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Why I do Not Believe in Hell Realms

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

Well, after much thought, I arrived at the conclusion that hell doesn’t exist. I noticed that pretty much all religions tend to create a carrot-and-stick approach to motivating people. First they say, if you do virtuous things then you’ll go to a Good Place where Nice Things will happen. But if you do wicked things then you’ll go to a Bad Place where Unpleasant Things will happen. Then you define ‘virtuous’ and ‘wicked’ to be what you want, and you put the point where it happens sometime after death so that nobody can come back to dispute it. It just seems so contrived. If I was a priest and I was designing my own religion, this is what I’d tell people.

If you look at the history of the Christian Hell it is pretty clear that it is completely made up. It is hardly referenced in the bible, and if you track the concept through the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages in Europe, there are a succession of bishops, artists and writers who make a contribution to the ideas, which are gradually adopted until it becomes the cozy place we know today.

For pretty much the same reasons I do not believe in Buddhist concepts of Hell. It seems to owe a lot to older thinking, if you look at King Yama who came from the Hindu vedas. But just because it is old does not mean it is true, or makes sense. In the case of Buddhism it is strange that there seem to be these two different systems, one for good rebirths and poor rebirths in various realms, and another largely separate track for finding nirvana, almost as if one was bolted on to the other, the one based on virtue, the other on meditation. So I think the Buddha adopted some older, Vedic thinking and blended it with his own ideas.

It’s all skilful means...

Anyway that’s my 2c for this evening.

BunksadamcrossleylobsterShim

Comments

  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    Why worry over hell's reveal beyond deaths door
    when its existence gets proven so clearly before.

    BunksShoshinlobsterFosdick
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Wot @federica said <3

    I like hell (strange but true).
    I like heaven too. There are many realms. Currently we are in la-la land. A period of social upheaval ...

    The question is which bubble/realm are we projecting?

    ShoshinBunks
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I didn’t mean to interfere with your picnics @lobster ... But if you divorce yourself from the dreamy, poetic views, and you look at the natural world with unclouded eyes, it is quite a beautiful place. It is only human beings who sometimes do hellish things. There is no need to bring in places like hell and heaven and make them into the best or worst aspects of what we see around us.

    I like being in the natural world...

    Bunks
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    I didn’t mean to interfere with your picnics @lobster ... But if you divorce yourself from the dreamy, poetic views, and you look at the natural world with unclouded eyes, it is quite a beautiful place. It is only human beings who sometimes do hellish things. There is no need to bring in places like hell and heaven and make them into the best or worst aspects of what we see around us.

    I like being in the natural world...

    Although my home town on a 47C day feels like hell haha

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I think that @lobster’s picture tells an interesting story... on the one side there is a pastoral scene in bright sunshine, woodland and meadow on the cusp of dusk with stars shining in the sky. That’s supposed to represent heaven. On the other side there is a similar scene with dry cracked earth and a forest fire raging in the trees. That’s supposed to represent hell.

    It’s retelling the story of these extremes through natural places and occurrences, using the best and worst of what we are familiar with to construct scenes that are seen as either desirable or undesirable.

  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran

    days are bright with love in your heart.birds ,bees,trees..how wonderful,the morning can be,

    also virtue,5 precept,is as buddha suggest,is reward initself,the peace and love in our heart.

    lobsterFosdick
  • LionduckLionduck Veteran

    It is better to think of these Realms as life states. When you suffer a severe loss such as a divorce or the death of a loved one or some other immediate personal tragedy, your suffering at that moment is the life state of hell - you are in the realm of Hell. You are not locked in. It is a condition brought on by the circumstance of the moment and your response to that circumstance.
    Lets set an example:
    You end your shift and it is payday. You pick up your pay packet only to find you have been sacked. You are shocked and depressed (Hell). Somehow, you drag yourself home, each step an iron weight. You enter your home, plop on the couch and turn on the TV. It just so happens you bought a lottery ticket on the way to work that morning. The TV clicks on the lotto results - you just won $ 14 million. Suddenly, you are no longer in the realm of hell. It has been replaced instantly by extreem joy (aka: Realm of Rapture).
    Another: You are dragging yourself home when you happen upon someone who has fallen into an icy pond and can not get out. your thoughts and actions go immediately to helping that person to safety. You have gone from the realm of Hell to a higher realm we can call, in that moment, the realm of Bodhissatva.

    These things you call realms are thus temporary life states. They are transient and fluid.You are not locked into a specific realm. you can and do slip in and out of any and each in an instant.

    Peace to all

    lobsterhow
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Well said @Lionduck

    We are in a flux
    or fluxxed up state
    but it is transitory ... temporary ... hell it is nothing ...
    and when we dream on ... This too shall pass ...

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_too_shall_pass

    Keromehow
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    If you interpret them as allegories then yes, those states are something you can experience multiple times in a day. I’ve heard of this before, although I’ve not yet come across a really detailed exploration of the realms as mental states. I wonder whether that was how the sutra’s that mention the realms were interpreted in the old days, or whether it is a modern way of thinking.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    It is modern.
    Traditionally they were conceived of as real places.

    Just as some cultures. believe the dreamland is more real than being awake ... :o
    Dreams and constructs are important but we have to update and improve our attention to reality ...

    So it is only the 'mind state' interpretation that I find makes sense. 👍🏼

    Kerome
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome said:
    I’ve heard of this before, although I’ve not yet come across a really detailed exploration of the realms as mental states.

    I'm astonished. A quick google brings up plenty of links...
    Here's just one...
    https://exploringyourmind.com/the-ten-spiritual-realms-of-zen-buddhism/

    Keromelobsterhow
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    I can't say I believe in Hell but I do wish it didn't exist. Sadly, I see it quite often in the eyes of others and it can be hard to tell if they put themselves there or if circumstances brought on by others landed them there.

    lobster
  • Lee82Lee82 Veteran

    Is it the idea of a physical place of hell that you're not comfortable with? I think in Buddhism that the 2 lowest realms and 2 highest realms, those of gods, demi gods, spirits and hell beings, are states of mind rather than physical places. This differs to other religions where heaven and hell are supposedly places that you can reach.

    It was explained by Gampopa as thus "At death, this consciousness experiences hell, just as a dreamer has a nightmare in which the horrible circumstances seem completely real, all-encompassing and unending."

    The hell realms represent unending pain and suffering with no opportunity or mental capacity to learn the dharma and obtain freedom.

    Frogpond
  • Rob_VRob_V North Carolina Explorer

    Perhaps a hell realm is relative. I have a daughter and a niece whom are both addicts - everyday they live is hellish. Contrarily, others seem to cost through life relatively unscathed and happy.

    Then again, perhaps a 'realm' is simply another location in the universe, perhaps a hellish planet compared to what you're used to.

    Ultimately, I'm not sure that whether or not we believe in any particular part of it is relevant. I don't think you should believe anything you have no direct experience of or good evidence for believing.

    BunksFrogpond
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    I try not to believe anything that hasn't been proven. And even then...

    There is what makes the most sense given the information I can gather and then there is a bunch of competing theories.

    KeromeFrogpond
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @David said:
    I try not to believe anything that hasn't been proven. And even then...

    There is what makes the most sense given the information I can gather and then there is a bunch of competing theories.

    I think certain personality types are comfortable with taking an agnostic view when it comes to spiritual growth.

    But for others it is more beneficial to induce faith in something they've been told without being able to prove either way its existence.

    Neither is right or wrong.

    The problems start when one tries to force their beliefs (or otherwise) on others.

    lobsterFrogpond
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    Oh, Hell exists ... for some people it is right here, right now! And in Tibetan Buddhism, some Lamas teach the 6 realms as actual rebirths, some teach it only as a metaphor, and some teach it as both.
    Does it matter? If you live in a state of perpetual seething anger, are you not already living in a Hell realm?
    If you live your life on autopilot, blindly pushed by urges and instincts, are you not already living in an Animal realm?
    If you are constantly craving and are never at rest or satisfied, are you not already living in a Preta (hungry ghost) realm?

    We do not know what the future holds, and we can only deal with and KNOW that which we are currently in. So we cannot really know if this life is IT, or if there is some type of continuation after the body dies. Either way, what matter is how we take care of how we are being NOW. We do not need to worry about where we will be in the future (whether we are referring to our future in this body, or some possible rebirth beyond this current life), if we are working on striving to work on remaining compassionate and fully present in the moment.

    The focus of Buddhism is properly the focus of how we are acting within THIS moment (and that includes not even 10 seconds ago or 10 minutes into the future).

    lobsterRen_in_black
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    @Bunks said:

    @David said:
    I try not to believe anything that hasn't been proven. And even then...

    There is what makes the most sense given the information I can gather and then there is a bunch of competing theories.

    I think certain personality types are comfortable with taking an agnostic view when it comes to spiritual growth.

    But for others it is more beneficial to induce faith in something they've been told without being able to prove either way its existence.

    Neither is right or wrong.

    The problems start when one tries to force their beliefs (or otherwise) on others.

    Oh for sure you are correct there. Since we are on the subject of hells though, I do sometimes think it is irresponsible to teach there is a literal hell because there is the possibility that everything is mental and that what you truly believe happens happens.

    ShoshinFrogpond
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @David said:

    @Bunks said:

    @David said:
    I try not to believe anything that hasn't been proven. And even then...

    There is what makes the most sense given the information I can gather and then there is a bunch of competing theories.

    I think certain personality types are comfortable with taking an agnostic view when it comes to spiritual growth.

    But for others it is more beneficial to induce faith in something they've been told without being able to prove either way its existence.

    Neither is right or wrong.

    The problems start when one tries to force their beliefs (or otherwise) on others.

    Oh for sure you are correct there. Since we are on the subject of hells though, I do sometimes think it is irresponsible to teach there is a literal hell because there is the possibility that everything is mental and that what you truly believe happens happens.

    I agree - I recall finding a Sri Lankan YouTube channel obviously aimed at younger people showing a girl burning in hell for having sex outside of marriage.

    I was so disgusted and made sure I let them know what I thought of it in the Comments section.

    DavidfedericaWalkerFrogpond
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Bunks said:

    @David said:
    Oh for sure you are correct there. Since we are on the subject of hells though, I do sometimes think it is irresponsible to teach there is a literal hell because there is the possibility that everything is mental and that what you truly believe happens happens.

    I agree - I recall finding a Sri Lankan YouTube channel obviously aimed at younger people showing a girl burning in hell for having sex outside of marriage.

    I was so disgusted and made sure I let them know what I thought of it in the Comments section.

    Well done sir! I think you’re absolutely right and this kind of example in the popular press is precisely what makes belief in a hell so pernicious. If they are mental states they should be taught as such, and if they’re meant literally, I still don’t believe them.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I like very much and find useful what @FoibleFull said and as @David said:

    I can't say I believe in Hell but I do wish it didn't exist. Sadly, I see it quite often in the eyes of others and it can be hard to tell if they put themselves there or if circumstances brought on by others landed them there.

    Our plan, well OK mine:
    Stay out of hell, enter purelands. Send rescue picnics to hell realms for Bodhisattvas ... enough is enough already ... Time to be Buddhas.
    Once the Bodhisattvas are out, the new band can go in to rescue demons. Yep that is us. We live in interesting realms/times ...

    DavidKeromeFrogpond
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    Reading this passage made me think of this thread:

    Our habit of thinking extrovertedly, focusing only on external ob­jects, is what propels us day and night, life after life, and in the bardo state in between. We have this habit in the dream state as well: our body runs around and does things in our dreams, even though it is not a real body, but a body created out of habitual tendencies. In dreams, we experience loss and gain, enemies and friends, and all different types of pleasure, pain, and so forth. But at the moment we wake up, where are all these entities? They are gone without a trace, not to be found any place at all. The dream state is created by our own thoughts. Likewise, in the waking state, these same thoughts create this whole drama of life. In the bardo state there is no physical body, but due to habit we still believe that we have a physical body with the five senses. Of course there is no real body there; this physical body definitely doesn’t go through the bardo. Neither does it go to the hell realms, the buddha-realms, and so on. Our present body is just a temporary dwelling place, like a hotel.

    The person living in this hotel right now is the mind. It’s this person, rather than the body, who will experience all the different effects of various karmic actions. This body won’t feel a thing, because as soon as it dies it is gone—there is nothing there. But the mind continues in these patterns, and it will continue to experience. Still, all this experience is no more real than the dream you had last night. It is the dream-like thinking that goes on experiencing the hell realms, it is only more thinking. The bardo is also just more thinking. And when we eventu­ally enter into a new physical body at the end of the bardo, it is more thinking again, day after day, life after life.

    ~ Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

    David
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited June 6

    But the mind continues in these patterns, and it will continue to experience.

    Good luck with that mind fantasy.
    The mind comes into existence through the body Rinpoche. Get an education. Stop promoting outdated fantasia o:)

    Too harsh to the deluded?

    how
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    It seems that among the Tibetans the ideas of the bardo and the six realms as places that the mind can visit after death is still taught quite seriously then.

    We are learning more about the mind and the brain with each passing year, hopefully some day we will be able to say what faculties are purely physical.

    lobster
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited June 6

    @Kerome said:
    It seems that among the Tibetans the ideas of the bardo and the six realms as places that the mind can visit after death is still taught quite seriously then.

    If I get their meaning, it isn't that there is anywhere we go after death, it's that death never really happens. Time is relative especially when it's all mental. Ever have a dream that spans more than one day in an hour?

    We are learning more about the mind and the brain with each passing year, hopefully some day we will be able to say what faculties are purely physical.

    We can find and point at the brain but despite @Lobster (still love ya) post above, the hard question of consciousness still has not been answered satisfactorily.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Why I do Not Believe in Hell Realms

    The Buddha did say (well thus have I heard) something along the lines of "Don't believe what I say ...see for yourself..." Ehipassiko

    I'm reminded of this...

    "Great Faith and Great Doubt are two ends of a spiritual walking stick. We grip one end with the grasp given to us by our Great Determination. We poke into the underbrush in the dark on our spiritual journey. This act is real spiritual practice—gripping the Faith end and poking ahead with the Doubt end of the stick. If we have no Faith, we have no Doubt. If we have no Determination, we never pick up the stick in the first place."

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 6

    I think what my quotation said was that the mind which is arising of different fantasy patterns continues into the bardo. And the bardo itself is merely thinking. This person who made the quotation believes or expressed belief in a bardo or next life. So in that sense you can say "no that is superstition" if you don't believe in a bardo or next life expression. But the person making the quotation never said there was a reality to the mind whether in this life, the next, or the bardo. For mind in this context I think of the 4 mental skhandas.

    Still, all this experience is no more real than the dream you had last night. It is the dream-like thinking that goes on experiencing the hell realms, it is only more thinking. The bardo is also just more thinking. And when we eventu­ally enter into a new physical body at the end of the bardo, it is more thinking again, day after day, life after life.

    ~ Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

    So in a way saying the afterlife is superstition is like critiquing the content of various thoughts without contradicting that "thoughts are just thinking"

    So suppose a person dies who never believed in an afterlife. But they know they are dead somehow and they remember that teaching about after death. They could say to themself 'Oh I suppose I am dead but nevertheless because I remember the teachings I know that whatever that is appearing is just thinking.'

    Or suppose a person who is still alive drops their concepts about the bardo and afterlife but they would still 'experience' the 5 skhandas as non-grasping and they could remain agnostic position to the afterlife etc

  • コチシカコチシカ Berlin, Germany Explorer

    @David said:
    I can't say I believe in Hell but I do wish it didn't exist.

    Hello!

    I understand @Kerome 's point of Hell being utilised as a form of inspiring fear and attracting people into wholesomeness, avoiding the contrary. However, I do have a sense that -even though I'm not 100% sure- these realms could exist, hence I quote David. I do see this kind of against meditation practice itself. I'm currently practicing / following the Hinayana path and I wa taught not to "actively" expect enlightenment or anything from this practice. This means, why should we practice to avoid hell? It is a good starting point, but it can be also an attachment an ego-creating. I once read about a Theravada monk from Thailand -an extremely prolific writer and teacher- who had refuted the existence of karma itself. I wonder if he also touched upon this subject... Maybe it rings a bell to someone here...

    Anyways, I'm drifting a bit. But it was my first post after all!

    Good day :)

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @コチシカ, not sure if you're aware, but on this forum, and possibly elsewhere, the term 'Hinayana' is ususally avoided:

    This from the occasionally unreliable, but recently more accurate Wikipedia:

    Hinayana has also been used as a synonym for Theravada, which is the main tradition of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia; this is considered inaccurate and derogatory.
    Robert Thurman writes, "'Nikaya Buddhism' is a coinage of Professor Masatoshi Nagatomi of Harvard University, who suggested it to me as a usage for the eighteen schools of Indian Buddhism to avoid the term 'Hinayana Buddhism,' which is found offensive by some members of the Theravada tradition."

    Welcome to the forum. Hope you find something useful here. To steal a phrase from a fellow member... :)

  • コチシカコチシカ Berlin, Germany Explorer

    Thank you very much :)

  • Omar067Omar067 Veteran

    Hell exists. You don't have to die to experience hell.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Omar067 said:
    Hell exists. You don't have to die to experience hell.

    Well I believe that what we experience on this earth is part of the natural world. It’s not always equally pretty and our minds can cause us to suffer, but it’s still just the world.

    The reason people confuse it with hell is because religious preachers have encouraged you to imagine hell as being the worst that you can think of, and all we can think of is what we’ve experienced of this world.

  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    I do not believe in Buddhist concepts of Hell. It seems to owe a lot to older thinking, if you look at King Yama who came from the Hindu vedas. But just because it is old does not mean it is true, or makes sense. In the case of Buddhism it is strange that there seem to be these two different systems, one for good rebirths and poor rebirths in various realms, and another largely separate track for finding nirvana, almost as if one was bolted on to the other, the one based on virtue, the other on meditation. So I think the Buddha adopted some older, Vedic thinking and blended it with his own ideas.

    It’s all skilful means...

    Anyway that’s my 2c for this evening.

    I think the Buddha only offered instructions for travel either toward or away from sufferings' cessation. Good or poor rebirths just describe favorable or unfavorable circumstances for travelling towards or away from sufferings' cessation.

    No belief for or against other dimensional geographic stops along the way are required.

    I myself am still not convinced that any of us are much more than evolutionary biospheres created by microbial life to explore into the deepest niches of survivable existence and with our never-ending myopic sense of self-importance thrown in for their traveling entertainment.

    Ren_in_black
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I myself am still not convinced that any of us are much more than evolutionary biospheres created by microbial life to explore into the deepest niches of survivable existence and with our never-ending myopic sense of self-importance thrown in for their traveling entertainment.

    Tee hee!
    Describes me perfectly/microscopically ...

    ... oh the humanity! <3

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Having a nightmare is not a pleasant experience...one could say like a trip to hell...and no doubt many members here have at one time or other had a nightmare or two ...

    Some nightmares are ones where you feel you can't escape from, until that is you finally wake up...not unlike the Bardo which can according to Buddhism can be a somewhat hellish experience...

    Used loosely, "bardo" is the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth. According to Tibetan tradition, after death and before one's next birth, when one's consciousness is not connected with a physical body, one experiences a variety of phenomena. These usually follow a particular sequence of degeneration from, just after death, the clearest experiences of reality of which one is spiritually capable, and then proceeding to terrifying hallucinations that arise from the impulses of one's previous unskillful actions. For the prepared and appropriately trained individuals, the bardo offers a state of great opportunity for liberation, since transcendental insight may arise with the direct experience of reality; for others, it can become a place of danger as the karmically created hallucinations can impel one into a less than desirable rebirth

    "The most essential method which includes all other methods, is to behold the Mind...The Mind is the root from which all things grow...If one can understand the Mind...Everything else is included"

    ~Bodhidharma~

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