namaste wrote:The question is: are those "folk" beliefs that amalgamated into Buddhism, or is there a basis in scripture for the belief that Hell is a realm evil-doers will inhabit after death?
If that was really the whole question then the answer could be obtained easily by just reading quite randomly in the suttas. Sooner or later you will find a sutta where the hell realms are mentioned in no unclear terms.
namaste wrote:Bhikku Bodhi says there is a basis in the Pali.
So if you still doubt it you can have a deep look.
namaste wrote:The next question is: is there a basis in scripture for the claim that Hell (as well as the heavenly realms) is a state of mind?
namaste wrote:In an email, Bhikku Bodhi says, "There is no doubt that the texts intend hell to be understood as a separate realm of existence distinct from the human realm, and as real to its inhabitants as our world is to us. Note that they describe rebirth into the other realms as occurring 'with the dissolution of the body, after death'. There is no evidence at all in the texts that they intend the hell realms to be just metaphors for extremely painful experiences here in the human world."
If you doubt what a Bhikkhu says about the matter who is well-versed in the suttas (evidently, as he has translated or edited translations of a great lot of them) whom will you ask next?
You can search and search until you find someone who has the opinion that the other realms are to be interpreted as states of mind. And maybe he can make up some kind of smart answer to that based on his own thinking and "reasoning". But I am sure he will not find any support for it in the suttas. Usually this opinion comes in one package with the opinion that rebirth is only a metaphor. I'm not sure which perspective you have when you have doubt.
I have read a lot of suttas and if I had found support for a purely psychological explanation of the other realms I would remember that. Because I have been looking for that, too. But one can look for that and try to read it into what is said there as long as one wants. One will never be sure about one's interpretation, because it is just not in accordance with what is written there. Except for some people who just don't bother what is actually written in the suttas.
And maybe even some monks say it can be seen that way. But I have seen no actual explanation how
the suttas could be interpreted that way.
So my advice is that you just trust in the knowledge of Venerable Bodhi about the suttas or read a hundred suttas for evidence of that other view until you give up.
Look at Christianity; it was only 2-3 decades ago the Pope issued a statement saying that Hell could be interpreted as a state of mind.
The catholic church adopted ideas from new age and pop-buddhism 20 to 30 years ago? Can't quite believe it.
Actually that is quite ridiculous. Someone is the "boss" of the religion and says: "Earlier we believed this. From now on we believe that."
Just to stay popular. But does it help?
But back to buddhism.
What the Buddha said in the suttas has been preserved (to some significant extent).
What other buddhist traditions (such as Zen or Tibetan etc.) or maybe even some particular Theravada monks say is sometimes another matter.
And what one can or can not personally believe is often still a whole different matter.
And what one believes and what one experiences can often also diverge from one another. But that is what one has to clean up and take care of. And it's not a good idea to try to make one's own views "compatible" with the Dhamma by just reading things into the latter. Unfortunately many people do that.
Other people just lay such things aside and say: "I don't believe in that". In this way they keep things clean. In this way they "guard the truth" (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
If you can't allay your doubts about the existence of hell realms and they don't seem to have a bearing on your life just say "I don't know" and don't bother. You don't want to go there just to find out (I hope
I think I once heard or read some Theravada monk or at least someone following the Theravada tradition say something to the effect of: "Hell does not exist for someone who has not sewn the seeds for it." So maybe in this context that is a satisfying answer.