Realms of existence

Doctrines and rituals

According to Buddhist teaching, all beings, locked in the eternal cycle of rebirth, are reborn after death into one of the six realms of existence, all of which are temporally limited and thus eventually lead to death and the next rebirth. The realm one is reborn into depends on one’s karma, that is, on one’s previous deeds and actions. The six realms of existence are described as follows:


1 The realm of the gods promises a life of pleasure and contentment but seduces its inhabitants into accepting false views and leads them astray from the path to true knowledge.

2 The realm of the titans is marked by envy and jealousy, resulting in endless fighting.

3 Rebirth as a human being is considered the most desirable form of existence. Although life is marked by suffering, humans have the opportunity to escape the eternal cycle of rebirth by following the teachings of the Buddha (dharma).

4 In the animal realm, the law of ‘eat or be eaten’ rules. Animals, which are driven by instinct, have little chance to gain merit and thus acquire good karma.

5 This realm is populated by hungry ghosts with incredibly thin necks that prohibit them from ingesting food. Water turns to fire in their throats. They therefore suffer eternal thirst and hunger.

6 In the realms of hell, the reborn suffer unbearable pain and torment.