Asura (T. lha ma yin/lha min ལྷ་མ་ཡིན་/ལྷ་མིན་; C. axiuluo 阿修羅) are one of the six classes of beings within Buddhist cosmology. The asuras are born into one of the three "higher realms" of the kāmadhātu ("sensory domain"), but due to their jealous nature, they are in constant conflict with the devas ("celestial beings") and do not enjoy their fortunate rebirth.
The asura "are engendered and dominated by envy, ambition, and hostility and are described as being incessantly embroiled in disputes with the gods (devas). They are frequently portrayed in Indian mythology as having a disruptive effect on cosmological and social harmony."
Myriad Worlds states:
- [The abode of] the demi-gods is not explicitly mentioned in Vasubandhu's Treasury of Phenomenology. However, the Great Mindfulness Scripture states that the demi-gods dwell in crevices in the base of Mount Meru below the water level. A particular kind of demi-god classified as an animal lives at the bottom of the ocean; the chief demi-gods - Rahu, Garland Necklace, and others - live at [different] levels above the ocean floor.
- The Tibetan term for demi-god, lha min, is derived from the [Sanskrit] asura, meaning "deprived of the essence. " The demi-gods are said to lack the ambrosia of the gods. Alternatively, sura means "god," to which the negative particle a is affixed to imply inferiority, [i.e., less than a god].
- Although the demi-gods may be included in the category of animals, their habitat, physical form, possessions, and so on are qualitatively so similar to those of the gods that they are classified as gods. As the Five Treatises on the Stages and the Wish-Fulfilling Scripture confirm, the negative a in asura, the Sanskrit word for demi-god, denotes inferiority, not a denial of status as a god (sura).
- Asanga's Facts of the Stages states that the physical size and lifespan of a demi-god are equivalent to those of a god of the Thirty-three Groups of Gods.
The asuras have great wealth and power, but not as much as the gods. Consumed with jealousy, they spend their time fighting among themselves or making war on the gods (deva). When they make war on the gods, they always lose, since the gods are more powerful.
Treasury of Precious Qualities states:
- Although the lord of the asuras, Vemacitra, lives in Well-Guided, his palace on the ground of gold, and although Golden City, his capital, and Perfect Jewel, his council chamber, are filled with riches, the asuras themselves are consumed with jealousy at the greater wealth and glory of Triumphant, the palace of the gods of the heaven of the Thirty-three, and at their city Fair-to-See, and Perfect Law, their council chamber. Over powered by the sheer force of their envy, they go to war against the gods. But the army of the gods has at its disposal a fearful arsenal, and the gods themselves cannot be vanquished unless their heads are severed from their bodies. By contrast, the asuras are like humans and are killed when wounded in their vital organs. With their dreadful weapons, the gods can cut off the heads and limbs of the asuras, who suffer intensely. The text Description of the Asuras gives the reasons for birth in such a state: “Those whose conduct is false and crafty, who commit many wrongs and who take delight in conflict, but who are nevertheless generous, will become powerful asuras.
- Dudjom Rinpoche 2011, s.v. Glossar, "demigod".
- Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. asura.
- lha ma yin, Christian-Steinert Dictionary
- Jamgön Kongtrul 2003, p. 115.
- Jamgön Kongtrul 2003, p. 127.
- Jamgön Kongtrul 2003, p. 130.
- Jigme Lingpa & Kangyur Rinpoche 2010, s.v. Chapter 4.
- Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. aṣṭasenā.
- Buswell, Robert E.; Lopez, Donald S. (2014), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University
- Dudjom Rinpoche (2011), A Torch Lighting the Way to Freedom: Complete Instructions on the Preliminary Practices, translated by Padmakara Translation Group, Shambhala
- Jamgön Kongtrul (2003), Myriad Worlds, The Treasury of Knowledge, Book One, Snow Lion
- Jigme Lingpa; Kangyur Rinpoche (2010), Treasury of Precious Qualities, Book One, translated by Padmakara Translation Group, Boston: Shambhala Publications