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  • Devā (Sutta)

1. Devā. A class of beings.

As a title the word Deva is attributed to any being regarded, in certain respects, as being above the human level. Thus it is used for a king. In a late classification (CNid.307; KhpA.123, etc.) there are three kinds of Deva:

  • sammutidevā (conventional gods - e.g., kings and princes);
  • visuddhidevā (beings who are divine by the purity of their great religious merit - arahants and Buddhas);
  • uppattidevā (beings who are born divine).

Under the third category various groups are enumerated, the commonest number being seven:

  • Cātummahārājikā,
  • Tāvatimsā,
  • Yāmā,
  • Tusitā,
  • Nimmānaratī,
  • Paranimmitavasavattī
  • Brahmakāyikā

(E.g., D.i.216; A.i.210, etc.).

The longest list is that of the Majjhima Nikāya (i.289; iii.100. The Divyāvadāna p.266 contains a list of twenty-two), which contains the names of twenty-five groups.

The popular etymology of the word connects it with the root div in the sense of playing, sporting, or amusing oneself, sometimes also of shining: dibbantī ti devā, pañcahi kāmagunehi kīlanti, attano vā siriyā jotantī ti attho (KhpA.123). The word implies possession of splendour and power of moving at will, beauty, goodness and effulgence of body, and, as such, is opposed to the dark powers of mischief and destruction - such as the Asuras, Petas and Nerayikas.

The Devas are generally regarded as sharing kinship and continuity of life with humans; all Devas have been men and may again be born among men. They take interest in the doings of men, especially the Cātummahārājikā and the gods of Tāvatimsa. They come to earth to worship the Buddha and to show reverence to good men. Sakka (q.v.) is usually spoken of as chief of the gods - devānam indo.

All Devas are themselves in samsāra, needing salvation. They are subject to death, their life-spans varying according to the merit of each individual deva. They are born in the full flower of youth and are free from illness till the moment of their death. Devas die from one of the following causes: exhaustion of life, merit or food; failing, through forgetfulness, to eat; and jealousy at the glory of another, which leads to anger. (DhA.l.173; for other particulars regarding devas see the article in the NPD).

When a deva is about to die five signs appear on him:

  • his clothes get soiled,
  • flowers worn by him fade,
  • sweat exudes from his armpits,
  • his body loses its colour and he becomes restless on his seat.

DA.ii.427f; DhSA, 33, etc.

2. Devā.Daughter of Udaya I. and wife of Mahinda, son of the Ādipāda Dāthāsiva.

Cv.xlix.12.

3. Devā.Daughter of Dappula II. and wife of Kittaggabodhi. Cv.xlix.71.

4. Devā. Wife of Kassapa V. and mother of Sakkasenāpati. She built, for the monks living in the wilderness, a vihāra called after herself, and adorned the Buddha-image at Maricavatti. Cv.lii.52, 61, 64ff.

1. Devā or Vatapada Sutta. The seven rules of conduct observed by Sakka, whereby he obtained celestial sovereignty. S. i.227.

2. Devā Sutta.Explains the various names of Sakka-Magha, Purindada, Vāsava, Sahassakkha, Sujampati and Devānam-inda. S. i.228.

3. Devā Sutta.Mahāli visits the Buddha at the Kūtāgārasālā and asks if he has seen Sakka. The Buddha answers that he has and that he knows many things about Sakka. He then repeats what is given in Nos.1 and 2 above. S. i.229.


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