In many suttas the Buddha is described as being teacher of humans and devas. Devas being pure spirits how does a human being (the Buddha) teach them?
There are plenty of suttas that depict the devas coming to visit the Buddha and ask questions, and a few where he went to various heaven realms.
To what extent these are meant literally is, of course, an open question, but there is no doubt that the Buddha in the EBTs is deoicted as the teacher of gods.
In Buddhism, devas are not “pure spiritis”; they have what we call a “mind-made body” (mano-maya-kāya), which is a form of subtle matter.
It seems that the latest researchs in Quantum Physics indicate that all matter is mind or rather consciousness made (at the time the knowing is happening, the moment of imprint into consciousness).
So if my body is consciousness made what’s the difference with the body of a deva?
Don’t overstate the findings of quantum theory. There is a sharp difference between the empirical predictions and findings of quantum theory, which are highly robust and precise, and the theory that explains those things, which is highly uncertain, speculative, and disputed among physicists. You can read a survey of the differing interpretations here:
In any case, none of these interpretations say that matter is mind or anything like that. What some say is that consciousness is involved at a fundamental level in the collapse of wave functions. What the implications of this are go beyond anything that can be empirically tested so far.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited by the potential implications of quantum theory for giving a deeper insight into the relation between physical and mental processes. We just need to be cautious in how we approach the subject, is all.
So…going on what’s been said elsewhere…
It would appear that mention of devas and deva realms are considered to be ‘narrative text’ and not ‘doctrinal text’ and therefore a later addition.
Does this apply to all early suttas and their mentions of devas? What about the devasamyutta? What about the story of Brahma Sahampatti?
No, the mention of devas and deva realms is definitely doctrinal. It is just that most of the instances where the Buddha interacts with them is found in narrative sections. So the Buddha clearly says there are devas, but to what extent he actually conversed with them, say in the Jeta Grove, is an open question.
Many thanks for this!
Dear Ajahn Brahmali I was listening to the Darmma talk with Ajahn Jayasaro and he mentioned devas existence. He sad that people with exceptional refined mind can see devas in form of light. I took this statement literally. Am I missing something? How one should reflect on such statement ?
Thank you for your time,
With meta, Alona.
Yes, it seems devas can be seen in one’s meditation. I’ve heard of lots of instances of this, some from people I know very well. This is slightly different, however, from seeing devas as an external reality which more than one person can experience at the same time.
Thank you for your reply.
In my early period of learning Buddhism, I was a little sceptic about the existence of Devas. Some of the people told me that they actually exist inside your head and not in reality. But still after reading some suttas I couldn’t agree with them anymore.
I asked some monks (specially from those who converted to Buddhism after the call of Dr.Ambedkar ) whether the Devas exist or not. They told me “yes” that they do exist.
I asked them following questions:
Why can’t I see Devas?
Why can’t I hear Devas?
Why can’t I touch Devas?
They said that only an Arhant can sense them.
But we have developed our tools so much so that we can even see a bacteria through a microscope which we can’t see them through our naked eye.
Can any modern scientific instrument or tool sense Devas?
I am sorry If I asked such a question on a wrong platform.
Coming from a scientific background, I also didn’t believe in devas, heavenly realms or even rebirth when I first discovered the teaching of the Buddha. So I largely ignored these things at first or treated them as metaphors but as time passed, I started to see ways for them to exist without major conflicts with science (especially quantum mechanics). The main message of the Buddha was just too powerful to dismiss them alltogether and after a while I understood that without rebirth and the other realms there’s really no way to understand the full scope of dukkha.
It’s my understanding that you don’t have to be an Arahant to see fine-material beings or realms and I remember several occasions in the suttas where devas converse with monks still in training. You can’t see these things with the human eye or hear them with the human ear but they can be sensed by the “divine eye” and “divine ear” which I believe are faculties of the mind sense. And these can be best developed after emerging from jhana, preferably the 4th one.
Also, sometimes beings have developed these faculties in previous lives and have limited abilities without any special training and devas and brahmas can take forms that are visible to regular humans, if they should wish to do so.
Dhamma Greetings @alaber,
may I ask to which research publications you refer to?
Best Wishes :anjal:
I’m not aware of anything.
However, devas in the EBTs (except those in the formless realms) have some kind of subtle physical energies or phenomena (manomayakāya, sukhumarūpa, etc.) associated with them. If this is correct, it should be possible, in principle, to detect such energies.
Hi all, I am quite excited to find this site as I have been eager to find people I could discuss Dharma with. Sorry if this has been answered before but my burning question is … If there were buddhas prior to Gautama why did he need to instruct the devas at all. Surely they would have heard the Dharma already?
That’s a very good question, and I’d join in line to hear a good answer!
Especially the Brahamas who appear as interlocutors and who have a life span of millions of years. For them it should be ‘Oh, another Buddha, is it time already?’
The way I always understood it is that there are only a few Buddhas, at most, in any kalpa. So most devas would have lived during the life of only one Buddha.
It’s just I was under the impression there were at least 4 buddhas before lord Gautama and I think Sahampati was said to have been a disciple a previous Buddha so can’t see why he wouldn’t teach others the Dharma. Thanks for your replies
I think devas listen to Dhamma a bit like rich people do. They hear the words and go, “Sadhu, that’s so wonderful! Letting go, contentment, renunciation, all such fantastic virtues! Now I’ll jump in my Benz, drive to my mansion, and make my next million.”
It’s a tough crowd!
Yes you could have a point there actually however my main concern in this case is surely baka Brahma would have been informed of his delusion long before Gautama if there were previous Buddhas.