How Do Theravadins View Hell?

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How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby fragrant herbs » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:28 pm

Not sure if I ever asked this in the past, but do Theravadins view hell as a real place where you suffer until you die, or is it like this earthplane where you have moments of suffering, some more than others, due to their karma?
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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby Bankei » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:33 pm

fragrant herbs wrote:Not sure if I ever asked this in the past, but do Theravadins view hell as a real place where you suffer until you die, or is it like this earthplane where you have moments of suffering, some more than others, due to their karma?


Are you asking from the point of view according to the Pali texts or according to what living Buddhists believe?

In Thailand there are lots of stories regarding hells - some, many perhaps, believe it is a real place. Temples often have sculptures and displays of hell and 'demons' etc.

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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby cooran » Fri Jan 20, 2012 6:27 am

Hello fh, all,

This information is worth reading:

Scroll down to States of Deprivation
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... .html#kama

The Sensuous World (kama-loka).
Consists of eleven realms in which experience — both pleasurable and not — is dominated by the five senses. Seven of these realms are favorable destinations, and include our own human realm as well as several realms occupied by devas. The lowest realms are the four "bad" destinations, which include the animal and hell realms.

It is pointless to debate whether these realms are real or simply fanciful metaphors that describe the various mind-states we might experience in this lifetime. The real message of this cosmology is this: unless we take steps to break free of the iron grip of kamma, we are doomed to wander aimlessly from one state to another, with true peace and satisfaction forever out of reach. The Buddha's revolutionary discovery came in finding that there is a way to break free: the Noble Eightfold Path, which equips us with precisely the tools we need to escape from this wearisome wandering, once and for all, to a true and unshakeable freedom.
http://wisdomquarterly.blogspot.com/200 ... tence.html

with metta
Chris
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---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Jan 20, 2012 1:14 pm

It is pointless to debate whether these realms are real or simply fanciful metaphors that describe the various mind-states we might experience in this lifetime.


A point well made, but there might be those for whom the chances of changing their behaviour is dependent upon the reality of its perceived consequences. If I believe that my own mind-states are all that Kamma/Vipaka can throw at me, then I might be less inclined towards wholesome actions than if I believe in an objective post-mortem hell.
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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby santa100 » Fri Jan 20, 2012 4:20 pm

The two should not be mutually exclusive of each other. Take Human Realm and Animal Realm for example. They're certainly 2 physical objective realms that are observable to the naked eyes. And at the same time, right within the Human Realm, we could witness countless instances where humans think and behave just like animals. Extending the logic to the other 6 realms, chances are that they're also both concrete objective and mind-states realms. It's just that our eyes are way to primitive to be able to see all of them just yet..
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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby namaste » Fri Jan 20, 2012 6:51 pm

Sam Vega wrote:
It is pointless to debate whether these realms are real or simply fanciful metaphors that describe the various mind-states we might experience in this lifetime.

A point well made, but there might be those for whom the chances of changing their behaviour is dependent upon the reality of its perceived consequences. If I believe that my own mind-states are all that Kamma/Vipaka can throw at me, then I might be less inclined towards wholesome actions than if I believe in an objective post-mortem hell.
This raises a good point. Morality was important to the Buddha, so it would make sense that he would teach about the possibility of rebirth in hell to provide a check on behavior in this life.

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."

But there doesn't seem to be a consensus on this. I've seen a video in which elder Theravadan monks insist the realms are states of mind.
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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Jan 20, 2012 7:19 pm

Sam Vega wrote:A point well made, but there might be those for whom the chances of changing their behaviour is dependent upon the reality of its perceived consequences. If I believe that my own mind-states are all that Kamma/Vipaka can throw at me, then I might be less inclined towards wholesome actions than if I believe in an objective post-mortem hell.


Wholesome action is it's own reward.

if somebody has to have the threat of hell before cleaning up his/her act then his/her heart is not in it.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:18 pm

Wholesome action is it's own reward.

if somebody has to have the threat of hell before cleaning up his/her act then his/her heart is not in it.


A person who has their reward in the action itself may well be a superior being. But speaking personally, my heart would certainly be in the avoidance of future suffering, either before or after the break-up of this body. The Buddha often addressed this desire to avoid future suffering:

"Any action performed with greed — born of greed, caused by greed, originating from greed: wherever one's selfhood turns up, there that action will ripen. Where that action ripens, there one will experience its fruit, either in this very life that has arisen or further along in the sequence.

"Any action performed with aversion — born of aversion, caused by aversion, originating from aversion: wherever one's selfhood turns up, there that action will ripen. Where that action ripens, there one will experience its fruit, either in this very life that has arisen or further along in the sequence.

"Any action performed with delusion — born of delusion, caused by delusion, originating from delusion: wherever one's selfhood turns up, there that action will ripen. Where that action ripens, there one will experience its fruit, either in this very life that has arisen or further along in the sequence.


(AN 3.33)
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How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby namaste » Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:37 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
Sam Vega wrote:Wholesome action is it's own reward.
if somebody has to have the threat of hell before cleaning up his/her act then his/her heart is not in it.
We can say this now, but back in the day, way back, it was believed that the threat of hell would keep people on the straight and narrow. 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. And there are still plenty of Christians who believe Hell is where "sinners" go after death, just as there are many Buddhists who believe the same.

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? Bhikku Bodhi says there is a basis in the Pali. 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?
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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sat Jan 21, 2012 9:28 am

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?


Not that I'm aware of. Clearly some Buddhists are uncomfortable with the idea of other realms as described in the suttas, and prefer to view them as mental states. Though in my opinion it's better to keep an open mind rather than imposing our own ( current ) belief system on what the suttas describe.

The point has already been made that teachings on other realms are usually an encouragement to consider the consequences of our actions ( kamma ).

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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby perkele » Sat Jan 21, 2012 8:36 pm

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.

:jawdrop:
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." :rofl:
Just to stay popular. But does it help?

But back to buddhism. :buddha1:
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.
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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby namaste » Sun Feb 19, 2012 6:15 pm

Here is why I'm asking; because Bhikku Bodhi's opinion isn't shared by his colleagues:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFJVYL-me_c
Here is a third opinion: K. Sri Dhammananda MahaThera says it's both-and, not either-or:
http://www.budsas.org/ebud/whatbudbeliev/303.htm

It seems odd that the monks in the video wouldn't be aware that the scriptures describe hell realms as literal places. I didn't know whom to believe until the discussion on this thread, which was helpful. I gather that most contemporary practitioners view them as metaphorical, no matter what the scriptures actually say. Probably due in part to the scientific age in which we live.
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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby fragrant herbs » Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:21 pm

Wholesome action is it's own reward.

if somebody has to have the threat of hell before cleaning up his/her act then his/her heart is not in it.


My thoughts as well. It has always bothered me when I heard people saying that they "do good so they won't go to hell." that is immoral in itself.
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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby Zom » Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:09 pm

How Do Theravadins View Hell?


Literally.
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Re: How Do Theravadins View Hell?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Feb 19, 2012 9:43 pm

There seem to be enough variety of Theravada viewpoints on this thread to draw it to a close.

:anjali:
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