One occasionally comes across stories in the Buddhist canon like the story of Manduka (Sanskrit: frog) Devaputta (Sanskrit: son of devas) (Chronicle of the Buddhas, Page 1123) - a frog while listening to the Buddha's sermon, attains the Tavatimsa Deva realm when he is accidentally crushed by a member of the audience.

The story makes a big deal of the frog's deva mansion 12 yojanas long and fair deva maidens who wait on him day and night.

Do women who are born in the deva realm too get fair attendants who are men? Or are all devas men?

Why are the samsaric pleasures of a large palace and maidens the chief attraction of the deva realm? Don't the fair maidens of the deva realm get a lesser deal - having to wait on the devas - how do they make merit?

I know these are silly questions, little to do with the dhamma, but one wonders all the same.

These stories remind me of telemarketing slots on TV - "call now, and we will throw in this 12-spanner set for free."

4 Answers 4


I'd rather not answer my own question, but these thoughts occurred to me about the lure of deva realms in general, and I guess this is as good a place as any to put it down.

  • There are several kinds of people, some have strong delusion, so for these people a little incentive to make them commit is upaya.
  • The Dhammapada story of Buddha's nephew who follows the Buddha into monastic life yet yearns for his fair wife back home comes to mind. He agrees to practice hard only after the Buddha promises him fair maidens in the deva realms when he completes his attainment of arahatship. Fellow monks aren't so understanding and label him a mercenary monk. It appears only the Buddha is compassionate enough to not poke fun at him.
  • Perhaps the Buddha's largely male audience was a bit of a boy's club - no harm in throwing in the lure of fair maidens - again upaya? He was after all preaching to cow herds and farmers who could only dream of riches and fair maidens. Then again, most monks and Arahats were royalty and Brahmins too.
  • I guess they don't have to pay estate taxes, mop the floors and mow the lawn on mansions in deva realms. If someone else is doing all the heavy lifting then celestial mansions aren't as much of a bore. This is also why human life is considered good for spiritual attainment because every sense pleasure here carries a stinger unlike the deva realms. Perhaps the fair deva maidens never cling, never fight or demand expensive gifts (I can't help taking a sexist tone here, the situation is overtly so, my apologies). It will only bother those who realize it is all unreal.

This still doesn't answer why women are nowhere in the equation. Aren't women equally tempted by luxuries? Shouldn't there be a deva realm filled with Adonisesque serving men? Or filled with babies that are always cute and never hurt the parent?


Do women who are born in the deva realm too get fair attendants who are men?

Women don't have to be born as nymphs. They can be born as Devas too. ex: Queen Maya was born as a male Deva, after she died 1 week after giving birth to prince Siddhartha. It depends on the power of your birth Karma. Men can be born as nymphs, if they go to heavens due to a lesser Karma. Nymph have companions nymphs. AFAIK, they play with each other and enjoy until their owner Deva arrives. Then they take pleasure in enjoying him.

are all devas men?

I've heard stories of powerful nymphs with retinues.

Why are the samsaric pleasures of a large palace and maidens the chief attraction of the deva realm?

It is their dwelling. Just like rich humans having houses like palaces. I'm sure they have many other means of entertainment, just like humans do.

how do they make merit?

They have to ask permission from the owner Deva to leave and acquire new merits. Or they can participate in the good deeds done by the Deva himself.

  • Are there devas who disavow their palaces and harem and go forth as ascetics?
    – Buddho
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 4:50
  • Not exactly like ascetics. But there are some who stay away from the nymphs and meditate. Especially the ones who have attained Maggaphala Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 5:46

The fair maidens do indeed get the lesser deal in that realm, much like women get the lesser deal in this realm. Since being a woman is an inferior birth (according this person anyway) the similar must apply to these so called nymphs, which I can't find any information on. If now Queen Maya was born a male deva, that still doesn't make the entire realm not-sexist. It arguably makes it more sexist that she couldn't be born a highly regarded nymph/maiden if female devas simply don't exist.

One wonders if there are nymph suffragettes in these higher realms, who demand to be treated equally and dishy servants...


Can a ladder still be useful if all rungs were the top rung? Abandon all views, goes the Zen saying - the superiority complex, the inferiority complex and the equality complex.

If we were to abandon titles such as deva, male, female, dog, insect, hell dweller etc. and merely view them as rungs on a ladder, then they are all useful and have a place in the system. If all are merely rungs, then a dog has an equal right to bark for equality as a hell dweller or woman or man, but can it? Would that make any sense?

Much better to see that each has a place, and none defines the self. If we identify with womanhood, then yes, we feel insulted by sexism. If we identify with anatta then we won't suffer.

It is meaningless to chafe at somethings and not others. If sexism is unfair, then it is also unfair that a rock needs no food or air to live, but a human does.

The problem is in our identification with identities. This is our costume for today, nothing more.


The above is the canonical karma theory answer I believe to the problem of sexism, social station and racism. It doesn't comfort the ego, it doesn't assure us that our identities are sacred.

It just tells things as it is.


I'm not sure the above is always my position, but it is very useful sometimes to think clearly without getting caught in social drama. Other times it does lead to what can be perceived as a lack of compassion.

  • 1
    Let's hope those nymphs identify with anatta, then. Maybe the nature of those maiden servants is like the house elves in Harry Potter, in that they simply need to serve. But if that is the case then they have attachment issues, which isn't good either. Whether the realm is sexist depends, are these nymphs perceived by devas as only good enough to be servants or have they been made for that purpose and are not forced by oppression?
    – inzenity
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 10:00
  • I read such stories always with the mind on "that one who has invented that story", "that one who's mind is filled with that point-of-view/that projections". And then, I must say, I feel misery with that writer/inventor and I don't want that his/her paradigms/projections/point-of-views enter (and modify) my inner life, my way of seeing and feeling. Don't like to have community with that, for me this is not "noble community", so to say... Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 10:39
  • As I mentioned, it can cause a perception of lack of compassion, but is not actually devoid of compassion. Several buddhists holding such view points as real, also swore to be born in hell realms or as a woman or as a dog and so on to help them too out of suffering. Such views of perennial life have also led Buddhist monks to self immolate, not out of self destruction, but out of a desire for self preservation. Intolerance, hatred and discrimination are the real enemies, not the differences in nature itself.
    – Buddho
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 11:04
  • "Lord Buddha, help us to be alert to realize that we are not victims of each other. We are victims of our own ignorance and the ignorance of others. Help us to avoid engaging ourselves more in mutual slaughter because of the will of others to power and to predominance." Thich Nhat Hanh
    – Buddho
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 11:10
  • 1
    Towards the comment "As I mentioned..." - whyever the terms "intolerance" etc become involved here: since I'm not yet an "arhat", the advice of the Buddha to its disciples/lay followers seems to be relevant for me where he addresses types of helpful and unhelpful company, helpful and unhelpful subjects (and modes) of talk and of upcoming phantasies. The Buddha is no more around, so I've to employ my own antennas for the selection of the helpful and the unhelpful and I've to trust my own intuition or a teacher to whom I gave trust before (for some good reason, again based on my intuition). Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 13:23

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