The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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ābhassara: A Brahma-World where live radiant Devas from whose bodies rays of Light are emitted, like lightning. It belongs to the Rūpaloka and is in the plane of second Jhāna (Abhs. v.3; Compendium 138, n.4). The Devas living there subsist on Joy (pītibhakkha) (S.i.114.; DhA.iii.258; J.vi.55).
Their span of Life is two Kappas and there is no guarantee that a person who has been born there may not later be reborn in an unhappy condition (A.ii.127; but see Abhs. v.6, where their Life-span is given as eight Kappas).
From time to time these Devas utter shouts of Joy saying "aho sukham, aho sukham." This Sound is the best of sounds. These Devas are completely enveloped in ease (sukhena abhisaññā parisaññā) (A.iii.202; D. iii.219).
During the periods of the development of the World many beings are born in the Abhassara realm and they are then called the highest of the Devas, yet even they change their condition (A.v.60). In lists of Devas (E.g., M.i.289) they are given below the Appamānābhā and above the Subhā.
Bodhisattas are sometimes born in the ābhassara World (AA.i.73; J.i.406, 473; M.i.329; , MA.i.553; SA.i.162), but they are never born in Arūpa worlds even when they have developed Arūpa-jhānas. Baka Brahmā was born in ābhassara after having passed through Vehapphala and Subhakinna, and it was then that he conceived the belief that he was eternal.
The Buddha visited him and convinced him of the error of his belief (J.iii.359). When The Universe is dissolved after the lapse of a long epoch and is again evolved, beings are mostly born in the ābhassara World. When, sooner or later, the World begins to re-evolve (vivattati), the Brahmavimāna appears, but it is empty. Then some being or other, either because he has finished his Life there or because his Merit is exhausted, leaves the ābhassara World and is reborn in the Brahmavimāna. Others follow his example, and it is then that the first to be reborn in the Brahma-World thinks of himself as Brahmā, the eternal, etc. (D.iii.29).
When inhabitants of the ābhassara-World are reborn as humans, their existence continues to be like that which they had in the Brahma-World itself. As time goes on, however, they lose their qualities and develop the characteristics, both physical and Mental, of human beings (For details see D.iii.84ff., PsA.253). Buddhaghosa (DA.iii.865) says that their birth on Earth is opapātika (by spontaneous regeneration) and they are Mind-born (manomaya).
On the occasions when the World is destroyed by Fire, the Fire spread up to the ābhassara-World; when by water, the water rises to the Subhakinna; when by wind, the wind reaches to the Vehapphala (CypA.9).
According to Buddhaghosa (MA.i.29; VibhA.520; cp. DA.ii.510), the ābhassaras are so called because radiance spreads from their bodies in all directions, like flames from a torch (dandadīpikāya acci viya etesam sarīrato ābhā chijjitvā chijjitvā patantī viya sarati visaratī ti Abhassarā).