The 10 Spiritual Realms According To An Ancient Japanese Buddhist Priest
One night in the early days of my six-month tenure managing a holistic healing retreat center in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico, our community gathered as we always do for the evening activity. This evening’s activity focused on a discussion of the ten spiritual realms. The person sharing his knowledge on the subject was a short Italian traveller and devout Buddhist named Lorenzo.
His claim to fame at the retreat center was being voted most likely to be found chanting the mantra “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō,” which means “Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra” or “Glory to the Sutra of the Lotus of the Supreme Law.” In his words: “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō is a vow, an expression of determination, to embrace and manifest our Buddha nature. It is a pledge to oneself to never yield to difficulties and to win over one’s suffering. At the same time, it is a vow to help others reveal this law in their own lives and achieve happiness.”
This is the central mantra chanted within all forms of Nichiren Buddhism and Tendai Buddhism. The practice of prolonged chanting is referred to as shōdai, while the purpose of chanting daimoku is to reduce sufferings by eradicating negative karma along with reducing karmic punishments both from previous and present lifetimes, with the goal to attain perfect and complete awakening. Sometimes he would be found chanting this mantra for hours at a time. This was his “thing” and we loved him for it!
In the very beginning of his talk he looked at each of us wide-eyed and asked the group: “Has anyone here ever been in hell?” I looked around the room and after a few seconds of waiting, slowly raised my hand. Without hesitation, he looked me directly in the eyes and said “Good! Now you can help others get out.” There are few things that people have said to me throughout my life that I know will stay with me forever; this was one of them. So began our intro to the ten spiritual realms.
The 10 Spiritual Realms as described by Nichiren Daishonin are listed below. Broken into two parts, the first six (Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Humanity, and Heaven) are derived from the Indian concept of the six realms of rebirth. Above these lie the four holy states (Learning, Realization, Bodhisattva, and Buddhahood).
Ten Spiritual Realms:
1. Hell or Jigokudō: A state of suffering and despair in which we perceive we have no freedom of action. It is characterized by the impulse to destroy ourselves and everything around us. It is also commonly referred to being in a state of mind completely absent of hope and being unable to construct our future in our minds.
2. Hunger, Hungry Ghosts, or Pretas: The state of being controlled by insatiable desire for money, power, status etc. While desires are inherent in any of the Ten Worlds, in this state we are at the mercy of our cravings and cannot control them.
3. Animality, Beasts, or Chikushōdō: In this state, we are ruled by instinct with neither reason nor moral sense nor the ability to make long-range judgments. We operate by the law of the jungle and will not hesitate to take advantage of those weaker than ourselves and fawn on those who are stronger.
4. Anger, Titans, Asuras, or Shuradō: Here, awareness of ego emerges, but it is a selfish, greedy, distorted ego, determined to best others at all costs and seeing everything as a potential threat to itself. In this state we value only ourselves and tend to hold others in contempt.
5. Humanity or Jindō (also known as Tranquility): This is a flat, passive state of life, from which we can easily shift into the lower four worlds. While we may generally behave in a humane fashion in this state, we are highly vulnerable to strong external influences.
6. Heaven: This is a state of intense joy stemming, for example, from the fulfillment of some desire, a sense of physical well being, or inner contentment. Though intense, the joy experienced in this state is short-lived and also vulnerable to external influences.
7. Learning, Śrāvaka, or Shōmon: In this state, we seek the truth through studying the teachings or experience of others.
8. Realization, Pratyekabuddha, or Engaku: In this state we seek the truth not through others’ teachings, but through our own direct perception of the world.
9. Bodhisattva or Bosatsu: Those who aspire to achieve enlightenment and at the same time are equally determined to enable all other beings to do the same. Conscious of the bonds that link us to all others, in this state we realize that any happiness we alone enjoy is incomplete, and we devote ourselves to alleviating others’ suffering. Those in this state find their greatest satisfaction in altruistic behaviour.
10. Buddhahood: A dynamic state that is difficult to describe. We can partially describe it as a state of perfect freedom, in which we are enlightened to the ultimate truth of life. It is characterized by infinite compassion and boundless wisdom. In this state, we can resolve harmoniously what appear from the standpoint of the nine worlds to be insoluble contradictions.
A Buddhist sutra describes the attributes of the Buddha’s life as a true self, perfect freedom from karmic bonds throughout eternity, a life purified of illusion, and absolute happiness.
10 Worlds Description Source: http://www.sgi.org/resources/introductory-materials/ten-worlds.html
Be Your Own Guru
Personally, I feel that understanding the difference between each of these realms and integrating the lessons learned by visiting them all can inspire rapid personal growth. As someone who has set out on a seemingly unending quest for personal and spiritual development years ago, I have learned quite a few things in my travels. One of the greatest lessons was how to truly listen to others, but ensure that their thoughts don’t become my own unless they align with my personal truth.
In my experience, individuals who lack control over their own emotions and actions tend to feel the need to push their own ideas, agendas, and influences onto others. When it comes to giving advice, I appreciate Tony Robbins’ approach on this subject. As he would say, “I am not your guru,” but if talking with me can help you realize what steps you need to take in order to better your own life without harming others, then great! I’m not you. I have no idea what you’re going through, but if I can assist in removing mental blockages to get you to where you need to become your own guru, then that’s a beautiful thing.
Learning Through Suffering
It is essential to take some time and look at the positive aspect of suffering. The creative forces inside each and every one of us seem to be activated when we are experiencing difficult times. Have you ever wondered why you prefer the earlier work of your favourite musicians? Did you ever think maybe it has to do with the fact that they were “hungry artists,” channeling their own pain and utilizing it as a source of creativity while desperately trying to make their mark on the music scene? Once I realized this a while back, I always make sure to look for the lesson to learn and wonder how I can use that seemingly negative energy to create something beautiful in times of despair.
We will constantly revisit these realms, sometimes many of them throughout the course of a single day or even only a few hours. Just because we’ve previously attained the higher spiritual worlds doesn’t mean we won’t revisit the other lower ones later on in life. By developing a deeper understanding of these states of mind, we are better equipped to conquer them.
What Makes Someone “Spiritual”?
So let’s say that you meditate and do yoga daily, you pray for the wellbeing of others, you don’t eat meat, you go to farmers markets, buy locally sourced produce, wear conscious-made sustainable clothing, have a vast collection of Lumerian Quartz Crystals for your shrine, have full moon ceremonies with your soul tribe, and attend Burning Man every year. Does that make you spiritual? Not exactly, at least not in my opinion. These are, however, things that many people do as part of their spiritual path. However, for me, spirituality is defined simply as being someone whose highest priority is to love themself and others. That’s it. If you do all the aforementioned things, but you’re still an asshole to other people, sorry, but you’re doing it wrong.
The basic principles of spirituality are at the core of every religion and often referred to as the “Golden Rule.” It has been taught for millennia and is most well known in the phrase “Do unto others as you would have them undo to you.” Nothing has changed from this Golden Rule other than the verbiage, as you can see in the diagram below.
At the end of the day, I view truly spiritual people as those who have been through hell themselves and want nothing more than to help others get out because they know what it’s like. These are beings that help others with humility and don’t allow a self-serving ego to subsist within their being. Killing the ego is not a phrase I like to use. The ego is part of our personality and who we are as human beings; however, we must keep it in check to ensure that it exists to serve us so that we may serve others. Now that’s being spiritual as fuck!
Check out my travel blog to follow my journey and other adventures from some of the most inspiring people I’ve met along the way! www.FollowingFreebird.com
What Your Tree Zodiac Sign Says About You – According To Celtic Druid Astrology
- The Facts:
The system of Celtic tree astrology greatly differs from the North American zodiac signs we typically write about.
- Reflect On:
Astrology is always fun to look into, nothing to live and die for obviously but can perhaps provide some guidance and insight.
The system of Celtic tree astrology greatly differs from the North American zodiac signs we typically write about. This type of astrology was created by Druids, members of the high-ranking professional class in ancient Celtic cultures. It is said that Celtic tree astrology was designed using the natural connection that Druids had to Earth cycles and the sacred knowledge they believed was held by trees.
In Druid culture, trees were thought to contain spirits and vast amounts of knowledge and wisdom. In Celtic astrology, trees as a whole symbolize life, death, and renewal. The Druids gave different types of trees meanings according to their qualities, which they noticed matched different children’s qualities according to their birth dates.
Within the Celtic astrology, the calendar year is broken down into 13 parts (or months). Each month is then associated with a different tree. Whether you believe in this ancient knowledge or not, here are the 13 tree signs as described by Celtic astrology!
Birch: “The Achiever”
December 24 – January 20
Since this is a time of immense darkness with little sunlight, the Druids felt that the Birch babies were always stretching themselves thin in search of the light. If you are a Birch baby, you are said to be highly driven, motivational, and ambitious. Birch signs are said to be tough, resilient, natural rulers and leaders, charming, and crowd-pleasers.
Rowan: “The Thinker”
January 21 – February 17
According to the Druids, Rowans are known for their philosophical, visionary minds and their creativity, originality, aloofness, and inner passion and motivation. Many see Rowan babies as having a cool exterior because they keep these passions to themselves and often seem aloof in conversation. Their presence can transform energy in situations, as their quieter ways can be highly influential due to their uniqueness. They may dislike restriction and conformity, as they are “out-of-the-box” thinkers.
Ash: “The Enchanter”
February 18 – March 17
Just as the title sounds, Celtic tree astrology says that the Ash are free-thinkers, enchanting, imaginative, intuitive, artistic, and “see the world in colour.” They can be somewhat moody, but are very inspired by nature and enjoy art, writing, science, and spirituality. Some may see the Ash as being reclusive and introverted, but in reality, they just love the world they’ve created for themselves! Great at balancing their artistic and intellectual sides, they are both idealistic and realistic.
Alder: “The Trailblazer”
March 18 – April 14
To the Druids, Alders could easily find their true paths and weren’t afraid to follow them. They blaze ahead with a passion, often gaining followers and supporters. They are charming and easy to talk to, the kind of people who can seemingly get along with anyone. Alders are often very confident, focused, self-assured, and non-superficial. Alders don’t like to waste time either, as they’re brave, competitive, and make great parents and entrepreneurs.
Willow: “The Observer”
April 15 – May 12
According to Celtic astrology, Willows are very connected to the moon, and are highly creative, intuitive, intelligent, realistic, and patient. To the Druids, Willows could be very psychic and had a good understanding of cycles and seasons. They love gaining more knowledge and have great memories. Their greatest enemy is themselves, as their fears can hold them back. Apparently they place high value in family and can make great teachers.
Hawthorn: “The Illusionist”
May 13 – June 9
According to Celtic astrology, Hawthorns are typically very different on the inside than what the general public assumes them to be like, completely embodying the phrase “Never judge a book by the cover.” They are passionate, creative, curious, great listeners, insightful, funny, and great at seeing “the big picture,” but you may not truly know who they are. They are great at performing, especially in front of crowds, given their “illusionist” persona.
Oak: “The Stabilizer”
June 10 – July 7
Oak signs are said to be strong, protective, nurturing, generous, helpful, confident, and optimistic that “everything will work out.” Oaks love learning about history and ancestry, as they have a great respect for it, which is why they also tend to make great teachers. Oak signs apparently love structure and enjoy feeling in control, especially when it comes to their own lives. They love having large families and enjoy being involved in their communities.
Holly: “The Ruler”
July 8 – August 4
To the Druids, Holly signs were noble, natural leaders and people of power, and welcomed a good challenge. Holly signs can tackle any obstacles and complete any tasks, as they’re dedicated to achieving their goals. They’re competitive, ambitious, confident, but also generous, kind, and affectionate. Things come to them fairly easily and as a result, they can be very interested in academia and seem naturally gifted. They can be perfectionists and have no problem taking a supporting role as opposed to a leadership one.
Hazel: “The Knower”
August 5 – September 1
Within Celtic astrology, Hazels are typically intelligent, organized, efficient, academic, and, as they have excellent memories, very skilled at reciting and recalling information. They like to be well informed and can often appear to be “know-it-alls.” They can be detail-oriented, which can even be somewhat obsessive/compulsive. They enjoy anything to do with numbers, science, and analytics, and support rules. They are great planners and organizers!
Vine: “The Equalizer”
September 2 – September 29
Given the changing of seasons, the Druids believed that Vines’ personalities were just as fluid and changeable as the seasons. They can be unpredictable and contradictory to themselves as well as indecisive. However, this comes with its benefits, since they can easily see both sides of a story and don’t like to pick sides, making them very empathetic. Prone to mood swings, they can also be charming, elegant, and, despite their fluidity, often have distinctive tastes and prefer refinement. If you’re a Vine, you may prefer “finer things” like food, wine, music, and art.
Ivy: “The Survivor”
September 30 – October 27
Ivy signs are typically compassionate, loyal, giving, helpers, spiritual, soft-spoken, and charismatic. They are able to hold their own in social settings. The Druids believed that since they are born at a time of the “waning sun,” life can seem more difficult to them at times, which many Ivy signs may deem unfair to them. However, this sign is often very graceful in overcoming obstacles as they have a steady stream of energy.
Reed: “The Inquisitor”
October 28 – November 24
Celtic astrology says that Reeds are great at keeping secrets and they also love to uncover them, as they are truth seekers. Reeds will always dig down to the heart of the matter and love a good story, so they’re easily drawn to gossip, scandals, legends, and conspiracies. However, this makes Reeds excellent journalists, detectives, etc. Reeds are people lovers because they represent mysteries for them to uncover. Reeds can be a bit manipulative, but are typically harmless in their actions. They have a strong sense of truth and honour and can be jealous.
Elder: “The Seeker”
November 25 – December 23
Elders tend to be free spirits and thrill-seekers. Since Elders are born at a time where the light is “fast fleeting,” Druids believed that Elders take that same approach to life, often living “in the fast lane.” Elders may seem like they’re extroverted, but in reality they can be withdrawn, thoughtful, and philosophical. Elders can be very helpful, honest and, outspoken, with the tendency to assume they’re always right due to their intellectual nature.
Let us know if your Celtic tree sign resonates with you in the comment section! I am a Scorpio, and so I actually drew many similarities between my North American zodiac sign and my Celtic tree sign, which is a Reed.
Why Psychedelic ‘Drugs’ Are Not A Shortcut To ‘Enlightenment’
- The Facts:
There is no such thing as a shortcut to enlightenment, and with psychedelics being popularized within the mainstream, it's important to have a discussion about them in this context. At the end of the day, real change comes from within yourself.
- Reflect On:
Are psychedelics being abused? Are they being used in a way today that ancient indigenous cultures would approve, or in a way that they were meant to be used? Or have they become another 'trip' for most people?
This may be controversial in some perceptions, but authentic truth is so important to me that I had to share this for deeper reflection. It’s especially important in a time where psychedelic substances like mushrooms, ayahuasca, peyote and so forth are becoming quite popular. I believe we are losing sight of what they actually do and what their true purpose is to some extent.
There is no such thing as a shortcut to enlightenment. We might think that because we gain insight during an experience, that the journey is done. The reason why this is not the case is because it’s what you do with that insight that makes all the difference. You will see this sentiment further explained by Graham Hancock below.
My main calling in life is to help expand consciousness and possibility. This is what I have been doing since founding CE 9 years ago and what I see myself doing until my heart makes it clear a new path is turning up. Given that, I am all for anything that helps expand consciousness. I’m not for nor against any of these substances we call psychedelics. I am “If you are drawn to it authentically in your heart, do it.”
Side note: I recorded a podcast with my friend Mark DeNicola you can listen to here on this subject.
I feel it’s important to spend time getting in tune with your heart and finding out what direction it is guiding you. Unfortunately, I feel we are spending more time trying things all over the place from the space of the mind because we are afraid to quiet our minds.
With various consciousness expanding methods available to us, you may get a glimpse of what it is like beyond the mind, but if we do not practice being in the heart, we are not going to change from the experience and challenges we have with any of these substances, or any other methods for that matter.
For the record, I’ve not done psychedelics. I’ve not been drawn to them in my heart and so I have not done them. I’ve chosen a path to expand my consciousness through meditation, breath work and practice, and that has worked well for me. Thus, I have not needed to do psychedelics. What I mean by this will be clear as we go on. (If you check out at this point, you will miss the important sentiment I find many people are not conscious of which makes up the wisdom of this article.)
Finally, I’m writing this because I feel the full story is often not shared. Many people claim all the crazy experiences and benefits they had, but rarely talk about the fact nothing changed the first 3 or 5 times they did it. Also because all too often we hear ‘the coolest stories of all time without asking the big question:’
“I was out of my body and seeing all these colors and beings and I saw the trees breathing etc etc.”
This sounds cool, you expanded beyond daily reality which is great. I have also seen these things. But I know that just as one can see these things through meditation, what does that do to help create a lasting change in your life and evolve beyond the struggles you experience on a daily basis?
I’ve always been quiet about talking about the ‘fascinating’ things or beings I see etc. The reason is I find it distracts people immensely from why they want to do something and it makes them focus on the trip itself. One can have, and I have had, a full out of body experience through 20 minutes of breath work, but is that why one would do breath work? Is that going to help us clear out the emotional challenges we face?
That’s for each one of us to reflect on and decide within ourselves.
Ultimately, what is the reason we do them? To have a trip? To work through our emotional blockages?
An Overuse Crisis?
I’ve not heard this from just myself, but from the spirit of the plants themselves and from many others who have come across the same conclusions. We are in a period where overuse of these substances is extreme. Anytime we want clarity we turn to them. Anytime we think someone should shift their consciousness we tell them to do it. We use them 1, 3, 7 or even 10 times per year. In many cases, we are acting with these plants EXACTLY the way we do in the pharmaceutical world. We’re looking for that quick fix. And we have tossed self-mastery and daily care and practice aside.
We keep saying, “but nature is here to help us!” But to that I ask us to reflect: we already know we have challenges, right? So we know we have to be active in making changes in our everyday life, right? So we need to then develop a practice and self-mastery to make that happen daily, right? So why are we viewing what nature provided as a means to justify our lack of commitment to practice and instead want a quick fix? Herbs are here on this planet to help heal our bodies if we get sick. But they aren’t here so we can use them every time we get sick due to the fact we still want to smoke, drink alcohol, eat processed foods, etc. all day long. Nature is here to support us, not awaken us.
Psychedelics were used back in a time when the level of consciousness of the planet was not as high, which helped give insight to shamans so they could share it with their communities. It was meant for use in extreme cases where heavy trauma or addictions existed and people could not use other ways to work through their emotional challenges. Here in present time, we use them in a western fashion as THE GO TO for moving through all of our challenges. I’m here to remind you that you have so much power and ability as a being that in most cases, you don’t need any of these things to evolve. I’m not suggesting don’t do it, I’m simply saying truly ask your heart what you want, and don’t get caught up in the grand allure and peer pressure.
I made it a point to prove to myself that it was possible to quickly and easily create noticeable shifts within people and give them a practice to continue with. I developed a 5 day challenge using concepts I’ve learned and developed over 8 years of practice. I’ve put 180,000 people through these 5 days and most people have reported very powerful emotional shifts and life changes in these 5 days alone. This is great news. But did they last? That is something that is never up to the method or the plant, but up to the person, and this is my point. While I have heard a number of amazing stories of lasting changes from this challenge, I have no idea how many lasted for a long time. What I do know is the challenge was designed around self mastery and practice, giving us the tools to carry forth long after it was complete from within ourselves.
One misconception we have to begin to explore is that taking these substances don’t suddenly reveal to us all the secrets of the universe. They do precisely what other altered states do – they provide insight into what the space of awareness is beyond your mind. In some cases, they also tap you into the astral field, which isn’t the source of grand truth even though we sometimes see it that way.
Like masters, yogis and meditators of our past, we know we can achieve deep states of consciousness and tap into truth quite easily while sober, it just takes some time to do so. How much? Depends on what you are doing, but one can achieve a silent mind in just 20 minutes of breathing.
Regardless, it doesn’t matter whether you are a master meditator, veteran psychedelic user, a yogi master or whatever other method we may use sober or not, none of it matters if we are not actively doing what it takes to change our lives on a daily basis based on what we see during our experiences.
People have sometimes assumed that when I share what I share about self-mastery I am stating that only psychedelic users bypass the work they need to do, but this isn’t true at all. I do know some people who have chosen the psychedelic path and have made incredible changes within their first session, and I have known people who have chosen breath work paths who’ve done the same in the first session. I’ve also known people from both categories who have a great trip/experience but deal with the same challenges for many years to come because there is a lack of integration and self empowerment.
An Incredible Story
Many of my friends have experienced psychedelics, and I have had the pleasure to hear so many people’s stories in the 10 years that I have been in the consciousness exploration space. I have noticed a ton of common trends and specifically have seen that there is an unbalanced perspective being spread quite a bit that I feel requires some grounding.
I decided to jump on a podcast with my friend Mark DeNicola who shares a very insightful story about his journey using mushrooms and ayahuasca.
He shares his take aways from his experiences and what mama ayahuasca told him about ayahuasca use in the modern world. He also shares how you can explore if the journey is right for you.
Grounding The Subject
Since about 8 years ago I have been fascinated with observing the research coming out about psilocybin and watching others as they use psychedelics for spiritual development. I can tell you, it absolutely can be an effective path. But I have found this to be few and far between and I feel I know why. It truly comes down to the fact that no method in this world suddenly gets rid of all of your challenges. It takes time and a practice to authentically make it go. The trouble is, many are not wiling to do that work.
As Mark mentioned in the podcast, he would ask people thinking about it “If you knew that the ceremony would not get rid of all your challenges you have now that you want gone, and that you would have to do work after to truly clear them, would you still want to do it?”
This of course is not a deterrent, but an authentic question around what the purpose of these substances are.
I wanted to bring up some common challenges I have noticed that just don’t seem to be talked about enough as many don’t share the full story of their journeys. I believe this misleads people. Again, these aren’t negative things, they are calls for us to take responsibility for our evolution within and truly ask “Is what we are doing to help change our lives truly working?”
- I’ve noticed some great changes in some, but in most cases I have not observed a lasting effect in users, simply because there is no self work after. (I can say the same about spiritual retreats in general)
- It appears common to feel incredible 1 to 3 weeks after, but go back to the same struggles. Again, because you don’t suddenly get rid of everything during any method, I believe this is due to a lack of practice and action.
- It’s common for people to state “I puked out all my demons and challenges, and now they are gone.” But that’s not what seems to be the case as in many cases the same challenges and patterns continue on for that person long after the ceremony. More on this on the podcast!
- Many people I have seen use Ayahuasca 15 – 30 times, seem to ‘get worse’ the more they do it. This of course doesn’t happen to all. Again, I feel this comes down to lack of self work and thinking the plant will do all the work.
- I don’t mean this in a negative way, but a ‘cult like’ mentality seems to form and many users aggressively try and convince everyone in the world this is the only path to enlightenment and that it will change the world if we all do it.
Check out the podcast here for the full story, some amazing insight and how to explore whether or not your path could include a journey like this.
I share once more because so many people ask me this question, there is no right or wrong here. We don’t need to feel that if we do them or don’t do them we are somehow wrong or missing out. You’re not on a more purposeful path one way or another. If you want to find out if any experience is right for you, look in your heart, develop that relationship.
My goal is to help others be TRULY empowered. I wrote this because I’m not seeing enough of that happen within others as we give the power to things outside ourselves. This is a reminder.
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