In principle, the sixth and highest heaven of the Desire Realm is Paranirmita-vasavartin.
The Buddha had said:
The king of kings is the lord of the sixth heaven of the desire realm; the holiest of the holy is the great awakened Buddha.
The lord of the sixth heaven of the desire realm inspires envy amongst men.
There are two verses that describe how one gains entry into this heaven:
Sentient beings of highest grade
Fully possessed of the merits of monastic cultivation
Amassing great amounts of causes for liberation
Attain birth in Paranirmita-vasavartin
Sentient beings of highest capacity
Also most devoted in upholding precepts
Merits surpassing those who came before
Attain birth in Paranirmita-vasavartin
This sixth heaven of the desire realm is such a venerated and honored place.
This sixth heaven of the desire realm is such a pinnacle.
Based on what I know, I have a student by the dharma name of "Lian-yong" who will be reborn in Paranirmita-vasavartin.
Why will he be reborn in this heaven?
1. He is extremely judicious at upholding the precepts.
2. He has amassed great amounts of merits.
3. He desires to depart from this mundane realm.
Lian-yong fully possesses these three qualities. So, without a doubt, he will be reborn in Paranirmita-vasavartin.
Since he fully possesses the three qualities of upholding precepts, amassing great merits, and desiring to leave the mundane world, why is this Paranirmita-vasavartin heaven the mara's palace?
Why do the multitude of devas who ascend into Paranirmita-vasavartin become the mara's minions? This truly is a great mystery.
* * *
Let's read some descriptions of the Lord of Paranirmita-vasavartin.
The ruler of Paranirmita-vasavartin is a great and powerful deva mara who can do what he pleases.
The mara king of the sixth heaven of the desire realm can obstruct people's virtuous deeds.
This kind of deva mara has great spiritual power and can generate tremendous hardships for cultivators seeking liberation from life and death. They can also generate various kinds of obstacles and hardships to harm cultivators.
This Sixth Desire Realm Heaven mara king's name is Papiyan, and he has mara sons, daughters, and subjects.
Yet in the sixth chapter of the Vimalakirti-nirdesa Sutra, there is another explanation. Vimalakirti said to Mahakasyapa: Compassionate One, many of those who manifest as maras in the immeasurable asamkhyeyas (countless worlds) of the ten realms of the dharmadhatu are bodhisattvas, who are abiding in inconceivable liberation. They (bodhisattvas) use skillful means to manifest themselves in the form of mara kings to guide and instruct sentient beings.
From the Mahayana Buddhism's perspective, mara kings are the transformation of high-level bodhisattvas applying the great power of skillful means for the purpose of guiding and instructing sentient beings.
In other words, without maras' tests, it is impossible for a person to attain Buddhahood.
* * *
Okay! Now, let us discuss Lian-yong.
I am most devoted in upholding precepts. No one can match my devotion.
My merits from offerings are the greatest. No one has more merits!
I have surpassed this mundane world. My cultivation level is the highest. All other people are inferior in comparison. I, alone, am the greatest.
As a result of these attitudes, he has developed three great "illnesses”:
Although he will ascend to Paranirmita-vasavartin (the highest pinnacle of the desire realm heavens), he shall actually become the arrogant mara king obsessed with being Number One.
Every Buddhist knows that the palace of the mara king shook violently when Buddha Shakyamuni attained the ultimate realization and supreme enlightenment. The mara king immediately rushed to the Buddha's side urging the Buddha to enter nirvana quickly. The main reason for this advice was that the mara king did not want to be surpassed by someone abiding in the realm that he had control over.
These kinds of mara kings all claim that they have attained the highest enlightenment. They declare themselves to be the best -- unmatched by anyone.
If someone attains true enlightenment, then mara kings will create obstacles and hardships for this person to obstruct the propagation of authentic dharma.
The mara king who resides in sixth heaven of the desire realm, Paranirmita-vasavartin heaven, stands at the pinnacle of the desire realm and does not want anyone to surpass him.
Conceit turns one into mara.
Insolence turns one into mara
Stubbornness turns one into mara.
(These are the seeds for becoming mara.)
Now I ask my holy students: Observing this world, presently there are still many cultivators who think their cultivation of the ultimate truth is the best, believing that they are the only ones who have attained realization, and believing that they have amassed the greatest amount of merits. Attempt to come up with their names and tell it to me privately.
(From Book #191 "Staircases to the Heavens")
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