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Digha Nikaya

Dīgha Nikāya 18 Janavasabha Sutta
With God Janavasabha

King Bimbisāra is reborn as the deva Janavasabha and returns to talk with the Supreme Buddha.

Table of Contents

1. Declaring the Rebirths of People from the city of Nādika and Elsewhere

This is as I heard. At one time, The Buddha was living in the city of Nādika in the brick house.

At that time, The Buddha was revealing where his deceased have been reborn across the following states: the Kāsis and Kosalans, Vajjis and Mallas, Cetīs and Vaṁsas, Kurus and Pañcālas, Macchas and Sūrasenas: “This person was reborn here, while that person was reborn there.

Over fifty followers in Nādika have passed away having abandoned the five lower fetters. They’ve been reborn spontaneously into the Suddhāvāsa Brahma world. They are non-returners who will attain final Nibbāna there, without returning to this world.

More than ninety followers in Nādika have passed away having abandoned the first three fetters, and weakened greed, hate, and delusion. They are once-returners, who will return to this world only once, then make an end of suffering attaining Nibbāna.

More than five hundred followers in Nādika have passed away having abandoned the first three fetters. They’re stream-enterers who will never be reborn in miserable worlds. They are destined to attain Nibbāna within a maximum of seven lifetimes.”

The followers of Nādika were delighted after learning where The Buddha’s deceased followers have been reborn. Venerable Ānanda heard of the Buddha’s statements and the Nādikans’ happiness.

2. Ānanda’s Suggestion

Then Venerable Ānanda thought, “However, there were also many Buddha’s followers in the Magadhan state who have passed away lately. You’d think that Aṅga and Magadha were empty of followers who have passed away! But they too had confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, and had fulfilled their precepts. The Buddha hasn’t yet revealed their places of rebirth. It would be good if the Buddha were to reveal the places of their rebirth as well. Then many people would have happy minds, and as a result, they too, will be reborn in heaven after death.

“That King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha was a righteous and generous king who benefited the people of his state. People still praise him: ‘That a righteous and generous king, who made us so happy, has passed away. Life was good under his rulership.’ He too had confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, and had fulfilled his precepts. People say: ‘Until his dying day, King Bimbisāra was praising the Buddha!’ The Buddha hasn’t yet revealed where he’s been reborn. It would be good if the Buddha were to reveal the place of his rebirth as well. Then many people would have happy minds, and as a result, they too, will be reborn in heaven after death.

“Besides, the Buddha attained enlightenment in Magadha state; so why hasn’t he revealed where the Magadhan followers have been reborn? If the Buddha doesn’t wish to reveal, the people there will be very sad.”

After privately thinking about the Magadhan followers, Venerable Ānanda woke up at dawn and went to see the Buddha. He bowed respectfully, sat down to one side, and told the Buddha his concerns, as such: “Bhante, why didn’t the Buddha reveal the places of rebirth of the Magadhan followers? If the Buddha doesn’t wish to reveal them, the people there will be very sad.” Then, Venerable Ānanda, after making this suggestion regarding the Magadhan followers, got up from his seat, bowed, and respectfully circled the Buddha, keeping him on his right, before leaving.

Soon after Ānanda had left, the Buddha wore his robe in the morning, took his bowl and double-layered robe, and entered Nādika for alms. He walked from house to house for alms. After his meal, on his return from alms-round, he washed his feet and entered the brick house. Paying his mindfulness, attention, and focus wholeheartedly on the places of rebirth of Magadhan devotees, the Buddha sat on the seat spread out, thinking, “I shall know their destiny, where they have been reborn after death.” Then, the Buddha saw where they had been reborn.

Then in the late afternoon, the Buddha came out of his meditation. Coming out of the brick house, he sat down on the prepared seat, in the shade of the porch of the brick house.

Then Venerable Ānanda went to the Buddha, bowed respectfully, sat down to one side, and asked him, “Bhante, you look so peaceful; your face is shining. Your senses are so bright. Bhante, have you been meditating in a powerful jhāna today?”

The Buddha then told what had happened since speaking to Ānanda, revealing that he had seen the destiny of the Magadhan followers. The Buddha continued:

3. God Janavasabha

“Then, Ānanda an invisible god called out: ‘I am Janavasabha, Blessed One! I am Janavasabha, Holy One!’ Ānanda, do you recall having previously heard such a name as Janavasabha?”

“No, Bhante, but when I heard the word, I got goosebumps! I thought, ‘This must be no ordinary god to bear such a great name as Janavasabha.”

[The Buddha:]

“After making himself heard while invisible, Ānanda, a very beautiful god appeared in front of me. And for a second time he called out: ‘I am Bimbisāra, Blessed One! I am Bimbisāra, Holy One!’

[Janavasabha:]

“‘This is the seventh time I have been reborn in the world of the Great King Vessavaṇa. After passing away from there, I am now able to become human king.

“‘I have lived here in this heaven seven times, and I have also lived seven lives in the human world. I can recollect fourteen of my past lives.

“‘Bhante, for a long time I did not fall into the miserable worlds, I also have escaped from those miserable worlds forever. Now my wish is to attain the second stage of enlightenment so that I can become a once-returner.’”

[The Buddha:]

“It’s incredible and amazing that you, the venerable god Janavasabha, should say:

“‘For a long time I did not fall in to the miserable worlds, I have escaped from the rebirth in those miserable worlds forever. Now my wish is to attain the second stage of enlightenment so that I can become a once-returner.” Based on whose instructions have you achieved such a higher knowledge of life?’

[Janavasabha:]

“‘None other than the Blessed One’s instruction! None other than the Holy One’s instruction! The day I attained absolute unshakeable confidence in the Buddha, I was freed from the rebirth in the miserable worlds. Now my wish is to attain the second stage of enlightenment so that I can become a once-returner.

“‘Today, Bhante, I had been sent out by the great king Vessavaṇa to the great king Virūḷhakan on some business, and on the way, I saw the Buddha giving his attention to where the deceased Magadhan followers have been reborn.

“‘Bhante, the great king Vessavaṇa, as he was speaking to his assembly of gods, he revealed where the deceased Magadhan followers have been reborn. That day, I heard and learned about it from him. It occurred to me, “I shall see the Buddha and inform him of this.” These are the two reasons I’ve come today to see the Buddha.

4. The Council of the Gods

“‘Bhante, it was more than a few days ago—on the full moon day in the beginning of the rainy season—when all the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa heaven were sitting together in the Sudhammā divine hall. A large assembly of gods were sitting all around, and the Four Great Kings were there.

“‘The Great King Dhataraṭṭha was seated to the east, facing west, in front of his gods. The Great King Virūḷhaka was seated to the south, facing north, in front of his gods. The Great King Virūpakkha was seated to the west, facing east, in front of his gods. The Great King Vessavaṇa was seated to the north, facing south, in front of his gods. When the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa have a gathering like this, that is how they are seated. After that come our seats.

“‘Bhante, those gods who had been recently reborn among the Tāvatiṁsa gods, after leading the spiritual life under the Buddha, outshone the other gods in beauty and glory. The gods of the Tāvatiṁsa were overjoyed at that, full of delight and happiness, saying, “Friends, the crowd of gods increase, while the crowd of asuras decline!”

“‘Seeing the joy of those gods, Sakka, lord of gods, rejoiced in their happiness with these verses:

“‘Headed by their lord, god Sakka, the Tāvatiṁsa gods rejoice in the great gain of the Triple Gem.
They honour the Buddha,
and the excellence of the Dhamma;

They are overjoyed seeing the newly born gods,
so beautiful and glorious,
who have come here after leading
the spiritual life under the Buddha!

New gods have attained stages of enlightenment
when they were in the human world as followers
of the Buddha with vast wisdom.

Now they outshine the other gods
in beauty, glory, and lifespan.
Seeing this, the Tāvatiṁsa gods, headed by their lord, god Sakka rejoice

in the great gain of the Triple Gem.
They honour the Buddha,
and the excellence of the Dhamma.”

“Bhante, the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa were even more overjoyed at that, saying: “Friends, the crowd of gods increase, while the crowd of asuras decline!”

“‘Then the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa, considered on the matter for which they were seated together in the Sudhammā divine Hall. They advised and instructed the Four Great Kings on the related subject. And the Four Great Kings remained seated at their own seat without departing.

The Four Great Kings were instructed
by the Tāvatiṁsa gods,
and they accepted that advice.
They remained seated
with clear and peaceful minds.

“‘Bhante, at that time, in the northern quarter, a magnificent light arose, with radiance surpassing the glory of the gods. Then Sakka, lord of gods, told the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa, “As indicated by the signs—light arising and radiance appearing—Brahmā will appear. For this is the omen for the appearance of Brahmā, namely light arising and radiance appearing.”

As indicated by the signs,
Brahmā will appear.
A vast and great light is the sign of Brahmā.

5. On Sanaṅkumāra

“‘Then the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa sat in their own seats, saying, “We shall find out what has caused that light, we should see what will happen next, then we shall leave.” And the Four Great Kings did likewise.

“‘Hearing that, the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa emerged into a one-pointed mind.

“‘Bhante, usually when Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra appears among the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa, he does so after creating a solid body. Because the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa aren’t able to see a Brahmā’s normal appearance since it is very subtle. When Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra appears to the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa, he outshines the other gods in beauty and glory, just as a golden statue outshines the human form.

“‘Bhante, when Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra appears to the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa, not a single god in that assembly greets him by bowing down or rising up or inviting him to a seat. They all sit silently on their seats with their joined palms raised, thinking, “Now Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra will sit on the seat of whatever god he chooses.” And the god on whose seat Brahmā sits is overjoyed and filled with happiness, like a king on the day of his coronation.

“‘Bhante, then Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra created a solid body, taking on the appearance of a youth like the youth Pañcasikha, and appeared in front of the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa. Rising into the air, he sat cross-legged in the sky, like a strong man might sit cross-legged on a well-prepared seat or on the levelled ground. Seeing the joy of those gods, Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra rejoiced in their happiness with these verses:

“‘Headed by their lord, god Sakka, the Tāvatiṁsa gods rejoice in the great gain of the Triple Gem.
They honour the Buddha,
and the excellence of the Dhamma;

They are overjoyed seeing the newly born gods,
so beautiful and glorious,
who have come here after leading
the spiritual life under the Buddha!

The newly born gods have attained stages of enlightenment
when they were in the human world as followers
of the Buddha with vast wisdom.
Now they outshine the other gods
in beauty, glory, and lifespan.

Seeing this, the Tāvatiṁsa gods,
headed by their lord, god Sakka are rejoicing
in the great gain of the Triple Gem.
They honour the Buddha,
and the excellence of the Dhamma.”

“‘Bhante, Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra spoke these verses. And while he was speaking, his voice had eight qualities: it was clear, understandable, charming, pleasing to ear, collected, not wasted, deep, and echoing. He makes sure his voice goes as far as the assembly goes, but it doesn’t extend outside the assembly. When someone has a voice like this, they’re said to have the voice of Brahmā.

“‘Bhante, then Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra, having created thirty-three bodies, sat down on the seats of each of the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa and told them, “What do the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa think about how much the Buddha has acted for the welfare and happiness of the people, for the benefit, welfare, and happiness of gods and humans? For consider those who have gone for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, and have fulfilled their precepts, after death, some of them are reborn among gods of the Paranimmita vasavatti heaven, some among the gods of the Nimmānarati heaven, some among the gods of the Tusita heaven, some among the gods of the Yama heaven, some among the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa heaven, and some among the gods of the Cātummahārājika heaven. And at the very least they are reborn among divine musicians.”

“‘Bhante, Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra said this. While he was speaking, each of the gods thought, “The one sitting on my seat is speaking only to me.”

When one is speaking,
all the created bodies speak.
When one sits in silence,
they all remain silent.

But the Tāvatiṁsa gods headed by their lord, Sakka imagined,
‘the one on my seat
is speaking only to me.’

“‘Bhante, then the Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra appeared as a single Brahmā. Then he sat on the seat of Sakka, lord of gods, and started teaching the Dhamma to the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa:

6. Developing the Bases of Psychic Power

“‘What do the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa think about how well the four bases of psychic power have been clearly described by the Blessed One—the one who knows and sees, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha—for psychics, mastery over psychics, and displaying miracles? What four? It’s when a monk develops the basis of psychic power that has concentration due to desire for liberation, and strong effort. He develops the basis of psychic power that has concentration due to energy for liberation, and strong effort. He develops the basis of psychic power that has concentration due to determination for liberation, and strong effort. He develops the basis of psychic power that has concentration due to investigation for liberation, and strong effort. These are the four bases of psychic power that have been clearly described by the Buddha, for psychics, mastery over psychics, and displaying miracles.

“‘All the meditators in the past, future, or present who wield the many kinds of psychic powers do so by developing and cultivating these four bases of psychic power. Dear gods, do you see such psychic might and power in me as well?”

“‘“Yes, Great Brahmā.”

“‘“I too became so mighty and powerful by developing and cultivating these four bases of psychic power.”

“‘Bhante, Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra spoke about that. And having spoken about that, he taught more Dhamma to the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa:

7. The Three Opportunities

“‘What do the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa think about how well the Buddha has understood the three opportunities for achieving happiness? What three?

“‘First, take someone who lives mixed up with worldly pleasures and unwholesome qualities. After some time, they hear the noble Dhamma, properly attend to how it applies to them, and practice it accordingly. Their desires for worldly pleasures and unwholesome qualities subside. That gives rise to pleasure, and pleasure leads to happiness, like the joy that’s born from gladness. This is the first opportunity for achieving happiness.

“‘Next, take someone whose coarse bodily formations (in and out breathing), coarse verbal formations (applied thoughts and sustained thoughts), and coarse mental formations (perception and feeling) have not subsided. After some time, they hear the noble Dhamma, properly attend to how it applies to them, and practice it accordingly. Their coarse bodily, verbal, and mental formations subside. That gives rise to pleasure, and pleasure leads to happiness, like the joy that’s born from gladness. This is the second opportunity for achieving happiness.

“‘Next, take someone who doesn’t truly understand what is wholesome and what is unwholesome, what is wrong and what is right, what should be cultivated and what should not be cultivated, what is inferior and what is superior, and what is on the dark side, and the bright side. After some time, they hear the noble Dhamma, properly attend to how it applies to them, and practice it accordingly. They truly understand what is unwholesome, what is wrong and what is right, what should be cultivated and what should not be cultivated, what is inferior and what is superior, and what is on the dark side, and the bright side. Knowing and seeing this, their ignorance is given up and true knowledge arises. That gives rise to pleasure, and pleasure leads happiness, like the joy that’s born from gladness. This is the third opportunity for achieving happiness.

“‘These are the three opportunities for achieving happiness that have been understood by the Buddha.”

“‘Bhante, Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra spoke about that. And having spoken about that, he told the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa:

8. Mindfulness Meditation

“‘What do the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa think about how well the Buddha has clearly described the four kinds of mindfulness meditation for achieving what is wholesome? What four?

“‘It’s when a monk meditates by observing the true nature of the body internally—keen, aware, mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. As he meditates in this way, his mind becomes concentrated and serene. Then, with that concentrated and serene mind, he gives rise to knowledge and vision of other people’s bodies externally.

He meditates observing the true nature of the feelings internally … Then he gives rise to knowledge and vision of other people’s feelings externally.

“‘He meditates observing the true nature of the mind internally … Then he gives rise to knowledge and vision of other people’s minds externally.

“‘He meditates observing the true nature of the Dhamma factors internally—keen, aware, mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. As he meditates in this way, his mind becomes concentrated and serene. Then, with that concentrated and serene mind, he gives rise to knowledge and vision of other people’s Dhamma factors externally.

“‘These are the four kinds of mindfulness meditation that the Buddha has clearly described for achieving what is wholesome.”

“‘Bhante, Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra spoke about that. And having spoken about that, he told the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa:

9. Seven aids for right concentration

“‘“What do the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa think about how well the Buddha has clearly described the seven aids for right concentration for the development and fulfillment of right concentration? What seven? Right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, and right mindfulness. Unification of mind with these seven factors as aids is called noble right concentration. And it is called right concentration with its supportive conditions and right concentration with its prerequisites.

“‘“Right view gives rise to right thought. Right thought gives rise to right speech. Right speech gives rise to right action. Right action gives rise to right livelihood. Right livelihood gives rise to right effort. Right effort gives rise to right mindfulness. Right mindfulness gives rise to right concentration. Right concentration gives rise to right knowledge. Right knowledge gives rise to right liberation.

“‘“If anything should be rightly described as ‘a teaching that’s well explained by the Buddha, visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, applied to oneself, wise people can know it for themselves; and the doors to Nibbāna are open,’ it’s this. Because the teaching is well explained by the Buddha—visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, applied to oneself, wise people can know it for themselves—and the doors of Nibbāna are open.

“‘“Whoever has unshakable confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, and has the virtue loved by the noble ones, is trained in the Dhamma; and whoever is spontaneously reborn; in excess of 2,400,000 such Magadhan devotees have passed away having abandoned three fetters. They’re stream-enterers, not liable to be reborn in the miserable worlds, headed for enlightenment. And there are once-returners in that crowd too.

I think that some others also have generated much merit as non-returners and have been born in the Suddhāvāsa Brahma world.

I can’t tell how many exactly since I didn’t count them.
I am afraid of speaking falsely.”

“‘Bhante, Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra spoke about that. And while he was speaking about that, this thought came to the great king Vessavaṇa, “It’s incredible, it’s amazing that such a magnificent Buddha has appeared in the word, and such a magnificent Dhamma is taught! And that such achievements of stages of enlightenment are possible!”

“‘Bhante, then Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra, knowing what the great king Vessavaṇa was thinking, said to him, “What does Great King Vessavaṇa think? In the past, too, there was such a magnificent Buddha, and such a magnificent Dhamma! And such achievements of stages of enlightenment were possible! In the future, too, there will be such a magnificent Buddha, and such a magnificent Dhamma! And such achievements of stages of enlightenment will be possible!”

“‘Bhante, Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra told about that to the gods of the Tāvatiṁsa. And the great king Vessavaṇa, having heard and learned it from the Brahmā, informed his own assembly of gods.’

“And the god Janavasabha, having heard and accepted it from the great king Vessavaṇa, informed the Buddha. And the Buddha, having heard and accepted it in the presence of the god Janavasabha, and also from his own direct knowledge, informed Venerable Ānanda. And Venerable Ānanda, having heard and learned it in the presence of the Buddha, informed the monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. And that’s how the Buddha’s spiritual path has become successful and prosperous, extensive, popular, widespread, and well proclaimed wherever there are wise gods and humans.

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Dīgha Nikāya 18 Janavasabha Sutta: With God Janavasabha

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