"Did you, O good person, never see in the world a man or woman eighty, ninety, or a hundred years old, frail, crooked as a gable-roof, bent down, resting on crutches, with tottering steps, infirm, youth long since fled, with broken teeth, grey and scanty hair, or bald, wrinkled, with blotched limbs? Did it never occur to you that you also are subject to old age, that you also cannot escape it?
"Did you never see in the world the corpse of a man or woman, one or two or three days after death, swollen up, blue-black in color, and full of corruption? Did it never occur to you that you also are subject to death, that you also cannot escape it?"
The Three Fates (Flemish Tapestry, probably Brussels, ca. 1510-1520, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England). The Three Fates -- Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, who spin, draw out, and cut the thread of Life -- represent Death in this tapestry (pdl.cmu.edu/Fates).
The tapestry, also known as the "Triumph Over Death," is based on the third subject in Petrarch's poem "The Triumphs." Petrarch elaborates: First, Love triumphs, then Love is overcome by Chastity, Chastity by Death, Death by Fame, Fame by Time, and Time by Eternity.
In the Buddhist original, the symbolism of lifespan-factors defines these messengers: Both Buddhists and Greeks recognize these Three Moirae as the "Apportioners" of life, personifying one's destiny -- just as aging, morbidity, and mortality do.
These shocking messages of aging, sickness, and mortality are distinct from what is normally contemplated with regard to fortunate devas. Rather than promoting their worship and supplication -- the asking of favors and miracles from them -- the Buddha advised people with a devotional disposition to practice devatānussati or "recollection of light beings." (See anussati). By doing so one may attain rebirth as a deva.
As a rule, they are invisible to the human eye. But attuned by meditation, with the development of the divine eye, they can be seen. They may also make themselves visible by taking on a denser form.
- Devas under the Four Great Kings (Cātumahārājika-deva)
- Devas in the World of the Thirty-three (Tāvatiṃsa)
- Devas deligting in space (Yāma)
- Devas who are contented (Tusita)
- Devas who create (Nimmāna-rati)
- Devas who enjoy other's creations (Paranimmita-vasavatti)
Skillful karma and frequent recollection of devas leads to rebirth among them as a devaputra or "one born among devas" (literally, a "son of god").
See Gods and the Universe by Francis Story (Buddhist Publication Society, Wheel 180/181) for more details on these joyful beings.