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Aloka
28 Aug 17, 19:58
I was looking at Sutta MN 130 Devaduta Sutta - The Divine Messengers again recently, after quite a long time, and was again dismayed by the lengthy descriptions of "Hell" in it. I had also completely forgotten about "the vast Excrement Hell"!

Excerpt:




"There comes a time when, ultimately, with the passing of a long stretch of time, the eastern gate of the Great Hell opens. He runs there, rushing quickly. As he runs there, rushing quickly, his outer skin burns, his inner skin burns, his flesh burns, his tendons burn, even his bones turn to smoke. When [his foot] is lifted, he is the just same. He gets out through the gate.

But right next to the Great Hell is a vast Excrement Hell. He falls into that. And in that Excrement Hell needle-mouth beings bore into his outer skin. Having bored into his outer skin, they bore into his inner skin... his flesh... his tendons... the bone. Having bored into the bone, they feed on the marrow. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

Right next to the Excrement Hell is the vast Hot Ashes Hell. He falls into that. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.130.than.html



The descriptions of the various hells in this sutta remind me a lot of the illustrations of the Christian Hell which were painted by the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516)

I'm aware that people in Iron Age India believed that they could go to these other realms after death and also that Buddhists in the 21st century still take them literally - but I'm not able to do that myself. I prefer to think of them as mental states we can experience in this lifetime.

How about you ? Do you prefer a literal interpretation ?


:hands:

Sam Vara
28 Aug 17, 20:30
I prefer to think of them as mental states we can experience in this lifetime.

How about you ? Do you prefer a literal interpretation ?


:hands:

I probably prefer to think of them as mental states, in the sense that a reality like this would be horrifying to conceive of, and also because my mental conditioning tends to push me in that direction. But I can't rule them out as post-mortem realities. Just as I cannot say what exists after death, I can't say what doesn't exist.

Aloka
28 Aug 17, 21:53
When I'm visiting the realms of internet Buddhism orthodoxy, I like to remember Ajahn Sumedho's words from the section "Literalism, Metaphor and Mystery" in his book "Direct Realisation":





The cosmology of Buddhism however, from the highest heaven to the lowest hell, is simply a metaphor for the whole realm of human experience, from the most refined state of consciousness, which is neither perception nor non-perception, to the lowest form of misery, unmitigated pain and anguish which is the deepest hell.

Though we may experience these extremes, most of our lives are lived in between that. So the animal, human and first levels of the deva realms are in that middle position. So you find that we relate to the animal kingdom a lot because we share an animal-type body, and then the Four Maharajas, the Protectors of the World, can be seen as ‘guardian angels’ or the powers of shame and moral dread which guide you from doing terrible things. So simple people take things quite literally, and the more sophisticated take them more metaphorically, but whichever way you take them, they are still quite helpful!

Seriously though, to believe in deva worlds literally doesn’t seem necessary and the Buddha didn’t make that his teaching. The Four Noble Truths is what he taught – and he said that this is all you have to know. These other things are like trying to count all the leaves in the forest.


http://cdn.amaravati.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Ajahn-Sumedho-Volume-3-Direct-Realization.pdf




:peace:

Aloka
29 Aug 17, 08:26
The following is an excerpt from a transcript of a talk about the late Thai teacher Ajahn Buddhadasa:





The Ajahn declares that if there is to be good communication on topics relating to Dhamma, the higher Truth, then one needs to be aware of these two different kinds of language and avoid confusing them. We are all familiar with Everyday Language; but most people are not so familiar with Dhamma Language and may easily fail to recognize it as such. To illustrate this distinction he gives a few simple examples.

Perhaps his most vivid example is the word “hell” (naraka), referring to the first of the four “woeful states” recognized in the Buddhist tradition and often depicted in temple murals. Buddhadāsa explains “hell” in these words:

In Everyday Language hell is a region under the earth. It is ruled over by the god of death, who carries off people and subjects them to all sorts of punishments. It is a place where one may go after death.

Contrast this with hell as understood in Dhamma Language. Here hell is anxiety, anxiety which burns us just like a fire. Whenever anxiety afflicts us, burning us up just like a fire, then we are in hell, the hell of Dhamma Language. (p. 20)

Here he is saying that the hell depicted in temple murals, a physical place of fire and brimstone, needs to be understood as purely metaphorical, purely figurative. If we take it as a physical place of physical torment, then we are missing the point. We are mistakenly understanding it in terms of Everyday Language, which is a naïve and superficial way to see it. Understood in terms of Dhamma Language, hell is not a place. It is a mental state, the state that we call “anxiety.”

What Buddhadāsa is telling us here is not difficult to grasp. All religions make use of figurative language, the language of similes and metaphors. It can be a means of conveying a teaching graphically so that it grabs people’s attention and evokes an appropriate response. However, it succeeds in serving this function only if we recognize it as figurative language. If we take it literally, then we may miss the point entirely. This is why he is alerting us to the need to distinguish between these “two kinds of language.”




from : "Buddhadāsa’s Notion of Dhamma Language."

By Dr. Roderick S. Bucknell, University of Queensland (Australia).

~ A speech presented at The 8th International Buddhist Research Seminar & The 2nd International Conference on Buddhadāsa Studies on 24 May 2017 at the Buddhadāsa Indapañño Archives, Bangkok, in honour of the 111th Anniversary of Buddhadāsa.

http://www.suanmokkh.org/articles/9


:hands:

nigele2
29 Aug 17, 09:06
"What Buddhadāsa is telling us here is not difficult to grasp. All religions make use of figurative language, the language of similes and metaphors. It can be a means of conveying a teaching graphically so that it grabs people’s attention and evokes an appropriate response. However, it succeeds in serving this function only if we recognize it as figurative language. If we take it literally, then we may miss the point entirely. This is why he is alerting us to the need to distinguish between these “two kinds of language.”

If you could put that into a DNA string and insert it in to all very early humans think what a wonderful place the world would be :hands:

Olderon
29 Aug 17, 22:03
The Jewish concept of hell is a hole in the ground, probably volcanic vents, where sulfurous vapors escape. There are many such concepts of hell from various cultures. This WIKI does a pretty good job illustrating many of them:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell

As for what I personally believe: not relevant from a Buddhist perspective as hell cannot be personally validated and is not verifiable except in a metaphorical sense: "Marines do not have to worry about hell, because they have already been there."....kind of notion.