Hell and Sins

Discussion in 'Hinduism' started by Silverbackman, Sep 28, 2005.

  1. Silverbackman

    Silverbackman Prince Of Truth

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    How do you go to hell in Hinduism? In Abrahamic Religions you go to hell if you are not an adherent of that particular religion such as Christianity and Islam (which I so despise and hate about those religions) but of course the logic in Hinduism is far more realistic. You go to heaven if you do good things and go to hell if you do bad things, it doesn't matter what faith you belong to.

    However what is considered bad in Hinduism that would land you into hell when you die? My understanding is a large collection of negative karma (which is gained by being hostile to others) will land into hell. That is also what Buddhists believe to my understanding.

    But what are these sins that would land you into hell? I'm guessing the most basic stealing, false accusations, hurting other against their will, rape, and the most worst would be murder. Are these the basic sins and what are others that would land you into hell?
     
  2. Agnideva

    Agnideva Well-Known Member

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    In Hinduism, the hellish worlds are reserved for those who perform really bad karmas and sins. Hell is not a place for non-believers, hell is not eternal (as you already know), and there is no satan.

    Depending on the text, there are up to nine qualities which are said to be avoided. The nine qualities are: rage, greed, lust, delusion, arrogance, jealousy, fraud, hypocrisy, and deceit. These are to be avoided because they can lead a person into performing bad karmas and sins, which can then lead to hell. In this sense, there are classically three "gates to hell": rage, greed and lust.

    Right. Malice is sometimes also included. Another one I’ve seen in the list of deadly sins is suicide. Hindu masters say killing oneself is just as bad as killing another.
     
  3. harishankar

    harishankar Local Aatmaa :p

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    Surprisingly hell and heaven doesn't exist in Hinduism (according to my line of thinking).

    We return to this world to reap the results of our actions in the previous life and so on. In fact, the whole concept of Karma probably deserves several books on its own. To simplify Karma as "law of action and reaction" is like saying that rockets work on the principle of jet propulsion. Sure, that is the underlying concept, but I believe Karma's complexity is something that one cannot understand as a mere mortal. We need spiritual progress, not just book knowledge I believe to understand how Karma and rebirth works.

    So there is no question of heaven or hell. We return to this Earth where we suffer the effects of bad thoughts, words and actions and enjoy the effects of good thoughts, words and actions over our previous lives. In essence, we are the product of our own thoughts, words and actions over our past, present and into the future. Therefore we go through both heaven and hell in our present life as well as in future lives. There is no escape from this cycle except by progressing spiritually through lives and climbing higher in the spiritual evolutionary cycle. Human form is just a middle stage of evolution...

    And Religion, I believe, is nothing but the formal path of spiritual progress and which teaches us how to live this life so that we don't continue accumulating Karma. Something that gives you the path of spiritual progress which is not just limited to this present life but future lives as well.

    When we die, I believe that our spirit goes to the subtle plane of consciousness and returns to the gross physical plane of this world after a sufficient "waiting" period.
     
  4. Agnideva

    Agnideva Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Harishankar. We're essentially saying the same thing, but I'm saying it in an oversimplified way, perhaps too oversimplified. :)
    Heaven and hell as defined in the Abrahamic sense do not exist in any branch of Hinduism.
    Right you are! The heavens and hells defined in Hinduism are nothing more than regions or divisions within the subtle (astral) plane of existence, which we experience based on our karmas. Classically, the subtle plane has been divided into seven hellish realms and three heavenly realms. So heaven and hell are not gross physical worlds like ours where we live in a physical body. The heavenly and hellish realms are not literally above or below, they are sort of within. The waiting periods and experiences in the interim between death and the successive rebirth in the subtle plane is called "heaven" or "hell."
     
  5. harishankar

    harishankar Local Aatmaa :p

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    Agnideva, yes! I could understand what you were trying to say... It's sometimes quite difficult to put these concepts into English words, because most of their equivalents simply don't exist in other religions..

    For example, one would be hard-pressed to find the equivalent for "Karma".
     
  6. Agnideva

    Agnideva Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I know what you mean :). Karma and dharma are very hard to define and there's no equivalent words. Like you said, cause and effect is not a good description of karma and neither is "what goes around comes around." ;) I just like using the word "karma" as most people I think are at least familiar with the term now, or at least have a vague idea of what it is.
     
  7. Silverbackman

    Silverbackman Prince Of Truth

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    :confused::confused:

    Ok now I'm confused. So there is no other life after death other than being reincarnated into another life? I thought when you die you go to one of the heavens and hells depending on your karma and after your karma has been used up you go back into the Earth. Whether it is a physical or mental state of existence those different heavens and hells are not there for nothing I presume;).

    Also are the emotions mentioned (rage, greed, lust, delusion, arrogance, jealousy, fraud, hypocrisy, and deceit) really sins or deadly emotions? If you do not do the actual sins that generate bad karma it is alright isn't it? For example if you lust over a woman it is alright as long as you do not rape the woman your are lusting over and as long as you do not comit adultery, right? I don't see why some of those emotions would necessarily be wrong as long as you can control it, right?
     
  8. Agnideva

    Agnideva Well-Known Member

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    The time between death and the successive rebirth is spent in the subtle plane of existence. The various divisions of the subtle plane of existence are termed either hellish or heavenly worlds. So, after death we spend time in one of these heavenly or hellish regions depending on our karmas. The point we were making earlier is that the heavens and hells are not physical worlds that are literally above or below, and we do not inhabit these worlds in a physical body. It’s best to describe the Hindu conception of heavenly and hellish worlds as states of being, rather than literal places. And yes, they’re there for a reason.:)


    I would call them potentially deadly emotions, but they are not necessarily sins or bad karmas by themselves. Surely, we can’t be free of these emotions 100% ;). This is only possible for pure souls who become saints and sages. But these emotions are to be consciously avoided whenever possible, and controlled because they can potentially lead to bad karmas or sins. Remember, karma is not just deeds, but also thoughts and words. Apart from that, these emotions also take a person away from the spiritual path.
     
  9. I am free

    I am free And anything is possible

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    Ah, so well put Agnideva. I have always believed that it is not the external action that counts but the intention as well. You cannot be a "good person" if you are constantly lusting or thinking angry thoughts. A person who is truly good is one who has a clean and a good heart.

    Such emotions are definitely wrong Silver. It is NOT ok to continue to have evil thoughts, even if you dont "act" on them. Such thoughts, as Agnideva put, take you away from your spiritual path. But even if you are not necessarily "spiritual" all those thoughts....anger, lust etc are extremely toxic thoughts. They take away your peace of mind and your happiness. Any psycologist will tell you that. You are what you think.

    Also on the topic of hell and heaven Silver, what Agnideva and Harishankar mean (do correct me if I am wrong) by saying that hell and heaven are not "physical worlds" is that unlike in Abrahamic religions, in Hinduism, hell is not a place where you burn in fire and heaven is not a place where you enjoy all material comforts.

    Regards.
     
  10. Agnideva

    Agnideva Well-Known Member

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    Right. This is my understanding too. Heaven is a state of being that is peaceful and tranquil, whereas hell is a state of being that involves restlessness, fear, uncertainty, etc.
     
  11. harishankar

    harishankar Local Aatmaa :p

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    Allow me to clear up a few misunderstandings which I might have unintentionally caused (where Silver might have misunderstood our meaning ;))

    I believe that there is NO heaven or hell in Hinduism, either literally or figuratively. Period. Full stop.

    There are only two things for an ordinary soul:

    1. Spiritual progress.
    2. Spiritual decline.

    When we do good deeds, think good thoughts and speak only good things, then we progress spiritually. We are tuned to spiritual progress and hence our Karma dissipates slowly.

    This spiritual progress is in stages and not in one single leap. Human life is only one intermediary stage of evolution. In the final stage, we become one with the Cosmic Divine. This is the Law of Evolution. An intermediary stage is the Devas...

    Spiritual decline is when we have bad thoughts, words and actions. These things accumulate more Karma for us and bind us further to this world. We become more and more entangled in worldly troubles and problems and in extreme cases, we start declining spiritually. A lower form than a human form is an Asura...

    In other words, all our Karma and the results of Karma are experienced on Earth in our living form, not as an ethereal entity in other worlds. Till we can get rid of the chains of Karma, we will continue being born again and again. The only way to get rid of this cycle is to evolve spiritually...

    And for this, we need to tune our thoughts, words and actions to the Divine even when we live our life everyday in the material world. The best and the safest path to spiritual progress is Religion... at least for the majority.

    Once we're spiritually evolved above the human form, we are born into a higher world and so on and on. Even then, we must continue progressing spiritually until we become one with the Cosmic Divine also known as God.

    The Spiritual Evolution is a continuous process, not one in fits and starts. All our lives, we experience the so-called Karmic results in our very lives. No more and no less.

    This in a nutshell is the theory of Karma simplified to our level of understanding. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2005
  12. Agnideva

    Agnideva Well-Known Member

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    How do you account for the heaven and hell explained in all those Hindu texts? Do you take them to be just better or worse births on earth? And how about the 14 worlds of existence? And where and what does the subtle body experience between death and the next birth?

    Isn't this the causal plane you're talking about ... Which one gets into after liberation from the cycles of birth and death? The causal plane is beyond the subtle plane where one progresses until final merger.
     
  13. harishankar

    harishankar Local Aatmaa :p

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    Yeah, I think basically heaven and hell nothing but stages of evolution as I explained.

    A lower form than a human form is usually the "hell" and a higher form is "heaven". There is no literal meaning to these words, or even figurative as I believe those terms are misleading. That's why I used "evolution" and "decline" rather than heaven and hell.

    Hm... not really sure. I am not quite good at these technical terms. Thanks for that clarification.
     
  14. harishankar

    harishankar Local Aatmaa :p

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    Those are the 14 stages of evolution where the human form comes somewhere in the middle...

    Human = almost equal mixture of good and bad karma.

    Higher than human = more good than bad karma.

    Lower than human = more bad than good karma.
     
  15. Agnideva

    Agnideva Well-Known Member

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    Hi Harishankar,

    Let me explain where I am coming from regarding this whole heaven and hell in Hinduism issue :). I follow the traditional Hindu teachings as taught by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, wherein the concepts of heaven (svarga) and hell (naraka) are not metaphors for a better or worse life, but rather real niches within the vastness of reality. And yes, all these worlds, or rather states of being, are there for the purpose of spiritual evolution of the soul which eventually leads to final merger with Brahman.

    So, in this traditional teaching, there are three planes of existence, each more subtle than the last, and there are 14 “worlds” (lokas) that make up these three planes, and they are as follows:

    Physical or gross plane consists of bhuloka (physical world)

    Subtle or astral plane consists of seven hellish realms (atala, vitala, sutala, talatala, rasatala, mahatala, patala) and three heavenly realms (bhuvaloka, svarloka, mahaloka). After death, the soul drops the physical body and enters the subtle plane in the subtle body. So, between death and rebirth, the soul inhabits one of these heavenly or hellish realms within the subtle plane. These states of being allow for some of the karma to be worked off, but no new karma is gained in the subtle plane. Then depending on the accumulated karmic matter, one again is born in the physical world. And yes, there are better and worse lives on this earth as well ;).

    After sufficient evolution of the soul is complete and realization is gained, one attains moksha (liberation). Once liberation is attained from samsara, the Atman drops both the physical and subtle bodies, and enters into the causal plane of existence, which consists of three realms known as janaloka, tapaloka and satyaloka. In these causal realms, the Atman (which now inhabits the causal body) undergoes further spiritual evolution, and finally drops the causal body and attains vishvagrasa (complete oneness with Brahman).
     
  16. Silverbackman

    Silverbackman Prince Of Truth

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    Alright so basicly Agnideva and Harishankar have different opinions on hell? What sect of hinduism are you two? I assume different sects:).

    Anyway if I understand you guys correctly, Agnideva believes that there is a heaven or hell after you die but it is really only like a state of mind (like a dream world except a dream that exists). But won't be able to meet your loved ones that have gone as well in this new land before being reincarnated back on to the Earth?

    I also don't see how it is much different from the Abrahmic veiw of heaven and hell. Of course its not as simple as the Abrahmic view of heaven and hell, but Abrahmic religious followers believe your soul leaves your body when you die and goes to this subtle plane that cannot be seen. So it does not seem it is all that different, the main point being your soul enters a different realm but the difference of course would be that heaven and hell is not eternal and you eventually get reincarnated back into this realm.

    And Harishankar believes that heaven and hell is what we are reborn in, and there is no period between death and rebirth, right? Interesting:).

    --

    Also about sins, can some of these thoughts really be considered sins? When you have sex with your woman for example you obviously going to lust, and I don't see the problem with that. So isn't it a little extreme to say that something like lust is a sin unless it turns into something bad?
     
  17. harishankar

    harishankar Local Aatmaa :p

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    No. Actually only when you cast your eyes on somebody who is not your spouse and is married to another or you are married to somebody and cast your eyes on another, then it's lust. Also, it should be a very strong emotion, not a mere fancy. Only when it grows out of control within your mind then it's sin. That's my view. So there is no sin merely by having strong feelings towards your wife/husband. It is perfectly acceptable and in fact, desirable. Because a marriage is a Cosmically Sanctified relationship.

    You should realize that thoughts, words actions are not independent of the environment around us. It's the way that these interact with the environment that gets you into trouble.

    In other words, when a thought, word or action goes out of control it assumes life of its own and hence brings about Karma. Mild thoughts, words and actions don't count to increasing Karma. Only very strong thoughts that actually go out of your conscious control do.

    That's the beauty of Hinduism. Even within the same "sects" as you call it, we needn't agree on some things, but we agree on the basics, and that's what counts, I believe. The technicalities are best left to the experts... ;)

    It's important I think for somebody new to Hinduism to understand that Heaven and Hell are not central concepts to our religion. Sure, we are interested for academic reasons, but the main focus of Hinduism is evolution of the Individual Soul and growth of the individual to higher levels of Being until we reach the Cosmic Divine. For this, the focus is on living in this world, not in any other world. There can be no relinquishing of responsibilities of our very material and worldly duties in this life... that neglecting of duty by itself can be termed as negative Karma. Hinduism is about doing our duties and carrying out our responsibilities in life with the right attitude all the time. And "attitude" is a very important element. That is the essence of Krishna's teachings in the Bhagavad Gita.

    Our lives, we believe, should be lived rightly and positively and with the right religious bent of mind for us to gain good Karma which will enable us to reach a higher form of living in some future life. So life is not escapism. Rather it's focus is to grow spiritually as a human being without neglecting our worldly duties. We have to grow within the world we live in, not without. Therefore any form of escapism or after-life is not really the key to success. Living the right life is the key... and that's all there is to it, really.
     
  18. Agnideva

    Agnideva Well-Known Member

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    Clearly, we do :). I don’t think it is a sectarian difference really. As Harishankar explained so eloquently, every Hindu is allowed to and will have different opinions on some subjects, and we need not agree on every issue. But, heaven and hell are definitely not central concepts of Sanatana Dharma.

    Here are a couple of sites for you if you want to read more about heavens and hells:
    http://www.ramakrishna.org/message17.htm
    http://hinduwebsite.com/reincarnation.htm

    Precisely! In fact, the physical, subtle and causal planes are often compared to the wakeful, dreaming and deep sleep states of consciousness, respectively.

    I don’t know about that. If they’re there maybe you won’t recognized them, or perhaps they’ve already left to be reincarnated. Also, if your karmas dictate so, then maybe you won’t even go to the heavens or hells at all, but just get reborn right away! ;)

    The concepts are similar in some regards, but there are some differences: (1) these worlds are not eternal; (2) God pervades all the worlds, even the hellish ones (although you are spiritually further from God in the hellish realms); (3) these worlds transect ours, so they’re not above or below, but within; (4) no hell fire or material pleasures in heaven as I am Free pointed out; (5) no satan or its equivalent to tempt people into hell.

    Did we call them "sins"? These emotions are potentially sinful, and in many cases bad karma. Sin implies an intentional transgression from the path of righteousness (at least in my definition). A sin is necessarily a bad karma, but a bad karma is not necessarily a sin.
     
  19. I am free

    I am free And anything is possible

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    Hi All,
    Exactly!!! I could not have said better.

    I would really like to delve on the concept of "sin" a little more. Firstly, I dont know for sure if Hinduism has a concept of "sin" so to speak. Karma includes thoughts, words and deeds. There are amoral, unethical and wrong thoughts, words and deeds and these lead to bad karma.

    Consider a man who looks at a beautiful woman in admiration for her beauty. If his mind is filled with pure admiration it is not immoral. If he is thinking dirty thoughts, it is wrong. Period.

    Consider a soldier who kills in battle. He is doing his duty and his action is not immoral. If the same guy goes back home and kills his brother over a property dispute, it is wrong.

    Bottomline, the external action is really irrelevant. It is the thought and intention that counts. And when the thought behind an action is wrong, the action itself is wrong and will accrue bad karma.

    It is irrelevant whether a man "chooses to act externally" on his immoral thoughts. The very process of thinking is an action and hence karma. :rolleyes: .

    The purpose of any religion is to help man progress spiritually. There is no way a man can progress spritually if his mind is not clear of all negative thoughts. This is something I have felt personally and hence I would have to disagree here with you harishankar when you say:
    Or maybe I dont understand what you mean by mild thoughts, words and actions.....


    Regards.
     
  20. Agnideva

    Agnideva Well-Known Member

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    The concept of sin (paap) and merit (punya) through actions does exist in Hinduism. Alternatively, they may be called vices and virtues. Not every bad action is a sin, it depends on your intention. For example, I know that arson is wrong, but if I burn my neighbor's house down because I hate him, that would be a sinful act. Hating my neighbor or being angry with him are not by themselves sinful, but definitely bad karma and to be avoided :) But if I burned his house down by mistake (without intention), then is that a sin?

    Hinduism lacks the concept of original sin, that humans are sinful from the beginning. The Hindu concept of sin is sort of an intentional transgression of dharma, at least in my thinking. In Abrahamic religions, sin is something you do against God, but in Hinduism sin is something one does against oneself. A good example is in the BG (I.36-38), where Arjuna is worried about killing his enemies because he thinks he will incur sin. Later, of course, he is told that by performing his duty and fighting evil and injustice, he does not incur any sin.

    Just my two cents ...
     

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