One book I like very much is The Myth Of Freedom by Chogyam Trungpa. Of particular interest is the section where he distinguishes the realms of existence as mental states and ways of being.

I've yet to find this discussed elsewhere in any way that resonates. Everything I find merely talks about Buddhism and psychology and speaks about it in terms defined in the latter.

Trungpa nourishes the metaphor and generates a rich unanswerable question. Other writings I've found prey on the metaphor and regurgitate a definitive answer.

The former offers opening for insight; the latter suppresses thought.

Does anyone know of anywhere else this subject is written upon with the type of creativity I've alluded to?

3 Answers 3


Did you try Trungpa's Transcending Madness: The Experience of the Six Bardos?

Another Trungpa's work that touches similar topics is Glimpses of Abhidharma: From a Seminar on Buddhist Psychology

  • Just an update. I read/am reading Transcending Madness. It definitely covers what I was looking for. Thanks
    – dgo
    Dec 2, 2016 at 17:21

You will find similar discussion in Ken McLeod's book "Wake up to Your Life". McLeod begins a definition of the 6 realms of existence on page 146,

"The six worlds of projected emotion are known as the six realms of beings: hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, titans, and gods. The six corresponding reactive emotional patterns give rise to six different interpretations of experience. In effect, we project the emotional reaction onto the world of experience.

When we experience the world through anger, we see everything as an enemy and fight our way through life. We live in hell."

And he goes on to describe the other five realms/reactive emotions in similar terms. McLeod also touches on and expands on these descriptions in some of this podcasts (available through Unfettered Mind)(sorry, I can't cite specific pod casts). McLeod also comes out of the Tibetan tradition, though a different lineage (a student of Kalu Rinpoche).

  • Kalu is Karma-Kagyu as well. Very close.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Dec 31, 2015 at 18:41

Maybe the The Thirty-one Planes of Existence are of interest for user1167442. Ven. Paññobhāsa Bhikkhu also kindly shared an impression of the many states: Samsara - Kinds of being. The Buddha sometime compared certain people or their tendency with being(s) of other realm like the human, like when saying "Licchavi of Vesali are comparable to the assembly of the Thirty-three gods" (DN16).

In regard of such as bardo-states, be informed that such is not found in the teachings of the Buddha, since there is no such as in between. The only possible idea of such later developments is that people made something our of the mentioning "sambhavesī" (like in the Karaṇīya Mettā Sutta) which is normally translated as "seeking birth" or more lit. on being born (maybe thought of an egg), so not estimated as a being by others yet

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