Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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mettafuture
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by mettafuture » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:11 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Its not a question of welcome or not welcome. Its about your motive. Like many people I was brought up in a Christian setting. I am no longer interested in Christianity. But I certainly have no interest in dropping into Christian websites and dukeing it out with folks going about their Christian business. On a Website that clearly states that it is a forum for the discussion of Christianity. My ego is big, but not that big.
I'm not here to "duke it out" with anyone. I was only looking for a way to deal with the heaven / hell teachings.

notself
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by notself » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:37 pm

mettafuture wrote:I can believe that there are people who understand life better than I do, but when it comes to explaining the physical world, science has the authority. There is some science to support the idea of parallel dimensions and universes, but there is no evidence, or even a solid reason, to support the idea of external heavens or hells...

But I think I've found a way to reconcile this issue. I've been telling myself to stop seeing the Buddha as more than a man, and that all men can make mistakes, and are the products of their time. The Buddha knew what he was talking about in regards to suffering. He had a great eye, instincts, and authority on this subject. But when it came to explaining the physical world, he likely relied on the dated Vedic explanations of his time, which is okay, and forgivable.
You are putting all your faith in science while at the same time avowing that you do not like to take things of faith. :juggling:

You need to realize if science isn't interested in a topic or if research in the topic will not find funding, then the topic is not explored. You are reluctant to consider that rebirth may be true because science has not proved it is true. Please post links to the studies where science has investigated rebirth in a rigorous manner. You won't find such links because such research had not been done.

The Buddha was told by a person that one of Buddha's followers did not believe in rebirth. The Buddha asked the monk, "Do you believe in rebirth?" The monk responded "I do not yet believe in rebirth". The Buddha praised the monk's answer as being a correct response. He said that belief comes with realization through practice. (This is a paraphrase of a sutta I recently read, but I cannot find it now. Perhaps someone can find it for me.)

This is the stance you should take, mettafuture. "I do not yet believe in rebirth." It leaves open the possibility that one day you may change your mind. In the meantime, remember science hasn't proven rebirth because it hasn't tried.
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he is indeed the noblest victor who conquers himself. ---Dhp 103

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mettafuture
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by mettafuture » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:50 pm

notself wrote:
mettafuture wrote:I can believe that there are people who understand life better than I do, but when it comes to explaining the physical world, science has the authority. There is some science to support the idea of parallel dimensions and universes, but there is no evidence, or even a solid reason, to support the idea of external heavens or hells...

But I think I've found a way to reconcile this issue. I've been telling myself to stop seeing the Buddha as more than a man, and that all men can make mistakes, and are the products of their time. The Buddha knew what he was talking about in regards to suffering. He had a great eye, instincts, and authority on this subject. But when it came to explaining the physical world, he likely relied on the dated Vedic explanations of his time, which is okay, and forgivable.
You are putting all your faith in science while at the same time avowing that you do not like to take things of faith.
Science requires very little faith because its theories can be confirmed and tested. Science either is, or it isn't. 1 + 2 = 3. The same can't be said about heaven and hell realms. Personally, I think the concepts of heaven and hell were created, or maybe even evolved, to give us a reason to do good, and to scare us away from doing bad. But do we really need these ideas to motivate us? I don't believe we do. I do good because I wish to, and I don't do bad because its counterproductive.
You need to realize if science isn't interested in a topic or if research in the topic will not find funding, then the topic is not explored.
True, but if research leads to unexplored areas, most scientists would be excited to explore those areas. This is why science continues to evolve to this day. Research is fueled by curiosity, and the desire know more about the unknown.
You are reluctant to consider that rebirth may be true because science has not proved it is true. Please post links to the studies where science has investigated rebirth in a rigorous manner. You won't find such links because such research had not been done.
My issue isn't with rebirth. I have no problem with that. I only find the heaven and hell realms problematic.
The Buddha was told by a person that one of Buddha's followers did not believe in rebirth. The Buddha asked the monk, "Do you believe in rebirth?" The monk responded "I do not yet believe in rebirth". The Buddha praised the monk's answer as being a correct response. He said that belief comes with realization through practice. (This is a paraphrase of a sutta I recently read, but I cannot find it now. Perhaps someone can find it for me.)
I haven't completely ruled out anything, but there are some things that are easier for me to accept than others.

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by retrofuturist » Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:07 pm

Greetings Mettafuture,
mettafuture wrote:My issue isn't with rebirth. I have no problem with that. I only find the heaven and hell realms problematic.
Apologies if you've answered this elsewhere, but do you understand these realms to be referring to ontological entities or experiential modes of existence?

Another related question, what realm of existence do you believe the Buddha existed in?

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by meindzai » Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:25 pm

I think that the relationship between our "selves" and our realm is an interdependant one. The "world" according to Buddhism is only that which is perceived with the six sense bases. Eye ear nose tongue body mind. What else is there? Can you describe a world beyond that? There is no force outside of ourselves and our own actions that determine our birth state. (That's the Christian view of things).

The Buddha tended away from questions about whether things "exist or not." In fact he considered that a type of speech that the noble ones should not engage in. Perhaps even now there are probably beings on the hell version of Dhamma wheel saying "oh that Human realm stuff is just a bunch of folklore so that we'll behave ourselves." And then they go right back to poking each others eyes out or whatever they do there. :tongue:

-M

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mettafuture
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by mettafuture » Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:34 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mettafuture,
mettafuture wrote:My issue isn't with rebirth. I have no problem with that. I only find the heaven and hell realms problematic.
Apologies if you've answered this elsewhere, do you understand these realms to be referring to ontological entities or experiential modes of existence?

Another related question, what realm of existence do you believe the Buddha existed in?

Metta,
Retro. :)
I can believe in heaven and hell as states of mind. For example, if we do a lot of bad, our minds will enter a hellish state, etc. But, from the looks of the Theravadin and Mahayanin scriptures, the Buddha didn't mean for the heavens and hells to be interpreted in this way. In the Itivuttaka, he clearly says that these places are accessed "at the break-up of the body, after death."

But that's fine.

My plan is to just look over this little tidbit, and keep my focus on practice.

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by Prasadachitta » Thu Jan 21, 2010 11:23 pm

Hi MettaFuture,

I understand how science can be a very reliable tool for establishing how specific things happen and what they are like. I too give great credence to what is established in a scientific manner. Perhaps our Buddha used the language of Heavens and Hells because it was the most simple way to communicate to the people of his day. After all the Buddha is recorded as saying something like "I teach suffering and the way to the end of suffering". Not knowing whether or not particular things exist out their is not the kind of ignorance which we need to overcome to be free.


Metta

Gabe
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by Heavenstorm » Fri Jan 22, 2010 3:07 am

mettafuture wrote: There's a lot of research being done on the existence of parallel dimensions and universes. If one of these dimensions proves to be a heaven or hell, I highly doubt they'd have a problem with presenting that information to the world.
Only theoretical research, no experimental research for theory on parallel universes.

Besides, scientists will never call a dimension with very favourable or unfavourable conditions as heaven or hell even they fit the description. They will most certainly call those environments in the "scientific way" as utopian or exteremely hostile. Similarly, they call a highly advanced alien race as highly evolved or with a sophisticated culture rather than gods or devas. All this is due to their academic pride.
mettafuture wrote:There's plenty of evidence for the existence of physical, sentient, beings, but there's no evidence for sentient beings who are without a physical body. However, I haven't ruled out the possibility of such beings.
Gods and devas have physical bodies. The only beings without a body are the devas of the four formless realms.

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by Prasadachitta » Fri Jan 22, 2010 5:02 am

Heavenstorm wrote:
mettafuture wrote: There's a lot of research being done on the existence of parallel dimensions and universes. If one of these dimensions proves to be a heaven or hell, I highly doubt they'd have a problem with presenting that information to the world.
Only theoretical research, no experimental research for theory on parallel universes.

Besides, scientists will never call a dimension with very favourable or unfavourable conditions as heaven or hell even they fit the description. They will most certainly call those environments in the "scientific way" as utopian or exteremely hostile. Similarly, they call a highly advanced alien race as highly evolved or with a sophisticated culture rather than gods or devas. All this is due to their academic pride.
Hi Heavenstorm,

How is it due to academic pride? It just sounds like semantics to me. We all prefer different language but language is just a set of various sounds which beings use to communicate. I call it dirt and you call it soil. Either way it helps grow food.

Take Care

Gabe
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by Ben » Fri Jan 22, 2010 6:27 am

mettafuture wrote: My plan is to just look over this little tidbit, and keep my focus on practice.
Well done Mettafuture, well done!

If at any time you have doubts about this or that - refer back to the Apannaka Sutta (Incontrovertible Teaching) that Bhikkhu Pesala mentioned. The translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi in 'A translation of the Majjhima Nikaya' is particularly good and the end notes are excellent. In this discourse, the Buddha was addressing a group of people who were skeptics of rebirth and instead of just saying "rebirth exists - get over it!" appealed to their sense of logic. The Buddha didn't try to convince his interlocutors of the reality of rebirth but lead them via question and answer to a position where they accepted that to live a good life based on sila, renunciation and sense restraint was better than a life based on free licence. Anyway, although it is in response to skepticism of rebirth, I think the message is equally valid to those who may be equally skeptical of literal hell and heaven realms.

Wishing you the very best with your practice!
metta

Ben
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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by seanpdx » Fri Jan 22, 2010 7:01 am

Ben wrote:
mettafuture wrote: My plan is to just look over this little tidbit, and keep my focus on practice.
Well done Mettafuture, well done!

If at any time you have doubts about this or that - refer back to the Apannaka Sutta (Incontrovertible Teaching) that Bhikkhu Pesala mentioned. The translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi in 'A translation of the Majjhima Nikaya' is particularly good and the end notes are excellent. In this discourse, the Buddha was addressing a group of people who were skeptics of rebirth and instead of just saying "rebirth exists - get over it!" appealed to their sense of logic. The Buddha didn't try to convince his interlocutors of the reality of rebirth but lead them via question and answer to a position where they accepted that to live a good life based on sila, renunciation and sense restraint was better than a life based on free licence. Anyway, although it is in response to skepticism of rebirth, I think the message is equally valid to those who may be equally skeptical of literal hell and heaven realms.

Wishing you the very best with your practice!
metta

Ben
This is exactly what the Buddha does in the kalama sutta, which is slightly more generic in nature. The Buddha simply leads his interlocutors, by question and answer, to an ethical position. Good times!

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by salmon » Fri Jan 22, 2010 12:20 pm

Just as no-one can tell make you understand the taste of a snakeskin fruit, no-one will be able to bring you to visit heaven and hell.

An interesting read for everyone (many would have read this before though)

Balancing the Faculties
However, what is particularly recommended is the balancing of faith with wisdom, and concentration with vigor. For one who is strong in faith and weak in wisdom places his confidence foolishly in an unworthy object. One strong in wisdom and weak in faith errs on the side of cunning and is as hard to cure as a sickness caused by medicine. But with the balancing of the two, faith and wisdom, a man has confidence only in a deserving object.
~ swimming upstream is tough work! ~

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by Jason » Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:27 pm

mettafuture wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:Its not a question of welcome or not welcome. Its about your motive. Like many people I was brought up in a Christian setting. I am no longer interested in Christianity. But I certainly have no interest in dropping into Christian websites and dukeing it out with folks going about their Christian business. On a Website that clearly states that it is a forum for the discussion of Christianity. My ego is big, but not that big.
I'm not here to "duke it out" with anyone. I was only looking for a way to deal with the heaven / hell teachings.
I suggest having this discussion with Element/Dhamma Dhatu if he's still around. Here's an example of his response to a similar question elsewhere:
Whatever the afterlife teaching, it is designed to encourage morality in people who are spirituality blind in that they cannot see good & evil for what they really are. The spiritually blind are taught via fear rather than via wisdom. The blind are not being taught 'sight' but, instead, fear.

The Bible states 'wisdom is fear of the Lord'. Buddhism also has its fair share of teachings about hell.

The Buddha said:
  • "Abandon what is unskillful, monks. It is possible to abandon what is unskillful. If it were not possible to abandon what is unskillful, I would not say to you, 'Abandon what is unskillful.' If this abandoning of what is unskillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, 'Abandon what is unskillful.' But because this abandoning of what is unskillful is conducive to benefit and happiness, I say to you, 'Abandon what is unskillful.'

    "Develop what is skillful, monks. It is possible to develop what is skillful. If it were not possible to develop what is skillful, I would not say to you, 'Develop what is skillful.' If this development of what is skillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, 'Develop what is skillful.' But because this development of what is skillful is conducive to benefit and happiness, I say to you, 'Develop what is skillful.'"

However many human beings cannot understand this simple instruction due to their spiritual blindness. So they are taught stories about heaven & hell.
And another:
This dilemma did not occur in the Buddha's time because the Buddha generally did not teach the doctrines of 'rebirth' and 'not-self' together.

The Buddha generally taught rebirth to those who already believed in it and taught 'not-self' to those pursuing the higher teachings that end suffering.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by notself » Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:40 pm

Jason,
Thank you for posting the links. People hung up on rebirth often fail to ask, "What is reborn?"
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he is indeed the noblest victor who conquers himself. ---Dhp 103

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Re: Do the heaven/hell realms hurt credibility of the dhamma?

Post by Aloka » Fri Jan 22, 2010 9:27 pm

.
Quote = mettafuture -
I can believe in heaven and hell as states of mind. For example, if we do a lot of bad, our minds will enter a hellish state, etc.
I interpret the different realms as states of mind from my personal experience in my present lifetime. Anything else is speculation and not relevant to my practice.


With metta


Aloka

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