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

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

Postby nowheat » Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:38 pm

mettafuture wrote:
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.

And yet Newtonian Physics offers an imperfect understanding of physics; it's a sort of "beginner's physics" or maybe you could see it as a view of physics through a particular lens. I'm using physics here as a metaphor for the Buddha's dhamma: perhaps he was offering descriptions of the heaven/hell realms as an entry point to what would become a more sophisticated understanding as the follower learned more.

I tend to think of the things the Buddha talked about that I have no direct experience with as koans that I should see as trying to point me in a direction that cannot be directly described; if I apply my logical view-making mind to these things it's going to be more of a hindrance than a help.

Also, it may be useful to recognize that the Buddha spoke in one language, and everything we have written in our canon is in another language: certainly things will have been "lost in translation" or changed in translation, as those doing the handing on supplied words that they felt more accurately described what their understanding of the teaching was, lifetimes after the death of the Buddha.

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

Postby PeterB » Wed Jan 27, 2010 4:07 pm

And perhaps he was simply describing what his Enlightened Mind perceived directly. I see no reason to suppose that the Buddha patronised the people of his time. I see no reason to buy into being patronised now. The fact that the Heaven And Hell realms are not comfortable to contemplate for some people may mean that those people need to work more on integrating the Dhamma with their conditioning. This is best done on the cushion imo.

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

Postby nowheat » Wed Jan 27, 2010 4:48 pm

PeterB wrote:And perhaps he was simply describing what his Enlightened Mind perceived directly. I see no reason to suppose that the Buddha patronised the people of his time. I see no reason to buy into being patronised now. The fact that the Heaven And Hell realms are not comfortable to contemplate for some people may mean that those people need to work more on integrating the Dhamma with their conditioning. This is best done on the cushion imo.

Interesting, Peter. Since you're seem to be saying we should accept what the Buddha taught literally, and since at MN 38.24 he asks of those who would talk about his dhamma: "Do you speak only of what you have known, seen, and understood for yourselves?" would it be correct to assume that in your time on the cushion you have had direct experience with these Heaven and Hell realms? You have known, seen, and understood these for yourself, without reference to what teachers have told you (that's what the sutta is saying; without reference to what your teacher said even if he is the Buddha himself)? I would love to hear about your experience, since I have no experience at all with literal heavens and hells. Nor have I been able to find any suttas in which any of his arahant disciples proclaim direct experience with the heaven and hell realms. So I'd be most interested to hear anyone who follows the Buddha's teachings literally who can describe their own experience with those realms.

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

Postby PeterB » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:10 pm

I have seen what I have seen.
And before I saw what I have seen, I acccepted the fact that I could not with any sense of integrity pick and choose among the Buddha's teachings. I had to see for myself, but I also had to trust what the Buddha said, that saddha was a vital element of the Buddhas path. That understanding what he taught was the essential key, not filtering it through my layers of rationalistic conditioning.

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

Postby nowheat » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:21 pm

PeterB wrote:I have seen what I have seen.
And before I saw what I have seen, I accepted the fact that I could not with any sense of integrity pick and choose among the Buddha's teachings. I had to see for myself, but I also had to trust what the Buddha said, that saddha was a vital element of the Buddhas path. That understanding what he taught was the essential key, not filtering it through my layers of rationalistic conditioning.

Well we are in the same place then, Peter. I am clear on what I have seen and what I have not. I have seen for myself the consistency of the Buddha's dhamma, and recognize the complexity of the man, and his teachings set in his time, and their consistency with the dhamma. We follow different paths to get to the same place, but that's fine since even so it's good in the beginning, good in the middle, and, we are told, good at the end.

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

Postby drew » Thu Jan 28, 2010 5:26 am

I am reminded of a Goenka quote along the lines of "leave it aside if you are not comfortable with it and later on examine it again".
I personally have great faith in the teaching of other realms, even though I have no direct experience.
The Pratītyasamutpāda is central to most (all?) Buddhist traditions and the realms are an intrinsic part of this model.
Wheel of life http://www.buddhanet.net/flash/life_wheel.swf

The process of arising and passing away (12 links) can be experienced directly.
The results of replacing ignorance with wisdom (clearly seeing) can be experienced directly.
The improvement, or regression, in ones well being can be experienced directly.

I am happy to give the realms the benefit of the doubt, even though I have no direct experience.
I am mindful that ignorance is a part of life, till enlightenment.

Much metta to you mettafuture :anjali:
The gift of the Dhamma excels all gifts (DP354)

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

Postby pink_trike » Thu Jan 28, 2010 9:08 am

PeterB wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:if one is worried,or thinking about heavens and hells too much than one isn't really following to the Buddha's instructions very well now is s/he? one should remain mindful of the present moment at all times, in all positions and situations. speculations will just lead one into a thicket of views, lost wandering forever.... when the Buddha spoke of such places he wasn't telling stories to impress us or scare us but rather to point us back to the present moment and to urge us to be ever mindful. he taught only dukkha and the cessation of dukkha, and it is in this context we should view heavens and hells.

There is much more to the Buddhadhamma than " living in the present". Bhikkhu Pesala's post above is simply mainstream Theravada Buddhism. No more and no less. As Ben says if we are not ready for any particular aspect of Dhamma, then put it to one side. What we are not free to do is pick n' mix from what we are comfortable with. The Buddha quite clearly spoke about hell realms and heavenly realms, we cannot simply rationalise that away because we have decided before exploring any deeper that Buddhism is " rational" in any modern sense.

We can reflect on whether the teachings of heaven and hell realms were skillful means directed at a people for whom an understanding that heaven and hell are mental perceptions experienced in the mind stream and externalized into the world this life time may have been too difficult to grasp - this becomes very clear the longer we're committed to and engage in practice. We're a highly educated, and generally psychologically sophisticated people in our modern culture...we're able to see how we create our own hells and heavens right here - even a casual look at the world and human society confirms this. Saying "if we're not ready" for literal hells and heavens seems patronizing...maybe its actually "if we've outgrown the need for" such a simplistic and materialistic approach to the Dharma.
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Postby Adrien » Thu Jan 28, 2010 9:42 am

Saying "if we're not ready" for literal hells and heavens seems patronizing...maybe its actually "if we've outgrown the need for" such a simplistic and materialistic approach to the Dharma.

Maybe that it's another king of patronizing...

What I like about pali canon, is that all things are explain precisely by the Bouddha. When he use a metaphore, he explains it, when he use a comparaison, he explains it, etc.

I think he talks too much about rebirth and different realms to live in for that being just a "skillful" teaching (which should only occure once, with one interlocutor). When he says we've cried more tears than water in the four oceans, one must not have read a lot of suttas for thinking that is just a way of speaking.

Anyway, if you think that it's just a "skillful teaching", yous should be able to say why... Is there some clues about that in the suttas ? Or does one reject this notion mostly because of his own preexisting opinions ?

I'm not saying that everybody should accept rebirth, paradises and hells... I'm just trying to be careful whith our own interpretations related to our own believes.
Please don't hesitate to correct my english if you feel to

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

Postby Anders » Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:52 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.


M-theorists would reject such realms simply on account of having no reason to posit them. But what M-theory does open up for is that, if M-theory is true, then we must consider that such realms are in fact logically possible.

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

Postby Ben » Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:42 pm

pink_trike wrote:
PeterB wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:if one is worried,or thinking about heavens and hells too much than one isn't really following to the Buddha's instructions very well now is s/he? one should remain mindful of the present moment at all times, in all positions and situations. speculations will just lead one into a thicket of views, lost wandering forever.... when the Buddha spoke of such places he wasn't telling stories to impress us or scare us but rather to point us back to the present moment and to urge us to be ever mindful. he taught only dukkha and the cessation of dukkha, and it is in this context we should view heavens and hells.

There is much more to the Buddhadhamma than " living in the present". Bhikkhu Pesala's post above is simply mainstream Theravada Buddhism. No more and no less. As Ben says if we are not ready for any particular aspect of Dhamma, then put it to one side. What we are not free to do is pick n' mix from what we are comfortable with. The Buddha quite clearly spoke about hell realms and heavenly realms, we cannot simply rationalise that away because we have decided before exploring any deeper that Buddhism is " rational" in any modern sense.

We can reflect on whether the teachings of heaven and hell realms were skillful means directed at a people for whom an understanding that heaven and hell are mental perceptions experienced in the mind stream and externalized into the world this life time may have been too difficult to grasp - this becomes very clear the longer we're committed to and engage in practice. We're a highly educated, and generally psychologically sophisticated people in our modern culture...we're able to see how we create our own hells and heavens right here - even a casual look at the world and human society confirms this. Saying "if we're not ready" for literal hells and heavens seems patronizing...maybe its actually "if we've outgrown the need for" such a simplistic and materialistic approach to the Dharma.


Hi Pink

The standard approach that I mentioned which is to "put it to the side" regarding this or that concept which maybe difficult for one to accept, its a receptive approach to the acquisition of knowledge. Its not patronising at all. In fact, its the opposite as it gives one room to develop knowledge and wisdom without the admixture of an imposed philosophy or world view. One can lay rebirth or literal heavens and hells to the side and concentrate on the development of samatha and vipassana without getting entangled in ones mental proliferations regarding the difficult concept. I think theres a danger of believing ourselves to be so educated and so psychologically sophisticated to think of ourselves as possessing a supreme knowledge that renders all others obsolete. Its just a conceit. I am reminded of the Europeans before the dutch explorers of the 17th Century who found Terra Australis Incognito (The unknown Southern-land), or the Church before Copernicus who believed the universe to be orbiting the Earth. Perhaps they believed that they knew the truth regading their world view and could not conceive of it otherwise. Likewise I see people who strenously deny the possibility of rebirth or literal heavens and hells and explain it away as psychological metaphors or 'skilful means'.

The fact is, there is so much we do not know. The situation is also compounded because for many things, we do not know what we do not know. Reality, as we experience it, is nothing more than a representation of a thin spectrum of sensory data that is organised according to conceptual forms created by our own conditionings and reactive habit patterns to those conditionings.

I tend to take an agnostic approach to literal heavens and hells. The fact is, I do not know whether they are real or not and I am happy with that. Having developed somewhat in my practice I have come to the conclusion that the Buddha was a truth-talker and wasn't just spinning 'skilful means' for ignorant folk and speaking in code for the select few. The fact that we do not have recollections of direct experience of those realities such as literal heaven and hell, at this point in time, does not indicate that they do not exist.
kind regards

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

Postby Heavenstorm » Thu Jan 28, 2010 2:03 pm

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.


Although I never like M theory, it actually support the idea of "parallel universes" and the possibility of supernatural realms.

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.


The suttas were told several centuries ago where terms like Heaven and Hell are easier to understand. And Buddhist scriptures like Abhidhamma also mentioned a lot about world systems (Solar systems) and atoms which were latter discovered in the 17th-18th century in Europe called scientific revolution and subsequently, period of Enlightenment. There was how advanced Buddhist logic and metaphysics was.



Anyway, I must say the existence of three lower realms help a lot in renunciation and the understanding of the First Truth. It might be true that the literal account and description of the lower realms might not be actual but the degree of suffering found in them are definitely true. Even though some people like to say that hell on Earth is bad enough but I don't believe those experiences are even comparable to one tiny moment in hell. Its such tremendous fear of falling into lower realms make practitioners eventually renounce Samara and remove their attachments to it which Buddha had shown in His famous Fire Sermon.

Without such recognition, I don't think deliverance from the three realms is possible as one could feel that suffering in Samara are still manageable and remain attached to it in a subtle way.


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