The cycle of rebirth and suffering that all living things must endure until they attain nibbana (nirvana). In Buddhist cosmology, there are 31 levels of existence, ranging from the deepest hell to heavenly realms inhabited by incorporeal beings. Simply put, the sum total, or nature, of an individual's meritorious or evil deeds (kamma) over a lifetime determines the place of rebirth. Because Buddhists do not believe in the existence of an immortal soul (the doctrine of anatta), the manner in which a being passes from one life to another has been a matter of considerable speculation. Ordinary Burmese people often simply assume the existence of a soul separate from the body, sometimes described as a butterfly spirit. Although humans inhabit only the fifth level of existence, which is inferior to that of gods or celestial beings, humans alone can achieve Enlightenment and pass into nibbana.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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