The Application of Mindfulness of the Sacred Dharma
The Heaven of the Thirty-Three
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
First published 2021
Current version v 1.0.24 (2023)
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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 Robert Kritzer generously shared several unpublished articles on the text with us, and Vesna Wallace and Mitsuyo Demoto kindly gave us access to drafts of their critical Sanskrit editions of chapters 1 and 3,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.
The Heaven of the Thirty-Three
“When the monk has seen the gods of the Four Great Kings, he will next examine the realms of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and its associated karmic actions. Thus, he will ask himself, ‘How do positive and negative karmic actions relate to beings taking birth among the gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three?’
“As he applies knowledge derived from hearing, he will then correctly perceive the following realms of the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three: Dwelling in Sudharma, Dwelling in the Lofty, Dwelling on Summits, Dwelling in Excellent View, Dwelling in One Direction, Dwelling in Forests, Dwelling in Various Chariots, Dwelling in Enjoyment, Dwelling in Beauty, Dwelling by the Pārijāta Tree, Dwelling on Mixed Riverbanks, Dwelling on Forest Riverbanks, Dwelling in Essence of Jewels, Engaging in Clarification, House of Refined Gold, Shaded by Garlands, Moving on Springy Ground, Distinguished in Many Colorful Ways, Subtle Engagement, Enraptured by and Attached to Song, Blazing Splendor, Resembling the Full Moon, Pair of Śāla Trees, Moving in the Wink of an Eye, Fine Complexion and Large Body, Draped with Jewels, [F.110.a] Part of the Assembly, Dwelling on the Disk, High Conduct, Supreme Splendor, Garland of Splendor, and Unmixed. Thus, the gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three inhabit thirty-three realms realms.
“Next, the monk who has comprehension of the ripening of the effects of karmic actions and discipline will examine the positive completed actions of those gods. Doing so, he wonders, ‘What are the completed and accumulated karmic actions that produce such happy realms, such desirable and attractive ripening, such happy ripening, such congregations of teachers,275 and such delightful sounds, textures, tastes, and maturations?’
The Gods Dwelling in Sudharma
“Examining this matter with knowledge derived from hearing, he will understand that, apart from the teaching of the buddhas, no other amazing sight or sound is necessary for attaining those joyous and blissful realms for which there is no example. At Sudharma, the assembly hall of the gods, Kauśika rules in accordance with the Dharma.
“By paying attention to the external features, the monk will start out by examining the first level of the gods and from there proceed to distinguish the designs of all the other grounds. He will ask himself how discipline may be cultivated so as to result in birth in the divine assembly hall of Sudharma. Inquiring with knowledge derived from hearing, he will then see how some people may practice sevenfold discipline in a way that is uncorrupted, unbroken, intact, genuine, and special. When it comes time to practice that generosity in which they have trained their minds thoroughly, they will be unstinting and helpful. In this way they will offer gifts to worthy ones, ailing parents, non-returners, once-returners, stream enterers, those arisen from cessation, those who have entered the path, and those trained in love, compassion, joy, and equanimity, or they may offer vitality to those who are afraid of dying and whose lives are threatened. When such people later separate from their bodies, they will go to the joyful higher realms and become the rulers of gods, residing within Sudharma, the divine assembly hall. Thus, they will reside within the assembly hall of Śakra Kauśika, [F.110.b] enjoying themselves while being served by a retinue of nine million nine hundred thousand lovely and endearing goddesses. Each god will be served by such a retinue, and each goddess will be just as caring as a single wife to her only husband. Among the goddesses there will be a lovely, endearing, and sympathetic primary queen. All the goddesses will wait upon this queen and the queen will be respectful toward them all in return.
“The divine assembly hall of Sudharma measures five hundred leagues. Its foundation is made of beryl and its exceptionally attractive columns are of coral. The fences are made of crystal adorned with coral. The walls are of refined gold studded with diamonds. The delightful jewel thrones are studded with gorgeous rubies and sapphires.
“At certain places there are lotus flowers with beryl petals and vajra anthers. These lotuses do not grow from mud but from even ground that is beautifully adorned with gold, and the like. Among some of the lotus ponds swim songbirds with feathers of beryl, beaks of ruby, and dark blue bodies. Such birds fill the lotus ponds.
“Elsewhere the ponds are full of other kinds of jewel birds. With legs of beryl, dark blue feathers, beaks of coral, and eyes the color of coral, other birds occupy the land between the ponds. Still other ponds are home to different birds. Their bodies are made of gold from the Jambu River, they have coral feathers, their eyes are extremely gentle, and their legs are the color of pearls.
“Other ponds are abuzz with beryl-colored, ecstatic bees. Such bees adorn the following ten great pools that add further beauty to the divine assembly hall of Sudharma: Source of Joy, Source of Great Lotuses, Utter Joy, Great and Utter Joy, Playful Frolicking, Fulfillment of Wishes, Ever-Present Chariots, Movement, Enjoyment of Wish-fulfilling Trees, and Powerful Luminous Retreat. Such lakes adorn Sudharma, the assembly hall of the gods.
“There are also other lotus groves in which the flower stems are of silver, the anthers of gold, and the petals [F.111.a] of beryl. The cores of these flowers that do not grow from mud are the color of diamonds. Other lotuses have stalks colored like diamond, and petals that are a mix of ruby, beryl, coral, and gold, thus giving each lotus numerous colors. Some of the lotuses that belong to Śakra, king of the gods, have a hundred petals. Others have two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, five hundred, six hundred, seven hundred, eight hundred, nine hundred, or a thousand petals. Some have many colors and some just one. Some move and some are fixed. Such are the lotuses that grow at Śakra’s residence, the divine assembly hall of Sudharma.
“Heavenly birds enter among the lotuses and fill the meadows. The birds are infatuated throughout the year, they have glistening cheeks,276 and they always dance to the sound of music. When Śakra visits the ponds and frolics there with his retinue of goddesses, the birds are equally joyous, and the songs they sing sound like the five types of instruments. The bird known as crazed by infatuation is a great dancer. When Śakra enjoys himself by the ponds, this bird comes to dance in the same way as the goddesses. Golden birds known as dwelling on the outskirts will then arrive, carrying flower garlands in their beaks. Those birds will then dance and sing by the ponds and on their banks. In this way the monk will regard the ponds of Śakra, king of the gods.
“Next the monk will examine the manifestations of positive karmic action that appear at Sudharma, Śakra’s divine assembly hall. Thus, he will notice how the ponds feature various fish. Some are colored like gold, [F.111.b] some like silver, and some like beryl. The scales of the fish are ruby colored, their eyes are like coral, and their bellies like lotuses. Some of the fish have backs that are adorned with colorful spheres of various jewels, some have scales that are colored like the seven precious substances. Such are the fish that frolic in the ponds.
“As the monk continues to examine the lotus ponds of Śakra, he will wonder what their different designs might be. Thus, with knowledge derived from hearing he will see that at some places there are sand beds made of pearls, whereas elsewhere the sand is of silver, gold, or beryl. Such are the colorful designs that manifest from Śakra’s positive karmic actions.
“As the monk continues to examine those designs, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and see that some pools have banks that are surrounded by railings of gold, whereas other ponds feature railings of beryl, silver, or gold draped with nets of pearls. The banks of the lotus ponds are full of birds of variegated colors that sing joyous tunes and dart about.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine Sudharma, the divine assembly hall, he will notice how the lotus flowers in the ponds are visited by bees of myriad colors. Thus, silver-colored bees visit golden lotuses. The wings of the bees are like vajra sprouts and delightful to touch. Similarly, golden bees visit silver lotuses. In this way, numerous bees fly among the lotus flowers. The monk recognizes that all these things are the varied effects of virtuous actions.
“As the monk continues to examine the divine assembly hall of Sudharma, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so proceed to examine the surrounding forests. Wondering what kinds of forests Śakra, king of the gods, [F.112.a] may possess, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing. Thus, he will examine each of the forests located at Sudharma, the divine assembly hall. There are four such forests, known as Joyous Women, Joyous, Incomparable, and Colorful. The monk will examine each of these forests within which Śakra, ruler of the gods, surrounded by goddesses, enjoys heavenly pleasures of the five senses, reveling in his playful experience of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures.
“Wondering what delightful features the forests may contain, the monk will then apply knowledge derived from hearing and so notice the forest known as Joyous Women. The heavenly trees of this forest are adorned with flowers and fruits and are visited by numerous birds. Known as wish fulfillers and wish granters, the trees yield whatever the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three may wish. When the gods go to the forest to play, the trees will bloom with large and exquisite flowers. Thus, when females enter the forest and approach the trees to pluck the flowers, the trees will extend themselves as soon as the women arrive. When they have plucked their flowers, the trees will immediately grow new flowers that display fresh and different colors, scents, shapes, and features. Anything the goddesses wish for appears from the trees.
“The trees may also transform and produce a fivefold, delightful music of sitars, drums, cymbals, flutes, and vīṇās. [F.112.b] Whatever the goddesses may wish to listen to, that sound will emerge from the trees. As soon as a given wish for music has occurred, a wind produced by wholesome karmic action will stir among the leaves of the trees. As the wind touches the leaves, each leaf will produce the sound of music. Enrapturing music of the five instruments—sitars, drums, cymbals, flutes, and vīṇās—will thus ring out from the leaves. Because of this, the trees are known as wish fulfillers.
“The trees also display other wish-fulfilling features. For instance, whenever the passionate goddesses develop a wish for a certain ornament, garment, or fruit, the trees will immediately produce whatever was desired, all the while remaining resplendent. Because of this, too, the trees are known as wish fulfillers.
“Some of the trees have the color of beryl and bear golden leaves. Some have golden trunks, silver branches, beryl flower petals, and keraṭaka277 leaves. Some trees bear leaves of the seven precious substances and yield various delicious fruits.
“The trees are also wish-fulfilling in the following way. Whenever a goddess wishes to see Śakra, she will behold a magical emanation of the ruler of the gods, produced by Śakra’s positive karmic actions. This emanation will then revel and frolic with the goddess. In this way, emanations of millions of such rulers of the gods may appear. In front of the trees may stand nine hundred and ninety million goddesses, yet a ruler of the gods will appear to each one of them. Thus, the goddesses may play and frolic with their individual emanation but without being able to see one another. Whenever a goddess brings the features and ornaments of Śakra to mind she will immediately perceive that which she had in mind, and in this way be with him. In this way she will be able to frolic with him within the forest for as long as she wishes. Because of this, too, the trees are known as wish fulfillers. [F.113.a]
“As the monk investigates the forest, he will notice that it contains a mountain known as Mount Playful. This mountain, which is made of the seven precious substances, functions as a dwelling place, since it has a vajra dome made of vajra sprouts and a mesh of golden twigs. It is filled with golden, silver, and sapphire deer, and numerous birds sing there. Upon that delightful mountain sits the mansion called Victorious Supreme Movement with its one thousand beautiful pillars. The pillars are constructed of gold, silver, and sapphire and studded with diamonds and large pearls. Within the mansion rest beryl thrones clad with rainbow-colored covers278 and colorful mats, and soft cushions are arranged upon them. One thousand such beautiful thrones can be found within the mansion. When Śakra has been victorious in the gods’ wars against the asuras, he adorns himself and proceeds to the Heaven of the Thirty-Three to celebrate with all the gods. Later, goddesses will come to the mansion to play, sing, dance, perform, and participate in games. Thus, everyone enjoys themselves corresponding with their bad, good, or intermediate karmic actions.
“At times the goddesses will descend from the mansion of Victorious Supreme Movement. They will then stay on Mount Playful, passionately pursuing nothing but desire and enjoying one another in this way. While all women in the higher realms are abundantly desirous, this is particularly the case among the gods. While roaming the mountain they arrive in places where they find food and drink of all sorts of colors, fragrances, and tastes. There will also be intoxicating beverages. Thus, they will find an abundance of exquisite divine forms, smells, and tastes. The beverages are free from the flaws of inebriation, and when the goddesses partake of these uplifting drinks, they will become extremely joyous. When they consume the beverage known as vision giver, [F.113.b] they will be able to see heavenly forests and parks that lie beyond many mountains. The drink called sundry tastes yields an abundance of delicious tastes, and when the goddesses partake of it, their joy, complexions, physiques, and strength will intensify a hundred times.
“When the goddesses look for food, they will find sustenance that corresponds with their own bad, intermediate, or excellent karmic actions. Thus, as the products of their karmic actions, they will find foods of exquisite taste, color, scent, and texture. Moreover, the nature of their drinks is the product of their karmic actions.
“When the goddesses have consumed their drinks and ambrosial foods they will next visit musical performances on Mount Playful. There, to the beat of golden drums, they will hear the delightful tunes of vīṇās that are made of beryl, adorned with gold leaf, and equipped with strings of gold. Likewise, the goddesses will also see numerous hollow bamboos that are intertwined.279 They will have tremendous fun with cymbals, flutes, string instruments, and other musical instruments. Wearing all manner of fine jewelry, they will take up the instruments and play them so as to delight one another, stir various passions, intensify desires, captivate those who live in the forest, and produce tremendous passion of the most exquisite kind.
“When they have played the instruments, the goddesses will next go to a place where beautiful tunes produced by the ringing and tinkling of small bells can be heard. As the breeze carries the tunes, the melodious ringing is enriched a hundred times. The goddesses, equipped with their variegated attire, outfits, and ornaments, are overjoyed upon hearing these tunes and thus begin to dance, frolic, and sing.
“When satisfied by these sounds, they will proceed to descend from that place and instead visit ponds that are adorned with swans and yellow geese. [F.114.a] Swans, ducks, yellow geese, and various other golden and silvery birds embellish these ponds, and the goddesses will enter the water to play there. Free from the flaws of stinginess and envy, the goddesses will tap one another with the golden, silvery, and beryl-like stems of lotus flowers, and so they will for a long time prattle and play in the water, which is endowed with the eight features and all the good qualities of water. They will also play with the birds in the ponds.
“Later, the goddesses will develop abundant passion. Thus, they will enjoy this passion and perpetuate it until it overtakes them, and they become insatiable. Thirsting for the objects of their passions, they will decide to go somewhere else. As they enter the so-called Mirror Forest, they will see their bodies reflected, adorned with their various garments and jewelry, and so they will see gorgeous and diverse reflections of themselves. Within various mirrors they will see their own exquisite qualities, garments, and perfect adornments, and in that way their excitement about their physical appearance increases tenfold. There are three ways that women become crazed by excitement: because of their looks, because of men, and because of pride. Those who become madly excited by seeing their own bodies will no longer think that any other female can at all qualify as a woman.
“From the site where these mirrors are found, the goddesses will next proceed to another part of the forest known as All Seasons. All six seasons are represented there and continue to revolve, like a spinning wheel. Thus, the forest has specific regions of early winter, late winter, spring, summer, monsoon, and fall. The beautiful, colorful birds that adorn the forest likewise follow the seasons. The goddesses will enter this forest for their pleasure. They do so as friends, free from disagreement, envy, or displeasure, [F.114.b] and filled with mutual care, affection, and love. When they see the forest, they will enter whichever season they prefer and then play and enjoy themselves there. Since the forest displays all the different seasons, it inspires the goddesses to play. Thus, they will enjoy themselves and play with the flocks of birds until they feel like doing something else. Finally, the playful and utterly joyous goddesses will go to the residence of Śakra, ruler of the gods. When they see their husband, the goddesses, who are accomplished in various arts, will surround him, dancing and singing. Such are the perfect qualities of one of the forests of Śakra, ruler of the gods. This is what just one of his forests is like.
“Next, the monk will examine the second among the forests of Śakra, king of the gods. The monk will wonder, ‘What are the features of that forest, and what is it called?’ Through knowledge derived from hearing he will understand that the forest is called Joyous. Wondering about the extent of the forest’s fine qualities, the monk will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so understand that by its very nature this forest is a place of joy, for it is full of ecstatically joyous gods and goddesses. They remain very close to one another, and their noble faces increase one another’s beauty.280
“Surrounded by one hundred thousand divine maidens, Śakra, king of the gods, comes to this forest for pleasure. As he goes to this park, Śakra is accompanied by eighty-four thousand beryl chariots that are draped in nets of small bells. Some of the chariots are adorned with the head of a horse made of gold from the Jambu River, the sides of the chariots are clad in silver, and they are adorned with the seven precious substances. Some of the chariots are pulled by swans. Some of them fly through the sky, others move across the earth. [F.115.a] Amid singing and the sound of instruments and music, the leaders of the gods thus travel as Śakra’s retinue.
“Eighty-four thousand strong and agile elephants saunter alongside them, draped in nets of gold. Large and small bells hang from their bodies, on their backs lie colorful carpets and cushions, and from their cheeks trickle drops of clear silver.281 Singing and playing divine music, leaders of the gods ride upon those elephants, all the while gazing at the face of Śakra. Such is his retinue on the way to the forest.
“There are also eighty-four thousand goddesses who accompany Śakra, gazing at his face. They wear various garments and ornaments and have a variety of skin colors and physical shapes. Some dance, some sing, some play the five types of instruments, and some engage in various games as they proceed to the forest.
“There are also dancers who perform and entertain and gaze at Śakra’s face as they advance into the forest. They are dressed in the four costumes, have various shapely physiques, and sport a variety of fashions.
“Amid this retinue travels Śakra together with Śaci. Their chariot has wheels with a hundred spokes and is adorned with beryl, gold, coral, ruby, lapis lazuli, and great sapphires. The chariot is pulled by a hundred thousand swans whose bodies are of a color like gold from the Jambu River, their legs like coral, their eyes like tiger eye, their bodies like ruby, their beaks like coral, and their feathers like pearls. The swans carry Śakra wherever he wishes. Thus, within this supreme chariot rides Śakra together with Śaci. Adorned with various precious stones and more splendid than a hundred suns, he travels to the forest. Śaci’s form, attire, and jewelry are a hundred times more perfect than any of the other goddesses. Occupying half of Śakra’s seat, she thus rides to forest. [F.115.b]
“In this way, all the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three enjoy divine pleasures. Crazed by heavenly sounds, textures, tastes, forms, and smells, they surround Śakra, ruler of the gods, as he tours the forests and parks, riding his golden chariot together with Śaci, just as mentioned before. While he enjoys a hundred thousand pleasures, the ruler of the gods is honored from chariots and elephants by gods and divine dignitaries with the sounds of instruments, song, and music as they all journey to the forest.
“When the charming goddesses who live in the forest hear the singing, the music, and the instruments, they and the gods of the forest will all stop and listen. Then they will rush forth with tremendous joy. As they emerge from the forest, they will carry lotus flowers, play instruments, and sing beautiful songs.
“When Śakra, ruler of the gods, sees this, he will say to the gods, ‘O gods, those goddesses saw me approaching and have now come out to welcome us with instruments and music. Gods, behold their precious garments and numerous forms. They have come to play and enjoy themselves with us.’
“When the gods hear these words from Śakra, ruler of the gods, they will respond, ‘Ruler of the gods, all these goddesses are yours. You are their refuge, support, and protector.’
“To this Śakra, ruler of the gods, will reply, ‘I am not the leader of these goddesses. Nor am I their refuge, support, or protector. They proceed due to the force of karmic action. Karmic action is their master and their support, and on that they rely. They are what they are due to negative, neutral, and positive actions. Under the power of karmic actions, they engaged in negative, [F.116.a] neutral, or positive acts.’
“When the gods hear these words of Śakra, they will rejoice, honor him above their heads, and then go to stay in the forest.
“The thousands or hundreds of thousands of goddesses all hold lotus flowers in their hands, wear various garments, take numerous forms, and wear different kinds of ornaments. In this way, they each have their own particular attire, form, and demeanor, and they all have their own unique way of singing and playing music. Thus, these hundreds or thousands of goddesses, who have manifested due to a number of wholesome karmic actions, now appear in extremely skillful ways. Dancing before Śakra, ruler of the gods, they will all return to the forest.
“Where they first enter the forest, the trees are of silver and display silver leaves. The ground is also of silver and embellished with many silvery adornments. All the birds are silvery, and there are many flocks of them, singing in many different ways. The goddesses serve Śakra, ruler of the gods, as they enter this beautiful forest together with him.
“As they enter the forest, the light of the myriad different jewel ornaments [F.116.b] and the light of the silver forest swirl together, and the ensuing splendor forms ornaments of light in the sky. Śakra is delighted, and the goddesses each sing their own beautiful and soothing songs to the tunes of the five types of instruments. Thousands of goddesses offer praise as they hear the sounds of small bells and flutes emerging from the eighty-four thousand bejeweled chariots and the eighty-four thousand elephants. At the same time, nine million nine hundred thousand goddesses form the retinue. In this way, the lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three enjoys pleasures of the body and mind for which no example exists. Why is that so? Because the heavenly environment and delightful foods that are enjoyed by the lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three are unlike anything else.
“When Śakra, ruler of the gods, has entered the silver forest, which is filled with divine pleasures of the five senses, the gods and goddesses also remain within the forest for a long time so they can play, enjoy themselves, and take supreme pleasure from the delightful objects.
“At some point Śakra, ruler of the gods, will then proceed to a second part of the forest along with all the goddesses, chariots, and elephants in order to play and rest there. The part of the forest where they now arrive has the color of refined gold. Its trees bear beautiful fruits that are the size of five humans and have a sweet, honey-like taste and a perfect fragrance. When the gods realize that consuming these fruits has an extremely infatuating effect, they will bend down the branches of the trees and let their elephants eat the fruits. As they consume the fruits, the elephants become inebriated and boisterously romp about. The gods will then say, ‘Ah, our elephants are inebriated and boisterously romp about. They enjoyed the full flavor of these fruits and now they are drunk and dance in joy and excitement to the sounds of the instruments.’ [F.117.a]
“Within the golden forest live many flocks of songbirds. The silvery birds are attracted to this forest, and so they also stay there and beautify it.
“Śakra, ruler of the gods, enjoys himself with his divine maiden Śaci, just as the gods enjoy themselves with the other goddesses. Thus, everyone enjoys themselves and rollicks to their hearts’ delight. The gods also enjoy themselves and play around within the circle of their friends—singing, dancing, and joking—for the gods who have done good will play with one another without any envy or miserliness.
“Within the golden forest is another pond known as Cool Water, which is adorned with lotus flowers of gold and beryl. The banks of this pond are frequented by the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and the courtiers of Śakra at the divine assembly hall of Sudharma. They all come there to play and enjoy themselves with flocks of goddesses to the tunes of the five types of instruments.
“From there the gods posted at the mansion of Sudharma go to a part of the forest where beautiful beryl trees grow exquisite golden fruits. Those divine fruits are full of a delicious juice that tastes like the jackfruit282 of Jambudvīpa. Within this fruit’s hard shell is a fragrant flesh called the sweet one, which has many beautiful colors. The gods pick the fruits, split them open, and drink from them. The fruits taste sweeter than honey, and they produce inebriation without any of the negative side effects of intoxication. These gods actually become intoxicated in three ways because they get drunk on women, fruit juice, and divine pleasures of the five senses. [F.117.b] When the gods are together with the goddesses, their drunkenness is thus threefold. Śakra, ruler of the gods, enjoys the nectar together with his courtiers. They gather and consume that nectar, which is the fruit of their own actions and which has manifested as if through a business transaction.
“In this way, Śakra and his retinue travel from land to land, place to place, enjoying themselves, rollicking, and reveling. The beryl forests are delightful with their birds, bees, small bells, and numerous flavors, and thus they enjoy themselves there for a long time. Then Śakra, ruler of the gods, will enter the divine assembly hall of Sudharma together with the pantheon of gods.
“At Sudharma, the assembly hall of the gods, lies a third forest, known as Incomparable. This forest is of an incomparable nature. and within it Śakra frolics and enjoys himself with his five hundred sons and their retinues, who are his wealth.
“Furthermore, the sons of Śakra, ruler of the gods, are all righteous and follow the Dharma. All possess a genuine view. They are gods who previously adopted the genuine view and who have attained victory in the war against the asuras. They all acknowledge their mother, father, mendicants, and brahmins, and they are all in agreement with one another. At times they think, ‘We should definitely go enjoy ourselves with the goddesses at the forest called Incomparable.’ They will then set out, surrounded by hosts of goddesses, to the forest called Incomparable.
“For each divine son there will be ten million youthful and beautiful goddesses. The sons share a single pursuit, [F.118.a] they are passionate, they pursue passion, and they are in constant agreement. Thus, they will go before Śakra, ruler of the gods, and say, ‘Your Majesty, we wish to go and stay in the Incomparable forest. Your Majesty, please bear in mind that it would be appropriate for you to proceed with us and take up residence in that forest.’
“To this Śakra will reply, ‘I have already had my enjoyments in pleasure gardens. I shall practice the Dharma in accordance with the Dharma and form aspirations. Thus, I shall accomplish our objectives. As I am cautious on behalf of the gods, I have returned here, having had my enjoyments in pleasure gardens. The gods are afflicted by the flaws of carelessness, so you should be careful. Give up the terrible poison of the flaws of carelessness!’
“He will then utter the following verses:
“Having thus instructed his sons in this way, the ruler of the gods will remain at his residence, the divine assembly hall of Sudharma. Utterly delighted and in agreement with one another, the sons of Śakra will then enter the palace of Śakra, which is made of divine gold, resounds with song and music, and is adorned with numerous splendid features. [F.118.b]
“Once there, they will say, ‘We should go and enjoy ourselves in the forest. Let us go to the Incomparable forest.’
“Thus, seventy thousand divine sons will proceed there, some riding golden chariots and others riding divine birds. They will be followed by goddesses, some of whom travel in the sky, while others, surrounded by retinues of gods and goddesses, travel within supreme lotus flowers. Supremely blissful, they play music and sing songs. In this way they all proceed to the Incomparable forest.
“The bodies of the sons of Śakra are adorned with divine garlands and massaged with divine sandal oil. Some shine in a natural light like the sun, while some are resplendent like the moon and others like the planets or the stars. Their beauty accords with their past actions. In this way they journey to the bountiful pleasure garden known as Incomparable. They then enter that forest while caring for one another and enjoying their gorgeous heavenly realm.
“Everything about this forest is incomparable, so the following is just an example of a mere fraction of its qualities. Upon entering this forest, one senses incomparable aromas, such that the even the most exquisite sandalwood cannot compare to even a sixteenth of those fragrances. Such is the character of the attractive and gratifying aromas.
“As they enter the forest, the gods are amazed and wonder, ‘Is this really here for our pleasure?’ Having quenched their thirst, they will then proceed into the forest. The first sight that meets them is that of gorgeous trees, for the trees of the forest have very attractive trunks. Grouped in thickets of about a hundred trees, some of the trees there are made of beryl, whereas others are made of gold, silver, and crystal. Such are the various trees found there as the gods enter the forest. [F.119.a] It all resembles a lovely painting produced in Jambudvīpa.
“The trees have many gorgeous features, colors, forms, and shapes. As if looking at the surface of a clear mirror, the gods see reflections of goddesses upon the trees. Enraptured, they will rush forth to see more. In this manner, they venture into that Incomparable forest in order to fully enjoy the many pleasures of the forest, which is full of goddesses, music, and the sounds of instruments.
“When they enter the forest, divine birds sing in a deeply endearing manner. The gods behold these flocks of birds with their golden feathers and bellies like beryl, silvery backs, and eyes that resemble karketana. As they see and hear these birds that warble in the most enchanting manner, the gods will rebuke their own birds, telling them, ‘Birds, listen! The singing of these birds, with their vibrant tunes, calls, and colors, outshines even the songs of goddesses and makes them sound plain.’ Then, having listened to the songs of the birds, the divine sons proceed farther into the forest to play.
“At this point, they will see a lotus pond called Lotuses Resembling Sunlight teeming with lotus flowers with petals that beam like a thousand suns. Dressed in their multifarious garments and ornaments, the divine sons will approach the pond to examine it further. As they encircle the pond, the gods and their accompanying goddesses will then dance, sing, joke, play, and enjoy themselves upon the banks of the pond. This drives the gods crazy with passion due to their numerous intense experiences of bliss, and thus, right there, they all succumb completely to their divine passions. [F.119.b]
“Next, the gods will venture farther into the forest in that great heavenly realm. As troupes of goddesses dance decked out in their various garments and ornaments, they all proceed toward a place known as Forest of Flowing Rivers. There, the sundry rivers flow with streams of milk, water that tastes like wine, winter wine water, and divine drinking water. Many bees and hundreds of flocks of birds thrive by these rivers that cascade over stones of gold, coral, silver, and numerous other minerals. Attended to by coteries of goddesses, the divine sons come to play, and thus they tarry for a long time, enjoying themselves and carousing with the goddesses.
“From the flowing rivers the gods next proceed to another part of the forest where divine flowers grow. The fragrance of these heavenly flowers that never wither can be detected for up to ten leagues. One of the flowers is called moonlight and has a color like the moon. Another one is called sunlight and is of the color of the sun, yet without any burning light. The fruits of that orchard resemble the planets and stars. The divine sons will enter that part of the forest and discover a rich variety of fruits. Some of these fruits are sweet like honey, some have a tart taste, while others are soft and melt in your mouth. There are also fragrant fruits, fruits that have a wonderful fragrance, fruits possessing all six tastes, fruits that taste just as one pleases, and fruits with a taste one never tires of. The fruits with such features are the product of the gods’ positive karmic actions as they manifest within the Incomparable forest.
“When the gods have enjoyed themselves, played, and frolicked, and also plucked, eaten, munched, drunk, and relished the fruits in that part of the forest, they proceed to another part of the forest known as Dancing Birds. There they will encounter flocks of birds that sing, call out in various ways, perform various dances, and fill the air with mellifluous tunes. [F.120.a] The gods gambol freely there, listening to the melodious sounds.
“Next they proceed to another grove known as Merging. This part of the forest receives its name from the fact that all the fruits, flowers, rivers, trees, and birds that were mentioned previously can be found there. This forest is filled with the five divine sense pleasures, and thus the divine sons can frolic and enjoy themselves there.283 Taking up residence, they will keep rollicking there for an exceedingly long time.
“At this point Śakra, ruler of the gods, will think, ‘My divine sons are lost in carelessness. Have they not yet understood that all these pleasures eventually will come to nothing?’
“Aware of the thoughts of Śakra, king of the gods, the divine sons will then return along the way they came and eventually arrive back at the residence of Śakra, king of the gods. The goddesses will also rush ahead, wishing to enjoy themselves at Sudharma, the divine assembly hall.
When Śakra has inspected the divine sons upon their return, he will utter the following verses:
“In this way Śakra, king of the gods, will explain to his sons how positive actions block the gateways to the lower realms, and in this way he establishes them upon the excellent path.
“Next, everyone will proceed to the forest called Colorful in order to dwell happily there and engage in virtuous actions. As a result of his many positive actions in the past, the forest called Colorful features many different palaces of Śakra, king of the gods. There are five hundred such palaces—some made of crystal and others of coral, gold, silver, sapphire, great sapphire, and refined gold. Many hundreds of thousands of beautiful trees grow in that forest, and it is also adorned with lotus flowers in the colors of the rising sun.
Acknowledging this, Śakra will utter the following verses:
“When Śakra, king of the gods, has spoken these words, they will proceed to another multistoried palace, also produced by positive karmic actions. The palace is equipped with colorful seats that are soft, spongy, and studded with beautiful jewels. The palace is also adorned with splendorous garlands. When he has examined the palace, Śakra, king of the gods, will enter for the sake of pleasure and enjoyment. The palace is made of precious materials and adorned with resplendent jewels. It is aglow with numerous lights and is teeming with gorgeous flowers. When he has entered this palace, Śakra will play and revel in the park, attended to by many bevies of goddesses. The park displays an exquisite undulating landscape with a wealth of different kinds of flowers and various golden birds that sing. Here and there stand gorgeous trees of the seven precious substances in which birds tweet and bees hum. The landscape also features several wish-fulfilling trees. Śakra, ruler of the gods, inspects all these features, and then he and the gathering of splendid and magnificent gods, more radiant than the sun and the moon, venture into the park and frolic there.
“Śakra, king of the gods, will then catch sight of a beryl mansion surrounded by golden trees. The mansion is beautified with pairs of golden and silver pillars and adorned with lotus pools of blue beryl. Seeing this, he will think, ‘I should go to stay in that mansion.’
“At this point the gods will think, ‘Now Śakra, king of the gods, will enter that multistoried mansion. We, along with our retinues [F.121.b] and attending goddesses, should now go singing through the forests and parks where we can play and be happy.’
“Śakra, for his part, thinks, ‘If the gods and goddesses grant me the opportunity, I shall enter that mansion.’
“The gods will then exclaim, ‘Please go and enjoy yourself in your parks!’ Having heard those words, Śakra will then go where his attendants are and play within the groves, parks, and gardens, among the lotus pools and ponds.
“Next, the king of gods will proceed to the multistoried mansion and enter that beryl abode, taking his place upon a seat of colorful, divine cushions made of unwoven fabrics. While seated there, inspired by his previous positive and virtuous karmic action, he will begin to examine the surface of a very bright wall. Then, as if here were looking at a painting, upon that wall he will perceive all the Śakras that have previously passed away. He will behold the names that are written upon the wall, all of them being names of deceased rulers: Excellent Wealth, Endowment, Possessor of Excellent Conduct, White, Excellent Intelligence, Universally Blissful, Steadfast One, Universal Observer, Thousand-Eyed One, Enjoyer of All, Thousandfold Light, Adorned with Glorious Garlands, Endowed with Glory, Blue-Colored One, Immortal One, Immutable One, Bliss Maker, Holder of Supreme Gifts, Auspicious One, Ever-Joyous One, Śakra, and so forth.
“Śakra will see how all those rulers passed away from the Heaven of the Thirty-Three.286 He will notice how they took birth there due to virtuous karmic actions and how once those actions were exhausted they transmigrated. He will observe how they again took birth among hell beings, animals, and starving spirits and thus underwent numerous forms of physical pain. He will see how they were tormented and struck by severe suffering throughout all those lives. All of this Śakra will see reflected upon the wall. [F.122.a] [B31]
“When those previous rulers were born as starving spirits, they suffered the physical pain of starvation and thirst, and their bodies were held together by nothing but skin, bones, and sinew. When born as animals, they underwent the torments of mutual predation, and as humans, they suffered the pains of continuous searching.
“Seeing all this, Śakra will think, ‘Cyclic existence is excruciating and can yield no happiness. Alas, the harms of cyclic existence are pervasive and abundant. All is pointless. In this cyclic existence, there is not so much as a hair tip of anything permanent, lasting, durable, or changeless. Alas, all those rulers experienced the fruits of their own actions and then died, only to take birth among hell beings, animals, and starving spirits. Who can enjoy such happiness, which in the end turns into pain? Alas, this cyclic existence is utterly unbearable and horrifying—extremely unpleasant. All those so-called rulers of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three had the fortune of tremendous bliss and yet, by the same token, went to destinations that are exceedingly unbearable.’
“Thus disillusioned, Śakra will think of his own situation. He will then see that for him the passage to the lower realms is closed, and that once he leaves the heavens, he will be born among humans. When he then later dies as a human, he will again be born among the gods. Moreover, while being human, he will be born in an excellent land with affluent regions, towns, and cities. He will become a member of a good family, abide by excellent conduct, and have excellent qualities. His family will be free from wrong views, arrogance, conceit, and pride. Śakra will observe that if he is born among humans, [F.122.b] he will either take birth in a royal family or otherwise become a minister who constantly pursues pure conduct and is endowed with excellent qualities, true mastery, and great power.
“When he asks himself where he may be born once he has died as a human, he shall foresee that he will take birth among the gods, where he will possess supreme miraculous powers and tremendous strength and be free from any remaining shameful faults. Thus, when the other gods eat, they will feel very ashamed of their food, which is mixed with negativity and produced through negative karmic actions. Such food appears whenever such actions have been engaged in, and the sight of that food causes the gods tremendous shame.
“When Śakra sees his amazingly plentiful, delicious, and abundant foods, he will wonder how many lives will remain like this for him. As he scrutinizes the palace wall, he will then observe how he will transmigrate back and forth between the realms of gods and humans seven times. However, he will fail to see an eighth life of his—neither among gods nor among humans, hell beings, animals, or starving spirits. This will make him wonder, ‘I do not see myself anywhere among those beings. Where might I be born next?’
“Failing to see himself anywhere, he will become very shocked. He will for a long time remain perplexed, thinking, ‘Oh, I cannot see my eighth life!’
“Finally, he will remember, ‘I did hear the Blessed One say that after seven lives, I would become a stream enterer and that thereafter I would enter the field free from any remainder of the aggregates. I must now be in possession of that kind of fortune.’
“Having realized this, Śakra will prostrate to the Blessed One, paying homage with an extremely buoyant and unsullied mind. [F.123.a] Then he will once more sit down upon his exquisite cushions of extremely luxuriant, unwoven fabrics and his seat of gold from the Jambu River. At that point, his reflection will again appear upon the surface of the wall.
“Śakra, king of the gods, will now think, ‘I shall go to the divine assembly hall of Sudharma to see the gods there.’
“He will then rise from his seat and proceed to the forest Colorful, where he will enjoy himself and frolic among the gods and goddesses, reveling ecstatically in his rich possessions of divine pleasures of the five senses. The forest Colorful abounds with beautiful birds, trees, lotus ponds, pools, and parks. When the gods and goddesses who live there see Śakra, king of the gods, they will take up their cymbals and various instruments and approach him. As they approach him, they will address him sincerely and minister to him, all of them performing dances, singing, and engaging in merrymaking. At this time, walking in front of Śakra, an attending troupe of goddesses striking various poses and wearing various garments will play musical instruments. In this way, Śakra will proceed to the divine assembly hall of Sudharma. Everyone will follow him delightedly, playing cymbals and various instruments, dancing, laughing, rollicking, and making merry.
“Next, the gods who stay at Sudharma will come forth, wishing to pay their respects to Śakra. They will emerge in groups from Sudharma, playing cymbals and singing various songs. As the great assembly of deeply joyous gods [F.123.b] perform dances and sing extremely beautiful songs, their tunes fill the entire realm of gods. When the gods that reside in other heavenly forests and parks hear those tunes, they will also experience the divine pleasures of the five senses, and they too will frolic and enjoy themselves. They will then also proceed to the divine assembly hall. Once there, they will address Śakra sincerely and request him to proceed victoriously. Thereupon Śakra will journey to the divine assembly hall of Sudharma accompanied by many hundreds of thousands of gods. Due to their various virtuous actions, the gods sing and dance and wear variegated garments and ornaments. To be born among them is an effect of having observed and cultivated discipline well.
“The entire gathering of gods will then enter Sudharma. This abode of Śakra measures five hundred leagues and is adorned with pure gold. It features beautiful trees of beryl and other magnificent trees, as well as delicate blooming flowers with exceedingly delectable fragrances that can be sensed from a distance of five leagues. The abode is attractive, delightful, beautiful, agreeable, and unconquerable, and everyone at the divine assembly hall is protected by Śakra. In this way, everyone there enjoys pleasures of the five senses, frolicking together with Śakra and a throng of nine hundred million goddesses.
“Within Sudharma, the gathering of gods will proceed to the Mansion of Great Joy with its pillars of beryl, gold, silver, and coral. The mansion is adorned with seats of gold that are covered with colorful cushions of unwoven fabrics. The cushions are soft and spongy. [F.124.a] Upon those perfect seats, the entire gathering of gods will seat themselves at Śakra’s invitation.
“Then Śakra, king of the gods, will speak to the divine gathering: ‘Due to our positive actions we were born into this divine world. It is certain that once those deeds are exhausted, we will fall. We ended up here among the gods in accordance with our karmic actions and we are now experiencing our share of karmic effects. But in the end, we will once again fall. Therefore, gods, acknowledge all this suffering and do what is virtuous!’
“When they have heard these words of Śakra, everyone will say, ‘Śakra, it is just as you have understood. We will experience our share of karmic effects and we are going to fall from our bliss and happiness. Therefore, please teach us what causes may prevent such a downfall.’
“To this Śakra will reply, ‘Neither below, around us, right here, or above is there anything that is conditioned and yet permanent, enduring, or unchanging. So enough with this mind that is constantly attached to afflictions! It brings endless suffering and nothing good. Its nature is nothing good. It does not yield knowledge of causes and conditions—it produces them. It prevents us from understanding how vast this suffering is. When you die, most of you will leave these lofty realms and take rebirth among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. Thus, those who are born here due to their positive actions will come to experience their share of karmic effects. That is how they experience the pleasures of the gods in heaven. Yet when karmic actions turn against them, they will fall, and their experience will become that of the hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. Gods, [F.124.b] you must therefore be extremely careful about this!
“ ‘In summary, the Dharma that has been taught by as many buddhas as there are sand grains in the river Gaṅgā, that which brings liberation from cyclic existence, is precisely this: Due to the condition of ignorance there will be formation; due to the condition of formation there will be consciousness; due to the condition of consciousness there will be name and form; due to the condition of name and form there will be the six sense sources; due to the condition of the six sense sources there will be contact; due to the condition of contact there will be sensation; due to the condition of sensation there will be craving; due to the condition of craving there will be grasping; due to the condition of grasping there will be becoming; due to the condition of becoming there will be birth; and due to the condition of birth there will be old age and death, grief, lamentation, suffering, distress, and disturbance. This entire great mass of suffering arises in that way. Furthermore, when ignorance ceases, formation will cease; when formation ceases, consciousness will cease; when consciousness ceases, name and form will cease; when name and form cease, the six sense sources will cease; when the six sense sources cease, contact will cease; when contact ceases, sensation will cease; when sensation ceases, craving will cease; when craving ceases, grasping will cease; when grasping ceases, becoming will cease; when becoming ceases, birth will cease; and when birth ceases, old age and death, grief, lamentation, suffering, distress, and disturbance will all cease. This entire great mass of suffering ceases in that way.
“ ‘Therefore, gods, by seeing and understanding this process of the evolution and reversal of cyclic existence, one will bring the afflictions to their point of exhaustion and achieve liberation and what is known as the transcendence of suffering—that which is indestructible, permanent, never aging, deathless, and free from defilements. This, gods, is how living beings [F.125.a] achieve liberation from cyclic existence.
“ ‘Other than this, nothing that is conditioned can likewise be indestructible, inexhaustible, unaffected by dissipation, or capable of lasting throughout all lives. No such thing can be found within cyclic existence. Nowhere is there lasting happiness, freedom from falling, or an absence of exhaustion and destruction. There is nothing that does not cease once it has arisen.’
“When they have heard these words from Śakra, those gods who in their past lives trained their minds and delighted in the sacred Dharma, but whose minds were nevertheless extremely feeble, will now begin to take care. They will develop single-pointed faith in the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha, and plant the seed of the transcendence of suffering by engaging in actions that lead to bliss. Those who have not trained their minds, on the other hand, will once more become careless and disturbed. Fooled by craving, they will again pursue the enjoyment of their wealth of divine pleasures of the five senses. Thus, those who are deceived will play and enjoy themselves, and there will be no end to their suffering in cyclic existence.
“When Śakra, king of the gods, has taught the Dharma, the four guardians of the world will come to the divine assembly hall of Sudharma looking for Śakra, king of the gods, and his retinue of gods. From a distance they will see him residing upon his throne, surrounded by his divine retinue, blazing with splendor and endowed with the incomparable pleasures of the gods. The four guardians will then approach. As they come before Śakra, they will address him sincerely and take their places upon supremely delightful, divine seats. After a while they will then rise from their supremely delightful, divine seats and, [F.125.b] facing Śakra, they will address him as follows: ‘Ruler of the gods, in Jambudvīpa people endeavor in the ten virtuous actions and they delight in the sacred Dharma. They respect their mothers, their fathers, mendicants, and brahmins, and they are respectful toward the elders in their families. Ruler of the gods, we request that you rejoice!’
“Having heard these words, Śakra, ruler of the gods, will reply, ‘Gods, I am happy. Great kings, you guard the world, and you truly enact your wishes to benefit the world. Now that you have heard that I am happy, you should be delighted too.’
“The guardians of the world will also inform Śakra about people who are unrighteous and pursue improper activities. In this regard, they will say, ‘In Jambudvīpa there are unrighteous people who pursue improper activities. They do not respect their mothers, their fathers, mendicants, or brahmins, and they do not follow the elders of their families. The forces of the māras are flourishing and the forces of the sacred Dharma are waning.’
“When he hears such words, Śakra, king of the gods, will summon the gods of the Heaven of the Four Great Kings and of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three who are inclined toward him. Then he will say to them, ‘Firm, Overjoyed, and other such asuras have risen from the world below. Along with the unrighteous nāgas, such as Pramatha, they are on their way to wage war with us. Gods, prepare yourselves!’
“As instructed by Śakra, the gods of the Four Great Kings will then quickly take up their various arms and weapons, just as described earlier, and so they will proceed to Moon Mountain. Then the guardians of the world will set out, as will Śakra, ruler of gods. Śakra will proceed surrounded by a gathering of various gods that are [F.126.a] all in the prime of their youth and adorned with divine garlands, garments, and ornaments. Thus, followed by goddesses and surrounded by gods, he will proceed with his entire gathering to the forest known as Endowed with Everything.
“Compared to other parks, this one is like Mount Sumeru compared to a single hair.287 It stands out just as the moon encircled by planets and stars, the sun surrounded by planets, or Mount Sumeru surrounded by a thousand golden mountains. The beautiful trees in this forest display divine colors of gold, silver, beryl, sapphire, and ruby, and the garden is adorned with divine flowers. Flocks of delightful songbirds flutter about in this park, which also features exquisite ponds full of divine lotus flowers. This great park is where Airāvaṇa, Śakra’s elephant, plays with his elephant cows in the ponds, as described previously. Within groves of beryl lotuses, he frolics with his elephant cows. Just as Śakra, king of the gods, is attended to by various groups of gods and goddesses, so the king of elephants enjoys a similar situation. Among lotuses of refined gold that beautify him with a wonderful light that resembles the dawn of a hundred thousand suns, he enjoys himself, reveling and frolicking. Although he is an animal, he nevertheless experiences divine pleasures.
“When Śakra, king of the gods, arrives at the ponds, he will massage and stroke Airāvaṇa with both his hands and say, ‘Ah, my king of elephants is needed in this war. When the gods and asuras fight, I shall ride him to victory.’ [F.126.b]
“Once he has wiped down the supreme elephant, Śakra will proceed toward the mansion known as Freedom from Suffering, which is located within that same forest. Surrounded by his retinue of gods and goddesses, he will ascend the stairway to the mansion, which forms a bridge across the water, and then enter the palace. Inside the mansion, the king of gods will proceed to frolic and enjoy himself along with nine hundred million goddesses. Together they will romp, take pleasure, and revel in their exquisite endowments of divine pleasures of the five senses.
“In this manner, the king of the gods experiences enjoyments in accordance with his own karmic actions. The gods and their king will continue to enjoy every pleasure within the hundreds of parks at the divine assembly hall of Sudharma, until finally their completed and accumulated desirable, attractive, and delightful acts, which are to be distinctly experienced in a blissful karmic ripening, have come to exhaustion. Until that point, they will keep playing and enjoying themselves to the tune of music from the five types of instruments. Once they die at the divine assembly hall of Sudharma, they will, in accordance with their karmic actions that remain to be experienced, be born among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. If they are born as humans, in accordance with their causal actions they will have perfect happiness and pure intellects. They will become leaders of families, towns, lands, and cities. They will also be born as friends and family and live happily together.
“In the case of the king of gods himself, the passage to the lower realms is blocked. Still, when he has examined the deaths and rebirths of the other gods, he will utter the following verses: [F.127.a]
“When Śakra has thus seen how the impermanent gods keep being born and dying, he will utter the following verses so that they may understand:
“Thus, with a stainless mind marked by this seal, the ruler praises the Blessed One. Afterward, he will once again pursue the enjoyment of divine pleasures and thus experience all the pleasures of the gods.
The Gods in Dwelling in the Lofty
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so correctly perceive a realm within the Heaven of the Thirty-Three known as Dwelling in the Lofty. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born among the gods there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing. He will then notice how someone may convince a murderer to observe the discipline of giving up killing for even a single day. Such a person may also cause those who wish to become free from cyclic existence to give up the small fruits that result from stealing, while subsequently living in fear of royal punishment. When such people later separate from their bodies, they will go to the joyful higher realms, taking birth among the gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, within the realm of Dwelling in the Lofty.
“Dwelling in the Lofty is situated on the higher reaches of Mount Sumeru. One’s karmic actions cause different appearances, and this realm is distinguished by bright gold and silver. Once the gods have ascended to Dwelling in the Lofty, they have a view of the entirety of the slopes of Mount Sumeru and its many, distinct features of gold, silver, and beryl. Wearing divine garlands and garments, they will then enjoy themselves and frolic upon the ground that is adorned with gold. Surrounded by beautiful goddesses [F.128.a] they will enjoy themselves and romp within the forests and parks.
“Rivers of nourishment and beverages flow constantly in that realm. Thus, there are the River of Sweet Taste, River of Strong Current, River of Enjoyments, River of Great Enjoyments, River of Layered Flows, River of Strong Garlands, River of a Thousand Flows, and the River of Free Flow. Those rivers all flow with an abundance of different drinks that are of different tastes and colors and are free from the detrimental side effects of intoxication. Some are colored like milk and others like ruby, lapis lazuli, beryl, and gold. Still others have mixed colors. Thus, the waters of those delicious and constant rivers flow in an exceptional way.
“The realm also abounds with delicious edibles having a wide range of fragrances and colors. Sweet like sugarcane, they are endowed with heavenly fragrances. They come in strong and light colors and can yield whichever taste one may desire. Thus, the gods enjoy food with flavors corresponding exactly to their wishes.
“In the groves and forests of that realm grow beautiful and deliciously fragrant flowers, and many kinds of colorful birds live there. In those lovely lands the gods and goddesses play cymbals, sing, and dance, and thus play, enjoy themselves, and rollick. In the forests are groves of śāla trees, great śāla trees, wish-fulfilling trees, constantly blooming trees, and trees through which the wind blows delightfully according to one’s wishes. The trees in those endearing groves are decorated with golden twigs, [F.128.b] draped with nets of big and small bells, and are home to hundreds of thousands of songbirds. Within those groves the gods and their ruler are sustained by the pleasures of the five senses.
“The gods are all friends with one another, and they pursue only enjoyments. All are free from disease and suffering, hunger and thirst. Their bodies never tire, and they remain free from the discomforts of exertion. Thus, they freely pursue their enjoyments, moving and staying as they please within the enrapturing forests, pleasure gardens, and lotus groves.
“The gods who are thus satisfied by the pleasures of the five senses within Dwelling in the Lofty have luminous bodies that they can make small, large, or light according to their wishes. They go as they please, wherever they please, and just as they please. They obtain whatever they wish for, and whatever they obtain cannot be taken away from them by anyone, for it will remain under their own control. The gods in Dwelling in the Lofty partake of many more pleasures beyond this, and so, propelled by the causal relations of their own positive actions, they continue to enjoy themselves and frolic with the gatherings of goddesses until finally the desirable, attractive, and delightful results of observing discipline, giving up killing, and refraining from stealing have been exhausted. Once that happens, they will die and leave their divine world.
“After their death they will take birth in adherence to, in reliance on, and in accordance with their own karmic actions, and so they may be born among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. Should they instead be born with the general lot in life of humans, they will, in accordance with their causal actions, become mountain dwellers who live in constant happiness. They will be extremely wealthy and enjoy tremendous pleasures. Their bodies will be exquisite, and they will live in excellent places within groves that are both warm and cool. [F.129.a]
The Gods in Dwelling on Summits
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so correctly perceive a god realm known as Dwelling on Summits. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born among the gods there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing. He will then notice how some people may observe a dual discipline of the body, having given up killing others and having set others free from bondage. Endowed with great power and capacity, such a person may set out on a journey and while on the road come to suffer from hunger and thirst. Still, even if he passes by a sugarcane field, an orchard, or an encampment of shepherds, he will refrain from stealing any milk or sugarcane juice, and he will remain fearful of killing and stealing. When such a holy person, who has set other beings free, later separates from his body, he will go to the joyful higher realms and be born among the gods in Dwelling on Summits within the Heaven of the Thirty-Three.
“Born there such people will have abundant enjoyments. They will chase after the numerous objects there, which will seem like rivers, and their desires will likewise appear with the strength of a river. In this way, they will live within a river of desire and an expanse of conceit, and they will remain attached to the island of gratification. Their enjoyments will be like wellsprings and their thoughts like waves. The beautiful forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures that they encounter will be like beautiful birds. However, their views will be like ferocious crocodiles that confine them in numerous ways. Thus, within their forests and parks, rivers in which swim the fish of envy will surround them. These gods are unable to cross these rivers of excitement that flow from the mountains of many objects. They are unable to escape from these muddy rivers of craving.288
“The waves on the far side of the river Gaṅgā are impossible to see. Similarly, since time without beginning, those gods have been submerged in a deep current. [F.129.b] In the realms of desire, form, and formlessness, they have been ravaged by the waves of birth, old age, death, grief, lamentation, suffering, distress, and disturbance. That swiftly running river of craving is the cause of life in hell and, just as humans are incapable of contentment, so also the gods in Dwelling on Summits are driven by a river-like craving. Thus, attended to by gatherings of goddesses and richly endowed with divine pleasures of the five senses, they enjoy themselves, frolic, and revel.
“In that realm stand the following forests: Constantly Ravishing, Constant True Joy, Cloud-Like White Array, Joyous in All Regards, Moon-Like, and Flowing above the Gaṅgā—those are the forests of the gods of Dwelling on Summits. Within them, the gods experience numerous pleasures, and they frolic and revel together with exuberant females. The rivers that they drink from are known as Diversity, Massaged and Touched with the Palm of the Hand, Insatiable, Kumuda Flowers, and Growing Utpalas. All of them have mountains on both banks. Flowering fruit trees of silver, crystal, and gold embellish the delightful divine ground that has manifested through various virtuous activities and performed karmic actions. In those forests, by those rivers, and upon that ground, food and beverages flow like rivers. [F.130.a] This is where these gods enjoy themselves with divine music, divine dwellings, and divine garments of unwoven fabrics.
“The bodies of these gods are luminous and without flesh, bones, pus, or blood. Their bodies, voices, and minds are free from weariness, and they remain thoroughly at ease in both body and mind. Thus, they continue to enjoy themselves, frolicking and reveling, until finally their virtuous physical and verbal acts, which are desirable, attractive, delightful, and cooling, and which yield a supremely blissful ripening that is only experienced in the higher realms, have been exhausted. Once that happens, they will die, leave their divine world, and take birth among hell beings, animals, or starving spirits. Alternatively, karmic actions to be experienced in other lives that produce a human existence may cause them to take birth as humans. In that case they will, in accordance with their causal actions, enjoy constant mental happiness and have playful thoughts. They will sport and frolic and be born in an excellent land.
The Gods in Dwelling in Excellent View
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will wonder which other places those gods may live in. When he examines this matter with knowledge derived from hearing, he will correctly perceive a god realm known as Dwelling in Excellent View. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born among the gods there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing. He will then notice the following instances. People may observe discipline, or they may, without any regard for their own welfare, save the lives or possessions of others who are about to be killed by weapons or who have been taken by a river. Alternatively, some people may suffer from hunger when traveling. Even though others may encourage them to steal, they refrain from doing so. Other people may find themselves in the wilderness, fearing for their survival. Even so, they will not begin to collect fruits and roots unless they have received permission to do so. [F.130.b] Such beings fear becoming disrespectful toward the observance of discipline and they are frightened of even the smallest infraction of the bases of training. Thus, when such people later separate from their bodies, they will go to the joyful higher realms and be born in the city of Excellent View.
“The city spans ten thousand leagues and is distinguished by having ten thousand courtyards. The grounds there are made of gold from the Jambu River, and the mansions are made of beryl, silver, gold from the Jambu River, or various sapphires. There are also beautiful thrones made of the seven precious substances. The roads are magnificent, and the road crossings, doors, gates, rooftops, and mansions are all extraordinary. Whenever there is no sunlight, the houses become like lanterns—in such instances, these supreme buildings glow like torches and emit light.
“The city is also decorated with groves and parks, some of which feature beryl trees draped with nets of pearls. In others, the trees are made of gold and draped with nets of silver. Some have silver trees covered with nets of small golden bells. In some parks the trees are of the seven precious substances. In some grow wish-fulfilling trees that provide whatever the gods may want. Some groves are of lapis lazuli and beryl and within them golden birds sing beautifully in many ways. Within groves of golden trees, silver-colored birds sing and play. Within groves of sapphire, stunning ruby-colored birds sing delightfully and play. Within groves of golden trees, birds with variegated bodies sing beautifully and play. [F.131.a] Such are the parks that adorn the city of Excellent View.
“The beautiful roads and golden houses are decorated with pillars of silver and beryl trees. Along golden roads stand columns of beryl, golden trees, and houses of gold. Where the roads and homes beautifully meet, there are golden birds. In these ways, the beautiful city of Excellent View displays incomparable wonders.
“Furthermore, the city is adorned with four great forests, known as Net Garland, Great Trees, Luminosity, and Delightful to Behold. All of them measure two hundred fifty leagues and within them flow tens of thousands of streams with golden embankments. The streams are extremely delightful, and their firm banks are adorned with gold, silver, crystal, beryl, and gorgeous trees. Swarms of beautiful bees with beryl wings and silver bodies zip around in the forests, and their humming is so melodious that the sound of any human flute cannot match even a sixteenth of their beauty. The beryl trees grow golden fruits that are extremely fragrant—much more so than any herb—and their fragrance can be sensed within a league. The birds that live there are infatuated by their very nature, and yet when they smell the fruits their infatuation increases a hundredfold. From the golden trees grow silver fruits, of heavenly scent and color, endowed with five tastes. On trees with beryl trunks grow leaves of gold and multicolored fruits. Thus, the forests are endowed with copious colors and various extraordinary features, transcending all comparisons. [F.131.b] Such forests surround the great city of Excellent View.
“Like a painting created by thought, all of these features manifest due to the gods’ prior engagement in numerous divine karmic actions, and thus the effects manifest in accordance with their causal actions. As long as the seeds are present, the effects will keep manifesting, and so the gods in the city of Excellent View are carried away by their sundry pleasures.
“By its very nature the city is excellent to behold. Its trees and mansions are adorned with gold and various types of coral, festooned with nets of small bells, and decked out with nets of golden bells that chime melodiously. Within such groves, parks, and gardens reside the gods of Dwelling in Excellent View. Within this divine city, the ornate buildings resound with music and the ringing of cymbals. The city is filled with gods and goddesses who wear beautiful garlands and partake of beverages, while the wind animates the hundreds of thousands of banners and standards.
“Billions of gods reside in that city on the peak of Mount Sumeru, beautified due to their great karmic actions. The gods are tremendously powerful, worthy of offerings, capable of great miraculous feats, and always delighting289 in the pleasures of their parks. Without exception, Śakra knows all the billions of gods and goddesses that have assembled in hundreds of thousands of divine gatherings there.
“When the gods in the heavenly city of Excellent View go to pursue the delights of the parks, they travel in hundreds of thousands of chariots decorated with numerous stunning banners and standards. Thus, they travel in a display [F.132.a] of billions of beautiful, colorful shapes. Some of their chariots are made of beryl and are equipped with drawbars of ruby. Their interiors are of coral and the outer structure of beryl. The platforms are of gold and the chariots are festooned with small bells that ring beautifully. These gods also travel in other fine chariots. In some chariots the drawbars are of gold and the sidings are made of pearl. The platforms are of coral, the outer structures are decorated with emerald, the sides are of coral, and the shafts of silver. Other gods travel in supreme chariots in which the drawbars are of gold, the sides draped with pearls, the platforms studded with rubies, the shafts of silver, and the chariots overall decorated with coral. Thus the gods travel to their parks, riding in many hundreds of thousands of such brilliant chariots that are endowed with incomparable features. From poles of silver fly banners of gold. Banners are attached to poles of ruby. Banners and standards of bountiful colors are raised to the sky, one next to the other. Thus, it is in sheer joy that the gods travel to the four great gardens to partake of enjoyments. They travel to the accompaniment of hundreds of thousands of instruments that play many different musical melodies, all of them distinguished by exceptionally excellent and delightful qualities. [F.132.b]
“In accordance with their individual inferior, intermediate, or great karmic deeds, they proceed blissfully on their journey. Thus, each god is surrounded by a hundred, a thousand, or a hundred thousand goddesses who dance, sing, joke, and play beautiful music of the five instruments. Accompanied by such offering goddesses, they proceed to the great parks. The goddesses are endowed with divine pleasures of the five senses, and as they meet with the gods, they dance, flirt, and play. In this way the gods develop attachment to pleasure and thus they frolic. Heavenly music fills the jungles as the gods revel in their divine enjoyments on their way to the parks.
“Some travel through the sky as if they were dark, beryl-colored clouds. Adorned with various ornaments, garments, and attire, these supreme gods converse merrily as they fill the sky on their way to the great forests.
“Other supreme gods travel on the golden ground, riding their hundreds of thousands of chariots and raising golden dust to fill the sky. Although the golden dust colors the atmosphere, it does not stick to the gods, except for the faces and garments of those who are coming close to the time of their death. When the other gods see the dust settling in that way, they will regard it as an omen of death. Recognizing that the suffering of death is endless, they will become overwhelmed by pity and so utter the following verses:
“In this way, those gods who are less absorbed in carelessness and who previously have been accustomed to practicing roots of virtue will notice the obstacles of the gods and instruct both themselves and other gods. Meanwhile, as those words are spoken, the gods will keep advancing, riding numerous chariots draped with nets of bells. They shine in their numerous garments and are impressively adorned with divine garlands, garments, and ornaments of pure gold. As they thus proceed, they reduce thousands of the peaks upon Mount Sumeru to dust.
“The gods there will be aware of the other gods approaching. Some travel through the sky [F.133.b] while others journey upon the surface of the earth. Some travel in chariots pulled along by birds, and some sing and dance together with the goddesses. They will approach the divine lotuses, trees, rivers, birds, fruits, flowers, jewels, and the supremely delightful groves and parks. Traveling in these ways in their chariots, the gods of Excellent View will arrive among the golden trees that shine like the sun. Those that travel through the sky will descend and enter the park. Upon arrival, the gods will gather and play instruments, sing, and perform various joyful dances. Rollicking among each other, they will befriend one another and enjoy themselves without any sense of envy. They will dance, play, and revel.
“Their music is played in the following five ways: using string instruments, drums, cymbals, flutes, and songs. To the sounds of such music, they enjoy food and drink that flow like rivers. In this way, the gods and goddesses enjoy one another’s company as they frolic within the forest. The trees there bear beautiful fruits of beryl and gold, strikingly colored and endowed with a sweet, honey-like taste. Inebriated by the taste of these fruits, the gods will long enjoy themselves together with lovely goddesses of flawless beauty.
“These blissfully infatuated gods and goddesses dance, sing, and joke with one another. When the gods who are servants and followers of Śakra hear their music, they will gather and go before their ruler. Approaching him respectfully, [F.134.a] they will all address him sincerely. With joined palms they will speak to the ruler of the gods in the following way: ‘Ruler of the gods, the gods who live in Excellent View have all gone to celebrate in the parks. Ruler of the gods, we request that you be aware of this.’
“When Śakra hears this, he will tell the gods, ‘We shall also go to the park where the gods of Excellent View are. Prepare yourselves to leave.’
“Thus, when Śakra has heard the news, the gods who live at Sudharma will set out in their various chariots. Some ride golden chariots that have beryl shafts and are equipped with standards. Some ride beryl chariots with shafts of gold. Some ride colorful chariots made of the seven precious substances and adorned with standards. Some ride chariots pulled by extremely beautiful golden birds with lovely voices. Some fetch colorful horses with harmonious and agreeable gaits, attach their chariots to them, and thus travel in chariots drawn by horses. There are also some who ride on golden geese whose legs are of beryl and whose feathers are the color of ruby. Thus, the gods travel with Śakra, ruler of gods, to the city of Excellent View and its parks. Other gods ride on peacocks whose bodies are of the seven precious substances. If even in the world of humans the array of a peacock’s feathers constitutes a perfect form, it goes without saying that this is also the case in the heavens that are adorned by the exceptionally positive, karmic actions of the gods. The exquisite colors and designs of the divine peacocks cannot be illustrated by any example. Thus, the gods proceed on their mounts toward the groves and parks of Excellent View. To the sounds of music and song, [F.134.b] the merry, playful, and frolicking gods will proceed to the pleasure garden where the inebriated gods of Excellent View reside.
“The chariot of Śakra, king of the gods, has four wheels, each of which has a thousand spokes. The chariot is made of the following seven precious substances: lapis lazuli, ruby, emerald, coral, vajra, crystal, and golden ornaments. Śakra’s supreme chariot is drawn by a thousand swans also made of the seven precious substances. Fully mature and endowed with the finest bodies and caparisons, the swans resemble golden lotuses in bloom, and their voices are so endearing that before them even the songs of goddesses seem unpleasant. Such swans pull Śakra’s chariot as he travels. The chariot is also decorated with five hundred streamers in sundry colors that are attached to poles of beryl, gold, and silver. Thus, the streamers display beautiful colors of blue, yellow, madder, red, and white.
“When the king of the gods in this way rides his chariot, numerous hosts of singing goddesses accompany it, and in front of the chariot travel numerous singing gods, journeying through the sky and upon the surface of the earth in successive groups. Everyone moves as they wish and as they please, enjoying their divine delights to the accompaniment of the five types of instruments. In this fashion, such happy ones proceed to the city of Excellent View and its parks.
“When the other gods see the approaching travel party, they will begin to dance, laugh, rollick, and play music. Picking up various lotuses with stalks of beryl, the gods of the city of Excellent View will emerge from the parks to greet Śakra, king of the gods, and the gods in his traveling party.
“At this point Śakra will say, ‘Come before me. [F.135.a] It is good for you to play with one another.’ In reverence of the command of Śakra, the gods will then rush toward the gods of Excellent View in order to receive water. The goddesses will also rush forth to receive water from the inhabitants of Excellent View. In this way, the goddesses that live in Excellent View and those that live in Sudharma run toward each other. The gods will receive petals of golden lotus flowers from one another and then rush to the parks, all the while joking and playing with each other.
“Moving and abiding in the air, Śakra will watch the gods and goddesses as they play with lotus flowers. Even when they have romped around in the water for a long time, the gods still will not have had enough, and so once again they begin to play with the lotus flowers. The gods and goddesses will then play together among the lotuses. Some will play with golden lotuses, others with lotuses that have anthers of beryl and gold, and others again with lotuses that have anthers of various sorts.
“When in this way they have long played and enjoyed themselves with one another, they will then proceed to the fruit orchards. There they will pick up ripe fruits and playfully toss them at each other. Once they are done playing in the orchard, they will next go to a wine grove to partake of drinks that are free from detrimental side effects of intoxication and do not cause dismay. The wines are perfectly delicious, and their tastes adjust themselves to the individual preferences of the gods. Śakra, king of the gods, will then dismount his perfect chariot and proceed to the park, where he takes a seat among the gods. When the gods see that their ruler has arrived, they become delighted and pay homage to him. [B32] Everyone will then join their palms above their heads and worship the ruler of the gods, saying, ‘When the ruler of the gods thus remains present, our lives bear fruit. [F.135.b] Śakra, king of the gods, sustains and provides for us in a way that surpasses even that of parents.’ In this manner, they will properly venerate Śakra. In response, Śakra will say, ‘You are like my children and my siblings,’ and thus they will properly venerate one another. Then they will again stray into carelessness and remain that way.
“In this way, they will roam through the groves and parks where flocks of birds warble, streams and rivers flow, and beautiful shrubs and bushes embellish the landscape. Rivers of gold there are adorned with lotus groves and parks. The ground is even, soft, and without roughness, yet the landscape undulates delightfully and is studded with gorgeous trees of beryl, gold, silver, and crystal. Food and drink flow like rivers and there is an abundance of fruits. Mandārava flowers, lotuses, and other magnificent flowers adorn the land. Within the thicket, divine men and women engage in joking, playing, and rollicking. The five types of instruments can be heard throughout the parks where the gods and goddesses thus partake of divine food and are pleased by divine objects of the five senses.
“When the inhabitants of Excellent View and Sudharma have enjoyed themselves in this way, they will return to their respective places, and there continue to be merry until finally their completed and accumulated acts with desirable, attractive, delightful consequences have been exhausted. Once that happens, they will die, leave their divine world, and take birth among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals in accordance with their karmic actions. If, due to karmic actions to be experienced in other lives, they should be born with the general lot in life of a human, they will, in accordance with those causal karmic actions, live in tremendous, constant happiness. Their intellects will be flawless, and they will be fond of music, dance, singing, joking, and playing. They will always delight in merriment, food, and drink, [F.136.a] taking pleasure in copious foods and beverages. They will not be susceptible to epidemics or contagious diseases but live free from suffering.
The Gods in Dwelling in One Direction
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine the realm of the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and thus correctly perceive a god realm known as Dwelling in One Direction. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born among the gods there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing. He will then notice how a disciplined person whose possessions are extremely few and of low quality may take the valuables and food of others. Despite his intense suffering, such a person may then not only give the things he obtains to his children and spouse, but with a well-trained mind, he may also distribute these things among others who are afflicted, and who resort to begging, are destitute, and without a protector. However, because of his attachment to the pleasures of a sexual relationship with someone else’s spouse, that person may then be apprehended and served a death sentence. Thus, he may be delivered into the hands of his executioners and led through the southern gate on the way to the place of execution. Still, in the midst of such calamity, he may succeed in escaping. When later such a person separates from his body, he will go to the joyful higher realms and be born among the gods in Dwelling in One Direction.
“Due to their accomplishment of positive actions and their extremely virtuous, great deeds, those who are born in that realm will have luminous bodies that are radiant like the sun. Shining in colors of blue, yellow, madder, green, and white, this natural light of their bodies is ten times stronger than that of all the other gods. As an analogy, while the planets and stars shine their light on Jambudvīpa, the moon is still more luminous. [F.136.b] Thus, the natural light from the bodies of these gods illumines and adorns their entire realm. When the gods who have such superb bodies examine their extraordinary features, they find that next to them all other gods seem like nothing more than fireflies.
“As soon as a god is born in that realm, all the goddesses will come to see him. Moreover, as soon as he is born, all his ornaments will manifest. Thus, the newly born god will be in possession of a great sapphire crown jewel that casts its light across a league, outshining any other light in the heavens and all jewels elsewhere. Just as the rising sun outshines the glow of fireflies, so these gods outshine all others.
“From the moment they are born, these gods will bear a crown of the seven precious substances that shines a gorgeous light across a hundred leagues, radiating brilliant colors of blue, yellow, madder, green, and white. Next will appear a necklace adorned with the seven precious substances and then a garland studded with diamonds. Thereafter manifests a belt in the colors of the rainbow, and finally shoes that are studded with the seven precious substances and that radiate variegated light. Whenever the god thinks, ‘I, of such and such a name, wish to travel through the sky,’ these boots will carry him wherever he pleases, and he will travel entirely free from any weariness or harm. After the boots will appear a luminous garment made of various unwoven fabrics. [F.137.a] By the light that shines from this garment, their already delightful, heavenly realm will now become even more pleasurable.
“Upon their birth the gods will wonder, ‘What actions could have caused me to take birth here?’ As they examine this question further, they will notice their previous positive and negative actions performed in Jambudvīpa, and how on that basis they have entered into their present experience. Thus, they will think, ‘Positive actions caused me to be born here—it didn’t just happen for no reason.’
“As soon as a god has had this thought, numerous youthful goddesses of perfect physique will appear. The sound produced by their jewelry is as melodious as that of the music of the five instruments in the world of humans. Their delicious fragrance can be sensed across two leagues, outstripping the aroma of any flower. To the satisfaction and joy of everyone, the beauty and youthfulness of the goddesses is unprecedented, and even the quality of their garments will seem better than before. Because of their past positive acts, the gods emit a light that makes the bodies of the goddesses blossom to their fullest, just like the light of the rising sun opens all flowers and makes them bloom. Thus, as the light of the gods touches the goddesses, everyone smiles and indulges in joyous carousing. Placing the goddesses on their laps, the gods carry them gracefully away into the groves and parks. Once there, the goddesses play various instruments before the gods and delight them with smiles as they gaze upon them. This is how they enter the groves and parks.
“In that heavenly realm, the following forests can be found. The Forest of Marvelous Lotuses is such that whenever a god places either of his feet on the ground, a lotus will grow forth that has a beryl stalk, a diamond sprout, a core of gold, [F.137.b] and soft leaves and petals and is adorned by beautiful bees. When he lifts a foot and places it somewhere else, a new lotus will appear and the previous one will disappear.
“From there the gods will go to the Honey Water Forest, which is thick with divine golden trees dripping with heavenly wine. The greatest among the gods will drink from this wine that is of divine taste and aroma, and he will then invite the other gods to also drink this honey that is free of any of the detrimental side effects of intoxication and of unprecedented bouquet and taste.
“Once they have drunk from the wine, they will proceed to the forest of Triple Beauty. No analogy can be given for this Triple Beauty. The warbling of the birds, the humming of the bees, and the music of the goddesses are unlike anything else. Within that forest of Triple Beauty, the gods promenade among the parks, lotus pools, and ponds, enjoying themselves, reveling, and rollicking.
“Listening to the many different songs of the birds, and insatiably enjoying the sense pleasures, the minds of these gods are burned by the fire of craving. In this way they continue to enjoy themselves until finally their positive karmic actions have been exhausted. Once that happens, they will die and leave their divine world. Tied by the chains of karmic action, they will be impelled by their own past actions to take birth among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. If, due to karmic actions to be experienced as a human, they should instead take birth among humans, they will, in accordance with their causal actions, enjoy perfect physiques, be born in excellent families, and possess outstanding qualities. They will have perfect happiness, provide for their own needs, be independent of others, and do as they please. They will be free from sickness, harm, or discomfort and enjoy tremendous wealth. [F.138.a] They will be born during threefold endowment, or within a family of leaders, as someone in charge of half a country, as a regent, or as an exceedingly rich businessperson who possesses wealth, grain, gold, and silver in abundance.
The Gods in Dwelling in Forests
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine the realms of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so correctly perceive a realm of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three known as Dwelling in Forests. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born among the gods there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing. He will then notice how a person who has apprehended a thief that could rightfully be punished may refrain from punishing or harming that thief due to fear of what lies beyond this world. With a wish to benefit others, and out of loving concern, such a person may also work to release thieves that are held by others, offering them a bed, bedding, medicine, and household articles and helping them attain what they need.
“Such people would also never knowingly steal anything themselves. They will speak gently, in few words, and in a way that is helpful. They will respectfully bow to the Buddha every day, paying homage and offering flowers or incense while bringing his qualities to mind. They will also physically express veneration for the gurus, rising quickly and bowing with respect. They will always speak pleasantly, and when they see unwholesome company they will not associate with such persons by having fun, walking, or conversing with them. They will also avoid enjoying themselves together with people whose minds are afflicted, who are not noble, and who are shunned by the world. Instead they will look straight ahead and refrain from not sitting down with such people. They will have proper regard for elders and respect them. They will have love for sentient beings and not cause pain to others. They will be praised by the whole world and themselves show respect for those who speak pleasantly [F.138.b] and gently. They will be endowed with a discipline of proper discernment, and they will not unjustly harm male or female servants, employees, or workers. They will refrain from overeating and letting themselves go. They will refrain from living in a harmful way and avoid fits of agitation. They will avoid impure means of livelihood, such as butchery, business, hunting with dogs, trapping, and so on, and they will desist from trading and other forms of non-Dharma. They will have no interest in bars, and they will avoid dependency on women, unwholesome actions, and flawed conduct. They will avoid divulging the secrets of others, have no hidden ill will against friends, and avoid making enemies. They will refrain from spying on others and informing the authorities. They will refrain from taking produce from the fields of others, refrain from taxing a population at more than a sixth, and they will not confiscate the fields, water, or property of others. They will refrain from taking fruits that belong to others, whether by day or night, and they will be entirely, partially, or slightly free from the intention to steal.
“What does it mean to be slightly free from the intention to steal? It means to refrain from engagement in the preparatory stage of the act of stealing. Intermediate freedom from such action is to confess what was done, regard it as a mistake, and refrain from such actions in the future. Great freedom from the act of stealing is to avoid engagement in the preparatory stage of the act, prevent others from engaging in it, encourage others to confess such misdeeds, and avoid rejoicing in such acts while disassociating from its perpetrators. Based on the individual degrees of lesser, intermediate, or greater relinquishment of the intent to steal, there will, correspondingly, be lesser, intermediate, and greater effects.
“People who in this way pursue positive actions and give up flaws will, upon separating from their bodies, go to the joyful higher realms and be born among the gods in Dwelling in Forests.
“Once born there, their divine bodies will have no flesh, bones, pus, or blood, [F.139.a] and there is no analogy that could illustrate the bliss they experience. Nevertheless, to provide some slight indication, think of the difference between being born in the Reviving Hell and being a universal monarch of the golden wheel, a human who experiences the pleasures of the gods and possesses all the seven precious substances that exist on the four continents. That may provide a slight indication about the gods of Dwelling in Forests.
“Dwelling in Forests extends across three thousand leagues on top of Mount Sumeru. The realm is adorned with glorious divine trees of the seven precious substances and features beautiful rivers. In the forest known as Action grow trees of gold. When the gods wish to go somewhere, they think, ‘Let the trees follow us!’ As soon as they develop such a wish, the gods of Dwelling in Forests will be followed by the trees wherever they may go. Just as, for example, the wheel of the universal monarch begins to travel through the sky as soon as the monarch wants it to, so the trees will journey through the sky whenever the gods want them to. They will also descend to the ground wherever the gods want them to. Thus, the trees will move from one place to the next, just as a flock of birds may fly to a place, stay there for some time, and then fly off to another. This is one of the powers of the gods of Dwelling in Forests, generated by their own karmic actions.
“Another such power of their positive actions causes birds that warble as beautifully as music of the five types of instruments to follow them wherever they go. The power of their positive karmic actions is also such that, wherever the gods may desire to travel, there will be lotus ponds alive with humming bees and beautiful golden swans, [F.139.b] ducks, and yellow geese. When, adorned with divine garlands and garments, the gods of Dwelling in Forests travel through the sky, the power of their positive actions will also make lotuses with beryl stalks appear. These lotuses have a thousand petals, and upon each of these lotuses is a goddess to whom the gods will flock. Once the gods in Dwelling in Forests thus reside within such divine lotuses, the power of their positive karmic actions will make vessels filled with divine beverages appear from the sky and pass into their hands. The gods and goddesses will then drink together and be happy, singing songs and cavorting until they decide to go somewhere else. The power of the positive actions of the gods in Dwelling in Forests also lets them obtain whatever they wish for. Whenever they wish to travel from one divine abode to another, the mountain or peak where they arrive will have divine flowers and fruits, perfect rivers, and exquisite groves and parks. All such things will manifest out of the sky. Together with the goddesses that surround them, the gods in this realm sing songs to the accompaniment of music of the five instruments as they travel through space from one place to the next.
“Whenever the gods dwelling at Sudharma and Excellent View catch sight of this joyous and lofty abode, they feel just as a traveling human in Jambudvīpa would feel if he happened to come upon a divine palace. The gods of Sudharma and Excellent View will then say to each other, ‘Oh, the gods of Dwelling in Forests enjoy such supreme pleasures. Their bliss is far greater than ours, as they revel to the tune of music from the five instruments, going and [F.140.a] staying wherever they like, roaming unhindered from place to place.’
“Śakra, king of the gods, will then take his seat upon a thousand-petaled lotus flower that has a stalk of divine gold and beryl. Sitting there together with the fine goddesses, he will travel through the sky. Produced by positive karmic actions, Śakra’s delightful lotus flower is delightful in the following ways: upon each of its petals perch five goddesses adorned with divine garlands, garments, and gold ornaments. Playing the music of the five instruments, the goddesses are totally elated and ecstatic, all of them facing toward Śakra. All the goddesses are completely infatuated by their own exquisite forms and youthfulness. Thus, together with Śakra, all of these goddesses glide across the sky to the realm of Dwelling in Forests.
“When the gods in Dwelling in Forests see Śakra, they are overjoyed. Descending from their abodes, as described before, they will come forth to welcome Śakra, king of the gods. Bowing their heads to the ground before him, they will offer him praises. The gods that serve Śakra and the inhabitants of Dwelling in Forests will then gather around Śakra in utter joy and accompany him across the sky as he travels to whichever pleasure garden, mountain peak, forest, grove, lotus pool, or other destination he may wish to visit. When the followers of Śakra have frolicked for a long time, they will return to their realm, coming back in the same way as they left. Śakra will then proceed to the divine assembly hall of Sudharma.
“Thus, driven to distraction by delightful forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures, these gods continue to enjoy themselves until finally their completed and accumulated acts with desirable, attractive, delightful consequences have been exhausted. Once that happens, they will die, leave their divine world, [F.140.b] and take birth among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals in accordance with their karmic actions. If, due to karmic actions to be experienced in other lives, they should be born with the general lot in life of a human, they will, in accordance with their causal karmic actions, enjoy constant and supreme happiness, never falling ill and always being free from harm. They will be extremely wealthy and enjoy supreme pleasures. Without fear of external armies, they will become the king or regent of one of the subcontinents.
The Gods in Dwelling in Various Chariots
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine the realms of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and thus correctly perceive a realm of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three known as Dwelling in Various Chariots. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born among the gods there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing. He will then notice how an inappropriate king, an inappropriate minister, or other inappropriate people, who are filled with greed and have no fear of karmic action, may prevent the delivery of supplies to the site of a stūpa. However, a holy person who has trained his mind and thoughts may praise the buddhas either by recollecting their qualities or by chanting in an extremely beautiful and clear voice. By doing so, he may prevent this activity or cause such obstructors to be replaced. When such a holy person later separates from his body, he will go to the joyful higher realms and be born among the gods in Dwelling in Various Chariots. Once born there those who engaged in such exceptionally virtuous actions will enjoy themselves, rollick, and revel to the sound of music of the five instruments.
“Birth in that realm may also be the effect of other actions, namely those of giving up killing and stealing. Thus, one may free deer from hunters with dogs, refrain from such hunting oneself, avoid encouraging others to engage in such hunting, and refrain from rejoicing in such hunting. How does this relate to refraining from [F.141.a] and relinquishing theft? This means to avoid punishing others when one has become the ruler, king, or minister of a given place, to cause others to give up such punishment, and to make others abide within what is right or the rule of law. Those are the second kinds of actions that yield birth in Dwelling in Various Chariots.
“The gods in that realm play with various chariots within a forest that measures three thousand leagues. Hence, the name of that realm: Dwelling in Various Chariots. The gods that live in that realm rollick merrily. Among and within the chariots are beautiful lotus flowers of gold and silver with beryl petals. There are also beautiful, fragrant pools where lovely beryl-colored bees swarm around.
“The following colorful features manifest within the forest. In the lotus pools grow flowers with colorful petals, such that some lotuses are half sapphire and half beryl. That is one colorful feature. Other flowers are half beryl and half gold. That is another colorful feature. Another is that some flowers have a hundred petals, half of which are golden and the other half the color of ruby. Another colorful feature is that around lotuses with ruby petals hover golden bees, and around lotuses with silver petals hover ruby bees. Another colorful feature is that lotus stalks of beryl are enveloped in gold, lotus stalks of gold are enveloped in precious substances, lotus stalks of silver are enveloped in coral, and emerald-colored stalks are enveloped in gold from the Jambu River. The lotus pools are studded with different kinds of colorful humming bees. Just as in Jambudvīpa [F.141.b] where the anthers of certain flowers290 always attract numerous bees, the same is the case with the flowers in Dwelling in Various Chariots.
“Thus, positive actions give rise to various realms. Painting with various colors, a master artist in Jambudvīpa, or his accomplished student, may create various petals upon the surface of a wall. This forest is equally full of myriad colors.
“Another colorful feature of Dwelling in Various Chariots is its birds. Their feathers, legs, heads, abdomens, and eyes are of many different colors. Thus, some birds have yellow abdomens with silvery feathers, a ruby-colored back, and eyes the color of the karketana stone. Others have silvery abdomens with golden feathers, beryl-colored eyes with ruby pupils, and multicolored backs. Thus, birds in the colors of the seven precious substances embellish this forest.
“Another colorful feature of Dwelling in Various Chariots is its mountain peaks of sapphire, beryl, coral, karketana, and gold. The radiance of such summits adorns the forest, and so it is full of swirling, mingling light rays. The power of such divine light beautifies the forest tremendously.
“Another colorful feature of the forest concerns the way the twigs and branches intertwine. Thus, three colors may appear when ruby fruits hang from twigs of beryl entwined in twigs of lapis lazuli. Likewise, there are silver twigs encircled by ruby light, twigs of coral and gold are interwoven with twigs of gold, and twigs with the color of karketana may become covered by twigs of silver. [F.142.a] In such ways the twigs may appear in two colors as they intertwine. Other twigs are also of three colors, as beryl twigs may be covered by other twigs in the colors of gold and karketana. Likewise, twigs with the color of karketana may become covered with gold and silver, and silver twigs may be intertwined with lotuses colored like coral and sapphire. Thus, one type of twig is sometimes covered by two others.
“Another colorful feature of the forest of Various Chariots is that golden twigs may bear beryl-colored flowers, just as flowers the color of sapphire may grow on silver twigs, golden twigs may bear karketana flowers, and beryl-colored flowers may grow on coral twigs. Thus, the various twigs bear flowers in a variety of different colors.
“This manifold display is produced by various forms of karmic action, is appropriated by various forms of mind, and accords with various causes. Thus, karmic actions form the causes and bases for the great diversity of the forest of Various Chariots. Just as sprouts grow from their seeds, karmic effects manifest in accordance with their causes. Starting with engagement in propelling actions, and continuing through the features of the recipients, the various forms of attention, and the diverse appropriations—all the effects of distinct karmic actions manifest like the imprint of a seal. Whether in the higher realms or in hell, there is no effect that manifests without a cause, and nobody will ever experience the karmic ripening of acts that were done by another.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions thus examines the vibrant nature of the forest of Various Chariots and its colorful world, [F.142.b] he will ask himself, ‘What actions might the gods engage in within this realm of Various Chariots in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three?’
“As he applies knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how there are times when people are unrighteous and do not pursue the Dharma; when they do not acknowledge their mothers, their fathers, mendicants, or brahmins; when they do not pay respect to the elders of their families; when they do not follow their spiritual teachers; and when they lack trust in the way actions bear karmic consequences, lack the genuine view, and fail to let their actions be preceded by the genuine view. At such times, the evil Māra will be happy, and within the four circles of people who are righteous and follow the Dharma, the following things will transpire.
“A ruler of the world who belongs to the class of the māras and is known as Strife will, together with another such māra by the name of Distractor, distract the minds of those beings who practice the Dharma and cause them to lose interest in listening to the Dharma. A third one, known as Confused Attachment, will make donors and benefactors who practice generosity develop attachment. Thus, he will make them think, ‘If I give to recipients such as mendicants or brahmins, then what shall my children and spouse eat or wear?’ In this way, that third ruler of the world will confuse sentient beings as he roams throughout the world. A fourth ruler of the world, who is of the class of the māras and is known as Misperception, will travel throughout the world and cause those who have gone forth to renege on their resolve. Thus, he will cause them to develop attachment, engage in mundane affairs, enter town, pursue selling and business, develop the desire to look at females, visit bars, fight, create divisions within the saṅgha, and suffer mental trauma due to dreams.
“Whenever those four rulers of the world who belong to the class of the māras succeed in causing people in Jambudvīpa become unrighteous and refrain from pursuing the Dharma, [F.143.a] they will inform the evil Māra, ‘Your Majesty, the forces of the sacred Dharma are waning; the forces of the māras are on the rise!’
“Hearing this message from his followers, the evil Māra will respond, ‘In what ways do our forces grow, and in what ways do the forces of the sacred Dharma wane?’
“To this, they will reply, ‘Your Majesty, in Jambudvīpa people are unrighteous and they pursue non-Dharma. They do not respect their mothers, their fathers, mendicants, or brahmins, and they do not respect the elders of their families. Our desirous attachments subdue them and prevent them from listening to the sacred Dharma. In the dreams of those who aroused the motivation to go forth—that is, those who actually went forth, in addition to householders who took vows and practiced pure conduct—we have conjured up appearances of women and in this way made them suffer those impediments resulting from dreams. We have created attachments in the minds of donors and benefactors who practice generosity, thus making their minds dependent on their children and wives. We have caused people to fight with their friends and caused those who have gone forth to pursue business. We have made people fond of strife, argument, and slander. By such means we have caused the forces of the māras to flourish and made the forces of the sacred Dharma deteriorate.’
“When the evil Māra hears this, he will say to the rulers of the world, ‘Inform Rāhu, Overjoyed, and other such asuras, along with the nāgas such as Pramatha. Tell them to rejoice since the teaching of the buddhas is being destroyed and our forces are flourishing.’ In this way he will dispatch the rulers of the world to travel below the ground.
“The asuras Overjoyed and Vemacitrin [F.143.b] will receive the news with great excitement below the ground, and they will, in turn, inform Pramatha and other unrighteous beings who do not follow the Dharma. Upon hearing this news, the nāgas who inhabit Endowed with Enjoyments will become extremely happy and will create obstacles in the manner described earlier.
“When, as also explained earlier, rulers of the world, such as Virūḍhaka, learn about these things, they will enter the forest of Various Chariots together with Śakra, king of the gods, and the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. They will then call upon the gods and tell them, ‘People say that the gods who side with the māras have become powerful and that asuras such as Vemacitrin and Overjoyed, and nāgas such as Pramatha, are now very powerful indeed. Therefore, it would be right for you gods to assemble all the gods here. When everyone has assembled, we shall all sally forth to wage war on the asuras, traveling in our chariots with jewel ornaments.’
“In response to this all the gods will exclaim, ‘Let it be so!’ They will then proceed to their individual realms to mobilize all the other gods and lead them to the forest of Various Chariots. When everyone has gathered in the parks of Dwelling in Various Chariots, there will be music from the five types of instruments, there will be singing, and everyone will delight in the colorful features of Various Chariots. At the same time, those gods who are permanently dwelling in the forest of Various Chariots will not go to any other parks. Once the ruler of the gods has assembled all the gods in this way, everyone will set out from the forest of Various Chariots.
“The gods who live in the forest of Various Chariots will continue to enjoy themselves until finally their completed and accumulated acts with desirable, attractive, and delightful effects have been exhausted. Once that happens, they will die, leave their divine world, [F.144.a] and take birth among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals, in accordance with their karmic actions. Should they be born with the general lot in life of a human, they will, in accordance with their karmic actions, enjoy constant happiness. From the beginning of their youth until the time of their death, they will bear beautiful flower garlands. They will be fond of various garments and chariots and be popular with everyone. If they take ordination, they will reside upon a lion throne and deliver various Dharma discourses, enrapturing their audience with a multitude of lectures.
The Gods in Dwelling in Enjoyment
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine the realms of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and thus correctly perceive a realm of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three known as Dwelling in Enjoyment. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born among the gods there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing. He will then notice how a holy person with virtuous thoughts may refrain from killing and stealing, avoid encouraging others to engage in such actions, and instead cause others to stop doing so. Thus, such people will themselves refrain from such acts and avoid encouraging others. Should they come to engage in such actions, they will confess them; they will regard their actions as flawed, and they will give up unwholesome company.
“What is understood by abstaining from killing, and what forms does that take? In this context it means to release birds and fish, facilitate the taking of vows, personally disengage from killing, and confess any act of killing. When trappers have captured birds, one may pay them a ransom to release the birds, and one may also encourage others to do the same, making them feel good and enthusiastic about it.
“What is understood by abstaining from stealing? As a tax collector, one may be given a royal command to collect sheep, cows, donkeys, and so forth, from a town, market, village, or cattle enclosure. [F.144.b] However, if one is fearful of breaking one’s vows, one will refrain from stealing. Such a person will, after separating from his body, go to the joyful higher realms and be born among the gods in the forest of Enjoyment within the Heaven of the Thirty-Three.
“There are other actions that produce such a birth. Those who teach the Dharma may delight listeners through a Dharma discourse that is given on an auspicious day and at an appropriate place and time. If the audience listens one-pointedly with great joy, the teacher of the sacred Dharma will, upon separating from his body, go to the joyful higher realms and be born within the forest of Enjoyment. Among all forms of generosity this gift of the Dharma is supreme. When one has separated from one’s body, this will cause one to ascend to the joyful higher realms and be born among the gods in the forest of Enjoyment that lies within the Heaven of the Thirty-Three.
“Once born in that realm one will enjoy many hundreds of thousands of incomparable pleasures. The forest spans three thousand leagues and is adorned with trees of the seven precious substances. Within this forest the gods spend time in constant enjoyment, and they do not travel anywhere else at all. Hence, due to such innate qualities, this is known as the forest of Enjoyment.
“Each of the trees in that forest provides whatever the gods may wish for. Thus, if a god should think, ‘I would like a house,’ there will immediately appear a house on top of the canopy of the trees. The house that the trees thereby produce will be a thousand-pillared mansion adorned with the seven precious substances. Some of the pillars in the building will be made of beryl. Others will be of gold, crystal, karketana, or emerald. [F.145.a] When seeing such a supreme mansion appear on top of the trees’ branches, the god will think, ‘I would like to enter that home by way of a smooth and even path.’ At that very moment, the trees will manifest a path and the god will set out upon it. While ascending along that passage, the god may think, ‘It would also be nice if there were a lotus pond within the building,’ and as soon as he has this thought, there will indeed appear such a pond, made of the seven precious substances and adorned with swans, ducks, and yellow geese. The god may then think, ‘Let there be music of the five instruments.’ As soon as he has entertained that thought, gentle fragrant breezes will stir and, as the breezes mingle, they will create the sound of music of the five instruments. At this point the god might think, ‘May food and drink flow like rivers within this home in the trees,’ and at that very moment the branches of the trees will open up, producing rivers of food and drink that are of exquisite colors, tastes, and textures. At this point, the god may think, ‘Now I would like to drink ambrosial elixir.’ In that very instant an ambrosial elixir having perfect taste, aroma, and color will manifest, and the god will drink it until he is completely satiated. He will then play and frolic with the goddesses. In this manner, the gods experience such enjoyments within that forest.
“The gods may also at some point descend from those amazing trees to go for a stroll. In that case heavenly lotus flowers with beryl stalks and golden petals will appear. The flowers are soft, [F.145.b] vibrant, delightful, and fragrant. Thus, as the gods go for their ramble, they will be stepping on those flowers, which in turn produce divine musical sounds of the five instruments. Thus, every step the gods take will be an experience of pleasure.
“In this way hundreds of thousands of the gods’ ideas are realized and blissfully fulfilled as they experience the objects of the five senses. Even so, their senses are never satisfied by their objects. Any form the gods’ eyes may see will be registered as unique, opulent, and delightful. As soon as they open their eyes, they will apprehend and perceive further desirable, attractive, and delightful forms, and so they will never feel satisfied by the forms they see. All that they hear is also exceptionally delightful, and so their ears are likewise insatiable. As their noses register scents, all that they smell is desirable, attractive, and delightful, and thus the gods’ noses are never sated by any amount of aromas. When their tongues experience tastes, all are sensed as extremely pleasant and delicious. Their physical experience of textures is likewise an experience of desirable, attractive, and delightful objects. Similarly, all the things that they bear in mind are similarly desirable, attractive, and delightful.
“Thus, with their six collections of craving consciousness and their desirous bodies, the gods laugh, enjoy, revel, and rollick within their forest without ever feeling satisfied. In this way, the wind of thought that stirs the faculties above wafts through the jungle of objects below, fanning the blazing fires of nonvirtue. Although this fire blazes every single day, the objects they crave never bring them any satisfaction.
“While the gods play [F.146.a] and joyfully amuse themselves with numerous objects in this way, Śakra, king of the gods, will upon his victory over the asuras pay a visit to various high mountains, as explained before. When he arrives, Śakra will call on the gods and tell them, ‘Gods, enjoy yourselves in this forest. Play with this wealth of divine sense pleasures! I have defeated the hordes of the māras, Vemacitrin, and the rest. Now I shall go to the forest, and I want all gods and goddesses to come and stay there with me during the four months of the monsoon. We shall certainly enjoy ourselves.’
“When he has instructed the gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three in this way, he will next call upon his elephant, Airāvaṇa: ‘Supreme elephant, get ready. I am going to the forest for the sake of enjoyment and celebration, and I shall be traveling in the company of all the gods and goddesses. Just as you have done before, you must create emanations so that everyone can ride on your back, head, tusks, and shoulders. You must create emanations of forests, lakes, mountains, peaks, groves, and parks.’
“When he hears Śakra’s words, Airāvaṇa, the supreme elephant, will magnify himself, making his body very large. He will then emanate one hundred heads, each bearing ten white tusks. On each of the tusks lie ten lotus pools, each containing one thousand lotuses that have one thousand petals made of the seven precious substances. On each of the petals sit bees of the seven precious substances, and on each of these petals the gods and goddesses will take their places without any sense of feeling intimidated by one another. Thus, riding upon the heads of the supreme elephant, everyone will journey across the sky to the pleasure garden that is [F.146.b] richly endowed with heavenly enjoyments of the five senses.
“The elephant will emanate two forests on his shoulders, one known as Utter Joy and the other called Desirable. In each of them, there will be perfect trees, cascades, and ponds. There will be exquisite trees of the seven precious substances and perfect wish-fulfilling trees. Within those forests the gods will enjoy themselves and frolic about, and thus the groves will be filled with gods and goddesses who experience divine delights of the five senses. In this setting, Airāvaṇa, king of elephants, will proceed as if he were a second Mount Sumeru.
“On the back of the supreme elephant lies a city called Even and Smooth Surface, which is like a second Sudarśana, complete with beautiful streets, crossroads and forks, parks, trees, and houses made of the seven precious substances. In its center stands a mansion adorned with a hundred pillars of the seven precious substances, and in the center of that building is a lake. Therein, the king of the gods will rollick with his bevy of goddesses. Śakra, king of the gods, will revel and frolic there to the accompaniment of music of the five instruments, all the while traveling to the forest.
“Even though the gods are traveling, they do not notice any change. Just as they do not perceive that they are staying upon Mount Sumeru, they also do not feel any movement of the supreme elephant.
“Upon his ears, the elephant will manifest two lotus pools, each of them measuring eleven leagues. One of them is called Deep and the other Bright, and these ponds are brimful of water endowed with the eight features. In the ponds grow water lilies with beryl petals and jewel stalks. Some are ruby colored and ornamented by bees, and they abound with blooms [F.147.a] that are intensely fragrant. Upon the anthers of those lilies, the gods and goddesses take their places and frolic. Playing with the water and the lilies, they cannot tell whether the supreme elephant is moving or standing still.
“Upon its trunk the elephant will emanate a long pool that measures five leagues and is surrounded by mansions with pillars topped by capitals. There are divine trees and the area is studded with mandārava flowers. Bees hum merrily and the place is adorned with the beautiful leaves of divine gośīrṣa sandalwood trees, trees of gold, and numerous other kinds of flowers. Upon the anthers of the flowers sit goddesses who play music, singing and chanting auspicious praises to the king of the gods. In this way, such an elongated pool will be emanated on the tip of the elephant’s trunk.
“Upon the tip of his trunk, the elephant will emanate a large pool that measures about a league, and in that pool will be many hundreds of thousands of huge lotuses. The flowers are extremely fragrant, filling the atmosphere with divine aromas for a distance of ten leagues. Upon each petal of these beautiful great lotuses gather throngs of gods and goddesses who sing, frolic, and revel. When the gods thus rollick and are absorbed in their pleasures, they do not see each other, and they remain free from harm. The gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three also travel to the forest on the tip of the elephant’s trunk. As they journey upon Mount Sumeru, they do not notice that their destination is a creation of that supreme elephant.
“Next, the supreme elephant will create upon his trunk a great mountain called Adorned with Springs. This mountain is adorned with various springs and beautiful heavenly trees, cascades, ponds, parks, [F.147.b] lakes, and lotus pools. There, other gods will frolic, enjoy themselves, and have fun. Upon the head of the flower-decorated supreme elephant, another mountain will also be created.
“The tusks of the supreme elephant resemble the waxing moon. Upon their tips the elephant will emanate parks with an even ground that is adorned with flowers and lakes. Among the beautiful flower petals bees buzz and the clear calls of cuckoos can be heard. On the dry land roam ravishing peacocks, pheasants, and the other divine birds that adorn the emanated parks that have been created upon the tusks.
“Thus, when the supreme elephant has in this way extended his body size, he walks toward the pleasure gardens. Surrounded by the gatherings of gods, he ambles on without growing weary and with a gait of elegant majesty.
“From his two nostrils, the supreme elephant sprays streams of water that flow like the rivers Gaṅgā and Yamunā in Jambudvīpa. The cool waters are extremely pure—free from any impurity whatsoever. To provide a slight analogy, when herbs, grass, forests, barley, and wheat suffer from heat and drought within the four human abodes, they can be revived by a rain that falls on the grains and leaves. In the same way, the nostrils of the king of elephants are always like that.
“As the water flows, the wind will scatter it throughout the sky. The wind causes the water to evaporate over a great distance and thus the water appears as mist within the three abodes of humans. Moreover, when the supreme king of elephants trumpets, he releases water, which showers down among the gods who travel in the midst of the sky. This looks like a moving white light, and so when certain non-Buddhists see that, they will say, ‘That is the path of Indra,’ while others may call it ‘the path of the elephant Airāvaṇa.’ Yet they do not know that what they see is white water. [F.148.a] [B33] Thus, as the water is scattered by the wind and suddenly falls, they see it like thirsting deer see mirages. In this way, its essence is transformed and appears unclear.291
“Next, the supreme king of elephants, who thus carries a mountain upon his head, will above the crown of his head create a supreme victory banner, a beryl ring, and a golden parasol that decorate him beautifully, as if he were a second sun. He will also carry a standard that measures one league and radiates white light. When the asuras who dwell in the sea see that light, they will tell each other, ‘The gods have arrived. That light shines from the standard called Victor, which belongs to Śakra, king of the gods.’
“In this way the supreme king of elephants proceeds to the parks. When the gods see the forest in the distance, Śakra will tell them, ‘All of you, look at these great delights. Gods who defeated the asuras, for the four months of the monsoon you shall celebrate with the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three within this great forest that is so delightful to behold.’
“When the gods hear those words, they will reply, ‘We shall do just as Śakra commands.’ Śakra’s elephant, Airāvaṇa, will then amble into the park, and all the gods will frolic, celebrate, and revel together with the divine inhabitants, who all possess heavenly pleasures of the five senses.
“As the gods who live and play in the hills of the parks see the supreme standard and the king of elephants, Airāvaṇa, they will become overjoyed and proceed to receive Śakra, king of the gods. Joining their palms above their heads, they will venerate him [F.148.b] and merrily entertain him with beautiful melodies, songs, and dances. Śakra, king of the gods, will then descend from his elephant and together with the gathering of gods proceed into the parks. The gods that journey upon Airāvaṇa’s head, tusks, and shoulders will likewise descend and enter the parks to play, enjoy themselves, and be happy. Thus, the inhabitants of the great forest and the gods who with Śakra were victorious over the asuras will together enjoy a wealth of pleasures of the five senses, experiencing indescribable enjoyment for the four months of the monsoon. Śakra, king of the gods, will be attended to by groups of gods and goddesses who in turn are attended to by other groups of gods and goddesses. In this way everyone will enjoy themselves and frolic.
“Thus, these gods experience incomparable bliss, and they continue to enjoy themselves until finally their completed and accumulated acts have been exhausted. Once that happens, they will die and leave their divine forests. After their death they will, in accordance with their karmic actions, take birth among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. If, possessing the general lot in life of a human, they are born as humans, they will, in accordance with their causal actions, possess an immaculate, dexterous intelligence and a supremely attractive physical form. They will be extremely agreeable to everyone and be born where there are delightful waterfalls, mountains, ponds, and parks. In their environment there will be many people who are joyous, powerful, wealthy, and live happy lives.
“Next, the monk will examine the karmic actions and ripening effects [F.149.a] that pertain to the great king of elephants, Airāvaṇa. Thus, he will wonder, ‘What actions might be the cause of the tremendous miraculous powers that allow this elephant to be victorious in the battle between the great gods and the asuras? And what might be the actions that caused him to be born as an animal?’
“When he examines these matters with knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how at the time when people lived for seventy thousand years there was a great brahmin who had attained knowledge of the Vedas, their auxiliary studies, the chronicles, and the Purāṇas. He practiced generosity, engaged in what is virtuous, and with steadfast regularity provided for the lowly, the unprotected, beggars, and those in pain. His mind was extremely virtuous, and he cared for the whole world.
“At that time there was king called Sudarśana, whose vast pleasures and enjoyments were comparable to those of the gods. Once, the king traveled to a palace known as Garland of Parks. On the journey, King Sudarśana was accompanied by eighty-four thousand elephants wearing golden nets and webs of bells, eighty-four thousand horses adorned with golden nets and strings of small bells, eighty-four thousand attending ladies, and eighty-four thousand musicians. The brahmin noticed King Sudarśana’s supreme pleasures and extreme wealth and, although he possessed perfect wealth himself, he decided to go to the palace where the king was partaking of his enjoyments. The brahmin’s name was Even Toward All.
“When he thus visited the king’s rich residence, the brahmin Even Toward All noticed an elephant, known as Cloud Banks, that the king would always ride. The elephant was draped with gorgeous nets of small bells, exquisite pearl garlands, and other beautiful ornaments created by the most expert artisans. [F.149.b] To the melodious sounds of numerous instruments, the elephant was ambling through the park.
“Seeing this virtuous elephant of tremendous majesty and beauty, the brahmin thought, ‘Ah! That elephant is perfectly virtuous and divine. Similarly, may I now take rebirth as the king of elephants, the mount of Śakra, king of the gods!’
“Afterward, when the brahmin separated from his body, by the power of his generosity and the power of his karmic actions he went to the joyful higher realms and took birth in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three as the elephant upon whom Śakra, king of the gods, always rides.
“At this point the monk will utter the following verses:
“In this manner, the monk will see how great positive actions can change into inferior ones. Hence, he will declare how so-called positive mental acts that normally bring either ordinary or divine effects can also sometimes lead to an animal existence due to the primary influence of the mind and the transformation of the mind.
The Gods in Dwelling in Beauty
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to concern himself with the realms of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so correctly perceive a realm of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three known as Dwelling in Beauty. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing. He will then notice how some people observe discipline and cause others to do so as well. They refrain from unwholesome actions and also cause others to disengage from negative acts, regard them as flaws, and undertake discipline. Thus, they are steadfast in observing unblemished discipline, maintain pure surroundings, and give up killing and stealing.
“Which aspects of killing are abandoned by such people? Adhering to their vows, they will refrain from digging where doing so would harm many animals, such as ants, scorpions, frogs, insects, or mongooses. Moreover, they will cause others, who may or may not have taken vows, to stop such digging and regard this as mistake.
“What is then the relevant discipline in terms of giving up stealing? Here, they avoid even the slightest intention to steal the property of potters or anybody else, just as they stop others from taking such property and establish them in discipline. They also refrain from rejoicing in stealing.
“Holy beings who thus practice discipline and give up killing and stealing will, upon separating from their bodies, go to the joyous higher realms and be born in Dwelling in Beauty. [F.151.a] They will become gods who are always happy, singing, laughing, playing, frolicking, and reveling; who are endowed with a constant, natural glow; and who live in forests and parks. Those who observe excellent discipline will be born in the higher realms.
“The wealth of enjoyments and extremely delightful objects that those who engaged in positive actions will experience is of the following kind. Nets of golden threads with small tinkling bells attached to them are draped throughout the forest, and when someone from a distance sees those beryl bells, which have been created by karmic actions, the bells will ring out, ‘Peaceful doer of good, come forth and see!’ Then the bells will produce the following verses:
“Thus, the jingling of the bells that are produced by positive karmic actions will make the gods comprehend the flaws of carelessness. Those gods who have adhered to discipline for a long time will understand the message well and hence avoid even a moment of careless abandon. On the other hand, those gods who, through numerous lives, have not fully accustomed themselves to discipline will fail to understand the message of the bells and therefore will soon become completely careless. [F.151.b] As that happens, those who comprehended the message will go somewhere else, proceeding to forests and parks that are adorned with the seven precious substances.
“The forest of Beauty measures three thousand leagues. The four main areas are larger than the city of Sudarśana while the rest are smaller. The forest is square, and at its four sides stand four great wish-fulfilling trees of flawless beryl. The shining trees stand about a league tall, and their light reaches across five thousand leagues, shining just like the sun. On their branches and leaves gods play with retinues of goddesses, receiving whatever they may wish for from the branches and leaves. Encircled by those trees lies the forest of Beauty. It is adorned with lotus pools of gold, silver, and beryl; trees of refined gold; great unplowed fields that consistently yield produce that is in every respect flawless, clean, and delicious; and immaculately white birds that are agreeable to behold and delightful to hear.
“Among the birds of the forest, some have silver feathers, a golden head, a beryl-colored stomach, and ruby eyes. Thus, the birds have numerous colors. Upon silver trees sit golden birds, on golden trees sit silver birds, on beryl trees with bushy branches sit ruby-colored birds, and on ruby trees sit sapphire birds. [F.152.a] All of them consume the fruits and drink from the nectars of the trees.
“Birds with colorful feathers of the seven precious substances frolic and warble on trees of the seven precious substances. Among the numerous lotus flowers, large bee swarms engage in various activities with their colorful bodies and seasonal inclinations. The bees fly among the dense anthers of the lotus flowers and enjoy themselves, play with each other, and mate. Within the rich shades of the trees, gods and hosts of goddesses also enjoy themselves with each other and romp around.
“This forest is further endowed with the following divine qualities, which are particularly excellent. Whenever war breaks out between the gods and the asuras, Śakra, king of the gods, will say to the gods, ‘Gods, get ready. Prepare yourselves, because the asuras on Moon Mountain are inflicting harm upon the gods.’ When they hear this command, the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three will go to the forest of Beauty. All the gathered gods and the divine officials of Śakra will then enter the forest. Upon the trunks of the four great, stainless, divine trees of beryl that grow in the four directions the gods will then see their forms reflected, as if in a mirror. They will behold the signs of their victory, but they will also see reflections that show how certain gods among them will have their limbs cut and severed in the upcoming battle between the gods and asuras. They will see how the gods that lose limbs in this way will grow new limbs back; this will not be the case, however, when the god has his neck cut and is decapitated. Those among them who are going to have their necks cut and their heads severed will see that reflected in the trees. When a god has seen that this is going to happen to him, he will then inform the others. [F.152.b] To ensure that the death of that god will be avoided, the gods will notify Śakra, telling him that this god is going to die in the battle against the asuras. Upon receiving such news, Śakra will then say, ‘Friend, do not go to war. Do not put your life in danger.’
“As the monk wonders about the causes of this, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing. He will then notice how some people with compassionate minds and thoughts may free others who are about to be executed. As such actions ripen, these people will be born in the realm of Beauty among the mirror-like trees that provide such reflections.
“Then the gods will proceed into the forest of Beauty. When they come to the grove in the center, which is adorned with trees that fulfill all wishes, the gods will convene. They will compare the sizes of the armies of the gods and asuras and examine the character of the asura army versus that of the gods.
“Śakra, king of the gods, will then explain to them, ‘When those who follow the Dharma pass away, they are reborn among the gods. When the people in Jambudvīpa rely primarily on the path of the ten virtuous actions during times of dispute—when they adhere to and practice the path of the ten virtues, when they make others do so as well, and when, free from breaches, corruptions, or flaws, they steadfastly maintain the sevenfold discipline of the body and speech without any hypocrisy—they will after their death take birth among the gods. Such people will then be born among the gods, just as the grains of sand filling an open bag will all fall out when the bag is turned upside down. [F.153.a] In this way, the armies of the gods will expand, the armies of the asuras will diminish, and the asuras will lose their vigor. At such times, the asura army on Moon Mountain will be expelled.
“ ‘At other times, however, the conduct of people may be tainted and they may fail to steadfastly practice the path of the ten virtues free from breaches, corruptions, or flaws. At such times, humans in Jambudvīpa will after their death only be born among the gods in a way that resembles how mangos fall when a strong man shakes a tree with ripe fruits.
“ ‘During times of privation, people’s practice of virtue may become extremely tainted. They may fail to observe and steadfastly practice the discipline of the body and speech, and their practice may be neither very wholesome nor constant. At such times, people will be born among very inferior gods, just as when a feeble person embraces a wood apple tree bearing round, hard, and unripe fruits, and shakes the tree with considerable difficulty. In this analogy, the person who shakes the tree is very weak and the wood apples that fall are few and only slightly ripe. That is how people with tainted discipline will be born among the gods. At such times, you gods will become careless and you will be content with your total carelessness. In that way, the armies of the asuras will expand and the armies of the gods will diminish.
“ ‘When people practice and engage in non-Dharma, when they disengage and refrain from the sevenfold discipline of the body and speech, when they go against each other, when they disrespect their mothers and fathers, and when they are unrighteous and do not pursue the Dharma, they will after their death take birth among hell beings, starving spirits, and asuras. [F.153.b] Just as when a strong man turns a bag of sand upside down and empties it, such humans will be reborn among hell beings, animals, and asuras.
“ ‘If people engage in both virtuous and unvirtuous actions, and thus are slightly observant of some aspects of physical and verbal discipline, some of them will after their death take birth among hell beings, starving spirits, and asuras, whereas others will be born among the gods. Just as a strong man may embrace a mango tree and shake it so that the ripe fruit falls off while the unripe remains, some among the people who practice virtue in a way that is tainted will be born as gods, while others will take birth as hell beings, starving spirits, or asuras.
“ ‘When the vast majority of the people in Jambudvīpa practice non-Dharma, when they do not respect their mothers, their fathers, mendicants, or brahmins, when they do not follow the elders of their families, and when they completely fail to observe any discipline with their bodies and speech, they will upon dying be born as hell beings, starving spirits, or asuras. At this time, the powers of the asuras will grow and the powers of the gods will diminish. On this occasion, I shall enter the war between the gods and asuras. While I will have the power to prevail, other gods will not have such power. Keep this in mind. The gods must endeavor in the Dharma. True joy in the Dharma offers protection in this world and beyond. Among all powers, that of the Dharma is the greatest, and in comparison to that, nothing else looks powerful. Keep this in mind and be mindful. I call on you to defeat the asuras.’ [F.154.a]
“In response to these instructions, the gods will say, ‘Let our actions fulfill your command. Let it be as you say. We will act to fulfill the command of Śakra.’ They will then proceed to the Forest of Armor to receive their mail. There, the trees will supply them with an impenetrable armor that renders their bodies invulnerable. In this way, they are able to ward off all opposition. Splendid like the morning sun rising over the mountains, they will then depart for the impending battle at Moon Mountain. The battle between the gods and asuras now ensues, just as explained before.
“After the battle, the gods will again spend time in Beauty, enjoying rich pleasures of the five senses and befriending each other, maddened by desire. Thus, as various birds sing in the flowering and fruit-bearing trees of beryl, gold, and chrysoberyl, the gods will revel delightfully.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects will consider the karmic ripening of the birds that live in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. Thus, he will wonder, ‘What actions caused those colorful and diverse birds that sing in such myriad ways among the precious trees to enjoy themselves, rollick, and revel within those groves and parks?’ In this way the monk who has detailed knowledge of the nature of karmic actions will inquire into the effects of actions. As he examines the matter with knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how a concentrated, professional painter can create fine and colorful paintings of bodies, pleasure gardens, or delightful groves. Thus, with blue, yellow, red, and various blended colors he may paint on a canvas, the walls of a temple, or a stūpa. By the blessings of the buddhas, such professional artists may paint trees, [F.154.b] birds, people, tigers, horses, cities, forests, parks, pools, gardens, lotus groves, lakes, mendicants, brahmins, towns, markets, palaces, and so on. By the blessings of the buddhas and the Dharma, such professional craftspeople may also, in accordance with the instructions of their sponsors, paint various designs in fine colors upon even and polished surfaces of gold, silver, copper, and the like. When such people later separate from their bodies, they will go to the joyous higher realms and take birth among the gods as birds with the same appearance that they painted previously. Those among them who lacked discipline and engaged in various actions may be born as happy deer or bees. In such cases, although their karmic actions and the consequences thereof are comparable to those of the gods, when such silly people attentively engage in those actions, they will also be mindless in the heavens, experiencing happiness among the trees and mountain peaks within the delightful divine forests and parks. Those who crafted various images on duly prepared and polished surfaces of ivory, silver, gold, or the like, will, through their diverse actions, take birth with bodies shaped in a multitude of ways.
“Accompanied by hosts of goddesses, the gods in the forest of Beauty continue to enjoy themselves, revel, and play, partaking of numerous divine pleasures, until finally their completed and accumulated acts with desirable, attractive, and delightful consequences have been exhausted. Once that happens, they will die and take birth among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals in accordance with their karmic actions. Should they instead take birth among humans, due to positive actions to be experienced as a human in other lives, they will, in accordance with their positive actions, always be born in joyful circumstances as kings or regents. [F.155.a] Venerated by everyone, they will always enjoy themselves in parks and at parties. While in a happy state of mind, their bodies, ornaments, and garments will also be excellent. They will enjoy a permanent supply of food, drink, and other delicious edibles, and they will spend their time in beds and parks. They will be happy and possess male and female servants, laborers, and aides.
The Gods in Dwelling by the Pārijāta Tree
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to concern himself with the realms of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so correctly perceive a realm of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three known as Dwelling by the Pārijāta Tree. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born among the gods there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing. He will then notice how some great and knowledgeable individuals provide their mothers and fathers with clothing, food, bedding, and medical supplies, just as they may encourage and establish others in such virtuous activity. While thus practicing generosity, they may also abstain from even the minutest aspects of killing. Thus, they may carefully refrain from eating overripe fruit that may contain worms, just as they may cause others to refrain from and disdain doing so. While observing discipline themselves, they may also cause others to do so. As for refraining from stealing, they will abstain from brazenly trespassing and taking fresh fruit and also refrain from taking fallen fruit in parks. They will also encourage others to exhibit such restraint and have disdain for such actions, and they will establish others on the path of virtuous actions. Such great individuals who benefit both themselves and others will, when separating from their bodies, [F.155.b] go to the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and be born among the gods who dwell by the Pārijāta tree.
“In that realm stands a single tree of exceptional beauty. Whenever people are righteous and follow the Dharma, the king of the gods will remark how the tree’s scent, color, leaves, and fruits are presently the most exquisite in relation to the balance of all the positive and negative acts of gods and humans in Jambudvīpa. Whenever the humans in Jambudvīpa are righteous and follow the Dharma, this wish-fulfilling tree will bloom splendidly with radiant and fragrant flowers that can be sensed across a hundred leagues. At such times, the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three will be delighted. Surrounding the wish-fulfilling tree they will say, ‘Marvelous! The wish-granting Pārijāta tree is abloom. Without any doubt, the people of Jambudvīpa respect mendicants and brahmins, and they venerate and follow the elders of their families. That is why this tree of ours is now in full bloom.’ Then the gods will spend the four summer months in the vicinity of the tree, nourished by divine pleasures of the five senses.
“At other times, when only half of the flowers in the wish-granting Pārijāta tree bloom, the gods will still be overjoyed and say, ‘Marvelous! There can be no doubt that the humans of Jambudvīpa are practicing a discipline that is of various qualities. That is why the flowers on this wish-granting Pārijāta tree are similarly varied.’
“When the vast majority of people engage in non-Dharma, the leaves and flowers of the wish-fulfilling tree will wither. [F.156.a] The colors of the tree will no longer be attractive, and it will have neither sweet fragrance nor any radiance. For example, during winter, the atmosphere may grow foggy and cloudy and the sun may lose its warmth and brilliance. Similarly, the light that shines from the wish-granting Pārijāta tree also decreases and it will no longer have the same fragrance.
“The gods who live in the realm of the wish-granting Pārijāta tree will then say to Śakra, ‘O Majesty, the wish-granting Pārijāta tree has little light and lacks fragrance. It is not as beautiful as it used to be. Without a doubt, the people in Jambudvīpa are engaging in non-Dharma. They do not respect mendicants and brahmins, and they do not follow the elders of their family.’
“When Śakra, king of the gods, hears this, he will take up a statue of the Buddha and then, together with a gathering of gods, set out toward the wish-granting Pārijāta tree. With extreme veneration for the Buddha, he will recollect the qualities of the Buddha and say, ‘I am going to the wish-granting Pārijāta tree. Gods, prepare yourselves. Just as I go forth carrying a resplendent stūpa and holding a statue of the Buddha, so you must all proceed to that king of trees and make offerings of incense, garlands, and ointments to the Blessed One.’ When they hear these words, many hundreds of thousands of gods will come before Śakra.
“When in this way Śakra goes to the wish-granting Pārijāta tree carrying a statue of the Buddha above his head, other gods who live near the wish-granting Pārijāta tree will behold it from a distance. [F.156.b] But because the leaves of the wish-granting Pārijāta tree have withered, its light has dimmed, and its glory has waned, they will not be so delighted.
“Before the tree, Śakra will place the Blessed One upon a beryl stand that rests upon the ground, which is like refined gold. Faithfully, he and the gods will then worship the Blessed One elaborately with various scents and flowers from the forest, such as mālika flowers, mandārava flowers, and lotuses. In this manner they will wash and venerate the image with incense and flowers. The gods will feel strong faith and be joyous, free from stinginess and carelessness.
“To the gods Śakra will then say, ‘Since the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha of noble ones are the masters of all the three worlds, they are also our masters.’
“Joining his palms, Śakra will then approach the Blessed One. As they surround the image, he and the gods will kneel to the ground and utter this verse:
“At this point, the entire gathering of gods will take places around the king of trees, and with genuine faith, keen faculties, bright minds, and virtuous thoughts, they will worship the Buddha and Dharma. As they do so, leaves on the tree will begin to open and unfold. [F.157.a] As the gods see this, they will continue their worship, and thus the wish-granting Pārijāta tree will finally bloom again, just as before, with fragrant flowers, white as clouds, and adorned by bees. Gatherings of gods will abound in its delightful shade, and the tree will be splendid like a second sun. As they see that the tree in this way has been restored to its former glory, the gods will rejoice.
“This tree emits its fragrance across hundreds of leagues, and the wind also carries the scent several hundred leagues farther. Such is the deliciously fragrant, radiant king of trees. Just as Mount Sumeru is the most beautiful among all the sixty thousand mountains, so this wish-granting Pārijāta tree is the most gorgeously resplendent among all the diverse multitudes of trees.
“As they witness the radiant glory of the tree’s perfect blossoming, the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three will be exhilarated and say to each other, ‘Behold the incomparable blessing of the Buddha. By the power of the Buddha the wish-granting Pārijāta tree has now regained all its color, fragrance, garlands, leaves, and lights. Just as the tree now flourishes, so the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three will undoubtedly likewise experience increasing strength, power, and miraculous abilities. Those in Jambudvīpa who follow the Dharma will engage with the Dharma intelligently and their motivations will be righteous. Hence, the forces of the māras will lose their power and the asuras, nāgas, and world guardians who are associated with the māras and who are unrighteous will be unable to create any obstacles for the Dharma. They cannot find fault with the Dharma and they will be unable to rival us when it comes to the goddesses. The very sight of this king of trees makes them lose their vigor, just as it increases the power of the gods.’ [F.157.b] In this way, the officials of Śakra, king of the gods, will encourage each other.
“The four guardians of the world, who are righteous and follow the Dharma, will then journey from Jambudvīpa to the assembly hall of the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. From afar, the four will see how Śakra, leader of the gods, and the others in all their radiant splendor worship the blessed Buddha with clear and faithful minds in front of the wish-granting Pārijāta tree. The four guardians of the world will then go before Śakra, king of the gods. Bowing their heads before him, they will say, ‘Śakra, leader of the gods, and all the rest of you, rejoice! The humans who are righteous and follow the Dharma are now practicing the Dharma and refraining from non-Dharma. They respect their mothers, their fathers, mendicants, and brahmins, and they follow the elders of their families. Since they thus practice the Dharma, rejoice!’
“When they have heard this message, Śakra, leader of the gods, and the rest of them will be utterly delighted. They will honor the four guardians of the world and say, ‘May the people in Jambudvīpa who are righteous and follow the Dharma have the fortune of the joy of the guardians of the world.’
“When he sees that all the gods there are happy, Śakra will once more lift up the blessed Buddha that is standing in front of the wish-granting Pārijāta tree. He will worship it and then bring it back to the divine assembly hall of Sudharma. Thereafter, the remaining gods will journey to the wish-granting Pārijāta tree, as will the delighted officials of Śakra. Before the king of trees, they will then spend the monsoon season enjoying themselves and reveling in their divine sense pleasures. [F.158.a]
“Surrounded by captivating bevies of goddesses, the gods will proceed to enjoy themselves and rollick freely, experiencing incomparable bliss. Then, as the monsoon comes to an end, those gods whose karma and lifespan have been exhausted will pass away and leave their divine world. Thus, in accordance with their karmic actions, they will be born among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. Should they instead be born with the general lot in life of a human, due to karmic actions to be experienced in other lives and as a human, they will, in accordance with their causal actions, always have fine physiques. They will be exceptionally handsome and attractive and enjoy constant happiness, and everyone will be pleased to behold them. They will be playful and always laugh, enjoy themselves, and frolic. Every woman will love to set eyes upon them, they will possess tremendous enjoyments, and they will become kings or regents.
The Gods in Dwelling on Mixed Riverbanks
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to concern himself with the realms of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so correctly perceive a realm of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three known as Dwelling on Mixed Riverbanks.
“Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born among the gods there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing. He will then notice how disciplined people who have trained their minds thoroughly in an altruistic outlook may offer just a single meal to someone in possession of supreme qualities, someone disciplined, someone insightful, or a person suffering from a disease. Alternatively, such people may personally abstain from killing.
“Additionally, when herders of cows, cattle, camels, or elephants in winter or early spring suffer from cold in the wilderness and therefore set fire to bushes inhabited by ants, mosquitoes, or other living beings, such people may extinguish those fires with water or sand and thus save those beings from death. [F.158.b] In this and other such ways, they may prevent acts of killing and also themselves refrain from killing. In case they should happen to kill anyone, they will regret the act and confess it, and they will refrain from rejoicing in any killing done by others. In this way, they will consider killing a flaw, themselves refrain from killing, avoid encouraging others to kill, and establish others on the path of happiness.
“Such people may also have given up stealing and therefore no longer engage in such activity. The particular aspects of this that are relevant in this context are as follows. During the cold of winter or early spring, travelers may find themselves without firewood or trees in the vicinity. They may then come upon a stack of cow dung, elephant dung, leaves of various kinds, or sticks that have been left as fuel by herders of cows, elephants, or camels to protect them from the cold or to allow them to cook their meals at night. Although they will be extremely cold themselves, the travelers may nevertheless refrain from taking anything, thinking that those things belong to others. Thus, they will not only avoid taking anything themselves, they will also cause others to stop stealing. In case they should happen to take something that was not given, they will confess the act and refrain from doing so again, just as they will refrain from rejoicing in any such actions done by others. In this way, they prevent stealing, including any preliminary and concluding stages, and they personally abstain from such activity, fearing even the most minute unwholesome actions. When such virtuous people later separate from their bodies, they will go to the joyous higher realms of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and be born among the gods in Dwelling on Mixed Riverbanks. [F.159.a]
“The grounds in that realm are of the following kinds. There is a silver ground that is brightly ornamented with gold. There are also golden areas with silver ornaments, thus as richly ornamented as the silver ground. Still others have coral and numerous diamonds. Thus, in accordance with the ripening of karmic effects, the realm is beautiful, studded with many different jewels, and delightfully adorned with gorgeous trees. Lovely, multicolored deer and birds of many different species congregate there, and the forests and parks are copiously decorated with the seven precious substances.
“The gods who live in the forests of Dwelling on Mixed Riverbanks adorn their bodies with pure gold and, as they relish their wealth of divine sense pleasures, they are attended to by a hundred thousand goddesses. When they stay on a particular slope, the brilliance of the ornamental jewels of that slope will make their bodies take on the same color. Also, the light of the jewel trees will beautify their bodies, and when they approach the trees they will enjoy and partake of various pleasures.
“As they enjoy themselves, the gods may proceed to a particular waterfall together with the goddesses. The edges of the water are studded with golden trees, and the light of the golden leaves give the cascading water a golden hue. Despite its torrents, the water does not become white. There, in the dense forest, the gods and goddesses will play and romp with each other. [F.159.b] If at some point they should think, ‘May the branches of these trees open up and provide us with a delicious wine,’ the gods’ previous virtuous actions will immediately cause the trees to open, and wines of various exquisite tastes, colors, and fragrances will proceed to flow from the branches. Seeing the flow of wine, the gods will tap it into vessels of different sorts. As they drink it from ornate, precious cups, they will become inebriated to the point that their divine pleasures intensify a hundredfold. Crazed by the drink, the delightful sight of females will cause the fire of craving to ignite. However, obscured by their enjoyable sensations, they will not notice it and will not think that they are being burned.
“Next the gods may wish, ‘Let us listen to divine music of numerous kinds, melodies that are delightful and yield constant enjoyment!’ [B34] As soon as a god has had that thought, music will emerge from the trees. Moreover, the wind will fan the trees, and as the wind moves through their leaves, the gods will hear the gentle melodies of the five types of instruments.
“When the gods have listened to such heavenly tunes, they may wish that ambrosia would appear from the trees. As if a canister were turned upside down to let sweets of various sizes and the most amazing colors pour out, the trees will at that very instant produce an ambrosia that the gods proceed to consume. Satisfied, they will sing and play instruments, and then they will, with their divine eyes wide open, quickly travel to the Precious Ground. [F.160.a] Once the gods have arrived there, those who have befriended each other will immerse themselves in desire and, joyfully engaging in lustful pursuits, partake of and revel in their wealth of heavenly sense pleasures.
“From that grove, the gods will then proceed to another forest, known as Grove. Seven kinds of birds live there. There are golden swans that resemble the seven precious substances, just as there are multicolored and lapis lazuli-colored parrots. Some ducks are colored like chrysoberyl, and others like beryl. Some geese are colored like lapis lazuli and others resemble coral. Some peacocks have the colors of the seven precious substances, whereas others are like sapphire. There are also various pheasants, some of which are the color of coral, just as there are cuckoos that are colored like the seven precious substances or have a silvery color. All the birds are beautiful to behold, they warble and cry in delightful, masterful ways, and some of them playfully soar in circles in the sky. When the gods play music, the birds accompany them, and when the gods are attracted to the troupes of goddesses who play the five types of instruments, the birds will again sing differently. Some birds sing in infatuation as they frolic with their partners within the lotus groves studded with beautiful bees. Still others enjoy themselves and revel with their partners on dry land, and some gemlike birds frolic and indulge in pleasure within the diverse and shady foliage of the trees of gold and silver.
“When the gods pay attention to the happy and playful birds, [F.160.b] the birds become delighted and sing for the gods in numerous delightful ways, as they wish for the gods to listen to their songs. At this point, the gods and goddesses will mount the birds and thus they will all fly and frolic in the sky. Similarly, they will ride upon the water birds and ply the waters, just as they will ride upon the birds that live on dry land and tour through the landscape. In this manner, the gods and goddesses will together play and frolic with the various birds. Seeing how both the gods and birds are equally crazed and maddened by desire, the monk will at this point utter the following verses:
“In this way, the monk will teach, having understood the carelessness of the gods.
“Although the gods thus experience all the pleasures of their sensory objects, these pleasures are just like fire fueled by wood, and thus the gods are never satisfied by them. In this way, they will continue to enjoy themselves and experience desirable, attractive, and delightful pleasures until their completed and accumulated actions have finally been exhausted. Once that happens, they will die and leave their divine world. In accordance with their actions, they will then be born among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. If, due to karmic actions to be experienced in other lives, they should be born with the general lot in life of a human, they will, in accordance with their causal actions, enjoy constant and intense pleasures. They will live in a land with abundant food and drink, they will be in possession of numerous treasuries and granaries, and they will become kings or great ministers.
The Gods in Dwelling on Forest Riverbanks
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to concern himself with the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, [F.161.b] he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so correctly perceive a god realm known as Dwelling on Forest Riverbanks. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born among the gods there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so notice how a holy person who has trained his mind in virtue may give alms to a monk who has attained the first concentration. That holy person may also cause others to engage in such generosity as well. That person may then rejoice in such acts himself, make others appreciate them, and he may establish others in the practice of such giving. Thus, such a person is truly fond of giving.
“In what sense, then, is such a person free from killing and stealing? The relevant aspects of giving up stealing are as follows. When on the road he might come to a well, a pond, or a waterfall where a jug or pitcher has been attached for the benefit of travelers. At that point, his companion might say, ‘We have to cover a great distance, there will be no water on the way, and we have no jug or pot to keep water in. Unless we take this one from the well with us, we might die of thirst along the way.’ Yet, even when beseeched in such a way, he will refuse to take the vessel, and, although he knows he will suffer thirst, he will leave the jug or pitcher in place out of fear of stealing. Should anyone else take the vessel, he will likewise not rejoice in that, and instead will try to prevent such an act and instead establish the other person on the path of virtue. Such is the character, and such are the features, of not stealing: even if it means that one will die, one will never take what was not given.
“What, then, are the relevant features of giving up killing? Here, he personally refrains from killing, just as he causes others to stop killing and give up the habit. Thus, if killing should occur, he will consider it a flaw and subject it to detailed criticism. He will not have any wish to harm, nor will he ever kill—not any small worms or insects that enter his dwelling through a window, nor those that sit on his blanket, nor those that are harmed by sunlight or smoke. [F.162.a] Should others do so, he will try to stop them and make them realize that such actions are wrong, and he will instead establish them upon the path of virtue.
“When such virtuous people, who both engage in virtue and establish others in virtue, later separate from their bodies, they will go to the joyous higher realms of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and be born among the gods on the level of Dwelling on Forest Riverbanks.293
“Once born there the consequences of the positive acts of those who practiced virtue in this way will ripen such that a forest known as Vast Forest of the Seasons will appear. Within that forest are various luminous jewels including flawless and pristine lapis lazuli and beryl. Different kinds of birds sing beautifully, and the trees are in full bloom throughout the six seasons. The realm is also adorned with waterfalls, rivers, and pools with lapis lazuli and beryl lotus flowers, as well as high mountains of pure gold. Within the forests on the mountains and on the banks of the water live aquatic and terrestrial birds of many different forms and appearances that sing clearly. Such are the creations that result from virtuous actions, and thus the gods will for a long time enjoy uninterrupted pleasures as the effect of their virtuous actions.
“Thousands of retinues of different goddesses accompany them as they adorn their magnificent bodies with divine garlands and garments and roam singing and reveling through the forest. As they pass through the forest, the birds will sing the following verses:
“This is what the birds teach. Yet, distracted by the goddesses and the craving for objects, the minds of the gods are sullied and carried away, and so they do not take in the truth spoken by the birds. Instead, they remain within their forests, parks, ponds, and cascades.
“The gods may also happen to proceed to a high mountain, known as Ponds in Delightful Pleasure Gardens, upon which lives a species of bird called the joyous. The gods and the birds enjoy each other’s company; they love to watch each other, and they play by the ponds and lotus groves. When the gods see the birds they think, ‘Ah, those birds have many delightful forms, warble in many different ways, and are exceptionally delightful. Their tunes are so diverse that they include the songs of all the other birds in the heavens. I would like to ride upon one of them and thus go to view the different forests, parks, and ponds.’
“As soon as a god has entertained this thought, the birds will increase the size of their bodies. They will then swiftly fly to the gods, and the gods will hold on to them and ride upon them. In this way, flocks of these delightful birds, which are karmic emanations, will fly into the sky. As soon as a god has sat down upon a bird, he may happen to think, ‘I would like a palace of the seven precious substances—complete with exquisite groves, parks, ponds, cascades, and lotus ponds—and there I would like to play with the many different birds.’
“The moment a god has had that thought, a palace that exactly matches his wishes will appear on the back of his bird. There the gods will be accompanied by goddesses wearing numerous beautiful garments. They will frolic with them, flying through the sky, from one place to the next.
“As the gods play and revel, [F.163.b] they will begin to think of the joys, thrills, and supreme sorts of excitement that abound in the higher realms. As they keep thinking of those various realms, their craving will increase a hundred thousand times, for the realms of sentient beings cannot be illustrated through any analogy. The unbearable fire of craving thus blazes in their minds from the six sense gates. Deeply damaged by the suffering that takes the deceptive form of pleasure, they will then take their places upon the birds and, accompanied by the indescribably delightful tunes of the five types of instruments, they shall fly the birds on a complete tour of the foothills of Mount Sumeru. They will gaze upon all the gorgeous groves, parks, and ponds, and see all the many beautiful forests, mountain slopes, trees, regions, and ornamental lotus groves that are filled with different species of birds, and within which gods, goddesses, and divine maidens play with each other.
“The land is endowed with hundreds of thousands of pleasures and, as they see all those exceptional enjoyments, their insatiable desire will just keep growing. Distracted in this way by the thoughts that accompany desirous excitement, the senses of the gods will never be satisfied at all. Residing in palaces on the backs of the birds, they will keep traveling for a long time, looking at all the sixty thousand mountains and the king of mountains in their center. Before they return home, the gods who have engaged in positive actions in this way take in all the indescribably delightful heavenly realms that shine with numerous jewels, and they view all four of the distinctive faces of the king of mountains, each with its own color, that are made of the most exquisite beryl, silver, gold, and crystal.
“As they fly around in this way, the birds will transform and manifest whichever color, form, plumage, or shape the gods may think of. Traveling thus, they will come to a pond called Clear Water. [F.164.a] The pond measures five leagues across, is square, and is decorated with various ornaments of precious beryl and lapis lazuli, and adorned by beautiful lotuses. As their positive actions thus manifest, the gods will proceed to the pond and rollick there together with the goddesses in a wealth of divine sense pleasures. Like bees, they will drink nectar from the lotus flowers and eat of their pollen, which is endowed with exquisite divine fragrance, taste, and color, and is stainless like the moon and extremely flavorful. Dressed in their divine garments, they will keep celebrating and reveling with one another until finally their acts with desirable, attractive, and delightful consequences have been exhausted. Once that happens, they will die and leave their divine world. In accordance with their actions, they will then be born among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. Should they be born with the general lot in life of humans, they will, in accordance with their causal actions, enjoy constant and fabulous pleasures, possess perfect riding mounts and gardens, and become kings or chief ministers, who are liked by everyone.
The Gods in Dwelling in Essence of Jewels
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to concern himself with the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so correctly perceive a god realm known as Essence of Jewels. Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born among the gods there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so notice how some virtuous people intent on benefiting others refrain from killing and stealing, just as they may prevent others from doing so and instead establish them upon the path of virtue. What are the relevant aspects of personally refraining from killing in this case? When seeing that bees and other insects born from heat and moisture live on honey, such people will abstain from eating honey out of fear that they will kill such insects. They will also stop others from doing so, [F.164.b] just as they avoid rejoicing in such action. Instead they will stop eating honey, knowing it to be unwholesome. Thus, they will by all means avoid eating honey and not even cast a single glance toward honey. Such are the relevant aspects of freedom from killing in this case.
“What, then, are the features of avoiding stealing? When a lamp has been offered to the Buddha at a stūpa by an ordained person, they will refrain from making use of its light or otherwise making personal use of it. They will also not extract any ink from the lamp and will be fearful of even the most minute act of this kind. Such are the relevant aspects of giving up killing and stealing.
“How do they give up killing and stealing? Here, they do not kill ants, insects, or flying insects. One does not do so haphazardly oneself, and if others have caught such creatures, one seeks to get them released. And one also seeks to abate the effects of the misdeed of killing. If others kill any being, one reminds them, ‘The effect of the unwholesome act of killing is birth in the Reviving Hell, so don’t do it!’ In this way, they seek to prevent others from killing and instead make them take vows and give up such unwholesome actions.
“As for the ways that they cause themselves and others to practice discipline, when they are in a remote place, or on the road, they may, despite having only a few provisions themselves, and without having any concern for their lives, share their food with others who suffer because they have little or no provisions for their own journey. Such acts of sharing have great effect. Considering the unique effects on the recipients, those effects will manifest in a timely way. This is the case because hunger is among the greatest of all ailments, and, therefore, alleviating hunger yields a great result.
“In these ways, they may practice the twofold discipline of benefiting both themselves and others with an unsullied and honest mind, being apprehensive of even the most subtle unwholesome mental states. [F.165.a] At the same time, they may offer jewelry to the bodies of their parents or jewel ornaments to the Buddha. Those who do so will, upon separating from their bodies, be born in the realm of Essence of Jewels.
“When those who engaged in positive actions are born there, they will encounter the pleasures of an extremely delightful god realm. As a consequence of their virtuous actions, their bodies are so radiant that their splendor is noticed within a distance of five hundred leagues. Just as the rising sun illuminates the mountains, so the light of these radiant gods shines on other realms and increases their luminosity one hundred times, bathing them in bright blue, yellow, madder, and red lights. Produced by their previous virtuous actions, the splendor of the light that shines from the bodies of these gods is a hundred times more glorious than a gorgeous rainbow, and it completely outshines the other gods. Just as the sun is so resplendent that it outshines all the planets, stars, and other celestial bodies, so the blazing light rays of these gods naturally illumine their realm with their magnificence. Moreover, the realm is studded with many types of gorgeous jewels that shine with a luminosity brighter than a hundred suns. Seeing this will further intensify the rapture of the gods.
“They will also see goddesses with exquisite bodies adorned with the most beautiful ornaments, who put on a show by acting flirtatiously. Some among them play earthen drums, flutes, or cymbals, while others sing and dance within troupes of goddesses. Their necks are adorned with flower garlands, [F.165.b] and in the lotus pools they play with the swans. Some eat from heavenly fruits, and others pluck flowers from wish-fulfilling trees while singing the most amazing, divine songs. In these ways, they are, in numerous ways, stunningly attractive and totally captivating to the minds of all.
“As soon as the gods are born in that realm and see the goddesses, the supremely enjoyable sense pleasures there are so alluring that the gods are struck by the fangs of the snake of desire. They rise from their seats and approach the goddesses, who are wonderfully youthful and draped with divine garlands and garments. As they move toward them, their minds are tormented by the fire of desire. As they approach the goddesses, the latter likewise rush forward to meet the gods.
“Whenever a god dies, the goddesses leave him and instead find someone new, just like swarming bees that will look for new, fresh flowers whenever a flower withers. In this fashion, bearing garlands of various flowers, the bee-like goddesses, lovely and enamored, will approach the flowers of new gods and befriend them. They will then play amorously together, following their desires to which they have been accustomed since beginningless time. When a dying god sees how his goddesses leave him in favor of someone else, he will be completely grief-stricken. Like a hell being whose body burns in Ultimate Torment, the god who observes his loved ones opting for another will be mentally tortured by an incredible anguish that is akin to death.
“Thus, the gods who die in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three will depart in a deranged and tortured state of jealousy and covetousness. Tormented by the prospects of their future existence, the gods exacerbate these extremely painful observations and thus work themselves into a tumultuous state of mind that prevents them from seeing anything else. Hence, once they are dead, they will be born among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. [F.166.a] What is the karmic cause that produces such an experience? Breaking one’s vows in order to engage in an adulterous relationship with someone else’s wife. If, due to virtuous actions, one is born among the gods, the negative karmic condition of having stolen the wife of another may manifest in this way at the time of death. Thus, since a misdeed may ripen within an otherwise pleasant context, one ought to refrain from even minor misdeeds. As will be explained later, at the time of death the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife do not encounter any consequences of having broken the sevenfold discipline.
“The goddesses who were with the deceased god will approach a newly arriving god and drape him with divine garlands of fresh flowers that have excellent color, fragrance, and texture. For his part, the god will be overjoyed as soon as he is born, and thus he will approach the divine daughters. Mutually enamored, they will then depart together for the forests and parks.
“Within the pure waters of that realm grow beryl-colored lotuses with golden petals and diamond pistils, and these are aswarm with hundreds of thousands of bees. Some bees have beryl-colored bodies and golden wings, others have golden bodies and silvery wings, some have multicolored bodies, and still others have bodies of coral with chrysoberyl. Bees such as these frolic and revel among the ever-fresh lotus flowers. Just as the goddesses sing and play music in the most delightful way, so the bees hum beautifully within the dense lotus groves. The divine sons and daughters proceed to enter the pools and play together in the water—joking, frolicking, rollicking, and enjoying themselves.
“After they have played in the pools for an extremely long time, they proceed to a grove known as Garland of Golden Trees. This grove lies in the shade of two large trees. [F.166.b] Accompanied by song and music, the gods have a view of mountain peaks of gold and gemstones where other groups of gods frolic with coteries of goddesses. Within their own groves of divinely fragrant pink and blue lotuses, gods and goddesses adorned with heavenly garlands, garments, silks, and ornaments of pure gold from the Jambu River enjoy the music of the five types of instruments as they playfully entertain each other. Others listen to the delightful calls of geese and ducks and rollick freely among flocks of peacocks and swans. Still others stay in palaces in the sky where they frolic with groups of goddesses. Resembling lanterns in the sky, they remain extremely attached to their divine music and let a rain of flowers fall as they blissfully enjoy this heavenly music. Other groups of gods are seen to befriend each other as they drink delicious wine and engage in joyful and pleasant conversation. In accordance with their causal actions, some groups of gods are seen to partake of an elixir that grants perfect pleasure and that is of exquisite color, taste, and scent. Other gods pluck heavenly flowers from divine trees of the seven precious substances and attach those precious flowers to their bodies. Other groups of gods pick fruits, tossing the fruits to each other and consuming them. Still other groups of gods mount heavenly geese with broad wings made of the seven precious substances. They proceed to travel through the sky without causing any harm to each other. Other gods play gongs, drums, cymbals, and flutes, thus inspiring goddesses to dance before them. [F.167.a] They then celebrate and have fun with the goddesses, throwing lotus flowers, laughing, and speaking passionately to each other.
“In this way, the newly born divine sons perceive a diverse, divine world, which is the creation of diverse karmic actions. Thus, they will think, ‘I shall never tire of looking at all these forms with my eyes; I shall never tire of listening to all these sounds with my ears; I shall never tire of smelling all these scents with my nose; I shall never tire of tasting the six flavors with my tongue; I shall never tire of feeling the texture of these garments, ornaments, and balms on my body; and I shall never tire of all these delightful phenomena that appear to my mind. That is how I am. I am fond of pleasure and thus I shall enjoy it!’
“In this way, they will enjoy the heavenly realm of diverse and extremely delightful objects. Ever craving, their six collections of consciousness remain attached and thus these gods are encircled and scorched by the fire of craving. As an example, think of a man in the middle of the bush at noon during the hot season. Next, imagine that someone lights a fire and that the fire ignites the grass, petals, leaves, branches, trees, dried-out thickets and forests, rocks and cliffs. As the thirsting man in the middle of the wilderness thus finds himself surrounded by a bush fire, he will try to take off as best he can. Yet, wherever he tries to escape, he encounters only blazing heat and masses of fire, for the flames engulf the bush and consume all the vegetation. Thus, whichever path the man takes, he will see nothing but fire. If he steps into the flames, he will burn, yet he has nowhere to escape. Finally, he is forced to run directly into the flames and is burned alive in that very instant. [F.167.b]
“In the same way, childish, ordinary people enter the bush of craving where the fire of karmic action burns the dry grass, branches, leaves, and petals. The fire of craving gains strength by the tremendous force of habitual patterning and is fanned by the wind of thinking. Hence, the fire of craving engulfs the wilderness of withered trees and dried bushes—the entire world, including all the attainments of concentration. In this example, the great fire alludes to the six collections of the craving consciousness, and the man’s attempt to flee illustrates the way the mind of the attached sense faculties adheres to its objects. As the wind of conceived objects creates distractions, the fire of craving for objects has the power to incinerate in an instant. Thus, the moment the gods enter that fire of craving for objects, they are destroyed. This is how an ordinary fire is used to illustrate the fire of craving.
“In this way, the gods will enjoy their heavenly realm with its hundreds of thousands of features created by positive karmic actions. They will continue celebrating until finally their completed and accumulated acts with desirable, attractive, and delightful consequences have been exhausted. Once that happens, they will die and leave their divine world. In accordance with their actions, they will then be born among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. Should they instead be born with the general lot in life of humans, due to karmic actions to be experienced as a human, they will, in accordance with their causal actions, become kings or great ministers, residing in exquisite, jewel-studded palaces upon a ground of precious substances. They will enjoy constant happiness, be liked by royalty and commoners alike, and possess perfect offspring, wealth, and harvests.
The Gods in Engaging in Clarification
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to concern himself with the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so correctly perceive a god realm known as Engaging in Clarification. [F.168.a] Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born there, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so notice how a holy person who practices virtue may refrain from killing and stealing, avoid rejoicing in such actions, seek to prevent others from engaging in them, and also criticize such actions.
“What aspects pertain here to the ripening of the karmic effects of abandoning the misdeed of killing? When some people notice how fresh leaves or a body of water contain tiny insects, they will refrain from eating or drinking directly therefrom. Instead, they will use a filter, and when they have filtered the insects out, they will not just discard them on dry land. Instead they will release them into some water where they can continue to live, and they may even look after them there. Additionally, they may cause others to do the same and thus establish them on the path of virtue.
“What, then, are the relevant aspects of not stealing? Some people have no inclination to steal anything from other people’s sugarcane, amra fruits, lemons, jackfruits, or plantains.294 Thus, they will not take even a single seed from there, as someone otherwise might have done in order to grow their own field or garden, or for the sake of enjoyment and pleasurable pursuits, or with a wish to earn a profit. Such people may also prevent others from such acts of stealing and instead establish them in the same practice and upon the path of virtue. In this way, such people adopt the discipline of benefiting both themselves and others by giving up killing and stealing.
“There are also further aspects of pursuing and observing the discipline of refraining from killing and stealing. Some may be afflicted by a terrible disease due to parasites and yet, [F.168.b] although they fear for their life, they will not want to kill those parasites. They will therefore not apply any medical remedy that might have such an aftereffect, nor will they encourage anyone else to do so. Rather, although fearing for their life, they will not kill the parasites and thus practice benefiting both themselves and others.
“How do they refrain from stealing? They refrain from even the subtlest form of stealing and instead practice generosity. What are the specific aspects of generosity? Some may have obtained a certain medicine to heal a disease from which they suffer. Yet, when seeing or hearing of someone else who suffers in the same way, they might think, ‘If I do not use this remedy for myself but give it away, that person can be cured.’ In such a situation, they will then give the medicine to the other person. When such genuine benefactors, who offer a gift aimed at the transcendence of suffering, later separate from their bodies, they will go to the joyous higher realms of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and be born among the gods in the realm of Engaging in Clarification.
“As people are born there, the power of their positive actions will manifest an astonishing realm, as beautiful as if it contained the radiance of all the jewels in the world. Those who are born there will be venerated by an extremely large gathering of goddesses. Together, they will then proceed to a forest known as Sphere Endowed with Diverse Music. This realm is also adorned with another forest, known as Decorative Birds and Trees.
“The power of the birds there is such that wherever they fly, the trees follow them through the sky. Similarly, the gods dwelling among the trees will also bring the trees with them as they fly in the sky. There are also lotus ponds for those who stay in this forest, and in those ponds grow various lotuses adorned with gold. The petals of the flowers are of beryl color, the stalks are golden, and the anthers are made of silver. Goddesses climb onto the lotuses and place themselves in the center of the flowers where they sing. As the goddesses sing, past positive actions will at times manifest a stream of delicious wine. [F.169.a] Known as the joyful stream, it flows among the lotuses, and the goddesses will proceed to drink from the wine. Moreover, all the divine sons who reside in the hearts of the flowers will likewise drink of the wine as they sing and celebrate. Thus, those who dwell blissfully in the lotus grove, attended to by goddesses, will long relish the delicious wine.
“When they have enjoyed themselves for a long time in this way, they will descend from the sky and proceed to the so-called Water Lily Mansion together with the birds and the attending retinues of goddesses. That mansion is made of water lilies and measures a hundred thousand leagues. Upon each of the petals stand various goddesses who sing and dance to the accompaniment of music of the five instruments. The light from the blue petals of the water lilies can turn everything blue, yet where the petals are red, the light that shines from them can make all the ornaments that are otherwise of many different colors turn red. Within these red and blue lotuses, upon the anthers that are produced from the roots and core of the flower appear many different goddesses. They surround the gods due to the latter’s former positive actions. Thus, on platforms upon the anthers stand goddesses who proffer many different lotuses as they sing, dance, play, and revel with the divine sons.
“When in this way everyone has frolicked for a long time, they will enter the mansion made of petals, and will then see the river called Lovely, which is exceedingly delightful and has trees growing along both its banks. This exceptionally delightful river is studded with flourishing trees of distinctive color, foliage, branches, and twigs. [F.169.b] Among the leaves of the trees sit birds with beautiful feathers and beaks, and the birds warble and chirp delightfully. Thus, the banks are adorned by gorgeous birds with numerous delightful features. When occasionally the gods become inclined to partake of some food or drink, these will naturally manifest from the river.
“Another feature of this extremely delightful river is that goddesses who bear various garments and forms mingle among one another upon the banks as they play various instruments, sing, dance, and play. The lovely goddesses are agreeable in all regards, and when they enter the river, the gods who have previously engaged in wholesome conduct will see them. The joyful goddesses will carry on dancing, singing, laughing, and playing music of various kinds. Playing divine music with the five types of instruments, the joyous goddesses will then approach the gods who have previously engaged in wholesome conduct. As the gods see the celebrating young and nubile goddesses with their various attire and ornaments, their libidinous excitement will grow a hundred times more intense and along with other goddesses they will then rush toward them. As the goddesses who stay on the riverbank and the gods and goddesses who have come from the Water Lily Mansion thus mingle among each other, they will call out in laughter.
“The entire divine gathering will then fill all the precious mountain peaks with the sounds of heavenly music, and when the music is heard by other gods, the beautiful tunes will inspire them to play with still other goddesses. Those who thus hear the music will be exhilarated and rush toward the delightful banks of the river. [F.170.a] The groups of gods and goddesses who come together in this way are never troubled by fighting, envy, or conceit. Without any kind of discord, they befriend each other, singing and laughing. They pass delicious wine around among one another and collectively partake of the wine, and they invite other groups of gods and goddesses to enjoy their nectar too. When in this way they have frolicked for a long time, they will leave the banks of the river, traveling onward in a state of infatuation, journeying playfully and gracefully toward other forests and parks.
“In this manner, these gods will continue to enjoy their hundreds of thousands of pleasures until finally their completed and accumulated acts with desirable, attractive, and delightful consequences have been exhausted. Once that happens, they will die and leave their divine world. In accordance with their actions, they will then be born among hell beings, starving spirits, or animals. In the rare event that karmic actions to be experienced as a human should make them take birth as humans, they will, in accordance with their causal actions, find constant happiness and be fond of bathing, ointments, and ornaments. They will also always be fond of pink, red, orange, and white lotus flowers. They will be honest and sincere by nature and will become very learned. They will become kings, great ministers, householders, envoys,295 leaders, or influential merchants.
The Gods in House of Refined Gold
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to concern himself with the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so correctly perceive a god realm known as House of Refined Gold.
“Wondering what karmic actions may cause beings to be born there, he will examine that question with knowledge derived from hearing or by seeing with the divine eye. He will then notice how virtuous and disciplined people give up killing and stealing. [F.170.b] How, in this context, are these acts given up? Some people may refrain from beating—and even protect—an enemy who has waged war and sought to kill them, murder their sons, and abduct their wives. Likewise, they may protect enemies who were apprehended by others. Thus, by speaking gently and offering valuable items, they may succeed in gaining the release of such enemies and subsequently do what they can to benefit them. Even if those evil people, who waged war but were freed, should continue to seek another’s death, the people in question will nonetheless spare their lives and even refrain from any animosity. In this way some people who have taken vows and are afraid of the effects of karmic actions may protect their enemies from the blows of sundry weapons. Out of fear of killing, they will refrain from striking their enemies, even at the cost of their own lives. Such are the aspects of freedom from killing that pertain to the present context.