Where is Heaven?
Since the First Heaven (Catumaharajika-devaloka) is a fine material rather than gross world, its sphere may already have been penetrated by humans. Cosmonauts, astronauts, and now taikonauts have almost surely entered that realm. Reports (and video) of vimanas tracking human spacecraft and shuttles suggests that the beings in those realms (at least the chiefs) are aware of the human presence.
While all of this will surely sound absurd to science-minded Westerners, it is only because most people have not seen the evidence. Credible witnesses (American astronauts) and official NASA footage has been presented on poorly viewed cable networks such as the Discovery Channel, History Channel, and PBS. Footage exists of guided craft shadowing official space missions.
A New Diary of "Anne Frank"
Nasa rather than Nazis drove him into space. The new diarist is Ilan Ramon, a deceased Israeli astronaut from the failed Columbia shuttle mission. His diary, which fell 37 miles to earth, has recently been recovered.
Pages from the diary of Ilan Ramon, an Israeli astronaut who died in the fatal mission of space shuttle Columbia, are seen in Jerusalem, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008. Pages from the Israeli astronaut's diary that survived the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia and a 37-mile fall to earth are going on display at the Israel Museum starting Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008 in Jerusalem. The diary belonged to Ramon, Israel's first astronaut and one of seven crew members killed when Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry into the atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003 (AP Photo/Rachael Strecher).
Buddhist texts provide an exact distance to the Second Heaven (a celestial sphere or heavenly plane of existence named Tavatimsa). The Buddha went there physically utilizing supernormal faculties. Again, an alarm may go off to read any kind of reality into what is surely only mythological. However, a recent WQ staff member is reputed to have attained the absorptions (eight jhanic attainments) and personally verified the independent, that is, objective existence of multiple deva realms. This would not be worthy of mention except for the fact that anyone may follow suit and verify that there are in fact 31 Planes of Existence. The personal verifiability of these spheres takes them from myth to testable mystery.
What the Buddha originally taught -- what Buddhism is at its core -- is not a doctrine, faith, or set of immutable truths. That is how people treat the Dharma. But what the Buddha was a Path to realization. The Dharma was originally a set of instructions inviting people of all kinds to come and see, to test and verify. The Truth is not true because the Buddha, arhats, or ariya (partially attained individuals) say it is so. It is true because that's the way it is. Or is not. We ourselves must verify it.
There is not a great deal of sense in believing the truth if it is not true for us. The unexamined life is not worth much. Believing the wrong thing is harmful. But believing the right thing without verifying is not much better. Faith is blind when it is not founded on personal experience. The Buddha would have preferred not to attempt to describe nirvana. Nirvana is now attainable and there to be "touched," to be "seen" and "known" with certainty. Who would then settle for an inferior secondhand report of it. An eyewitness is always preferable to hearsay.
Now that the confidence of WQ editors is bolstered by firsthand reports, we probe the physical reality of celestial devas. Elemental or unseen earth beings (bhumi-devas) are easier to experience even apart from meditation. They're in wooded areas and in bodies of water and have been reported by European sources for millenia. Unidentified flying objects seen (and videotaped) from space provide a tantilizing and verifiable set of data to examine. Historical texts indicating where one might look or expect to find these beings residing also seems helpful.
Of course, it is the considered opinion of the majority of staff members that governments of the world are well aware of their existence. Not only is there a US coverup, but the former USSR also had a coverup that it admitted to when it broke apart. Similarly, ancient kings in India were aware of and able to communicate with beings we might today call grays or animical extraterrestrial races (nagas, supannas, asuras, devas). They may have evolved from earth and gone to populate other realms or be altogether different, semi luminous fine-material beings unrelated to terrestrial DNA lines. Whatever the case, something is there.
Former astronauts have made their revelations. Massive propaganda and countervailing media forces have been unleashed to decry and discredit these revelations. Nevertheless, any average person can deduce that something is going on and has gone on even from the flimsy evidence of the world's redacted religious texts.
Catummaharajika-devaloka ("Four Great Deva Rulers of the Cardinal Directions")
Cāturmahārājikakāyika collectively refers to each of the four main directions seen above the horizon. Buddhism speaks of Four Celestial Rulers or guardian devas, each of whom watches over one cardinal direction of the world. They are named in association with their directional domains. NORTH: Vessavaṇa (Kuvera), SOUTH: Virūḷhaka, EAST: Dhataraṭṭha, and WEST: Virūpakkha.
Sanskrit caturmahārāja (चतुर्महाराज) "Four Kings" or Lokapāla "guardian of the world" reside in the Cāturmahārājika heaven on the lower slopes of the mythical Mount Sumeru, which is the lowest of the six worlds of the devas of the Sensuous-sphere (Kāma-dhātu). They are the protectors of the world and fight inimical forces. Each in his space command is able to muster a legion of demigods and other creatures.
All four are under Śakra (Pali, Sakka), the "king of kings," namely, the four Catummaharajika deva kings and the devas of the Heaven of the Thirty-three (Trāyastriṃśa). On the 8th, 14th, or 15th days of each lunar month, the Four Heavenly Kings either send out messengers or go themselves to see how virtue (the key to rebirth in their world) are faring in the human world. They then report the state of affairs to the assembly of Trāyastriṃśa devas. Their concern is that they have sufficients ranks to repel the onslaughts of legendary enemies.
On orders of Śakra, the Four Great Kings and their retinues stand guard to protect Trāyastriṃśa (Tavatimsa, the Second Celestial World) from attack by the Asuras, which once threatened to destroy the sphere of the devas. They are also vowed to protect the Buddha, the Buddha's message (Dharma), and the Buddha's followers from danger. If there is any truth in this, it is said to be because Sakka is a Sotapanna (enlightened in the first of four degrees, an ariya or "noble disciple").
According to Vasubandhu, devas born in the Cāturmahārājika heaven are 1/4 of a krośa in height (about 750 feet tall). They have a five-hundred celestial-year lifespan, of which each day is equivalent to 50 years in the human world; thus their total lifespan amounts to about nine million years (other sources say 90,000 years).
Various symbols link these deities to their followers. For instance, the nāgas (creatures who can change form between human and serpent) are led by Virūpākṣa, represented by a snake. The gandharvas are celestial musicians, led by Dhṛtarāṣṭra, represented by a lute. The umbrella was a symbol of regal sovereignty in ancient India and the sword a symbol of martial prowess. Vaiśravaṇa's mongoose is said to represent generosity.
So where, then, is heaven?
The Buddha is said to have gone to Tavatimsa to teach the Abhidharma to his birth mother, reborn there as a devaputta ("song of god"). The distance he literally traveled to get there was sixty-eight thousand leagues from the earth to Tāvatimsa, going from Yugandhara to Mt. Sineru, the peak of which is said to be level with that world. Therefore, Catummaharajika would be lower, quite like the Greek conception of the heavens, which must have been borrowed in whole or influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism.
It, however, is not clear that Mt. Sineru corresponds to a physical peak on earth. It might refer to Mt. Kailash, K2, or Mt. Everest. But that determination would have to be adduced from the available information, which seems to suggest that Sineru is not a known literal peak. A human diary of a visit there would be helpful. Astronaut's diary goes on display in Jerusalem
Shawna Ohm (AP, 10/03/08)
JERUSALEM — Pages from an Israeli astronaut's diary that survived the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia and a 37-mile fall to earth are going on display this weekend for the first time in Jerusalem.
The diary belonged to Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut and one of seven crew members killed when Columbia disintegrated upon re-entering the atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003. Part of the restored diary will be displayed at the Israel Museum beginning Sunday.
A little over two months after the shuttle explosion, NASA searchers found 37 pages from Ramon's diary, wet and crumpled, in a field just outside the U.S. town of Palestine, Texas. The diary survived extreme heat in the explosion, extreme atmospheric cold, and then "was attacked by microorganisms and insects" in the field where it fell, said museum curator Yigal Zalmona.
"It's almost a miracle that it survived — it's incredible," Zalmona said. There is "no rational explanation" for how it was recovered when most of the shuttle was not, he said. NASA officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The U.S. space agency returned the diary to Ramon's wife, Rona, who brought it to forensics experts at the Israel Museum and from the Israeli police. The diary took about a year to restore, Zalmona said, and it took police scientists about four more years to decipher the pages. About 80 percent of the text has been deciphered, and the rest remains unreadable, he said.
Two pages will be displayed. One contains notes written by Ramon, and the other is a copy of the Kiddush prayer, a blessing over wine that Jews recite on the Sabbath. Zalmona said Ramon copied the prayer into his diary so he could recite it on the space shuttle and have the blessing broadcast to Earth.
Most of the pages contain personal information which Ramon's wife did not wish to make public, he said. "We agreed to do the restoration completely respecting the family's privacy and the sensitivity about how intimate the document is," museum director James Snyder said.
The diary provides no indication Ramon knew anything about potential problems on the shuttle. Columbia's wing was gashed by a chunk of fuel tank foam insulation at liftoff and broke up in flames just 16 minutes before it was scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. All seven astronauts on board were killed.
The diary is being displayed as part of a larger exhibit of famous documents from Israel's history, held to mark the country's 60th anniversary this year. Also on display will be Israel's 1948 declaration of independence, the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan and a bloodstained sheet of paper with lyrics to a peace anthem that was carried by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the time of his assassination in 1995.
The Ten Directions
The Guardians of the Directions (Sanskrit Dikpālas/दिक्पाल) are the devas who rule the specific directions of space according to Hinduism and Vajrayāna Buddhism -- especially Kālacakra. When together, theese guardians are called Aṣṭa-Dikpālas/अष्ट-दिक्पाल, literally, "guardians of eight directions."
They are often augmented with two extra deities (zenith and nadir), for the ten directions and known as the Daśa-dikpālas. In Hinduism it is traditional to represent their images on the walls and ceilings of Hindu temples. The names of the Dikpālas vary slightly but are generally: