Abhidhamma in Daily Life (by Ashin Janakabhivamsa)

by Ashin Janakabhivamsa | 66,666 words

English translation of "Abhidhamma in Daily Life" by Professor Ko Lay. Revised by Sayadaw U Silananda, International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University, Yangon, 1999...

Part 3 - Abodes Of Devas

We have studied the processes of world-system, the nature of beings in the Niraya (hell), etc. The sufferings and joys of mankind are known to all and it needs no explanation. Here the luxuries of celestial beings in the divine mansions will be described briefly, according to Texts.

The Celestial Mansions

The luxuries enjoyed by Devas are far superior to our human pleasures, just as the mass of the ocean is incomparable to a droplet of mist on a blade of grass. In the plane of Tavatimsa is the City of Sudassana sprawling at the top of Mount Meru. The city itself is ten thousand yojanas in extent. The Garden of Nandavan located to the east of the city is so beautiful a park that even dying Devas forget their grief when they enter it.

The sight of graceful couples of Devas and Devis strolling about among the verdant foliage and flowering plants also adds to the unique beauty of the park. In the middle of the park, there are two lakes - Mahananda and Culananda; the crystal waters are indeed a sight to look at, especially from the jeweled seats placed around the lakes. There are similar lakes in the other three cardinal directions of the city.

Devas and Devis

The jeweled mansions where devas reside are created by their own good kamma. All devas look as if they are 20 years old, and their Devis on their 16. They never age - they remain youthful and beautiful all their life. They eat only celestial food so their bodies produce no excreta. Devis are free from the travail of menstruation. (a) Mode of enjoying sensual pleasures is similar to the human but are free from filth. (b) Devis do not take pregnancy. (c) Offspring are born directly as grown ups and appear in their arms or on their couches. There also are servant Devas who own no mansions.

How Devas conduct courtship to Devis to win favor or affection is a matter for conjecture. Do they follow the human routines or devices? They were the case of lovelorn Deva, named Pancasikha who composed and sang love songs to the accompaniment of his divine harp. His songs were dedicated to the Devi Suriyavacchasa the beautiful daughter of Deva King Timbaru.

"Yam me atthi punnam, Arahantesu tadisu,
tam me sabbangakalayani, tayasa ddhim vipaccatam"

“All alone by myself, I have accumulated much merit by observing precepts and making offerings to the most homage-worth Arahats, who are always pure, free of defilements. May these accumulated merit of mine come to fruition soon in the form of inseparable partnership for life with you my love, my beauteous queen.”

In spite of his intense adoration for her, Suriyavacchasa had an eye for Sikhanti, son of Deva Martali. So Sakka, the King of Devas because of his services intervened and arranged the marriage between her and Pancasikha.

Some Devis dwelling in their own mansion would feel lonely and long for a partner. Devas have different kusala kamma and so some are more beautiful than others; their mansions, too excel that of others. Naturally there will be inferior Devas who would harbor jealousy against those who endowed with more potent kamma.

All these divine abodes are full of carnal pleasures, and they are fully enjoyed by celestial beings. But those who achieve Arahatship and those who achieve Anagami Magga being wearies of sensual pleasures cannot stay long in Deva loka. The Anagami die in order to be reborn as Brahmas. The Arahats enter parinibbána.

Therefore we cannot hope to become a yogi and meditate in the abode of Devas, where divine sensual pleasures engulf us. Only those Devas who had very diligently practiced meditation in the previous human existence, or only those who are opportune to hear the Dhamma of the Buddha in person, can improve and augment their virtue in the Deva abode. Other Devas are inclined to forget the Dhamma as soon as they enter the gates of Nandavan Garden.

In Deva loka, let alone vipassana meditation, even the observance of Síla (precepts) is difficult to perform. The Devis would entice the Devas who soon tend to discard the precepts. Call to mind how Campeya, the King of Serpents, failed to observe precepts in the serpent abodes; and how Sakka had to alight to the human world in order to observe Uposatha Síla. Because of these unfavorable environments, all Bodhisattvas perform their ten parami fulfillments in the human world only. They do not live to their full-term in Deva-loka, instead deliberately terminate their life span to be reborn as human beings and practice parami perfections.

There is, however, a small hope for those virtuous Devas who wish to perform meritorious deed in Deva loka. There is the Culamani Pagoda for worship. There also is the Sudhamma Lecture Hall. The Culamani Ceti enshrines Bodhisattva’s hair and the left upper tooth of Buddha Gotama. It is built of solid emerald one yojana high. Couples of Devas who have strong faith in the Buddha come to this pagoda with clear goodwill and offer flowers and other offertories; they devote their efforts to fulfill perfections rather than to enjoy sensual pleasures in the celestial gardens.

The Dhamma preaching hall, known as Sudhamma, is beyond description in grandeur and splendor. The whole edifice is studded with glittering jewels. The aroma of the Pinle kathit tree growing nearby and in full bloom pervades the whole building. In the center of the hall is the preaching throne covered by a white umbrella. On one side of this Dhamma throne are seats for thirty senior Devas such as Pajapati, Varuna and Isana. (Comrades of good deeds of Magha youth). Next come the seats for other Devas in order of their power and merit. Such Sudhamma Halls exists also in the four higher Deva planes.

At the time for Dhamma meeting Sakka blows the Vijayutta couch-shell, the sound of which reverberates all over the city. The sound lasts four months in human terms. When the congregation is seated, the whole edifice glows with the radiance of the Devas. Sometimes Sanankumara Brahma comes down and delivers discourses. Sometimes Sakka himself preaches a sermon; or he gives the floor to another eloquent Deva. Therefore there is chanda for performing wholesome deeds like paying homage to the Culamani Pagoda or listening to the Dhamma discourses in the celestial realms. But these deeds cannot be expected to propel one to the extent of achieving Magga and Phala. They also serve to sustain virtuous consciousness and reduce the enjoying of the pleasures of celestial world.

In the forthcoming age of decline, there is no hope for monk and laity to be fully imbued with Dhamma. Even the present age is no more decent. If we really dread the impending sufferings in samsara, we all should commence our efforts this very day so that we might attain Magga and Phala as soon as possible. Those who hope to meet the Buddha Metteyya in person and listen to his teachings to gain enlightenment in the Deva world will have a slim chance to do so. No sooner had they entered the gate of Nandavan Garden, then they will tend to forget what they have already accumulated. Even if they are fortunate enough to meet the next Buddha in person, they are very much likely to be entered in sensual pleasures.

So apart from Bodhisattvas who are determined to save sentient beings, and apart from Chief Disciples-to-be, each and everyone ought to start endeavoring of liberation right away. Our preceptor abbot taught us thus, “In difficult times, never fear nor repent on the past. Endeavor now, practice bhávaná meditation and prepare for the future lives.”

How Sakka Forgot the Dhamma

Sakka, the King of Devas and a Sotápanna Ariya, once visited the celestial garden, riding on his elephant Eravana. At the gate he suddenly remembered a question he had planned to ask the Buddha. The problem was what was the path taken by an Arahat to realize Nibbána, the cessation of all craving. He was well aware that in the midst of the Garden Festival he would forget his noble plan so he decided to visit the Buddha. He left his elephant and retinue at the garden gate and vanished from there to appear in the human world.

When he arrived at the Pubbaramana Monastery where the Buddha was preaching the Dhamma, he asked, “Exalted Buddha, how does an Arahat overcome his lust, greed and attachment to attain Nibbána, which is the cessation of craving?” he requested a brief answer so that he could return to divine Garden Festival in time.

Therefore the Buddha replied briefly: “O Sakka, A monk who is about to become an Arahat listens to the discourse which says, ”Do not regard anything as your own. He tries to understand the nature of the five khandas. He then sees everything as sufferings. He views all vedana (feelings) as anicca (impermanence). In this way he gets rid of all tanha (craving) and attains Nibbána."

This, in short, was the Buddha’s reply to Sakka. He was very pleased with the discourse, proclaiming: “Well done!” (Sadhu!) Three times and returned to his celestial residence. The Venerable Moggallana heard this proclamation from inside the chamber. He wished to know if Sakka really comprehended the discourse or not, so he followed suit to Tavatimsa to find out.

When the Sakka arrived at the celestial garden, he also joined the Devas in the merriment and being enchanted by the pleasures he forgot the Dhamma he had just learnt. When he saw the Venerable Moggallana he was embarrassed. But he greeted the Venerable with due respect and paid obeisance.

The Venerable Moggallana asked Sakka about the Dhamma he had just learnt from the Buddha. However, hard he tried, Sakka was unable to recall anything at all because he was so entranced in sensual pleasures. He gave the lame excuse that he had forgotten the discourse as he was very much occupied with the affairs of Deva loka (see Cula Tanha Sankhaya Sutta of the Mula Pannasa).

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