Thursday, February 02, 2006
The Conditions of the Devas
There are 3 classes of Devas or gods in Buddhist cosmology. The first kind are the formless devas in the formless heavens (arupa loka), who have no desire nor body, only pure mind. They enjoy the sublime bliss of the formless Jhanas & have extremely long lives (up to 84,000 Maha Kalpas or great eons), which gives these devas the illusion of eternal life. The second kind are the devas of form, who have bodies but no desire. They experience the pure bliss of the 1st to the 4th Jhana. Brahma devas belong to the the lower heavens of form (rupa loka) & there's no male & female distinction in this realm. Their bodies are sexless & are made of pure radiance. They also have very long lives (up to 16,000 Maha Kalpas). The last kind are the devas in the heavens of desire (kama loka), like the Tavatimsa or Tusita heavens, which have male & female distinction - meaning that these devas still have sex, but in a much more refined way compared to humans & animals. Different devas in the different heavens of desire have sex in different ways. For example those in the heaven of the 4 kings & the Tavatimsa simply let their spiritual energy mingle. Those in the Yama heaven only need to go close to each other. Those in Tusita heaven simply hold hands & those in the Nimmanarati heaven only have to look at each other! These devas are constantly enjoying great sensual pleasures which are the fruits of their good karma. Though their lives are relatively short (millions to billions of years) as compared to the devas of form & formlessness, but it's still a very long time to us humans.
When devas are going to die, they first show the 5 minor signs of decay, followed by the 5 major signs, after which they will immediately fall to the lower realms. This applies to all devas in the heavens of form & desire alike, no matter whether they are sexless, male or female.
The 5 minor signs are:
1. They no longer hear divine music.
2. Their radiance becomes diminished.
3. Water start to wet their bodies.
4. They start to miss the heavenly enjoyments.
5. Their divine sight could no longer perceive the entire world.
The 5 major signs are:
1. Their celestial robe becomes unclean.
2. Their crown of flowers wilt.
3. Sweat start to flow from their armpits.
4. Their bodies start to smell.
5. They start to become very agitated.
For the formless devas, they do not expereince these signs cos they have no bodies, but once their time is up, their minds will lose the bliss of the formless Jhanas & thus dissappear from that realm to be reborn into the lower realms.
So u can see that it is difficult for devas to cultivate the Dhamma bcos the bliss or enjoyments in the heavens are so great that often devas don't think of the Dhamma until it is too late (when the 5 major signs of decay appear). In the same way, humans who have a lot of money & pleasure will never think of practicing the Dhamma until they are old & dying. By that time, it will probably be too late. Thus the best condition to practice the Dhamma is not to be a deva or human with an easy life, but just a normal person that have experienced some degree of suffering. Only those who know suffering will have a heart to seek the end of suffering that is Nibbana.