Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “distribution of gods in the three worlds” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Appendix 1 - Distribution of gods in the three worlds

Note: This Appendix is extracted from a note from Chapter XXXIII, Fruits of the immeasurables (apramāṇa).

The distribution of gods in the three worlds (kāmadhātu, rūpadhātu and ārūpyadhātu), a distribution discussed among scholars (cf. Kośa, III, p. 2–4, note):

1) Kāmadhātu, is the abode of six groups of gods: i) Caturmahārājika, ii) Trāyastrimśa, iii) Yāma, iv) Tuṣita, v) Brahmaloka, vi) Paramirnitavaśavartin.

2) Rūpadhātu, also called Brahmaloka, world of the Brahmā gods, with its four dhyānas, is the abode of seventeen groups of gods.

First dhyāna: i) Brahmakāyika, ii) Brahmapurohita, iii) Mahābrahman.

Second dhyāna: i) Parrittābha, ii) Apramāṇābha, iii) Ābhāsvara.

Third dhyāna: i) Parīttaśubha, ii) Apramāṇaśubha, iii) Śubhakṛtsna.

Fourth dhyāna: i) Anabhraka, ii) Puṇyaprasava. iii) Bṛhatphala, and the five Śuddhāvāsikas, iv) Avṛha, v) Atapa, vi) Sudṛśa, vii) Sudarśaṇa, viii) Akaniṣṭha.

3) Ārūpyadhātu, formless realm, has no abodes: it is inhabited, one might say, by formless beings belonging to four spheres: i) ākāśanantyāyatana, ii) vijñānānantyāyatana, iii) ākiṃcanyāyatana, iv) naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana.

Canonical sources:

In principle, the ascetic who has practiced the apramāṇas is reborn in the two higher realms, rūpadhātu and ārūyadhātu, but the exact place is disputed by scholars because the canonical sources give the impression of being contradictory. Here, without any pretense of being complete, is a series of canonical topics that are under discussion:

1) Anguttara, IV, p. 150; V, p. 342 (T 125, k. 47, p. 806a26; Vinaya, V, p. 140; Paṭisambhidā, II, p. 130; Milindapañha, p. 198; Visuddhimagga, p. 253, 258–260. – If he does not penetrate any higher, the person who practices maitrī gains Brahmaloka (uttariṃ appaṭivijjhanto brahmalokūpago hoti). ‘If he does not penetrate any higher’ means: if he is incapable of attaining the state of arhat (arahattaṃ adhigantuṃ asakkonto).

2) Dīgha, I, p. 251; Majjhima, II, p. 195 (T 26, k. 6, p. 458b1); Majjhima, II, p. 207, 208. – The practice of maitrī, of karuṇā, of muditā or of upekṣā is the path leading to rebirth in the company of the Brahmā gods (Brahmānaṃ sahavyatāya maggo).

3) Anguttara, II, p. 130. – The good man who practices maitrī, karuṇā, muditā or upekṣā, when his body dissolves after death, is reborn in the company of the Śuddhāvāsa gods (kāyassa bhedā paraṃ Suddhāvāsānaṃ devānaṃ sahavyataṃ uppajjati). These gods constitute the five classes of Brahmā gods occupying the summit of the 4th dhyāna in rūpadhātu.

4) Tseng yi a han (T 125, k. 21, p. 656b1–9); Vibhāṣā (T 1545, k. 82, p. 425c13–23); Nyāyānusāra (T 1562, k. 44, p. 594c3–6); Kośa, IV, p. 250; Kośavyākhyā, p. 438 (Sanskrit original). – The person who practices the apramāṇas is one of the four individuals ‘who gain brahmic merit’ (brāhmaṃ puṇyaṃ prasavanti).

According to Anguttara, V, p. 76, the holder of brahmic merit ‘rejoices in the heavens for a kalpa’ (kappaṃ saggamhi modati), and according to Kośa (III, p. 174; IV, p. 251), the gods whose lifespan is one kalpa are the Brahmapurohitas forming the second group of gods of the first dhyāna.

Therefore the person who, having loving-kindness, gains a brahmic merit and is reborn among the Brahmapurihitas.

5) Anguttara, II, p. 129. – The person who practices maitrī is reborn in the company of the Brahmakāyikas whose lifespan is one kalpa. The person who practices karuṇā is reborn among the Ābhāsvara whose lifespan is two kalpas. – The person who practices muditā is reborn among the Śubhakṛtsnas whose lifespan is four kalpas. – The person who practices upekṣā is reborn among the Bṛhatphalas whose lifespan is five hundred kalpas.

[But the sources do not agree on the lifespan of the various classes of gods: c. W. Kirfel, Die Kosmographie der Inder, 1920, p. 194; add Vibhaṅga, p. 424–425; Kośa, III, p. 173–174].

6) Saṃyutta, V, p. 119–121; Tsa a han, T 99, k. 27, p. 197c11–13; Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 83, p. 430c22–24; Nyāyānusāra, T 1562, k. 79, p. 770b24–26; Visuddhimagga, ed. Warren, p. 269. – The person who practices maitrī ends up at best in the Śubhas (according to the Chinese versions, in the Śubhakṛtsnas). – The person who practices karuṇā ends up at best in the ākāśanantyāyatanas. – The person who practices muditā ends up at best in the vijñānānantyāyatanas. – the person who practices upekṣā ends up at best in the ākiṃcanyāyatanas.

The Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāṣikas have expended a wealth of ingenuity in order to harmonize all these discrepancies. The Traité has not ignored them, but, refusing to enter into these subtleties, it concludes that the apramāṇas, dealing with all the beings of the ten regions without exception, receive their reward in ārūpyadhātu as well as in the rūpadhātu of the Brahmā gods.