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Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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The second of the six deva-worlds, the first being the Cātummahārājika world. Tāvatimsa stands at the top of Mount Sineru (or Sudassana). Sakka is king of both worlds, but lives in Tāvatimsa. Originally it was the abode of the Asuras; but when Māgha was born as Sakka and dwelt with his companions in Tāvatimsa he disliked the idea of sharing his realm with the Asuras, and, having made them intoxicated, he hurled them down to the foot of Sineru, where the Asurabhavana was later established.
The chief difference between these two worlds seems to have been that the Pāricchattaka tree grew in Tāvatimsa, and the Cittapātali tree in Asurabhavana. In order that the Asuras should not enter Tāvatimsa, Sakka had five walls built around it, and these were guarded by Nāgas, Supannas, Kumbhandas, Yakkhas and Cātummahārājika devas (J.i.201ff; also DhA.i.272f). The entrance to Tāvatimsa was by way of the Cittakūtadvārakotthaka, on either side of which statues of Indra (Indapatimā) kept guard (J.vi.97). The whole kingdom was ten thousand leagues in extent (DhA.i.273), and contained more than one thousand pāsādas (J.vi.279). The chief features of Tāvatimsa were its parks - the Phārusaka, Cittalatā, Missaka and Nandana - the Vejayantapāsāda, the Pāricchatta tree, the elephant-king Erāvana and the Assembly-hall Sudhammā (J.vi.278; MA.i.183; cp. Mtu.i.32). Mention is also made of a park called Nandā (J.i.204). Besides the Pāricchataka (or Pārijāta) flower, which is described as a Kovilāra (A.iv.117), the divine Kakkāru flower also grew in Tāvatimsa (J.iii.87). In the Cittalatāvana grows the āsāvatī creeper, which blossoms once in a thousand years (J.iii.250f).
It is the custom of all Buddhas to spend the vassa following the performance of the Yamakapātihāriya, in Tāvatimsa. Gotama Buddha went there to preach the Abhidhamma to his mother, born there as a devaputta. The distance of sixty-eight thousand leagues from the earth to Tāvatimsa he covered in three strides, placing his foot once on Yugandhara and again on Sineru.
The Buddha spent three months in Tāvatimsa, preaching all the time, seated on Sakka's throne, the Pandukambalasilāsana, at the foot of the Pāricchattaka tree. Eighty crores of devas attained to a knowledge of the truth. This was in the seventh year after his Enlightenment (J.iv.265; DhA.iii.216f; BuA. p.3). It seems to have been the frequent custom of ascetics, possessed of iddhi-power, to spend the afternoon in Tāvatimsa (E.g., Nārada, J.vi.392; and Kāladevala, J.i.54).
The Jātaka Commentary mentions several human beings who were invited by Sakka, and who were conveyed to Tāvatimsa - e.g. Nimi, Guttila, Mandhātā and the queen Sīlavatī. Mandhātā reigned as co-ruler of Tāvatimsa during the life period of thirty-six Sakkas, sixty thousand years (J.ii.312). The inhabitants of Tāvatimsa are thirty-three in number, and they regularly meet in the Sudhammā Hall. (See Sudhammā for details). A description of such an assembly is found in the Janavasabha Sutta. The Cātummahārājika Devas (q.v.) are present to act as guards. Inhabitants of other deva- and brahma-worlds seemed sometimes to have been present as guests - e.g. the Brahmā Sanankumāra, who came in the guise of Pañcasikha. From the description given in the sutta, all the inhabitants of Tāvatimsa seem to have been followers of the Buddha, deeply devoted to his teachings (D.ii.207ff). Their chief place of offering was the Cūlāmanicetiya, in which Sakka deposited the hair of Prince Siddhattha, cut off by him when he renounced the world and put on the garments of a recluse on the banks of the Nerañjarā (J.i.65). Later, Sakka deposited here also the eye-tooth of the Buddha, which Dona hid in his turban, hoping to keep it for himself (DA.ii.609; Bu.xxviii.6, 10).
The gods of Tāvatimsa sometimes come to earth to take part in human festivities (J.iii.87). Thus Sakka, Vissakamma and Mātali are mentioned as having visited the earth on various occasions. Mention is also made of goddesses from Tāvatimsa coming to bathe in the Anotatta and then spending the rest of the day on the Manosilātala (J.v.392).
The capital city of Tāvatimsa was Masakkasāra (Ibid., p.400). The average age of an inhabitant of Tāvatimsa is thirty million years, reckoned by human computation. Each day in Tāvatimsa is equal in time to one hundred years on earth (DhA.i.364). The gods of Tāvatimsa are most handsome; the Licchavis, among earth-dwellers, are compared to them (DhA.iii.280). The stature of some of the Tāvatimsa dwellers is three-quarters of a league; their undergarment is a robe of twelve leagues and their upper garment also a robe of twelve leagues. They live in mansions of gold, thirty leagues in extent (Ibid., p.8). The Commentaries (E.g., SA.i.23; AA.i.377) say that Tāvatimsa was named after Magha and his thirty-two companions, who were born there as a result of their good deeds in Macalagāma. Whether the number of the chief inhabitants of this world always remained at thirty-three, it is impossible to say, though some passages, e.g. in the Janavasabha Sutta, lead us to suppose so.
Sometimes, as in the case of Nandiya, who built the great monastery at Isipatana, a mansion would appear in Tāvatimsa, when an earth-dweller did a good deed capable of obtaining for him birth in this deva-world; but this mansion would remain unoccupied till his human life came to an end (DhA.iii.291).
There were evidently no female devas among the Thirty-three. Both Māyā and Gopikā became devaputtas when born in Tāvatimsa. The women there were probably the attendants of the devas. (But see, e.g., Jālini and the various stories of VvA).
There were many others besides the Thirty-three who had their abode in Tāvatimsa. Each deva had numerous retinues of attendants, and the dove-footed (kaktgapādiniyo) nymphs (accharā) of Tāvatimsa are famous in literature for their delicate beauty. The sight of these made Nanda, when escorted by the Buddha to Tāvatimsa, renounce his love for Janapadakalyānī Nandā (J.ii.92; Ud.iii.2).
The people of Jambudīpa excelled the devas of Tāvatimsa in courage, mindfulness and piety (A.iv.396). Among the great achievements of Asadisakumāra was the shooting of an arrow as far as Tāvatimsa (J.ii.89).