What would you classify aliens as in the 31 realms of existence?

One possibility of what could devas be are aliens, like the approach Marvel is taking with the Norse Gods, Thor being an alien race which explains his superpowers, long life etc, due to superior tech which is indistinguishable from magic (to us).

One disadvantage of thinking aliens must (only) be devas is that there could be some monks coming to a prediction that we will never find aliens as devas always likes to hide from humanity. If an alien race was found in the future, that would look bad on Buddhism.

So let’s say we have some normal kind of aliens, biological, carbon based, DNA, RNA, using water as medium of chemical exchange in their cells, having a brain etc, they need not be humanoid shaped (like Chewbacca from star wars), but they can be even octopus shaped. They have civilisation, tech, science much like ours, not vastly superior.

What would you classify these aliens as under the 31 realms of existence?

I put them under human realm under the following considerations:

  1. Human realm need not refer to homo sapiens species. There were other homo species which when extinct, like homo neanderthalensis. So human realm need not be tied to specific species, and can be applied to other life forms in the universe.

  2. Buddhist classification of the realms is in general humans experiences happiness and pain, whereas the lower realms have more pain than happiness (except for some pets), the higher realms has more happiness than pain. Given the aliens are like us experiencing happiness and pain, I think they are closest to human realms.

  3. Since the Buddhist model of cosmology is cyclic, the human realm had been destroyed and reevolved countless times before, not every single cycle we might look humanoid in shape, depending on the evolutionary pressure, laws (constants of nature) of the new universe etc. We can apply the same consideration to the aliens.

There could be grounds for classifying aliens as asuras (yakkhas, nagas etc), if they have supernormal powers compared to humans and are war like in nature like the Klingons.

It’s an interesting question to think of because only humans are allowed to be ordained. What if there’s some aliens posing as humans?

Or to what extend if humans have non biological implants do we consider them cyborgs instead of humans. Clearly spectacles are no issue, how about surgically implanted hearing aid? Artificial heart? Artificial limbs? Brain neural connection got replaced by chips little by little?

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I don’t think aliens exist, except if we treat ghost and devas as aliens and we can’t even see them

Given the vast amount of exoplanets out there, it’s very hard to rule out that life didn’t began at some other planets, and once life began, evolution guides the emergence of intelligent life.

Regardless, aliens can fit the description of bacteria as well. So, maybe all the realms are represented in other planets as well.


I think I am more concerned with how they classify us.


Go vegan then, for the kamma of not being classified as animal fit for consumption by aliens.

Although, it does depend on the biological details. If the aliens have low level of digestion like us, and happen to have different chiral protein, DNA etc from us, then we are inedible to them.

If they advanced to using nanobots to break down anything and capable of digesting anything, or fusion powered or burning powered energy source, then it’s possible to eat anything and get energy.

I’m not sure how extraterrestrial life would fit into the early cosmology, but the later Buddhist ideas about their being, essentially, galaxies of worlds does start to sound like our modern knowledge about the universe.

The concept is I think only mentioned in passing a few times in the Nikayas, but in Mahayana texts it became a creative trope, depicting bodhisattvas traveling from incredibly distant worlds to pay the Buddha a visit. And the Pure Land Buddhas also fit into that model of the universe. So, yeah, it’s kind of amazing to me some of the modern concepts that were anticipated by ancient people like classical era Buddhists.

Yes, in Europe, even in the 14th century, 15th century, it’s still radical to suggest that life could exist elsewhere in the universe. Or that other stars are like our sun.

There’s no alien in buddhism if alien exists buddha would tell us about it since he told us about gods

But buddha indeed told us about alien

Reverend Koṭṭhita, an ethical mendicant should properly attend to the five grasping aggregates as alien

So buddha agreed with you bhante but that alien is closer than we think

It’s your perception bhante that is wrong you don’t need to go to other solar system or galaxy to see alien bhante according to buddha

@NgXinZhao and @cdpatton This happens to be a question of great interest to me since I am a physicist and have worked on astrophysics and gravitational waves long ago. It is indeed only at a speculative level for us right now but I am certain in a couple of hundred years it will be feasible to reach other nearby stars and send back information in reasonable amount of time.

What was surprising to me was that in DN (if I am not mistaken, Brahmajala sutta) we have descriptions of how towards the end of a universe cycle most beings, if you can call them that, are of streaming radiance type (I am paraphrasing here). That is exactly what is supposed to happen when the universe is in contraction phase - all matter gets progressively converted to pure energy, mostly light and if you could view it from a peripheral vantage point, it would appear as if the light is streaming towards the singularity. I maybe reading too much into it but the similarities are striking.
As far as the aliens go, they are almost certainly likely to exist - statistically, nothing happens just once in the universe. I have spent quite a bit of time mapping our imaginary vulcans, klingons, asgards, wraiths etc. with various orders of beings found in the suttas (guilty of pappancha, I know! ). I am not sure whether all of those passages are later additions/stories based on archetypes or indeed included in EBT for some specific reason.

PS: I apologize if I am not following posting guidelines by not citing and linking suttas I mentioned. I am a bit short on time right now. I can find the passages and edit the post later.


They could be from the five pure abodes suddhavasa. We know that Brahma Sahampati who convinced the Buddha to teach is among its inhabitants. Possibly anagamis who migrated there from the human realm still have some residual interest in the human realm. Otherwise, what is so interesting to be seen here! No good reasons to visit that i can think of.

You’re not far off the mark. The form realm is progressively less material. It’s called “form,” but ancient Buddhists considered images that we see of the same category as physical matter. They used the same word for both things. So, in my opinion, the form realm gods are basically like holograms, made of light. And, yes, it sounds like a repeating big bang theory, except that there’s some sort of dimension of energy or light (the Śuddhâvāsa heavens and above) that isn’t touched by the destruction of the material world below it.

In the Dirgha Agama, it depicts a humorous conversation between the gods when the world is destroyed. The newbies who never witnessed it before see the fire rising up towards them and get scared. “OMG, is that fire going to burn us up?” The veteran gods say, “Don’t worry! It never reaches us.” (paraphrasing to modern English)


@cdpatton It reminds me of the Q continuum folks in star trek TNG (sorry if it brings down the level of the conversation a couple of notches but as I said earlier I have spent way too much time on this mapping!)
Nice story! I suppose it is only found in DA and not DN, otherwise you would have mentioned it, but I will take a look it.

It depends, since alien or extraterrestrial just means not of this earth.

So the term “alien” could technically also apply to all devas, since they are not from this planet.

But aliens from other planets might still be in the “human realm” if they are from a planet with similar circumstances as ours. Because of this, I don’t think that “human realm” only refers to earth, but to any life, in any universe or planet, which is of a similar kind of karmic circumstance as ours (not heaven, but not hell or animal either).

Also, no matter how technologically advanced they are, they could still be in the “human realm”, since the deva realm is not necessarily about technology, but about one’s karma. So one could imagine a highly advanced civilization, like The Culture, who are still technically the “human realm”.

Of course, the main issue for beings like us would be that we would have no way of differentiating between a super advanced “human realm” alien and a deva realm alien, mainly due to Clark’s third law:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

A corollary of this, which I now dub Javier’s corollary, would be:

To a relatively primitive human, any sufficiently advanced human realm culture is indistinguishable from a deva realm culture.


I am much more guilty of it! See this mapping I have on what could devas be. Aliens is just one of 6 possible physics/ science fictional possibilities.

You might be interested in the other topics in the Physics and Buddhism stuffs in the blog too.

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As I put it in my first post here, I hope your faith can survive intact if we find aliens within your lifetime.

Anyway, to address that kinda logic, we can apply it to computers too. There’s no such thing as computers/microbes, gravitational waves/exo planets etc, if it exist, the Buddha would had told us about it. Yet, the Buddha only taught us a handful of leaves, what he knows is as much as the leaves of the forest.

If alien refers to deva, i.e. divine being or deity which is foreign national or living being who is not a citizen or a national of a specific country, then, the Sagatha vagga of SN/SA records early Buddhist ‘adaptation’ of many general Indian religious beliefs about alines (devas). These are Devata, Devaputta, Mara, Brahma, Vana, Yakkha, and Sakka (ruler of the gods), which are featured in the collection of SN/SA.

Also, a group of sequential collections in SN 29-32 about early Buddhist ‘adaptations’ of Vedic mythical beliefs regarding nagas ‘mythical dragons/snakes’, supannas/garudas ‘mythical birds’, gandhabbas ‘fragrant plant devas’, and valahakas ‘cloud devas’ can be aliens.

I certainly will. Thanks for the link. For many years I avoided all “Physics and …” type of books, articles, etc. because I found such writings didn’t do justice to either physics or … Forums and blogs are the perfect places for exploring such ideas. In small doses, such explorations are quite fruitful in challenging deeply entrenched anthropomorphic assumptions in oneself. I personally know well educated folks who thought corals were marine plants becaue they “look like plants”. We tend to be very limited in our imagination because of our senses and perceptions.

Oh don’t worry. I have a bachelor’s in physics and another bachelor in Buddhism. I wrote these stuffs to give justice to both sides. Assuming that current (most updated as far as my knowledge goes) physics and Buddhism are both right and see the parallels of it.

The book is still in the middle of writing since 4 years ago… haha.

Is alien a being or not ?

Computer is not a being

What I stress is that alien is not that far away from you bhante you just refuse to know it

What’s a being ?

Sir, they speak of this thing called a ‘sentient being’. How is a sentient being defined?”

“Rādha, when you cling, strongly cling, to desire, greed, relishing, and craving for form, then a being is spoken of. When you cling, strongly cling, to desire, greed, relishing, and craving for feeling … perception … choices … consciousness, then a being is spoken of.