On the Great Invitation (pavarana) day, the Buddha descends from Tavatimsa heaven via stairways of jewels, gold and silver
This picture shows the Buddha descending from the deva realm, from Tavatimsa heaven, after having spent the rains retreat there in order to teach the Dhamma to his mother. The day of his descent was the day of "leaving the rains retreat." The town that he descended to was Sankasa, and he descended right to the gates of the city. The place where the Buddha first stepped onto the earth later became known as the "acalacetiya," or in ordinary terms a "Buddha's footprint." This is one place, according to the legend, where a Buddha's footprint was made.
Before the Buddha's descent, Indra, king of the devas, conjured up three stairways for the purpose: a gold stairway, a silver stairway and a jewel stairway. The gold stairway, for the devas, was on the right. The silver stairway, on the left, was for the Brahmas. The jewel stairway, in the center, was for the Buddha. The top of each of the stairways rested on the summit of Mount Sumeru, while the foot of the stairways rested at the city gates of Sankasa.
The people on the Buddha's right in the picture are devas. They are the devas who descended with the Buddha. On the Buddha's left, holding the ceremonial umbrella, is a Brahma. Carrying the Buddha's bowl and walking just in front of the Buddha is Indra. Playing the lute and singing is the deva Pancasinkhara, on his right is Matuli Devaputta, who is strewing celestial flowers on the path as the Buddha descends.
The Buddha was a visuddhi deva, a deity on account of his purity. Later generations of Buddhist writers gave him the honorific name "Devatideva," meaning "Deva among devas." The various devas worshipped by the people of India in ancient times, such as Indra and Maha Brahma, are made into "supporting actors" as disciples of the Buddha.
Thai Buddhists believe that the day of leaving the rains retreat is another important Buddhist day. On that day they make a special offering in honor of the day the Buddha descended from the Tavatimsa heaven. The alms giving performed on this day is called "tak bhat devo," from the word "devorohana," meaning alms offering given on the day of the Buddha's coming down from the deva realm.
Copyright © 2002 Mahidol
University All rights reserved.