loka, (Sanskrit: "world"; "realm"; "abode"; "dimension"; or "plane of existence") from loc, "to shine, be bright, visible." — the universe or any particular division of it. A dimension of manifest existence; cosmic region. Each loka reflects or involves a particular range of consciousness. The most common division of the universe is the triloka, or three worlds (Bhuloka, Antarloka and Brahmaloka), each of which is divided into seven regions. Corresponds to any of the 14 worlds (visible and invisible) inhabited by living beings.
The division of lokas
Sometimes different “planes” or “realms” lokas are posited, which are corresponding “environments” for the different bodies: these are the bhûrloka (earth), bhuvarloka (the subtle planes or atmosphere), svarloka (the heavenly realm), maharloka, janarloka (these first five correspond to the panchakoshas — "five koshas"), and then there are the highest lokas, sometimes known as tapoloka, satyaloka, siddhaloka, and brahmaloka.
Scriptures offer several cosmological perspectives, most importantly sapta urdhvaloka (seven upper worlds) and sapta adholoka (seven lower worlds), which correspond to the 14 chakras and make up the "world-egg of God," the universe, called Brahmanda.
Sapta Urdhvaloka — the seven upper worlds
The seven “upper worlds” are a more detailed breakdown of the “three worlds”. The second, third and fourth comprise the subtle plane. The highest three comprise the causal plane. From the perspective of the seven worlds, the Brahmaloka is of three levels: Janaloka, "creative plane" (vishuddha chakra); Tapoloka, "plane of austerity" (ajna chakra); and Satyaloka, "plane of reality" (sahasrara chakra).
|Stulaloka (gross plane). The material universe, the physical plane or earthly regions.|
|1.||bhuloka||Earth world.||the world perceived through the five senses.|
|antarloka (Inner or in-between world)||sukshmaloka (subtle plane). The mental and emotional sphere, occupied by angels, spirits and devas (divine beings).|
|2.||bhuvarloka||Space between earth and the sun, inhabited by semi-divine beings. The areal region, the atmosphere, the life-force.|
|3.||svarloka||Region between the sun and polar star, the heaven of the god Indra|
|4.||maharloka||The abode of great sages and enlightened beings.|
|brahmaloka (World of Gods)||Karanaloka (causal plane). The spiritual universe of the Mahadevas, ‘great radiant entities,’ the gods and highly evolved souls|
|5.||janaloka||creative plane||Abode of the sons of God Brahma.|
|6.||taparloka||plane of austerity||Abode of tapas or of other deities|
|7.||satyaloka||plane of reality||Abode of Truth or of Brahma, where atman are released from the necessity of rebirth.|
Sapta Adholoka — the seven lower worlds
Collectively known as Naraka or Patala, are (from highest to lowest) Put, Avichi, Samhata, Tamisra, Rijisha, Kudmala and Kakola.
Planes of Existence
From the Saiva Agamic perspective of the 36 tattvas, the pure sphere, shuddha maya — the first five tattvas — is subdivided into 33 planes of existence. The "pure-impure" realm, shuddhashuddha maya — the seven tattvas from maya tattva to purusha — contains 27 planes of existence. The ashuddha ("impure") realm — of 24 tattvas — has 56 planes of existence.
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