18. Janavasabha Sutta

The attainment of the higher worlds by the deceased

The Buddha repeatedly explained to the local people of those places where He preached, in what worlds the followers of His Dhamma, who left the body, are being reborn. Depending on the degree of purification of the mind, they rise higher and higher, into the worlds, increasingly free from unwholesome qualities of existence. Listening to these explanations, Ananda thinks thus: “It has been for a long time, that the Buddha did not preach in Magadha, where He attained Awakening. Therefore, nothing was said about the worthy followers of the Dhamma from this city who left the body lately. But among them is the king Bimbisara, who established the Dhamma in his kingdom, as well as many others. The people of Magadha would be delighted to learn that the Buddha mentioned the rebirth of these worthy followers.”

With such a request, Ananda turned to the Buddha, and, expecting that the Teacher will clarify this question when he wishes, respectfully retired.

The yaksha Janavasabha

Soon the Buddha answered Ananda’s question, and discovered how this knowledge was obtained.

So, hearing the request of Ananda, Buddha, having collected the alms in the city, washed his feet and sat down, having decided to learn by direct perception the truth about the worlds in which His followers from Magadha were reborn. When He was in concentration, he heard the voice of a powerful yaksha (a heavenly spirit), addressing Him: “I am Janavasabha, O, the Blessed One!” Hearing the name of the yaksha from the mouth of the Buddha, Ananda realized that this is not an ordinary spirit, and the hairs on Ananda’s body stood on end.

The yaksha said that in the past he was the king Bimbisara, and now resides in the retinue of the king Vessavana (one of the Four Kings, the lords of the gates to heavenly worlds, Vessavana is the ruler of the northern gate). Janavasabha appeared before the Buddha to tell him about the conversation at the meeting of the gods, witnessed by Vessavana. Vessavana told his congregation about this conversation, and now Janavasabha retells the Buddha what he heard.

Janavasabha heard from Vessavana how in their meeting the gods rejoiced that their number increased due to the followers of the Dhamma who had left the body, and now the number of gods became larger than the number of asuras (creatures competing with gods). At some point in the general conversation of the gods, led by the god Sakka, a great radiance appeared, which is a sign of the approach of Brahma Sanankumara (Forever Youthful), and then Brahma himself, having created a visible form, entered this assembly.

Brahma Sanankumara’s Sermon

Appearing, Brahma created many forms in which he approached each of those present and addressed each one so that the listener seemed to think that Brahma only talks with him. Then, having gathered many of his forms into one, Brahma sat down next to Sakka and turned to the gods with a sermon:

Four kinds of effort to gain supernatural qualities and three ways to bliss:

The supernatural qualities demonstrated by Brahma are attained by those who perfect concentration with four kinds of forces: concentration with the force of the sense organs (controlling the desire); concentration with breathing (managing the energy); concentration with the help of ideas (managing the mind); concentration with the help of research (questioning, controlling consciousness).

A person following Dhamma attains the bliss of the world of the gods by one or more of the three ways: by overcoming the involvement in the activities of the senses; correcting rude, unskillful behavior; and stopping delusions.

The four foundations of awareness and the seven components of right concentration:

  1. The body is recognized in the body (i.e., the actions of the body are thoughtfully realized), and thus the mind is removed from thirst and dissatisfaction;
  2. By being inwardly aware of the body (i.e., having turned the activity of the senses to the perception of bodily states), the contemplator becomes focused and calm;
  3. Turning the mind to itself, exploring his own heart, the beholder acquires knowledge of the contents of other beings’ consciousness;
  4. Realizing the state of the mind, the beholder stops its excitation (the formation of bad qualities).

Since right concentration is the highest step of the eightfold Path, the seven preceding stages are its constituents:

(1)right view and (2)right intention, forming wisdom together; (3)correct speech, (4)correct behavior and (5)right way of life, forming together cleansed morality; (6)right effort and (7)right mindfulness, leading to peace of mind (Brahma Sanankumara explained earlier the right effort – as the four kinds of effort leading to supernatural abilities, the right morality – as the three ways to reach the world of the gods, and the right mindfulness – as the four bases of awareness).

Numerous inhabitants of Magadha, freed from unwholesome rebirths

When Brahma Sanankumara mentioned the three ways to the bliss of the world of the gods, he reminded those present that all of them appeared in a high assembly, having followed these ways. This is evidenced by Janavasabha himself, who entered this beautiful community, as well as by many Magadha residents, who got rid of the unwholesome qualities of the mind and joined this meeting of the gods.

Hearing this story, Ananda told the people of Magadha what he heard from the Buddha and they were inspired and encouraged.

Conclusion

The palace of Brahma is the peak of the first jhana (jhana – literally: the manifestation of brightness (of the mind), the first abode of concentration). Brahma, as well as those who have achieved the worlds of Brahma, dominate this state through the development of Immense Feelings (see Tevijja Sutta, Digha Nikaya 13). Therefore, Brahma preaches to beings who have cleared their morality, who have entered the path of concentration. The worldly followers of the Dhamma, having completed the path of purifying their wisdom and morality during their lives, supporting the Sangha of the renounced Buddha disciples, are reunited with the subtle image of the earthly Sangha in the heavenly world and are able to continue the ascension path there.

Vladimir Pyatsky and Smadar Pyatsky
Translation: Natalia Tsimbler