Friday, May 17, 2013

Is there a heaven? (sutras)

CC Liu, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly; Bryan Ferry, "In Every Dream Home a Heartache"
Heavenly (sagga) Golden Stupa, National Symbol of the Theravada Buddhist country Laos, Southeast Asia (Carlo Antonio Angeles/CarlPH/

"Heaven is in the heart," says St. Issa
In every dream home a heartache
And every step I take
Takes me further from heaven

Is there a heaven?
I'd like to think so

The standards of living
They're rising daily
But Home oh Sweet Home
It's only a saying

From bell push to faucet
In smart town apartment
The cottage is pretty
The main house a palace

Celestial penthouse, Buddhist temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand (Swissrock/flickr)
Penthouse perfection
But what goes on
What to do there?
Better pray there

Open-plan living
Bungalow ranch-style
All of its comforts
Seem so essential...

Oh those heartaches
Dreamhome heartaches

Oh those heartaches...
Bryan Ferry with Roxy Music performing "In Every Dream Home a Heartache," circa 1973

Buddhist cosmology depicted in glass and staris, Thai museum ceiling (Angelo G.I.O./flickr)
One Time in Heaven
Hellmuth Hecker edited by Dhr. Seven and Amber Dorrian, Wisdom Quarterly
Sky palace, akasha deva loka (Padhitya/flickr)
"Just as a person might bend a stretched arm or stretch a bent arm," so quickly was Maha-Moggallana [M-M] (the Buddha's chief male disciple, foremost in psychic powers) able to depart bodily from the human world and reappear in a celestial realm of his choosing.
He repeatedly made use of this ability for instructing other beings and looking after the affairs of the nascent Order (Sangha) of Buddhist nuns and monks. Therefore, M-M taught the Devas in the World of the Thirty-Three the [four] factors of stream-entry.
Heavens (Angelo G.I.O.)
He was testing Sakka, King of the Devas [a stream-enterer who rules that plane and the plane below it] as to whether he had understood the teaching about the extinction of craving (MN 37).
Once when the Buddha was teaching [his mother, the reborn Maha Maya Devi, devi meaning both "queen" and "female shining one"], for three months in Sakka's heavenly world, M-M appeared in that space world and informed the Taster of happenings in the Monastic Order, asking him for instructions (Jataka 483E).
Kolita became the Great One of his Clan
He visited not only the devas of the Sensual Sphere [or kama loka, also kama dhatu, the lowest of the three divisions within a world-system (corresponding to a solar system, galaxy, cosmos, or universe in a multiverse?), which includes subhuman planes, the human plane, and various lower celestial planes, the other spheres being the Fine Material and Immaterial], but also those of the Brahma World [in the Fine Material Sphere].
Thus, he appeared before a brahma deity who believed that there were no wandering ascetics capable of entering its realm. Through questioning and supernormal feats, M-M shook the self-assurance of that deity (SN 6,5).
Or he appeared in front of a brahma named Tissa -- who had formerly been a Buddhist monk and had died recently and been reborn -- and provided this brahma with instructions about stream-entry and the realization of final liberation, namely, nirvana. (AN IV, 34; VII, 53)....

Nearby "heaven" above Earth (
Once when M-M visited Sakka in his lowly heavenly realm and saw that Sakka was living rather lightheartedly [carelessly and joyfully without regard for the final goal of liberation from samsara or the cycle of rebirth and suffering, of which the heavens are a part, with the exception of the Pure Abodes, which are accessible only by those attained to the preliminary stages of enlightenment] and was captivated by the heavenly sensual pleasures of his world, forgetful of the Teaching (liberating Dharma), M-M performed a similar magical feat by slightly shaking Sakka's celestial palace called "Banner of Victory," which Sakka was very proud of.

This had a shocking effect [had he been on Earth, it would have been an Earth-shaking or illusion-shattering effect] on Sakka too.
Sakka now recalled the Buddha's teaching on the extinction of craving, which the Teacher had briefly taught him not long before. It was the same teaching by which the Buddha had once helped M-M to attain enlightenment or sainthood (MN 387). 

There are, in fact, many "heavens" (sagga) in the akasha deva loka and dimensions beyond the tangible world of ordinary experience (Wisdom Quarterly).

Buddha, Wat Pharornkaew (CCPC2008/flickr)
EDITOR'S NOTE: If every "heaven" is a dream home, the heartache is that it is not impermanent. However long-lived, it is marked by radical impermanence the beings their do not tend to notice. They eventually fall. If, however, they aspired for liberation even from heaven (to say nothing of rebirth on the human plane or miserable worlds beneath that), they would find liberation from ALL suffering and disappointment, however subtle or alluring. There is hope, Bryan Ferry, beyond hedonism and human- and superhuman-sensuality. St. Issa was onto something; when the heart/mind really lets go by meditative-insight into the true nature of things, one experiences bliss even now.

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