Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 1.3.5
Maṇḍūkadevaputtavimānavatthu - The Frog Transforms into a Deva

‘‘Aṅgīrasassa namatthu, sakyaputtassa sirīmato;

Yo imaṃ dhammaṃ desesi, sabbadukkhāpanūdanaṃ.”1


Homage to the Radiant One, the glorious son of the Sakyans,

Who taught the Dhamma which dispels all suffering.”



This lesson presents a lovely story of a frog who, by his desire to listen to the teaching of the Dhamma with the thought: ‘Dhamma is being taught!’ —‘saddhammassavanaṃ’ left his water abode. Desiring to listen to the Buddha’s preaching he came out of his shelter and was unintentionally pierced by a cowherd, who also attended the same discourse. Even so being killed Maṇḍūka’s desire to hear Dhamma gave him immediate rebirth in the tāvatiṃsā devā world and in order not to miss any single word of the discourse he reappeared on the spot as a resplendent deva. His brightness was visible to other beings getting blinded and dazzled. Buddha then with the intention to display the benefits of the desire to listen to the Dhamma asked him about how he became full of blaze.

Here Maṇḍūka —‘frog’— uttered these verses which introduce the Vimānavatthu, a selection of texts and stories of beings and their deeds who gain birth in higher fields. They show beautiful evidence of the powerful potential that the wish of coming into contact with Dhamma provides even for beings of the animal world.

When announces his verses he uses the following wording:

iddhiṃ passa yasañca me’ — ‘this power of mine that you can witness’

The term used here ‘iddhi’ should be understood for a normal being as a healthy personal quality such as: ‘longevity’, ‘good health’, ‘wealth’ etc. But mostly the texts point to ‘iddhi’ to express ‘supernatural’ powers (abhiññā) such as: ‘making oneself invisible’, ‘walking on water’, ‘flying through the air’, ‘reading the mind of other’s, etc.

The Buddha always strongly discouraged his disciples practising or demonstrating any of these but on the other hand encouraged them to establish oneself in the four bases of ‘iddhi’, the ‘iddhipāda’.2 Gods like this frog, —‘deva, devatā’in general hold and display one or more of these as an inherent quality, according to the sphere in which they dwell.


The complete translation of the title: Maṇḍūkadevaputtavimānavatthu would be: ‘the deva, a frog’s son’s property in the vimāna’. A vimāna should be imagined as a luxurious dwelling ground, usually a palace that springs into existence according to the deeds of their future owners.

Stories of beings and their deeds who gain birth in higher or lower worlds are collected in the Vimānavatthu or the Petavatthu. Four lower worlds3 are found below the human world, itself a linking sphere, from where mankind can decide their own destiny by performing such kamma, that would lead one further below or above. All these higher spheres are related in the Dhammacakkappavattanasuttaṃ, to where the happy news spread after the Buddha’s setting in motion the wheel of Dhamma in the Isipatane-park. There are all together 31 spheres above the human world, five deva-worlds enjoying sense pleasures, sixteen more deva-worlds with heavenly beings free from sense desires, and four spheres of the brahma-worlds, beings without any matter. 4


After the Buddha had thus surveyed the world and perceived and accepted the request of Brahmā Sahampati5, the Brahma realised that the Buddha was now dedicated to disseminate his teaching confirmed by the Buddha with the following renowned stanza:

Disvāna brahmānaṃ sahampatiṃ gāthāya paccabhāsi–

Apārutā6 tesaṃ amatassa dvārā;

ye sotavanto pamuñcantu saddhaṃ;

vihiṃsasaññī7 paguṇaṃ na bhāsiṃ;

dhammaṃ paṇītaṃ manujesu brahme”ti.

 “Now the door of the deathless is opened,

Open for those to hear, let them dissolve their faith!

Considering my wearisome fatigue, I did not teach,

Brahmā, that sublime Dhamma to mankind”.


It is due to Brahmā Sahampati that the Buddha opened the door to the deathless. He offered inclined people living in darkness to perceive brightness; he enabled inclined people living in brightness to remain in brightness.

The sublime Dhamma is still available, the magnificent teaching of Vipassana is accessible today, let one endeavour to belong to one of the two categories that are moving towards brightness!8

1. Āṭānāṭiyasuttaṃ, Pāthikavaggapāḷi, Dīghanikāyo

2. The four ‘iddhipāda’ are part of the 37 ‘bodhipakkhiyadhamma’. For more details refer to 3.7.0: Right Effort – Sīlalakkhaṇapañho – Proceeding Further on the Path - the Wholesome Base of Sīla is only a Precondition

3. The lowest states of existence are called apāyā lokā and are to be imagined below the human world. They are niraya, asura, peta and tiracchānalokā: Hell or purgatory, titans, ghost and animal world. Accounts of beings and their downfall these are found in the Petavatthu. A lovely example is presented with the story of Aṅkura in lesson 3.5.11 Aṅkurapetavatthu – ‘Not even Harming a Tree’

4. see 3.2.3 Dhammacakkappavattanasuttaṃ-2 – ‘The Four Noble Truths Have to Be Fully Realized’ which lists all the lokas above the human realm

5. see previous lesson: 1.3.2: Orimatīrasuttam - The Hither and the Further Shore

6apārutā: apāpurati (pp.): open

7. vihiṃsasaññī: vihiṃsā + saññī: cruelty, injury + having perception, aware

8. see next lesson: 1.3.6 Tamotamasuttaṃ - From Darkness or Brightness to Brightness or Darkness

Last modified: Tuesday, 6 December 2022, 12:01 PM