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How does nibbāna relate to the 31 lokas and does rebirth into higher realms of existence precede enlightenment or result from it? Many thanks.

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The higher realms are not directly related to enlightenment although some higher realms (such as the moral humane 'human' realm or the meditative jhana 'godly' realm) can help with reaching enlightenment. Thus, some (but not all) higher realms precede enlightenment rather then result from enlightenment.

The word 'existence' or 'bhava' generally refers to attaching to things as 'self' thus, as described in AN 4.123, for example, any attachment, self-becoming or 'ego-existence' in a higher realm will eventually lead to 'hell' ('suffering'; 'torment'; 'despair').

In short, enlightenment cannot precede from or result in any kind of 'existence' ('bhava') since enlightenment ends 'ego-existence'.

  • I think I understand. Except this: "In short, enlightenment cannot precede from or result in any kind of 'existence' ('bhava') since enlightenment ends 'ego-existence'." Didn't the Buddha exist? – AlexiaL Oct 15 '16 at 10:24
  • There are two kinds of 'existence'. The 1st kind we can call 'physical existence'. The 2nd kind of existence is the psychological idea that "I" exist. For example, Buddhism explains, the same as modern science would, that a new born child does not have the psychological idea that "I" exist. It takes some months before the mind of a new born child develops the ideas or thoughts of "I", "me", "mine" & "self". Thus, the new born child exists physically but, to itself, does not exist psychologically. Enlightenment is the same. In enlightenment, the mind does not have the belief that "I exist". – Dhammadhatu Oct 15 '16 at 13:25
  • For example, in the Pali scriptures (Yamaka Sutta), a monk believed the Buddha existed as a 'person' & held the view the Buddha, as a 'person', would 'die' & cease to exist. This monk was reprimanded for having wrong view. It was explained to the monk that the ending of the life of a Buddha is simply the ending of the body, feelings, perception, thought function & consciousness. Buddhas do not experience "death" because "death" is only experienced by minds that believe "I exist" & "I am going to die". But when the mind has no thoughts of "I", there is no death. There is only the ending of life – Dhammadhatu Oct 15 '16 at 13:32
  • In my answer, I referred to AN 4.123, AN 4.123 explains two different minds entering into a higher realm (meditative jhana). One mind in that higher realms, believes it is a "god", i.e., one of the devas of Brahma's retinue. It thinks: "I am a god; I exist as a god". The other mind of the disciple of the Blessed One is "unbound" or non-attached in that higher realm. In that higher realm, the disciple of the Buddha does not believe "I am a god". Thus, they do not take "existence" in that realm. Instead, they only pass through that higher realm & view that higher realm as impermanent & not-self. – Dhammadhatu Oct 15 '16 at 13:40
  • One more explanation of "existence". I assume you are not a millionaire or a billionaire. Not being so, you do not exist ('bhava') as a millionaire. But imagine you win $100 million in a lottery. By winning $100 million you start to exist as a millionaire. You buy big houses, all around the world, you buy fancy cars and attend lavish parties. You start to believe & behave as you a millionaire. This personal belief that you are a millionaire & someone very special is all psychological. It is just a belief, that is all. It is an "existence" created by your own mind. – Dhammadhatu Oct 15 '16 at 13:46

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