Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
User avatar
Sonam Wangchug
Posts: 343
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 8:26 pm

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by Sonam Wangchug » Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:25 am

Fortyeightvows wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:42 pm
Sonam Wangchug wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 7:48 pm
Matt J wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 5:53 pm
Belief is hell is not a core, or even a necessary component of being a Buddhist. It is not a refuge, a Noble Truth, a part of the Eightfold Path, a dharma seal, etc.

Most of the past life memories recorded by UVA are memories of past human lives without reference to hell realms.
False
Which parts are false?
That belief in Hell realms are not a necessary component of being a Buddhist.

If one claims this then it leads to a number of problems.

For one it eradicates a major part of the Hinayana refuge (fear in lower realms)

It diminishes the role of karma, (underestimates relative truth) because the most severe of karmic actions will only lead one to rebirth in the authors proclaimed belief in the Human realm only. Which obviously is not nearly as severe in terms of suffering.

It goes against the words of the Buddha, who stated that there were hell realms, which have been described in great details.

Even if we take the common dedication prayer in the Tibetan tradition, Sonam Di yi tham che etc .. This was a prayer first made by the Buddha in a previous life, by this merit may the lower realms be emptied.

It negates the life stories and teachings of countless Bodhisattva's, Yogis, Monastics, and so forth, who have experienced the Hell realms in their meditative experience and taught about them. Take for example the vow of Ktsitigarbha bodhisattva to be reborn in hell until all of the beings there are liberated.

If the implication above is as stated, that the majority of NDE's are only of a human being, it completely eradicates the notion of infinite sentient beings to liberate, which basically puts a whole in the entire mode of the Bodhisattva's since there are only 7 Billion of us at the moment ( Not to mention Buddhism speaks of various other human dimensions not only ours)

It negates the power of Dharanis, relics, and so forth which are clearly said to be able to save beings from being reborn in hell states.

From the Theravada to the Vajrayana hell is part and parcel of the Buddhist tradition.

I wouldn't say one has to believe in it to admire Buddhism, or study Buddhism, or even meditate, however if one wants to take Refuge in the three jewels, clearly the hell realms are a necessary part of Buddhist thought and practice, and spoken of in the Dharma which we take refuge in.
"To have confidence in the teacher is the ultimate refuge." -Rigzin Jigme Lingpa

tkp67
Posts: 936
Joined: Sun May 12, 2019 5:42 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by tkp67 » Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:59 am

:good:

User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
Posts: 10425
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA
Contact:

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Tue Oct 22, 2019 3:16 am

Sonam Wangchug wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:25 am


I wouldn't say one has to believe in it to admire Buddhism, or study Buddhism, or even meditate, however if one wants to take Refuge in the three jewels, clearly the hell realms are a necessary part of Buddhist thought and practice, and spoken of in the Dharma which we take refuge in.
I agree with the qualification that (#1) fancy language and visuals are cultural, and not necessarily to be taken literally, and (#2) that there is a spectrum of opinion even in the teachings on what exactly the ontological nature of other realms is.

All that is necessary is the understanding that the spectrum of what one's mindstream can experience (both in terms of suffering and worldly bliss) in a human existence is quite limited, and one can reasonably infer even from visible examples (animals) that this spectrum extends quite far in both directions well beyond what we can perceive, and lots we can't even imagine. "There are more things in heaven and earth" etc..

In short, while I definitely don't agree with the "throw the baby out with the bathwater" approach to the other realms, I also think the ossified version often put forth as a "traditional requirement" is not particularly convincing either.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

User avatar
Sonam Wangchug
Posts: 343
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 8:26 pm

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by Sonam Wangchug » Tue Oct 22, 2019 3:56 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 3:16 am
Sonam Wangchug wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:25 am


I wouldn't say one has to believe in it to admire Buddhism, or study Buddhism, or even meditate, however if one wants to take Refuge in the three jewels, clearly the hell realms are a necessary part of Buddhist thought and practice, and spoken of in the Dharma which we take refuge in.
I agree with the qualification that (#1) fancy language and visuals are cultural, and not necessarily to be taken literally, and (#2) that there is a spectrum of opinion even in the teachings on what exactly the ontological nature of other realms is.

All that is necessary is the understanding that the spectrum of what one's mindstream can experience (both in terms of suffering and worldly bliss) in a human existence is quite limited, and one can reasonably infer even from visible examples (animals) that this spectrum extends quite far in both directions well beyond what we can perceive, and lots we can't even imagine. "There are more things in heaven and earth" etc..

In short, while I definitely don't agree with the "throw the baby out with the bathwater" approach to the other realms, I also think the ossified version often put forth as a "traditional requirement" is not particularly convincing either.
I think that if one relates to hell realms in a theistic, or eternalist kind of way, which is to say truly existent, objective, physical realities, then of course that it hard to digest, and also not in line with Buddhism anyhow.

However, if it can be understood that despite as a deluded being experiencing the intense suffering of hell realms, that they ( like all of samsaric existence ) are mental perceptions, filtered by karmic perception and impermanent ) it becomes easier.

While I do not personally have experience of the Hell realms, or how they look and to what degree they correspond with the traditional texts, there are many who have experienced them.

I know of one Lama who experienced the hell realms during his Dream yoga practice during 3 year retreat, which was confirmed by the retreat master. Also, it is interesting to note the experiences of Delogs (Those that have passed for a period of time, visited various realms, and returned) such as Chagdud Rinpoche's mother, A skeptic could always say it is just merely their own experience, if it weren't for the fact that they were able to communicate with deceased beings and come back with details they could relay to their relatives (which they would have no way of knowing)

Then of course there are practices such as Khorde Rushen, where individual practitioners can have these experiences as they close off the gates to the 6 realms.

In the Vajrayana it is said that consciousness actually exits various apertures when we die, which is why the various exits which correspond to different realms get blocked during phowa practice, only leaving the Brahma aperture.

The majority of Ngondro's i'm familiar with also include extensive meditation on all of the various Hell realms, ( in addition to the sufferings of the other realms) such as can be found in The Words of my perfect Teacher.

I think it's important to note that even though there are 6 very broad classifications of realms, the experiences even within one of those divisions can be vast and divided. Also, while I do acknowledge the literal hells that Buddhist texts and teachings reference, I also acknowledge that the six realms are within the minds of beings, and we can certainly experience (and do), the 6 realms even in this human body.

It is said that if we could truly know the hells but to be our own mental projection we would be liberated, however, being bound by the apparent solidity of appearances, such as in this life, this realization is very hard to come to.

What I feel is that, in the descriptions of the various levels of meditative experience (Nyams) when one advances one certainly will be able to perceive not only the human dimension we are in, but a multitude of beings of the various realms of existence. Being that we are all bound by the similar karma of being Human beings, we generally can only perceive other Human beings and Animals.

Of course also, realized beings can remember their previous lives as well. So in a way, the only way we can really get a taste of it is likely going to be intensive practice. Drupon Drubwang konchok norbu speaks about his experiences of this kind in the film The Yogis of Tibet.

Not that you don't know all this, but just throwing out food for thought for this discussion.
"To have confidence in the teacher is the ultimate refuge." -Rigzin Jigme Lingpa

tkp67
Posts: 936
Joined: Sun May 12, 2019 5:42 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by tkp67 » Tue Oct 22, 2019 4:24 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 3:16 am
In short, while I definitely don't agree with the "throw the baby out with the bathwater" approach to the other realms, I also think the ossified version often put forth as a "traditional requirement" is not particularly convincing either.
The realms are descriptive of self limited states of consciousness. In this regards traditional narratives hold up under contemporary perspective.

The hell realm is exemplary of this phenomenon. It has both supernatural and natural connotations which relate to the same causation. The supernatural aspect would be to identify it as an external agency. The natural aspect would be seeing the realms as a facet of consciousness as expressed by sapient beings.

The most simply and poignant question that comes to mind is if the realms where not a constant facet of existence for sentient beings then why would we need liberation from them?

User avatar
tobes
Posts: 1536
Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:02 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by tobes » Tue Oct 22, 2019 5:08 am

I think Sonam Wangchug makes some rather compelling points.

In that, when nut comes to crunch, jettisoning this from Buddhadharma entails jettisoning rather a lot of other stuff that is seemingly very central.

Fortyeightvows
Posts: 2563
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2014 2:37 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by Fortyeightvows » Tue Oct 22, 2019 5:21 am

Sonam Wangchug wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:25 am
If one claims this then it leads to a number of problems.
tobes wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 5:08 am
I think Sonam Wangchug makes some rather compelling points.
Very good points!
:bow:

User avatar
Nemo
Posts: 1311
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2010 3:23 am
Location: Canada

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by Nemo » Tue Oct 22, 2019 5:40 am

Being a Delog is not uncommon and often happens to quite ordinary people. I ended up in the hell where you are measured by threads and then the threads go through you. At which point they are pulled tighter and tighter until you are cut to pieces over and over. Luckily I remembered my teacher and developed great compassion. On my way out there were many other beings in what seemed to be their own self created personalized suffering. I tried to talk to them but could only get their attention for a few seconds. I tried to explain where they were but it only confused them and they refused to register what I was saying so intently focused they were on their suffering. I don't think an ordinary being can reach them. I was forgotten immediately. So it is both real and projection in my opinion. I have no idea how I came up with the thread thing, but I think it is traditional for some great sins. In some ways it is your own mind playing tricks on you. But you mind is so much more powerful than you ever imagined.

But I am probably just crazy and had a stroke.

User avatar
tobes
Posts: 1536
Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:02 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by tobes » Tue Oct 22, 2019 6:00 am

Interesting Nemo.

I heard that Samuel Bercholz - founder of Shambhala publishing - had a Delog kind of experience when he had some health problem. I think he actually published it. Anyone read it?

This one: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/281 ... ur-of-hell

KiwiNFLFan
Posts: 123
Joined: Thu Oct 05, 2017 10:15 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Tue Oct 22, 2019 8:38 am

If you're scared of going to hell, simply take refuge in Amitabha Buddha. He said:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, desire to be born in my land, and call my Name, even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. Excluded, however, are those who commit the five gravest offences and abuse the right Dharma.
Amitabha has attained Buddhahood, and so we can be reborn in His Pure Land.

The Five Great Offences are 1&2) Killing one's parents 3) Killing an arhat (fully enlightened person) 4) Drawing blood from the body of a Buddha 5) Creating a schism in the sangha. 4 is pretty much impossible to do now, as there is no Nirmanakaya Buddha in this world, and most people have not done the other four.

"Abusing the right Dharma" means to say there is no Buddha, no Bodhisattva etc. But even if you have done this in the past (e.g. you were a fundamentalist Christian/Muslim), if you have repented, you are fine.

pael
Posts: 558
Joined: Thu Jan 10, 2013 12:49 pm

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by pael » Tue Oct 22, 2019 10:01 am

Would purgatory be better term than hell?
May all beings be free from suffering and causes of suffering

User avatar
seeker242
Posts: 1545
Joined: Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:50 pm
Location: South Florida, USA

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by seeker242 » Tue Oct 22, 2019 1:24 pm

truthb wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:03 pm
Looking at the Hell realms, and it seems incomphrehensible to me that someone could do enough bad things in one lifetime to warrant 1 billion years of torture.... and that is the shortest term in a hell realm, some are MUCH longer.

Any insights?
Don't do any things that would be a cause for rebirth there, then you need not be concerned with how long it is.
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!

User avatar
LastLegend
Posts: 3634
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:46 pm
Location: Washington DC

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by LastLegend » Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:36 pm

seeker242 wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 1:24 pm
truthb wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:03 pm
Looking at the Hell realms, and it seems incomphrehensible to me that someone could do enough bad things in one lifetime to warrant 1 billion years of torture.... and that is the shortest term in a hell realm, some are MUCH longer.

Any insights?
Don't do any things that would be a cause for rebirth there, then you need not be concerned with how long it is.
👍
Make personal vows.

User avatar
Matt J
Posts: 883
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:29 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by Matt J » Tue Oct 22, 2019 7:04 pm

This comes up at Western retreats all the time. No Theravada, Zen, or Tibetan Buddhist master that I am familiar with has required belief in hell, or even belief in reincarnation, as a condition of being a Buddhist. In fact, they have all disclaimed such a belief is necessary.

SW’s long posts do not provide any support that one must believe in hell to be a Buddhist, but rather appears to be merely his/her/their personal opinion.

Fortyeightvows wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 5:21 am
Sonam Wangchug wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:25 am
If one claims this then it leads to a number of problems.
tobes wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 5:08 am
I think Sonam Wangchug makes some rather compelling points.
Very good points!
:bow:
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

Simon E.
Posts: 7181
Joined: Tue May 15, 2012 11:09 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by Simon E. » Tue Oct 22, 2019 7:48 pm

pael wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 10:01 am
Would purgatory be better term than hell?
Yes, but still problematic.
If anyone follows my posts ( not something I would particular recommend ) they will know that I am not keen on folk religion and very opposed to cultural appropriation even when the culture being appropriated is that of a Buddhist country..
But I have no doubt that the hell/purgatorial realms exist and are literal. I have seen them briefly.
I think portraying them as rendered in Asian art is not helpful. I suspect that they take whatever form exists in our own subconscious states.
I don’t want to go into my own experience, but something EJ Gold wrote might be useful for moderns..
He said if you find yourself in car endlessly driving round and round and round a multi story car park and unable to find the exit you might want to ask yourself if in fact you have died...
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

Bristollad
Posts: 579
Joined: Fri Aug 21, 2015 11:39 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by Bristollad » Tue Oct 22, 2019 8:04 pm

Matt J wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 7:04 pm
This comes up at Western retreats all the time. No Theravada, Zen, or Tibetan Buddhist master that I am familiar with has required belief in hell, or even belief in reincarnation, as a condition of being a Buddhist. In fact, they have all disclaimed such a belief is necessary.

SW’s long posts do not provide any support that one must believe in hell to be a Buddhist, but rather appears to be merely his/her/their personal opinion.
This may be the case for you.

However, I have over the last 30-odd years studied closely with three different Tibetan Geshes and all three did insist that a belief in rebirth is required for someone to understand refuge correctly - and that rebirth occurs in all the six abodes of the desire realm. For them, someone without refuge is not a buddhist.

So labelling Sonam Wangchug's post merely a personal opinion is incorrect.

User avatar
Matt J
Posts: 883
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:29 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by Matt J » Tue Oct 22, 2019 9:17 pm

Straight from the Buddhist pope then. Oh wait... :jumping:

My statement still stands: at least some teachers allow refuge without belief in hell, therefore is is unnecessary to believe in hell to be a Buddhist. To prove the statement, SW must show no Buddhist teacher would approve.
Bristollad wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 8:04 pm
Matt J wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 7:04 pm
This comes up at Western retreats all the time. No Theravada, Zen, or Tibetan Buddhist master that I am familiar with has required belief in hell, or even belief in reincarnation, as a condition of being a Buddhist. In fact, they have all disclaimed such a belief is necessary.

SW’s long posts do not provide any support that one must believe in hell to be a Buddhist, but rather appears to be merely his/her/their personal opinion.
This may be the case for you.

However, I have over the last 30-odd years studied closely with three different Tibetan Geshes and all three did insist that a belief in rebirth is required for someone to understand refuge correctly - and that rebirth occurs in all the six abodes of the desire realm. For them, someone without refuge is not a buddhist.

So labelling Sonam Wangchug's post merely a personal opinion is incorrect.
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
Posts: 3366
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Tue Oct 22, 2019 10:23 pm

Bristollad wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 8:04 pm
However, I have over the last 30-odd years studied closely with three different Tibetan Geshes and all three did insist that a belief in rebirth is required for someone to understand refuge correctly - and that rebirth occurs in all the six abodes of the desire realm. For them, someone without refuge is not a buddhist.
You've made two points:
"belief in rebirth is required for someone to understand refuge correctly"
"someone without refuge is not a buddhist"

Rather than say a person does-or-does-not believe in something,
I prefer to say, that a person has not been given an explanation of something in a way that for them makes sense or seems true.

Just because a person does not correctly or fully grasp everything that taking refuge,
or doesn't immediately accept the idea of something they themselves cannot verify (rebirth)
doesn't mean that they are not a buddhist, if they indeed go to the three jewels for refuge
and further, have taken part in a refuge taking ceremony.

Buddhism doesn't require belief in anything that one cannot determine is valid by their own experience.
The Buddha said not to take things on face value, or because some respected person teaches it,
but to test it out for yourself as a person tests gold.
Since you cannot in this life test out the theory of rebirth for yourself,
for many people, belief in rebirth is purely a matter of blind faith.
Many confuse the Buddhist idea of Rebirth with Vedic ideas of reincarnation.
Many people have a really big misunderstanding of karma.
But if buddhism excluded people due to their ignorance, it would have ceased two millenia ago.
Many people take refuge for dealing with this lifetime,
and unable to verify one way or another the rebirth theory, simply ignore it, as it is not pertinent to their current situation.
On the other hand, rational and logical arguments can be made to argue the theory of rebirth.
The simple fact that by the time a person is 21 year old, their awareness has already worn through three entirely different bodies
(every seven years your body has replaced all of its cells) is for many, sufficient evidence that
awareness doesn't rely on the physical body.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Fo Ming (Buddha Bright) Monk"
People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.

Fortyeightvows
Posts: 2563
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2014 2:37 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by Fortyeightvows » Tue Oct 22, 2019 10:57 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 10:23 pm
Many people take refuge for dealing with this lifetime,
and unable to verify one way or another the rebirth theory, simply ignore it, as it is not pertinent to their current situation.
The lam rim tradition would say this is not even buddhism.
Buddhism doesn't require belief in anything
Belonging without believing, believing without belonging, etc.

Simon E.
Posts: 7181
Joined: Tue May 15, 2012 11:09 am

Re: Buddhist Hell seems a bit much

Post by Simon E. » Tue Oct 22, 2019 11:20 pm

Citations please to support your contention that “Lam Rim would say that it’s not even Buddhism”...
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

Post Reply

Return to “Mahāyāna Buddhism”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: dolphin_color and 76 guests