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A Japanese sculpture of Brahmā

Brahmā (T. tshang pa ཚངས་པ་; C. fantian; J. bonten 梵天) is an Indian deity who was incorporated into the Buddhist pantheon as a protector of the dharma (dharmapāla) and the ruler of Brahmaloka (the lowest three realms of the form realm).[1]

According to tradition, at the time of the Buddha's enlightenment, Brahma (in the form of Brahma Sahampati) spoke to the Buddha and urged him to teach the dharma to others.[2][1]

Brahma is generally represented as a god with four faces and four arms, and his primary attributes are the lotus and the wheel (cakra).[1]

According to Rupert Gethin, the term brahma is also used to denote the qualities of Brahma as a divine being. Gethin states: Buddhist texts brahma is also used to denote or describe the qualities of such divine beings; thus brahma conveys something of the sense of the English ‘divine’, something of the sense of ‘holy’ and something of the sense of 'perfection'.[3]

Forms of Brahmā

In early Buddhist texts, Brahmā is referred to by different names, possibly referring to different forms of Brahma, or to separate divinities.

Brahmā Sahampati

Brahmā Sahāmpati was the divinity who visited the Buddha when he attained enlightenment, and encouraged him to teach the Dharma to humans.[1]

Baka Brahmā

Baka Brahmā (literally "crane-Brahmā") appears in the Majjhima Nikaya, where he is a deity who believes that his world is permanent and without decay (and that therefore he is immortal), and that therefore there are no higher worlds than his.[4]

Brahmā Sanatkumāra

Brahmā Sanatkumāra (Sanskrit) or Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra (Pāli), the "Ever-young", appears in the Janavasabha-sutta (DN.18), where he is recalled as having created an illusionary presence to make himself perceptible to the coarser senses of Śakra and the gods of Trāyastriṃśa.[5]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. Brahmā.
  2. "Ayacana Sutta: The Request". Retrieved 2018-01-08. 
  3. Gethin 1998, s.v. Chapter 1, section "The nature of a buddha".
  4. "Brahma-nimantanika Sutta: The Brahma Invitation". Retrieved 2017-04-23. 
  5. "DN 18". SuttaCentral. Retrieved 2017-04-23.