་པ་) has two main sub-divisions:
- "the five pure abodes" (śuddhāvāsa)
- the heavens of the ordinary beings
Five pure abodes
The "five pure abodes" (śuddhāvāsa) are the uppermost realms in the form realm (rūpadhātu). These realms are only accessible to noble beings (arya sangha).
- Unexcelled (akanishtha)
- Perfect vision (sudarśana)
- Perfect appearance (sudṛśa)
- Untroubled (atapa)
- Free from afflictions (avṛha)
Heavens of ordinary beings
The "heavens of ordinary beings" are the highest realms accessible to ordinary beings.
The Sanskrit tradition recognizes three divisions at this level:
- Great Fruition (bṛhatphala)
- Increasing Merit (puṇyaprasava)
- Cloudless (anabhraka)
The Pali tradition recognizes two divisions:
- Unconscious beings (asaññasatta) - only the body is present; no mind.
- Great Fruition (P. vehapphala; Skt. bṛhatphala)
The realm of the third dhyana (Skt. tritīyadhyāna; T. བསམ་གཏན་གསུམ་པ་) has three sub-realms:
- Most Extensive Virtue (Skt. Śubhakṛtsna; Tib. དགེ་རྒྱས་, dge rgyas)
- Immeasurable Virtue (Skt. Apramāṇaśubha; Tib. ཚད་མེད་དགེ་, tshad med dge)
- Lesser Virtue (Skt. Parīttaśubha; Tib. དགེ་ཆུང་, dge chung)
- Clear Radiance (Skt. Ābhāsvara; Tib. འོད་གསལ་, ‘od gsal)
- Immeasurable Radiance (Skt. Apramāṇābha; Tib. ཚད་མེད་འོད་, tshad med ‘od)
- Lesser Radiance (Skt. Parīttābha; Tib. འོད་ཆུང་, ‘od chung)
This realm is also referred as the "brahma worlds" (brahmaloka). The beings in this realm are immersed in the bliss of the first meditative absorption (dhyana).
- Great Brahma (Mahābrahmaṇa)
- Ministers of Brahma (Brahmapurohita)
- Attendants of Brahma (Brahmakāyika)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Thupten Jinpa 2017, s.v. "The Formation of World Systems".
- ↑ Form realm
- ↑ Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. rūpadhātu.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 The Thirty-one Planes of Existence, Access to Insight
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 བསམ་གཏན་བཞི་པ་, Christian-Steinert Dictionary
- ↑ བསམ་གཏན་གསུམ་པ་, Christian-Steinert Dictionary
- Thupten Jinpa, ed. (2017), Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics, Volume 1: The Physical World, translated by Coghlan, Ian James, Wisdom Publications