There are many ways to classify Heaven.
Buddhism partitions Heaven into three major regions:
- Heaven of Desire,
- Heaven of Image, and
- Heaven of Non-image.
It further subdivides these three regions into twenty-eight sub-regions, depending on their pureness. Heaven of Desire has six sub-regions, Heaven of Image has eighteen, and Heaven of Non-image has four.
Taoism partitions Heaven into thirty-six sections because there are three-hundred and sixty degrees in a circle. Taoism also classifies Heaven into seven levels, which correspond to the seven levels of one’s practice, and is similar to that of Christianity and Islam.
Heaven is also commonly classified into twelve levels. Tao teh Ching states “One gives rise to Two. Two gives rise to Three. Three gives rise to everything.” Thus, it is sufficient to partition Heaven into three spaces.
I Ching describes the mysticism of the creation of Heaven and Earth with three characteristics:
first, the Non-Change, which is Wu-ji Li-tien; 9, 11
second, the Change, which is Tai-ji Qi-tien; 9, 12
and lastly, the Interaction which is Huang-ji Xiang-tien. 9, 13
These three Heavens are described as follows:
Everything that has matter, shape, and/or form belongs to this space, including all items that can be observed with the human eyes. Planets, earth, mountains, rivers, humans, animals, plants, and minerals, whether having life or not, all exist within this space. It is the material world and the three-dimensional space.
This space consists of the gaps between matters, also commonly known as the “space” or “Heaven”. The gaps between matters cannot be seen with the human eyes. However, it can be felt with other sensory organs. For example, our feelings and consciousness exist within this space.
Inside this space, the light and pure Qi belongs to yang and the heavy and non-pure Qi belongs to yin. Yang and yin confront each other. This is also called qian and kun. Thus, I Ching states “Qian is Heaven and kun Earth.” When we say “Heaven, Earth, and all matters,” “Heaven” here actually implies Qi-tien.
Without this space, Earth will be without support; mankind cannot live; the sun, the moon, stars, and planets would collapse; and all matters and life cannot exist.
The function of this Heaven is to control the growth and decline of yin and yang so that their transitions are continuous and smooth. For example, the flow of the four seasons is smooth and continuous.
This Heaven also governs the beginning and end of all matters. Heaven and Hell, which are created by the good and evil of human minds, exist in this space. It is the spiritual world. It is sometimes referred to as the space with more than three dimensions.
This is the Void. It has no form nor shape, no sound nor scent. It is an infinite spiritual energy. It is the space of pure souls. It is absolutely empty and still. It is so immense that It comprises everything. It is so divine that Its existence can only be recognized through supernatural inspiration. It is so tiny that It can be anywhere.
It can create and cultivate all lives and matters. It cannot be observed with any scientific means nor can It be detected by any human senses. It has no beginning or end. It always exists and is always divine. It is the origin of both the material world and spiritual world, the Creator of all matters and lives.
When the material world and the spiritual world are present, It too is present. When the material world and the spiritual world do not exist, It is still present.
The Buddhist Sutra saying “no beginning, no end, not polluted, not purified, cannot be increased, and cannot be decreased” refers to the essence of Li-tien.
It is the Void, yet mysteriously exists. It is what the saying “No image and image are the same. No physical existence and physical existence are the same.” describes.
It is the kingdom of God.
Li-tien is the essence of the Void,
Qi-tien is the yin and yang of Tai-ji, and Xiang-tien is the material world.
In the genesis, Li-tien created Qi-tien, which in turn created Xiang-tien.
In the destruction cycle, Xiang-tien will collapse first, followed by Qi-tien. Li-tien will always exist. It is just like a person who is dying of natural causes will first lose all his senses (Xiang), then his breath (Qi). However, his soul (Li) will never die; instead, it becomes entrapped in the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth and will be reborn into another body.
Therefore, in order to break away from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, one must receive Tien-Tao conveyed by the Enlightened Teacher with Tien-Ming 1 and practice Tao.
“One who awakes to Tao in the morning will not have any regret even if he dies in the same night.”
This clearly states the importance of transcending the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth and return to Li-tien (God’s kingdom).