1. Sakka.– Almost always spoken of as “devānaṃ indo,” chief (or king) of the devas. The Saṃyuttanikāya ¹ contains a list of his names: he is called Maghavā, because as a human being, in a former birth, he was a brahmin named Magha.² As such he bestowed gifts from time to time, hence his name Purindada.³ (generous giver in former births or giver in towns). Because he gives generously, respectfully, and carefully (sakkaccaṃ) he is known as Sakka.⁴ Because he gives away dwelling places (āvasathaṃ) he is called Vāsava (However, see Vāsava). Because in one moment he can think of one thousand matters, he is called Sahassakkha (also Sahassanetta). Because he married the Asura maiden Sujā, he is called Sujampati.⁵ Because he governs the devas of Tāvatiṃsa he is called Devānaṃ Indo.⁶ Elsewhere,⁷ Sakka is addressed as Kosiya (q.v.) He is also spoken of as a yakkha.⁸
Sakka rules over Tāvatiṃsa devaloka, the lowest heaven but one of the lower plane. His palace is Vejayanta (q.v.) and his chariot bears the same name. Though king of the Tāvatiṃsa devas, he is no absolute monarch. He is imagined rather in the likeness of a chieftain of the Kosala clan. The devas meet and deliberate in the Sudhammā-
In the Saṃyuttanikāya ¹¹ the Buddha gives seven rules of conduct, which rules Sakka carried out as a human being, thus attaining to his celestial sovereignty. When the devas fight the Asurā ¹² they do so under the banner and orders of Sakka. For details of Sakka’s conquest of the Asurā. Pajāpati, Varuṇa and Isāna are also mentioned as having been associated with him in supreme command.¹³
In the Saṃyuttanikāya a whole Saṃyutta — one of the shortest, consisting of twenty-
These and other passages show that Sakka was considered by the early Buddhists as a god of high character, kindly and just, but not perfect, and not very intelligent. His imperfections are numerous: in spite of his very great age,¹⁶ he is still subject to death and rebirth;¹⁷ as an example of this, it is mentioned that Sunetta had thirty-
In the Sakkapañha Sutta (q.v.), Sakka is said to have visited the Buddha at Vediya mountain in Ambasaṇḍā and to have asked him a series of questions. He sends Pañcasikha with his lute (vinā) ²² to play and sing to the Buddha and to obtain permission for him (Sakka) to visit him and question him. The Buddha says to himself that Sakka, for a long time past, has led a pure life, and gives him permission to question him on any subject. It is stated in the course of the sutta ²³ that it was not the first time that Sakka had approached the Buddha for the same purpose. He had gone to him at the Salaḷāgāra in Sāvatthi, but found him in meditation, with Bhuñjatī, wife of Vessavaṇa, waiting on him. He therefore left with a request to Bhuñjatī to greet the Buddha in his name. He also declares ²⁴ that he has become a Stream-
The Commentary says that Sakka was constantly seeing the Buddha and was the most zealous of the devas in the discharge of his duties to the Buddhist religion (sāsana).²⁵ However, this visit to the Buddha at Vediya mountain had a special purpose. Sakka saw signs that his life was drawing to an end and was frightened by this knowledge. He therefore went to the Buddha to seek his help. It adds that,²⁶ as Sakka sat listening to the Buddha, he died in his old life and was reborn a new and young Sakka; only Sakka himself and the Buddha was aware of what had happened. The Commentary continues ²⁷ that Sakka became one going upwards in the stream of life (uddhaṃ sota), treading the path of a Non-
An account of another interview which Sakka had with the Buddha is given in the Cūḷataṇhāsaṅkhaya Sutta (q.v.). There the question arises regarding the extirpation of cravings. Sakka accepts the Buddha’s answer and leaves him. Anxious to discover whether Sakka has understood the Buddha’s teaching, Moggallāna visits Sakka and questions him. Sakka evades the questions and shows Moggallāna the glories of his Vejayanta palace. Moggallāna then frightens him by a display of psychic power, and Sakka repeats to him, word for word, the Buddha’s answer. Moggallāna departs satisfied, and Sakka tells his handmaidens that Moggallāna is a “fellow of his” in the higher life, meaning, probably, that he himself is a Stream-
The later books contain a good deal of additional information regarding Sakka. His city extends for one thousand leagues, and its golden streets are sixty leagues long; his palace Vejayanta is one thousand leagues high; the Sudhammā hall covers five hundred leagues, his throne of yellow marble (Paṇḍukambala-
Sakka’s devotion to the Buddha and his religion is proverbial. When the Bodhisatta cut off his hair and threw it into the sky, Sakka took it and deposited it in the Cūḷāmaṇi-
Sakka was present at Vesāli when the Buddha visited that city in order to rid it of its plagues. His presence drove away the evil spirits, and the Buddha’s task was thus made easier.³⁸ When the Buddha and his monks wished to journey one hundred leagues, to visit Cūḷasubhaddā at Uggapura, Sakka, with the aid of Vissakamma, provided them with pavilions (kūṭāgāra) in which they might travel by air.³⁹ Once, when the ponds in Jetavana were quite dry, the Buddha wished to bathe and Sakka immediately caused rain to fall and the ponds were filled.⁴⁰
In Sakka’s aspect as Vajirapāṇi (q.v.) he protected the Buddha from the insults of those who came to question him.⁴¹ During the Buddha’s last illness, Sakka ministered to him, performing the most menial tasks, such as carrying the vessel of excrement.⁴² He was present at the Buddha’s death, and uttered, in verse, a simple lament, very different from the studied verses ascribed to Brahmā.⁴³ At the distribution, by Doṇa, of the Buddha’s relics, Sakka saw Doṇa hide the Buddha’s right tooth in his turban. Realising that Doṇa was incapable of rendering adequate honour to the relic, Sakka took the relic and deposited it in the Cūḷāmaṇi-
Sakka did all in his power to help followers of the Buddha in their strivings for the attainment of the goal, as in the case of Paṇḍitasāmaṇera, when he sent the Four Regent Gods to drive away the birds, made the Moon deity shroud the moon, and himself stood guard at the door of Paṇḍita’s cell, lest he should be disturbed.⁴⁶ Often, when a monk achieved his ambition, Sakka was there to express his joy and do him honour. See, e.g., the story of Mahāphussadeva Thera.⁴⁷ He was ready to help, not only monks and nuns, but also eminent laymen, such as Jotika for whom he built a palace of wondrous splendour, and provided it with every luxury.⁴⁸ Sakka was always ready to come to the rescue of the good when in distress — e.g., in the case of Cakkhupāla Thera when he became blind; Sakka led him by the hand and took him to Sāvatthi.⁴⁹ He loved to test the goodness of men, as in the case of the leper Suppabuddha,⁵⁰ to see if their faith was genuine.
The Jātaka stories contains several stories of his helping holy men by providing them with hermitages, etc. — e.g., Kuddāla paṇḍita, Hatthipāla, Ayoghara, Jotipāla (Sarabhaṅga), Sutasoma, Dukūlaka, Pārikā, and Vessantara. Sometimes, when he found that ascetics were not diligently practising their duties, he would frighten them — e.g., in the Vighāsāda Jātaka and Somadatta Jātaka. The Aṅguttaranikāya ⁵¹ contains a story of Sakka punishing a deva called Suppatiṭṭha, who lived in a banyan tree, because he failed to keep the rukkhadhamma (s.v. Suppatiṭṭhita).
Sakka appears as the guardian of moral law in the world. When wickedness is rampant among men, or kings become unrighteous, he appears among them to frighten them so that they may do good instead evil. He is on the side of the good against the wicked, and often helps them to realise their goal. Instances of this are seen in the Ambacora, Ayakūṭa, Bilārakosiya, Cūḷadhanuggaha, Kaccāni, Kāma, Kāmanīta, Keḷisīla, Kharaputta, Kumbha, Mahākaṇha, Maṇicora, Sarabhamiga, Sarabhaṅga, Sudhābhojana, Udaya, Vaka, and Vijjādhara Jātaka stories. Sakka patronised good men; some of the more eminent he invited to his heaven, sending his charioteer Mātali to fetch them, and he showed them all honour — e.g., Guttila, Mandhātu, Sādhina, and Nimi; others he rewarded suitably — see, e.g., the Uraga Jātaka.
The lesser gods consulted Sakka in their difficulties and problems, e.g., in the case of the deity of Anāthapiṇḍika’s fourth gateway, who incurred the displeasure of Anāthapiṇḍika by advising him to refrain from too much generosity towards the Buddha and his monks.⁵² Sakka has also to deal with disputes arising among the devas themselves.⁵³ On several occasions Sakka helped the Bodhisatta in the practice of his Perfections — e.g., as King Sivi, Temiya, Nimi and Vessantara, also in his birth as a hare; in this last story, the Sasapaṇḍita Jātaka (q.v.), Sakka paints the picture of a hare on the moon to commemorate the Bodhisatta’s sacrifice.
Sakka sometimes answers the prayers of good and barren women and gives them sons — e.g., Sumedhā (s.v. Suruci Jātaka), Sīlavatī, Candādevī (s.v. Mūgapakkha Jātaka). Mention is also made of other boons granted by Sakka to various persons. Thus in the Mahāsuva Jātaka he visited the parrot who clung to the dead stump of a tree through gratitude, and granted him the boon that the tree should once more become fruitful.⁵⁴ He granted four boons to Kaṇha, that he might be calm, bear no malice or hatred against his neighbour, feel no greed for others’ glory, and no lust towards his neighbour.⁵⁵ To Akitti he granted several boons, the last of which was that he should have no more visits from Sakka! ⁵⁶ When Sivi became blind, Sakka gave him two eyes; these were not natural eyes, but the eyes of Truth, Absolute and Perfect (sacca-
In the Sarabhaṅga Jātaka ⁶¹ mention is made of four daughters of Sakka — Āsā, Saddhā, Hirī, and Sirī. His wife, Sujā, accompanied him everywhere on his travels,⁶² even into the world of men, because that was the boon she had asked for on her marriage to him.⁶³ Vessavaṇa was Sakka’s special friend,⁶⁴ and when one Vessavaṇa died, it was Sakka’s duty to appoint a successor.⁶⁵ Mātali (q.v.) is Sakka’s charioteer and constant companion. Vissakamma (q.v.) is his “handy man.” Sakka has twenty-
It is Sakka’s special duty to protect the religion of the Buddha in Sri Lanka. As the Buddha lay dying, he enjoined on Sakka the task of looking after Vijaya and his successors. This duty Sakka, in turn, entrusted to the god Uppalavaṇṇa.⁶⁸ Sakka informed Mahinda of the right moment for his visit to Sri Lanka.⁶⁹ When Devānampiyatissa wished for relics to place in the Thūpārāma Thūpa, Sumana sāmaṇera visited Sakka and obtained from him the right collar bone of the Buddha, which Sakka had placed in the Cūḷāmaṇi-
It is evident from the foregoing account that, as Rhys Davids suggests,⁷⁵ Sakka and Indra are independent conceptions. None of the personal characteristics of Sakka resemble those of Indra. Some epithets are identical but are evidently borrowed, though they are differently explained. The conception of the popular god which appealed to a more barbarous age and to the clans fighting their way into a new country, seems to have been softened and refined in order to meet the ideals of a more cultured and peaceful civilization. The old name no longer fitted the new god, and, as time went on, Sakka came to be regarded as an entirely separate god.
¹ S.i.229; DhA.i.264.
² However, see Magha; cf. Sanskrit Maghavant as an epithet of Indra.
³ cf. Indra’s epithet Purandara (destroyer of cities).
⁴ Śakra occurs many times in the Vedas as an adjective, qualifying gods (chiefly Indra), and is explained as meaning “able, capable.” It is, however, not found as a name in pre-
⁵ For the romantic story of Sakka’s marriage, see Sujā. Thus Sujā’s father, Vepacitti, became Sakka’s father-
⁸ M.i.252; cf. S.i.206 (Sakkanāmako Yakkho); at S.i.47 Māghadevaputta (Sakka) is called Vatrabhū, slayer of Vṛtra (SA.i.83); In the Jātaka stories, Sakka is also called Gandhabbarāja (J.vi.260) and Mahinda (J.v.397, 411).
⁹ See, e.g., D.ii.207 f., 220 f.
¹⁰ A.iv.242; these are also attributed to the rulers of other deva worlds.
¹⁴ The enemy, in this case, is his father-
¹⁵ The story connected with this sutta is that of Sakka, seeing the people of Aṅga and Magadha make preparations for a great sacrifice to Mahā Brahmā, feels pity for them and comes among them in the guise of Brahmā, advising them to take their offerings to the Buddha and seek his counsel (SA.i.270).
¹⁶ At J.ii.312, Sakka’s life is given as lasting thirty million and sixty times one hundred thousand years (i.e. 36 million years).
²⁰ A.i.144. The story of Rohiṇi shows that Sakka was very susceptible to the charms of beauty. He evidently liked other people to enjoy life and sent a heavenly dancer to amuse Mahāpanāda when nobody on earth could accomplish that feat (SNA.ii.400). On another occasion, as Sakka was rejoicing in his triumph over the Asurā, he saw a crane on a hill top who wished to be able to eat fish without going down into the stream. Sakka immediately sent the stream in full flood to the hill top (J.iii.252).
²¹ He is mentioned in the Jātaka stories as frightened of ascetics who practised severe penances, lest they should unseat him from his throne, e.g., J.ii.394; also the stories of Visayha, Lomasakassapa, Kaṇha, Akitti, Mahā Kañcana and Isisiṅga.
²⁵ DA.iii.697. In the sutta Sakka admits (D.ii.284) that he visited other brahmins and recluses as well. They were pleased to see him, and boasted that they had nothing to teach him; but he had to teach them what he knew.
²⁸ In a passage in the Saṃyuttanikāya (S.i.201) Sakka is represented as descending from heaven to make an enquiry about nibbāna, and in another (S.iv.269 f ), as listening, in heaven, to Mahā-
³² J.iv.8; when the Buddha, however, sat on it, he was able to conceal it in his robe; DhA.iii.218).
⁴¹ See also the story of Ciñcā-
⁴² DhA.iv.269 f. He did the same for other holy men — e.g., Sāriputta. Sakka also waited on the Buddha when he was in Gayāsīsa for the conversion of the Tebhātika-
⁴³ D.ii.157; on the importance of this verse, however, see Dial.ii.176, n.1.
⁴⁹ DhA.i.14 f. Many instances are found in the Jātaka stories where Sakka rescued the good in distress — e.g., Dhammaddhaja, Guttila, Kaccāni, the Kinnarī Candā, Sambulā, Kusa, Mahājanaka’s mother, Candakumāra’s mother, Candādevī, and Mahosadha.
2. Sakka.– A yakkha. See Sakka Sutta (1).
3. Sakka.– Another form of Sākyā (q.v.) e.g., A.iv.195; v.334.