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Buddhism Concepts: Buddhas|Karma|Nirvana|Reality| Rebirth



Rebirth means beings go through a succession of lives, each running from conception to death, as one of many possible forms of sentient life. It is important to note though, that Buddhism rejects the idea of a permanent self or the concept of an unchanging, eternal soul as it is known e.g. in Christianity or even Hinduism. As there ultimately is no such thing as a self (anatta), rebirth in subsequent existences must rather be understood as the continuation of a dynamic, ever changing process of "Dependent Arising" determined by the laws of cause and effect (karma) rather than that of one being, "jumping" from one existence to the next.


Each rebirth takes place within one of five realms, according to Theravadins, or six according to other schools. These are further subdivided into 31 planes of existence:

  1. Naraka beings - T hose who live in one of many levels of Narakas (Hells).
  2. Animals - S haring some space with humans, but considered another type of life.
  3. Preta - Sometimes sharing some space with humans, but invisible to most people; an important variety is the hungry ghost.
  4. Human beings - One of the realms of rebirth in which attaining Nirvana is possible.
  5. Asuras - Lowly deities, demons, titans, antigods; not recognized by Theravada (Mahavihara) tradition as a separate realm.
  6. Devas including Brahmas: variously translated as g ods, deities, spirits, angels, or left untranslated.
Rebirths in some of the higher heavens, known as the Śuddhavasa Worlds (Pure Abodes), can be attained only by anagamis (non-returners). Rebirths in the arupa-dhatu (formless realms) can be attained only by those who can meditate on the arupa-jhānas.
According to East Asian and Tibetan Buddhism, there is an intermediate state between one life and the next, but Theravada rejects this
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