The Application of Mindfulness of the Sacred Dharma
The Heaven Free from Strife
- Tsultrim Gyaltsen
- Shang Buchikpa
- Sherap Ö
Degé Kangyur, vol. 68 (mdo sde, ya), folios 82.a–318.a; vol. 69 (mdo sde, ra), folios 1.b–307.a; vol. 70 (mdo sde, la), folios 1.b–312.a; and vol. 71 (mdo sde, sha), folios 1.b–229.b
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
While on the way to Rājagṛha to collect alms, a group of newly ordained monks are approached by some non-Buddhists, who suggest that their doctrine is identical to that of the Buddha, since everyone agrees that misdeeds of body, speech, and mind are to be given up. The monks do not know how to reply, and when they later return to the brahmin town of Nālati, where the Buddha is residing, Śāradvatīputra therefore encourages them to seek clarification from the Blessed One himself. In response to the monks’ request, the Buddha delivers a comprehensive discourse on the effects of virtuous and unvirtuous actions, explaining these matters from the perspective of an adept practitioner of his teachings, who sees and understands all this through a process of personal discovery. As the teaching progresses, the Buddha presents an epic tour of the realm of desire—from the Hell of Ultimate Torment to the Heaven Free from Strife—all the while introducing the specific human actions and attitudes that cause the experience of such worlds and outlining the ways to remedy and transcend them. In the final section of the sūtra, which is presented as an individual scripture on its own, the focus is on mindfulness of the body and the ripening of karmic actions that is experienced among humans in particular.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the supervision of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The translation was produced by Thomas Doctor with help from Benjamin Collet-Cassart and Timothy Hinkle. Thomas also wrote the introduction. Andreas Doctor checked the translation against the Tibetan and edited the text. The 84000 editorial team subsequently reviewed the translation and made further edits. Wiesiek Mical assisted by reviewing numerous passages against the available Sanskrit sources. Robert Kritzer generously shared several unpublished articles on the text with us, and Vesna Wallace and Mitsuyo Demoto kindly gave us access to drafts of their critical Sanskrit editions of chapters 1 and 3, respectively.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous sponsorship of Sun Ping, Tian Xingwen, and Sun Fanglin, which helped make the work on this translation possible, is most gratefully acknowledged.
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas!
“When the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions has examined the exhilarated gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will next wonder about the identity of the gods who reside above them, and who are superior in terms of splendor, diligence, joy, radiance, and lifespan. Through his knowledge derived from hearing, he will see that those gods, who are far superior to the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three in terms of the methods they have applied in the past, and in terms of the ripening of their karmic qualities, are known as the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife. He will also notice that beings are born in that heaven by observing various forms of discipline. Those gods have abandoned killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. They have practiced discipline in a way that is uncorrupted, unbroken, undefiled, and stable, thereby pleasing all the noble ones. Since they possess the karmic ripening of constant discipline, they will become spiritual practitioners who contemplate reality and pass beyond the ocean of existence by traveling across the bridge of discipline, the bridge that spans the ocean of cyclic existence and leads to the city of the transcendence of suffering. Just as before, their sevenfold discipline can be distinguished in terms of inferior, intermediate, and excellent levels.
“Observing the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, in whom positive past actions and spiritual qualities have ripened, he will see, [F.284.b] through knowledge derived from hearing, their lofty abodes near the king of mountains, Mount Sumeru, as well as their appearance and splendor, the distinctive features of their lofty abodes, as well as the number of these gods. He will notice that sentient beings attain those abodes by relying on, cultivating, and repeatedly engaging in the practices consisting in abandoning killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct, by teaching and establishing others in those practices, and by engaging in activities that benefit both themselves and others.
“Observing the height of those abodes, he will notice that they are located at an elevation of 168,000 leagues. He will then see that the Heaven Free from Strife—situated twice as high as Mount Sumeru—is divided into twenty-seven individual realms. Those abodes of the Heaven Free from Strife span five thousand leagues and hover in space, supported by the surrounding winds, like clouds. Just as this earth is supported at its base by wind, water, and rivers, so the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife are supported by the single factor of the billowing wind, as if they were cloudbanks. All in all their abodes include the following twenty-seven realms: Supreme Strength, Moving in the Stream, Living on the Peak, Ornament of the Mind, Moving in Mixed Environments, Movement of Wind, Utterly Lofty, Endowed with Result, Total Pleasure, Endowed with Migration, Emanation of a Hundred Light Rays, Controlled Movement, Constant Bliss, Endowed with Increasing Bliss, Moving in Mountain Ranges, Shining in Manifold Ways, Pleasure Grove of the Moon Vision, Dwelling in the Environment, Devoid of the Sound of Concentration, Turning Away from Pride, Engaged Conduct, Sporting among Moving Groups, Moving in One’s Land, Infatuation with One’s Body, Splendor of the Signs of Pride, Supreme Pleasure Grove, and Light Rays of the Forest. [B45] [F.285.a]
“In those realms, the ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife is known as Musulundha; he reigns as the sovereign leader. Musulundha rules over the realms of the Heaven Free from Strife, just as Śakra rules over the Four Great Kings and the gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. He follows the Dharma and is a thousand times superior to Śakra in terms of qualities, size, and pleasures. His body measures five leagues and has the nature of light. It is said that Śakra measures one mile in height. Musulundha, who governs the realms of the Heaven Free from Strife, is much bigger than Kauśika. The size of one thousand bodies of Śakra cannot even match the size of a single limb of Musulundha’s body. This is because extraordinary causes yield extraordinary results. At this point, the monk will recite this verse:
“Observing the pleasures attained by the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife as a consequence of their past karmic actions, the monk will notice that their abode is home to four great mountain ranges. Each of those mountain ranges measures ten thousand leagues, and they are called Utter Purity, Buoyancy, Great Buoyancy, and Vast Space. These mountain ranges, which are unlike the ranges found in other realms, contain thousands of mountains, each displaying a variety of magnificent colors, shapes, and qualities. They are carpeted with heavenly flowers and densely populated by the gods of the Heaven Free from Strife. The twenty-seven realms are filled with mountains of various shapes; studded with hundreds of thousands of waterfalls, rivers, pools, parks, and woods; [F.285.b] and covered by a profusion of trees and lotus ponds with perfect shapes, smells, colors, and tastes. In comparison, the mountains, rivers, pools, forests, and parks in the realms of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three do not seem very special, just as the joys of the trees, rivers, pools, forests, and parks in the human realm cannot compare to the joys that are experienced by the gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three.
“The unique cause that pertains to the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife involves a strong causal relationship. Stated otherwise, such a birth is a result that arises in conformity with an abundance of merit accumulated through wholesome actions. It is impossible to describe the manifestations produced by virtuous karmic action. No one is able to describe all the causes that produce the variety of concordant actions, and no one is able to describe all the outcomes of these unnameable causal actions. Why? Because there are simply no words to describe the extent of such causal actions.349 Here, I will therefore only describe a hundred thousandth fraction of the wealth that those gods of equal fortune possess.
“Nevertheless, I must by all means explain the consequences of following a guileless form of discipline. This will generate strong enthusiasm in those who practice discipline and a degree of enthusiasm ten times stronger in those who possess wisdom. There is a big difference between discipline and insight. Through discipline, one takes rebirth as a god, and through wisdom, one reaches the transcendence of suffering. Thus, if someone describes the excellent qualities of discipline, those who possess insight will think, ‘If such results manifest for those who practice discipline, what, then, will be the results for us who possess insight!’ Furthermore, by generating such strong enthusiasm, those beings will put effort into developing their insight, and, as a consequence, they will lose their fondness for cyclic existence. [F.286.a]
“There is another reason for describing the higher realms; if even those beings who live for such a long time in those abodes and experience very little harm are subject to destruction, there is no need to mention the helpless world of humans, where beings seek to defeat one another, engage in wrongdoings, are small minded and unstable, harm each other, and develop such inclinations routinely and on a vast scale—a world full of the dangers caused by thieves, floods, or royal punishments.
“There is yet another reason for this, which is that there are some who think, ‘Those beings endowed with great magical powers are emanated by the Almighty and have no other cause than that.’ In order to refute that idea, the nature of these results is explained. There are no karmic effects that arise without causes. Such effects are not caused by the kindness of others, nor do they manifest just as one may wish. They arise based on similar causes. Causes will not create effects that are unrelated to them. There are no causes consisting in wholesome actions that result in a rebirth within the hell realms. Likewise, there are no causes consisting in unwholesome actions that result in a rebirth within the higher realms.
“Therefore, since this is the fundamental character of cause and effect, this account of the higher realms is concerned with the essential actions of generosity, discipline, insight, training, and certainty. There are two types of discussion: one concerns happiness—the happiness of the gods—and the other concerns suffering—the suffering of hell beings. It is not possible to talk about them both here. I will therefore only discuss the actions related to the former.
“Next, as the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions examines the realms of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so correctly see a realm called Supreme Strength. Wondering what karmic actions cause people to be born there, he will examine this matter with knowledge derived from hearing and so see that there are holy people who observe discipline and [F.286.b] shun even the smallest misdeed. They are honest and sincere, free from deceit, and do not torment others. They have the genuine view and are guided by that. They always correctly see this world as impermanent, painful, empty, and devoid of self. They practice the recollection of the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha and observe the discipline of giving up killing and stealing in the way that was explained before.
“They do not engage in sexual misconduct either. Sexual misconduct refers to wishing for and engaging in sexual intercourse with someone who is associated with and bound to another. Having learned this, such holy beings will, if they see someone who is associated with and bound to another, not think about, consider, or contemplate that person. Moreover, they will dissuade those who entertain such thoughts about engaging in sexual misconduct by pointing out the consequences of such actions, telling them, ‘Don’t do this or you will be born into the hell realms!’ In this way they confidently explain the nature of karmic actions and their results without letting others influence them. When their bodies disintegrate, they will go to the joyous higher realms and be born among the gods in Supreme Strength within the Heaven Free from Strife.
“Those who are born there have maintained a wholesome livelihood and shunned sexual misconduct. When they are born into that realm, they will be surrounded by a hundred thousand gods and goddesses who sing for them. Like being woken up by drums from a deep sleep, as soon as they are miraculously born there, the melodies of songs and drums endowed with eight qualities will resound everywhere, and they will regain their senses. The songs that awaken them are appropriate, agreeable, auspicious, profound, and delightful, [F.287.a] are clearly audible across eighty thousand leagues, and teach the Dharma, and they are completely clear. Such are the eight qualities of the songs that wake up those who have previously engaged in very wholesome actions. The light emanating from their bodies shines up to a distance of five leagues and is comprised of blue, yellow, red, and rainbow-like colors. That light starts to shine the moment they stand up.
“Adorned in their garments, the gods are as radiant as the sun and the moon. When they have awoken, they will joyfully proceed to a grove known as Forest of Splendor surrounded by a hundred thousand other gods. That area of the Heaven Free from Strife abounds with groups of gods and goddesses and is studded with two types of flowers known as eye nectar and fragrance nectar. These flowers have the most exquisite colors and sumptuous fragrances. They never wither and are delightful even to hear about. The potency of those flowers are such that whenever someone remembers their names, their fragrances are sensed from the sky. Among the leaves of the trees in the grove there also grow two flowers called brighter than the moon and moving everywhere. Whenever the gods wish, those flowers come to them, and they transport the gods wherever they want to go. For transportation, the gods also ride on the trees. Staying in flower mansions too, they travel through the sky to wherever they want. Just like the gods who journey in celestial palaces, the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife travel while residing inside flower mansions. Emitting a blazing light, they can reach anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye, without ever growing weary.
“They also enjoy the trees that are called directly connected homes of joy. When the gods enter among them, they will find that those trees are far more delightful than the most pleasurable forests, pools, and parks anywhere else. [F.287.b] Due to the splendor of the trees, the gods are able to attract, according their wishes, each and every one of the magnificent objects found throughout the Heaven Free from Strife. Enraptured by their splendor, the gods enjoy themselves among those trees to the incomparable accompaniment of drums endowed with the eight qualities.
“There is another type of tree called manifesting fragrance that has the power to manifest any possible fragrance that the gods may desire. In other trees called delightful flower house, the gods establish homes while enjoying the forests, parks, and pools. The trees already are blue, yellow, and red and possess a variety of excellent fragrances and colors, but as soon as the gods enter among them, the trees and the flowers bloom in all kinds of colors, and they even cause the gods to absorb those same colors. Although the gods take on the same colors, these hues are not permanent. Such is the power of those trees and flowers.
“Riding on the trees called moving through space, the gods can travel a hundred thousand leagues through the sky in the blink of an eye. They journey at will and their splendor equals that of the sun. Adorned with many types of splendid garlands, fragrant powders, and ointments, the gods in that realm travel on their trees surrounded by a hundred thousand other gods and goddesses. During their travels, cheerful goddesses with the most exquisite physiques, who wear shimmering garments made of precious gems, fill the sky in front of them for many thousands of leagues, dancing, performing, posing, and singing songs. Since those gods have pursued positive courses of action in the past, those experiences now manifest within their minds. Here, I have given some examples using familiar descriptions, but these are a mere approximation of the actual experience of those gods. [F.288.a]
“Beautified by a hundred thousand past wholesome actions, like the moon amid moving stars, those gods will then proceed to that forest, all the while calling out in various ways, singing, laughing, posing, and playing music. The surroundings of the forest are utterly delightful. Home to hundreds of thousands of birds, it is adorned with many waterfalls and pools, and it shines brighter than a hundred thousand suns. To provide a comparison that may give some slight indication, the unique qualities of the most delightful forests, waterfalls, shores, and beautifully embanked pools that may be found in the human realms cannot match even a sixteenth of the unique qualities of the forests and parks found in the realms of the Four Great Kings. Similarly, the forests found in the realms of the Four Great Kings cannot, in terms of the pleasures experienced in those places, match even a sixteenth of the delightful forests and parks found in the realms of the gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. Those increasing degrees of pleasure are directly proportional to the amount of virtuous or unvirtuous actions that one has previously performed. Not even through the combined insight of all intelligent and eloquent beings, who are one-pointedly focused on virtue without ever engaging in any other activity, could a mere fraction of this pleasure be expressed.
“Why is this so? Because one cannot conceive of something inconceivable. Therefore, no human or god in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, including their lord, could ever describe even a mere fraction of all the pleasure experienced by the gods in the Yāma Heaven—even if given a hundred thousand years to do so. Why? Because those are not the domains of the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, and those realms cannot be perceived by them. What I have described here by means of examples can never be seen or heard. [F.288.b] Here I have simply praised a fraction of the experience of those gods to inspire beings to strive in virtue. I have seen and depicted only a tiny fraction of all the inconceivable forms of pleasure and happiness that are certain to be experienced as a consequence of completed and accumulated virtuous actions.
“When a skilled and experienced artist, or that artist’s apprentice, draws a representation of the moon or the sun, he or she is not able to capture its actual light, its light rays, its circular movements in the sky, its brilliance, its smoothness, or its harmful aspects. Such a person can only draw its approximate shape. Similarly, the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife cannot be described here. The simple depiction I have provided does not capture their actual joys and powers, the forests and parks where they live, their splendor, their mountains, their natures, the sense pleasures they indulge in, their brilliance, their garlands, or the pleasures they enjoy while traveling in the company of the goddesses. Here, I have only given a slight indication.
“Next, together with goddesses from that pleasure grove, the gods will travel to lands that abound with fine embankments and parks offering numerous pleasures and attractions. Agitated by their extreme attachment to the five sense pleasures, they are carried away by the river of cyclic existence, shaken by the waves of their flickering thoughts. Those gods are enraptured by everything they see. Observing their divine realm, they see that the forests are filled with the most delightful sense pleasures, rivers, waterfalls, trees and branches, and mansions draped with vines, as well as hundreds of thousands of singing birds. As they approach, they discover all around them the most perfect attractions of a kind they have never seen before. Surrounded by coteries of goddesses, [F.289.a] they see that the sand on the strips of land that lie between the rivers is made of pearls and is home to birds with golden, silver, and sapphire-like feathers. The banks of the great rivers are studded with trees that produce various melodies. There, on the banks of the rivers, they will then frolic and play around in the company of groups of charming and ravishing goddesses.
“After being attended to in various ways and having enjoyed the pleasures in that setting for a very long time, they will all together proceed to the forest called Jewel Shore. Upon entering that forest, they will see that the shining forest ground is formed from the seven precious substances and supports delightful mountains with peaks of precious gems. The forest features enrapturing riverbanks, waterfalls, pools, and lotus ponds, where a hundred thousand gorgeous bees swarm. The gods find that everything about this place is delightful, and they enjoy the vistas of the mountain ranges. Endowed with faculties that result from their previous wholesome actions, the gods will frolic, enjoy themselves, and indulge in pleasures in that jewel park amid troupes of goddesses. The pleasures experienced by the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife are produced by roots of virtue, and the numerous resultant enjoyments there manifest in accordance with such virtuous causal factors. In those realms, the gods experience levels of happiness that are superior to even a hundred thousand of the other forms of pleasure one can imagine.
“When they have indulged in the pleasures of the five senses within that forest, they will next proceed to a location in the Heaven Free from Strife known as No Lack of Embankments. There, they will enjoy a variety of perfect pleasures and take delight in songs performed by troupes of divine singers wearing various costumes. All of this is indescribable. Overwhelmed by their deluded thoughts, the minds of such beings, whose hearts are consumed by the fire of craving, never take a pause. Longing for sense objects, their monkey-like, distorted minds pursue mirages, [F.289.b] and thus they carelessly indulge in the divine pleasures that are the result of their own previous acts. As they keep on cultivating their passion for women, they will drift from place to place, carried away by the river of their many pleasures. All around the realms in the Heaven Free from Strife grow magnificent lotuses made of precious substances. All those extraordinary and delightful sense pleasures cannot be robbed from those gods, but they never satisfy their senses. Those charming lotuses blossom according to the gods’ wishes and grow simply by being thought of. Such are the effect of the gods’ past positive actions.
“At that point, Musulundha will think, ‘Ah! I shall now remain in the sky together with these gods.’ As soon as that thought has arisen, Musulundha, ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, will rise up into the middle of the sky together with all the gods that surround him. While traveling in the sky, Musulundha and the gods do not have to move at all or say a word, and not the slightest part of their body changes. In this manner, riding on lotus flowers, all the gods fly through the sky. Accompanied by the beats of the five types of drums, dancing, laughing, enjoying themselves, filled with bliss, captivated by and enjoying the fives sense pleasures, the cheerful gods travel on lotus petals. As in all perfect abodes, the surface of those flowers gives way when one places a foot on them, and it bounces back up when one lifts the foot again.
“When the gods travel on the petals of those lotuses made of the seven precious substances, each layer of petals is more beautiful than the one before. The petals are as radiant as the sun when it rises and sets in the human realm and illuminates the sky in copper-like colors. Enjoying each other’s company, all those gods will then [F.290.a] cheerfully travel to the utterly smooth and lofty mountain peak upon which lies a forest called Forest of the Assembly of Kubera. After reaching that mountain peak, they will proceed to a beautiful blossoming lotus grove that is adorned with many waterfalls, rivers, and pools formed from the seven precious substances. That place shines brighter than the light rays of a hundred suns and is home to many gatherings of gods and goddesses. The smooth and lofty mountain and its lotus grove are composed of many precious substances and studded with trees that shine in the same color as the sun. Arriving in that mountain’s forest, the gods will dance and enjoy themselves all together. They will then enter lotuses that grow a hundred thousand petals. Once inside those lotuses, they will start ascending that smooth and lofty mountain.
“With the intention to have a joyful experience, Musulundha, ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife, will surround himself with throngs of gods and then journey to this place where the gods enjoy themselves in this manner. Upon seeing him, the delighted gods will dance, laugh, and celebrate. Also, Musulundha, lord of the Heaven Free from Strife, will become completely exhilarated.
“The modes of birth of the gods are the fruition of their predominant karmic actions. Those actions produce inferior, intermediate, or superior gods; they also yield inferior, intermediate, or superior results, engender inferior, intermediate, or superior bodies, and give rise to inferior, intermediate, or superior pleasures. Śakra will never enjoy even a sixteenth of the most inferior forms of pleasure that are experienced by the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife. If it is impossible to describe the level of happiness experienced by Śakra, then how could anyone adequately describe the level of happiness that is enjoyed by the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife? The actions that those gods have practiced are three hundred times superior. Here I have described the fruition of positive actions and the flourishing of merit by extolling the sublime pleasures that are experienced by the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife. [F.290.b] I have not done so to induce clinging to cyclic existence, but to generate strong enthusiasm in those who observe discipline.
“Once Musulundha, the ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, has discovered the myriad qualities that are so excellent and incomparable within the lotuses and on that smooth and lofty mountain made of the seven precious substances, he will think to himself, ‘Ah! I must now enter this great lotus and remain there to enjoy its supreme pleasures, together with all the congregations of gods and my retinue of queens.’ So Musulundha, ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, will place himself at the center of that lotus. By this mere act, and through the power of his past wholesome actions, the heart of the lotus opens up. In this way everyone can proceed to the innermost part of the lotus. A hollow will then appear in the center of the lotus, and from that opening light begins to shine. The light that radiates from the center of that great lotus is of a kind the gods have never before seen or heard of. Light rays spanning more than a hundred leagues now blaze forth in sundry colors. While this light shines from the center of the lotus, the gods and Musulundha, ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife, will all cry out in wonder. The ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife will then say, ‘Gods, look well at the light that shines from this great lotus!’
“ ‘Regardless of its size,’ the ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife will then continue, ‘we and everyone associated with our lands should enter the inner core of this great lotus and gaze at it for a long time!’
“All the gods will agree and say, ‘We shall do as the ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife has said. Together with our retinues and surrounded by groups of gods and goddesses, we shall all follow the ruler of the Heaven free from Strife as he enters this great lotus.’
“Musulundha, surrounded by throngs of gods and goddesses, will then proceed to the center of the lotus to gaze at its interior and marvel in wonder. Reaching the opening at its heart, they will enter it. When sunlight and refined gold shine upon each other, it is as if a second sun appears in the sky. Similarly, when the gods gaze at the dazzling features of that great lotus, they will not be able to bear the brilliance of the light rays, and so they will have to close their eyes. Upon entering the lotus, they will cry out in utter delight, ‘Never have we seen or felt such an incomparable light before!’
“Musulundha will lead the way, quickly followed by the gods. Overjoyed and insatiable, Musulundha will enter the lotus accompanied by the gods. Once inside, they will encounter hundreds of forests illuminated by the light of hundreds of thousands of precious gems, hundreds of thousands of luminous mansions, and hundreds of thousands of radiant trees. They will discover areas adorned with hundreds of thousands of forests and parks—each made of the seven precious substances [F.291.b] and filled with hundreds of thousands of beautiful birds in numerous colors and shapes—hundreds of delightful mountains, pools, palaces, and waterfalls; as well as hundreds of springs, ponds, rivers, thickets, and caves. Everything is composed of the seven precious substances and the colors, shapes, and dimensions are enrapturing. If even the lord of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife has never seen such things before, there is no need to mention the other gods in that realm.
“The lakes found inside the lotus are filled with pristine heavenly water. Some have banks made of crystal, others contain silver stones and sand, some are of refined gold, others are of sapphire, still others are of ruby, and some are made of a combination of different precious gems. Likewise, the lotus ponds are studded with lotuses formed from various types of precious substances. Some are filled with lotuses of a single color and some with lotuses of multicolored leaves—blue, yellow, red, and white. The lotuses with blue leaves are made of stainless sapphire. Those with yellow leaves are made of gold, the white ones are made of silver, and the red ones are made of ruby. In that way, the gods will discover many types of lotuses inside that great lotus.
“Next, after taking possession of that lotus where a hundred thousand bees swarm, the gods will gleefully proceed to other enrapturing areas covered with the most delightful forests and parks. [F.292.a] To the accompaniment of endearing songs and drumming, and surrounded by further groups of boisterous gods and goddesses, the exhilarated and insatiable gods will travel through forests adorned with the seven precious substances. In those forests, the charming songs of a hundred thousand different birds can be heard, and the ground is exceedingly smooth, giving way when one places a foot upon it and bouncing back when the foot is lifted. Roaming through such places, the gods feel ecstatic. The more they see, the more intense their joy becomes. Savoring each other’s company, the mutually enamored gods go to enjoy themselves in those places. Lost in carelessness, they will remain in those parks for an extremely long time, together enjoying the highest forms of pleasure.
“Eventually they will proceed to a location that is made of various precious gems and is known as Garland of Pleasure Groves. Utterly charmed by songs and musical tunes produced by the five types of drums, these gods who strongly cling to the six pleasures remain attached to and infatuated with the scenery they gaze upon. In that way, they keep carelessly frolicking, playing, and enjoying themselves. As they approach the Garland of Pleasure Groves, they will see light rays and realize that they are like garlands of suns. Furthermore, as far as those light rays shine, the gods see utterly delightful lands that are colored yellow, red, and white.
“After enjoying themselves in such places in myriad ways, the gods next will travel to the mountains of entertainment. Never satiated by their sense pleasures, the gods take up residence at various places within those lofty mountains that are adorned with the seven precious substances. There are also hundreds of lush trees in that area [F.292.b] filled with nests of happy birds. There are waterfalls, rivers, pools, forests, parks, mountains, flatlands, and mountain slopes, as well as alpine meadows and streams, all beautified by flocks of wild animals and lotus ponds. Once there, they will rove around in those delightful mountains, enjoying the five divine sense pleasures, surrounded by heavenly maidens adorned with ornaments and costumes, and illuminating each other with the brilliance of their many divine garments. There, those beings will enjoy themselves for a long time without ever becoming fulfilled by their sense pleasures.
“Next, they will proceed to a place called Garland of Celestial Cottages. In order to indulge in the bliss of their sense objects, of which they can never get enough, the gods will insatiably indulge in the five sense pleasures. They will enjoy themselves in various ways and styles, consumed by the fire of craving that is ignited by their desires—the gatherings of gods and goddesses enjoy themselves in manifold ways. Together with Musulundha, ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, they will enjoy each other, delightfully gazing at each other and enjoying the five sense pleasures. They do so within that lotus, which shines brighter than a thousand suns, where they find peace and safety. There they enjoy in many ways the boundless sense pleasures that have manifested as a result of their pure and wholesome roots of virtue, which ensue from the virtuous and auspicious actions that delight noble beings. In that way, those gods will journey and converse with each other with mutual respect and thus enjoy themselves for a long time inside this lotus, without ever feeling satiated.
“Unfulfilled by the sense pleasures they enjoy, the gods will occasionally emerge from the lotus. [F.293.a] As they emerge, they will look around and then enter the lotus once again through the opening in its heart. Once back inside, they will then remain there for another long period. Upon seeing this, a bird called seeing reality that lives on that smooth and lofty mountain will sing these verses:
“In this way, when the bird called seeing reality sees the gods, it will instruct them in numerous fine ways, and yet the gods will not comprehend. Overwhelmed by carelessness, their minds will stray toward objects ever more. Carried away by their attachment to the five sense pleasures, they will fail to correctly comprehend reality. Hence, the terrors of death, transference, and birth that all sentient beings are bound to experience will certainly also befall them. Such are the facts of conditioned things.
“Next, after having resided in the lotus—after having stayed on that supreme, smooth, lofty mountain, within the petals at the heart of the lotus—the gods will decide to proceed to a lake called Inner Vastness. Accompanied by various songs, the rhythms of drums, and musicians playing their instruments, they will go there dancing, laughing, posing, and singing. That lake is surrounded by five hundred mansions that are built with railings made of the seven precious substances and that shine with incredible beauty. The surroundings of the lake are utterly delightful, providing the gods with playgrounds to frolic in. Among those mansions, some have windows and extensive platforms supporting the most delicious [F.295.a] food and drink and the most comfortable cushions. Attracted to each other, the gods will together enjoy those foods with great pleasure. These gatherings of gods and goddesses will enjoy themselves in this manner to the constant beat of the five types of drums.
“When the impassioned gods have enjoyed themselves in the heart of that lotus, the ruler of the gods of the Heaven Free from Strife, Musulundha, and his entire retinue of gods shall proceed to the lake called Inner Vastness, floating in the sky. As they approach that area, Musulundha will see gods who enjoy themselves and indulge in sense pleasures to the accompaniment of drums and musical instruments. Upon seeing Musulundha, the intensity of pleasure experienced by those gods increases tenfold and they will rise together from their mansions, from all their cottages, from all the lotus ponds, and wherever else they may be. Singing, dancing, and filled with admiration and joy, they will all gather at the location in space where Musulundha, ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, has reached. With mutual respect and delight, they will all fold their hands and prostrate before him upon beholding him there in the sky. With Musulundha leading the way, all the gods will then arrive, dancing, at the lake called Inner Vastness, which is adorned with all manner of perfect features and rows of celestial palaces.
“The joyful gatherings of gods in the Heaven Free from Strife shine brighter than a hundred thousand suns, and they cry out in various impassioned ways. As they arrive at a setting where a hundred thousand trees are growing, [F.295.b] Musulundha, ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, will receive the local gods’ praises. When in return he has delighted the gods of the area with many proclamations, Musulundha will proceed to the shore of the lake. By the lake, he will enter a mansion called Captivating the Mind. That mansion is extremely beautiful, decorated with glimmering ornaments formed from the seven precious substances, and endowed with thousands of splendid qualities. There, all the divine gatherings will pay reverence to him.
“When the ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife enters that mansion, the king of the local gods, who displays the enjoyments of all the gods, will be seated on a lion throne adorned with the seven precious substances and featuring the most sublime divine splendor. Groups of very senior gods, who enjoy the highest forms of pleasure, surround him in attendance. Beautified in that way by hundreds of thousands of gods, that divine ruler will then ask the most senior gods in his retinue, ‘Why has our supreme master, the ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife, whom we haven’t seen for a long time, come to this place riding a lotus?’
“In that setting, the lord of the Heaven Free from Strife will then gain extensive understanding about the excellent features he has seen, just as all the supreme elders did in the past.351 Upon hearing this, the gods, who are extremely pleasant to behold and who have the most perfect appearance, [F.296.a] will inspire in Musulundha, ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, a definitive understanding of his past lives. As he listens to the gods, he will hear about the great nature and the great splendor of what he saw inside the lotus.352 He will hear about all those desirable appearances with such excellent features that he witnessed inside that great lotus, which cannot be found anywhere else among the gods of the Heaven Free from Strife.
“He will be told, ‘Once upon a time, the Blessed One, the renowned Kanakamuni, the unsurpassed guide who tames beings, the teacher of both gods and men, appeared in the world. The Dharma he taught is virtuous in the beginning, virtuous in the middle, and virtuous in the end. With excellent meanings and excellent words, this Dharma is complete, pure, and perfect. This Dharma teaches that “this is form,” “this is the origin of form,” “this is the cessation of form,” and “this is the path that leads to the cessation of form.” It is virtuous in the beginning, middle, and end. Through his teachings, a huge number of beings from a hundred thousand different parts of Jambudvīpa realized the truth. In particular, he accomplished deeds that led beings to experience the fruition of the noble ones, gradually leading them to the attainment of the state of non-returners and stream enterers, as well as the attainment of the fourth concentration, the third concentration, and down to the first concentration. All the remaining beings engaged in the practice of the ten virtues. In that way, ten billion regions of the world turned to the Dharma and were established in wholesome conduct. [F.296.b] Then, through his divine vision utterly beyond that of humans, he saw that someone else still needed to be tamed by him: the ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, who was known by the name Saumya. The virtues of this ruler were vanishing, and he lived carelessly—even more carelessly than those gods around him whose faculties had matured.
“ ‘The blessed Kanakamuni remained in this world out of loving kindness. He wanted to help the gods, do them good, eliminate their suffering, and bring an end to the carelessness polluting their minds. Surrounded by five thousand beings in whom defilements were exhausted, he emanated a mass of light much brighter than the light produced by the gods residing in the Heaven Free from Strife. When the gods who had never beheld an omniscient being before saw this, they became completely astonished. This divine form, the likes of which they had never seen before, superior in numerous ways and unmatched by anything else, completely filled this heavenly world with its light. When they approached, heard, or saw the blessed Kanakamuni, the gods became totally astounded. Wondering, “How can anyone possess such a light?” they approached this divine manifestation and drew close to him. The gods left their various lotus ponds and came to the blessed Kanakamuni to gaze upon him.
“ ‘When the Blessed One saw them approaching, he rose up into the sky and remained hovering there, emanating various kinds of miraculous displays and thereby a great variety of excellent qualities arose. [F.297.a] He manifested streams of water from the upper part of his body, and the color, taste, and fragrance of the water so produced were so exquisite that none of the waters found within these heavenly realms could compare to even a sixteenth of it. From around the upper part of his body, he radiated blazing fires in multiple colors—blue, yellow, red, and purple. The Blessed One also multiplied his miraculous displays in such a way that one became a hundred, and a hundred became a thousand, to the point where this entire heavenly world was filled with them. Then, the light rays and his other displays once again contracted into one.
“ ‘Next, as the Blessed One manifested such supreme miraculous displays, he lifted all these heavenly realms with one hand and placed them in the palm of his other hand. He then hurled them into the sky—with all their forests, parks, pools, waterfalls, and hosts of gods. He flung them so far that they could not be seen anymore. After he had thus made these realms disappear, he again restored them to their initial state.
“ ‘The Blessed One continued to produce great miraculous displays. He uprooted the greatest among all the mountains and threw them in the sky, so far that no one knew where those mountains with their forests, parks, pools, waterfalls, meadows, and gatherings of gods had gone. When he then brought them back down to where they had been, the gods were still confused and asked themselves, “Have we ever walked on these mountains?”
“ ‘After this, the Blessed One [F.297.b] projected physical emanations of himself, manifesting a variety of forms, colors, garments, and other excellent features. While those emanations were seen on mountain peaks, inside the different forests, on the lotus ponds, in the rows of mansions, in the canopies of the trees, on the banks of the rivers, on the lakes, in the pleasure groves, and in the parks, he constantly remained in concentration. He manifested various activities, such as lying down on a bed in the sky, and then again coming back down to earth. He walked in the sky, moved through the sky, and then again took a seat.
“ ‘Next, the Blessed One manifested his miraculous prowess by teaching the Dharma with a voice so melodious that it made the beats of the five types of drums seem ugly in comparison—just as the call of crows may seem ugly when compared to the sounds of drums played by humans. Upon hearing his voice, all the gods, who were otherwise obsessed with captivating songs, now completely lost that obsession.
“ ‘The Blessed One proceeded to emanate in the sky gods and goddesses endowed with qualities so great that the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife would not even seem like fireflies in comparison. When the gods saw the sizes, hues, shapes, bodies, garments, ornaments, and sylvan pleasures of those extraordinary divine emanations, they understood that, compared to them, they were nothing more than grass. With their hairs standing on end, the gods of the Heaven Free from Strife were embarrassed and humbled, and thus they lost their conceit based on their bodies, youth, and pleasures. [F.298.a]
“ ‘The Blessed One knew who were of supreme acumen and who were not. He knew the different intentions of beings and the ways the effects of causal actions ripen. His wisdom was free from attachment and he benefited the world. When out of supreme compassion he thus manifested miraculous displays in the realm of Saumya, ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife, all of this ruler’s carelessness was completely crushed. Just like you, Musulundha, ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, have come out to enjoy the sights of the forests, Saumya and all the attending gods had at that time also emerged from the great lotus.
“ ‘The Blessed One then manifested those miraculous displays inside the great lotus to free Saumya from his conceit. Those are the emanations inside the great lotus that you, ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, had never seen before. All those forests, pools, rivers, mountains, mansions, and domains—in all their delightful variety—were manifested in order to free Saumya from the influence of carelessness.
“ ‘Next, the gods who had entered the great lotus, along with all the emanations, said, “Let us sit upon the lotus at the residence of Saumya, ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife.” So they arrived upon the lotus and took their places on its one trillion petals. The Blessed One took his place at the heart of the lotus. On the petals, hearers manifested various types of miraculous displays. Some of them rose in the sky and then entered the lotus again. [F.298.b] Other hearers rose to the center of the sky riding on the backs of elephants and horses. Showering down a continuous rain of various fragrant substances, those hearers created many different miraculous displays.
“ ‘With his mind full of admiration, and urged on by his former wholesome actions, Saumya, ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, then thought to himself, “By whose power do such displays manifest? Our own bodies and abilities are nothing compared to this!”
“ ‘At that point, the Blessed One, who saw former actions with his divine eye, said to the hearers,353 “Saumya, he is known as ‘the Buddha, the Blessed One.’ He is the omniscient and all-seeing teacher of the entire world, including the gods. He is the teacher of all sentient beings, including the demons, as well as mendicants, brahmins, gods, humans, and asuras. He teaches the Dharma in all worlds, and the Dharma that he teaches is virtuous in the beginning, virtuous in the middle, and virtuous in the end. With excellent meanings and excellent words, his Dharma is perfect and pure, and it leads to the definite attainment of nirvāṇa. Thus, he explains that ‘this is form,’ ‘this is the origin of form,’ ‘this is the cessation of form,’ and ‘this is the path that leads to the cessation of form.’ That blessed one is your teacher. He has come to the realms of the gods of the Heaven Free from Strife to bring the Dharma to the gods, to benefit them, and to bring them happiness.”
“ ‘When he heard those words, Saumya, ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, asked, “When I serve our master, how should I worship him? [F.299.a] We have never heard accounts outlining how to worship him.”
“ ‘A mendicant then said to Saumya, “Serve the Thus-Gone One! Saumya, when you serve him, you must leave aside your crown and your other ornaments. With a properly subdued demeanor, acute faculties, and a composed mind, you must kneel on both knees and pay homage to him as if he were a king. Then, draping your Dharma robe over one shoulder, you should prostrate to the Blessed One and remain in his presence.”
“ ‘With full attention, all the gods together received the mendicant’s explanation of those excellent forms of conduct. Then, surrounded by a hundred thousand gods, the ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife put aside his crown, his ornaments, and all his elegant garments. He utterly subdued his senses and brought forth a serene state of mind.
“ ‘The Blessed One was residing in the heart of the great lotus surrounded by hearers. He was like the moon surrounded by a multitude of planets; like the central king of mountains, Mount Sumeru; like an ocean surrounded by great lakes; like a universal monarch surrounded by his eighty-four great kings; and like the sun surrounded by its light rays. Thus, the Blessed One remained in the heart of the lotus, surrounded by a multitude of hearers, shining and radiating light of incomparable splendor. Then, facing the Blessed One, Saumya, ruler of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, joined his palms above his head, and when he had taken a place in the gathering, he asked, [F.299.b] “How may one become genuinely free from carelessness?”
“ ‘At this point, with a profound and vast melodious voice that filled all the worlds of the Heaven Free from Strife, the blessed Kanakamuni said to Saumya, who was in front, “Saumya, I will expound to you the genuine Dharma. I will explain the Dharma that is virtuous in the beginning, virtuous in the middle, and virtuous in the end. With excellent meanings and words, this Dharma is complete, pure, and perfect, and it teaches pure conduct. So, listen to these words attentively and I shall explain.”
“ ‘Receiving the full attention of Saumya and the other gods, the Blessed One said to them, “There are nine causes, nine circumstances, or nine reasons for immature beings to resort to, become accustomed to, and increase carelessness. Those will lead them to destruction and ruin, and when their bodies disintegrate, they will be born in the unwholesome lower realms among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. When those causes are present, their suffering will greatly increase, they will remain bound to cyclic existence, they will not be able to reach the transcendence of suffering, they will not be free from their attachments, and they will never experience happiness but only misfortune.
“ ‘ “What are those nine causes of carelessness? The first is spending time ogling women. This leads beings to follow their unrestrained faculties by means of an impure body, speech, or mind. The carelessness of sentient beings comes from the single cause of lacking control due to unrestrained faculties. This agitation is related to indulging in inappropriate objects through an improperly motivated body, speech, or mind, and thus to lacking the inclination to listen to the sublime Dharma. Such careless beings do not engage in wholesome actions through their bodies, their speech, or their minds. Since they do not engage in wholesome actions through body, speech, or mind, they will instead engage in negativities with body, speech, or mind, [F.300.a] thereby completing and accumulating negative actions. Such fools will, after they die, be born in the unwholesome lower realms as hell beings, starving spirits, or animals because they have been completely corrupted by carelessness. For those reasons, sublime beings who always long for virtue should completely abandon carelessness. This is the first cause of carelessness.
“ ‘ “Saumya, the second cause that leads to the development of carelessness consists in the opposing factors that destroy the roots of virtue. When beings with restless minds gawk at forms with their eyes, this will generate discursive thoughts. Repeatedly entertaining those thoughts, they will exclusively engage with those objects out of attachment. This will become a habit, and they will therefore only engage in unvirtuous actions. Those beings do not apply mindfulness and their minds are distracted. When their bodies disintegrate, they will be born among hell beings in the unwholesome lower realms. This is the second cause of carelessness.
“ ‘ “The third cause of carelessness is as follows. Those who do not follow the genuine Dharma, whose minds have not mingled with the Dharma, and who have not heard the Dharma before will give rise to profuse thinking. Whether their thoughts are based on desire, anger, or ignorance, when they think, their minds will pursue their thoughts without any other concern, and thus their minds will become distracted. Completely bound by this third cause of carelessness, they will engage in negative forms of behavior by way of their bodies, speech, and minds. When their bodies disintegrate, they will be born among hell beings in the unwholesome lower realms. This degeneracy is the third cause of carelessness.
“ ‘ “There is also a fourth cause of carelessness that will cause careless beings to be born among hell beings in the unwholesome lower realms when their bodies disintegrate. [F.300.b] Saumya, what is this cause of carelessness? It is obsessively gaping at goddesses. Experiencing pleasure by looking at improper forms, one becomes mentally restless and develops thoughts. Those who indulge in meaningless chatter also entertain such thoughts. They do not adopt wholesome forms of behavior in body, speech, or mind. When their bodies disintegrate, they will be born among hell beings in the unwholesome lower realms. This is the fourth cause of carelessness.
“ ‘ “The fifth cause of carelessness is as follows. Those who enjoy groves, pools, forests, parks, or lotus ponds experience immense pleasure at the sight of them, and they folic and enjoy themselves gleefully in such settings. They never think about virtue, and they never develop mindful composure. Instead, they are governed by carelessness and thus, when their bodies disintegrate, they will be born among hell beings in the unwholesome lower realms.
“ ‘ “Saumya, this fifth cause of carelessness consists in following unwholesome friends. Those who follow such friends will systematically develop unwholesome habits and participate in negative activities. They will adopt negative forms of behavior and engage in negative pursuits. Those who carelessly follow such evil friends will, when their bodies disintegrate, be born among hell beings in the unwholesome lower realms.
“ ‘ “Furthermore, Saumya, the next cause of carelessness is engagement in many different activities while thinking excessively. Such beings will not undertake wholesome physical activities. Their minds are unstable, restless, and they cannot engage in any single action decisively. Every single physical action they undertake is undercut by their indolence. All their mundane and supramundane aims will therefore be undermined. [F.301.a] They do not practice generosity, they do not accumulate merit, and they do not keep in mind what they should. When those whose discipline is corrupted in this way later experience the disintegration of their bodies, their carelessness will make them take birth in the hell realms after they have died.
“ ‘ “This sixth cause of carelessness consists in adopting incorrect views while refuting the true view, the four truths of noble beings, and the eightfold path of the noble ones. Beings who adopt such a careless mindset will remain careless and distracted, and when their bodies disintegrate, they will be born among hell beings in the unwholesome lower realms. This is the sixth cause of carelessness.
“ ‘ “The seventh cause of carelessness occurs when careless beings continually crave delicious food and therefore become hostage to this craving. Such beings are attached to delicious tastes, and their minds always crave them. As they develop that habit, it becomes their nature. Such beings do not have anything else in mind, and they do not adopt any wholesome forms of behavior. They are agitated by nature and unrestrained. Those who are duped in this way by their craving for delicious food do not, even for a single moment, engage in wholesome activity such as contemplating impermanence, suffering, emptiness, and selflessness. They do not act in ways that benefit themselves. When their bodies disintegrate, Saumya, they will be born among hell beings in the unwholesome lower realms. This is the seventh cause of carelessness.
“ ‘ “The eighth cause of carelessness, Saumya, concerns beings who, for as long as they experience pleasures, cling to them and perceive them as being permanent, stable, and enduring without ever realizing that they are subject to change. As a consequence, they do not adopt wholesome forms of behavior in body, speech, or mind. They do not understand the difference between what is appropriate and what is not. [F.301.b] They lack the distinction between Dharma and non-Dharma and thus, governed by that suffering, they do not engage their minds properly. They never think about the fact that they will themselves have to experience many thoughts of suffering during their hundreds of thousands of lives among hell beings, starving spirits, and animals. Inert like a block of wood, they do not pursue any methods to ward off the Lord of Death. Strongly attached to those unwholesome forms of pleasure that undermine all beings in cyclic existence, they will, when the time has come for them to meet the Lord of Death, be consumed by the fire of regret that will be ignited as a consequence of their attachment to those negative enjoyments. Upon the disintegration of their bodies, they will be born among hell beings in the unwholesome lower realms.
“ ‘ “The ninth cause for carelessness, Saumya, concerns gods and humans who, overwhelmed by craving, are attached to various forms of pleasure and therefore do not follow the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha. They do not feel any inclination to do so. They do not listen to their words and do not follow them by becoming disciples of noble beings. They do not understand the difference between what is appropriate and what is not, they do not proclaim that difference, and they do not practice the teachings, but instead they teach worldly people that which is the most terrifying of all. They are not aware of the suffering of decline. Those beings undermine their own well-being, fooled by their own minds. When their bodies disintegrate, they will be born among hell beings in the lower realms.
“ ‘ “Saumya, what you have here is not given by an Almighty Lord, nor is it permanent, stable, or enduring. Instead, it is subject to change. Saumya, ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife, where have all the sundry pleasures that you experienced in the past gone? Experiencing their individual shares of the consequences of their own actions, beings cycle through the realms of cyclic existence, caught by the lasso of their wholesome and unwholesome actions. By performing wholesome actions, they are born among gods or humans. By performing unvirtuous actions, they are born among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. [F.302.a] Therefore, Saumya, you should not live carelessly because such existences are not desirable! Why is that so? Because your life force, enjoyments, and lifespan are all impermanent; therefore, you should not fix your attention on things and you should not live carelessly! Carelessness causes hundreds of thousands of gods to fall into the lower realms, so you should not go along with your carelessness! It is the path of fools, not the path of holy beings. All beings live in close proximity to a certain death. The same applies with respect to old age, sickness, and being separated from what one likes. The experience of the consequences of virtuous and unvirtuous actions accompanies beings always and without fail, and it destroys them all.”
“ ‘In that way, the Blessed One used different methods to tame Saumya. This “eye of the world” did so while surrounded by hosts of gods. He made them understand the defects of carelessness, the terrifying bondage that causes the gods to fall helplessly into the lower realms.
“ ‘As the king of the gods heard those Dharma teachings from the Blessed One, he and twenty thousand attending gods reached the level of a stream enterer. At that point, the Blessed One analyzed the situation and thought, “Now that I have guided those beings, what else can I do to benefit the rest?” Since the Blessed One could foresee the future, he asked himself, “In the future, what else must I do to accomplish the welfare and happiness of sentient beings and bring an end to their suffering?”
“ ‘Then, through the force of his miraculous powers, the Blessed One once again produced miraculous emanations inside the lotus. [F.303.a] And through his miraculous powers, he also manifested flocks of birds that proclaimed verses. When those miracles had been performed, through the power of those miraculous displays, the following was declared:355 “In the future, after Saumya passes away, he will be reborn as the ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife where he will be known as Musulundha. He will live carelessly but he will be a good being. One day, wandering through pleasure groves, he will reach a great lotus, on top of that smooth and lofty mountain, and he will take his place at the center of that lotus. He will then enter the flower where I have emanated this light, and with exclamations of wonder he will behold what is inside. He will then emerge from that utterly delightful great lotus, only to enter it once again. As he informs the other gods about what he has seen, those gods will in turn explain to him what is happening. They will explain the whole story about the delightful features just as they have heard it themselves. Merely by listening to those gods, Musulundha will then develop trust in the Buddha, the Blessed One, and that faith will lead him to the transcendence of suffering. Also, soon after that faith has arisen, the buddha known as Śākyamuni will appear, and Musulundha will receive Dharma teachings directly from him.”
“ ‘Musulundha, we have heard the oral account of these past lives from the gods who were here before us, and all the great wonders happened exactly in the way we were told. [F.303.b] Inside the great lotus you have seen all that we told you about, and the Blessed One who has now been born is the unsurpassed Śākyamuni. Therefore, without entertaining any doubts, listen to his Dharma! If you do so, you will achieve the definitive good.’
“When Musulundha hears those words from the gods, genuine joy and devotion will arise in him and he will think, ‘Since the discourse of Kanakamuni that has been transmitted to me is so satisfying to the minds of the gods, what need is there to speak of what will happen once I receive the words of the Dharma directly from the Blessed One!’
“With this understanding, he will set off on a journey to Vārāṇasī accompanied by eighty thousand gods. When they see the Blessed One, they will be unable to stop gazing at him. Adorned with the thirty-seven factors of awakening, his body blazes with golden light and he benefits all the realms of the world. He is the guide of all beings in the world and he expounds the teaching on the four truths of noble beings for hundreds of audiences. Arriving at the place where the Blessed One is residing, Musulundha will prostrate at his feet together with the eighty thousand gods, and the Blessed One will then address them, saying, ‘Welcome, Musulundha. Did you understand the Dharma discourse of the blessed Kanakamuni?’
“At that moment, Musulundha’s faith will intensify a thousand times and he will think, ‘Oh, this is a great wonder! Through his unimpeded and subtle realization of omniscience, [F.304.a] the Blessed One knows exactly what has happened to me!’
“Musulundha will then prostrate at the feet of the Blessed One and take his place in the gathering, together with the eighty thousand gods. At that point, the Blessed One will say, ‘Musulundha, the Dharma teaching that I will expound to you now is virtuous in the beginning, virtuous in the middle, and virtuous in the end. With excellent meanings and excellent words, it is complete, pure, and perfect. I will expound to you the Dharma teaching called The Joy of Divine Beings. Pay full attention, listen carefully, and take these words to heart. I shall explain.’
“Commanding the full attention of the gods, the Blessed One will then say, ‘Monks, what is this Dharma teaching called The Joy of Divine Beings? Those who enter and adhere to the following twelve divine paths will safely reach the divine abodes. For example, when people follow a royal highway, they may travel free from fears and worries. Without experiencing any injury and free from any physical, verbal, or mental weariness and fatigue, they arrive safely at their destination. Similarly, holy beings who carefully follow these twelve paths will reach the heavenly worlds. What are the twelve paths?
“ ‘The first path is the path of truth. Musulundha, there are five benefits related to truth. Those who speak the truth will be trusted by all beings, [F.304.b] they will always be influential, their faces will always be pure, their complexions will always be pure, and the gods will never revile them. Those are results that they experience in their present lives. Then, when their bodies disintegrate, they will be born among the gods in the joyous higher realms.’
“ ‘Musulundha, the second path leading to the higher realms consists in practicing an uncorrupted form of generosity, being free from wrongdoings, not indulging in cyclic existence, and practicing wholesome thought. Those who maintain wholesome conduct by following this path will be born into the heavenly worlds. In short, there are three benefits related to generosity: those who practice generosity will live in harmony with worldly beings, they will experience mental happiness because they always train their minds, and they will be wealthy in the future. This is the second path leading to the heavenly worlds.’
“ ‘Musulundha, the third path leading to the higher realms is patience. Those who cultivate patience will experience the following benefits. They will be free from strife, disputes, and wars—this is the first benefit. Also, no one will be able to rob them of their wealth, and they will live in harmony with all beings. When their bodies disintegrate, they will be born in the joyous higher realms.
“ ‘Musulundha, the fourth path leading to the higher realms consists in speaking pleasant words. Six benefits derive from speaking pleasant words. Pleasant words make everyone happy, and those who speak pleasant words will have no fear, they will always enjoy pleasures, they will be serene, they will be free from anxiety, and others will serve them. Those are the six benefits.
“ ‘There is also a verse about speaking pleasant words:
“ ‘Musulundha, the fifth path leading to the heavenly worlds consists in loving concern for everyone. Those who are filled with love will reach the transcendence of suffering. Each day of their lives, they will be surrounded by boundless retinues and possess immeasurable qualities.
“ ‘There is also a verse about this:
“ ‘Musulundha, by following the sixth divine path, beings will encounter the sights of the heavenly parks. Beings who rest within a state of mental equipoise will engage in wholesome activities, develop wholesome thoughts, and speak wholesome words. These, in short, are the benefits related to mental equipoise.
“ ‘There is also a verse about this:
“ ‘Musulundha, there is also a seventh divine path through which beings will reach the heavenly worlds. Those who observe an authentic view will attain the transcendence of suffering, so there is no need to mention that they will also reach the heavenly worlds. Every single activity they engage in with body, speech, and mind, even the most insignificant ones, is always beneficial and directed toward the realization of the transcendence of suffering. Such beings will be born in the heavenly worlds.
“ ‘There is also a verse about this:
“ ‘Musulundha, the eighth divine path consists in abandoning unwholesome company. In short, this will prevent the following three faults. Those who give up unwholesome company will not abandon sublime beings. They will be trusted by such beings who will think, “They are following the same training as us.” This will also prevent special faults from occurring.
“ ‘There is also a verse about this:
“ ‘Musulundha, the ninth divine path consists in listening to the sacred Dharma. In short, there are seven benefits derived from listening to the sacred Dharma. Those who have not heard the Dharma will be instructed, the knowledge of those who have heard the Dharma will increase, and those beings will abandon every negative action of ordinary beings, they will become naturally inclined to follow the example of noble beings, sincere faith in the Buddha will repeatedly arise in their minds, their lifespans will increase, and [F.306.a] when their bodies disintegrate, they will be born among the gods.
“ ‘There is also a verse about this:
“ ‘Musulundha, the tenth divine path consists in cultivating a gentle mind. There are four benefits related to this. One will not become angry. In the unlikely event that one should become angry, one’s anger will not persist. One will not harm others out of hostility. When one’s body disintegrates, one will be born among the gods.
“ ‘There is also a verse about this:
“ ‘Musulundha, the eleventh divine path consists in developing the power of trust in the way causal actions produce effects. Beings who have done so will abandon all negative actions and will shun even the smallest wrongdoing. They are aware of the consequences of wholesome and unwholesome actions. They do not perpetuate conditioned phenomena. Because they have familiarized themselves with wholesome actions, they will, upon the disintegration of their bodies, join the gods in the joyous higher realms.
“ ‘There is also a verse about this:
“ ‘Musulundha, those who enter this twelfth path that leads to the higher realms will be born in the worlds of the gods; this path consists in cultivating unmistaken and sincere faith in the Three Jewels. There are hundreds of benefits related to this, [F.306.b] so this beneficial path outshines and surpasses all the others. It is luminous and resplendent. Beings on this path will perfect the transcendence of suffering. Before that happens, they will experience the pleasures of gods and humans. By following this twelfth path, humans or gods who are free from the influence of carelessness will journey to the higher realms. On the other hand, careless beings will fail to achieve either mundane or supramundane happiness. Musulundha, the Dharma that the sage of the past, Kanakamuni, taught to Saumya, lord of the Heaven Free from Strife, is the very same Dharma that all the thus-gone ones teach. You have received it correctly from those very senior gods.
“ ‘There is also a verse about this:
“ ‘Those twelve paths are free from hindrances and always lead to their destination and nowhere else.’
“Upon hearing this Dharma teaching from the Blessed One, Musulundha and eight million gods will reach the fruition of a stream enterer. Then Musulundha, ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife, will prostrate at the feet of the Blessed One and utter these verses:
“Having uttered those verses, Musulundha and the accompanying gods will leave Vārāṇasī, rising up into the center of the sky, and thus return to the realms of the Heaven Free from Strife. Once there, all the gods will proceed to enjoy themselves and celebrate for a long time, continuing in this fashion until their lives come to an end. When that happens, they will next be born as humans who have ended their engagement in negative actions. They will have a youthful appearance, possess the most exquisite physiques, and be endowed with wealth and land. When those among them who have not yet reached the level of a stream enterer subsequently undergo death and rebirth, they will, in accordance with their karmic qualities, be born among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. Once they transfer from such existences, some among them may be born with the general lot in life of a human. In that case they will, in accordance with their causal actions, have a youthful appearance and enjoy delightful ornaments and clothing. [V70] [F.1.b] [B46]
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine the realms of the Heaven Free from Strife, he will see by means of knowledge derived from hearing, and so accurately perceive a realm known as Traveling on Great Mounts. Wondering what karmic actions cause beings to take birth there, he again uses knowledge derived from hearing to perceive how some holy people may receive teachings on good fortune from spiritual teachers. As a result, they are born as gods who experience the qualities of incomparable objects. They see forms that are desirable, attractive, and delightful in a way that is unlike anything else. Their ears hear various songs, songbirds, [F.2.a] and the sounds of cascades, streams, and ponds—all of which are uniquely and exceptionally desirable, attractive, and delightful—and thus they listen insatiably. Likewise, their noses will untiringly perceive desirable, attractive, and delightful aromas that are unique and unprecedented. With their tongues they will insatiably enjoy numerous exceptional tastes. Their bodies will likewise touch many different textures with various unique qualities. Thus, there is no pleasure that is not present within the forests in which they live, as all five divine sense pleasures are abundant, diverse, perfect, enticing, and unique.
“As soon as the gods see and enter these amazing forests, they immediately become astonished. So, there is no need to mention what happens when they behold the divine ruler Musulundha and join the gods living there. There, they are met by the smiling faces of nine quadrillion beautiful and youthful goddesses who bear many types of ornaments and attire. The goddesses sing and play music [F.2.b] as they proffer nine quadrillion offerings of splendid and superb sense pleasures.
“The gods hold King Musulundha in high regard, for the realm belongs to him. They proclaim their ruler to be like a father or a mother who teaches goodness throughout the realms in the Heaven Free from Strife. Hearing this, newly born gods will further behold that god who is surrounded by goddesses, and so they are born with inferior or intermediate bodies, garments, and ornaments.357
“They all experience nothing but enjoyable qualities and delightful sustenance for the five senses, and thus they frolic. The goddesses and the other gods all speak delightful and pleasing words, and whatever one might wish for manifests from the rows of hundreds of thousands of beautiful wish-fulfilling trees made of the seven precious substances and displaying thousands of excellent qualities.
“The gods who take birth among those trees, which possess such amazing qualities, completely lose themselves as they enjoy this copious wealth of wonderful objects. Enraptured, their eyes never stray from the trees, and so they stare uninterruptedly at these pleasures found in that great forest. The forest is also filled with thousands of streams brimming with food and drink. [F.3.a] The place is filled with the sweet calls of beautiful birds and the most captivating, perfect songs of goddesses. As the songs of the birds and goddesses mingle, they have the most enrapturing effect on the minds of the gods.
“As older gods arrive, the newborn gods will catch sight of an amazing lotus grove that is three leagues long, two leagues across, and brimful of lotus flowers in gorgeous shapes and appearances. Like resplendent planets and stars in the pure autumn sky, great multitudes of beautiful gods and goddesses assemble there. These gatherings of thousands of joyous gods and goddesses fill the great lotus grove, as they dance and frolic with each other to the tunes of the five types of instruments. The gods and goddesses converse intimately and spend each moment in joyous affection for one another. Never tiring, they become captured by this frame of mind and consciousness, and thus they bask in the midst of these throngs of exuberant gods.
“The enamored gods and goddesses also see numerous kinds of infatuated birds that frolic and play around in the waters of the lotus grove, and this further inspires them to enjoy each other’s company. The gods also inspire the birds and thus the swans, ducks, and geese likewise rollick in numerous ways within the lotus grove. [F.3.b] On the shores of this delightful lake, some gods pick lotuses with golden petals and drink nectar from them as they sing songs. In this way, surrounded by gatherings of goddesses, they enjoy an abundance of divine pleasures. Drinking in accordance with their karmic actions, there are other gods who imbibe nectar that is from lotus petals of the nature of silver, and who have teeth with a ruby-like color. Joyfully, they also imbibe from golden lotuses. There are also other gods who drink fragrant and cooling nectar from lotus petals made of crystal. In this way the gods drink nectars that correspond to their individual karmic actions. Moreover, within this lotus grove replete with magnificent wonders and sense pleasures, there are also some gods who drink that nectar from the petals of lotuses the color of sapphire. In this manner, they also celebrate among their joyful retinue.
“Other gods pass among trees that yield divine nectar and that are abloom with heavenly flowers. Infatuated and careless, they roam with their joyous retinue into these forests ripe with substances of exquisite divine taste, fragrance, and color. Gallivanting through these forests, they eat the fruits and enjoy the taste of various nectars, singing with their minds filled with joy. There are also other gods who sing and celebrate with goddesses within caverns and mansions festooned in blooming vines of gold, silver, crystal, and sapphire. [F.4.a] Still other gods linger on the banks of the rivers, where they don garlands made from flowers in five colors, which grow on trees that resound with the songs of birds. The trees stand on soft ground that yields to one’s step but bounces back when the foot is lifted. Some gods make bouquets of flowers so that they can enjoy the flowers together and relish their scents. Still other gods play music nearby, while other gods take seats on rocks made of sapphire, crystal, gold, and silver, where they enjoy themselves and celebrate.
“This continues until finally their completed and accumulated acts with desirable, attractive, and delightful consequences have been exhausted. Once that happens, they will again be born among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. When they transmigrate from such existences, they might, due to karmic actions to be experienced in other lives, be born with the general lot in life of a human. In that event they will be youthful, attractive, and strong. They will be happy, wealthy, and in control of the land. Such are the concordant consequences of their actions.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine the realms of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, he uses insight derived from hearing and so correctly perceives a realm known as Moving in the Stream. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to take birth there, he sees with insight derived from hearing. [F.4.b] Thus, he notices how some honest and sincere people who possess the power of faith may give up killing and stealing and become completely free from such acts. Furthermore, such people may avoid resorting to, becoming habituated to, and increasing acts of sexual misconduct. In that way, they are no longer dependent on female attention, and their eyes no longer ogle forms with lustful desire. Rather, they overpower and relinquish any improper mental activity through their contemplations. They do not entertain any such thoughts but regard them as poison. Upon the disintegration of their bodies, such holy people will go to the joyous higher realms and be born among the gods in Moving in the Stream within the Heaven Free from Strife.
“Once born there, they will experience the dawning of the effects of virtues that are splendid like the sun. Living in a realm of divine substances, they will experience the pleasures of incomparable enjoyments. As soon as they are born, in their joyful and happy state of mind they will wonder whether they might be alone in that realm. As soon as they have this thought, they will notice goddesses who live in the forests approaching their dwelling place. These goddesses wear copious ornaments and garments, they carry garlands of resplendent lotus flowers upon their heads, and their apparel boasts an abundance of colors. Adorned with hundreds of thousands of ornaments, they artfully approach and surround the newly born god. The goddesses play music and sing beautiful songs as they draw near the god, whom they find attractive in numerous ways. In this fashion, the goddesses come to engage with that supreme god, whose perfect qualities captivate them. [F.5.a]
“At the sight of these divine maidens, the god will feel an unprecedented desire and wonder, ‘Who are they? Where do they come from?’ As the goddesses stand before him, many thousands of desirous tendencies will well up. The goddesses’ copious, resplendent ornaments shine from their bodies, their earrings of pure gold grace their cheeks, and with their hands they strum a variety of instruments. If even the youthful goddesses in the choirs of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three are incredibly beautiful, why even mention the beauty of the goddesses within the Heaven Free from Strife, who are born from qualities that are three times greater in terms of their associated virtuous and perfectly pure actions. In terms of their appearance, youth, proportions, and the ease with which they play their instruments, these goddesses are as far superior to those of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three as the latter goddesses are to human songstresses. Likewise, the forests, groves, lotus nectars, waterfalls, mansions, pools, and palaces in this realm are increasingly superior. The appearance, youthfulness, and joys associated with the goddesses also become greater, all the way up to the Heaven of Making Use of Others’ Emanations. Why is that? Because the weight of karmic effects continues to increase in correlation with the actions of their increasingly pure minds and discipline. Hence, the goddesses of the Heaven Free from Strife are incomparable.
“Nevertheless, all of this, without exception, is subject to impermanence. Otherwise, in terms of their pleasures, these realms are indeed desirable and praiseworthy, [F.5.b] which causes less intelligent people to take up discipline out of attachment to existence—less intelligent people, who are attached to existence, take up discipline, thinking that this will make them take birth as gods. This is why the shortcomings of such realms—such as impermanence, transience, and how all agreeable factors will be lost— must be explained. If it wasn’t, even a slight cause of craving for existence would become an obstacle for virtuous qualities to appear. Whether one looks above, below, or ahead, there is nowhere that is permanent, durable, or stable. It is from this perspective that the higher realms are praised, and not merely in terms of craving for existence.
“Next, as they serve the newly born god, the divine maidens sing and flirt seductively in sundry ways. Seeing these unprecedented sights, the god will think, ‘Who are these goddesses? Why have they come here? And why are they serving me?’
“As soon as he has had this thought, the maidens will speak to him, moved by his past positive actions: ‘New one, you are powerful and enticing, so we wish to follow you, serve you, take care of you, and make you happy. Since you are our master, we will do whatever you command.’
“Hearing those words, the new god will respond, ‘If indeed you all are mine, I must certainly explore the forests and groves with you! [F.6.a] This is because I have been born in this heaven due to the causes of pleasure.’
“The young divine maidens will then embrace the god and caress him, arousing him in many ways. As they do so, they will tell him, ‘Young god, you see that these forests and groves abound with different gatherings of gods. These forests are full of joys and, within them, many different birds sing their ravishing songs. Here are all sorts of beautiful waterfalls and ponds. Thousands of mountains formed from the seven precious substances shine in lofty splendor, replete with slopes and many gorgeous alpine vistas. The lovely calls of many species of birds can be heard throughout this land, which is arrayed with many ponds and exquisite contours. O god, come with us to enjoy and celebrate within this perfect realm. We shall serve you by giving you deep gratification.’
“Hearing these words from the goddesses, the newly born god will respond, ‘Definitely, let us do as you wish!’ He will then stand up and take off with his goddesses into the forests and parks in pursuit of pleasure. As they sing and play drums and various instruments, the inhabitants in this land of carelessness gad about, enjoying what their land has to offer. Living happily, they wander from place to place, frolicking with their own goddesses and any other goddesses they meet. Whenever they meet, they rush into each other’s arms, driven by their mutual attraction. They appreciate each other deeply and joyfully. [F.6.b]
“Thus, with mutual affection, these groups of gods and goddesses will travel to the Forest of Amusements, a divine forest that measures three thousand leagues. This forest abounds with many quadrillions of pleasures, and it is due to these many special pleasures that it receives its name. It also resembles an awe-inspiring jungle. For their pleasure, the gods in Moving in the Stream go to this Forest of Enjoyment.
“When a new god arrives in this forest, he will witness joys of a kind he never experienced before, thus seeing and hearing things that are absolutely unprecedented and unparalleled. When the goddesses there see the newly born god whose eyes sparkle in excitement, they will say, ‘Who is this new god who has now come to live with us?’
“Adorned with wonderful divine garlands, the gods also travel through the sky in mansions made of divine sandalwood, celebrating, singing, laughing, and strutting to the accompaniment of music. In this manner, they will journey to the residence of King Musulundha. Other gods in their sky mansions hold divine lotuses in their hands while seated on divine thrones as they travel through space in jubilant poses. Still others travel while holding vīṇās in their hands. Thus, free from any discomfort, they all travel in very refined ways, joyfully journeying to the residence of the great king Musulundha. Still other gods hover in the sky, from which they let a rain of flowers shower down. In this way, singing and in happy unison, [F.7.a] they travel smoothly to the residence of Musulundha.
“Seeing how the gods thus experience tremendous pleasure, enjoying themselves in numerous different ways, the newly born god travels along. On the way, he will engage in many delightful conversations with the accompanying gods and goddesses.
“At a certain point, in the far distance, he will perceive a light that is as brilliant as a hundred thousand suns. The light is so bright that even the gods are unable to look at it. At the same time, he will also hear a magnificent sound that is delightful, loud, and clear, and that seems to resound from all four directions.
“Exhilarated, the god will ask his companions, ‘What is this outstandingly beautiful, clear light, and what is this ravishing, loud sound we now hear?’
“His companions will reply, ‘Just as the lord of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife enjoys himself within a retinue of many hundreds of thousands of gods—receiving divine praises in the midst of hundreds of lotus flowers and surrounded by divine maidens—such is also the case with Praśānta, lord of the Heaven of Joy. He likewise frolics, enjoys himself, and celebrates.’
“Hearing this, the newly born god will be struck by further wonder. ‘Where,’ he will ask his companions, ‘is the residence of this ruler, Praśānta, of whom you now speak? Who is this Praśānta, whose realm is like that? [F.7.b] Where does he live? He sees us here, yet we cannot see him.’
“Yet, to this call the other gods will respond, ‘The gods in the Heaven of Joy reside above us. Ours cannot be compared to even a hundred thousandth of their special features. All their pleasures are the result of the relationship between actions and results that the gods here in the Heaven Free from Strife cannot match in any way. Their splendor far outshines even that of the ruler here in the Heaven Free from Strife. They reside above us and, accordingly, not just any god can travel to that realm. Only the foremost among the gods, a select few who are endowed with tremendous power, may succeed. Not just anyone can travel to that realm.’
“Still, such thoughts last only a moment and soon, with their fickle minds that are so keenly focused on objects, the gods will again continue taking in the pleasures in that realm. Hearts swelling with tremendous happiness, they will thus proceed in leisurely fashion to their destination.
“Meanwhile, at his residence King Musulundha sports joyfully within a retinue of a hundred thousand gods, [F.8.a] aglow with splendor in the midst of hundreds of lotuses and plentiful divine maidens. His form and attire are unrivaled, and he radiates joy and youth, shining indescribably with qualities of perfect glory. His light outshines all the other gods, just as the sun outshines all the planets, stars, and other celestial bodies.
“The king of the Heaven Free from Strife sits upon a magnificent and excellent lion throne made of the seven precious substances. Endowed with supreme splendor, it is soft to the touch and projects limitless light. Thus he sits, displaying the most wondrous form, attire, and splendor. In front of him the most amazing singing, drumming, and entertainment are performed, inspiring to the heart and ears. The whole place overflows with such rich sense pleasures that there is nothing like it anywhere. The splendors of Śakra cannot match even a fraction of Musulundha’s splendors. Whereas Musulundha’s body shines with five hundred royal lights, Śakra’s shoulders only shine with two supreme lights. The former’s six sense faculties are the result of infinite past actions and virtuous qualities that produce great fortune, and thus he surpasses Śakra hundreds of times. Hence, Śakra cannot serve as an analogy here. Musulundha’s appearance, pleasures, land, and retinue are all peerless. None of the gods of inferior splendor—not even Śakra—can compare in the slightest. Musulundha is a mountain of light, perfectly pure both within and without. No matter what analogy one uses to illustrate him, it falls short. [F.8.b]
“When the newly born god beholds from a distance Musulundha’s form, majesty, might, and light, he is humbled and thinks, ‘Alas, our own light cannot be compared to even one percent of his. In fact, it is not even comparable to a hundred thousandth of it. Musulundha, lord of gods, must surely have undertaken supremely virtuous actions. If his splendor is so overwhelming, then what can one say of the perfect splendor and appearance of the one I’ve heard of, he who is known as Praśānta? Indeed, the actions undertaken by the gods are increasingly outstanding.’
“Having come to this conclusion, he will listen leisurely to the singing, drumming, and music. Very few of the newly born gods come any closer than that to the lord of the Heaven Free from Strife, since it is normally only senior gods who can approach him.
“Close at hand are seven thousand divine maidens who have the most beautiful appearance, attire, complexions, radiance, proportions, and voices. They sing, charm, laugh, and serve, surrounded by countless numbers of other goddesses. With great attention, they delight Musulundha with pleasures from near and far, and they offer him nectar to drink. Filled with passion, they all pursue the same objective, thinking, ‘I alone shall give Musulundha pleasures; no one else can do so. Without anyone interfering, I alone shall make him feel at ease. [F.9.a] I must make love to Musulundha in ways that far surpass those of ordinary sexual union, and that are suitable only here in the Heaven Free from Strife.’ Thinking in this way, the divine maidens approach him. Each of the goddesses thinks, ‘I alone must please him in all regards. I must delight the lord in any way I can. Musulundha and I shall be happy together—and not anyone else. I alone must be dear to him—no one else shall delight him. How can I have sexual intercourse with Musulundha in a way that it is considered an appropriate way to make love here in the Heaven Free from Strife?’ Thus, they all approach Musulundha with this motivation in mind, thinking, ‘I shall please him in any way I can. Indeed, I must be the one to experience all manner of shared pleasures together with the god.’
“Once again, the newly born god will approach the place where the divine ruler Musulundha resides. When he draws very close to Musulundha, he will behold him—exceedingly luminous and splendid in the midst of many hundreds of thousands of gods, who delight him with all manner of praises. For his part, Musulundha is aware of all the gods, including the newly born god. On some rare occasions, Musulundha will even cast a glance at the newly born god so as to acknowledge him. The other gods will then encourage the newly born god in pleasant words, saying, ‘He who now has placed his gaze upon you is king of the gods. Therefore, you must now properly prostrate yourself before him.’
“The newly born god will then approach [F.9.b] and offer his prostrations before Musulundha. In acknowledgement, Musulundha will tell him, ‘Newly born lord, enter among the gods of the Heaven Free from Strife and you will see that the gods here are joyous, exceedingly overjoyed indeed! They are born here due to accumulations of virtuous actions. That is how they have come to such happiness, and that is why they now enjoy the effects of their own previous actions. Having acted carefully for an extremely long time, they now live in this divine world.’
“Thus, the ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife will speak to the newly born god, who in turn will reply, ‘Your Majesty, I am not aware of any such flaws here. On the contrary, I see that everyone has a meaning and purpose. How could all the gods, and I along with them, be so ignorant?’
“In accordance with reality, Musulundha thus introduces the newly born god to the way things actually are. When the god hears these words, he will feel sad for a short while, but soon he will once again be egged on by the dancing, singing, and laughter of the other infatuated gods. [F.10.b] If you wonder why, it is because the minds of ordinary, childish beings are fickle. In particular, when they experience happiness while governed by the forces of existence, their insatiability is increased a hundredfold. This is why these careless gods cannot properly pursue even a fraction of the Dharma in their hearts.
“As the newly born god then leaves the residence of Musulundha, he will join the gods in the Forest of Amusements, and there indulge in dance and merrymaking, enjoying the pleasures of the five senses as he continues to ramble through Moving in the Stream. Having attained such an enjoyable land, he will joyfully celebrate together with all the other gods.
“Enjoying himself together with all the others in this manner, he will gradually make his way to the park known as Spacious Palanquin Houses, which abounds with two trillion different joys. There are gardens of numerous colors and shapes, lotus ponds and pools, forests and groves, and many kinds of birds, waterfalls, and mountain peaks formed from the seven precious substances. Such are the many features of Palanquin Houses. Moreover, the positive karmic actions of these gods ensure that whenever they might think, ‘I wish that Palanquin Houses with all its forests, groves, and ponds would rise up into the sky,’ that will indeed happen. Thus, the houses, forests, groves, ponds, waterfalls, trees, [F.11.a] and lotus pools will all take off into the sky, like birds. When the gods then think, ‘For our pleasure, may the great park of Palanquin Houses remain like this without moving!’ that will indeed come to pass.
“As the gods continue making wishes, they may also wish for many great rivers of food and drink, in which case their positive karmic actions will instantly produce such streams with delicious, beautiful, and sweet-smelling food. This, however, is not understood by humans when the objects of past positive actions manifest for them.
“The gods might also think, ‘What if all the palaces within a hundred leagues were to open?’ The very moment they have this thought, they will all open. All the exquisite mansions with their many delightful pools, cascades, streams, caverns, rooms, and upper chambers, as well the great abundance of forests, parks, lotus groves, and trees, will at that point open up, and the gods will delight in them with abundant joy. Overjoyed, they will think, ‘Just as other beings live happy lives, we too shall live here in perfect and abundant happiness! We shall live here like such happy beings! Let us celebrate in numerous ways with the other joyous gods within those houses! [F.11.b] Now, if only all the gods who frolic in myriad ways within the realm of Musulundha, ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife, could come to these houses!’ The moment they make that wish, all the gods of Moving in the Stream358 will begin to journey through the sky, riding different mounts. Thus, traveling on geese, peacocks, cuckoo birds, flowers, ducks, pheasants, and trees, they will all travel to the houses, followed by exuberant divine maidens who play musical instruments, strike drums, and sing joyfully. Playful and charming, they wear necklaces and lotus garlands.359 Perfectly youthful and joyous, they dance, play drums and musical instruments, and sing exquisite songs. While singing praises, these divine beings will journey to Palanquin Houses, where, appearing in the center of the sky, they will come to stay and celebrate in the houses of great playful joy.
“With strong mutual appreciation and joy, everyone frolics while remaining careless and mentally restless. Seeing the gods in this condition, Musulundha, ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife, will wonder, ‘What method might there be to help these careless and thoughtless gods? As they focus only on what is vulgar and remain careless, I must use any available means to help them.’ [F.12.a]
“Musulundha will think, ‘How may I benefit the gods of Moving in the Stream? How can factors of unsurpassable virtue be employed to benefit both myself and others? How may I be free from obstacles? The supreme friend of the gods is the one who makes them reach liberation. The one who teaches them unvirtuous actions is, on the other hand, their enemy, for he is the circumstance for their engaging in the type of action that creates the hells.’
“So that he may counsel the gods in his realm, Musulundha will then travel toward the site of Palanquin Houses, using a special, miraculous palace for his journey. All the abundance and joys of the rivers, ponds, trees, cascades, forests, and groves in Moving in the Stream cannot match a hundredth, or even a thousandth, of the qualities of this miraculous palace, because Musulundha is the lord of all those who have accomplished positive actions. Among all the gods who have engaged in positive actions within the Heaven Free from Strife, he is the foremost, the master of positive activity. The positive deeds performed by him are vastly superior, as are his miraculous abilities. Therefore, based on such causes, Musulundha’s house appears splendidly bright and radiant, outshining all the palaces of the Heaven Free from Strife. [F.12.b] Just as no chariot is comparable or beautiful before the sun, so none of the other mansions can compare to Musulundha’s.
“Within a mansion of such abundant perfection, Musulundha will travel through the sky to the place where the gods of Moving in the Stream are celebrating. When the gods in this realm witness the arrival of the lord of the Heaven Free from Strife, their liking for carelessness is diminished. The gods who otherwise wander carelessly and thoughtlessly will now quickly enter their houses and thus come forth to receive the king of the Heaven Free from Strife. At this point, however, Musulundha will intensify his miraculous powers a hundred thousand times, and thus the gods inside their houses become unable to see anything at all. Unable see anything around them, they remain confounded in their houses. In this way, the great god uses his miraculous powers to prevent them from seeing each other. Nor can they hear any form of joking, flirtation, or joyous games. In this way, his miraculous powers will render them blinded and stunned, and at this point, sitting inside their houses, they will wonder, ‘What has happened to those gods who were sitting right next to me here in this palace? Where has everyone gone?’
“Hence, as they approach Musulundha, ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife, they will be able to see only him. [F.13.a] This experience is had only by the gods in Moving in the Stream and not by any of the gods outside of that realm.
“Stunned and frightened by the way things have been miraculously hidden, the gods will now say to Musulundha, ‘Your Majesty, inside the palaces were gods accompanied by divine retinues—where have they all gone?’
“Musulundha will reply, ‘All the gods who roam carelessly and thoughtlessly are subject to karmic actions, and when they die and transmigrate they must proceed based on their karmic actions. Therefore, they are born among hell beings, starving spirits, animals, or humans. Moreover, anyone who is careless and lives carelessly will sooner or later be destroyed by his or her own carelessness. Their craving for objects will ruin them. Those who are thoroughly attached to the five sense pleasures—people who are lost in the play of thought—will see the five peaks of existence ablaze, kindled by the tinder of their minds and fanned by the winds of karmic action. Then, as they have accumulated such factors in the realms of the Heaven Free from Strife, they will later be burned in the painful fires of the hells. Deceived and destroyed by their own unwholesome minds, they are born in the hells once their bodies disintegrate. Carelessness is in this way the most severe among all flaws. Impaired by the flaws of carelessness, the gods fail to see any virtuous factors, and therefore they do not train themselves by means of a wholesome mind. Deceived by their own minds, they will without exception experience pain in the future.’ [F.13.b]
“When the gods hear such words from Musulundha, ruler of the Heaven Free from Strife, they will fall into gloom and dread, and say, ‘Ruler of gods, in a single instant, all the gods have disappeared, died, and transmigrated. What has happened to them? Why are they now gone, leaving empty this land of Moving in the Stream? Among all suffering, that which is known as death and transmigration is indeed severe. Therefore, please teach us something that is not a wrong method. Please teach us something that can reverse our painful destiny, protect us from the suffering of separating from the beloved, save us from birth as a hell being, a starving spirit, or an animal, and bestow great fortune upon us.’
“As the gods hear these statements from the lips of Musulundha, their time of carelessness comes to an end. Turning again to Musulundha, they will say, ‘Ruler of gods, why have all the gods become completely invisible? Have they all died and transmigrated? Have they all passed away in the very same instant? Or have they gone elsewhere? Ruler of gods, by all means, please explain to us what has happened.’
“In response Musulundha will tell them, ‘Just as everyone comes here due to karmic actions, they must also leave due to karmic actions. Once their relevant karmic actions have been exhausted it is certain that living beings, no matter who they are, must experience the suffering that arises from having to leave one another. It is certain that aging, sickness, and death will occur, each of them in full. The living must face the loss of their life force, health, and youth. Whether human or god, one must not be careless—one must not live carelessly. Those who initially were careless must realize that they will not last. They must understand that from the beginning they are destined for destruction. They must become absolutely certain that their life force, health, and youth will eventually be crushed.
“ ‘The three great terrors follow, always and continuously, when one has numerous concepts and ideas. [F.15.a] Those who cannot relinquish concepts will, when the time of death arrives, lie there inert with mouths and eyes wide open. Thus, leaving behind one’s people, friends, retinue, and family, one must die and transmigrate. Burning in the fire of having to leave so many dear ones, one will suffer as one is led away by the Lord of Death. All the many thoughts that arise from the five sense pleasures—all the dancing, laughing, posing, and celebrating, and all the boundless enjoyments of the forests and parks—all such pleasures are like poisonous friends that now become hurtful enemies. At that time, they will be the cause of terrible regrets.
“ ‘Steeped in agony, one will think, “What have I done? I have not accomplished anything in terms of insight, generosity, or austere discipline. Careless, I have remained absentminded and I have not practiced anything worthwhile. Now, all my people, all my friends, have left me alone, while they are still celebrating. Now I must leave behind all the delightful objects here in our divine world.”
“ ‘For as long as the King of Death continues to destroy us gods, we must frankly acknowledge disease and decline. We must be sure to crush carelessness, for those who give up carelessness will find perfect joy. Such people will not be burned in the fires when the time of the Lord of Death arrives. At the time of total decline, these paths will be deeply cherished. [F.15.b] Thus, if we perform, become accustomed to, and increase acts of generosity, discipline, and insight, this is what will save us at that time.
“ ‘The Lord of Death, who robs all beings of their life force, is undeceiving—he has no forbearance, and there is no way to avoid him. So, why do the gods not endeavor in that which could turn him back? Because the careless gods are so engrossed in meaningless activities that are like an abyss, fierce poison, or burning flames.
“ ‘Therefore, the enemy—carelessness—will make those gods who are governed by carelessness intensify their predilection for beholding their gorgeous maidens and expand the tremendous pleasures they get from frolicking in their forests, parks, and ponds and roaming among the beautiful mountain peaks. They will regard things that are in fact impermanent as if they were permanent. They will think, “I will forever enjoy myself with these divine girls! All these young maidens will always be here, and we shall never be without them.”
“ ‘In this way, those who are obsessed with the pleasures of objects will always be accompanied by that great destroyer who moves without any hindrance: the Lord of Death. And when he shows up, none of the divine women can offer any protection. Without giving any thought to those facts, the gods are constantly on the move, yet whenever their pleasures are examined, they are seen to be fake, false, and hollow. Hence, once the gods are destroyed by carelessness, they will be born among the hell beings, starving spirits, and animals. Moreover, conquered by their own stupidity, the gods have not been destroyed by death, transmigration, and the pain of birth just once. They have been so continuously, since time without beginning, [F.16.a] and yet, lacking intelligence, they do not become any less desirous.’
“When Musulundha, ruler of the gods, speaks such words that convey the meaning of the Dharma, those gods who are free from mental faults will experience the ambrosial taste of his words. With that in mind, they will develop detachment, and so they will say to the king of the gods:
“When the gods have spoken about the other gods in this way, in distress, they will again address the king of the gods: ‘Ruler of gods, we are distraught and worry what might have happened to the gods who were inside the houses.’
“When Musulundha sees their distress and notices that they are no longer careless, he will release them from his magical power and once again reveal the gods to one another. As they see each other again, the whole congregation of like-minded gods will become completely overjoyed.
“To the happy gods Musulundha will then say, ‘The reason that you could not see each other was that I had used my miraculous powers to hide you from one another. Once the terrifying and overpowering Lord of Death has arrived with his tremendous strength, you will take rebirth as hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. [F.16.b] At that time you will not see each other for trillions of eons. You should understand this and avoid being careless. Do not be preoccupied but pay attention. Without becoming wholly absorbed in objects, make sure to accomplish this understanding.’
“When Musulundha gives this teaching, a great number of gods will become intensely weary and thereby attain the stage of a stream enterer. Recognizing this, Musulundha will think joyfully, ‘I have done my job.’ With his wishes happily fulfilled in this way, he will then proceed to the Forest of Amusements.
“Some among the utterly careless gods in Moving in the Stream will thus develop a highly virtuous state of mind and become stream enterers. On the other hand, those among them whose minds remain fickle and incautious will recklessly indulge their fondness for being careless. Crazed, they will continue to celebrate together, enjoying themselves in the forests, groves, ponds, parks, and jungles. Without considering the terrors of the Lord of Death, they will enjoy themselves and play, frolicking in lotus grove after lotus grove, and moving from one mountaintop to the next. Sharing a mutual infatuation, they will continue in this way until finally their acts with desirable, attractive, and delightful consequences have been exhausted.
“Once that happens, they will, if they have not done what is meaningful, take birth among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. If, due to other karmic actions, they should be born human and possess the general lot in life of a human, they will always be happy and very successful. Their bodies will be most excellent, and they will enjoy tremendous wealth. [F.17.a] Everyone will appreciate them and find them endearing and delightful. They will have a natural fondness for the Dharma, just as they will enjoy dancing, singing, joking, and socializing. They will visit temples, gardens, ponds, and lotus groves. Becoming kings, or something similarly exceptional, they will remain free from harm, and their companions, friends, and family will always show them affection. They will enjoy themselves together with people who always speak truthfully and have candid and joyous minds, and thus they will maintain their honest conduct without any decline. All those perfect qualities and fortunate circumstances are karmic effects that accord with their causes.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine the realms of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, he applies insight derived from hearing and so correctly perceives a realm known as Living on the Peak. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to take birth there, he sees with insight derived from hearing. He then notices how certain holy people who remain constantly concerned about the effects of karmic actions are also honest and sincere. They possess the correct view and pursue correct activities. They completely relinquish unwholesome company and always recollect the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha. Fearful of even the slightest misdeed, they relinquish killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. When on the road, such people may come across women who dance and sing, or they may hear the sounds of their jewelry or voices. At that point they may give rise to incorrect mental activity and become attracted, but they will nevertheless recognize the flaws of such an inappropriate state of mind and completely refrain from any further such thinking. [F.17.b] Those who thus completely give up sexual misconduct will upon the disintegration of their bodies go to the joyous higher realms and be born among the gods in Living on the Peak.
“Once born there, their past engagement in positive actions will bring them the fortune of experiencing vast enjoyments. They will glow with their own natural light and be attached to the pleasures of the five senses. There is a mountain in that realm known as Heap in the Stream, on which grow trees made of the seven precious substances. The mountain is also full of supreme enjoyments, such as flocks of birds that frolic there with gracefully moving feet.360 Displaying many different behaviors, plumages, and appearances, the birds number in the hundreds of thousands and present the most delightful spectacle. The mountain also abounds with wild animals in a variety of looks, colors, behaviors, and shapes, and everywhere are delightful waterfalls, rivers, pools, jungles, vine-covered houses, fruits, and flowering trees. The mountain is adorned with wish-fulfilling trees and measures three hundred leagues in circumference. The mountain is home to gorgeous and captivating heavenly beings—groups of gods and goddesses fill the surroundings. As they take in the mountain, they discover its vast and stunning forests and groves.
“The ground that surrounds the mountain is sparkling and formed from the seven precious substances. One slope of the mountain is made of sapphire, and the light that it projects reaches a distance of sixty thousand leagues. Wherever that light reaches, it lends a blue color to the sky. Adorned with different ornaments and raiment, the bodies of the gods are colorfully decorated with various precious stones and the like. Yet, when they travel through the sky to that particular face of Heap in the Stream, [F.18.a] all of their different colors are overpowered, and thus they all take on the same deep blue color. This is what happens on that one face of the mountain.
“A second face of Heap in the Stream is made of crystal. Gods adorned with many different ornaments and various colorful implements also go to visit that slope of the mountain, and when they do so everything becomes of the color of crystal. Thus, all their forms and features come to match the mountain.
“A third face of Heap in the Stream is made of silver and radiates light across five hundred leagues. Perfectly white and dazzling, this slope of the mountain is stunningly beautiful, and when the gods come to visit, all their colorful ornaments and attire turn the same color. Perfectly white and brilliant, they all turn the same color as the mountain.
“A fourth face of the mountain is made of gold from the Jambu River and shines on its surroundings like a splendid sun. The light from the mountain shines brilliantly across one thousand leagues, illuminating the sky with its radiance. When gods travel through or rest in the sky above this face of the mountain, they all take on the color of pure gold.
“A fifth face of the mountain shines with a ruby light, thus lending a brilliant scarlet hue to all its surroundings as it shines across one thousand leagues. When gods come to this face of the mountain, all their many different forms become brilliantly red. [F.18.b] Any red jewels the gods may wear on their bodies will at that time become a hundred times more intense and precious. Such are the special qualities of that slope of the mountain.
“A sixth face of the mountain is the color of diamond, and its light reaches across a thousand leagues. Thereby the surroundings become bathed in millions of rainbow-like light rays. Due to the splendor of Heap in the Stream, the gods that visit this slope all become rainbow colored.
“A seventh face of the mountain is made of the seven precious substances. When the gods go to this brilliantly colorful face of the mountain, their bodies become ornamented in many colors, as do their garments. The light radiating from this slope of the mountain also extends across a thousand leagues and thus projects a glorious brilliance on the surrounding environment.
“Compared to Heap in the Stream, the splendors, joys, precious lights, and delightful jewel lights of Mount Sumeru, the king of mountains, cannot match a hundredth, or even a thousandth of the qualities of that mountain. Such are the delights of that mountain. Why is that? Because of the power of virtuous actions. The gods of the Heaven Free from Strife have previously engaged in extremely wholesome and pure actions, and those causal factors now make their surroundings exceptionally joyous.
“Moreover, on that mountain are areas that are draped with nets of pearls that are perfectly pure and splendorous. [F.19.a] These pearl garlands, which have arisen from past positive karmic actions, are decoratively arrayed so that the pearls rattle against each other, just as when a city has been decorated with nets of pearls during times of celebration. Where the mountain is festooned with such prodigious pearl nets, hundreds of thousands of flocks of different birds live. The birds call out to the careless and frivolous gods. For the benefit of these gods, the birds warble the following verses called ‘Detailed Appeals’:
“Wishing to help, the birds that live among the pearl nets thus speak these words in order to render the gods such help.
“Furthermore, the atmosphere around this mountain is adorned with numerous colorful, magnificent garlands. Thus, both the immediate atmosphere and the sky above are beautifully illuminated. Akin to the way the people of Jambudvīpa look at what is called the triple-colored ‘bow of Indra,’361 the gods on the slopes of this mountain enjoy the splendor of various jewel lights. [F.20.a] When the gods look at the individual faces of the mountain, they witness the extremely delightful, amazing lights of numerous jewels. Celebrating on each of these mountainsides, the exuberant gods experience the great joy arising from their numerous past actions.
“Just like Mount Sumeru, this mountain also supports forests: the four forests known as Beautiful Ornament, Joyous Play, Sunshine, and Beautiful Nectar. Likewise, there are parks, waterfalls, ponds, lotus groves, rivers, jungles, and caverns. Birds sing, colorful flowers bloom in the gorgeous trees, and the mansions and palanquin houses are all draped with garlands. Along with their retinues, the gods of Living on the Peak362 come to that mountain and those forests to continuously enjoy divine substances, reveling in incomparable sense pleasures.
“The four forests provide a supremely enjoyable environment. In one of the forests, the trees are made of gold from the Jambu River, their foliage is of beryl, and their flowers are ruby colored. Another forest supports silver trees with leaves of exquisite gold and many different flowers that emit perfect fragrances across a hundred leagues, bringing ecstatic bliss to the gods who smell them. [F.20.b] In the third forest, the trees are of beryl, their leaves are of silver, and they bear multicolored flowers with rich aromas. The fourth forest features a hundred thousand cascades, streams, ponds, and songbirds endowed with supreme qualities. The many different colorful songbirds can be compared to Śakra amid the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, for in terms of colors, powers, and splendor, the perfect qualities of the Heaven Free from Strife are exceptional. Because of the gods’ abundant engagement in virtuous karmic actions in the past, this mountain is now endowed with supreme splendor, and many hundreds of thousands of gods surround it as they enjoy the perfect qualities of manifold objects in numerous ways. That is to say, the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife are capable of supremely miraculous feats, and they possess exceptional powers. Perfect sense pleasures manifest due to their own past karmic actions, and they relish the five types of objects by means of their six blissful senses. The gods in the Heaven Free from Strife are magnificent, and their past positive actions are what allow them to enjoy the features of this mountain.
“Seeing the joyous gods, flocks of the birds known as permanently happy will warble in spontaneous melodies produced by past karmic actions, to accompany these delightful verses:
“In this way, the birds convey many points of the sacred Dharma to the gods who roam on that mountain. Those among the gods who in the past engaged in wholesome deeds will understand what the birds are saying and keep it in mind. Yet those who did not previously practice the Dharma will not understand even a single word. Therefore, those who wish to benefit themselves and others must make ample efforts to increase the light of wisdom. Nothing else can save, heal, [F.22.a] and liberate beings from all the lower realms. Wisdom is truly the seed of supreme bliss. Those who rely on, contemplate, and venerate wisdom will gain insight endowed with many qualities and will thus be certain to attain the final transcendence of suffering.
“The gods who roam carelessly may comprehend the statements of the birds, and their carelessness will be pacified for a moment. Afterward, however, they will continue to enjoy their sense pleasures, reveling in joyous forests and parks and upon bright summits studded with numerous jewels. This will go on until finally their completed and accumulated acts with desirable, attractive, and delightful consequences have been exhausted. At that point they will fall and enter a new existence, taking birth in the realms of hell beings, starving spirits, or animals, in accordance with their karmic actions.
“Those who do not take such births may instead be born with the general lot in life of a human. In that case they will always be happy. They will not be subject to the commands of others but be able to do as they please. They will possess great wealth, be insightful, and have tremendous joy, supreme qualities, and perfect bodies. Everyone will treat them with affection and hold them dear, seeing them as delightful and agreeable. They will be served and adored by everyone, and they will be born in a pleasant location, in a marketplace, or in a city. They will be served by their families, companions, and friends. They will become kings or ministers, or sincere upholders and followers of the Dharma, who possess the genuine view. Such are the effects that accord with their karmic actions. [B47] [F.22.b]
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine the realms of the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, he applies insight derived from hearing and thus correctly perceives a realm known as Living on the Peak. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to take birth there, he sees with insight derived from hearing. Thus, he notices how people who pursue positive actions and perfectly observe discipline may continuously refrain from causing others pain, while engaging in and accumulating the supreme discipline that noble beings uphold. They adhere to such discipline in a way that is free from degeneration and flaws. This discipline is irreproachable and stable, and it opens up all the gateways to the higher realms while closing all the gateways to the lower realms. With such cooling karmic ripening, they become like fathers or mothers, who are able to give refuge to others and benefit the world.
“Such people are born in that realm due to being endowed with three qualities. What three? Giving up killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. The way killing and stealing are relinquished has already been explained, but how do they give up sexual misconduct? For example, when quickly passing by a group of women dancing, they may either see the women directly or hear the sounds of them and their jewelry from behind a wall. In such cases, they will not relish what they see or hear, they will not think about it, and they will not form any wishes in relation to it. If others should enjoy women dancing, they will not rejoice but seek to stop them and encourage them to confess their misbehavior. They will also explain to them about the problems that otherwise may ensue, saying, ‘Sexual misconduct is a source of flaws. It causes beings to go to hell.’ [F.23.a] In such ways, they help others to understand the character of sexual misconduct and give it up.
“While engaging in virtuous activities such people thoroughly observe discipline and maintain a pure and celibate lifestyle. Hence, when their bodies disintegrate, they go to the joyous higher realms and are born among the gods in Living on the Peak within the Heaven Free from Strife.
“Once born there, such beings who have engaged in positive actions will experience the following pleasures. The mountain of Living on the Peak extends across five hundred leagues. Upon it, hundreds of species of lovely birds sing beautifully. The birds fill the environment with their deep and vibrant songs. These melodious songs can be heard everywhere.
“When a god first takes birth in that realm, he will do so in the vicinity of a tree composed of the seven precious substances. Just as when a human is woken up by the sound of birds singing at dawn, the god will wake up similarly enraptured by the singing of those birds. Just as when the first rays of the autumn sun shine on the mountaintops, the things around him will similarly become visible more and more. However, these examples are only slightly comparable.
“Once the god has become fully conscious, those birds, which manifest due to past positive karmic actions, will attempt to make him mindful by warbling these verses that are all about positive actions:
“As if in a dream, the gods hear these verses when they awaken. The birds that instruct the gods in this way possess numerous excellent qualities, such as their two wings. When the newly born gods hear these verses, which are sung by the birds that appear due to past beneficial actions, they feel trust in them. With the insight they gain, they become able to recollect their mind states of previous lives, and thus remember how they used to observe a desirable, attractive, and delightful discipline, which is endowed with three qualities. As they remember this, the newly born gods will speak these verses:
“Once the gods have seen the beauty of the frolicking birds and heard their sounds, they will joyfully begin to explore their divine world. Looking around, they will see that the mountain at Living on the Peak is covered with hundreds of thousands of trees that are draped in dazzling garlands. A hundred thousand cascades stream down the mountain, and the warbling of birds can be heard everywhere. The mountain is also adorned with a hundred thousand lovely lotus pools of various designs. The pools are made of numerous kinds of precious substances, and gorgeous humming bees buzz around them. This mountain is so enrapturing and unparalleled that when the inhabitants of the Heaven Free from Strife behold it, they attain a joy that matches its beauty.
“When the newly born god stands up from his seat by the foot of a tree, he will take a look at himself and see that his body is brilliantly luminous, radiating hundreds of light rays that illuminate his surroundings with a beautiful splendor. At the sight of his wondrous body, he is amazed and thus he becomes vain regarding his physical form.
“Then, as his arrogance begins to swell, he will think, ‘There is no one like me!’ As soon as that idea has occurred to him, he will be confirmed about his own perfection no matter who among the other gods he considers. Next, as his five senses perceive their respective objects, this will delight his heart and mind, and so his conceit will grow even larger. At this point his rapture will increase sevenfold, and therefore he will completely forget the virtuous qualities that he is supposed to pursue, because his mind is so fickle and habituated to carelessness. Thus, constantly frivolous, he lives carelessly. Tied by the noose of the five objects, [F.25.a] his longing will increase due to the stains of feeling desire for existence. In this way he will continue his blissful life upon that mountain of Living on the Peak.
“The mountain has three levels—there is a level above and another below. The lower level has five forests known as Traveling Fragrance, Light Ray Peak, Radiant, Constant Enjoyment, and Lofty Peak. Whatever grows in the forest of Traveling Fragrance is endowed with a special scent that can be sensed across five thousand leagues. The forest known as Light Ray Peak is lit up by numerous precious light rays of unparalleled splendor. The forest called Radiant shines with a light that is greater than a thousand suns, and the gods who stay there are blazingly radiant. The forest by the name Constant Enjoyment is filled with perfect sense pleasures. It is a site with many hundreds of thousands of pools and cascades that teem with the perfect taste, fragrance, and color of divine substances. Finally, the forest called Lofty Peak forms a towering and luminous summit formed from the seven precious substances.
“The middle level of the mountain features many hundreds of thousands of multistoried mansions made of the seven precious substances, and there are lotus pools in which flocks of hundreds of thousands of birds frolic about. This level abounds with desirable, attractive, delightful, and continuously appealing sounds, textures, tastes, sights, and aromas.
“The upper level measures five hundred leagues and is filled with gods of great power. It also contains the so-called Jewel Forest, which is filled with many different cascades, streams of food and drink, trees, ponds, lotus pools, groves, parks, wish-fulfilling trees, and divine flowers and fruits. This forest of a hundred thousand exceptional qualities is visited by hundreds of thousands of elated gods and goddesses. [F.25.b] In the Heaven Free from Strife, even Musulundha will travel there to enjoy the five divine sense pleasures related to sounds, textures, tastes, sights, and fragrances, all of which kindle the fire of craving. As the gods on that mountain of Living on the Peak enjoy their many pleasurable objects, they experience a delightful range of distinctive causally produced features.
“When the newly born god has become excited by the pleasurable objects, many of the other gods on the mountain will approach him. When they see that he is alone, they will come closer. Joyfully looking at him with their eyes wide open, they will tell each other, ‘That god is a newborn.’
“Another god will reply, ‘There are five signs to indicate that a god is newborn. A newborn god shines in a particular way. He is covered only in his own natural light and does not otherwise wear any clothing. That is the first sign of a newborn god. The second is that his eyes wander in amazement as he looks at the forests and parks that he has never seen before. That is the second mark of a newborn god. A third sign is that when he sees females, he becomes embarrassed, confused, and hesitant. Furthermore, a newborn god characteristically approaches other gods whom he has not seen before with hesitance. Finally, it is a sign of a newborn god that he becomes fearful and worried when levitating into the sky. Newborn gods are slightly smaller and move slowly; [F.26.a] they will stay close to the ground and support each other as they move. Those are the five signs of a newborn god. All of them indicate that a god has just been born. Now, I shall go to help this newborn god.’
“As the gods come closer to the newly born god, they will form a circle around him and say, ‘Look, you most fortunate one. Your birth here is the result of your own many beautiful past actions. This is due to your observance and cultivation of discipline free from damage, blame,369 or interruption.’
“When those gods whose minds are not consumed by carelessness have said this, they will all spread out and settle in Living on the Peak. Having settled into that world, the newly born god will watch and examine the other gods who, without exception, are engaged in mutual rapture while the sounds of delightful singing and music are heard. Seeing them, he will think, ‘I should go and stay alone in the mountains.’ Hence, he will take off to the mountains of Living on the Peak.
“At that point the god will notice large gatherings of goddesses who are adorned with numerous ornaments, attire, ointments, and powders, and who rejoice to the sounds of musical instruments, drums, and songs. The goddesses are adorned with the finest raiment and ornaments and when see the new god, they will surround him in an ecstatic circle. Gazing at him in amazement, they will offer their salutations.
“Drawing closer, the goddesses will be pleased by their first sight of the god, and so they will say to him jubilantly, ‘God, we have come here to behold you. These forests and parks, valleys, rocks, and mountains are the results of your own past deeds and virtuous activity. Please enjoy yourself. [F.26.b] This heaven is also adorned with dazzling garlands of the seven precious substances. The many mountains abound with groves of many species of trees that are in constant bloom. In the forests of the mountains stand houses draped with vines, and throughout this heaven you can listen to music, drumming, and song. The realm is illumined by pure radiant gold, and you will discover all sorts of waterfalls, rivers, jungles, and lotus groves. In the midst of the sky stand hundreds of thousands of delightful palaces. Please enjoy yourself together with us.’
“In reply, the god, who has manifested from a vast amount of virtuous actions, will say, ‘Let us enjoy and satisfy ourselves with pleasures throughout the heavens.’
“Thus, to the accompaniment of numerous instruments, they will all set out in joyful celebration, experiencing the full effects of their virtuous actions. At one point they will arrive at a forest known as Manifold Chariots, which abounds with beautiful sights, delightful tastes, delicious fragrances, and enjoyable textures. The ground yields to one’s step but bounces back when the foot is lifted. The forest also features fine garments that are smooth, delicate, and exquisite. Many different birds frolic and produce lovely calls. Likewise, many enchanting songs and musical tunes can be heard there. [F.27.a] Traveling to this place, the gods enjoy all those objects as they joyfully celebrate with divine damsels adorned with many kinds of jewelry and special garments. Arriving within this forest that is endowed with such utterly perfect qualities and filled with gods and goddesses, the new god is amazed as he lets his eyes wander among all the exquisite sights. Within the forests and parks stand emerald trees, and from their crowns dangle sapphire garlands. On the ground live many colorful birds adorned with bright circles in the colors of the seven precious substances. These joyous birds warble to each other in melodious ways. In the same way as he surveyed the land, so will he gaze upon the lakes in the forest. There he will notice the colorful forms of infatuated ducks, geese, and swans that make special calls. As the god looks around this vast and diverse forest adorned with sapphire garlands, he will delight in all its beautiful sights.
“As this god, who now possesses all these diverse sense pleasures, peers into the sky, he will see hundreds of thousands of goddesses adorned with the brightest and most colorful ornaments and raiment. They fill the environment and display their bright colors in the sky as if they were painted on a wall or a canvas—a wondrous spectacle of goddesses singing, dancing, and playing music. However, the flaws connected with seeing soon set in, for as he looks into the sky, he will see in its center a hundred sources of life that fluctuate in a variety of ways.370 Next he will cast his gaze upon the lotus groves [F.27.b] and behold with excitement their clusters of bright blue, yellow, and red flowers, as well as the many beautiful aquatic birds that inhabit them, and the various ways they appear. At that point, the gods who are watching all this—all the divine gatherings that are either in the water or gliding through the air, as well as the birds that swim in the lakes, and the coteries of gods that bathe in the water with their perfect and incomparable bodies—will declare that all these sights are the effects of past virtuous actions:
“In this way those gods will recollect their past deeds and, having thus remembered their past lives, will proclaim these verses. Once again, however, they will be led along, habitually, by their attachment to objects. The extremely deceptive attractions of the many desirable sounds, textures, [F.28.a] tastes, sights, and smells will only increase day by day, and so the gods are carried away in hundreds of ways. Celebrating together, they are ruined as they indulge in a glut of sense pleasures. Likewise, the many gods frolic together within the forests, parks, and pristine waters where hundreds of thousands of birds sing and the pathways are composed of the seven precious substances. Great gatherings of joyous gods also travel to celebrate with other parties of happy gods. As the visitors arrive, everyone engages in the most delightful and joyous conversations. Without any animosity, they all mingle as friends, sharing playful games and laughter.
“Even those among the gods with the least possessions are nevertheless followed by ten thousand goddesses, who remain constantly devoted to pleasure, always and insatiably indulging in the enjoyments of the senses as they sport with their seductive charms. The minds of the goddesses are filled with desire in hundreds of thousands of ways. You may wonder what causes and conditions give rise to such supremely gratifying women. Likewise, you may wonder why the vast majority of the inhabitants of the higher realms are female, and why males are few by comparison. There are reasons for this. Those born into the world of the higher realms possess desires to a very strong or a medium degree, whereas their anger is at a medium or a lesser level. In the intermediate state prior to their birth into the god realms, beings will perceive eminently desirable females. This sight will greatly intensify their desire and, as a result, most of them will become female. [F.28.b] It is because of their attachment to pleasure that these beings in the intermediate state assume a female form. This is the reason that females, and not males, predominate in the heavens.
“Some gods have ten thousand such goddesses while others have twenty thousand, thirty thousand, forty thousand, fifty thousand, sixty thousand, and so forth, up to a hundred thousand, and most gods have even more than that. Those who indulge their desires with such ladies are born insatiable. Concerning the process of sexual union, in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings, it is the same as among humans. In the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, the gods have intercourse just as humans do. In the Heaven Free from Strife, they rely just on touch. In the Heaven of Joy, speaking is the medium. In the Heaven of Delighting in Emanations, the gods simply gaze at one another, and the gods in the Heaven of Making Use of Others’ Emanations insatiably smell aromas or listen to words that they perceive from a distance.
“Throughout all this, every single god remains in harmony with all the goddesses. Everyone is of one mind, and they all find each other attractive. The bodies of the gods are utterly free from flesh, bones, and worms. The gods are neither long nor short, and all of them are powerful. Their strength never wanes, they are capable of subduing others, and they possess tremendous splendor. In this way, a single god can remain in accord with many hundred thousand goddesses. Filled with a lustrous splendor, the gods move gracefully, and their hearts are extremely joyous. In this way they enter the heavens, going and coming as they please. As they enjoy themselves with one after another supreme goddess of the heavens, they relish such pleasures. [F.29.a] Enjoying their partners and the sensual pleasures, they joyfully revel as they please. In this way, by means of a great variety of features, they experience the higher realms. Spending an exceptionally long time on the level of Living on the Peak within the Heaven Free from Strife, they enjoy the pleasures of the five senses in conformity with their own previous karma.
“As the clusters of gods and goddesses roam about in this way,371 they gradually proceed to the forest called Shaken by Fierce Winds, where they will playfully pursue their enjoyments for as long as their past karma permits. When no such karma remains, their retinue of goddesses will abandon them. When the goddesses leave the gods, the following signs in the form of fatal disease will appear. First, whenever they approach an open lotus, it will close. That is the first omen. Another sign of death and transmigration is that whenever they go to a lotus pond or a cluster of trees, all the bees will leave that location. That is the second sign. The third sign is that when they frolic with the goddesses, the latter’s music will make their lust wane. The fourth sign is that whenever they go near a tree, its flowers will wither. The fifth is that when they go sightseeing through the gardens in their chariots, they will be unable to rise into the sky. Those signs pertain to the gods of the Heaven Free from Strife. There are also the signs witnessed by the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, such as profuse sweating from the armpits, and the like. [F.29.b] Those are signs of certain death and transmigration due to the exhaustion of virtuous actions. They are followed by death conditioned by unvirtuous factors.
“There are also twelve great signs that, as they arise, gradually foretoken death. When a god who possesses previous causes is about to die and transmigrate to a human existence, the light that shines from his body and accompanies him will begin to dim, as when the sun is setting. Likewise, when a god’s flower garlands and fruits begin to decay, that is an indication of impending death. Another sign of death is that the flowers that the god attaches to his hair begin to wither. A further sign of death is that when the god takes a bath, his body’s reflection in the water will appear the way he is about to be reborn—be it as a hell being, starving spirit, animal, or human. After those signs comes a fifth omen, which is that, upon seeing his reflection on the water, the god will be terrified and his body hairs will stand on end, as if they were thorns. At that moment, another sign of death and transmigration will manifest in the form of environmental changes. Thus, whether the god has been sitting upon a seat of beryl, silver, gold, or sapphire, the seat now transforms and turns into copper. Another sign of death and transmigration is that the wind will ruffle the god’s clothing. The ground will feel hot and he will have to get up from his seat, feeling as if a vajra had struck him. [F.30.a] These signs will cause the god’s state of mind to change. As his state of mind is transformed, the sounds, textures, tastes, sights, and smells that he perceives become unpleasant. Thus, the god draws closer to the fire of impermanence.
“The next signs of death and transmigration manifest conjointly. He will no longer see things as other than they actually are, such as stones which are the nature of beryl. He will also witness a complete fall in his standing.372 After that, the women will soon understand from those signs that the god is about to die and will therefore abandon him. They will also begin to speak badly of him, which causes him tremendous torment. The pain produced by this loss of his companions is so severe that none of his other enjoyments can match even a sixteenth of that.
“Next follows the onset of a tenth sign as the god’s faculties degenerate. He will begin to appear with rolling eyes, and so forth. Next comes an eleventh sign of death as his mind, like a water wheel, becomes incapable of staying still. Perceiving the pain of death and transmigration, his mind becomes highly unstable. Thereafter, the faculty of his life force will come to an end. The god witnesses this as akin to when the light of a candle dims and extinguishes once its wick is burned and its fuel is used up. Although he has not yet died or transmigrated, he will now perceive the trees he used to enjoy as if scorched by fire, and the birds that live in them will leave and go elsewhere. Nevertheless, others will still perceive all the former qualities. [F.30.b]
“Seeing the goddesses leaving him, the god will speak these thoughtful verses that describe the nature of the world.
“Since the nature of the goddesses is crude, they will quickly forsake him and instead start to pursue another god. Just as bees hunting for nectar will leave the withered petals of a lotus destroyed by frost and fly off to other lotus flowers, so the goddesses will abandon the dying god for the sake of another. Then, once again, they will enjoy themselves and revel to the sounds of the five types of instruments. In the forests, parks, ponds, and lotus groves where colorful birds with melodious voices flutter among hundreds of thousands of wish-fulfilling trees, they will enjoy themselves while being attentive to the god they have now attached themselves to. Just as a hundred thousand lives can be forgotten in a single instant, so the goddesses destroy any remembrance of the qualities of their former partner. That is why these w