the great rebirth debate

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
User avatar
Aloka
Posts: 6734
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:51 pm

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Aloka »

As nobody knows for sure about the literal interpretation (in their present experience) and the realms as mental states can be experienced in the present life, then its "a safe bet" not to deny the literal.

with kind regards

Aloka

Spiny Norman
Posts: 7399
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Spiny Norman »

Aloka wrote:
santa100 wrote:The Buddha was quite explicit with the literal meaning of hell and other realms. The common stock phrase "on the break-up of the body, after death, he/she reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, hell" was mentioned repeatedly in many suttas:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/search_r ... ght.org%2F" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Yet in my experience away from the internet, teachers from both the Tibetan and Theravada traditions have described the realms as mental states which can be experienced in this lifetime, why is that do you think ?
Possibly a pragmatic response to somebody who has a problem with the way the realms are described in the suttas? Though I'm surprised they didn't refer to the Satipatthana Sutta, where the correct instruction is given on mindfulness of mental states.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

Spiny Norman
Posts: 7399
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Spiny Norman »

polarbuddha101 wrote:
santa100 wrote:The Buddha was quite explicit with the literal meaning of hell and other realms. The common stock phrase "on the break-up of the body, after death, he/she reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, hell" was mentioned repeatedly in many suttas:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/search_r ... ght.org%2F" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Yeah the suttas are pretty definitive. That's why threads like this and the great rebirth debate never really get anywhere, you have to do quite a bit of maneuvering to try to get around the explicitness of the suttas and the arguments against literal rebirth are never convincing.
:namaste:
Yes, it seems to me that some people have a big problem with the cosmology in the suttas and have a strong need to deny it and convert it all to psychology, using various convoluted strategies. And if all else fails they say things like: "The suttas were corrupted!" or "The Buddha only taught the cosmology to appeal to a wider audience, he made it all up!" etc etc.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by daverupa »

porpoise wrote:It seems to me that some people have a big problem with the cosmology in the suttas and have a strong need to deny it and convert it all to psychology, using various convoluted strategies.
This is true; though when comparing the Nikayas with, say, the literature of the Desert Fathers, we see a similar phenomenon of placing holy figures in direct contact with a prevailing cosmological structure, so it's not unexpected. Overall, seeing the ~100-150-year period of Nikaya solidification as having been a done deal from the start is fairly untenable. On that note,
things like: "The suttas were corrupted!" or "The Buddha only taught the cosmology to appeal to a wider audience, he made it all up!" etc etc.
are basically speculative -- but the teachings are housed in a literary corpus, and the two are not necessarily coextensive.

:shrug:
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

nibbuti
Posts: 155
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:36 pm
Location: Germany

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by nibbuti »

santa100 wrote:The common stock phrase "on the break-up of the body, after death, he/she reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, hell" was mentioned repeatedly in many suttas:
Hi santa100

Your faith in words translated over 2600 years is praiseworthy. Buddha praised those of faith.

However, there is a shortcoming in your physical translation. Most sutta with this common stock phrase only refer to kammic results "after death". This interpretation does not provide for kammic result in this life or in the here and now. Only providing for kammic result after death is incomplete and leaves Buddha open to censure, refutation, ridicule & blame by the wise.
When one can't pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn't be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative. This was my first righteous refutation of those brahmans & contemplatives who hold to such teachings, such views.

But this Dhamma taught by me is unrefuted, undefiled, blameless, not faulted by knowledgeable brahmans & contemplatives.

AN 3.61
:anjali:

santa100
Posts: 4173
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by santa100 »

nibbuti wrote:
However, there is a shortcoming in your physical translation. Most sutta with this common stock phrase only refer to kammic results "after death". This interpretation does not provide for kammic result in this life or in the here and now. Only providing for kammic result after death is incomplete and leaves Buddha open to censure, refutation, ridicule & blame by the wise.
Hi Nibbuti, I don't see it as a shortcoming. Quite the opposite, the explicitness of the suttas' message about literal realms really complete the picture. Are there kammic results in this life or in the here and now? Sure. Does that mean that they're all eradicated when the person die? No. The kammic stream will go on and on until the day one attains enlightenment, whether in this life or the next.

User avatar
Lazy_eye
Posts: 996
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD
Contact:

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Lazy_eye »

porpoise wrote:
Yes, it seems to me that some people have a big problem with the cosmology in the suttas and have a strong need to deny it and convert it all to psychology, using various convoluted strategies. And if all else fails they say things like: "The suttas were corrupted!" or "The Buddha only taught the cosmology to appeal to a wider audience, he made it all up!" etc etc.
Well, I am one of those people. :) And the reason is that the cosmology is clearly inaccurate. As one might expect, given the time period.

Those arguing that the hells and heavens were to be taken literally can always win the doctrinal argument, because the evidence is in the suttas. But it's a Pyrrhic victory, because it doesn't actually settle the question of whether the literal interpretation is actually plausible. This is the problem with arguments that are based purely on doctrine. Won't convince anyone who hasn't already accepted the doctrine as the gospel truth.

Same thing happens in other religions, such as Christianity. Doctrinal correctness does not necessarily mean plausibility.

User avatar
BlueLotus
Posts: 436
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2011 7:46 am

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by BlueLotus »

Lazy_eye wrote:Right. That's the argument I put forward. Without rebirth, the ultimate goal makes no sense. It appears to be premised on the notion of multiple lives. So if we (correctly, in my opinion) throw out that notion, then we also have to redefine the goal.
I have repeatedly shown you and explained why this is not the case for everyone. If you think not believing in rebirth is an issue for your practice it makes sense to believe in it and proceed. That doesn't make it necessary for everyone. After-all it is just a belief and what matters is the present moment.
Lazy_eye wrote: I'm not aiming to pick a fight or insist that my point of view is correct, but to improve my understanding. I find debates of this sort to be helpful in clarifying things and identifying possible areas of confusion.
Not to pick a fight but I am not sure what exactly you aimed to clarify. You seem pretty fixed on your view that rebirth belief is necessary to liberation and also seem pretty ok with not believing in it yourself. I think it is best to just leave it at that.
Lazy_eye wrote: The issue we have been discussing here has been a big obstacle for me, one which led me to stop self-identifying as Buddhist. At this point, I feel more comfortable as a "Buddhist-influenced secular humanist" or something like that.
Whatever. Personally for me concentrating on this moment is not an obstacle to the path whatsoever nor do my teachers say so. So I am cool with leaving it aside. No matter what I believe, how strongly I would believe I would never know what happens when I die anyway.

Spiny Norman
Posts: 7399
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Spiny Norman »

daverupa wrote:
porpoise wrote:It seems to me that some people have a big problem with the cosmology in the suttas and have a strong need to deny it and convert it all to psychology, using various convoluted strategies.
This is true; though when comparing the Nikayas with, say, the literature of the Desert Fathers, we see a similar phenomenon of placing holy figures in direct contact with a prevailing cosmological structure, so it's not unexpected.
Possibly, but we don't really know if this is a valid comparison. My point is that starting from a position of aversion to the cosmological content of the suttas isn't likely to facilitate an objective appraisal of meaning.

Were the realms intended to be used as a method of classifying mental states? I don't see the evidence for it in the sutttas.
Where is a methodolgy for classifying mental states clearly described? In the Satipatthana Sutta.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

Spiny Norman
Posts: 7399
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Spiny Norman »

Lazy_eye wrote:Those arguing that the hells and heavens were to be taken literally can always win the doctrinal argument, because the evidence is in the suttas. But it's a Pyrrhic victory, because it doesn't actually settle the question of whether the literal interpretation is actually plausible.
Sure, we don't know whether what the suttas say is actually true - but that's a matter of personal belief and disbelief, and should not be confused with looking at what the suttas say.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

User avatar
BlueLotus
Posts: 436
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2011 7:46 am

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by BlueLotus »

porpoise wrote: Were the realms intended to be used as a method of classifying mental states? I don't see the evidence for it in the sutttas.
I think there is enough evidence to both interpretations so there is no need to stick to ONLY one. But starting from a position of aversion to the psychological content of the suttas isn't likely to facilitate an objective appraisal of meaning.

User avatar
BlueLotus
Posts: 436
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2011 7:46 am

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by BlueLotus »

Lazy_eye wrote: Perhaps this would be a good subject for another thread. Or take a peek at this one.
It is difficult to take a peek at a thread 18 pages long. As for nibbana it is mentioned in suttas as "cessation of suffering" rather than cessation of aggregates. If nibbana was cessation of aggregates, the Buddha would have been unconsciousness, completely without feelings, with no rupa form etc. - practically non-existant. But that wasn't the case. He existed, he felt bodily pains, he was consciousness yet he was liberated. If this doesn't indicate to you that nibbana is more of a psychological attainment I am not sure what will.

User avatar
Lazy_eye
Posts: 996
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD
Contact:

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Lazy_eye »

porpoise wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:Those arguing that the hells and heavens were to be taken literally can always win the doctrinal argument, because the evidence is in the suttas. But it's a Pyrrhic victory, because it doesn't actually settle the question of whether the literal interpretation is actually plausible.
Sure, we don't know whether what the suttas say is actually true - but that's a matter of personal belief and disbelief, and should not be confused with looking at what the suttas say.
I agree, to a point. But what I would suggest is that even the most literal-minded traditionalist is engaging in selection and interpretation. Most Buddhists today would probably acknowledge that certain elements of the cosmology should not be taken 100% literally -- I could give you some examples, but I think they are already well-known.

Once we agree that some interpretation is necessary, it becomes harder to draw the line. This is the problem I see with the various self-appointed dhamma deputies who hang out on Buddhist forums -- they are marking a line in the sand, but it's not clear why the line should be the one they insist on. It's possible that some of the traditionalists around here would have been regarded as heretics 2,000 years ago. "What do you mean, the earth isn't flat?"

Same thing happens in other religions. Fifty years ago, the scriptural literalists in Christianity agreed that the earth could not be more than 6,000-10,000 years old. Now that claim is increasingly rare, even among conservatives.

User avatar
beeblebrox
Posts: 939
Joined: Thu Dec 31, 2009 10:41 pm

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by beeblebrox »

Lazy_eye wrote: Once we agree that some interpretation is necessary, it becomes harder to draw the line. This is the problem I see with the various self-appointed dhamma deputies who hang out on Buddhist forums -- they are marking a line in the sand, but it's not clear why the line should be the one they insist on. It's possible that some of the traditionalists around here would have been regarded as heretics 2,000 years ago. "What do you mean, the earth isn't flat?"

Same thing happens in other religions. Fifty years ago, the scriptural literalists in Christianity agreed that the earth could not be more than 6,000-10,000 years old. Now that claim is increasingly rare, even among conservatives.
I think that's one of the main (if not the only) reasons why anicca was made a part of the teaching.

By the way, I'm always befuddled how something could be called literal, if the person never had an experience of such... to even associate the literalism.

Literally, literal should mean literal.

:anjali:

User avatar
BlueLotus
Posts: 436
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2011 7:46 am

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by BlueLotus »

Lazy_eye wrote:Once we agree that some interpretation is necessary, it becomes harder to draw the line. This is the problem I see with the various self-appointed dhamma deputies who hang out on Buddhist forums -- they are marking a line in the sand, but it's not clear why the line should be the one they insist on. It's possible that some of the traditionalists around here would have been regarded as heretics 2,000 years ago. "What do you mean, the earth isn't flat?"

Same thing happens in other religions. Fifty years ago, the scriptural literalists in Christianity agreed that the earth could not be more than 6,000-10,000 years old. Now that claim is increasingly rare, even among conservatives.
All the more reasons to refrain from making definitive judgements purely based on texts. What matters is the moment you can observe and experience than the past and future which are both beyond observable range.

Post Reply