Thursday, July 11, 2013

Who is the King of the "Gods"?

Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly; G.P. Malasekera (Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, PK) 
Buddhist Sakka depicted in Christendom as Saint Michael conquering Vepacitti (Tadolini)
Sky "shining ones" and titans in the "churning milk" or Milkyway Galaxy (wiki)
Garuda guardians of the golden Jade Buddha Temple, Thailand (iTimbo61/flickr)
Deva (ChristyB30/flickr)
Sakka (Sakra, Indra, Maghavā of Macala, Saint Michael) is almost always spoken of as "chief (or king) of the devas/gods" (devānam indo). 
The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Samyutta Nikaya, S.i.229; DhA.i.264) contains a list of his names:
  • Sakka is called Maghavā because, in a past life as a human, he was a Brahmin named Magha. (See Magha; cf. Sanskrit Maghavant as an epithet of Indra).
  • As such he bestowed gifts from time to time, hence his name Purindada (Cf. Indra's epithet Purandara, "Destroyer of Cities"), which means "generous giver in former births" or "giver in towns."
  • Angelic deva (Ukenaut/flickr)
  • Because he gives generously and thoroughly (sakkaccam), he is known as Sakka. Sakra occurs many times in the Vedas [sacred Brahminical "Books of Knowledge" revered by modern Hindus and the Brahmin priests of the Buddha's time] as an adjective qualifying the celestial gods (chiefly Indra). It is explained as meaning "able, capable." It is, however, not found as a name in pre-Buddhist times.
  • Because he gives away dwelling places (āvasatham), he is called Vāsava. (But see Vāsava).
  • Because in one moment he can think of one thousand matters, he is called Sahassakkha (also Sahassanetta).
  • Because he married the titan princess (asura maiden) Sujā, he is called Sujampati. For the romantic story of Sakka's marriage, see Sujā. Thus Sujā's father, the "demon" Vepacitti, became Sakka's father-in-law. Several quaint stories are related about father  and son in law. The two sometimes quarrelled and at others lived together in peace (SA.i.265).
  • Because he governs the devas of Tāvatimsa, he is called Devānam Indo, or "Lord of Lords." (See Inda).
  • Elsewhere (e.g., D.ii.270; M.i.252) he is addressed as Kosiya.
  • He is also spoken of as Yakkha (M.i.252; cf. S.i.206), Sakkanāmako Yakkho; at S.i.47 Māgha-devaputta (Sakka or literally "Māgha son-of-god," i.e., reborn among the devas) is called Vatrabhū, "Slayer of Vrtra" (SA.i.83).
  • Sakka was also, in the Buddhist Rebirth Stories (Jātakas), called Gandhabbarāja ( and Mahinda (J.v.397, 411).
Fairies are earthbound devas
Sakka rules over a space deva world not far from Earth called The World of the Thirty-Three, the second heaven (above the realm of the Four Great Kings presiding over the four quarters, or cardinal directions, of the akasha) of the Sensual Sphere. His heavenly mansion, palace, platform, or vimana is called "Banner of Victory" (Vejayanta). His chariot (spacecraft, deva-vehicle, "chariot of the gods") bears the same name.

"King" of the Devas?
Mt. Meru and cosmology (
Although the head (chief, leader, governing executive) of the deva lords in the World of the Thirty-Three (as well as the Four Great Kings or celestial regents), he is no absolute monarch. He is imagined rather in the likeness of a chieftain of a Kosala clan. The devas meet and deliberate in Sudhammā Hall (sabhā), which takes its name from a famous incident on Earth:
  • Sudhammā (3) was one of Magha's four wives. When he (before he ascended to the rank of Sakka) and his companions were building a rest house for wandering ascetics and travellers, they did not wish to include women in their meritorious project. But clever Sudhammā bribed the village carpenter, who made a pinnacle of seasoned wood for the building and laid it aside with the words: "Sudhammā nāma ayam sālā." When they completed the pavilion and were suddenly in need of a pinnacle, the carpenter told Magha and the 31 others that it was impossible to make a pinnacle now because it had to be done with well seasoned wood. As they searched for a seasoned pinnacle, Sudhammā agreed to give them hers if she were allowed to participate in the project. The men were at first unwilling, but in the end consented. As a result, when Sudhammā died, she was reborn in the World of the Thirty-Three. And due to her merit, there came into being for her Sudhammā Hall, the gathering place of the devas or "lords" of that world. It is 900 leagues in extent (DhA.i.269f., 274f.; J.i.201f). There they hold their meetings on the eighth day of each month (lunar observance day), or when the Dharma is expounded, and also for all their important festivals and meetings. (See, e.g., D.ii.268; M.ii.79; S.i.221;, 126; Thag.vs.1198). All buddhas preach the Abhidharma or "Ultimate Teachings," in such Sudhammā halls. It is said (ThagA.ii.185) that every deva world has such a gathering place, and Sudhammā sabhā has come to denote a "fine hall."
Photographing space (
Sakka consults with rather than commands the other ruling-devas. On such occasions, the Four Great Deva-Kings are present in the assembly with their followers of the Cātummahārājika world. (See e.g., D.ii.207f., 220f). Among the devas of the World of the Thirty-Three, Sakka is more or less "first among equals," primus inter pares, yet he surpasses his companions in ten things:
(1) length of life, (2) beauty, (3) happiness, (4) renown, (5) power; and in the degree of his five sense experiences: (6) sight, (7) hearing, (8) smelling, (9) taste, and (10) touch (A.iv.242). [And (11) wisdom might be added because Sakka is a stream-enterer, who alone regarded the arhat and chief male disciple of the Buddha "foremost in psychic powers" Maha Mogallana his "brother" in the Dharma when the latter visited Vejayanta]; these ten are also attributed to the rulers of the other deva worlds.
In the Connected Discourses (S.i.228, 229, 231; cf. Mil. 90; for details of these see Magha) the Buddha gives seven rules of conduct -- rules which Sakka carried out as a human being the karmic-result of which led to his attainment of celestial sovereignty.
When the devas (angelic light beings) fight the asuras (titans, "demons," fallen angels), they do so under the banner and leadership of Sakka. For details of Sakka's conquest of the titans see asura. The titans call him Jara Sakka (J.i.202). Pajāpati, Vamna, and Isāna are also mentioned as having been associated with him in supreme command (S.i.219). More
Sandakphu mountain range, West Bengal, India, national park lands (wiki)

No comments: