They are called the Devas and life at the top of the wheel is filled with pleasure and power and happiness.
Sounds pretty good right?
As part of the Wheel of Life, or Wheel of Becoming, the Devas (the gods) suffer too. Their problem is their ignorance of it. Furthermore, they seek trifling pleasures, that is, distractions.
As such, the Devas never seek to eliminate suffering; that is, they don’t seek Enlightenment through practicing the dharma to get out of the wheel and since they are engaged in permanent war against the Devas in the Realm of the Jealous Gods they face the reality of being reborn in a lower realm. To make matters worse the Gods, who live extremely long lives, are unaware of their mortality.
In keeping with past post on the Buddhist Wheel of Life (of which I have not written in months), I shall focus this piece on the experiences associated with the God Realm.
They are powerful experiences because when we experience the God Realm we experience that power characteristic of the realm. So too are experiences of the realm full of pleasure and happiness. Sublime pleasure, sublime happiness. And of course when we come down from such experiences, we want more of them.
Altered states of consciousness through alcohol and other drugs can and do induce experiences of the God Realm. We
might feel very happy, our ego boundaries break down, and with certain substances we may feel as if our limited existence expands. Hell, we might even feel we have seen or experienced God. And as wonderful and life-changing as those experiences may be, they are also dangerous because one might seek them again, and again, and again. As such, an attachment to the Realm of the Gods can lead to the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts and even worse, the Animal Realm. That is when addiction sets in.
At the center of the wheel are the pig, snake, and rooster, signifying greed, hatred, and delusion. In the case of the God Realm, it is the rooster that is of primary concern, for it symbolizes raga, which in addition to being translated as greed also means attachment and passion. Since the God Realm embodies pleasurable experiences we might naturally become attached to things that produce such states.
And I wonder, is that not how the advertising industry works? To create images of products to buy, to create a need, a desire, or to touch upon and heighten latent desires? To be beautiful, to be powerful, to have more fun? By tapping into human desires the advertising industry taps into the God Realm, thus feeding further attachment to objects that are supposed to bring us happiness. But of course the pleasures we get from things, just like sobering up after a little too much booze, falls away and we seek more, or we seek the newest. Whatever it may be, we seek it; perhaps we are ignorant (that’s the pig) of advertising’s manipulation of us or perhaps ignorant of the fact that whatever it is we might seek will fundamentally and always fall flat. Then we want more.
And what is more, we might fight over such things, over such resources. I think of those stories you hear almost every Christmas about mobs fighting over the newest, hippest toy. Or class struggles. The haves (the gods) versus the have-nots (the jealous gods) who want what the haves have.
I think of the rich and famous living their lives at the top of the social ladder, of celebrities (our modern day gods) living a life of comfort, pleasure, and, supposedly, happiness. That ideal picture the media paints of celebrity creates in many of us more desire: that’s what I should look like, that’s what I should be like. That’s what I want. And of course the more famous you are the more power you have.
Sure, they might help those who need it and they suffer their own sufferings, but much like the Devas are ignorant of their suffering, those in the upper class cannot know the true sufferings of those who have nothing. They don’t know what it’s like to struggle to pay rent (if there is a rent to be paid), don’t know what it’s like to struggle just to make ends meet. That’s to say nothing of those who don’t even have a place to live to pay rent for. They don’t know what it’s like to go hungry or thirsty not by choice. In other words, those in the God Realm are completely cut off from the lives of most of humanity.
And yet it is they that our media tells us to look up to.