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.
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.