The IAST|Trāyastriṃśa (
Sanskrit; PāliIAST|Tāvatiṃsa) heaven is an important world of the devas in Buddhist cosmology. The word IAST|trāyastriṃśa is an adjective formed from the numeral IAST|trayastriṃśat, "33" and can be translated in English as "belonging to the thirty-three [devas] ". It is primarily the name of the second heaven in Buddhist cosmology, and secondarily used of the devas who dwell there.
The IAST|Trāyastriṃśa heaven is the fifth of the heavens of the Kāmadhātu, and the highest of the heavens that maintains a physical connection with the rest of the world. IAST|Trāyastriṃśa is located on the peak of
Sumeru, the central mountain of the world, at a height of 80,000 "yojanas" (a height sometimes equated to about 40,000 feet); the total area of the heaven is 80,000 yojanas square. This heaven is therefore comparable to the Greek Olympusin some respects.
Vasubandhu, inhabitants of IAST|Trāyastriṃśa are each half a "krośa" tall (about 1500 feet) and live for 1000 years, of which each day is equivalent to 100 years of our world: that is, for a total of 36 million of our years.
Since IAST|Trāyastriṃśa is physically connected to the world through Sumeru, unlike the heavens above it, the IAST|Trāyastriṃśa gods are unable to avoid being entangled in worldly affairs. In particular, they frequently find themselves in quarrels with the
Asuras, semi-divine beings who were long ago expelled from IAST|Trāyastriṃśa, at the beginning of the reign of the present Śakraand who now dwell at the foot of Sumeru, plotting for ways to recover their lost kingdom. There is, however, marriage between the IAST|Trāyastriṃśa devas and the Asuras, just as there is between the Æsirand the jötnar in Norse mythology.
The chief of the IAST|Trāyastriṃśa gods is
Śakra(Pāli: Sakka). Others of the IAST|Trāyastriṃśa gods who are frequently mentioned are Viśvakarman (Vissakamma), the gods' craftsman and builder; Mātali, who drives Śakra's chariot; and Sujā, Śakra's wife and daughter of the Asura chief Vemacitrin.
The IAST|Trāyastriṃśa heaven appears several times in Buddhist stories, in which either the Buddha ascends to IAST|Trāyastriṃśa, or (more often) deities from IAST|Trāyastriṃśa descend to meet the Buddha. The Buddha's mother, Māyādevī, was reborn in the IAST|Tuṣita heaven) and was visited by her son, who taught her Abhidharma.
The "thirty-three" in the name of the heaven is not an enumeration of the gods who live there (there are far more) but a general term inherited from
Vedic mythology, implying "the whole pantheon of gods". Hindu mythology provides a full list (with some variations) of thirty-three named deities, but it is inconsistent with the Buddhist conception and mythology of these devas.
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