Sunday, February 8, 2015


Six heavens of the world of desire from
the Wheel of Life
The gods (devas) experience the most pleasure, health and comfort among all the beings of samsara. Also, the higher their plane of existence, the longer is their lifespan and the happiness they enjoy.

In the World of Desire (Kamadhatu), there are six classes of gods with their specific realms[1].

The first realm is the Heaven of the Four Kings (Cāturmahārāja), which are located on four cardinal points of the Mount Sumeru: 1) East: Dhrtarāstra, 2) South: Virūdhaka, 3) West: Virūpāksa, 4) North: Vaiśravana. Each of these divine rulers has their own following of  Caturmaharajakayika gods.
As Master Genshin explained, “one day and night in the realm of the Four Kings is as long as fifty years of human life, and life in the realm of the Four Kings lasts five hundred years”.

The second realm is the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods (Trāyastrimśa) which is placed on the summit of Mount Sumeru. The most important god of this realm is  Sakra (or Indra in some texts).
As Master Genshin explained, “a hundred years of human life are equal in length to one day and night in the Heaven of the Thirty-three, and in this heaven life lasts a thousand years”.

The third realm is the Heaven of Good Time (Yāma or Suyāma).
As Master Genshin explained, “two hundred years of human life are equal in length to one day and night in Heaven of Yama, where life lasts two thousand years”.

The fourth realm is the Heaven of Contentment (Tusita).
Queen Maya, the mother of Shakyamuni Buddha was reborn there when she died, seven days after giving birth to Him. During his earthly life, Shakyamuni often made visits to this realm (and other heavenly realms, too) in order to teach the Dharma to His mother and the gods living there.
As Master Genshin explained, “four hundred years of human life are equal in length to one day and night in Tusita, and in this heaven life continues for four thousand years”.

The fifth realm is the Heaven of Enjoyment of Pleasures Provided by Themselves (Nirmānarati).
As Master Genshin explained, “eight hundred years of human life are equal in length to one day and night in Nirmanarati, where life lasts eight thousand years”.

The sixth realm is the Heaven of Free Enjoyment of Manifestations by Others (Paranirmitavaśavartin).  
This realm is inhabited by Maras, which are celestial demons that usually go to the other worlds to obstruct practitioners from advancing on the Buddhist Path. So, “Mara” in Sankrit language means „evil one”, „adversary” or „tempter”.  
Their karma accumulated in past lives was good enough to make them reborn in this high heaven, but still, their lust for power and selfishness not being eradicated, transformed them into living obstacles for other beings. Thus, they do everything in their power so that nobody gets higher than their plane of existence.
The Nirvana Sutra lists four types of demons: 1) greed, anger and delusion; 2) the five skandas, or obstructions caused by physical and mental functions; 3) death; and 4) the demon of the Heaven of Free Enjoyment of Manifestations by Others (Paranirmitavaśavartin). So, in the Buddhist texts the word “demon” is sometimes used with the meaning of internal demons, or personal blind passions and illusions, but also in the sense of an actually existing being or beings who disturb others from reaching freedom from birth and death. Nowadays, there is a common mistake among many so called “modern” Buddhists, who think that maras are only internal and not external demons, too. Please do not share their misunderstandings, and single-heartedly entrust to Amida Buddha, which is the best way to be protected against the influence of such evil and powerful beings. 

As Master Genshin explained, “sixteen hundred years of human life are equal in length to one day and night in Paranirmitavaśavartin heaven, in which  life lasts sixteen thousand years”.

Master Vasubandhu explained some of the features of the gods inhabiting these heavenly realms[2]:

“The Caturmaharajakayikas, Trayastrimsas, Yamas, Tusitas, Nirmanaratis and Paranirmitavasavartins are the gods of Kamadhatu (world of desire). The Caturmaharajakayikas and the Trayastrimsas live on the ground; thus they unite by coupling, like humans; but they appease the fire of their desire through the emission of wind, since they do not have any semen. The Yamas appease the fire of their desire by embracing, the Tusitas by the touch of hands, the Nirmanaratis by smiling, and the Paranirmitavasavartins by looking at each other.

A small god or goddess appears on the knees, or from out of the knees of a god or goddess; this small god or goddess is their son or daughter: all the gods are apparitional.”

To be “apparitional” means that newborn gods appear spontaneously, and not from within a womb, like humans. At their birth they are similar to infants “from five to ten years according to the category of the gods”. These “young gods grow up quickly”[3], said Vasubandhu.  Then he explained further:

“In Kamadhatu,
1. There are beings whose objects of desire are placed (by outside factors) at their disposition; but they are able to dispose of these objects. These are humans and certain gods—namely the first four classes of gods.
2. There are beings whose objects of desire are created by themselves; and they dispose of these objects which they create. These are the Nirmanaratis.
3. There are beings whose objects of desire are created by others but who themselves dispose of these objects created by others. These are the Paranirmitavasavartins.

The first enjoy the objects of desire which are presented to them; the second enjoy objects of desire which they create at their will; and the third enjoy objects of desire that they create or have others create at their will. These are the three arisings of the objects of desire (kamopapattis).”

The death of the gods from the World of Desire is extremely painful and to illustrate it, Master Genshin gave the example of those inhabiting the Trāyastrimśa[4] (Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods)[5]:

“Even though the pleasures of these beings are boundless, when life comes to an end they cannot escape the pain of the Five Decays. The first is the fading of the crown of flowers. Second, the heavenly weather clothing becomes soiled. Third, sweat flows from the body. Fourth, the eyes often grow dizzy. And fifth, the place of living no longer gives enjoyment. These are called the Five Decays.

When we meet with these sufferings we are disliked and cast off by the family of heavenly maidens. It is pitiful to roll around among the bushes and trees weeping and grieving. At such a time the victim cries out, saying: ‘I was loved constantly by all the heavenly maidens and why is it that now they love me no longer? They have flung me away like grass and do not care for me in the least. Now there is nothing on which I can rely. Who is there to save me? Leaving the palace castle of Zenken, my life here must come to an end. There is no hope of seeing Teishaku[6] on his treasure throne. It is difficult to behold the glory of Shushoden[7] and doubtful whether I can ever again ride on the treasure elephant of Shakuten[8]. I shall never again gaze on the flowers of Shushaen. Never again shall I sit at the sake feast of Zorinen, nor play and linger in Kwankien. Sitting on the smooth stone of the white jewel under the Goba tree is a pleasure no longer possible. I can think no longer about bathing in the waters of Shushochi. I shall never again eat the Four Sweets and I alone am denied hearing the Five Glorious Kinds of Music. How sad that I alone must meet this fate! Oh, have mercy on me and save my life! But for a moment longer, I pray grant me this pleasure and let me not fall down on Mount Meru or into Bassho sea! But though I utter these prayers for help there is no one to save.”

According to Nagarjuna’s explanation from Maha-prajna-paramita-sastra[9]:

“If [the practitioner] has not been able to cut through lust, he will be reborn among the six classes of gods of the desire realm [kāmadhātu] where the five objects of enjoyment are excellent, subtle and pure. If he has been able to cut through lust (rāga), he will be reborn among the gods of the two higher realms [rūpadhātu and ārūpyadhātu].”

This means that the one who is reborn among the gods of the World of Desire cut many other passions from his heart, but still remained with various forms of lust, while those who destroyed lust but still have other more subtle delusions and attachments, go to the next heavenly realms in the World of Form (Rūpadhātu) or World of Non-form (Ārūpyadhātu).

            In the World of Form (Rupadhatu) there are four spheres of heavenly realms, as follows:

The First Dhyāna, which contains:
1. Heaven of the Councilors of Brahmā (Brahmāpārisadya)
2. Heaven of the High Priests of Brahmā (Brahmapurohita)
3. Heaven of Great Brahmā (Mahābrahman)

Some Brahma gods from the first Dhyana Heaven in the World of Form, may experience the illusion of being all-powerful creators of the universe. About this kind of delusion brought upon them (and upon human beings who believe in them) by Maras, I discussed at lenght in the article, There is no Creator god in the Buddha Dharma. Please read it carefully as I gave many quotes from Shakyamuni Buddha himself.

The Second Dhyāna, which contains:
1. Heaven of Lesser Light (Parītta-ābha)
2. Heaven of Infinite Light (Apramāna-ābha)
3. Heaven of Supreme Light (Ābhāsvara)

The Third Dhyāna, which contains:
1. Heaven of Lesser Purity (Parīttaśubha)
2. Heaven of Infinite Purity (Apramānaśubha)
3. Heaven of Universal Purity (Śubhakrtsna)

The Fourth Dhyāna, which contains:
1. Cloudless Heaven (Anabhraka)
2. Merit-producing Heaven (Punyaprasava)
3. Heaven of Greater Fruits (Brhatphala)
4. Heaven Free of Trouble (Abrha)
5. Heaven without Affliction (Atapa)
6. Heaven of Excellent Viewing (Sudrśa)
7. Heaven of Excellent Observation (Sudarśana)
8. Highest Heaven (Akanistha)

            In the World of Non-form (ārūpyadhātu) there are four heavenly realms:

Abode of Boundless Space (ākāśa-ānantya-āyatana)
Abode of Boundless Consciousness (vijnāna-ānantya-āyatana)
Abode of Nothingness (ākincanya-āyatana)
Abode of Neither Thought nor Non-thought (naiva-samjnā-na-asamjnā-āyatana)

            In these realms from the World of Form and the World of Non-form, are born those who attained higher states of concentration and absorption through meditation. Thus, the higher one goes among these heavens, from the First Dhyana Heaven of the World of Form, up to the  Abode of Neither Thought nor Non-thought of the World of Non-form, the subtler one’s conscience becomes and the fewer the delusions and fetters that binds one to Samsara. But still, even among these heavens, there is no eternal life, and when the effect of the virtuous actions and practices which brought them there is exhausted, the gods who inhabit them may fall into the lower realms as though waking from sleep.

[1] The many classes of gods and the other samsaric planes of existence will be explained in more detail in another book.
[2] Abhidharmakosabhasyam, English translation by Leo M. Pruden; Berkeley, Calif, Asian Humanities Press, 1991; vol 2, p. 465-466.
[3] The gods of the next sphere – the World of Form (Rupadhatu) are complete in their development from birth and are also born fully clothed.
[4] Trāyastrimśa is Toriten in Japanese.
[5] He gives that example on the basis of the Sutra of the Six Paramitas (Roku-haramitsu-kyo). This sutra was also named Dai Rishu RopparamittaRopparamitsu-kyo, or Liu-po-lo-mi-ching in Chinese. It was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in 788 by the monk Prajna.
[6] Teishaku is Sakra (Indra), the ruler of the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods (Trāyastrimśa).
[7] Shushoden and Shushaen, Zorinen, Kwankien, Goba tree, Shushochi are places and various elements of the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods.
[8] Shakuten is the same as Tesihaku (Sakra/Indra).
[9] Maha-prajna-paramita-sastra, Lamotte, volume 3, p. 1162.

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