Buddhist God as a career path

(Picture copyright via wikipedia commons, rhe free media repository)

Here is something not every spiritual path has to offer.

In Buddhism you can actually be reborn as a god in one of the higher realms where the devas live (aka angels, sort of). A real god that lives in a heavenly realm, filling his life with nothing but bliss and ecstatic joys. It’s probably a promotion from the deva realms and involves a lot of good doing, being generally holy and pure, things like that.

It is noteworthy that this career choice  is not the same as reaching the (in)famous >nirvana< (pali: nibbana).  Buddhism sees nirvana as the state where every desire is extinguished and hence every suffering is eliminated. In Theravada Buddhism (one of the many branches of Buddhism), this is the only spiritual goal and the person who experiences it is called a fully cultivated being, or an >arhat< or >arhant< (Pali: arahati, >worthy one<). The final goal of Theravada Buddhism is to become an arhant and thus release them from the endless cycle of rebirth and suffering (aka samsara). 

Now, here is where it gets interesting: The human form also includes your highest chance to attain nirvana. It only gets worse from here. The chances seem to drop substantially for any other state of existence, including that of devas and gods, unless you come very well prepared. 

Let me say this again, because it is so cute: If you are a god, it is extremely hard, much harder than in any other form of existence, to become an arhant. In Buddhism eternal freedom from suffering is not part of a god’s job description (which explains a lot about gods, if you ask me).

While this might be understandable if you are stuck in an >evil< state of being, this may come as a surprise to those who thought of gods as almighty. Well, they are not. At least not in Buddhism. Also, there seems to be a generally low interest in practicing the dhamma among celestial beings. The only explanation I could find for this, is that if you are dwelling in the bliss of heaven, you are so overwhelmed with joy and ecstasy that you will never be able to comprehend the Buddha’s teaching about the truth of suffering. That kind of makes sense.

It reminds me of Aitken roshi who taught in his diamond sangha in Hawaii, back in the day. I read interview once, where he pointed out how very hard it was to get people in is meditation hall in the beginning. Try to teach people the truth of suffering, while they live on Hawaii, with the beach, sun and blue ocean right outside their door.

The only thing a god can do to change his sentence to eternal bliss is, well… to die. Which they will. Seriously. This is the drawback of any form in any realm of existence. It may take a million years but at the end even a god makes mistakes. In a heavenly realm this most probably involves evil thoughts of some sort. After which they fall from heaven and might just get reborn in human form for another fighting chance to attain liberation. Who would have ever thought that? 

Turns out that even gods are subject to the nature of change.

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