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Sculpture of Vamana, an avatar of Vishnu, who is associated with the legend of taking three strides upon the three worlds

Trailokya (Sanskrit: त्रैलोक्य; Kannada: ತ್ರೈಲೋಕ್ಯ; Pali: tiloka, Tibetan: khams gsum; Chinese: 三界; Vietnamese: Tam Giới) literally means "three worlds".[1][2][3] It can also refer to "three spheres,"[3] "three planes of existence,"[4] and "three realms".[4]

Conceptions of three worlds (tri-loka) appear in Hinduism and Jainism, as well as early Buddhist texts.

The Triloka Purusha, the figure who embodies the three worlds
Transcending the Three Realms 超出三界圖, 1615 Xingming guizhi

Hindu cosmology


The concept of three worlds has a number of different interpretations in Hindu cosmology.

  • Traditionally, the three worlds refer to either the earth (Bhuloka), heaven (Svarga), and hell (Naraka),[5] or the earth (Bhuloka), heaven (Svarga), and the netherworld (Patala)[6]
  • The Brahmanda Purana conceives them to be Bhūta (past), Bhavya (future), and Bhavat (present)[7]
  • In Vaishnavism, the three worlds are often described to be bhūr, bhuvaḥ, and svaḥ (the gross region, the subtle region, and the celestial region)[8]
  • In the Nilanamatapurana, Vamana covers his second step on the three worlds of Maharloka, Janaloka, and Tapoloka, all of which are regarded to be a part of the seven heavens[9]

Buddhist cosmology


In Buddhism, the three worlds refer to the following destinations for karmic rebirth:

  • Kāmaloka the world of desire, typified by base desires, populated by hell beings, preta (hungry ghosts), animals, humans and lower demi-gods.
  • Rūpaloka is the world of form, predominantly free of baser desires, populated by dhyāna-dwelling gods, possible rebirth destination for those well practiced in dhyāna.
  • Arūpaloka is the world of formlessness, a noncorporeal realm populated with four heavens, possible rebirth destination for practitioners of the four formlessness stages.[3]

Together, they make up all of existence.

Jain cosmology


The early Jain contemplated the nature of the earth and universe and developed a detailed hypothesis on the various aspects of astronomy and cosmology. According to the Jain texts, the universe is divided into 3 parts:[10][11][12][13]

See also

Fourteen Rajaloka or Triloka depicted as cosmic man. Miniature from 17th century, Saṁgrahaṇīratna by Śrīcandra, in Prakrit with a Gujarati commentary. Jain Śvetāmbara cosmological text with commentary and illustrations.


  1. ^ Monier-Williams (1899), p. 460, col. 1, entry for "[Tri-]loka" (retrieved at http://www.sanskrit-lexicon.uni-koeln.de/scans/MWScan/MWScanpdf/mw0460-trimala.pdf) and p. 462, col. 2, entry for "Trailoya" (retrieved at http://www.sanskrit-lexicon.uni-koeln.de/scans/MWScan/MWScanpdf/mw0462-tripu.pdf).
  2. ^ Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 301, entry for "Ti-" (retrieved at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?p.1:129.pali[permanent dead link]). Here, tiloka is compared with tebhūmaka ("three planes").
  3. ^ a b c Fischer-Schreiber et al. (1991), p. 230, entry for "Triloka". Here, synonyms for triloka include trailokya and traidhātuka.
  4. ^ a b Berzin (2008) renders khams-gsum (Wylie; Tibetan) and tridhatu (Sanskrit) as "three planes of existence" and states that it is "[s]ometimes called 'the three realms.'" Tridhatu is a synonym of triloka where dhatu may be rendered as "dimension" or "realm" and loka as "world" or even "planet."
  5. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (18 November 2017). "Trailokya: 19 definitions". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  6. ^ Maruvada, Surya N. (2 March 2020). Who is Who in Hindu Mythology - VOL 2: A Comprehensive Collection of Stories from the Pur??as. Notion Press. ISBN 978-1-64805-686-4.
  7. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (20 June 2019). "Vaivasvata Manvantara: the Mārīca creation [Chapter 38]". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  8. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (27 September 2008). "Triloka, Tri-loka: 12 definitions". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  9. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (28 January 2019). "Story of Vāmana". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  10. ^ Grimes 1996, p. 177.
  11. ^ Titze & Bruhn 1998, p. 238.
  12. ^ Wiley 2009, p. 131.
  13. ^ Raval 2016, p. 81.