Deva (Buddhism)

Deva refers to a class of beings or a path of the six paths of the incarnation cycle. It includes some very different types of beings which can be ranked hierarchically according to the merits they have accumulated over lifetimes. The lowest classes of these beings are closer in their nature to human beings than to the higher classes of deva. Devas can be degraded to humans or the beings in the three evil paths once they have consumed their merits.

The Devas fall into three classes depending upon which of the three dhātus, or "realms" of the universe they are born in.

Each of these groups of deva-worlds contains different grades of devas, but all of those within a single group are able to interact and communicate with each other. On the other hand, the lower groups have no direct knowledge of even the existence of the higher types of deva at all. For this reason, some of the Brahmās have become proud, imagining themselves as the creators of their own worlds and of all the worlds below them (because they came into existence before those worlds began to exist).

The higher devas of the Kāmadhātu live in four heavens that float in the air, leaving them free from contact with the strife of the lower world. They are:

The lower devas of the Kāmadhātu live on different parts of the mountain at the center of the world, Sumeru. They are even more passionate than the higher devas, and do not simply enjoy themselves but also engage in strife and fighting. They are:

Furthermore, you should recollect the devas: 'There are the devas of the Four Great Kings, the devas of the Thirty-three,...

Humans are said to have originally had many of the powers of the devas: not requiring food, the ability to fly through the air, and shining by their own light. Over time they began to eat solid foods, their bodies became coarser and their powers disappeared.

Most devas are also capable of constructing illusory forms by which they can manifest themselves to the beings of lower worlds; higher and lower devas sometimes do this to each other.

Devas do not require the same kind of sustenance as humans do, although the lower kinds do eat and drink. The higher orders of deva shine with their own intrinsic luminosity.

Devas are also capable of moving great distances speedily, and of flying through the air, although the lower devas sometimes accomplish this through magical aids such as a flying chariot.

Buddhist devas differ from the western conception of gods and angels in several ways: