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In Hinduism, lokas refer to worlds, spheres or localities, roughly corresponding to the planes of nature in theosophy, but with significant differences. The names and number of lokas differ according to the sources. The Purānas give seven, while in Sānkhya and Vedānta, there are eight, with differing names.

There are seven lokas in the Purānas: 1. Bhur-loka, the earth; 2. Bhuvar-loka, the space between earth and the sun; 3. Svar-loka, the space between the sun and the polestar; 4. Mahar-loka, the abode of Bhrigu; 5. Janar-loka, the abode of the sons of Brahma, like the Kumāras; 6. Tapar-loka, the abode of the Vairāgis; and 7. Satya-loka or Brahma-loka, the abode of Brahmā. The first three are destroyed at the end of a kalpa, while the last three continue for the entire manvantara. The fourth one is not destroyed but is uninhabitable after the first three are destroyed.

In Sānkhya and Vedānta, the eight lokas are the following, whose names correspond to the beings residing therein: 1. Brahma-loka; 2. Pitri-loka; 3. Soma-loka; 4. Indra-loka; 5. Gandharva-loka; 6. Rākshasa-loka; 7. Yaka-loka; and 8. Piāca-loka.

Theosophical literature generally adopts the seven-fold Purānic classification. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, however, identifies mainly three lokas: kāma-loka, or the world of desires, rūpa-loka, the world of form, and arūpa-loka, the formless world. Kāma-loka is the world where the desire-body of the deceased go. The rupa and arūpa-lokas correspond to devachan. The letters also refer to the deva-loka, which is the abode of the various devas, some of which are more advanced than humans, while others are inferior. Brahmā- and Pitri-lokas are where the “creators” and “ancestors” of humanity are found. These, including the deva-loka, are considered as states of consciousness rather than as “worlds.”

The lokas have matching talas or nether-worlds, also called “hells.” They are as follows:

Lokas                Talas

1 Satya-loka      Atala

2 Tapar-loka      Vitala

3 Janar-loka      Sutala

4 Mahar-loka     Rasātala

5 Svar-loka       Talatala

6 Bhuvar-loka   Mahātala

7 Bhūr-loka       Pātāla

Geoffrey Barborka writes that each world has a spiritual or consciousness aspect (loka) and a matter aspect (tala), like two sides of a coin. They should not be considered as 14 localities but just seven. Neither should lokas be called heaven, and talas hell. “The loka is representative of the evolution of spirit during the Ascending Arc, whereas the tala represents the evolution of matter on the Descending Arc.” The lokas may also be considered as the “principle” side of a plane, while the talas are the element side (Divine Plan).


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