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Devanussati: Recollecting the Devas in Practice

practice
anussati
recollections
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#1

The Buddha lived and taught in a society that was steeped in various beliefs in a world of gods, demons, spirits and the supernatural. Instead of adopting an iconoclastic approach towards such beliefs, the Buddha uses them as bridges to the spirituality of personal accountability and liberation. These notions of non-human powers become engaging occasions for the Buddha to shine new lights on old lamps, turning mythology into psychology, superstition into superknowledge, the best example of which is the recollection of deities.
— Piya Tan

Have you practiced devanussati or something similar? If so, how was it for you? Do such practices, or any lesser known practices, interest you?

I’ve wanted to explore devanussati further, but English language resources are understandably scarce. So far I’ve found the following resources: a guided meditation by Ajahn Achalo; dhamma talks by Ajahn Yatiko and Bhikkhu Thanissaro (DN 20 is mentioned); a paper published by Piya Tan (15.13); and chapter 7 of the Visuddhimagga, which covers the six recollections.

Polar Bear also brought a talk from Shaila Catherine to my attention.


#2

It’s about comparing one’s virtue with the virtue that a deva is said to posses. It creates value in being wholesome and is a motivator. It also gives joy of knowing that virtue or generosity etc is being practiced.


#3

look at recollection #6 in this sutta, in my unellided expansion of AN 6.10
Whatever teachings of devata-anu-ssati exist in EBT are probably all based on that short passage.


#4

I have but didn’t know what it was called so probably not. I used to practice at a Kadampa temples since that’s the only buddhist temple in my area. It’s tibetan. We visualize vajrasatta over our heads with its montra. The kadampa tradition is highly controversial but if you mean using deities in practice that’s the only time I practiced it.

I’m sure there are specific techniques in regards to meditation. I hope this is what you meant. I tried looking devanussati up and your links and still a bit lost.


#5

I believe Ajahn Achalo mentions this practice in the guided meditation linked in the OP. He likens it to Devanussati, so it would be fair to assume these practices have similarities.

That’s pretty much it. I was mostly curious about people’s opinions and experiences with such practices, and if they found them beneficial.


#6

Cool. I’d find it more benefitial (as with a lot of things) when introduced by a teacher. I don’t know how close to tibetan teaching kadampa has cause it has its own flare to put it lightly. After you get the gist it’s easy to do on your own.

But when you advance and receive other deities there is a mantra and prayer as well as, for lack of better words, and blessing from the deity through the teacher to practitioner. Kadampa calls it empowerment ceremonies.

They study Stages of the Path. But, as I looked in the OP deities are good methods to cultivate Dharmic experiences. It depends on your mode of learning.

I may probably go back doing vajrasatta mantras. But, yeah, just depends on preference.


#7

Today I just realized that I’ve been listening to devatānussati almost daily during DN33 and it finally dawned on me to ask “why on earth would I wish to recollect deities I do not know?”

Thanks for posting this. Discourse prompted me with this thread as I started posting my own question. I appear to be a little late to the party…:rofl:


#8

Interesting question, Tony. I’ve also pondered how to recollect the devas and their virtues as described in the suttas. I have experimented with this contemplation some but not consistently. What I have found most helpful is seeing that it makes sense that virtuous beings would gravitate toward heavenly realms, and beings seriously afflicted with greed and anger would gravitate toward lower realms, figuratively and/or literally speaking. This contemplation sometimes inspires me to be more virtuous, kind and compassionate.

For me, this topic and the Buddha’s teachings involving devas has a scientific element to it. If beings are at least partially energetic vibrations, it makes sense that beings actions affect their vibration. Moreover, it seems to make sense that how we vibrate (caused by our conduct) affects where we are in the universe and possibly where we are reborn (whatever that exactly means).

So, I find it inspiring that other beings have generated enough positive karma to reach deva realms, and that perhaps that’s a possibility for all of us. To me, they are sort of like models of behavior, and I believe, based on the Buddha’s teachings and my personal experience and investigation, that they are beneficent forces in the universe.

with metta,


#9

What made my mind seize up in trying to understand the contemplation of the deities is that, lacking cultural deities context, one would quite likely end up projecting individual delusions onto a deity. We would be in danger of conceiving the deity as defined by ourselves. For example, suppose one had an attachment to food and then “recollected” a deity of fine food. Others would know such a “deity” as a “demon” but we might fool ourselves. At least with cultural deity context, one would have the Sangha for correcting one’s misconception. However, in a culture without shared deities, such support is lacking and one runs the danger of deifying one’s own qualities arbitrarily.

Even an “obviously good” quality like “metta” is problematic when projected onto a deity. Ask any Buddhist about the difference between metta and love and we’d likely get a very lively and long talk!

Because of the danger of projecting delusions onto a personal deity, I’m a little wary of the recollection of the deities. Perhaps I’m off the hook since I can’t recall any deities and therefore need not expend effort to do so? :thinking:


#10

Food isn’t one of the qualities given for recollection in Devanussati. As I understand it from reading AN 6.10, this practice is for cultivating faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom.


#11

Ah thanks for the reference. Here are the deities from that reference:

There are the Gods of the Four Great Kings, the Gods of the Thirty-Three, the Gods of Yama, the Joyful Gods, the Gods Who Love to Create, the Gods Who Control the Creations of Others, the Gods of Brahmā’s Group, and gods even higher than these.

Listening to DN33, I’ve become familiar with Gods Who Love to Create and Gods Who Control the Creations of Others in the sense that today’s world is a bit driven by the techno-gods who fulfill the consumer-gods. If these are the gods referred to by the Buddha, then I’d rather not recollect them–they seem to be dedicated to the creation of large piles of plastic. If these are not the gods referred to by the Buddha, then it somewhat proves my point that one could have misplaced faith in gods to recollect.

Note that the other recollections (e.g., generosity) do make sense to me, but it is always the recollection of the deities that makes me feel a bit like stepping on a pebble every time I hear that phrase walking meditation. Perhaps one day a deity might manifest and make itself known to me. Until then, the deities pebbles are a constant bump in the road. They are not immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know them for themselves. So I let them be and just keep walking.


#12

Ancient Indian societies also referred to their aristocracy, nobility, royalty, as “Deva”. I don’t know if this goes back to the time of the Buddha.


#13

Ooooooooooh. That makes a lot of things click. Thanks!


#14

I’d rather see these devas as perhaps citizens of the multiverse -if it helps! In any case it isn’t about the devas but good qualities.