I came across the Sakka Panha Sutta recently.
As I read on, it occurred to me that this sutta will be a good reference for Buddhist who wish to learn about Gods and their relation with Buddhism. Why are certain gods being adopted into Buddhism?
So I read it humbly and try to understand it better.
In Buddhist scriptures, there are numerous mention of Deva. A term that can be translated as Sky beings or “Higher beings” or heavenly beings. They are sentient beings living in “higher planes of existence” They enjoy a life of bliss and enjoyment, with little sufferings plus a very long life too.
I think a good analogy may be the “Rich Kids in the City of Samsara.”
In this Sutta, the God in concern is Sakka. He is the King of Gods who resides in the Tavatimsa Heaven. (also popularly known as the 33 heavens) This heaven is situated on top of Mount Meru and is of material form. (physically present) Although physically existing, it is made of more subtle matter. This heaven is “lower” than the formless heaven. (Note: The God who believes that he is the Great Creator is from the formless heaven)
How did Sakka become the King of Gods? Before being reborn as Sakka, he was a human being named, Magha.
As a human, he devoted time, effort and resources to engage in deeds that serve the welfare of fellow humans. He built rest houses and bathing pools for travellers, constructed bridges and repaired roads. He initiated the projects and gradually influenced 33 other youths to join him in his endeavour. He overcame challenges and setbacks to his projects. Devoting his entire lifetime benefitting the welfare of other people. Due to his unwavering good deeds, he was reborn as Sakka after death, and his 33 volunteers were also reborn as ministers in his heaven.
According to Buddhist Scriptures, the life span of Deva is finite. Although extremely long, they will also pass away in due time. Before they pass away, there are 5 symptoms that indicate their nearing death.
- The flowers adorning his person withered
- His clothing became soiled or dirty
- the armpit sweat
- his appearance and glory declined
- he became listless
Sakka was experiencing the above and became very worried. He decided to consult Buddha for advice. Uptil here, we read the background of this sutta.
It is interesting to note that Magha (Human) reborn as Sakka (Deva) because of his service to fellow man. Therefore Buddhist believe that good deeds lead to good rebirth. Including heavens.
May all be well and happy.