How long is the life in heavens and hells?

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible.
User avatar
Posts: 115
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 6:01 pm
Location: Budaševo, Croatia

How long is the life in heavens and hells?

Postby smokey » Mon Mar 22, 2010 3:33 pm

I read on wikipedia in section Buddist Cosmology: that life in heavens and hells is millions of years long. I wonder where did they get that information? I never encountered in any of the suttas that information. Is that perhaps thought in the oral tradition?

User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
Posts: 10003
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Re: How long is the life in heavens and hells?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Mar 22, 2010 4:34 pm ... _existence

Number of years in the deva realms in parentheses. It is in the Suttas, I think mostly in the Digha Nikaya.

User avatar
Posts: 159
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:58 am
Location: DC

Re: How long is the life in heavens and hells?

Postby Chula » Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:56 pm

It's mentioned whenever the suttas talk of the benefits of practicing the Uposatha. The Anguttara has a lot of examples that can give you exact lifespans for the devas of the sensual realm:

"Fifty human years are equal to one day & night among the Devas of the Four Great Kings. Thirty such days & nights make a month. Twelve such months make a year. Five hundred such heavenly years constitute the life-span among the Devas of the Four Great Kings."
AN 3.70: Muluposatha Sutta
AN 8.43: Visakhuposatha Sutta

When it comes to the form realm, the suttas only talk of lifespan in terms of kappas (eons):

The devas of Brahma's retinue, monks, have a life-span of an eon.
AN 4.123: Jhana Sutta

From what I've read, only the formless realms and the hells realms are left without explicit mention of lifespans. I think the commentaries give lifespans in eons for the formless realms (something like 84,000 eons in the highest formless realm). Also the suttas state that the lifespans in hell realms can be extremely long or short depending on the kamma.
Last edited by Chula on Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:29 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Posts: 295
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:54 am

Re: How long is the life in heavens and hells?

Postby Mukunda » Mon Mar 22, 2010 7:21 pm

Something to bear in mind, IMO comparing the lifespans of the other realms to our own is really pointless. The life span for one in a heavenly or hell realm may seem impossibly long to us, but in that realm it is the norm. Just like a human lifespan of 67 years (the last average I know of) would seem impossibly long to a fruit fly, who life span is just a few days. If one is reborn in a heavenly or hell realm, and lives eons, that time will be experienced as just a normal life span.

Return to “Discovering Theravāda”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine