Monday, August 13, 2012
The general Buddhist view often talks about two or three different heavens.(1) First, when we use the word "heaven" we are usually referring to the normal, regular heavens that are know as "god realms". One such example is Tushita heaven. Though it is a higher realm, it is still in samsara. An indiviual is reborn in Tushita by performing a lot of good deeds and meritorious activities. After taking birth there, he or she can continue to progress along the path and develop realization.
(2) Second, there is a category of very special heavens known as "purelands", such as that of Amitabha, the Five Dhyani Buddhas, or other enlightened beings. These heavens are not in samsara, but not everyone who inhabits them is totally enlightened - - -some may be high-level bodhisattvas. Again, one continues to to progress and develop realization in these purelands. (3) Finally the "ultimate heaven" is experienced upon reaching enlightenment, because the very moment you awaken is the true heaven. We could also call this "eternal heaven", since an enlightened being can never revert to samsara. All positive qualities have already been fully perfected, so there is nothing more to develop. We can thus describe enlightenment as the state of absolute heaven, which is completely free from all negativities, afflictive emotions, and obscurations. Even the stains of habitual patterns have been completely cleared away. This is how Mahayana Buddhism understands the concept of " heaven".
from pg. 188 of Splendid Presence of the Great Guhyagharbha by Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche