ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 48

How to be reborn as Sakka, king of gods

By Chandrani Fernando

Deva sutta: How to be the king of gods, is found in the Sanyutta Nikaya. It is a sutta that was told by the Buddha for the benefit of those who wanted to be reborn as gods. Although the ultimate goal of Buddhists is to attain Nibbana, people are reborn as Brahmas, gods, asuras, yakkas, perethayas, humans, animals etc. Of these rebirths, people prefer to be reborn as gods as those realms are only meant for pleasure. One does not find unhappiness or sickness in these realms.

Sakka being the king of the gods, people were interested in knowing the factors that would lead to the birth of Sakka. Hence Buddha explained how one could do meritorious deeds and attain such a status. Deva suttas 1, 2 and 3 give you an idea of how to be a meritful god. Below are the Deva suttas as they appear in the Sanyutta Nikaya.

Once Gauthama Buddha was residing at Jethavanaramaya in the city of Savaththi which was built by the Royal Treasurer Anatha Pindika.

The Buddha addressed the monks and described how Sakka, the king of the gods attained that position. Sakka in a previous birth observed seven commitments when he was a human being.

What were these seven commitments observed by him?

“Matha Peththibharan Janthun
Kule Jetta Pachainan,
Sanhan Sakhila Sambhasan,
Machchera Vinaye Yuththan,
Sachchan Kodhabhibhun Naran
Than che deva Thavathinse
Ahu Sappuriso Iththeethi”

Gods living in the realm of Thavathinsa observed that these great qualities were found in their king’s personality.
These great qualities were practised by King Sakka when he was a human being.

  1. During his life, he looked after his parents well.
  2. Throughout his life, he respected and paid due reverence to the elderly persons of his clan.
  3. Throughout his life, he never used harsh words. He only spoke kind words that a person would like to hear.
  4. Throughout his life, he never carried tales.
  5. He was not a miser, but always ready to give.
  6. He never told lies.
  7. Throughout his life, he never lost his temper. Even if he got angry it was only for a limited minute or two.

Hence according to Deva Sutta (No.1) as the Sakka observed these seven good qualities in a previous birth he became the Sakka, the king of gods.

Gauthama Buddha said that as Sakka observed these great commitments he obtained Sakkahood. Gauthama Buddha further described this in the 2nd Deva Sutta too.

2nd Deva Sutta

Once Gauthama Buddha was residing at Jethavanaramaya in the city of Savatti built by the Royal Treasurer known as Anatha Pindika. He told the Bhikkus that Sakka the king of gods was once a youth called ‘Magha”when he was a human being in a previous birth. Hence he was also called Maghawa.

Gauthama Buddha said Sakka gave alms in each and every city when he was a human being. Hence he was called “Purindada”.
When this Sakka gave alms in his previous birth as a human being he gave alms methodically. Therefore he was called Sakka, as his alms givings were orderly.

Gauthama Buddha further told the Bhikkus that this Sakka when he was a human being donated a lot of houses and was therefore called “Vasava”.

Gauthama Buddha further explained another name given to Sakka which was Sahassaka as he could think of thousand factors in one thought.

Sakka’s wife was an Asura maiden called Suja. Thus he was called Sujampathi (Asura beings are the enemies of the gods).
Gauthama Buddha said as Sakka ruled the Thavathinsa gods’ realm in a prosperous manner, so he was called “Devanaminda”.
Gauthama Buddha said Sakka completed his commitments properly when he was a human being thus he became Sakka.
As in Deva Sutta No.1, Gauthama Buddha described the seven factors starting from looking after parents upto not becoming cross.

Therefore, the gods of Thavathinsa complimented Sakka as he had the qualities of a pious person.

Deva Sutta 3

Once Gauthama Buddha was residing at Kootagara hall of the great forest of Visala city. Mahalee, the Lichchavi king visited Gauthama Buddha and asked him whether he had seen Sakka, the king of gods.

Gauthama Buddha replied that he had. Then the king Mahalee said that it could be a fake Sakka and not the real one as it was difficult to see Sakka. Then Gauthama Buddha told Mahalee that he not only knew Sakka but also knew the factors that would make a Sakka.

He said that the Dhamma precepts that made Sakka become the king of gods were also known to him. Then Gauthama Buddha explained to Mahalee how Magha the youth was reborn as Sakka after doing a lot of social work etc;

Then he further explained other names that are given to him as in Deva Sutta No. 2. Saptha Vrutha observation made Magha the human being become Sakka the god king. Then Gauthama Buddha explained the factors starting from parental care to patience.

Mahalee, the Lichchavi king was educated at the university of Thaksila. After his studies he returned to the city of Visala and became the teacher of the Lichchavi princes. As a result of too much work he became blind. But his teaching post was not lost. The Lichchavi clan provided him with residential premises by the gate leading from Visala city to Savaththi city.

The taxes at the city entrance were given to him as his salary. His wife was Suppavasa and according to Apadana, he was the father of Arhath Seevali.

May all beings be happy and be virtuous to attain the bliss of Nibbana soon.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.