Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

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Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby mettafuture » Tue Dec 31, 2013 6:44 am

My guess is that the heavenly and hell realms were created by the beings who inhabit them, just as a country's inhabitants create the pleasant or hostile conditions that exist in that country.

What are your thoughts?
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Aloka » Tue Dec 31, 2013 8:44 am

As I don't have any experience of anything other than the human realm, I see them as mental states, the extremes of which can be experienced in just one day in some circumstances, and certainly in one lifetime.

I therefore think that one creates them oneself in one way or another.

(When I used to be a Vajrayana practitioner, a Tibetan teacher also gave a similar interpretation to me in connection with a question I asked him.)


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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:39 pm

Aloka wrote:As I don't have any experience of anything other than the human realm, I see them as mental states...


You can see them how you like, but nowhere in the suttas are the realms described as mental states.
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby SamKR » Tue Dec 31, 2013 6:30 pm

mettafuture wrote:My guess is that the heavenly and hell realms were created by the beings who inhabit them, just as a country's inhabitants create the pleasant or hostile conditions that exist in that country.

What are your thoughts?

I believe that there are heavenly and hell realms. In my limited understanding they are created by (conditioned by) sankhara and made of sanhkara-created experiences. These realms are a set of experiences just like our current realm is another different set of experiences with different rules.
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Aloka » Tue Dec 31, 2013 6:53 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:You can see them how you like


Thank you very much.

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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Babadhari » Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:01 pm

mettafuture wrote:My guess is that the heavenly and hell realms were created by the beings who inhabit them, just as a country's inhabitants create the pleasant or hostile conditions that exist in that country.

What are your thoughts?


with all due respect Mettafuture,

i do not feel that thinking about the origins or the inhabitants of the heavenly and hell realms are of any significance.

live wisely and you may get to the heavenly realms where you may find the answer you desire.

happy new year



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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Dec 31, 2013 8:18 pm

If you look at the Buddhas teaching as a whole it is much more interested in mental phenomena and processes than it is about physical existence and objects, so your understanding seems reasonable to me.

By understanding these mental phenomena and processes one has the opportunity to do something about it, whether there are places already created and set aside like prison is already created and set aside for criminals doesn't seem an important question.
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Mkoll » Tue Dec 31, 2013 9:37 pm

Dear mettafuture,

I have no idea.

I'd imagine the Buddha would say something along the lines of: "That's not conducive to the way to the end of suffering."

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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby mettafuture » Wed Jan 01, 2014 4:12 pm

To clarify, I'm well aware of how the Buddha himself answered such questions. What I wanted to know is how you would answer this question, or if the reply I posted above made logical sense. When talking to a seeker or skeptic, presenting at least a hypothesis about the heavenly and hell realms might be better than just saying "The Buddha thinks your questions are unskillful."
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Mkoll » Wed Jan 01, 2014 4:41 pm

Dear mettafuture,

Well in that case I would mostly agree with your explanation in the first post. Although, again, this is metaphysical speculation and logic can only take us so far. As with all "first cause" questions like this, whatever one posits, another can always say: "but what were the causes and conditions of that?" ad infinitum.

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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Jason » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:17 pm

mettafuture wrote:My guess is that the heavenly and hell realms were created by the beings who inhabit them, just as a country's inhabitants create the pleasant or hostile conditions that exist in that country.

What are your thoughts?


Interesting question, mettafuture. Personally, I think the five (sometimes six) realms (loka) of existence can be taken both literally (as external realms of existence) and metaphorically (as mental states). For example, BuddhaNet's introductory essay, "Introduction to Buddhism," gives a good explanation of the realms in this way:

    If ego decides it likes the situation, it begins to churn up all sorts of ways to possess it. A craving to consume the situation arises and we long to satisfy that craving. Once we do, a ghost of that craving carries over and we look around for something else to consume. We get into the habitual pattern of becoming consumer oriented. Perhaps we order a piece of software for our computer. We play with it for awhile [sic], until the novelty wears out, and then we look around for the next piece of software that has the magic glow of not being possessed yet. Soon we haven't even got the shrink wrap off the current package when we start looking for the next one. Owning the software and using it doesn't seem to be as important as wanting it, looking forward to its arrival. This is known as the hungry ghost realm where we have made an occupation out of craving. We can never find satisfaction, it is like drinking salt water to quench our thirst.

    Another realm is the animal realm, or having the mind like that of an animal. Here we find security by making certain that everything is totally predictable. We only buy blue chip stock, never take a chance and never look at new possibilities. The thought of new possibilities frightens us and we look with scorn at anyone who suggests anything innovative. This realm is characterised by ignorance. We put on blinders and only look straight ahead, never to the right or left.

    The hell realm is characterised by acute aggression. We build a wall of anger between ourselves and our experience. Everything irritates us, even the most innocuous, and innocent statement drives us mad with anger. The heat of our anger is reflected back on us and sends us into a frenzy to escape from our torture, which in turn causes us to fight even harder and get even angrier. The whole thing builds on itself until we don't even know if we're fighting with someone else or ourselves. We are so busy fighting that we can't find an alternative to fighting; the possibility of alternative never even occurs to us.

    These are the three lower realms. One of the three higher realms is called the jealous god realm. This pattern of existence is characterised by acute paranoia. We are always concerned with "making it". Everything is seen from a competitive point of view. We are always trying to score points, and trying to prevent others from scoring on us. If someone achieves something special we become determined to out do [sic]them. We never trust anyone; we "know" they're trying to slip one past us. If someone tries to help us, we try to figure out their angle. If someone doesn't try to help us, they are being uncooperative, and we make a note to ourselves that we will get even later. "Don't get mad, get even," that's our motto.

    At some point we might hear about spirituality. We might hear about the possibility of meditation techniques, imported from some eastern religion, or mystical western one, that will make our minds peaceful and absorb us into a universal harmony. We begin to meditate and perform certain rituals and we find ourselves absorbed into infinite space and blissful states of existence. Everything sparkles with love and light; we become godlike beings. We become proud of our godlike powers of meditative absorption. We might even dwell in the realm of infinite space where thoughts seldom arise to bother us. We ignore everything that doesn't confirm our godhood. We have manufactured the god realm, the highest of the six realms of existence. The problem is, that we have manufactured it. We begin to relax and no longer feel the need to maintain our exalted state. Eventually a small sliver of doubt occurs. Have we really made it? At first we are able to smooth over the question, but eventually the doubt begins to occur more and more frequently and soon we begin to struggle to regain our supreme confidence. As soon as we begin to struggle, we fall back into the lower realms and begin the whole process over and over; from god realm to jealous god realm to animal realm to hungry ghost realm to hell realm. At some point we begin to wonder if there isn't some sort of alternative to our habitual way of dealing with the world. This is the human realm.

    The human realm is the only one in which liberation from the six states of existence is possible. The human realm is characterised by doubt and inquisitiveness and the longing for something better. We are not as absorbed by the all consuming [sic] preoccupations of the other states of being. We begin to wonder whether it is possible to relate to the world as simple, dignified human beings.


And this psychological interpretation is supported by the Suttas themselves. For example, we find passages like these in AN 4.235 (notice the qualifier 'like'):

    And what is kamma that is dark with dark result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates an injurious bodily fabrication, fabricates an injurious verbal fabrication, fabricates an injurious mental fabrication. Having fabricated an injurious bodily fabrication, having fabricated an injurious verbal fabrication, having fabricated an injurious mental fabrication, he rearises in an injurious world. On rearising in an injurious world, he is there touched by injurious contacts. Touched by injurious contacts, he experiences feelings that are exclusively painful, like those of the beings in hell. This is called kamma that is dark with dark result.

    And what is kamma that is bright with bright result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates a non-injurious bodily fabrication ... a non-injurious verbal fabrication ... a non-injurious mental fabrication ... He rearises in a non-injurious world ... There he is touched by non-injurious contacts ... He experiences feelings that are exclusively pleasant, like those of the Beautiful Black Devas. This is called kamma that is bright with bright result.

From that perspective, I think it's logical to posit that these realms are, at least in some sense, created by the beings who inhabit them. Their creation can be seen as a form of becoming (bhava), which is predominately a mental process that arises due to the presence of clinging (upadana) in the mind with regard to the five aggregates, and which acts as a condition for the birth (jati) of the conceit 'I am,' the self-identification that designates a being (satta). As such, it's also an integral component of the post-mortem process of rebirth (punabhava, literally 'again becoming') and the "production of renewed existence" (SN 12.64) for those, like myself, who accept the possibility.

As Thanissaro Bhikkhu puts it in "A Verb for Nirvana," "Samsara is a process of creating places, even whole worlds, (this is called becoming) and then wandering through them (this is called birth). Nirvana is the end of this process," so it's possible that our intentional actions and their results help to condition the experience of these realms. And since, from the Abhidhammic perspective, the intentions/actions that lead to certain realms are similar or even the same, it's logical to assume that beings reborn into them will have similar experiences of said realms (i.e., perceive them in similar ways).

However, if these realms have a physical component to them as well, then I think other forces or factors help condition their existence, just as various material forces help shape the universe as we know it, kind of like how a country's inhabitants create the pleasant or hostile conditions that exist in that country but not the physical, natural landscape of the country itself.
Last edited by Jason on Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby mettafuture » Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:01 am

I think your post covers every angle, Jason. Thank you very much for sharing your perspective with us.
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:19 am

Jason wrote:And this psychological interpretation is supported by the Suttas themselves. For example, we find passages like these in AN 4.235 (notice the qualifier 'like'):

[list].... Touched by injurious contacts, he experiences feelings that are exclusively painful, like those of the beings in hell.


Jason, I don't see how this supports a psychological interpretation of the realms atall. It's saying that having exclusively painful feelings is like being in hell, not that it is being in hell.
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:25 am

mettafuture wrote:...When talking to a seeker or skeptic, presenting at least a hypothesis about the heavenly and hell realms might be better than just saying "The Buddha thinks your questions are unskillful."


I understand what you're saying. Perhaps it's best to just explain what the suttas say about kamma and the realms, though if somebody is skeptical then they will likely remain skeptical. Personally I don't feel that a psychological interpretation of the realms is supported by the suttas, and it feels to me like a way of fudging the question.
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Jason » Fri Jan 03, 2014 3:28 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
Jason wrote:And this psychological interpretation is supported by the Suttas themselves. For example, we find passages like these in AN 4.235 (notice the qualifier 'like'):

[list].... Touched by injurious contacts, he experiences feelings that are exclusively painful, like those of the beings in hell.


Jason, I don't see how this supports a psychological interpretation of the realms atall. It's saying that having exclusively painful feelings is like being in hell, not that it is being in hell.



I know you don't. We've never seen eye-to-eye on this, and I've long since given up trying to explain my point of view to you because I know nothing I say will change that. My response was purely for mettafuture's benefit.
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby clw_uk » Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:52 am

They are mind forged manacles :weep:
“Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.” Ovid
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Jan 03, 2014 9:28 am

Jason wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:
Jason wrote:And this psychological interpretation is supported by the Suttas themselves. For example, we find passages like these in AN 4.235 (notice the qualifier 'like'):

[list].... Touched by injurious contacts, he experiences feelings that are exclusively painful, like those of the beings in hell.


Jason, I don't see how this supports a psychological interpretation of the realms atall. It's saying that having exclusively painful feelings is like being in hell, not that it is being in hell.



I know you don't. We've never seen eye-to-eye on this, and I've long since given up trying to explain my point of view to you because I know nothing I say will change that. My response was purely for mettafuture's benefit.


How about discussing the point at hand? Can you explain how your quote supports a psychological interpretation of the realms - I honestly can't see it. Saying something is like something else isn't the same as equating them. If somebody said "It was hell at work today" we'd assume they meant they had a bad day at work, not that they'd been literally roasted over hot coals while fending off jabs from Satan.
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby pegembara » Fri Jan 03, 2014 9:39 am

A more relevant question - Who "created" the earthly realm? Or how is the earthly realm created?

Yet it is just within this fathom-long body, with its perception & intellect, that I declare that there is the cosmos, the origination of the cosmos, the cessation of the cosmos, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of the cosmos."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby Jason » Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:12 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:How about discussing the point at hand? Can you explain how your quote supports a psychological interpretation of the realms - I honestly can't see it. Saying something is like something else isn't the same as equating them. If somebody said "It was hell at work today" we'd assume they meant they had a bad day at work, not that they'd been literally roasted over hot coals while fending off jabs from Satan.


Don't really see the point, to be honest. We've already had discussions like this multiple times on more than one forum (e.g., here) to no satisfactory conclusion. You couldn't see my points then, and I sincerely doubt you will now, so why bother wasting each other's time?
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Re: Who created the heavenly and hell realms?

Postby mettafuture » Sat Jan 04, 2014 5:54 am

Spiny Norman wrote:I understand what you're saying. Perhaps it's best to just explain what the suttas say about kamma and the realms

That's my goal. I want to find a way to succinctly and accurately distinguish the heaven and hell realms of Buddhism from those described in Abrahamic scriptures.

though if somebody is skeptical then they will likely remain skeptical.

Not necessarily. I was skeptical about many Buddhist ideas, but I'm not anymore.
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