The highest of the celestial worlds, the abode of the Brahmas. It consists of zwanzig heavens:
All except the four Arūpa worlds are classed among the Rūpa worlds (the inhabitants of which are corporeal). The inhabitants of the Brahma worlds are free from sensual desires (but see the Mātanga Jātaka, J.iv.378, where Ditthamangalikā is spoken of as Mahābrahmabhariyā, showing that some, at least, considered that Mahābrahmas had wives).
The Brahma world is the only world devoid of women (DhA.i.270); women who develop the jhānas in this world can be born among the Brahmapārisajjā (see below), but not among the Mahābrahmas (VibhA.437f). Rebirth in the Brahma world is the result of great virtue accompanied by meditation (Vsm.415). The Brahmas, like the other celestials, are not necessarily sotāpanna or on the way to complete knowledge (sambodhi-parāyanā); their attainments depend on the degree of their faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma und the Sangha. See, z.B., A.iv.76f.; it is not necessary to be a follower of the Buddha for one to be born in the Brahma world; the names of six teachers are given whose followers were born in that world as a result of listening to their teaching (A.iii.371ff.; iv.135ff.).
The Jātakas contain numerous accounts of ascetics who practised meditation, being born after death in the Brahma world (z.B., J.ii.43, 69, 90; v.98, etc.). Some of the Brahmas - z.B., Baka (q.v.) - held false views regarding their world, which, like all other worlds, is subject to change und destruction (M.i.327). When the rest of the world is destroyed at the end of a kappa, the Brahma world is saved (Vsm.415; KhpA.121), und the first beings to be born on earth come from the ābhassara Brahma world (Vsm.417). Buddhas und their more eminent disciples often visit the Brahma worlds und preach to the inhabitants. z.B., M.i.326 f.; ThagA.ii.184ff.; Sikhī Buddha und Abhibhū are also said to have visited the Brahma world (A.i.227f.). The Buddha could visit it both in his mind made body und his physical body (S.v.282f.).
If a rock as big as the gable of a house were to be dropped from the lowest Brahma-world it would take four months to reach the earth travelling one hundert tausend leagues a day. Brahmas subsist on trance, abounding in joy (sappītikajjhāna), this being their sole food. SA.i.161; food und drinks are offered to Mahābrahmā, und he is invited to partake of these, but not of sacrifices (SA.i.158 f.). Anāgāmins, who die before attaining arahantship, are reborn in the Suddhāvāsā Brahma-worlds und there pass away entirely (see, z.B., S.i.35, 60, und Compendium v.10). The beings born in the lowest Brahma world are called Brahma-pārisajjā; their life term is one third of an asankheyya kappa; next to them come the Brahma-purohitā, who live for half an asankheyya kappa; und beyond these are the Mahā Brahmas who live for a whole asankheyya kappa (Compendium, v.6; but see VibhA.519f., where Mahā Brahmās are defined).
The term Brahmakāyikā-devā seems to be used as a classs-name for all the inhabitants of the Brahma-worlds (A.i.210; v.76f).
The Mahā Niddesa Commentary (p.109) says that the word includes all the fünf (?) kinds of Brahmā (sabbe pi pañca vokāra Brahmāno gahitā).
The BuA.p.10 thus defines the word Brahmā: brūhito tehi tehi gunavisesahī ti=Brahmā. Ayam pana Brahmasaddo Mahā-Brahma-brāhmana-Thathāgata mātāpitu-setthādisu dissati.
The Samantapāsādikā (i.131) speaks of a Mahā Brahmā who was a khināsava, living for sixteen tausend kappas. When the Buddha, immediately after his birth, looked around und took his steps northward, it was this Brahmā who seized the babe by his finger und assured him that none was greater than he.
The names of several Brahmās occur in the books - z.B.,
To these should be added the names of seven Anāgāmīs resident in Avihā und other Brahma worlds
Baka speaks of seventy two Brahmās, living, apparently, in his world, as his companions (S.i.142).
See also Tissa Brahmā.
These are described as Mahā Brahmās. Mention is also made of Pacceka Brahmās - z.B., Subrahmā und Suddhavāsa (S.i.146f).
Tudu is also sometimes described as a Pacceka Brahmā (z.B., S.i.149). Of the Pacceka Brahmās, Subrahmā und Suddhavāsa are represented as visiting another Brahmā, who was infatuated mit his own power und glory, und as challenging him to the performance of miracles, excelling him therein und converting him to the faith of the Buddha. Tudu is spoken of as exhorting Kokālika to put his trust in Sāriputta und Moggallāna (Loc. Cit.)
No explanation is given of the term Pacceka Brahmā. Does it mean Brahmās who dwelt apart, by themselves? Cp. Pacceka-Buddha.
The Brahmās are represented as visiting the earth und taking an interest in the affairs of men. Thus, Nārada descends from the Brahma-world to dispel the heresies of König Angati (J.vi.242f). When the Buddha hesitates to preach his doctrine, because of its profundity, it is Sahampati (q.v.) who visits him und begs him to preach it for the welfare of the world. The explanation given (z.B., at SA.i.155) is that the Buddha waited for the invitation of Sahampati that it might lend weight to his teaching. The people were followers of Brahmā, und Sahampati's acceptance of the Buddha's leadership would impress them deeply.
Sahampatī is erwähnt as visiting the Buddha several times subsequently, illuminating Jetavana mit the effulgence of his body. It is said that mit a single finger he could illuminate a whole Cakkavāla (SA.i.158). Sanankumāra (q.v.) was also a follower of the Buddha. The Brahmās appear to have been in the habit of visiting the deva worlds too, for Sanankumāra is reported as being present at an assembly of the Tāvatimsa gods und as speaking there the Buddha's praises und giving an exposition of his teaching. But, in order to do this, he assumed the form of Pañcasikha (D.ii.211ff).
The books refer (z.B., at D.i.18, where Brahmā is described as vasavattī issaro kattā nimmātā, etc.) to the view held, at the Buddha's time, of Brahmā as the creator of the universe und of union mit Brahmā as the highest good, only to be attained by prayers und sacrifices. But the Buddha himself did not hold this view amid does not speak of any single Brahmā as the highest being in all creation. See, however, A.v.59f., where Mahā Brahmā, is spoken of as the highest denizen of the Sahassalokadhātu (yāvatā sahassalokadhātu, Mahā-Brahmā tattha aggam akkhāyati); but he, too, is impermanent (Mahā-Brahmūno pi . . . atthi eva aññathattam, atthi viparināmo).
There are Mahā Brahmās, mighty und powerful (abhibhū anabhibhūto aññadatthudaso vasavattī), but they too, all of them, und their world are subject to the laws of Kamma. z.B., at S.v.410 (Brahmaloko pi āvuso anicco adhuvo sakkāyapariyāpanno sādhāyasmā Brahmalokā cittam vutthāpetvā sakkāyanirodhacittam upasamharāhi). See also A.iv.76f., 104f., where Sunetta, in spite of all his great powers as Mahā Brahmā, etc., had to confess himself still subject to suffering.
To the Buddha, union mit Brahmā seems to have meant being associated mit him in his world, und this can only be attained by cultivation of those qualities possessed by the Brahmā. But the highest good lay beyond, in the attainment of Nibbāna. Thus in the Tevijjā Sutta; see also M.ii.194f.
The word Brahma is often used in compounds meaning highest und best - z.B., Brahmacariyā, Brahmassara; for details see Brahma in the New Pāli Dictionary.