Rupadhatu, aka: Rūpadhātu, Rupa-dhatu; 3 Definition(s)


Rupadhatu means something in Buddhism, Pali. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Buddhism

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Rūpadhātu (रूपधातु) refers to the “gods of the form realm” according to the “world of transmigration” section in the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter XXVII).—The gods of the form realm (rūpadhātu), having fallen from the pure abodes (śuddhāvāsa), will again conceive sensual desire and will abide in the impure spheres.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra
Mahayana book cover
context information

Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

General definition (in Buddhism)

Rūpadhātu (रूपधातु) or simply rūpa refers to the “form element” and represents one of the eighteen elements (dhātu) as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 25). The Dharma-samgraha (Dharmasangraha) is an extensive glossary of Buddhist technical terms in Sanskrit (eg., rūpa-dhātu). The work is attributed to Nagarguna who lived around the 2nd century A.D.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Dharma-samgraha

Rūpadhātu (रूपधातु, “form realm”) (Pāli: Rūpaloka) is, as the name implies, the first of the physical realms; its inhabitants all have a location and bodies of a sort, though those bodies are composed of a subtle substance which is of itself invisible to the inhabitants of the Kāmadhātu. There are 17-22 Rūpadhātu in Buddhism texts, the most common saying is 18.

Like the beings of the Ārūpyadhātu, the dwellers in the Rūpadhātu have minds corresponding to the dhyānas (Pāli: jhānas). In their case it is the four lower dhyānas or rūpadhyānas. However, although the beings of the Rūpadhātu can be divided into four broad grades corresponding to these four dhyānas, each of them is subdivided into further grades, three for each of the four dhyānas and five for the Śuddhāvāsa-devas, for a total of seventeen grades (the Theravāda tradition counts one less grade in the highest dhyāna for a total of sixteen).

The Devas of the Rupadhatu have physical forms, but are sexless and passionless. They live in a large number of "heavens" or deva worlds that rise, layer on layer, above the earth. These can be divided into five main groups:

  1. The Śuddhāvāsa,
  2. The Bṛhatphala,
  3. The Śubhakṛtsna,
  4. The Ābhāsvara,
  5. The Brahmā.
(Source): WikiPedia: Buddhism

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