Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 181:
ye jhānapasutā dhīrā nekkhammūpasame ratā |
dev’āpi tesaṃ pihayanti sambuddhānaṃ satīmataṃ || 181 ||
181. E’er intent on concentration, joyful in peace of letting go, mindful, wise, the perfect Buddhas, to even devas they are dear.
The Story of the Buddha’s Return from the Tāvatiṃsa Deva World
On return from the Tāvatiṃsa deva world, the Buddha spoke this verse at Saṅkassanagara, in reply to Venerable Sāriputta’s words of welcome.
On one occasion, while at Sāvatthi, the Buddha displayed the miracle of synchro-emanation in answer to the challenge of the ascetics of various sects. After this, the Buddha went to the Tāvatiṃsa deva worlds; his mother who had been reborn in the Tusita deva world as a deva known as Santusita also came to the Tāvatiṃsa deva world. There the Buddha expounded the Abhidhamma to the devas and the brahmas throughout the three months of the vassa. As a result, Santusita deva attained sotāpatti fruition; so did numerous other devas and brahmas.
When the Buddha was gone, the folks asked Moggallāna, “Where has the Buddha gone?” Although Venerable Moggallāna himself knew perfectly well where the Buddha had gone, he thought to himself, “Of others also let the wondrous powers become known,” and therefore answered, “Ask the Venerable Anuruddha.” So they asked Venerable Anuruddha, “Venerable, where has the Buddha gone?” Venerable Anuruddha replied, “He has entered upon residence in the world of the thirty-three, seated upon the Yellowstone Throne; he went thither to expound the Abhidhamma Pitaka to his mother.”
During that period Venerable Sāriputta spent the vassa at Saṅkassanagara, thirty yojanas away from Sāvatthi. During his stay there, as regularly instructed by the Buddha, he taught the Abhidhamma to the huge group of monks staying with him and covered the whole course by the end of the vassa.
Towards the end of the vassa, Venerable Moggallāna went to the Tāvatiṃsa deva world to see the Buddha. Then, he was told that the Buddha would return to the human world on the full moon day at the end of the vassa to the place where Venerable Sāriputta was spending the vassa.
As promised, the Buddha came with the six coloured rays shining forth from his body to the city-gate of Saṅkassanagara, on the night of the full moon day of the month of Assayuja when the moon was shining brightly. He was accompanied by a large following of devas on one side and a large following of brahmas on the other. A large gathering headed by Venerable Sāriputta welcomed the Buddha back to this world; and the whole town was lit up. Venerable Sāriputta was awed by the grandeur and glory of the whole scene of the Buddha’s return. He respectfully approached the Buddha and said, “Venerable! We have never seen or even heard of such magnificent and resplendent glory. Indeed, Venerable you are loved, respected and revered alike by devas, brahmas and men!” To him the Buddha said, “My son Sāriputta, the sages who are endowed with unique qualities are truly loved by men and devas alike.”
At the end of the discourse, the group of monks, who were the pupils of Venerable Sāriputta, attained arahatship and a great many from the congregation attained sotāpatti fruition.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 181)
ye dhirā jhānapasutā nekkhammūpasame ratā satīmataṃ
tesaṃ sambuddhānaṃ devā api pihayanti
ye dhirā: those noble ones; jhānapasutā: are intent on meditation; nekkhammūpasame ratā: are bent on defilementconquering (nibbāna); satīmataṃ [satīmata]: mindful; tesaṃ sambuddhānaṃ [sambuddhāna]: those enlightened ones; devā api: even gods; pihayanti: adore
Those noble and wise ones are intent on meditation. They are bent on conquering defilements–that is, achieving Nibbāna. They are mindful; and such enlightened ones are beloved by everyone.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 181)
devā: the radiant ones; heavenly beings, deities, celestials. They are beings who live in happy worlds, and who, as a rule, are invisible to the human eye. They are subject, however, just as all human and other beings, to ever-repeated rebirth, old age and death, and thus not freed from the cycle of existence, and not freed from misery. There are many classes of heavenly beings:
- heavenly beings of the sensual sphere (kāmā-vacara or kāma-loka);
- heavenly beings of the form sphere (rūpāvacara or rūpaloka) and
- heavenly beings of the formless sphere (arūpāvacara or arūpaloka).