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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 8:48 am
by tiltbillings
imagemarie wrote:"Don't look too far.." Courtesy of Dharma Wheel
That was nice and true, it seems to me, but it is worth repeating this: rebirth and the various realms are part of what one finds in the suttas. While one can reasonably approach these things in terms of being symbolic or such, I do not think one is doing justice to these texts by trying to force them into a modern framework as being the only way they should be read and that was how they were meant to be read/heard/understood.

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:09 am
by Aloka
tiltbillings wrote:
That is a modern Western questions. The fact of the matter is that these things are in the suttas and there is no direct indication that the only correct way to interpret them is as being symbolic.
Should we believe that the world is flat with mount Meru in the centre, then ?

Buddhist texts and teachers sometimes refer to Mount Meru, also called Sumeru (Sanskrit) or Sineru (Pali). Mount Meru is a sacred mountain in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain mythology. For a time, the existence (or not) of Meru was a heated controversy.

Ancient Buddhists thought Meru was the center of the universe. The Pali Canon records the historical Buddha speaking of it. In time, ideas about Mount Meru and the nature of the universe became more detailed. For example, a renowned Indian scholar named Vasubhandhu (ca. 4th or 5th century CE) provided an elaborate description of the Meru-centered cosmos in the Abhidharmakosa.

The Buddhist Universe

Ancient Buddhists imagined the universe as essentially flat, with Mount Meru at the center of all things. Surrounding this universe was a vast expanse of water, and surrounding the water was a vast expanse of wind.

This universe was made of thirty-one planes of existence, stacked in layers, and three realms, or dhatus. The three realms were Ārūpyadhātu, the formless realm; Rūpadhātu, the realm of form; and Kāmadhātu, the realm of desire. Each of these was further divided into multiple worlds that were the homes of many sorts of beings. This cosmos was thought to be one of a succession of universes coming into and going out of existence through infinite time.

Our world was thought to be a wedge-shaped island continent in a vast sea south of Mount Meru, called Jambudvipa, in the realm of Kāmadhātu. The earth, then, was thought to be flat and surrounded by ocean.

http://buddhism.about.com/od/buddhisthi ... ntmeru.htm

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:17 am
by tiltbillings
Aloka wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
That is a modern Western questions. The fact of the matter is that these things are in the suttas and there is no direct indication that the only correct way to interpret them is as being symbolic.
Should we believe that the world is flat with mount Meru in the centre, then ?
Quote me a sutta that states that.

But, you totally miss the point in what I said. Try it again, please.

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:30 am
by Aloka
Mount Meru is mentioned in sn 3.11 Nalaka Sutta
"Why is the deva community
so wildly elated?
Why are they holding up banners
& waving them around?
Even after the war with the Asuras
— when victory was the devas'.
the Asuras defeated —
even then there was no excitement like this.
Seeing what marvel
are the devas so joyful?
They shout,
they sing,
play music,
clap their hands,
dance.
So I ask you, who live on Mount Meru's summit.
Please dispel my doubt quickly, dear sirs."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


and in DN 32 Atanatiya Sutta:
9. "This — a spreading sheet of water — they know as the ocean. Where there is East (to the East of Mount Meru) they say that quarter is East.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .piya.html

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:38 am
by cooran
A little more:

Meru. See Sineru.
http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_n ... /m5_mu.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Sineru
A mountain, forming the centre of the world. It is submerged in the sea to a depth of eighty four thousand yojanas and rises above the surface to the same height. It is surrounded by seven mountain ranges -
1. Yugandhara,
2. Isadhara,
3. Karavīka,
4. Sudassana,
5. Nemindhara,
6. Vinataka and
7. Assakanna
(SNA.ii.443; Sp.i.119; Vsm.206; cp. Mtu.ii.300; Dvy.217; it is eighty thousand leagues broad, A.iv.100).

On the top of Sineru is Tāvatimsa (SNA.ii.485f), while at its foot is the Asurabhavana of ten thousand leagues; in the middle are the four Mahādīpā with their two thousand smaller dīpā. (The Asurabhavana was not originally there, but sprang up by the power of the Asuras when they were thrown down from Tāvatimsa, DhA.i.272; see, e.g., SNA.i.201).
Sineru is often used in similes, its chief characteristic being its un-shake ability (sutthuthapita) (E.g., SN. vs.683). It is also called Meru or Sumeru (E.g., Cv.xlii.2), Hemameru (E.g., Cv.xxxii.79) and Mahāneru (M.i.338; also Neru, J.iii.247).
Each Cakkavāla has its own Sineru (A.i.227; v.59), and a time comes when even Sineru is destroyed (S.iii.149).
When the Buddha went to Tāvatimsa, he covered the distance there from the earth in three strides he set his right foot down on the top of Yugandhara and his left on Sineru, the next step brought him to Tāvatimsa, the whole distance so covered being sixty eight hundred thousand leagues. DhA.iii.216.
http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_n ... sineru.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

with metta
Chris

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:44 am
by tiltbillings
Aloka wrote:Mount Meru is mentioned in sn 3.11 Nalaka Sutta . . .
A mention. But you are still missing my point, which was fairly clearly stated.

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 10:05 am
by imagemarie
tiltbillings wrote:
imagemarie wrote:"Don't look too far.." Courtesy of Dharma Wheel
That was nice and true, it seems to me, but it is worth repeating this: rebirth and the various realms are part of what one finds in the suttas. While one can reasonably approach these things in terms of being symbolic or such, I do not think one is doing justice to these texts by trying to force them into a modern framework as being the only way they should be read and that was how they were meant to be read/heard/understood.
I agree. Context is important :tongue: But we are of "the modern world" whether we like it or not, and certain things found in the suttas are going to rub. In fact, it should ALL rub. Perhaps the clue lies in discerning the major rubs from the minor irritations, and not being diverted by the latter.

Justice to the text? Indeed so. But I can see the attraction of Zen sometimes ..

:anjali:

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 10:15 am
by tiltbillings
imagemarie wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
imagemarie wrote:"Don't look too far.." Courtesy of Dharma Wheel
That was nice and true, it seems to me, but it is worth repeating this: rebirth and the various realms are part of what one finds in the suttas. While one can reasonably approach these things in terms of being symbolic or such, I do not think one is doing justice to these texts by trying to force them into a modern framework as being the only way they should be read and that was how they were meant to be read/heard/understood.
I agree. Context is important :tongue: But we are of "the modern world" whether we like it or not, and certain things found in the suttas are going to rub. In fact, it should ALL rub. Perhaps the clue lies in discerning the major rubs from the minor irritations, and not being diverted by the latter.

Justice to the text? Indeed so. But I can see the attraction of Zen sometimes ..

:anjali:
One needs to actually read a lot of Zen stuff. The same problems arise, especially when you consider that Dogen and other big en names, for example, thought highly of the Lotus Sutra.

Yes, were are of the modern world, but that does not mean we should take an unintelligent Procrustean approach to the suttas. Your point about the "rub" is on point, in my opinion.

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 10:25 am
by Aloka
tiltbillings wrote:
Aloka wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
That is a modern Western questions. The fact of the matter is that these things are in the suttas and there is no direct indication that the only correct way to interpret them is as being symbolic.
Should we believe that the world is flat with mount Meru in the centre, then ?
Quote me a sutta that states that.

But, you totally miss the point in what I said. Try it again, please.
I quoted suttas mentioning Mount Meru.

If this ancient world cosmology system doesn't actually exist and we shouldn't interpret it as being symbolic - then please explain how it should be interpreted, Tilt.

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 10:28 am
by Ben
tiltbillings wrote:That was nice and true, it seems to me, but it is worth repeating this: rebirth and the various realms are part of what one finds in the suttas. While one can reasonably approach these things in terms of being symbolic or such, I do not think one is doing justice to these texts by trying to force them into a modern framework as being the only way they should be read and that was how they were meant to be read/heard/understood.
Agree. And nowhere can we find the proverbial silver bullet in the suttas where the Buddha indicates that rebirth, kamma, celestial beings or the realms of existence should only be seen as metaphorical. What one does read, very frequently, is the danger inherent in views.
kind regards,

Ben

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 10:33 am
by tiltbillings
Aloka wrote:
If this ancient world cosmology system doesn't actually exist and we shouldn't interpret it as being symbolic - then please explain how it should be interpreted, Tilt.

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How do you know that the Buddha did not believe that ancient world cosmology was accurate. You don't and cannot know. So, then what are your options? Try to reinterpret the suttas to fit your modern point of view so as being somehow symbolic so as that you are not disturbed by the uncomfortableness of having to deal with the embarrassing stories when you really want the teachings to be all modern and neatly fitting into your modern notions of things?

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:20 am
by Aloka
tiltbillings wrote:
Aloka wrote:
If this ancient world cosmology system doesn't actually exist and we shouldn't interpret it as being symbolic - then please explain how it should be interpreted, Tilt.

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How do you know that the Buddha did not believe that ancient world cosmology was accurate. You don't and cannot know. So, then what are your options? Try to reinterpret the suttas to fit your modern point of view so as being somehow symbolic so as that you are not disturbed by the uncomfortableness of having to deal with the embarrassing stories when you really want the teachings to be all modern and neatly fitting into your modern notions of things?

I didn't say anything about wanting the teachings to be "all modern". However in view of the fact that the Buddha may very well have believed in a cosmology which we know to be inaccurate (flat world with Mount Meru in the centre for example) it seems that it may not be reasonable to insist (as some do )that people take literally absolutely everything that's written in the suttas.

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:05 pm
by Aloka
tiltbillings wrote: So, then what are your options? Try to reinterpret the suttas to fit your modern point of view so as being somehow symbolic .....
What about this sutta? This can't be about hell and heaven realms in other places somewhere.

SN 35 -Khana Sutta: The Opportunity

"It's a gain for you, monks, a great gain, that you've gained the opportunity to live the holy life. I have seen a hell named 'Six Spheres of Contact.' Whatever form one sees there with the eye is undesirable, never desirable; displeasing, never pleasing; disagreeable, never agreeable. Whatever sound one hears there with the ear... Whatever aroma one smells there with the nose... Whatever flavor one tastes there with the tongue... Whatever tactile sensation one touches there with the body... Whatever idea one cognizes there with the intellect is undesirable, never desirable; displeasing, never pleasing; disagreeable, never agreeable.

"It's a gain for you, monks, a great gain, that you've gained the opportunity to live the holy life. I have seen a heaven named 'Six Spheres of Contact.' Whatever form one sees there with the eye is desirable, never undesirable; pleasing, never displeasing; agreeable, never disagreeable. Whatever sound one hears there with the ear... Whatever aroma one smells there with the nose... Whatever flavor one tastes there with the tongue... Whatever tactile sensation one touches there with the body... Whatever idea one cognizes there with the intellect is desirable, never undesirable; pleasing, never displeasing; agreeable, never disagreeable.

"It's a gain for you, monks, a great gain, that you've gained the opportunity to live the holy life."

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:27 pm
by daverupa
tiltbillings wrote:I do not think one is doing justice to these texts by trying to force them into a modern framework as being the only way they should be read and that was how they were meant to be read/heard/understood.
It is only reasonable to agree with this. The Nikayas reflect the text within the Sangha at roughly 300 BCE, and it is the understanding held at that time which will be important to understand, as a baseline, it seems to me. Those people were the ones who had been structuring the thing in the first place, after all, so giving them modern outlooks is anachronistic and out of place.
Aloka wrote:What about this sutta? This isn't about hell and heaven realms in other places somewhere.
This showcases the more important point, to my mind, another example of which is in the sutta in my signature: despite the prevalence of rebirth - the culturally obvious nature of some version of it, making it highly suitable as a pedagogical aid - it was far from universally accepted, and the Buddha was able to teach the Dhamma to those who were perplexed about the matter without needing to rely on it. Furthermore, this instruction seems to have been given at the monastic level, not simply at the lay level, as the deathbed conversation with Anathapindika indicates, as well as the sutta just mentioned by Aloka, and others.

It may have been a minority concern, but agnosticism about rebirth is, apparently, no barrier to Dhamma practice (MN 79 might even indicate that the Buddha preferred to set it aside even in cases where he & others could have swapped experiential conversation about it).

At the end of the day, talk of the facticity of supernatural realms can be set aside altogether.

:alien:

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

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:45 pm
by Nyana
daverupa wrote:It may have been a minority concern, but agnosticism about rebirth is, apparently, no barrier to Dhamma practice....
Practice is not the same as realization. Your reading of the suttas is once again highly selective.
daverupa wrote:At the end of the day, talk of the facticity of supernatural realms can be set aside altogether.
There's nothing any more "supernatural" about any of those realms than there is about the human & animal realms.