Lha Bhab Duchen – Shakyamuni’s descent from Heaven of the 33 (also known as Tushita) is one of four major Buddhist holidays in the Tibetan tradition. It is celebrated on the 22nd day of the ninth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar. This year the holy day falls on Friday, October 29. Buddha Shakyamuni ascended to the Heaven of the 33 to bestow teachings on the gods and to repay the kindness of his mother by liberating her from samsara.
I always wondered about the Heaven of the 33, and I happened to come across a short description in Venerable Lati Rinpoche’s book Meditative States in Tibetan Buddhism (Wisdom Publications). He describes each of the Desire realms including the God realms. The “Land of the Thirty Three” as it is translated in this publication, is above Mount Meru.
“In the middle is the king of gods, Indra, and around him, like cabinet ministers are thirty three main beings. Therefore, the land is called the Land of the Thirty-three. A hundred human years are a day on their land, thirty of those are a month, and twelve of those are a year. The beings there live for a thousand such years. Thus, their lifespan is like one day in the lifespan of a being in the Black Line Hell. As we have said, they engage in the deeds of desire just as humans do. However, unlike humans, they do not have any semen, and only energy is transmitted.”
One of the Jataka tales explains how the Heaven of Thirty Three got its name. It’s a great story about an honest, young nobleman named Magha The Good and his village of — you guessed it — 33 pure-hearted villagers. You’ll enjoy reading it, and it’s a perfect way to celebrate the holy day by reading it with children. A version of the story is available on BuddhaNet.Net .
According to an email sent from DNKL, Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche suggests that we read prayers in praise of Shakyamuni Buddha such as:
Praise to Shakyamuni Buddha – this is found in many prayer books. He also mentioned two practices that I am not familiar with or perhaps know them under a different title – anyway if anyone has English translations, please let me know:
Gyun chak sum-ba – three daily practices
7 limb puja for Shakyamuni Buddha
Here’s a terrific prayer by Lama Tsong Khapa:
Praise of Shakyamuni Buddha for His Teaching on Relativity: Short Essence of Eloquence (Je Tsong Khapa)
Rinpoche also mentioned another prayer that we do during the monastic sojong. This might be hard to find, so I’ve included it for you.
Praise of the Lord and Teacher By Way of His Twelve Deeds (kab sum ba)
Through skillful compassion born in the Shakya clan,
Unconquered One, subduer of Mara’s horde,
Your body shining like a pile of gold,
King of the Shakyas – homage to your feet.
You who first produced the thought of bodhi,
Then completed both accumulations –
Merit and wisdom – with vast deeds becoming
Beings’ protector in this age, I’ll praise.
Knowing, when taming the gods, it was time to tame,
You came, descending from heaven as an elephant,
Saw your caste, and entered in the
Womb of Queen Maya – homage to this deed.
When, ten month completed, you were born
Shakya prince, in fortunate Lumbini Grove,
Supreme marks honored by Brahma and Sakra
Confirmed your bodhi lineage – homage to this deed.
As a powerful youth, lion among men,
You showed your skill in Agna and Magadha,
Put an end to men or pride, and had
None to match you – homage to this deed.
By skill in means, to conform to the conduct
Of the world, and for avoidance of
Blameworthiness, you ruled at court,
Possessed of female retinue – homage to this deed.
Seeing samsaric doings had no essence,
You left your home and, going in the air,
Did the true act of going forth, before
The quite pure sanctuary – homage to this deed.
Thinking to realize enlightenment through effort,
For six years you practiced austerities
On Nairanjana’s bank, and perfecting energy;
Won highest dhyana – homage to this deed.
To make worthwhile your efforts without beginning,
Sitting beneath the bohi tree in Magadha
In unshakeable posture, you fully awakened
To perfect bodhi – homage to this deed.
Swiftly observing beings with compassion,
In Varanasi and other holy places
You turned the wheel of Dharma, setting disciples
On the three vehicles – homage to this deed.
To put an end to evil opponents,
In the land of Kormojik you subdued maras,
Devadatta, six tirthaka teachers and others,
Sage victorious – homage to this deed.
With qualities unmatched in the three worlds,
As Sravasti you showed a mighty miracle,
Spreading the doctrine with worship by all beings
Divine and humans – homage to this deed.
To exhort the lazy in the Dharma,
At the pure site Kushinagari
You destroyed your deathless, vajra-like body
Entering nirvana – homage to this deed.
Through seeing there is no destruction in reality
So future sentient beings could heap up merits,
You manifested many relics there,
Remains in eight portions – homage to this deed.
Through the virtue of praising briefly thus
The manner of deeds of the Lord, the master of doctrine,
May the conduct of all migrating beings
Be similar to the deeds of the Sugata.
As is your body, Tathagata,
As are your entourage and length of life,
Buddha realm and excellent, supreme marks,
So may mine and others’ become too.
Through these praises and requests to you,
In the lands where I and others dwell,
Quelling sickness, poverty and conflict,
Please let Dharma and good fortune flourish.
By the Teacher’s coming to the world,
By his doctrine’s brilliance like sunlight,
And by brotherly concord of the doctrine’s holders,
Long may the doctrine abide – let all be auspicious.
(source: Nalanda Monastery, Getsul Sojong)