84000 Glossary of Terms

Our trilingual glossary combining entries from all of our publications into one useful resource, giving translations and definitions of thousands of terms, people, places, and texts from the Buddhist canon.

གཙང་རིས། | Glossary of Terms

    གཙང་རིས།

    gnas gtsang ma

    Śuddhāvāsa

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The five Pure Abodes are the highest heavens of the Form Realm (rūpadhātu). They are called “pure abodes” because ordinary beings (pṛthagjana; so so’i skye bo) cannot be born there; only those who have achieved the fruit of a non-returner (anāgāmin; phyir mi ’ong) can be born there. A summary presentation of them is found in the third chapter of Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakośa, although they are repeatedly mentioned as a set in numerous sūtras, tantras, and vinaya texts.

The five Pure Abodes are the last five of the seventeen levels of the Form Realm. Specifically, they are the last five of the eight levels of the upper Form Realm‍—which corresponds to the fourth meditative concentration (dhyāna; bsam gtan)‍—all of which are described as “immovable” (akopya; mi g.yo ba) since they are never destroyed during the cycles of the destruction and reformation of a world system. In particular, the five are Abṛha (mi che ba), the inferior heaven; Atapa (mi gdung ba), the heaven of no torment; Sudṛśa (gya nom snang), the heaven of sublime appearances; Sudarśana (shin tu mthong), the heaven of the most beautiful to behold; and Akaniṣṭha (’og min), the highest heaven.

Yaśomitra explains their names, stating: (1) because those who abide there can only remain for a fixed amount of time, before they are plucked out (√bṛh, bṛṃhanti) of that heaven, or because it is not as extensive (a-√bṛṃh, abṛṃhitā) as the others in the pure realms, that heaven is called the inferior heaven (abṛha; mi che ba); (2) since the afflictions can no longer torment (√tap, tapanti) those who reside there because of their having attained a particular samādhi, or because their state of mind is virtuous, they no longer torment (√tap, tāpayanti) others, this heaven, consequently, is called the heaven of no torment (atapa; mi gdung ba); (3) since those who reside there have exceptional (suṣṭhu) vision because what they see (√dṛś, darśana) is utterly pure, that heaven is called the heaven of sublime appearances (sudṛśa; gya nom snang); (4) because those who reside there are beautiful gods, that heaven is called the heaven of the most beautiful to behold (sudarśana; shin tu mthong); and (5) since it is not lower (na kaniṣṭhā) than any other heaven because there is no other place superior to it, this heaven is called the highest heaven (akaniṣṭha; ’og min) since it is the uppermost.