Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
bryozoa
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Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by bryozoa » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm

While I respect and am exhilarated by Buddhism (particularly Theravada), I am also alienated by the fact that supernatural beings feature so prominently in Buddhist scripture. Surely the sole focus should be on liberation from incurring karmic debt, eschewing every form of superstition as extraneous to that overriding purpose?

I can accept 'hell' and 'hungry ghosts' as metaphors for psychological conditions couched in the colourful vernacular of the time the Buddha lived in, but I cannot accept them as having independent and literal existence.

Is there any chance these terms were used just for illustrating the deleterious effects of attached action?

It is disappointing that notions such as hell which I associate primarily with Abrahamic religion, appear also to be integral to Dharma as well. Contrary to the Dharmic concept of hell being quite unlike its Abrahamic counterpart, I'm certain many Christian theologians would argue that hell is only a temporary state or even non-existent.

Perhaps Sikhism which completely dispenses with any form of hell altogether might deserve more attention as being the most rational religion?
Last edited by bryozoa on Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by cappuccino » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:54 pm

The Planes of Existence

Scattered throughout the suttas are references to as many as thirty-one distinct "planes" or "realms" of existence into which beings can be reborn during their long wandering through samsara.

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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by confusedlayman » Mon Oct 07, 2019 11:36 pm

liverwort wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm
While I respect and am exhilarated by Buddhism (particularly Theravada), I am also alienated by the fact that supernatural beings feature so prominently in Buddhist scripture. Surely the sole focus should be on liberation from incurring karmic debt, eschewing every form of superstition as extraneous to that overriding purpose?

I can accept 'hell' and 'hungry ghosts' as metaphors for psychological conditions couched in the colourful vernacular of the time the Buddha lived in, but I cannot accept them as having independent and literal existence.

Is there any chance these terms were used just for illustrating the deleterious effects of attached action?

It is disappointing that notions such as hell which I associate primarily with Abrahamic religion, appear also to be integral to Dharma as well. Contrary to the Dharmic concept of hell being quite unlike its Abrahamic counterpart, I'm certain many Christian theologians would argue that hell is only a temporary state or even none-existent.

Perhaps Sikhism which completely dispenses with any form of hell altogether might deserve more attention as being the most rational religion?
there is a story where buddha says a man kills Many people because they are enemy of king and for that mass murder, king gifts him for life long physical protection, gold and girls for him to enjoy and mass murderer enjoys mundane pleasure better than king but he dies and reborn acc to karma. so one life mental state dont explain karma that dont have immediate fruit so there should be existent other than human realm.
non-agitation is highest peace
living unaffected by other cause and condition to suffering is true bliss
not associating with stupid people is immediate peace
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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Oct 07, 2019 11:38 pm

Greetings Liverwort,
liverwort wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm
Surely the sole focus should be on liberation from incurring karmic debt, eschewing every form of superstition as extraneous to that overriding purpose?
How you choose to focus and filter what is there is up to you.

Surely you'd rather do that for yourself, according to your own personal reason and criteria, than leave it to someone else to "delete" things that don't meet their personal reason and criteria? After all, would you trust someone else to determine what is, and is not, useful for you?
liverwort wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm
I can accept 'hell' and 'hungry ghosts' as metaphors for psychological conditions couched in the colourful vernacular of the time the Buddha lived in, but I cannot accept them as having independent and literal existence.
Do that then. Whether they're a "place" or a "mind-state", the key aspect, which is common for both interpretations, is that they can be "experienced".
liverwort wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm
It is disappointing that notions such as hell which I associate primarily with Abrahamic religion, appear also to be integral to Dharma as well.
They're not "integral" to the path of liberation... they only potentially become relevant if you fail to reach the path.
liverwort wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm
Perhaps Sikhism which completely dispenses with any form of hell altogether might deserve more attention as being the most rational religion?
If you want what is "rational", that's up to you. If you want that which liberates, I suggest you cannot go beyond the Buddha's dhamma. If you find another religion or philosophy that contains paticcasamuppada (dependent origination) and the Noble Eightfold Path, let me know. Last I checked, the Sikhs didn't have that (despite being pretty cool dudes).

Metta,
Paul. :)
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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by form » Mon Oct 07, 2019 11:45 pm

Pls also include the label Buddha and its cosmology in theory form.

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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by cappuccino » Mon Oct 07, 2019 11:48 pm

Existence in every realm is temporary; in Buddhist cosmology there is no eternal heaven or hell. Beings are born into a particular realm according to their past kamma. When they pass away, they take rebirth once again elsewhere according to the quality of their kamma: wholesome actions bring about a favorable rebirth, while unwholesome actions lead to an unfavorable one. And so the wearisome cycle continues.

The Planes of Existence

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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by JamesTheGiant » Tue Oct 08, 2019 12:39 am

Yes I'd like Buddhism better if there weren't all those magical beings and hell realms. Unfortunately there are, so I accept it as a slightly embarrassing part of Buddhism. I used to be a hardcore skeptic atheist.

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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by Alīno » Tue Oct 08, 2019 1:47 am

Iam pretty sure they exist and protect some of us, and the recollection of the cosmology gives me energy and cleanliness of mind because it opens the mind wider...

If there is no cosmology, there is no kamma law, so there is annihilation, so we no need to practice because anywhere we will stop dukkha after death, because there is no rebirth... Its a Wrong View...
But I understand that conditioning of some peoples make cosmology like burden.

Imho
Ajahn Nanadassano (before ordaining) : Venerable Ajahn, what is the bigest error that buddhist do in their practice?
Ajahn Jayasaro : They stop practicing ...

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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by befriend » Tue Oct 08, 2019 1:50 am

No it wouldn't be better. Buddha taught that samsara has more than just the human realm to induce samvega heaven isn't permanent hell is real when you see Buddhist practice from this context you aren't lazy and you also are less likely to do evil. I don't see the problem, if you do good you'll go to a good realm if you do mostly bad things you'll go to a bad realm. Why do animals exist? What's the point according to atheistic logic there's no reason according to Buddhism their is a valid reason their kamma caught up with them in the cycle of samsara.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by chownah » Tue Oct 08, 2019 2:07 am

liverwort wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm


I can accept 'hell' and 'hungry ghosts' as metaphors for psychological conditions couched in the colourful vernacular of the time the Buddha lived in, but I cannot accept them as having independent and literal existence.
I guess that you can not accpet hungry ghosts as anything more than a metaphor because you have had not experiences which has shown them to you. If you use this criteria for disbelief in the existence of things then I ask have you had an experience of someone attaining enlightenment?.....and if not would you also remove mention of arahants and enlightenment from buddhism?.....my goodness....what would be left?...and what would be right?
chownah

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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by Caodemarte » Tue Oct 08, 2019 3:35 am

liverwort wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm
While I respect and am exhilarated by Buddhism (particularly Theravada), I am also alienated by the fact that supernatural beings feature so prominently in Buddhist scripture. Surely the sole focus should be on liberation from incurring karmic debt, eschewing every form of superstition as extraneous to that overriding purpose?

I can accept 'hell' and 'hungry ghosts' as metaphors for psychological conditions couched in the colourful vernacular of the time the Buddha lived in, but I cannot accept them as having independent and literal existence....
The focus is on liberation (although I am not sure exactly what you mean by incurring karmic debt). Many Buddhists over more than 2,5000 years over a vast range of cultures have had many beliefs. The belief that hell is a metaphor for a mental state is one that is and has been widely held. If that is your belief too, fine. No one will arrest you for heresy. The point, however, is to be free of distorting attachment to any belief, especially to the idea of the self.

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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by DooDoot » Tue Oct 08, 2019 4:19 am

liverwort wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm
I can accept 'hell' and 'hungry ghosts' as metaphors for psychological conditions couched in the colourful vernacular of the time the Buddha lived in, but I cannot accept them as having independent and literal existence.
Then accept them as literal metaphors for psychological conditions. Problem solved. :thumbsup:
liverwort wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm
Is there any chance these terms were used just for illustrating the deleterious effects of attached action?
Yes, there is evidence from the Pali suttas, such as:
Khaṇa Sutta wrote: Bhikkhus, it is a gain for you, it is well gained by you, that you have obtained the opportunity for living the holy life. I have seen, bhikkhus, the hell named ‘Contact’s Sixfold Base.’ There whatever form one sees with the eye is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable. Whatever sound one hears with the ear … Whatever odour one smells with the nose … Whatever taste one savours with the tongue … Whatever tactile object one feels with the body … Whatever mental phenomenon one cognizes with the mind is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable.

It is a gain for you, bhikkhus, it is well gained by you, that you have obtained the opportunity for living the holy life. I have seen, bhikkhus, the heaven named ‘Contact’s Sixfold Base.’ There whatever form one sees with the eye is desirable, never undesirable; lovely, never unlovely; agreeable, never disagreeable. Whatever sound one hears with the ear … Whatever odour one smells with the nose … Whatever taste one savours with the tongue … Whatever tactile object one feels with the body … Whatever mental phenomenon one cognizes with the mind is desirable, never undesirable; lovely, never unlovely; agreeable, never disagreeable.

https://suttacentral.net/sn35.135/en/bodhi
Nidāna Sutta wrote: It’s not because of deeds born of greed, hate and delusion that gods, humans, or those in any other good places are found. Rather, it’s because of deeds born of greed, hate, and delusion that hell, the animal realm, the ghost realm or any other bad places are found.

It’s not because of deeds born of contentment, love, and understanding that hell, the animal realm, the ghost realm or any other bad places are found. Rather, it’s because of deeds born of contentment, love and understanding that gods, humans, or those in any other good places are found.

https://suttacentral.net/an6.39/en/sujato
Uposatha Sutta wrote: And how has a monk attained to the gods? It’s when a monk, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption … As the placing of the mind and keeping it connected are stilled, they enter and remain in the second absorption … third absorption … fourth absorption … That’s how a monk has attained to the gods.

And how has a monk attained to Brahmā? Firstly, a monk meditates spreading a heart full of love to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of love to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. Furthermore, a monk meditates spreading a heart full of compassion … rejoicing … equanimity to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of equanimity to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. That’s how a monk has attained to Brahmā.

https://suttacentral.net/an4.190/en/sujato
:candle:
liverwort wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm
It is disappointing that notions such as hell which I associate primarily with Abrahamic religion, appear also to be integral to Dharma as well.
"Hell" does not appear to have Abrahamic origins. "Hell" is rarely mentioned in the OId Testament. Its origins appear largely Buddhist because the Buddha emphasised "dukkha". Those religions such as Christianity & Islam, which came after Buddhism, do have similar notions of heaven & hell.
liverwort wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm
Contrary to the Dharmic concept of hell being quite unlike its Abrahamic counterpart, I'm certain many Christian theologians would argue that hell is only a temporary state or even none-existent.
"Hell" obviously exists; at least as a psychological condition. Surely, you have seen people in hell?

Kind regards :candle:
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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by Laurens » Tue Oct 08, 2019 4:56 am

liverwort wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:23 pm
While I respect and am exhilarated by Buddhism (particularly Theravada), I am also alienated by the fact that supernatural beings feature so prominently in Buddhist scripture. Surely the sole focus should be on liberation from incurring karmic debt, eschewing every form of superstition as extraneous to that overriding purpose?

I can accept 'hell' and 'hungry ghosts' as metaphors for psychological conditions couched in the colourful vernacular of the time the Buddha lived in, but I cannot accept them as having independent and literal existence.

Is there any chance these terms were used just for illustrating the deleterious effects of attached action?

It is disappointing that notions such as hell which I associate primarily with Abrahamic religion, appear also to be integral to Dharma as well. Contrary to the Dharmic concept of hell being quite unlike its Abrahamic counterpart, I'm certain many Christian theologians would argue that hell is only a temporary state or even none-existent.

Perhaps Sikhism which completely dispenses with any form of hell altogether might deserve more attention as being the most rational religion?
I think you have to be careful about ideas of making it "better" by excluding certain parts that you dislike. You might be inclined to rule out other parts of the teachings that you also don't like in order to "improve" it based on your personal whims. In which case you might as well just make up your own practise to follow.

There's nothing wrong whatsoever with placing those teachings aside and saying to yourself "well I've not died yet so I don't know about those bits". And focusing your attention on the stuff in the here and now. But to start dismissing things you don't like is not a good foundation for approaching the teachings.
"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by Keith » Tue Oct 08, 2019 5:03 am

The more I practise, the less these ideas (devas, hell realms etc) bother me. I used to find them objectionable, I don't any more. I wouldn't say I'm a believer in devas and hell realms etc yet, but I can see the value in accepting them for now

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Re: Would Buddhism be better witbout 'devas', 'hell realms' and 'hungry ghosts'?

Post by bryozoa » Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:37 am

Thank you for all the replies. I've read through them carefully and will do so again.

My general view is that a lot of the supernaturalism in Buddhist cosmology only serves to mystify the core tenets of what is undoubtedly the most practical and trenchant ethical system ever devised by a human being.

I felt somewhat arrogant in saying Buddhism would be better without an elaborate supernatural cosmology. Perhaps it would more appropriate to say that, 'I don't think Buddhism needs supernaturalism in any form'. This stems from my own scepticism of the supernatural. I hope I will come to appreciate why these ideas are included.

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