Home » Excerpts » How Even The Gods May Fall

That even gods may fall
is a powerful reminder
that merely doing good
is not good enough.

Stonepeace

Whoever has accumulated much merit, after his rebirth in the Deva-realms [heavenly planes of gods], lives there till the end of the life-span of that realm is attained. If, however, the force of the meritorious deed [good karma] that caused his rebirth onto that realm [which is limited] is exhausted before the end of the life-span of that realm, is reached, he dies [and resume rebirth within Samsara, if not yet enlightened]. Some devas sometimes so indulge themselves in the pleasures and enjoyments of the Deva-realms, that they forget to take their food at the due and proper time. Consequently, at last, they come in for a fainting fit and then pass away. Some others die due to extreme anger caused by jealousy against another’s prosperity. That is because their subtle bodies cannot endure the burning that their anger generates within themselves, so their bodies are consumed and wither. (This description is given in the story of Ghosaka in the commentary of the Dhammapada.)

In describing the actual manner in which death occurs in these Deva-realms, we are told that when death is approaching and a deva is destined to fall away (die), five signs of warning are shown to him: (1) His garland fades, (2) his garments become soiled, (3) sweat exudes from his arm pits, (4) his body becomes ill-coloured, and (5) he feels no delight in his seat even as he remains seated.

It is also of interest and significance to note that from the moment of birth in a Deva-realm to the moment of death, neither the decaying and breaking of teeth, nor the greying of hair seems to occur. A heavenly female being (devi) for instance, maintains the appearance of a sixteen year old maiden all throughout her life, and a male has the appearance of a twenty year old youth. At the last moments preceding death, however, their bodies lose their colour, they feel exhausted and faint. Up to this last moment they never feel tired. When they near death, they begin to yawn… Only a few of the devas who are the wisest among them know what is about to happen… When devas die, their mansions too vanish and no residue remains, just as when a piece of camphor is burnt.

[Editor: As such, the mere doing of good to create merits for heavenly rebirths is dangerous, as wisdom is needed too, while the safest place for rebirth is a Buddha’s Pure Land, where enlightenment will be eventual, where there is no possibility of sensual indulgence, rise of defilements like anger, spiritual complacency, ageing, disease or untimely death.]

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