Jonang Lamrim – Part 6 (A few words on cosmology)

[This is part of an ongoing Lamrim series. All related posts can be found here.]

The next section of Taranatha’s Essence of Ambrosia is titled,

The Freedom and Endowments of a Precious Human Life

This section consists of Contemplations 2 through 4 which are, Contemplation 2 – The Difficulty of Obtaining a Precious Human Life with its Freedoms and Endowments, Contemplation 3 – The Probability of Being Reborn Human and Contemplation 4 – Why This Human Life is Important. Before getting into what is meant by the various freedoms and endowments I feel it might be helpful to offer a very general overview of Buddhist cosmology coming from the Indo-Tibetan tradition, though also noting that most of this roots back to the Abhidharma (one of the Three Baskets of the Pali Canon) so is somewhat consistent here with the Theravada school as well.

This background is assumed in the text but may not be as familiar to all of the readers who visit this blog. Also note I am neither a scholar nor a monk. I am a student and lay-practitioner with only about 10 years of Dharma study and practice under my belt. For a more in-depth understanding I recommend contacting a qualified lama, monk and/or scholar. That said, I do make effort to stay informed and to share what I have learned with as much care and accuracy as is possible. Like any of the material here on Vajra Vehicle, all errors and/or omissions are mine alone. As mentioned elsewhere, please know I always welcome questions, feedback, critiques, corrections and/or suggestions. I invite you to comment if you are reading this and you have something you would like to share. In fact, this offer stands for all of the posts on this blog. Now, on to some cosmology…

One Buddhist classification of the universe is understood in a very broad sense as consisting of three main realms – the formless realm, the form realm and the desire realm. There are several sub-categories within these realms. Here we will only be looking at the desire realm and its constituent domains, yet know that all of the these realms (including the formless and form realms) are part of samsara, and therefore beings in these realms are subject to various types of suffering to a greater or lesser extent.

Samsara

Samsara

The desire realm (called kamadhatu in Sanskrit) itself consists of six realms as follows:

  • God realm
  • Titan realm
  • Human realm
  • Animal realm
  • Hungry-ghost realm
  • Hell-being realm

As we progress through Taranatha’s lamrim, each of these realms will be examined in more detail within the context of various meditations. I just wanted to offer this general outline to put the current mediation in context. Contemplation 2, as mentioned above, is a meditation on the difficulty of obtaining a precious human life with its freedoms and endowments. So here we are considering the desire realm and more specifically the human realm within that. This is where I will pick up in a future post.

[For a further elucidation of Buddhist cosmology, see The Thirty-one Planes of Existence.]

Continue to part 7

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