Many religions teach about heaven and hell. In what respect are the Buddhist teachings different? Do we just have to believe in heaven and hell? Through the Buddhist teachings we learn to study realities, to study cause and effect in life. Each cause brings about its appropriate result. People perform good and bad deeds and these deeds bring different results; they can cause births in different planes of existence. The plane of existence is the place where one is born. Birth in a woeful plane is the result of a bad deed and birth in a happy plane is the result of a good deed. Since the deeds of beings are of many different degrees of kusala and akusala, the results are of many different degrees as well. There are different woeful planes and different happy planes of existence.
The animal world is a woeful plane. We can see how animals devour one
another and we find that nature is cruel. The animal world is not the only
woeful plane. There are different hell planes. The akusala vipāka in hell is
more intense than the sufferings which can be experienced in the human
plane. The descriptions of hells in the Buddhist teachings are not merely
allegories; the experience of unpleasant things through eyes, ears, nose,
tongue and body-sense is akusala vipaka and akusala vipaka is reality. Life in
a hell plane is not permanent ; when one's lifespan in a hell plane is over
there can be rebirth in another plane.
Apart from the animal plane and the hell planes, there are other woeful
planes. Birth in the plane of petas (ghosts) is the result of akusala kamma,
conditioned by lobha. Beings in that plane have a deformed figure and they
are always hungry and thirsty.
Furthermore, there is the plane of asuras (demons). The objects which are
experienced in the asura plane are not as enjoyable as the objects which can
be experienced in the human plane. There are four classes of woeful
planes in all.