In AN 4.123, it is reported the Buddha taught monks if a person clings to the heaven of jhana they will end up in hell, as follows:

Monks, there are these four types of individuals to be found existing in the world. Which four?

There is the case where an individual, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He savors that, longs for that, finds satisfaction through that. Staying there — fixed on that, dwelling there often, not falling away from that — then when he dies he reappears in conjunction with the devas of Brahma's retinue. The devas of Brahma's retinue, monks, have a life-span of an eon. A run-of-the-mill person having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, goes to hell, to the animal womb, to the state of the hungry shades.

In comparison, in many suttas addressed to laypeople, the Buddha taught if they do good kamma, they will appear in a happy state or in heaven, as follows:

The Blessed One asked them, "Householders, is there any teacher agreeable to you, in whom you have found grounded conviction?"

With regard to this, an observant person considers thus: 'If there is the other world, then this venerable person — on the breakup of the body, after death — will reappear in a good destination, a heavenly world. Even if we didn't speak of the other world, and there weren't the true statement of those venerable contemplatives & brahmans, this venerable person is still praised in the here-&-now by the observant as a person of good habits & right view: one who holds to a doctrine of existence.' If there really is a other world, then this venerable person has made a good throw twice, in that he is praised by the observant here-&-now; and in that — with the breakup of the body, after death — he will reappear in a good destination, a heavenly world. Thus this safe-bet teaching, when well grasped & adopted by him, covers both sides, and leaves behind the possibility of the unskillful. MN 60

The ascetics and brahmans thus ministered to as the Zenith by a householder show their compassion towards him in six ways:

(i) they restrain him from evil, (ii) they persuade him to do good, (iii) they love him with a kind heart, (iv) they make him hear what he has not heard, (v) they clarify what he has already heard, (vi) they point out the path to a heavenly state.

DN 31

Are there any suttas where it is taught to householder laypeople that after their time in heaven expires they will be reborn in hell?

  • The more suttas "where Buddha taught laypeople after heaven they will be reborn in hell", the more proof for your views that when Buddha said the words 'heaven' and 'hell', he referred to mental states in the here & now, in this very same life ... not in the afterlife. Correct?
    – beginner
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 19:40
  • @beginner No, I think this question is a follow-on from this comment.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 20:26
  • I see. Hope it gets resolved.
    – beginner
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 20:52
  • @Dhammadhatu If there isn't such a sutta, how could someone prove that in an answer? Where did you get the idea (or knowledge) that there isn't such a sutta: did you discover that yourself, or did someone tell you?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 21:16
  • Chris. My impression is it a common view in contemporary Buddhism that seeking heaven is ultimately vain because it is temporary. However, I have never read such a view taught to lay people in the suttas therefore by asking this question I hope to clarify the matter. It is a genuine question. Regards Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 1:08

3 Answers 3


Seldom he taught the transcendent path and the backward to householder. Seldom he taught sunnata to householder. Why? Because the untrained mind would not understand and not protected by firm Silas and precepts "Yogies" dwelling in "housholder-equanimity" would cause them all the reasons to fall into hell, after their "equanimity" journey, gross transgressions, totally unaware, one self totally overestimated.

They would easily, which a notion of "there is no I" tend to pernicious false beliefs which causes them to fall to hell.

The so-called 'evil views with fixed destiny' (niyata-micchāditthi) constituting the last of the 10 unwholesome courses of action (kammapatha), are the following three:

  • (1) the fatalistic 'view of the uncaused ness' of existence (ahetukaditthi),

  • (2) the view of the inefficacy of action' (akiriyaditthi),

  • (3) nihilism (natthikaditthi).

(Of course many do not see that they just put the lable of Buddha Dhamma around gross wrong view.)

This is actuallynothing seldom. We find that much under modern Zen-follower, Bodhisatva strivers and in many other secualar approaches where householder are trained in "householder"-equanimity, meditation, but their basic right view and virtue not firm.

Where as the Uposatha of the "cowboys" still has an opening to the path, even if it is mostly just for mundane merits done, the Uposatha of the Jains cuts one easy of the path and closes all access.

Not to speak about the effects on many, when teaching but denying mundane right view, saying somehow "thats kindergarden"-Dhamma.

By ChrisW in regard of the question: If there isn't such a sutta, how could someone prove that in an answer? Where did you get the idea (or knowledge) that there isn't such a sutta: did you discover that yourself, or did someone tell you?

If you try to motivate a child to go to school and learn, become a doctor or what ever, would one start to teach it that doctors also dy?

If one has learned the skill of a doctor, whould it be good to tell him, that he still will go to dy?

The "problem" here is actually that many teaching and training "a doctor will not dy".

What do you think that you and many are? In which possible problematic situation of doubt and desire, yet full of knowledge, all around?

Stick simply to the Basics, all that you have learned and gained by means that are not in line of the Dhamma-Vinaya will not help, but be actually enemies. Why? Because it was not given, is not in line of the economy of the Noble Ones.

Devaduta Sutta: The Deva Messengers

People don't understand when it is sayed that association with fools lead to much suffering. Like the bandits encourage each other "don't be fool, they will not catch us. Why suffer and work".

"This is a man, your majesty, with no respect for mother, no respect for father [1], no reverence for contemplatives, no reverence for brahmans, no honor for the leaders of his clan. (e.g. wrong view) Let your majesty decree his punishment."

Dhammadhatu's concern in a discussion under his question:

My impression is it a common view in contemporary Buddhism that seeking heaven is ultimately vain because it is temporary. However, I have never read such a view taught to lay people in the suttas therefore by asking this question I hope to clarify the matter. It is a genuine question. Regards.

This Sutta might be useful for understanding: Gilana Sutta: Ill and This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard:

A Gradual Training

Today there are many householder and also monastics, making materialist a favor running around on Dhamma-places, in forums... and dispraise the doing of merits and come up with wired "no-rebirth" and "no-doer no deed" approaches. With their "householder-equanimity" (see here) they fall from this heaven and that is why the normally tolerant Buddha was very resolved in rebuking their approches, because it is for the suffering of many.

And why do this "Devas" fall into hell later on? Because they teach to be unvirtouse, even to kill not seeing the impureness in their ways, having not understood the basics, yet believing that they are beyond...

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other wordily gains.]

  • I can see various suttas where he did teach householders that deeds may lead to heaven or hell (or to the animal world); but maybe no sutta where he taught that a possible destination is heaven and then hell.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 23:24
  • 1
    Why should he, when people don't believe in either. Householders are mostly not interested in Nibbana, but seek for destiny to become or not become. Many many things had not been taught to householders, but today, where they are greed after all knowledge, they also suffer with it. Heaven and hell... @ChrisW It must be early in the morning for Chris now.
    – user11235
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 23:37
  • Thanks Johann but the question is not related to sunnata. The question is about how the Lord Buddha, with perfect wisdom & compassion, taught laypeople. Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 1:10

In the Ariyapariyesana Sutta - MN.26 - (The Noble Search) The Buddha told the monks of the two quests in the world - the noble and the ignoble. He described how he, too, before his Enlightenment, had followed the quest, apprenticing himself with teachers such as Alava Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, and how, on discovering that they could not give him what he sought, he went to Uruvela and there found the consummate peace of Nibbana.

Even those who are on ignoble quests can go to heavens of the sensual kind or even to higher Brahma realms. But as the OP reminds us, in AN 4.123, the Buddha says that even they will end up in hell. That is why Bhikkhu Abhibhu advised the Brahmas that one who makes haste attains the deathless status; One who negligent is like already dead.

In the Arunavati Sutta - SN-6.14 the bhikkhu Abhibhu agreeing with the Blessed One Siki, told the Brahmas that if they are not heedful, they will end up in hell. He said thus:

"Get started! Leave behind evil, be yoked to the dispensation of Enlightened Ones. Destroy the array of Death, as an elephant would destroy a hut of reeds. If you live, diligently in this dispensation, You dispel birth and death and end unpleasantness."

In reading the Suttas in the Anamatagga-samyutta — The unimaginable beginnings of samsara - We get to understand that beings in most realms do not have the capacity to change their destiny; they just pay off their past kamma, whether good kamma in deva or brahma realms or bad kamma in the human and lower realms (apayas) if they are not firmly established in the Noble Eightfold Path. In the Suttas we find the term “Naraka”. Naraka is a term in Buddhist cosmology usually referred to in English as "hell" (or "hell realm") After his or her kamma is used up, he or she will be reborn in one of the lower worlds as the result of kamma that had been used up. The Suttas in the Anamatagga-samyutta are:

SN 15.3: Assu Sutta — Tears
"Which is greater, the tears you have shed while transmigrating and wandering this long, long time... or the water in the four great oceans?"
SN 15.9: Danda Sutta — The Stick
We bounce from one birth to the next, as a thrown stick bounces along the ground.
SN 15.11: Duggata Sutta — Fallen on Hard Times
When you encounter an unfortunate person, remember: you've been there, too.
SN 15.12: Sukhita Sutta — Happy
When you encounter a fortunate person, remember: you've been there, too.
SN 15.13: Timsa Sutta — Thirty
Which is greater, the blood you have shed in your long journey in samsara, or the water in the four great oceans?
SN 15.14-19: Mata Sutta — Mother
It's hard to meet someone who has not been, at some time in the distant past, your mother, father, son, daughter, sister, or brother.

The Mata Sutta shows that in this endless samsara, there has been nobody who has not been one of our loved ones. We have been in both the heavenly worlds and the lower planes of existence in the past. Compared to our existence in this present world, the life in the Heavens will feel like an eternity. But there is no guaranty, as that too can come crashing down if ever one of its inhabitants have a defiled mind.

In the Brahmajāla Sutta – DN.1: The All-embracing Net of Views Buddha tells us of different kinds of heaven, and the pitfalls that one could face:…

45…. "There are, bhikkhus, certain gods called 'corrupted by play.' These gods spend an excessive time indulging in the delights of laughter and play. As a consequence, they become forgetful and, when they become forgetful, they pass away from that plane.

47…. "There are, bhikkhus, certain gods called 'corrupted by mind.' These gods contemplate one another with excessive envy. As a consequence, their minds becomes corrupted by anger towards one another. When their minds are corrupted by anger, their bodies and minds become exhausted and consequently, they pass away from that plane.

  1. "There are, bhikkhus, certain gods called 'non-percipient beings.' When perception arises in them, those gods pass away from that plane. Now, bhikkhus, this comes to pass, that a certain being, after passing away from that plane, takes rebirth in this world.

In the Maha Kammavibhanga Sutta - MN-136: The Greater Analysis of Action Buddha shows how even a celestial being create kamma, and some of which may influence the last moment when kamma is made before death, which in turn is the basis for the next life.

Buddha’s advice to you and I, is equally true to those in heaven. For example in Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha –DN.16 Buddha states that… of that which is born, come into being, is compounded and subject to decay. In Buddhism, ‘jara-marana’ is associated with the inevitable decay. "Decay is inherent in all component things.

Thus, it begs the question as to what’s the answer is. For this we must understand the true nature of “mind-made pleasures”, and their Ädeenava (serious consequences). A Buddha comes to the world to reveal the true nature of the world, to show the Ädeenava aspect, or in other words: anicca, dukkha, anatta. This insight helps one to see the Nissarana of all things, meaning willingly giving up (or relinquish) assada by comprehending their serious outcomes (adeenava). This leads to achieving a peace of mind, cooling down, and ultimately to Nibbana.

As I understand now, the OP specifically asks for:
Are there any suttas where it is taught to householder laypeople that after their time in heaven expires they will be reborn in hell?

There is one Sutta that was told to the lay people of this earth specifically. If one is to follow the conditions of the Conditions of Worldly Progress that will ensure happiness in this very life, and a rebirth in the heavens, but would NOT help one to escape from Hell. If the Conditions of Spiritual Progress is met, then it is a sure ticket for escape from ALL suffering, which is what we, lay Sangha – the Upasaka & Upasika – wish for all householder laypeople when we do the Ariya Metta Bhavana.

This one sutta is Dighajanu (Vyagghapajja) Sutta: Conditions of Welfare – AN-8.54. In the Ariya metta bhavana, we, the Lay Sangha, wish anyone and everyone to be free from ALL suffering and it is formulated as such:

“May myself and all living beings attain the Sotapanna stage and be free from suffering in the lower realms forever”
“May myself and all living beings attain the Sakadagami stage and be healthy forever”.
“May myself and all living beings attain the Anagami stage and be content (attain peaceful happiness) forever”.
“May myself and all living beings attain the Arahant stage and be free from all suffering and attain the full Nibbanic bliss”.

All four Brahma vihara (metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha) are cultivated with this bhavana.

  • Sadhu! There is a sutta, just not remember, where one asked what the different of one coming to heaven might be, for a person who practiced generosity. Followed by different for a monk having practiced such and for an Arahat. While explaining the significance was always "for one with virtue". If remembering, maybe worthy to add, Nyom.
    – user11235
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 3:30
  • Thank you for your effort Saptha but the question asks for suttas spoken specifically to laypeople. Since no sutta spoken to laypeople was post, the answer does not get the 100 reincarnation merit points. Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 5:16
  • Well well @Dhammadhatu… it looks like I interpreted your question incorrectly. So what you meant was to the lay people of this earth. Even the Devas and the Brahmas hear these suttas and they are all lay people. Now what is found in the Abhidhamma was first told to the Devas, and those too are related to escaping from suffering. I guess, just to meet your condition I will add one more sutta that would help a lay person of this earth to see the noble penetrating insight that leads to the destruction of suffering and escape from hell. Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 8:46
  • The question was raised, because Dhammadhatu told on other place that the Buddha did not say that at all. So to save his face, he putted this question on here. Like Chris pointed out under the question, but doring a cleaning action, it is no more that easy to see. chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/40358528#40358528 Anyhow, since guessing not after certain bonus, its proper to use anything just to teach release. Those who are after other gains, let them gain or maintain. If asking "did the Buddha..." it would be properbly right to say just: no, not direct.
    – user11235
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 10:25

In the oral Tibetian Buddhist traditions this is a common belief.

The logic that is normally presented is this :

  1. In the realms of heaven, you are "burning up" large quantities of "positive" karma quickly
  2. There is little reason to generate "positive" karma while in the heaven realms, why? Because you are in some state of bliss
  3. Once you burn all that "good" karma all that is left in your "stash" is "bad" karma.

Now, this can be seen in the Tibetian Wheel of Life Illustration, but I do not have the memory or resources to know if any sutras flat out say it.

I think it is worth noting that the drop from heaven to hell is not guaranteed by even this belief, as it is in accordance with the "individuals" karma. However in most cases after a birth in heaven, the next rebirth will tend to be in the lower realms, either animal, hungry ghost, or hell being.

  • 1
    thank u for your answer however it is not related to the question. the purpose of the question is the reconcile what the Buddha actually taught in the Pali suttas with the common held contemporary beliefs in the different branches of buddhism. regards Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 22:58
  • @dhammadhatu the tibetan tradition deviates from what Buddha taught in several key ways. It may not be the answer you are looking for, but it is a valid answer as far a Buddhism goes... If you are asking a question with an expected answer then maybe you should just post your own answer instead of baiting.
    – hellyale
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 23:45
  • 1
    @hellyale This is an interesting answer, thank you. Just it's not an answer to the OP's question, which was tagged "pali-canon" and which asked, "Are there any suttas...". I (personally) would like to know more about what the Tibetan tradition says (so I welcome you to post more answers). But one of the ways in which multiple traditions coexist on this site is by sometimes using tags (like "pali-canon") to specify when the OP is asking about a specific tradition. See also tibetan-buddhism and vajrayana and mahayana ... and any topic that doesn't have a tradition-specific tag.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 1:14
  • 1
    @ChrisW ahh I missed the pali tag... should I delete this answer? Dhammadhatu my apologies
    – hellyale
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 2:45

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