The worlds of delusion are classified into three categories, known as the three realms. List the three realms, and give brief explanations of each.
1. Realm of desire: the world devoted entirely to the five desires
2. Realm of form: the world of the arts
3. Realm of formlessness: the world of philosophy and thought
Realm of desire: the world devoted entirely to desires
People who live in this realm live only for desire. “How can I gain more money? How can I be valued more by others? How can I get more delicious food, more drink, more comfort?” Of the three realms, this one is at the lowest level.
Realm of form: the world of the arts
‘Form’ means material things. This is the realm of arts such as painting, sculpture, music, and literature. It is on a higher level than the realm of desire, but is still a world of suffering. Indeed, the famous philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, paraphrased, “The arts and literature only prettify the suffering of life.”
Realm of formlessness: the world of philosophy and thought
The intellectual realm of philosophy and thought, which transcends form. It is the most refined of the three realms. However, philosophy and thought do not clarify the purpose of life or true happiness.
Śākyamuni Buddha taught that the three realms are all characterised by ceaseless suffering:
“All of the three realms are worlds of suffering.”
“There is no peace of mind in the three realms; they are like a burning house.” (Lotus Sūtra)
(From the doctrine book No. 1-49)