Buddhist hells: Real places or just mental states?

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Buddhist hells: Real places or just mental states?

Postby Luke » Thu May 27, 2010 7:26 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:Maybe, could be that science is just a collective agreed upon system of samsaric delusion. It does make the delusion seem a little more systematic and comforting tho :)

Yes, exactly. The collective agreement is what convinces most of us that our ordinary experiences are real.

If I'm holding an apple, there is no ambiguity. It is possible to tell exactly what I'm holding by examining it closely. Every person who looks at it will agree that it's an apple. It's not like the meaning of a poem, which is open to interpretation or the position of a quantum particle, which is always ambiguous.

Few things would undermine my sense of reality than that collective agreement disappearing. If I held up an apple and said to some people, "Look! It's an apple," and then one person replied, "What are you talking about? You're holding a pig," and then the next person said, "No, you're both crazy. He's clearly holding an Elvis action figure," that would be quite unsettling.

But enough about apples and back to hell (out of the bushel and into the fire?).

I guess for the concept of location to even matter, one has to have a body of some sort. So what kind of body does one have when one is in hell? A human body? A body of some of other biological animal/being? A body made of light or something nonmaterial, which could very crudely be called an "astral body"?

Can what Buddhists refer to as hell be experienced while we are still humans, animals, gods, demi-gods, or ghosts (because it's a mental state independent of the type of body that mind currently inhabits? Or does experiencing the mental state of hell require some sort of "Hell-creature" body?

shel wrote:I guess it's not clear what a "huge" period of time is, or how and why a sentient being could be kind of frozen in a state of immense torturous suffering. And if a sentient being were frozen in this condition, indeed, they would be frozen and all but dead. Likewise, a sentient being could be frozen in a state of bliss and be all but dead.


What kind of being are you thinking about being "frozen" like this? One with a body, or some kind of disembodied mind in a formless realm?
User avatar
Luke
 
Posts: 1560
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 9:04 pm

Re: Buddhist hells: Real places or just mental states?

Postby shel » Thu May 27, 2010 9:11 pm

Luke wrote:
shel wrote:I guess it's not clear what a "huge" period of time is, or how and why a sentient being could be kind of frozen in a state of immense torturous suffering. And if a sentient being were frozen in this condition, indeed, they would be frozen and all but dead. Likewise, a sentient being could be frozen in a state of bliss and be all but dead.


What kind of being are you thinking about being "frozen" like this? One with a body, or some kind of disembodied mind in a formless realm?

I don't know. Does it make a difference?

I must say that if I were in an immensely torturous state of suffering I'd want to get away from it. Call that aversion if you like. If I were in a state of immensely tortuous suffering for a huge period of time, I imagine that I might try to get away from it by killing myself. But by killing myself I would incur a lot more bad karma, which would lead to a rebirth of even more tortuous suffering. Reborn in even worse suffering I would surely kill myself again, which would lead to an even worse rebirth... on and on it would go into an infinite regress. What could ever break this cycle once it began?

You might say that practicing Buddhism could break the cycle, but how could any sentient being practice Buddhism while in immense tortuous suffering?
shel
 
Posts: 1345
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: Buddhist hells: Real places or just mental states?

Postby mudra » Sat May 29, 2010 6:23 am

Luke wrote:
mudra wrote:1. what is "real"? Even as "real" humans we project on to our world enormously. But what and how experience it, the kind of intelligence we have in this type of experience is called "human". And we see it as very real. Yet an animal/insect in the same space has a very different "reality". Are they not both real for each type of being? Which one is "just a state of mind"?

I knew I should have left the word "real" out of the title....I just wanted a practical, clear answer about Buddhist cosmology which avoided hair-splitting.

Let's say that there is a category which is called "real enough" to avoid the difficulties of the absolute idea of "reality." What makes something "real enough" to me, is that all my senses get a huge amount of sensory information from it and I can interact with it. My dreams are not "real enough" to me because the images are often not clear and I rarely experience tastes or smells in my dreams; it's this lack of sensory input that makes them not "real enough" for me.

mudra wrote:4. We can even inhabit the same space as other beings and have totally different experiences, why does a geographic location matter?

Because right now, as an ordinary human being, I have a geographical location. I understand other concepts in relation to what I am now. Location is central to human thinking.

The key question is whether hell is a physical place (perhaps populated by non-human beings), or just a poetic way of describing the ordinary animal and human suffering on this planet (i.e. "The tiger fell into a volcano and is experiencing extreme pain so we could label that experince as 'hell.'")

mudra wrote:5. Do we really for one minute believe that Buddhist cosmological models are meant to be geographical?

I don't know. Some people seem to. I haven't made up my mind yet.

mudra wrote:7. Is it true that if we can't see it, it doesn't exist?

Of course not. I never stated that I think hell does not exist. I'm just trying to understand its nature, its location, and the nature of the beings which exist there.


sticking with the same numbers:

1. There are two things which we probably need to keep in mind when we talk about "real". One is "valid cognition", which would be an unmistaken cognition dependent on correctly functioning sense faculties etc. The other would be the classic explanation of "true perception" which would be a fresh, direct perception unmixed with concepts or mental projections.

4. True enough that location is central to our normal sense of orientation, but it doesn't make it absolute. It's still relative. "Here" as opposed to "there" is interchangeable when we move to the "other" spot. Specificity of a hypothetically 'absolute' geographical location is in fact not a central must to have an experience: one experiences anyway. So just because we can't pinpoint a geographical location doesn't reduce the reality of a specific world which is not our own. The suffering experienced in the extreme hell states has always been described as far, far greater than anything mildly comparable in our human world, it is definitely not in our human or animal experience.

5. Speaking for myself, especially after discussion with my teachers: Buddhist cosmology doesn't necessarily relate to our human geography as it stands, nor is it important that it does.

7. Was sort of a rhetorical question :soapbox:
User avatar
mudra
 
Posts: 453
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:55 am

Re: Buddhist hells: Real places or just mental states?

Postby mudra » Sat May 29, 2010 6:30 am

kirtu wrote:
Luke wrote:I think when Buddhist teachers want to be very careful about turning off western audiences, they say that the hell realms are "just states of mind."

I've heard some people give ambiguous answers which seem to imply that they are both physical places and mental states.


What is the difference between a mental experience and a real place? We create the karma to experience various realms. In this sense all the "real places" are compulsively arisen mental fabrications.

Kirt


:anjali:
User avatar
mudra
 
Posts: 453
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:55 am

Re: Buddhist hells: Real places or just mental states?

Postby mudra » Sat May 29, 2010 6:47 am

Luke wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote:Maybe, could be that science is just a collective agreed upon system of samsaric delusion. It does make the delusion seem a little more systematic and comforting tho :)

Yes, exactly. The collective agreement is what convinces most of us that our ordinary experiences are real.

If I'm holding an apple, there is no ambiguity. It is possible to tell exactly what I'm holding by examining it closely. Every person who looks at it will agree that it's an apple. It's not like the meaning of a poem, which is open to interpretation or the position of a quantum particle, which is always ambiguous.

Few things would undermine my sense of reality than that collective agreement disappearing. If I held up an apple and said to some people, "Look! It's an apple," and then one person replied, "What are you talking about? You're holding a pig," and then the next person said, "No, you're both crazy. He's clearly holding an Elvis action figure," that would be quite unsettling.

But enough about apples and back to hell (out of the bushel and into the fire?).

I guess for the concept of location to even matter, one has to have a body of some sort. So what kind of body does one have when one is in hell? A human body? A body of some of other biological animal/being? A body made of light or something nonmaterial, which could very crudely be called an "astral body"?

Can what Buddhists refer to as hell be experienced while we are still humans, animals, gods, demi-gods, or ghosts (because it's a mental state independent of the type of body that mind currently inhabits? Or does experiencing the mental state of hell require some sort of "Hell-creature" body?

shel wrote:I guess it's not clear what a "huge" period of time is, or how and why a sentient being could be kind of frozen in a state of immense torturous suffering. And if a sentient being were frozen in this condition, indeed, they would be frozen and all but dead. Likewise, a sentient being could be frozen in a state of bliss and be all but dead.


What kind of being are you thinking about being "frozen" like this? One with a body, or some kind of disembodied mind in a formless realm?


I think science is a mixture of valid cognition and concepts, some of which possibly are delusional, but dunno if I would throw the baby out with the bath water.

As far as terms are concerned in each language there is a consensus that certain things which have agreed upon characteristics are given specific names. If one calls a certain phenomena by the 'wrong name' it could be cause of simple not knowing or complete confusion. Thus in Buddhism cosmology the emphasis tends more to a description of the type of experience one has in specific rebirths rather than location, although locations are mentioned. So for instance we talk about certain forms of life in samsara as formless these relate to god states of concentration. Hell realms certainly relate to bodily forms as the experiences described are physical as well as mental (heat, cold, slashing etc).

As to the period of time, time doesn't fly when you are having a bad time. When you burn your finger in a human realm, a half a second (according to the universally accepted relative measurement of a 24 hourx60 minutes/3600 second division in a diurnal cycle) it seems like ages. On the other hand, sit down and take in something that really entertains you and an hour can whizz by.
.
User avatar
mudra
 
Posts: 453
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:55 am

Re: Buddhist hells: Real places or just mental states?

Postby Luke » Sat May 29, 2010 9:39 am

Hi Mudra,

I find your answers quite interesting.

mudra wrote:5. Speaking for myself, especially after discussion with my teachers: Buddhist cosmology doesn't necessarily relate to our human geography as it stands, nor is it important that it does.


Okay, but is it possible to state where hell is not? For example, hell is not located anywhere in our present physical universe (i.e. there is no "hell planet").

mudra wrote:As to the period of time, time doesn't fly when you are having a bad time. When you burn your finger in a human realm, a half a second (according to the universally accepted relative measurement of a 24 hourx60 minutes/3600 second division in a diurnal cycle) it seems like ages. On the other hand, sit down and take in something that really entertains you and an hour can whizz by.


I'm aware of pain's effect on the perceived passage of time, but in the human realm at least, there's a limit to the feeling of time expansion that pain can create.

I could understand if a human who was in pain said that each hour felt like a year or maybe even 10 years, but if someone said something like a million years or a billion years, then I think that gets into the territory of hyperbole. If one really felt that tens of thousands of years were passing each minute, one would expect to see one's doctors to die of old age and be replaced by new ones every few seconds. Similarly, a human who is in great pain is not expecting the sun to die out or the universe to collapse back in on itself.

Of course, I'm just talking here about the human realm. I don't know (or I guess as a Buddhist I should say "I don't remember") what's really possible in hell.
******************

Anyway, which Buddhist texts contain the most detailed descriptions of hell, its nature, and its inhabitants?
User avatar
Luke
 
Posts: 1560
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 9:04 pm

Re: Buddhist hells: Real places or just mental states?

Postby Inge » Sat May 29, 2010 4:57 pm

In the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva a Brahman woman, after recollecting the Buddha Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One for a day, found herself by a lake with billions of men and women bobbing up and down in the sea, and being eathen by evil beasts. She then has this conversation with a ghost king named Poisonless:

Brahman woman: "What is this place?"

Poisonless: "We are on the western side of the Great Iron Ring Mountain and this is the first of the seas that encircle it."

Brahman woman: "I have heard that the hells are within the Iron Ring. Is that actually so?"

Poisonless: "Yes, the hells are here."

Brahman woman: "How have I now come to the hells?"

Poisonless: "If it wasn't awesome spiritual strength that brought you here, then it was the power of karma. Those are the only two ways that anyone gets here."

Hsuan Huas commentary to this sutra is found here: http://www.cttbusa.org/esscommentary/earthstore1_7.htm

In that sutra your find a lot of information about the hells and how to get there.
User avatar
Inge
 
Posts: 289
Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:52 am

Re: Buddhist hells: Real places or just mental states?

Postby mudra » Sun May 30, 2010 7:08 am

Inge, I think it is actually more relevant to us "how we get there (hells)" rather than "where is it?".

Thanks for that.
User avatar
mudra
 
Posts: 453
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:55 am

Re: Buddhist hells: Real places or just mental states?

Postby benchen » Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:55 pm

what made you think that there is no physical hell realm ?

6 realms - one of them is hell realm

if there is human realm , animal realm , there should be a hell realm.

no exceptions.

have anyone here read ksitigarbha bodhisattva sutra ?

http://www.siddham.org/yuan_english/sut ... index.html

look at the hell names
benchen
 
Posts: 37
Joined: Sat Jul 17, 2010 9:01 am

Previous

Return to Open Dharma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Indrajala, JKhedrup, Majestic-12 [Bot], palchi, Simon E., Thrasymachus and 21 guests

>