Reworking the planes of existence...meaning of Tusita

I am working on a workout of the planes of existence, trying to give them some more philosophical meaning. So one issue that I would like to ask anyone who is clever in Pali: whether the word “santussati” which is according to my findings declared to be the root of the word “Tusita”, and which is usually translated as meaning “to be contented, or pleased, or happy” [from sam +tussati]…may not be somehow equally related to the two words “samma” and “sati”…which would help me in making the Tusita realm, the realm of philosophers (…beings who possess great wholesome clarity of mind)?
I have made some provisorical audio recording already ( )…but I’m trying to create something better in writing…


Yes, that is correct.

Pāli tusita (or its lexical variant tuṭṭha) - both forms deriving from Vedic/classical skt tuṣṭa, is a past passive participle, being cognate with tuṣita (in buddhist hybrid sanskrit) - and is related to words like santosa (skt. santoṣa) santussati (skt. santuṣyati) etc. The addition of the upasarga ‘sam’ in these latter 2 words does not affect the meaning too much, it still means broadly the same as tussati (skt. tuṣyati) i.e. joy, happiness, contentment etc.

1 Like

This is possible as philosophy is at the verbal level. The next higher realm (nimmanarati) is the mental level of artisans, who deal in direct sense information. The last two levels of the kama-loka have great bearing on the social structure of SE Asian Buddhist societies, where the king held sway over artisans, for example the strong Thai allegiance to the monarch, or the Cambodian reverence for apsaras (dancers).

1 Like

If you are interested in the philosophical meaning of Tusita, then i hope you find the following relevant by Ludwig Wittgenstein:

What inclines even me to believe in Christ’s Resurrection? It is as though I play with the thought. – If he did not rise from the dead, then he decomposed in the grave like any other man. He is dead and decomposed. In that case he is a teacher like any other and can no longer help; and once more we are orphaned and alone. So we have to content ourselves with wisdom and speculation. We are in a sort of hell where we can do nothing but dream, roofed in, as it were, and cut off from heaven. But if I am to be REALLY saved, – what I need is certainty – not wisdom, dreams or speculation – and this certainty is faith. And faith is faith in what is needed by my heart, my soul, not my speculative intelligence. For it is my soul with its passions, as it were with its flesh and blood, that has to be saved, not my abstract mind. Perhaps we can say: Only love can believe the Resurrection. Or: It is love that believes the Resurrection. We might say: Redeeming love believes even in the Resurrection; holds fast even to the Resurrection. What combats doubt is, as it were, redemption. Holding fast to this must be holding fast to that belief. So what that means is: first you must be redeemed and hold on to your redemption (keep hold of your redemption) – then you will see that you are holding fast to this belief. So this can come about only if you no longer rest your weight on the earth but suspend yourself from heaven. Then everything will be different and it will be ‘no wonder’ if you can do things that you cannot do now. (A man who is suspended looks the same as one who is standing, but the interplay of forces within him is nevertheless quite different, so that he can act quite differently than can a standing man.)

1 Like

Do you have any more information about that? I have made out of the nimmanarati devas, “devas who create”, with which I was having in mind (keeping in mind the immensity of their life-span), that they build up a world on the higher planes (that is, they create the idea of how the world, the plants, the animals and so on should turn out…and perhaps also the deva realms below them)…which will then work out according to natural law…While control over human affairs (and perhaps devas affairs) I was attributing to the paranimmittavasavatti devas (according to my rendering: “devas who control the higher part of creation” (i.e. human beings and upwards)…those being the highest of the devas, so it would fit…I already have made a summary about it…if you want to look at it, I am interested in what people think about it:(

The Buddhist devas are based on Hindu gods. In SE Asian countries Hinduism and Buddhism are intermixed:

1 Like

So that’s it? The last word in matters etymology?

It doesn’t look like sammā (sanskrit: saṃyak) and sati (sanskrit: smṛti) have much of a connection with tusita.

Nimmānarati (= skt. nirmāṇa + ratin) = one that finds delight (ratin) in creating (nirmāṇa) things.

Paranimmitavasavatti (= skt. para + nirmita + vaśavartin) = one who controls (vaśavartin) things created (nirmita) by others (para).

Cātummahārājika (= cāturmahārājika) = the realm of the four (catur) great (mahā) kings (rāja) i.e. those that have control over the four cardinal earthly directions east, west, north and south.

Tāvatiṃsā (= trāyastriṃśat) = the world of the trayastriṃśat (the “thirty three”) Vedic gods.

The “ratin” in Nimmānarati, so my dictionary tells me may equally mean: “being devoted to”, or “fostering”…while nimāna seems to mean only creation and not “creation of things”…is that correct? That could make the Nimmanarati devas, devas who foster creation…What do you think?

Then about the Paranimmittavasavatti devas: Since “para” could mean both “others”, as well as “higher”, and there being according to my understanding no word for “things” in it…I would like to think of these devas as the devas who control the higher part of creation (i.e. humans and higher)…Which I feel would be a proper duty for the highest class of devas in a world system, if we don’t overstretch the meaning of the word “control” and understand the word “creation” to be derived from pre-buddhist times…

The Tavatimsā realm of Buddhism obviously has no more business with the origin of the name for that realm…which was the Indian Mount Olympus with 33 gods, “headed by Indra”.

ratin is an adjective derived from the verbal root √ram (to enjoy, to delight, to find pleasure) - hence means one who delights, one who enjoys, one who takes pleasure in.

nimmāna (skt. nirmāṇa) is derived from ‘nir+√mā’ which means to produce, to build, to fashion, to fabricate, to create – and is used normally in the sense of creating physical objects. The root √mā by itself means ‘to measure’, but with the addition of the upasarga (pre-verb) ‘nir’, as in nirmā, it’s meaning changes to ‘create/build/produce’. The ana at the end of nirmāṇa makes it a noun, referring to the activity of creation.

so nirmāṇa+ratin , as an adjective of a deva, would mean = a deva who takes pleasure in making/creating/building (the physical world?).

I don’t understand what you mean by “fostering creation” - does it mean not directly creating, but being favourably disposed to creation or indirectly helping others who create? That is not the sense that the pali seems to convey to me.

nimmita (skt. nirmita) is the past passive participle of the same verb nirmā, and means something like ‘created/made/built’
paranirmita = parena / parehi (skt. pareṇa / paraiḥ) nirmita. It means “made/built/created (nirmita) by others (paraiḥ)”
vasa (skt. vaśa) = control, authority, power, influence
vatti (skt vartin) – from the verbal root √vṛt = one who acts-as / does / performs
so paranirmitavaśavartin = one who exercises authority/control over others’ creations.

I dont see how it makes grammatical sense to say that paranirmita means “higher part of creation”

I dont understand what that means. Are you saying that in the EBTs it means something else other than the 33 vedic devas headed by Śakra (Indra)? I dont think the term, by itself, means something different (etymologically or otherwise). However there are differences relating to EBT innovations in the cosmology/mythology.

The differences:

  1. In the EBTs, the tāvatiṁsa forms one layer in a heirarchy of heavens, while in the earlier (vedic) literature, no such hierarchy of heavens is evident as far as I know - and the world of the thirty-three (trayastriṃśat) alone is called devaloka or svarga.

  2. In the vedic texts, amara (undying, immortal, imperishable) is a synonym for the devas, while in the EBTs, they are demoted from their vedic immortality and are merely considered long-lived.

  3. Other heavens above the trayaśtriṃśat are not found in the vedic corpus (although the impersonal brahman of the upaniṣads occurs in the late-vedic texts and is not considered a personified deva and is therefore unlocatable). The 33 devas are considered the highest. However in the EBTs, other heavens are placed above the world/heaven of the 33, and above all of those layers is the Buddha (in the EBT cosmology), i.e. he is the highest in the pecking order of beings in that everyone else considers him unsurpassed, although he is physically located in the middle-world (of the humans) before his pari-nirvāṇa, and is unlocatable after his parinirvāṇa. The EBTs also apparently demote the impersonal brahman into a personal deva called Brahmā and assign him his own loka called brahmaloka, so he becomes locatable.

  4. Māra literally means “killer” (god of death), and in the vedic tradition, the amaras (devas) are the ones not under the control of Māra. In the EBTs, the Buddha (and the arhats) are alone those who are not under the control of māra, so they alone are considered as having escaped death (i.e. the cycle of deaths and rebirths), so in that sense the devas are demoted from their amara status and are no longer called amara (in the EBTs).

  5. Similarly as regards pāli nirayas / narakas (sanskrit: naraka) also - the EBTs name a hierarchy of such hells, while in the earlier (vedic) texts, naraka is usually referred to in the singular (and is more or less viewed as an abstraction of a depressing place).

  6. In the vedic texts in general, as far as I understand svarga (approx: heaven) & naraka (approx: hell) are not mentioned with an air of certainty about them (i.e. there seems to have been a lot of ambiguity & agnosticism associated with them), but in the EBTs, there is a sense of definiteness visible regarding their existence.

  7. Regarding the physical existence of devas – the EBTs have many suttas where devas and devatas visit the Buddha physically and speak to him, and the Buddha too visits them physically in various situations. In MN100 where a brahmin asks the Buddha "Kiṁ nu kho, bho gotama, atthi devā?” (“Gautama, are there devas?”), and the Buddha initially apparently prevaricates and finally states that a viññu-purisa (intelligent person) would have to conclude that there are devas. As opposed to this, while the early vedic texts (circa 900 BCE & earlier) appear to consider the 33 devas as real beings, the 5th/4th century BCE mīmāṃsā (vedic hermeneutics) philosopers who lived in the time of the Buddha conclude that there is no need to presume the physical existence of the trayastriṃśat devas (i.e. they exist only in the vedic texts and in the minds of the sacrificers in an allegorical sense).

Apart from these EBT innovations (evidently intended to elevate the Buddha to a super-human and super-godly status) do you think there are any other differences as regards the cosmology between the two traditions (as represented in the EBTs and the pre-Buddhist texts respectively)?

Well regarding the Tavatimsā devas in pre-buddhist times…I would think them to be equivalent to the gods of the Greek pantheon…which have particular functions…and thus that realm would be a place in which it will be sort of difficult to get a place amongst them (there being only 33)…While in buddhist cosmology it seems to be the place wherein all the good Buddhists are going to go…While Sakka is pretty much the only one of those devas (although I think a few others have been mentioned) who has a permanent role there. So it is a place for good people rather than for a few specific heroes only…

To the Nimmānarati devas: the PTS dictionary gives me the following meanings to the word “ratin”: “fond of, devoted to, keen on, and fostering.”
The point is trying to make sense of them and their purpose in this hierarchy. I would like to contrive them to be something like builders of the world (considering their long lifespan, etc.)…

And when we would take things that way, then it would kind of make sense to have the highest devas in this scheme sort of influence, or guide, (or control, but I would slightly shrink from that one) the highest products of that creation (i.e. man, but perhaps even to some degree some of the devas below them)…
Then we can also make sense of why Mara is said to be of the order of this deva realm…(although I would not then take him to be as the best representative of that realm, but more as equivalent to Lucifer…the fallen angel). Regarding “para-” don’t you think it can also mean something like “higher”, “nobler”, etc., as in Paramattha, Parabrahman, Parinibbana?

These are actually as far as I remember, mentioned in either in the Sangiti- or Dasuttarasutta Sutta as one of things a bhikkhu should try to comprehend…It seems strange that there is close to no sensible information about them.

Parinibbāna (skt. pari + nirvāṇa) doesn’t have the word para in it. In the other two compounds , parama+artha and para+brahman mean something like “supreme/ultimate” which is not the sense in para-nirmita.

So it could mean other things in other compounds, but in this compound, para means ‘others’. The meaning you give to para must relate to nimmita & vasavatti, as all those words form a compound. ‘Controlling something created/built higher/noble’ does not seem to make much sense, ‘controlling something created by others’ appears to make sense.