The highest of the celestial worlds, the abode of the Brahmas. It consists of
All except the four Arūpa worlds are classed among the Rūpa worlds (the
inhabitants of which are corporeal). The inhabitants of the Brahma worlds are
free from sensual desires (but see the
Mātanga Jātaka, (J.497), where Ditthamangalikā is spoken of as
Mahābrahmabhariyā, showing that some, at least, considered that Mahābrahmas had
The Brahma world is the only world devoid of women (DhA.i.270); women who
develop the jhānas in this world can be
born among the Brahmapārisajjā (see below), but not among the Mahābrahmas
(VibhA.437f). Rebirth in the Brahma world is the result of great virtue
accompanied by meditation (Vsm.415). The Brahmas, like the other celestials, are
not necessarily sotāpanna or on the
way to complete knowledge (sambodhi-parāyanā); their attainments depend on the
degree of their faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. See, e.g.,
A.iv.76f.; it is not necessary to be a follower of the Buddha for one to be born
in the Brahma world; the names of six teachers are given whose followers were
born in that world as a result of listening to their teaching (A.iii.371ff.;
The Jātakas contain numerous accounts of
ascetics who practised meditation, being born after death in the Brahma world
(e.g., J. ii.43, 69, 90; v.98, etc.). Some of the Brahmas - e.g.,
Baka - held false views regarding their world,
which, like all other worlds, is subject to change and destruction (M.i.327).
When the rest of the world is destroyed at the end of a kappa, the Brahma world
is saved (Vsm.415; KhpA.121), and the first beings to be born on earth come from
the Ābhassara Brahma world (Vsm.417). Buddhas
and their more eminent disciples often visit the Brahma worlds and preach to the
inhabitants. E.g., M.i.326 f.; ThagA.ii.184ff.; Sikhī
Buddha and Abhibhū are also said to have
visited the Brahma world (A.i.227f.). The Buddha could visit it both in his mind
made body and his physical body (S.v.282f.).
If a rock as big as the gable of a house were to be dropped from the lowest
Brahma-world it would take four months to reach the earth travelling one hundred
thousand leagues a day. Brahmas subsist on trance, abounding in joy (sappītikajjhāna),
this being their sole food. SA.i.161; food and drinks are offered to Mahābrahmā,
and he is invited to partake of these, but not of sacrifices (SA.i.158 f.).
Anāgāmins, who die before attaining arahantship, are reborn in the
Suddhāvāsā Brahma-worlds and there pass away
entirely (see, e.g., S. i.35, 60, and Compendium v.10). The beings born in the
lowest Brahma world are called Brahma-pārisajjā; their life term is one third of
an asankheyya kappa; next to them come the Brahma-purohitā, who live for half an
asankheyya kappa; and beyond these are the Mahā Brahmas who live for a whole
asankheyya kappa (Compendium, v.6; but see VibhA.519f., where Mahā Brahmās are
The term Brahmakāyikā-devā seems to be used as a class-name for all the
inhabitants of the Brahma-worlds (A.i.210; v.76f).
The Mahā Niddesa Commentary (p.109) says that the word includes all the five
(?) kinds of Brahmā (sabbe pi pañca vokāra Brahmāno gahitā).
The BuA.p.10 thus defines the word Brahmā: brūhito tehi tehi gunavisesahī ti=Brahmā.
Ayam pana Brahmasaddo Mahā-Brahma-brāhmana-Thathāgata mātāpitu-setthādisu
The Samantapāsādikā (i.131) speaks of a Mahā Brahmā who was a khināsava,
living for sixteen thousand kappas. When the Buddha, immediately after his
birth, looked around and took his steps northward, it was this Brahmā who seized
the babe by his finger and assured him that none was greater than he.
The names of several Brahmās occur in the books - e.g.,
To these should be added the names of seven Anāgāmīs resident in
Avihā and other Brahma worlds
(S.i.35, 60; SA.i.72 etc.).
Baka speaks of seventy two Brahmās, living, apparently, in his world, as his
See also Tissa Brahmā.
These are described as Mahā Brahmās. Mention is also made of Pacceka Brahmās
- e.g., Subrahmā and
Tudu is also sometimes described as a Pacceka Brahmā (e.g., S. i.149). Of the
Pacceka Brahmās, Subrahmā and Suddhavāsa are represented as visiting another
Brahmā, who was infatuated with his own power and glory, and as challenging him
to the performance of miracles, excelling him therein and converting him to the
faith of the Buddha. Tudu is spoken of as exhorting Kokālika to put his trust in
Sāriputta and Moggallāna (Loc. Cit.)
No explanation is given of the term Pacceka Brahmā. Does it mean Brahmās who
dwelt apart, by themselves? Cp.
The Brahmās are represented as visiting the earth and taking an interest in
the affairs of men. Thus, Nārada descends from the Brahma-world to dispel the
heresies of King Angati (J.vi.242f). When the
Buddha hesitates to preach his doctrine, because of its profundity, it is
Sahampati who visits him and begs him to
preach it for the welfare of the world. The explanation given (e.g., at
SA.i.155) is that the Buddha waited for the invitation of Sahampati that it
might lend weight to his teaching. The people were followers of Brahmā, and
Sahampati's acceptance of the Buddha's leadership would impress them deeply.
Sahampatī is mentioned as visiting the Buddha several times subsequently,
illuminating Jetavana with the effulgence of his
body. It is said that with a single finger he could illuminate a whole
Sanankumāra was also a follower of the
Buddha. The Brahmās appear to have been in the habit of visiting the deva worlds
too, for Sanankumāra is reported as being present at an assembly of the
Tāvatimsa gods and as speaking there the
Buddha's praises and giving an exposition of his teaching. But, in order to do
this, he assumed the form of Pañcasikha
The books refer (e.g., at D.i.18, where Brahmā is described as vasavattī
issaro kattā nimmātā, etc.) to the view held, at the Buddha's time, of Brahmā as
the creator of the universe and of union with Brahmā as the highest good, only
to be attained by prayers and sacrifices. But the Buddha himself did not hold
this view amid does not speak of any single Brahmā as the highest being in all
creation. See, however, A.v.59f., where Mahā Brahmā, is spoken of as the highest
denizen of the Sahassalokadhātu (yāvatā sahassalokadhātu, Mahā-Brahmā tattha
aggam akkhāyati); but he, too, is impermanent (Mahā-Brahmūno pi . . . atthi eva
aññathattam, atthi viparināmo).
There are Mahā Brahmās, mighty and powerful (abhibhū anabhibhūto
aññadatthudaso vasavattī), but they too, all of them, and their world are
subject to the laws of Kamma. E.g., at S. v.410 (Brahmaloko pi Āvuso anicco
adhuvo sakkāyapariyāpanno sādhāyasmā Brahmalokā cittam vutthāpetvā
sakkāyanirodhacittam upasamharāhi). See also A.iv.76f., 104f., where Sunetta, in
spite of all his great powers as Mahā Brahmā, etc., had to confess himself still
subject to suffering.
To the Buddha, union with Brahmā seems to have meant being associated with
him in his world, and this can only be attained by cultivation of those
qualities possessed by the Brahmā. But the highest good lay beyond, in the
attainment of Nibbāna. Thus in the Tevijjā Sutta;
see also M.ii.194f.
The word Brahma is often used in compounds meaning highest and best -
e.g., Brahmacariyā, Brahmassara; for details see Brahma in the New Pāli