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Buddhism FAQ0 >> 4. Heaven

Buddhism FAQEdit

(Frequently Asked Questions About Buddhism)


4. What is the concept of Heaven in Buddhism? Edit


IntroductionEdit

Buddhism (Theravada) has a separate book entirely for heaven.
It is called Vimanavatthu.

In short :
1. In heaven everything & every person is made of divine light.
2. A person reaches(appears ) in heaven due to virtue/divine merit.
3. Upon reaching heaven , a floating palace in sky becomes ready, filled with all things & servants as per his/her wish.
4. The intensity/luminosity of bodies of inhabitants & their palaces & their objects depends upon the virtue/divine merit gained before coming to heaven.
5. The dwellers can assume any appearance , shape or size small or big
6. The dwellers communicate through thought transference
7. The sky palace & all its objects can move to any place as per wish of the owner/person.
8. The objects / servants act as per wish.
9. Sky palace may contain a wish granting tree there (kalpataru).
10. Heaven is a state of bliss divine.
11. There are many categories of heavens.
12. The dwellers of heavens have very long life times i.e. on lower side, for deva(angel) ,millions of years & on higher side, billions of years for arch angels(brahma) or even several life cycles of birth(expansion/big bang) & death(big contraction) of universe called kappa (sanskrit : kalpa). The lifetimes in various heavens are described here : Vibhanga-Scanned-Chap.18:section-6.2
13. After their long life , their virtue/merit fades then they disappear from heaven & have to take rebirth as per the deeds / desires raised (karma/sanskara/sanhara).
14. For a person who practices meditation , if that person continues meditation in heaven , his merit/virtue increases further and after his lifetime there, he gains rebirth in higher heavens due to elimination of negativity within . If negativities/bonds/attachments to any worlds/heavens are removed completely then that person can gain nirvana from there itself & reaches the transcendental plane of non-return , immortality & infinite bliss forever, the final goal.


How to reach heaven?Edit

By doing good acts such as donation i.e. by helping others and having a compassionate heart towards all creatures. The Dana Sutta: Giving describes what kinds of various heavens that can be attained by giving donations. However , for reaching upper heavens meditation is also required in order to achieve various trance states


Lifetimes in various heavens:Edit


Lifetimes of individuals in heaven is not forever, rather, only in the final Nirvana state there exists eternity. There are many heavens and these are attained by individuals according to the virtue gained by doing good acts of body & mind. In Buddhism heavens are categorised in two . (a) Those which are attained by good acts. (b) Those which are attained by achieving trance states in meditation (as well good acts). Age limits are as below.


(a) Six Kamavacara Heavens Attained By Only Good Acts(of body & mind) :Edit


1. Cathumaharajika Heaven : 9 million years according to human calulations.
2. Tavatimsa Heaven : 36 million years.
3. Yama Heaven : 144 million years.
4. Tusita Heaven : 576 million years.
5. Nimmanarati Heaven : 2304 million years.
6. Paranimittavasavatti Heaven : 9216 million years.

(b) Upper Heavens Attained By Achieving Trance States in MeditationEdit


(b).1 First 9 (7-15) Upper Heavens (Brahmalokas) for Achieving 1-3 Trance States

(b).1.i Brahmalokas (7-9) For Achieving First Jhana(Trance)Edit


7. Brahmaparisajja Upper Heaven : 1/3 of Kappa(Sanskrit Kalpa). A kappa is one full lifecycle of universe comprising of Expansion/Big Bang and then followed by Big Contraction.
8. Brahmapurohita Upper Heaven : 1/2 kappa (Sanskrit Kalpa).
9. Mahabrahma Upper Heaven : 1 kappa.

(b).1.ii Brahmalokas (10-12) For Achieving Second Jhana(Trance)Edit


10. Parittabha Upper Heaven : 2 kappas.
11. Appamanabha Upper Heaven : 4 kappas.
12. Abhassara Upper Heaven : 8 kappas.

(b).1.iii Brahmalokas (13-15) For Achieving Third Jhana(Trance)Edit


13. Parittasubha Upper Heaven : 16 kappas.
14. Appamanasubha Upper Heaven : 32 kappas.
15. Subhakinha Upper Heaven : 64 kappas.

(b).2 Higher Upper Heavens (16- 26) For Achieving Fourth Jhana(Trance)Edit


(b).2.i
16. Asannasatta : 500 kappas
17. Vehapphala Upper Heavens : 500 kappas.

(b).2.ii Next 5 (18-22)are called Suddhavasa Upper heavens :

18. Aviha Upper Heaven : 1 thousand kappas.
19. Atappa Upper Heaven : 2 thousand kappas.
20. Sudassa Upper Heaven : 4 thousand kappas.
21. Sudassi Upper Heaven : 8 thousand kappas.
22. Akanitta Upper Heaven : 16 thousand kappas.

(b).2.iii The next 4 (23-26) Are Formless Upper heavens (Arupa Brahmalokas), The Highest Where there is No Form, Only Mind Exists

23. Achieving Trance state of Infinity of Space : 20 thousand kappas.
24. Achieving Trance state of Infinity of Consciousness : 40 thousand kappas.
25. Achieving Trance state of Nothingness : 60 thousand kappas.
26. Achieving Trance state of Neither Perception Nor Non-Perception : 84 thousand kappas.

Lastly Buddha says all those beings who attain any heaven , they also come back again (rebirth) to unpleasant existence after their heavenly lifetime exhausts . Therefore no existence in any world is permanent. Therefore wise are those who strive to be free from all rebirth and death leading to eternal Nibbana(Nirvana) state by elimination of all defilements.
(Verse 1029 of Ch.18.6.2 of Vibhanga of Abhidhamma)

Sources : Dana Sutta: GivingVimanavatthu, Anuruddha_Sutta, Vibhanga-Scanned-Chap.18:section-6.2


Description of Heaven from Nimi JatakaEdit

There is a description of heaven in Nimi-Jataka:

...With this speech he turned the chariot towards heaven. As the king went towards heaven he saw in the air the mansion of a goddess, Birani, with summits of jewels and gold, ornamented in great magnificence, having a park and a lake covered with lilies, and surrounded with trees worthy of the place: and there was this goddess seated upon a divan in a gabled chamber towards the front, and attended by a thousand nymphs, looking out through an open window. He asked Matali who she was, and Matali explained it to him.

"See  the mansion with five summits:
There, decorated with garlands, lies upon a. couch
A most powerful woman, who assumes
All kinds of majesty and wonderful power.
Joy comes on me to see it, charioteer:
But tell me, Matali, what her good deeds,
That she is happy in this heavenly mansion."
Then answered Matali the charioteer,
Describing how good ripens and bears fruit:
"Heard you ever in the world of Birani?
A brahmin's home-born slave, who once received
A guest at the right moment, welcomed him
As mother might her son.; and therefore now,
Generous and chaste, lives happy in this mansion."

With these words, Matali drove the chariot onwards and showed him the seven golden mansions of the god(angel) Sonadinna. The other, when he saw these and the glory of the god(angel), asked an explanation, which Matali gave.

"There are seven mansions, shining clear and bright,
Where dwells a mighty being, richly dressed,
Who with his wives inhabits them. Delight
Moves me, to see it: tell me, Matali,
What is the good this mortal did, that he
Dwells happy in this mansion heavenly?"
Then answered Matali the charioteer,
Stating how good ripens and bears fruit:
"This once was Sonadinna, one who gave
With royal generosity, and for hermits caused
Seven hermitages: all their needs did crave
He faithfully provided. Food he brought,
Bedding to lie on, clothes to wear, and light,
Contented with those men of life upright,
He kept the fasting day day, and each fortnight
The eighth, the fourteenth and the fifteenth days;
Generous, controlled, he walked in holy ways (*14),
So now dwells in this mansion of delight."

Thus he described the deeds of Sonadinna; then driving onwards his chariot, he showed a mansion of crystal: in height it was five and twenty leagues( x 4.23 km), it had hundreds of columns made of the seven precious things, hundreds of summits, it was set about with lattices and little bells, a banner of gold and silver flew, beside it was a park and grove full of many bright flowers, with a lovely lake of lilies, nymphs cunning to sing and to make music were there in plenty. Then the king seeing this asked what were the deeds of these nymphs, and the other told him.

"The mansion built of crystal, shining bright,
With summits uplifted in the height,
With food and drink in plenty, and a crowd
Of nice women skilled in dance and song!
Joy seizes on me: tell me, Matali,
What good these women did, that now in heaven
They dwell within this palace of delight?"
Then answered Matali the charioteer,
Describing how good ripens and bears fruit:
"These women ever walked in holy ways,
Faithful lay sisters, kept the holy days,
Generous, controlled, and watchful, heart-serene,
Now happy in the mansion you have seen."

He drove the chariot on, and showed a mansion of gems: it stood on a level spot, high, like a mountain of gems, bright shining, full of gods(angels) that played and sang divine music. Seeing this, the king asked what were the deeds of these gods(angels), and the other replied.

"The mansion built of jewels, shining bright,
Symmetrical, proportioned, a fair sight,
Where in divinest melody around,
Songs, dances, drums and tabours do reverberate:
I never have saw a sight so fair,
Nor sounds so sweet have ever heard, I swear!
Joy seizes on me: tell me, Matali,
What good these mortals did, that now I see
Happy in this heavenly mansion of delight?"
Then answered Matali the charioteer,
Describing how good ripens and bears fruit:
"These were lay Brethren in the world of men:
Provided parks and wells, or water brought
In the well-shed, and tranquil saints did feed,
Found clothes, food, drink and bedding, every need,
Contented with these men of life upright,
Who kept the fasting day day, and each fortnight
The eighth, the fourteenth and the fifteenth days;
Generous, controlled, they walked in holy ways,
And now dwell in this mansion of delight."

Thus having described the deeds of these persons, he drove on and showed him another crystal mansion: with many a summit, and all manner of flowers all about, and fine trees, echoing with the songs of birds of all kinds, by which flowed a river of pure water, become the living-place of a virtuous person surrounded by a company of nymphs. Seeing this the king asked what his deeds were; and the other told him.

"The mansion built of crystal, shining bright,
Its summits uplifted in the height,
With food and drink in plenty, and a crowd
Of nice women skilled in dance and song,
And rivers, fringed with many a flower and tree--
Joy seizes on me: tell me, Matali,
What good this mortal did in life, that he
Rejoices in this mansion heavenly?"
Then answered Matali the charioteer,
Describing how good ripens and bears fruit:
"At Kimbila a householder was he,
Bounteous, gave parks and wells, and faithfully
Brought water, and the tranquil saints did feed,
Found clothes, food, drink and bedding, every need,
Contented with these men of life upright,
He kept the fasting day day, and each fortnight
The eighth, the fourteenth and the fifteenth days;
Generous, controlled, he walked in holy ways,
And now dwells in this mansion of delight."

Thus he described the deeds of this man, and drove on. Then he showed another crystal mansion: this even more than the last was grown about with all manner of fruit and flowers and clumps of trees. This seen, the king asked what were the deeds of this man who was so fortunate, and the other told him.

"The mansion, built of jewels, shining bright,
Its summits uplifted in the height,
With food and drink in plenty, and a crowd
Of nice women skilled in dance and song,
And rivers, fringed with many a tree and flower,
Royal and elephant trees, and mango, sal,
Roseapple sweet, and tindook, piyal shade,
And orchard-trees fruit-bearing one and all--
Joy seizes on me: tell me, Matali,
What good this mortal did in life, that he
Rejoices in this mansion heavenly?"
Then answered Matali the charioteer,
Describing how good ripens and bears fruit:
"At Mithila a householder was he,
Bounteous, gave parks and wells, and faithfully
Brought water, and the tranquil saints did feed,
Found clothes, food, drink and bedding, all their need,
Contented with these men of life upright,
He kept the fasting day day, and each fortnight
The eighth, the fourteenth and the fifteenth days;
Generous, controlled, he walked in holy ways,
And now dwells in this mansion of delight."

Thus he described the deeds of this man also, and drove on. Then he showed another mansion of jewels, like the first, and at the king's request told him the deeds of a god(angel) who was happy there.

"The mansion built of jewels, shining bright,
Symmetrical, proportioned, a fair sight,
Where in divinest melody around,
Songs, dances, drums and tabours do reverberate:
I never have saw a sight so fair,
Nor sounds so sweet have ever heard, I swear!
Joy seizes on me: tell me, Matali,
What good these mortals did, whom now I see
Happy in this heavenly mansion of delight?"
Then answered Matali the charioteer,
Describing how good ripens and bears fruit:
"Once a Benares householder was he,
Bounteous, gave parks and wells, and faithfully
Brought water, and the tranquil saints did feed,
Found clothes, food, drink and bedding, all their need,
Contented with these men of life upright,
He kept the fasting day day, and each fortnight
The eighth, the fourteenth and the fifteenth days;
Generous, controlled, he walked in holy ways,
And now dwells in this mansion of delight."

Again driving on, he showed a mansion of gold, like the sun in his strength, and at the king's request told him the deeds of the god(angel) who lived there.

"See  the mansion made of flaming fire,
Red like the sun whereas he rises higher!
Joy seizes on me: tell me, Matali,
What good this mortal did in life, that he
Rejoices in this mansion heavenly?"
Then answered Matali the charioteer,
Describing how good ripens and bears fruit:
"Once a Shravasti city householder was he,
Bounteous, gave parks and wells, and faithfully
Brought water, and the tranquil saints did feed,
Found clothes, food, drink and bedding, all their need,
Contented with these men of life upright,
He kept the fasting day day, and each fortnight
The eighth, the fourteenth and the fifteenth days;
Generous, controlled, he walked in holy ways,
And now dwells in this mansion of delight."

As he thus described these eight mansions, Sakka(Indra), king of the gods(angels), thinking that Matali was a long time in coming, sent another swift god(angel) with a message. Matali, on hearing the message, saw that there must be no more delay; so at one flash he showed many mansions, and described to the king what were the deeds of those who lived in then.

"See many fiery mansions in the air,
As in a bank of cloud the lightning's flare!
Joy seizes on me: tell me, Matali,
What good these mortals did, whom now I see
Rejoicing in the heavenly mansion there?"
Then answered Matali the charioteer,
Describing how good ripens and bears fruit:
"Good-living, well-instructed, full of faith,
They acted as the Master's teaching says;
By living as the infinitely knowledgeable(Buddha)told
They came to these dwellings you now see."

Having thus shown him these mansions in the sky, he set out to come before Sakka(Indra) with these words:

"You'st seen the places of the good and wicked in the air;
Unto the monarch of the gods(angels) come let us now go."

With these words he drove on, and showed him the seven hills which make a ring about Sineru; to explain how the king questioned Matali on seeing these, the Master said:

"As the king journeyed on his way in the celestial chariot
Drawn by a thousand horses, he saw the mountain peaks afar
In Sida ocean, and he asked, "Tell me what hills these are."

At this question of Nimi the god(angel) Matali replied:

"The mighty hills Sudassara, Karavika, Isadhara,
Yugandhara, Nemindhara, Vinataka, Assakanna.
These hills are in Sidantara, in order there they be,
Which high-upstanding in the air you, mighty king, do see."

Thus he showed the Heaven of the Four Great Kings, and drove on until he could show the statues of Indra which stood around the great Cittakuta gateway of the Heaven of the Thirty-three. At this sight the king asked, and the other answered.

"This place so fine, elaborate, decorated,
Set round with Indra's statues, as it were
By tigers guarded-- as I see this sight,
Joy comes upon me: tell me, Matali,
What is the name of this that I see?"
Then answered Matali the charioteer,
Describing how good ripens and bears fruit:
"This place is Cittakuta which you see,
The entrance to the place of heaven's king,
The doorway of the Mountain Beautiful:
Elaborate, decorated, and set about
With Indra's statues, as by tigers guarded.
Enter, wise king! enter this spotless place."

With these words Matali led the king within; so it is said--

"Journeying in the chariot celestial,
Drawn by a thousand horses, the mighty king
saw the place where all the gods(angels) assemble."

And as he passed along, standing in the chariot still, he saw the place of the gods(angels)' assemblage in Sudhamma, and questioned Matali, who replied.

"As in the autumn is the sky all blue,
So is that jewelled mansion to the view.
Joy comes upon me: tell me, Matali,
What is this mansion which I now see?"
Then answered Matali the charioteer,
Describing how good ripens and bears fruit:
 "This is Sudhamma, where the gods(angels) assemble,
Supported by fair columns, finely made,
Eight-sided, made of gems and jewels rare,
Where dwell the Three-and-thirty, with their chief,
Lord Indra, thinking of the happiness
Of gods(angels) and men: enter this lovely place,
O mighty monarch, where the gods(angels) abide!"

The gods(angels) on their part sat watching for his arrival; and when they heard that the king was come, they went out to meet him with divine flowers and perfumes as far as the great Cittakuta gateway; and presenting him with their flowers and perfumes they brought him to Sudhamma Hall. The king dismounting from the chariot entered the hall of the gods(angels), and the gods(angels) offered him a seat, Sakka(Indra) the like and all pleasures too.

Explaining this, the Master said (*15):

"The gods(angels) saw the king arrive: and then, their guest to greet,
Cried--"Welcome, mighty monarch, whom we are so glad to meet!
O king! beside the king of gods(angels) we request you to take a seat."
And Sakka(Indra) welcomed Vedeha, the king of Mithila town,
Yes, Vasava offered him all joys and prayed him to sit down.
"Amid the rulers of the world O welcome to our land:
Dwell with the gods(angels), O king! who have all wishes at command,
Enjoy immortal pleasures, where the Three-and-thirty stand."

Thus Sakka(Indra) offered him celestial pleasures; and the king declining made answer (*16):

"As when a chariot, or when goods are given on demand,
So is it to enjoy a bliss given by another's hand.
I care not blessings to receive given by another's hand,
My goods are mine and mine alone when on my deeds I stand.
I'll go and do much good to men, give alms throughout the land,
Will follow virtue, exercise control and self-command:
He that so acts is happy, and fears no remorse at hand."

Thus did the Great Being gave teaching to the gods(angels) with honeyed sound; and while teaching he stayed seven days by men's understanding, and gave delight to the company of the gods(angels). And standing in the midst of the gods(angels) he described the virtue of Matali:

"A most obliging personage is Matali the charioteer,
The places where the good abide and where the bad, he showed me clear."

Then the king took leave of Sakka(Indra), saying that he wished to go to the world of men. Then Sakka(Indra) said, "Friend Matali, take King Nimi at once to Mithila." He got ready the chariot; the king exchanged friendly greetings with the company of gods(angels), left them...

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