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

Post by meindzai » Thu Jan 21, 2010 5:02 pm

If you hold the view of karma as true, then naturally there will be unwholesome results to unwholesome actions - and ones rebirth is dependent on ones' karma. The idea of heavens and hells actually are pretty natural outflows of this, but if you are relating them to the Christian ideas of those realms things will get confused.

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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 6:14 pm

Thank you for your replies.
seanpdx wrote:
mettafuture wrote: You're right. I know I shouldn't worry about this, but it keeps popping into my mind like a hindrance during meditation. I need to reconcile the whole heaven / hell thing so that I can just move on and continue with my practice.
No reconciliation necessary. Just stop clinging to the question entirely. *grin*
Will do. Will try.

:hello:
yuuki wrote:An aside about heaven and hell, which might give one a reason to believe in them: why not commit suicide?

That would bring a quick end to suffering.
Because life isn't entirely made up of suffering. There is also joy and beauty. Sure, the good things in life don't last forever, but neither do the bad things.

Enjoy the good, and learn how to work through the bad.

That's my motto. :)

You don't need to renounce the entire universe, or force yourself to believe in hells, just to give your life purpose.
salmon wrote:Imagine living in a town with only white Caucasians. You've never stepped out of the town, and you've never had guests from outside of town. One day, someone tells you that he's just came back from a trip and has met people of different skin colours, an Indian, a Chinese and an African.

Having not seen another person of a different skin tone before, you wouldn't believe they existed. If one day you made a trip out or you get some guests, then you will realized that there are people of other nationalities (and skin colours) out there and it's perfectly normal.
There is evidence for people. There is no evidence for external heaven and hell realms that people can be reborn into. It would be easier for me to believe in aliens than it would be for me to believe in a heaven or hell.
withoutcolour wrote:The possibility of lower rebirth and higher rebirth are important, I'd say, in Theravadin Buddhism, though. Otherwise, what is the point of recognizing kamma?
To do good just for the sake of doing good, and not for its fruits.

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

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Jan 21, 2010 6:30 pm

Extract from the Incontrovertible Discourse (Apannaka Sutta)
“Householders, it is to be expected that those recluses and Brahmins who hold the former view — that there is no fruit of good and evil deeds, and so forth — will avoid wholesome deeds and indulge in evil deeds because they do not see the danger and impurity of evil deeds, nor do they see the benefit and purity of good deeds.
AIM ForumsPāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

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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 6:40 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:I am not really certain how you relate to the word "believe". I dont really like to use the word too much myself. You say you have "tried to believe", but this doesn't make much sense to me.
I was desperate to make Buddhism work because I grew tired of being a seeker.
As far as Im concerned all you need to do is accept that you have no idea and do it without allowing this acceptance to blunt your desire to know for yourself. It also helps to accept that there are more realized beings than you (Buddha) who see reality in a way which defies the ability of language to adequately model for us.
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.
Certainly "wanting philosophy to fit" sounds a bit problematic. Fit with what? Fit with your assumptions about reality?
No, to fit with science. I can't believe that the Buddha's mind was more powerful than the Hubble Telescope. I just can't. lol.
Set it aside and practice.
This is my plan.
If its like a gorilla with christmas lights all over and dancing around then I think it is clear you have not set it aside.
:rofl:
I wish you well
Thank you.
Ben wrote:Hi mettafuture,
mettafuture wrote:I really wish that I could just ignore that big rainbow colored gorilla sitting in my living-room, and focus on the teachings that work...
The standard advice given to someone such as you who has a difficulty with this or that concept is "to put it to the side" and concentrate on practice. Maintain sila, develop samadhi and panna and let penetrative insight reveal the nature of reality to you. But right now, we're all caught in the same intractable bear-trap of samsara and the only way to free ourselves in practice.
metta

Ben
Thank you for the advice.

I will try.

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

Post by jcsuperstar » Thu Jan 21, 2010 7:15 pm

PeterB wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:if one is worried,or thinking about heavens and hells too much than one isn't really following to the Buddha's instructions very well now is s/he? one should remain mindful of the present moment at all times, in all positions and situations. speculations will just lead one into a thicket of views, lost wandering forever.... when the Buddha spoke of such places he wasn't telling stories to impress us or scare us but rather to point us back to the present moment and to urge us to be ever mindful. he taught only dukkha and the cessation of dukkha, and it is in this context we should view heavens and hells.
There is much more to the Buddhadhamma than " living in the present". Bhikkhu Pesala's post above is simply mainstream Theravada Buddhism. No more and no less. As Ben says if we are not ready for any particular aspect of Dhamma, then put it to one side. What we are not free to do is pick n' mix from what we are comfortable with. The Buddha quite clearly spoke about hell realms and heavenly realms, we cannot simply rationalise that away because we have decided before exploring any deeper that Buddhism is " rational" in any modern sense.
living in the present is not the same as being mindful of the present. are you saying the Buddha and arahants weren't mindful at all times? i never denied heavens or hells in my post, but belief in such things is not apart of the path to awakening, remember the Buddha knew such things for himself because of his awakening.
He remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves... the mind in & of itself... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.”

— SN 48.10
The Blessed One said this: "This is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow & lamentation, for the disappearance of pain & distress, for the attainment of the right method, & for the realization of Unbinding — in other words, the four frames of reference. Which four?

"There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings... mind... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.

-Satipatthana Sutta
and from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
The role of mindfulness is to keep the mind properly grounded in the present moment in a way that will keep it on the path. To make an analogy, Awakening is like a mountain on the horizon, the destination to which you are driving a car. Mindfulness is what remembers to keep attention focused on the road to the mountain, rather than letting it stay focused on glimpses of the mountain or get distracted by other paths leading away from the road.
so if the path to end dukkha relies on mindfulness and if the role of mindfulness is to keep the mind grounded in the present moment as ajahn Thanissaro says, then what is wrong with my statement?
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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

Post by Sanghamitta » Thu Jan 21, 2010 7:38 pm

mettafuture wrote:
gabrielbranbury wrote:I am not really certain how you relate to the word "believe". I dont really like to use the word too much myself. You say you have "tried to believe", but this doesn't make much sense to me.
I was desperate to make Buddhism work because I grew tired of being a seeker.
As far as Im concerned all you need to do is accept that you have no idea and do it without allowing this acceptance to blunt your desire to know for yourself. It also helps to accept that there are more realized beings than you (Buddha) who see reality in a way which defies the ability of language to adequately model for us.
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.
Certainly "wanting philosophy to fit" sounds a bit problematic. Fit with what? Fit with your assumptions about reality?
No, to fit with science. I can't believe that the Buddha's mind was more powerful than the Hubble Telescope. I just can't. lol.
Set it aside and practice.
This is my plan.
If its like a gorilla with christmas lights all over and dancing around then I think it is clear you have not set it aside.
:rofl:
I wish you well
Thank you.
Ben wrote:Hi mettafuture,
r
mettafuture wrote:I really wish that I could just ignore that big rainbow colored gorilla sitting in my living-room, and focus on the teachings that work...
The standard advice given to someone such as you who has a difficulty with this or that concept is "to put it to the side" and concentrate on practice. Maintain sila, develop samadhi and panna and let penetrative insight reveal the nature of reality to you. But right now, we're all caught in the same intractable bear-trap of samsara and the only way to free ourselves in practice.
metta

Ben
Thank you for the advice.

I will try.
So you have apparantly reached a position which satisfies you, so the question arises, why spend time on a Theravadin website ? :smile:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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

Post by Heavenstorm » Thu Jan 21, 2010 7:40 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.
Science will never interested in the existence of heaven and hell, much a less research on them, the scientist world don't even entertain the slightest notion. Having said that, even scientists have their own "secret beliefs" which is seemingly absurd like literal Armageddon, creator behind the big bang, etc, and many of them don't even think science will have the answers to everything in the physical world. Its amusing that non scientists find it otherwise.

The more amusing thing is that when many people talk about the theory of parallel universes, they don't realized that it actually gives rise to the possibility of heaven and hell realms existing parallel to our current universe as proposed by some religious figures in the scientist world in the last few decades.
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.
Buddha is perfect in His Knowledge, if He has contained some flaws in His wisdom, subsequently there will be flaws in the Four Noble Truths which is absurd and something you haven't proved yet.

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

Post by Heavenstorm » Thu Jan 21, 2010 7:59 pm

mettafuture wrote: There is evidence for people. There is no evidence for external heaven and hell realms that people can be reborn into. It would be easier for me to believe in aliens than it would be for me to believe in a heaven or hell.
How are aliens separated from the notion of heaven and hells? Gods in Buddhism are not immortals and if in the future, some aliens that are found to be of a long lifespan ( as compared to humans), having a beautiful complexion, possess psychic abilities, etc, that will be as good as proving the existence of devas.

On the other hand, if some alien creatures are found to be alive in a planet which contains hellish conditions like Venus, I don't see why wouldn't it be reasonable to say that those animals are experiencing physical hell.

The interpretations of hell and heaven are quite open in Buddhism, no one say its going to be on Earth and since our astronauts never been to any other planets' surface, the jury regarding alien's existence is still out there.

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

Post by mettafuture » Thu Jan 21, 2010 8:24 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:So you have apparantly reached a position which satisfies you, so the question arises, why spend time on a Theravadin website ? :smile:
Because I still have a lot of interest in the Tipitaka, particularly the Metta and Satipatthana suttas.

Or am I not welcome here?
Heavenstorm 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.
Science will never interested in the existence of heaven and hell, much a less research on them, the scientist world don't even entertain the slightest notion.
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.
The more amusing thing is that when many people talk about the theory of parallel universes, they don't realized that it actually gives rise to the possibility of heaven and hell realms existing parallel to our current universe as proposed by some religious figures in the scientist world in the last few decades.
I haven't ruled out the possibility. I don't know everything, therefore I can't rule out anything.
Buddha is perfect in His Knowledge, if He has contained some flaws in His wisdom, subsequently there will be flaws in the Four Noble Truths which is absurd and something you haven't proved yet.
Believe what you wish. I didn't mean to start a debate. I just wanted to find a way to continue practice, and not worry about the ideas that I have difficulty accepting.
Heavenstorm wrote:
mettafuture wrote: There is evidence for people. There is no evidence for external heaven and hell realms that people can be reborn into. It would be easier for me to believe in aliens than it would be for me to believe in a heaven or hell.
How are aliens separated from the notion of heaven and hells? Gods in Buddhism are not immortals and if in the future, some aliens that are found to be of a long lifespan ( as compared to humans), having a beautiful complexion, possess psychic abilities, etc, that will be as good as proving the existence of devas.
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.
On the other hand, if some alien creatures are found to be alive in a planet which contains hellish conditions like Venus, I don't see why wouldn't it be reasonable to say that those animals are experiencing physical hell.
Interesting...
The interpretations of hell and heaven are quite open in Buddhism, no one say its going to be on Earth and since our astronauts never been to any other planets' surface, the jury regarding alien's existence is still out there.
Well said. Good food for thought.

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

Post by Sanghamitta » Thu Jan 21, 2010 8:54 pm

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.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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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.

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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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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. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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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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