Devachan

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Devachan is a phonetic spelling of the Tibetan term bde ba can or bde ba chen (frequently written as "dewachen"), first published by German scholar Emil Schlagintweit in his book Buddhism in Tibet (1863).[1] The term can be translated as "blissful realm" or "pure land", and corresponds to the Mahayanic sukhāvatī or the Hindu devaloka or svarga.

General description

In the Theosophical view, Devachan is a stage in the post-mortem processes that comes after having gone through the Kāmaloka. H. P. Blavatsky defines it as follows:

The “dwelling of the gods”. A state intermediate between two earth-lives, into which the EGO (Atmâ-Buddhi-Manas or the Trinity made One) enters, after its separation from Kâma Rupa, and the disintegration of the lower principles on earth.[2]

In Devachan, the person enjoys the result of the good actions done in the life just finished, as well as receives a compensation for the unmerited suffering experienced:

Devachan is the idealized continuation of the terrestrial life just left behind, a period of retributive adjustment, and a reward for unmerited wrongs and sufferings undergone in that special Life.[3]
To the ordinary mortal, his bliss in it is complete. It is an absolute oblivion of all that gave it pain or sorrow in the past incarnations, and even oblivion of the fact that such things as pain or sorrow exist at all. The Devachanee lives its intermediate cycle between two incarnations surrounded by everything it had aspired to in vain, and in the companionship of everyone it loved on earth. It has reached the fulfillment of all its soul-yearnings. And thus it lives throughout long centuries an existence of unalloyed happiness, which is the reward for its sufferings in earth life.[4]

Since devachan is a kind of temporary paradise, a place (or state) of bliss and of supreme felicity,[5] Mme. Blavatsky compared it with the religious concept of Heaven:

The locality, which the former [the Ego] inhabits, is called by the northern Buddhist Occultists “Deva-chan,” the word answering, perhaps, to Paradise or the Kingdom of Heaven of the Christian elect.[6]

However, due to the important differences that exist between the two concepts, Mahatma K. H. rejected such a comparison:

Nor has the latter [Devachan] —even omitting all “anthropomorphic ideas of God”— any resemblance to the paradise or heaven of any religion, and it is H.P.B.’s literary fancy that suggested to her the wonderful comparison.[7]

Devachan is not a state for a few chosen ones. Any person who has experienced instances of unselfish love in his/her life will enjoy some time in devachan:

Hence all those who have not slipped down into the mire of unredeemable sin and bestiality — go to the Deva Chan.[8]

However, the depth of the state of devachan and the duration of it will be different according to the spirituality of the person.

Devachan is not necessarily a "spiritual" state. It still belongs to the sphere of the "personal Ego":

Of course it is a state, one, so to say, of intense selfishness, during which an Ego reaps the reward of his unselfishness on earth. He is completely engrossed in the bliss of all his personal earthly affections, preferences and thoughts, and gathers in the fruit of his meritorious actions. No pain, no grief nor even the shadow of a sorrow comes to darken the bright horizon of his unalloyed happiness: for, it is a state of perpetual "Maya"[9]

Because of this, those who are not caught in the illusion of the personality do not enter in Devachan:

He who has placed himself beyond the veil of maya - and such are the highest Adepts and Initiates - can have no Devachan.[10]

Rupa and Arupa Lokas

The Mahatma Letters mention three spheres (Tribhuvana or Trailokya) of ascending spirituality after death: Kama-Loka, Rupa-Loka and Arupa-Loka,[11] the last two being part of devachan:

The sensations, perceptions and ideation of a devachanee in Rupa-Loka, will, of course, be of a less subjective nature than they would be in Arupa-Loka, in both of which the devachanic experiences will vary in their presentation to the subject-entity, not only as regards form, colour, and substance, but also in their formative potentialities. But not even the most exalted experience of a monad in the highest devachanic state in Arupa-Loka (the last of the seven states) — is comparable to that perfectly subjective condition of pure spirituality from which the monad emerged to “descend into matter,” and to which at the completion of the grand cycle it must return. Nor is Nirvana itself comparable to Para-Nirvana.[12]

A spiritual personality will go fast through the lower spheres to awake in the arupa-loka:

The “reward provided by nature for men who are benevolent in a large, systematic way” and who have not focussed their affections upon an individual or speciality, is that — if pure — they pass the quicker for that through the Kama and Rupa Lokas into the higher sphere of Tribhuvana, since it is one where the formulation of abstract ideas and the consideration of general principles fill the thought of its occupants.[13]

Devachanic ego

Mme. Blavatsky wrote:

The future state and the Karmic destiny of man depend on whether Manas gravitates more downward to Kama rupa, the seat of the animal passions, or upwards to Buddhi, the Spiritual Ego. In the latter case, the higher consciousness of the individual Spiritual aspirations of mind (Manas), assimilating Buddhi, are absorbed by it and form the Ego, which goes into Devachanic bliss.[14]
After going through kāmaloka the personal ego undergoes a period of gestation where it is purified from anything that is not fit to be expressed in devachan. Then "the new spiritual Ego is reborn—like the fabled Phœnix from its ashes—from the old one":[15]
“Who goes to Devachan?” The personal Ego of course, but beatified, purified, holy. Every Ego — the combination of the sixth and seventh principles — which, after the period of unconscious gestation is reborn into the Devachan, is of necessity as innocent and pure as a new-born babe.[16]

Usually, two and a half Principles enter in Devachan, although in some cases only the two highest do it:

The seventh and the sixth [principles], that is to say the immortal spirit and its vehicle, the immortal or spiritual soul, enter therein alone (an exceptional case) or, which nearly always takes place, the soul carries in the case of very good people (and even the indifferent and sometimes the very wicked), the essence, so to speak, of the fifth principle which has been withdrawn from the personal EGO (the material soul). It is the latter only, in the case of the irredeemably wicked and when the spiritual and impersonal soul has nothing to withdraw from its individuality (terrestrial personality). Because the latter had nothing to offer but the purely material and sensual—that becomes annihilated.[17]

Activity in Devachan

Mme. Blavatsky wrote:

ENQUIRER. Do we possess more knowledge in Devachan than we do in Earth life?
THEOSOPHIST. In one sense, we can acquire more knowledge; that is, we can develop further any faculty which we loved and strove after during life, provided it is concerned with abstract and ideal things, such as music, painting, poetry, etc., since Devachan is merely an idealized and subjective continuation of earth-life.[18]
Immense growths, for example, of knowledge itself are possible in Devachan, for the spiritual entity which has begun the “pursuit” of such knowledge during life. Nothing can happen to a spirit in Devachan, the keynote of which has not been struck during life; the conditions of a subjective existence are such that the importation of quite external impulses and alien thoughts is impossible. But the seed of thought once sown, the current of thoughts once set going (the metaphor may freely be varied to suit any taste), and then its developments in Devachan may be infinite, for the sixth sense there and the sixth principle are our instructors; and in such society there can be no isolation, as physical humanity understands the term.[19]

A person in Devachan is said to be able to establish a relationship with those he/she loves, even though these people may still be alive and have no physical awareness of this relationship. This is sometimes interpreted to mean that this relationship in Devachan is an illusion created by the mind of the "devachanee". However, Blavatsky explains that the relationship really happens between the higher selves of people:

The glorious “Higher Self” with which we are united during life, gathers around itself the Higher selves of all those whom it loved on earth with an immortal spiritual love.[20]

Duration of Devachan

Mr Sinnett asked Mahatma K.H.: "Does this state of spiritual beatitude endure for years? for decades? for centuries?" His answer was:

For years, decades, centuries and milleniums, oftentimes — multiplied by something more. It all depends upon the duration of Karma. Fill with oil Den's little cup, and a city Reservoir of water, and lighting both see which burns the longer. The Ego is the wick and Karma the oil.[21]

The perception of time in devachan, however, is not the same as on earth. Mahatma K.H. wrote:

No; there are no clocks, no timepieces in Devachan, my esteemed chela, though the whole Cosmos is a gigantic chronometer in one sense. Nor do we, mortals, — ici bas même — take much, if any, cognizance of time during periods of happiness and bliss, and find them ever too short; a fact that does not in the least prevent us from enjoying that happiness all the same — when it does come. . . . I may also remind you in this connection that time is something created entirely by ourselves; that while one short second of intense agony may appear, even on earth, as an eternity to one man, to another, more fortunate, hours, days, and sometimes whole years may seem to flit like one brief moment; and that finally, of all the sentient and conscious beings on earth, man is the only animal that takes any cognizance of time, although it makes him neither happier nor wiser. How then, can I explain to you that which cannot feel, since you seem unable to comprehend it? Finite similes are unfit to express the abstract and the infinite; nor can the objective ever mirror the subjective.[22]

Bardo Thodol and the Mahatma Letters

In one of the Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett the word "bardo" is used in connection to devachan. Master K.H. wrote:

“Bardo” is the period between death and rebirth — and may last from a few years to a kalpa. It is divided into three sub-periods (1) when the Ego delivered of its mortal coil enters into Kama-Loka (the abode of Elementaries); (2) when it enters into its “Gestation State”; (3) when it is reborn in the Rupa-Loka of Devachan.[23]

Comparing the teachings on Devachan with that of the "bardos" found in the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol), David Reigle wrote:

What is known in the West as the Tibetan Book of the Dead teaches six bardos, three of which pertain to a person while living, and three pertain to a person after death. These latter three are the ones normally spoken of. Of these, the third is the srid-pa'i bar-do, in which the person is reborn in a mental body (yid lus) in this new state of existence. This is called more fully, "the mental body of apparitional experience in the intermediate state," in the 2006 translation by Gyurme Dorje, p. 274. . . . The Mahatma letter's explanation of the three bardos matches the explanation given in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. What the Mahatma letter adds is that this third bardo where the person is reborn is devachan. The Tibetan Book of the Dead does not speak of devachan, which comes from the Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra.[24]

Jamgön Kongtrül defined the srid pa'i bar do (sidpa bardo) as: "Bardo of becoming. The period from the arising of confusion and one's emergence in a mental body until being conceived in the womb of the next life".[25]

See also

Online resources

Articles

Books

Video

Notes

  1. Online version Buddhism in Tibet, Ch. VIII, p. 85.
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 98.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy (London: Theosophical Publishing House, [1987]), 132.
  4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy (London: Theosophical Publishing House, [1987]), 148.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Key to Theosophy, (London, Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 145.
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. IV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1991), 121.
  7. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 68 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 190.
  8. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 68 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 190.
  9. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 68 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 190-191.
  10. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy (London: Theosophical Publishing House, [1987]), 148.
  11. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 104 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 361.
  12. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 104 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 362.
  13. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 104 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 362.
  14. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy (London: Theosophical Publishing House, [1987]), 91.
  15. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. IV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1991), 121.
  16. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 68 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 190.
  17. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. V (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1997), 42-43.
  18. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy (London: Theosophical Publishing House, [1987]), 156.
  19. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. IV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1991), 444-445.
  20. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 317.
  21. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 68 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 195.
  22. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 68 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 356-357.
  23. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 44 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 194.
  24. Tibetan Buddhist Bardo's Comparable to Blavatsky's 'Devachan'? by David Reigle on September 10, 2011 at 10:19am at Theosophy.net
  25. srid pa'i bar do at the Dharma Dictionary.