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The ten realms, sometimes referred to as the ten worlds, (Jap. jikkai) are part of the belief of some forms of Buddhism that there are ten conditions of life which sentient beings are subject to, and which they experience from moment to moment. The popularization of this term is often attributed to the Chinese scholar Chih-i who spoke about the "co-penetration of the ten worlds."
The Ten Realms
These realms can also be described through the degrees of enlightenment that course through them. They have been translated in various ways. They are divided into the Six Realms (rokudō), followed by higher states of enlightened consciousness that lead to final Buddhahood. The Six Realms are: Hell (jigokudō), the Hungry Ghosts or pretas (gakidō), the Beasts (chikushōdō), the Titans or Asuras (shuradō), Humans (jindō) and lastly Heaven, or the realm of the gods (tendō). Above these lie the four holy states: the Śrāvaka (shōmon), the Pratyekabuddha (engaku), the bodhisattva (bosatsu) and finally completely enlightened Buddhahood.
In some cosmology they were perceived as distinct realms through which forms had to experience in order to expiate karma. In Japanese syncretic practices the ten realms are seen as distinct trials of discipline a practitioner must encounter or overcome in order to reach a material or spiritual goal.
However, according to Chih-i's conceptualization of "three thousand realms in a single moment of life," they are not separate physical realms into which one may be reborn but interrelated realms of consciousness, each of which is contained within each other (Jp. jikkai gogu). The Ten Realms are a conceptualization of the Lotus Sutra's worldview of the interconnected relationship of phenomena, the ultimate reality of the universe, and human agency.
Mutual possession of the ten realms
Each of the ten realms or worlds are contained within each realm (Jap. jikkai gogu). These hundred aspects of existence leads to the concept of "three thousand realms in a single moment (Jap. Ichinen Sanzen)." According to this conception, the world of Buddha and the nine realms of humanity are interpenetrable, there is no original "pure mind," and good and evil are mutually possessed. This establishes a proclivity to immanence rather than transcendency. According to Nichiren the three thousand realms in a single moment is practical and realizable in this lifetime in the concrete world.
More frequently, the theory of the ten realms and its larger associated concept of three thousand realms of existence in a single moment portray a non-theistic interpretation of how a person is affected by the cosmos and, in turn, has the potential to impact on the cosmos. In some schools of Nichiren Buddhism practitioners believe the calligraphic scroll Gohonzon is Nichiren's representation of the ten realms and chanting Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō to it activates the Buddha's attributes of wisdom, courage, and compassion.
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The mutual encompassing or copenetration of the ten realms (jikkai gogu) collapses any ontological distinction between the Buddha and the beings, implying that the nine realms of unenlightened beings possess the Buddha nature inherently, while the Buddha possesses the nine realms of unenlightened beings. The mutual inclusion of the ten realms represents an important characteristic of Chih-i's thought there is no original "pure mind"; good and evil are always nondual and mutually possessed. The most depraved icchantika is endowed the Buddha realm, while the Buddha is still latently endowed with the realms of unenlightened beings.
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