Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby mettafuture » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:11 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Its not a question of welcome or not welcome. Its about your motive. Like many people I was brought up in a Christian setting. I am no longer interested in Christianity. But I certainly have no interest in dropping into Christian websites and dukeing it out with folks going about their Christian business. On a Website that clearly states that it is a forum for the discussion of Christianity. My ego is big, but not that big.

I'm not here to "duke it out" with anyone. I was only looking for a way to deal with the heaven / hell teachings.
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby notself » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:37 pm

mettafuture wrote:I can believe that there are people who understand life better than I do, but when it comes to explaining the physical world, science has the authority. There is some science to support the idea of parallel dimensions and universes, but there is no evidence, or even a solid reason, to support the idea of external heavens or hells...

But I think I've found a way to reconcile this issue. I've been telling myself to stop seeing the Buddha as more than a man, and that all men can make mistakes, and are the products of their time. The Buddha knew what he was talking about in regards to suffering. He had a great eye, instincts, and authority on this subject. But when it came to explaining the physical world, he likely relied on the dated Vedic explanations of his time, which is okay, and forgivable.


You are putting all your faith in science while at the same time avowing that you do not like to take things of faith. :juggling:

You need to realize if science isn't interested in a topic or if research in the topic will not find funding, then the topic is not explored. You are reluctant to consider that rebirth may be true because science has not proved it is true. Please post links to the studies where science has investigated rebirth in a rigorous manner. You won't find such links because such research had not been done.

The Buddha was told by a person that one of Buddha's followers did not believe in rebirth. The Buddha asked the monk, "Do you believe in rebirth?" The monk responded "I do not yet believe in rebirth". The Buddha praised the monk's answer as being a correct response. He said that belief comes with realization through practice. (This is a paraphrase of a sutta I recently read, but I cannot find it now. Perhaps someone can find it for me.)

This is the stance you should take, mettafuture. "I do not yet believe in rebirth." It leaves open the possibility that one day you may change your mind. In the meantime, remember science hasn't proven rebirth because it hasn't tried.
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he is indeed the noblest victor who conquers himself. ---Dhp 103
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby mettafuture » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:50 pm

notself wrote:
mettafuture wrote:I can believe that there are people who understand life better than I do, but when it comes to explaining the physical world, science has the authority. There is some science to support the idea of parallel dimensions and universes, but there is no evidence, or even a solid reason, to support the idea of external heavens or hells...

But I think I've found a way to reconcile this issue. I've been telling myself to stop seeing the Buddha as more than a man, and that all men can make mistakes, and are the products of their time. The Buddha knew what he was talking about in regards to suffering. He had a great eye, instincts, and authority on this subject. But when it came to explaining the physical world, he likely relied on the dated Vedic explanations of his time, which is okay, and forgivable.

You are putting all your faith in science while at the same time avowing that you do not like to take things of faith.

Science requires very little faith because its theories can be confirmed and tested. Science either is, or it isn't. 1 + 2 = 3. The same can't be said about heaven and hell realms. Personally, I think the concepts of heaven and hell were created, or maybe even evolved, to give us a reason to do good, and to scare us away from doing bad. But do we really need these ideas to motivate us? I don't believe we do. I do good because I wish to, and I don't do bad because its counterproductive.

You need to realize if science isn't interested in a topic or if research in the topic will not find funding, then the topic is not explored.

True, but if research leads to unexplored areas, most scientists would be excited to explore those areas. This is why science continues to evolve to this day. Research is fueled by curiosity, and the desire know more about the unknown.

You are reluctant to consider that rebirth may be true because science has not proved it is true. Please post links to the studies where science has investigated rebirth in a rigorous manner. You won't find such links because such research had not been done.

My issue isn't with rebirth. I have no problem with that. I only find the heaven and hell realms problematic.

The Buddha was told by a person that one of Buddha's followers did not believe in rebirth. The Buddha asked the monk, "Do you believe in rebirth?" The monk responded "I do not yet believe in rebirth". The Buddha praised the monk's answer as being a correct response. He said that belief comes with realization through practice. (This is a paraphrase of a sutta I recently read, but I cannot find it now. Perhaps someone can find it for me.)

I haven't completely ruled out anything, but there are some things that are easier for me to accept than others.
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:07 pm

Greetings Mettafuture,

mettafuture wrote:My issue isn't with rebirth. I have no problem with that. I only find the heaven and hell realms problematic.


Apologies if you've answered this elsewhere, but do you understand these realms to be referring to ontological entities or experiential modes of existence?

Another related question, what realm of existence do you believe the Buddha existed in?

Metta,
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby meindzai » Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:25 pm

I think that the relationship between our "selves" and our realm is an interdependant one. The "world" according to Buddhism is only that which is perceived with the six sense bases. Eye ear nose tongue body mind. What else is there? Can you describe a world beyond that? There is no force outside of ourselves and our own actions that determine our birth state. (That's the Christian view of things).

The Buddha tended away from questions about whether things "exist or not." In fact he considered that a type of speech that the noble ones should not engage in. Perhaps even now there are probably beings on the hell version of Dhamma wheel saying "oh that Human realm stuff is just a bunch of folklore so that we'll behave ourselves." And then they go right back to poking each others eyes out or whatever they do there. :tongue:

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby mettafuture » Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:34 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mettafuture,

mettafuture wrote:My issue isn't with rebirth. I have no problem with that. I only find the heaven and hell realms problematic.


Apologies if you've answered this elsewhere, do you understand these realms to be referring to ontological entities or experiential modes of existence?

Another related question, what realm of existence do you believe the Buddha existed in?

Metta,
Retro. :)

I can believe in heaven and hell as states of mind. For example, if we do a lot of bad, our minds will enter a hellish state, etc. But, from the looks of the Theravadin and Mahayanin scriptures, the Buddha didn't mean for the heavens and hells to be interpreted in this way. In the Itivuttaka, he clearly says that these places are accessed "at the break-up of the body, after death."

But that's fine.

My plan is to just look over this little tidbit, and keep my focus on practice.
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Jan 21, 2010 11:23 pm

Hi MettaFuture,

I understand how science can be a very reliable tool for establishing how specific things happen and what they are like. I too give great credence to what is established in a scientific manner. Perhaps our Buddha used the language of Heavens and Hells because it was the most simple way to communicate to the people of his day. After all the Buddha is recorded as saying something like "I teach suffering and the way to the end of suffering". Not knowing whether or not particular things exist out their is not the kind of ignorance which we need to overcome to be free.


Metta

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby Heavenstorm » Fri Jan 22, 2010 3:07 am

mettafuture wrote:There's a lot of research being done on the existence of parallel dimensions and universes. If one of these dimensions proves to be a heaven or hell, I highly doubt they'd have a problem with presenting that information to the world.


Only theoretical research, no experimental research for theory on parallel universes.

Besides, scientists will never call a dimension with very favourable or unfavourable conditions as heaven or hell even they fit the description. They will most certainly call those environments in the "scientific way" as utopian or exteremely hostile. Similarly, they call a highly advanced alien race as highly evolved or with a sophisticated culture rather than gods or devas. All this is due to their academic pride.

mettafuture wrote:There's plenty of evidence for the existence of physical, sentient, beings, but there's no evidence for sentient beings who are without a physical body. However, I haven't ruled out the possibility of such beings.


Gods and devas have physical bodies. The only beings without a body are the devas of the four formless realms.
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri Jan 22, 2010 5:02 am

Heavenstorm wrote:
mettafuture wrote:There's a lot of research being done on the existence of parallel dimensions and universes. If one of these dimensions proves to be a heaven or hell, I highly doubt they'd have a problem with presenting that information to the world.


Only theoretical research, no experimental research for theory on parallel universes.

Besides, scientists will never call a dimension with very favourable or unfavourable conditions as heaven or hell even they fit the description. They will most certainly call those environments in the "scientific way" as utopian or exteremely hostile. Similarly, they call a highly advanced alien race as highly evolved or with a sophisticated culture rather than gods or devas. All this is due to their academic pride.


Hi Heavenstorm,

How is it due to academic pride? It just sounds like semantics to me. We all prefer different language but language is just a set of various sounds which beings use to communicate. I call it dirt and you call it soil. Either way it helps grow food.

Take Care

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby Ben » Fri Jan 22, 2010 6:27 am

mettafuture wrote:My plan is to just look over this little tidbit, and keep my focus on practice.


Well done Mettafuture, well done!

If at any time you have doubts about this or that - refer back to the Apannaka Sutta (Incontrovertible Teaching) that Bhikkhu Pesala mentioned. The translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi in 'A translation of the Majjhima Nikaya' is particularly good and the end notes are excellent. In this discourse, the Buddha was addressing a group of people who were skeptics of rebirth and instead of just saying "rebirth exists - get over it!" appealed to their sense of logic. The Buddha didn't try to convince his interlocutors of the reality of rebirth but lead them via question and answer to a position where they accepted that to live a good life based on sila, renunciation and sense restraint was better than a life based on free licence. Anyway, although it is in response to skepticism of rebirth, I think the message is equally valid to those who may be equally skeptical of literal hell and heaven realms.

Wishing you the very best with your practice!
metta

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby seanpdx » Fri Jan 22, 2010 7:01 am

Ben wrote:
mettafuture wrote:My plan is to just look over this little tidbit, and keep my focus on practice.


Well done Mettafuture, well done!

If at any time you have doubts about this or that - refer back to the Apannaka Sutta (Incontrovertible Teaching) that Bhikkhu Pesala mentioned. The translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi in 'A translation of the Majjhima Nikaya' is particularly good and the end notes are excellent. In this discourse, the Buddha was addressing a group of people who were skeptics of rebirth and instead of just saying "rebirth exists - get over it!" appealed to their sense of logic. The Buddha didn't try to convince his interlocutors of the reality of rebirth but lead them via question and answer to a position where they accepted that to live a good life based on sila, renunciation and sense restraint was better than a life based on free licence. Anyway, although it is in response to skepticism of rebirth, I think the message is equally valid to those who may be equally skeptical of literal hell and heaven realms.

Wishing you the very best with your practice!
metta

Ben


This is exactly what the Buddha does in the kalama sutta, which is slightly more generic in nature. The Buddha simply leads his interlocutors, by question and answer, to an ethical position. Good times!
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby salmon » Fri Jan 22, 2010 12:20 pm

Just as no-one can tell make you understand the taste of a snakeskin fruit, no-one will be able to bring you to visit heaven and hell.

An interesting read for everyone (many would have read this before though)

Balancing the Faculties

However, what is particularly recommended is the balancing of faith with wisdom, and concentration with vigor. For one who is strong in faith and weak in wisdom places his confidence foolishly in an unworthy object. One strong in wisdom and weak in faith errs on the side of cunning and is as hard to cure as a sickness caused by medicine. But with the balancing of the two, faith and wisdom, a man has confidence only in a deserving object.
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby Jason » Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:27 pm

mettafuture wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:Its not a question of welcome or not welcome. Its about your motive. Like many people I was brought up in a Christian setting. I am no longer interested in Christianity. But I certainly have no interest in dropping into Christian websites and dukeing it out with folks going about their Christian business. On a Website that clearly states that it is a forum for the discussion of Christianity. My ego is big, but not that big.


I'm not here to "duke it out" with anyone. I was only looking for a way to deal with the heaven / hell teachings.


I suggest having this discussion with Element/Dhamma Dhatu if he's still around. Here's an example of his response to a similar question elsewhere:

Whatever the afterlife teaching, it is designed to encourage morality in people who are spirituality blind in that they cannot see good & evil for what they really are. The spiritually blind are taught via fear rather than via wisdom. The blind are not being taught 'sight' but, instead, fear.

The Bible states 'wisdom is fear of the Lord'. Buddhism also has its fair share of teachings about hell.

The Buddha said:

    "Abandon what is unskillful, monks. It is possible to abandon what is unskillful. If it were not possible to abandon what is unskillful, I would not say to you, 'Abandon what is unskillful.' If this abandoning of what is unskillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, 'Abandon what is unskillful.' But because this abandoning of what is unskillful is conducive to benefit and happiness, I say to you, 'Abandon what is unskillful.'

    "Develop what is skillful, monks. It is possible to develop what is skillful. If it were not possible to develop what is skillful, I would not say to you, 'Develop what is skillful.' If this development of what is skillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, 'Develop what is skillful.' But because this development of what is skillful is conducive to benefit and happiness, I say to you, 'Develop what is skillful.'"

However many human beings cannot understand this simple instruction due to their spiritual blindness. So they are taught stories about heaven & hell.


And another:

This dilemma did not occur in the Buddha's time because the Buddha generally did not teach the doctrines of 'rebirth' and 'not-self' together.

The Buddha generally taught rebirth to those who already believed in it and taught 'not-self' to those pursuing the higher teachings that end suffering.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby notself » Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:40 pm

Jason,
Thank you for posting the links. People hung up on rebirth often fail to ask, "What is reborn?"
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he is indeed the noblest victor who conquers himself. ---Dhp 103
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby Aloka » Fri Jan 22, 2010 9:27 pm

.

Quote = mettafuture -
I can believe in heaven and hell as states of mind. For example, if we do a lot of bad, our minds will enter a hellish state, etc.


I interpret the different realms as states of mind from my personal experience in my present lifetime. Anything else is speculation and not relevant to my practice.


With metta


Aloka

.
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby Kenshou » Fri Jan 22, 2010 11:21 pm

If I may I'd like to re-point out Heavenstorm's post:

How are aliens separated from the notion of heaven and hells? Gods in Buddhism are not immortals and if in the future, some aliens that are found to be of a long lifespan ( as compared to humans), having a beautiful complexion, possess psychic abilities, etc, that will be as good as proving the existence of devas.

On the other hand, if some alien creatures are found to be alive in a planet which contains hellish conditions like Venus, I don't see why wouldn't it be reasonable to say that those animals are experiencing physical hell.

The interpretations of hell and heaven are quite open in Buddhism, no one say its going to be on Earth and since our astronauts never been to any other planets' surface, the jury regarding alien's existence is still out there.


Mettafuture, you've stated that you don't have a problem with rebirth. Okay. But it seems to me that you're view of "realms" is stuck on the idea of some sort of metaphysical realm, which, of course, is beyond anyone's knowledge.

But why could these "realms" simply not just be -places-, all the mystical undertones of the word "realm" dropped? A being is reborn (well not really -reborn-, but use it for the sake of brevity) into a place, still within this universe that we inhabit, characterized by having a lot of suffering. Why not call this a "hell realm"? Personally, I don't see what it is in the discourses of the Buddha that makes the possibility of these "realms" as being places still within our physical universe exempt. It seems to me that if you have no issue with rebirth, that this interpretation should be compatible with you. I think the states-of-mind interpretation is relevant as well, but as you've said, in the suttas it really does seem to be talking about actual places.


As for beings without bodies and whatnot, that always evokes memories of beings of energy etc. that would every now and then make an appearance in Star Trek. :D Of course that isn't relevant to Buddhism or anything outside of the realm of science fiction, but it always makes me wonder about the possibilities, who knows just how clever life can be in finding ways to appear?
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:13 am

The Thirty-One Planes of Existence

There comes a time when the entire galaxy is destroyed. At that time beings are reborn in formless realms.
2. Suriya Sutta. The Buddha explains to the monks the destruction of the world by the gradual appearance of seven consecutive suns. Details are given of the havoc caused by each subsequent sun. The sutta is intended to show that all things are impermanent; but only those who possess Ariyan knowledge realize this. Even so great a teacher as Sunetta (q.v.) could not find the way out of sorrow (A.iv.100f). The sutta was also evidently called Sattasuriya or Sattasuriyuggamana Sutta.
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby mettafuture » Sun Jan 24, 2010 2:02 am

gabrielbranbury wrote:I understand how science can be a very reliable tool for establishing how specific things happen and what they are like. I too give great credence to what is established in a scientific manner. Perhaps our Buddha used the language of Heavens and Hells because it was the most simple way to communicate to the people of his day.

That's a possibility.

But interpretations like this seem to argue the other side:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

After all the Buddha is recorded as saying something like "I teach suffering and the way to the end of suffering". Not knowing whether or not particular things exist out their is not the kind of ignorance which we need to overcome to be free.

Agreed.

Heavenstorm wrote:Besides, scientists will never call a dimension with very favourable or unfavourable conditions as heaven or hell even they fit the description. They will most certainly call those environments in the "scientific way" as utopian or exteremely hostile. Similarly, they call a highly advanced alien race as highly evolved or with a sophisticated culture rather than gods or devas. All this is due to their academic pride.

Personally, I would prefer for them to use terms like "utopian" or "unfavorable conditions." Words like "heaven", "hell", and "gods" carry too much religious baggage.

Ben wrote:
mettafuture wrote:My plan is to just look over this little tidbit, and keep my focus on practice.


Well done Mettafuture, well done!

Thank you.

:hello:

If at any time you have doubts about this or that - refer back to the Apannaka Sutta (Incontrovertible Teaching) that Bhikkhu Pesala mentioned. The translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi in 'A translation of the Majjhima Nikaya' is particularly good and the end notes are excellent. In this discourse, the Buddha was addressing a group of people who were skeptics of rebirth and instead of just saying "rebirth exists - get over it!" appealed to their sense of logic. The Buddha didn't try to convince his interlocutors of the reality of rebirth but lead them via question and answer to a position where they accepted that to live a good life based on sila, renunciation and sense restraint was better than a life based on free licence. Anyway, although it is in response to skepticism of rebirth, I think the message is equally valid to those who may be equally skeptical of literal hell and heaven realms.

That's a good teaching. I'll keep the Apannaka Sutta in my rolodex.

Jason wrote:I suggest having this discussion with Element/Dhamma Dhatu if he's still around. Here's an example of his response to a similar question elsewhere:

Whatever the afterlife teaching, it is designed to encourage morality in people who are spirituality blind in that they cannot see good & evil for what they really are. The spiritually blind are taught via fear rather than via wisdom. The blind are not being taught 'sight' but, instead, fear.

This is one of my biggest problems that I have with the heaven and hell teachings. People who believe in heaven and hell do good because they want the fruits of heaven, and they avoid evil because they're terrified of hell. Why not do good just to do good, and avoid evil because its counterproductive? Would that not be the least selfish and intellectually honest approach to take?

The Buddha generally taught rebirth to those who already believed in it and taught 'not-self' to those pursuing the higher teachings that end suffering.

Interesting.

But a side of me still thinks he could have left the heaven / hell teachings out. But people can be stubborn, and difficult to talk to; I guess the Buddha did what he had to do to cut through their ignorance.

Aloka wrote:I interpret the different realms as states of mind from my personal experience in my present lifetime. Anything else is speculation and not relevant to my practice.

This is a good approach.

Buddhist meditation and the teachings on the middle way have been a great help in my life. I'm not going to give this up for what I perceive to be flaws. I'm going to take the advice given here and just put the heavens and hells aside, and continue practice.
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby nowheat » Mon Jan 25, 2010 12:46 am

mettafuture wrote:I've tried to believe in an afterlife for the sake of Buddhism. I wanted the philosophy to fit well without stress, worry, or doubt. But I can't make myself believe in something that even M-Theorists would reject.

If an M-Theorist came to my son's school and started an introductory course by teaching Newtonian Physics, would she be lying to the kids in my son's class?
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby mettafuture » Mon Jan 25, 2010 1:04 am

nowheat wrote:
mettafuture wrote:I've tried to believe in an afterlife for the sake of Buddhism. I wanted the philosophy to fit well without stress, worry, or doubt. But I can't make myself believe in something that even M-Theorists would reject.

If an M-Theorist came to my son's school and started an introductory course by teaching Newtonian Physics, would she be lying to the kids in my son's class?

No.
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