Why Brahmas at formless realms are unable to hear/communicate/understand the teachings of the Buddha when they have high intelligence?

Alara Kalama is wise, competent, intelligent. He has long had little dust in his eyes. What if I were to teach him the Dhamma first? He will quickly understand this Dhamma.

MN 26

I mean not just Alara Kalama but other Brahmas still living there?

Like the deaf in human realms which much lower intelligence still able to learn?

This is relevant to Form in the formless realms and The difference between Arupaloka and Nibbana

  • Because they don't have ears. They're formless.
    – user21578
    Sep 22, 2021 at 18:29

1 Answer 1

  1. I get the impression that a "human" birth is seen as the best for gaining enlightenment:

    • A lower birth (e.g. animal, ghost, hell) has too little ability -- not enough intelligence, or too much unrelenting suffering
    • A higher birth has too little need -- no desire for enlightenment, renunciation, liberation -- like if everything seems heavenly, or if you seem all-powerful, or if you and your friends all seem to live forever, then how could understand talk about "suffering"?
  2. The formless realms are associated with the highest heavens -- see here for example: The Thirty-one Planes of Existence

Combining 1. and 2., perhaps it stands to reason then, that if the formless realm results in highest heaven, then it is not conducive to enlightenment.

That's maybe in addition to more mechanical explanation, like,

The inhabitants of these realms are possessed entirely of mind. Having no physical body, they are unable to hear Dhamma teachings.

Also earlier in MN 26 you have it that Alara Kalama himself attained the formless realm, and who taught the Buddha when he was a seeker -- and was (unlike the Buddha) apparently satisfied with that.

  • any post explains what are Brahmas, Buddha and Arhats doing there? seem they dont have ability to feel "good" cause they're always good. i.e. take a walk to beautiful park to feed some turtle/fish? Sep 23, 2021 at 6:41
  • or samsara is created to feel good :) but not to abuse it Sep 23, 2021 at 6:58
  • @little star - it is not necessarily a location, but more a means to describe progressive mind states which still remain conditioned, meaning that whatever formless realm you are in one is still subject to the pitfalls of samsara. However, if you like Buddhist cosmology, then watch this excellent series by Ajahn Sona and Ajahn Punnadhammo.
    – user17652
    Sep 27, 2021 at 6:13
  • 1
    @Chrisw Thanks. Something interesting Sep 28, 2021 at 12:51

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