Why is this word used? It's very confusing and makes it sound like you are reborn into a world and not as a different race of being or a human again?

Like saying "rebirth in the human realm" to me could sound like I am reborn as an animal and live among humans.

Why not use the word races or species to described the 6 options of rebirth?

  • What is your problem with the word "realm"? Why does it sound like an animal? What is wrong with an animal? Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 11:24
  • Everyone returns to the spirit world, everyone is enlightened even animals. Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 11:26
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    The problem with the word "realm" is apparently that "realm" is an old word for "kingdom", and that I could for example theoretically live in some foreign kingdom without myself being a subject of that realm.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 12:01
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    You should probably read a dictionary definition when you only know of a word in context. the word realm has multiple different defintions.
    – Remyla
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 23:07

2 Answers 2


Buddhism isn't concerned with genetics, the phyla of biology, or social categories like race. When Buddhism talks about 'realms of reincarnation,' it is referring to the incarnation of certain mental structures or fixations. In the human realm one is capable of pursuing liberation consciously; in the animal realm conscious activity is overshadowed by more primal instincts, cravings and urges; in the ghost realms one is trapped entirely in karmic patterns... Some groups interpret that as reincarnation into an actual human, animal, or ghost-like being, other groups take it more as metaphor, other groups don't subscribe to the 'realms' tenet at all. Buddhism is diverse.

'Realm' is used to suggest self-enclosed worldviews, the way we might oppose the 'realm' of physics against the 'realm' of poetics. Don't read more into it than that.

I do feel the need to point out that the concept 'race' is not ontological. It is a thoughtless, reactive categorization system that wells up (as certain Buddhists might say) from the karma of the ghost/animal realms. Those who take race as a serious concept are trapped in a karmic pattern; they won't reach liberation until they shake it off.

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    +1 To me the Buddhist realm means roughly the same thing as the modern notion of Umwelt.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 2:28

I think it's a translation of loka which is also translated "world" or "plane".

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