tiltbillings wrote:I do not think one is doing justice to these texts by trying to force them into a modern framework as being the only way they should be read and that was how they were meant to be read/heard/understood.
It is only reasonable to agree with this. The Nikayas reflect the text within the Sangha at roughly 300 BCE, and it is the understanding held at that time which will be important to understand, as a baseline, it seems to me. Those people were the ones who had been structuring the thing in the first place, after all, so giving them modern outlooks is anachronistic and out of place.
Aloka wrote:What about this sutta? This isn't about hell and heaven realms in other places somewhere.
This showcases the more important point, to my mind, another example of which is in the sutta in my signature: despite the prevalence of rebirth - the culturally obvious nature of some version of it, making it highly suitable as a pedagogical aid - it was far from universally accepted, and the Buddha was able to teach the Dhamma to those who were perplexed about the matter without needing to rely on it. Furthermore, this instruction seems to have been given at the monastic level, not simply at the lay level, as the deathbed conversation with Anathapindika indicates, as well as the sutta just mentioned by Aloka, and others.
It may have been a minority concern, but agnosticism about rebirth is, apparently, no barrier to Dhamma practice (MN 79 might even indicate that the Buddha preferred to set it aside even in cases where he & others could have swapped experiential conversation about it).
At the end of the day, talk of the facticity of supernatural realms can be set aside altogether.