There is practice called the Six Anu-smriti or Six Remembrances, they form a recommended lay-practice in Theravada and in Mahayana, they mentioned for example in the Pureland Sutras. The Six Objects of Remembering are: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, Generosity, Morality, and Devata. A theravada based dictionary of buddhist terms explains the last part of this practice so that we should think of the radiant gods, their majesty etc..., and then we should be confident that we too will be reborn as such caused by our practice of generosity, morality, etc... First we should think of the Heaven Of the Four Great kings, then we should think of the Heaven of the Thirty Three gods, and so on..., at each stage we should repeat our conviction that we too will be reborn as such, and continue to do this till the Akanistha Deva Realm. This makes in total 22 classes of remembering the Devata! This is very similar to the tantric visualisation of Yidams, which are Devata or Ishta-Devata in sanskrit. Here too we have different classes of Devata, albeit much more classes of Devata than in the tantra of today.
If you say that all devas are samsaric in theravada and mahayana, that is not wholly correct, many Devas know the Dharma, and are in audience in the Mahayana sutras, like Indra, Four Great Kings, etc..., then there are Devas of Suddhavasa, i.e. the Pure Abodes, the enlightened Devas. Yet all classes of Devas are included in this practice. There must be a reason for this too.
It is most significant that the highest level of Devata are called Akanistha! Is this not the name of the abode of Buddha Vajradhara in tantrism ?!
It is quite evident that the tantric form of Buddhism has evolved from this, and is thus included in the original Dharma of Buddha Shakyamuni.
Buddhist Dictionary, Manual Of Buddhist Terms And Doctrines; Nyantiloka 1946 Dehra Dun India, Third revised edition of Nyanaponika 1970 Kandy Ceylon; reprint 1987
Last edited by Aemilius
on Thu Apr 07, 2011 1:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)