Chart of the Planes of Existance in Theravada Buddhism

I. The Woeful Plane (apayabhumi)

Duration of existence is indefinite. Only when their evil kamma is exhausted, can beings leave these realms.

Realm of Rebirth Inhabitants Cause of rebirth here
(1) Hell (niraya)
Great Hells (mahaniraya):
Gapless One (Avici)
Great Tormenter (mahatapana)
Tormenter (Tapana) or Small Tormenter (Cullaapana)
Great Roarer (maharoruva) or
Flamy Roarer (Jalaroruva)
Roarer (Roruva) or Smoky Roarer (Dhamaroruva) Crusher (Sanghata)
Black-thread (Kalasutta)
Reviver (Sañjava)

Hell beings (nirayasatta),

hell-guardians (nirayapala),

determiner kings (yamaraja).

  • Unwholesome actions (MN 41; 129)
  • Lack of virtue, holding to wrong views (AN 10:177)
  • Telling lies, not keeping word deceit, abuse of ascetic state, adultery, wrong views
  • (Dhp chapter 22)
  • Murdering parents or an arahant; injuring the Buddha; creating a schism in the Sangha (AN 5:129)

Subsidiary hells (ussada-niraya) are surrounding each of the Great Hells on each of its four sides:

Caustic River Subsidiary (Vettarani-ussada)
Sword-leafed-forest Subsidiary (Asipattavana-ussada)
Silk-cotton-tree Subsidiary (Simpalivana-ussada)
Ember Subsidiary (Kukkula-ussada)
Filth Subsidiary (Gutha-ussada)

(2) Animal Birth (Tiracchanayoni) Animals (tiracchana) Animals (tiracchana)
  • Lack of virtue, holding to wrong views. If one is generous to monks and nuns, however, one may be reborn as an "ornamented" animal (i.e., a bird with bright plumage; a horse with attractive markings, etc.). (AN 10:177)
  • Behaving like an animal (MN 57)
(3) Region of Ghosts (Pettivisaya) Ghosts (peta) - 4 types:
  1. petas who live on the gifts of others (paradattipajivika-peta),
  2. hungry and thirsty petas (khuppipasika-peta),
  3. petas consumed by craving (nijjhamatanhika-peta),
  4. black-eared peta (kalakañcika-peta).
  • Unwholesome actions (MN 41; 129)
  • Lack of virtue, holding to wrong views (AN 10:177)
(4) Titan Group/Titan Birth (Asurakaya/Asurayoni) Titans (asura) Unwholesome actions (MN 41; 129)

II. The Sensual Happy Plane (kamasugatibhumi)

Realm of Rebirth Inhabitants Duration Cause of rebirth here
(5) World of humans (manussaloka) Human beings (manussa) About 100 years.
  • Wholesome actions (MN 41; 129)
  • Virtue and wisdom (AN 10:177)
(6) The Heaven of the Four Great Kings (Catummaharajika-devaloka) Four Great King Gods (catummaharajika deva); gandhabbas, yakkhas, nagas, kumbhandas, garulas/supannas, devasuras, accharas.) 500 divine years
9 million human years.
(7) The Heaven of the Thirty-three (Tavatimsa) The Thirty-three Gods (tavatimsa-deva) 1,000 divine years
36 million human years.
(8) Heaven of the Easeful (Yama-devaloka) Devas Wielding Power over the Creations of Others (paranimmita-vasavatti-deva) 16,000 divine years
9,216 million human years

III. The Plane of Form (rupa-bhumi)

Strictly speaking, the realms in the four jhanic subdivisions of this plane are not separate because the beings share the same jhana or anagamin attainment realms, e.g., the Brahma-purohita deva and Brahmaparisajja deva are Mahabrahma’s ministers and retinue. See MN 49 and Vibh-a 520. All beings in this plane are Brahmagods (brahmakayika-deva).

a. The Plane of the First Jhana (pathamajhanabhumi)

Realm of Rebirth Inhabitants Duration Cause of rebirth here
(12) World of the Retinue of Brahma (Brahmaparisajja-devaloka) Gods who are members of the Retinue of Brahma (brahmaparisajja deva) 1/3 aeon Attainment & maintenance of 2nd jhana (AN 4:123) in minor degree (Vibh. §960)
(13) World of Devas who are ministers of Brahma (Brahmapurohita-devaloka) Gods who are ministers of Brahma (brahma-purohita deva) 1/2 aeon Ditto, medium degree. (Vibh. §960)
(14) World of Great Brahma (Mahabrahma-devaloka) Great Brahmas (Mahabrahma) 1 aeon Ditto, highest degree. (Vibh. §1024)
b. The Plane of the Second Jhana (dutiyajhanabhumi)
(15) Limited Radiance Heaven (Parittabha-devaloka) Devas of Limited Radiance (parittabha deva) 2 aeons Attainment & maintenance of 2nd jhana (AN 4:123) in minor degree. (Vibh. §1025)
(16) Unlimited Radiance Heaven (Appamanabha-devaloka) Devas of Unlimited Radiance (appamanabha deva) 4 aeons Ditto, medium degree. (Vibh. §1025)
(17) Brilliant Radiance Heaven (Abhassara-devaloka) Devas of Brilliant Radiance (abhassara deva) 8 aeons Ditto, highest degree. (Vibh. §1025)
c. The Plane of the Third Jhana (tatiyajhanabhumi)
(18) Limited Glory Heaven (Parittasubha-devaloka) Devas of Limited Glory (Parittasubha deva) 16 aeons Attainment & maintenance of 3rd jhana (AN 4:123) in minor degree (Vibh. § 1026)
(19) Unbounded Glory Heaven (Appamanasubha-devaloka) Devas of Unlimited Glory (Appamanasubha deva) 32 aeons Ditto, medium degree. (Vibh. §1026)
(20) Refulgent Glory Heaven (Subhakinna- or Subhakinha-devaloka) Devas of Refulgent Glory (Subhakinha deva) 64 aeons Ditto, highest degree. (Vibh. §1026)
d. The Plane of the Fourth Jhana (catutthajhanabhumi)
(21) Abode of Great Reward (Vehapphala-avasa) Devas of Great Reward (Vehapphala deva) 500 aeons Attainment & maintenance of 4th Jhana (AN 4:123; Vibh. §1027)
(22) Base of non-percipient beings (Asaññasattayatana) or Abode of the non-percipient beings (Asaññasattavasa) Non-percipient-being Devas (Asaññasatta deva) 500 aeons Attainment & maintenance of 4th Jhana (Vibh. §1027 & D-a to DN 1.31.); DN 15.33 calls it an ayatana.

e. Plane of Pure Abodes (suddhavasabhumi)

Only those who have attained to the stage of non-return (anagami) are reborn in these abodes, where they eventually attain arahatship. This plane is only accessible for anagamis and arahats. In the Abhidhamma classification this plane is a subdivision of the Plane of the Fourth Jhana.

(23) The Durable Abode (Aviha-bhavana) Durable Devas (Aviha deva) 1,000 aeons Attainment & maintenance of 4th jhana and attainment of non-return (Vibh § 1027; Abhidh-s 5.31. Cf. AN 4:124; 4:136; 9:35)
(24) The Serene Abode (Atappa-bhavana) Serene Devas (Atappa deva) 2,000 aeons
(25) The beautiful Abode (Sudassa-bhavana) Beautiful Devas (Sudassa deva) 4,000 aeons
(26) The Clear-sighted Abode (Sudassibhavana) Clear-sighted Devas (Sudassi deva) 8,000 aeons
(27) The Supreme Abode (Akaninnha-bhavana) Supreme Devas (Akanittha deva) 16,000 aeons

IV. The Plane of the Formless (arupabhumi)

Realm of Rebirth Inhabitants Duration Cause of rebirth here
(28) The Base of Infinite Space (Akasanañcayatana) Gods attained to the Base of Infinite Space (akasanañcayatanu;paga deva) 20,000 aeons Attainment & maintenance of the Base of Infinite Space
(29) The Base of Infinite Consciousness (Viññanañcayatana) Gods attained to the Base of Infinite Consciousness (viññanañcayatanupaga deva) 40,000 aeons Attainment & maintenance of the Base of Infinite Consciousness
(30) The Base of Nothingness (Akiñcaññayatana) Gods attained to the Base of Nothingness (Akiñcaññayatanupaga deva) 60,000 aeons Attainment & maintenance of Base of Nothingness
(31) The Base of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception (Nevasaññanasaññayatana) Gods attained to the Base of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception (nevasaññanasaññayatanupagadeva) 84,000 aeons Attainment & maintenance of the Base of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception