buddhist cosmology...

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by toujour_333, Oct 31, 2006.

  1. toujour_333

    toujour_333 a simple buddhist

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    i have been reading a lot recently about the buddhist universe and the difference between the views of the different schools. but, i dont think i really understand the purpose of it. why does it matter if there is another universe out there that is simular to our own. not to mention, the buddhist hells are another story. whats the purposes in them, to scare us into right practice? this new found knowledge has rather upset me b/c i dont understand the purpose of them in the greater picture. please someone explain the purpose of them to me.

    to me, it seems as if one is trying to be scared into the right thing by these amazingly painful hells, and encouraged by the things like the god realms or the pure land. i dont understand this type of thinking. why cant one practice simply for the purpose of practicing the right path? does anyone understand my point of view in this matter?

    be well in peace
     
  2. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercur├Žn Buddhist

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    One could possibly go mad trying to pin that question down.
     
  3. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste toujour,

    thank you for the post.

    perhaps, the purpose of the those teachings is simply to rely information concerning the consquences of ones actions in a manner which is easily understood by the audience to which it was addressed.

    generally speaking, these teachings deal with morality and the effects that moral or immoral practice may have on the mindstream of the sentient being.

    what is really important is to determine if you are the sort of being that was being addressed in those teachings and, if so, to put those practices into action.

    If you are not that sort of being, those teachings really are not for you :)

    I often have the feeling that beings approach Buddha Dharma without a very good idea of what it is or what it teaches and, when these things become evident, the being feels somewhat confused since this isn't conforming to their expectation.

    Are you reading about the differences in the philosophical views or their practices?

    metta,

    ~v
     
  4. jiii

    jiii ...

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    Well, to begin with, speaking of Hell or Hells is not solely for the purpose of striking terror into the hearts of men. Even people that aren't in the least bit religious, or scared of Hell mythology, still say things like: "Hell on Earth", "Hell freezing over", etc, etc. For instance, when we say," He's been going through Hell lately", Buddhism might arguably ask," Which Hell has he been going through? Why is he suffering in this fashion?" After all, there is, of course, the Noble Truth of Dukkha, of disquiet, uneasiness, disharmony, suffering. Dukkha is a fundamental aspect of Buddhist thought, and so it is really quite natural that in developing detailed cosmologies, various types of suffering would be differentiated.

    In addition, there are some differences between the hells of Buddhism and the Hell presented by Christianity, for example. For one, there is no such thing as a one-way trip to hell in Buddhist thought. One only visits these places, metaphorically speaking, for as long as it takes to harmonize their actions. A more Western view of Hell expresses one's stay there as perpetual. Now, Hell is not a fun place to hang out for any amount of time, but there is, I think, a fundamental difference in severity between "contractual payback" (excuse the loose language) and "eternal damnation". Also, in the traditional Western view of Hell, there is it's polar opposite, Heaven...which is, conversely, the eternal resting place of all the good souls. In Buddhism, heavens, or 'god' realms, aren't really that much better than the Hell realms. You might say that the hells and heavens of Buddhism represent those that live under the spell of illusion. The hells represent those that intentionally bring considerable suffering, while the heavens represent those are so seduced by desire that they are numb to their suffering, and everyone else's. Watts described the hells and heavens, respectively, as the state of being "bound by iron chains" or being "bound bound by golden chains". Bound, either way.

    Anyhow, 'what goes up, must come down'. If you ascend to the heights of the heaven realms, there is only one place left to go...back to the hell realms, with some intermediary stops along the way. So, as you can see, heavens and hells of Buddhism are different than what you may expect in Christianity, perhaps.

    There is, actually though, one alternate possibility. There is the possibility of Nirvana, of 'liberation'. When one attains Nirvana, it is said that he has transcended dukkha. The 'Wheel of Dukkha' (the Bhava-chakra, also called the 'Wheel of Becoming') can be pictured as a wheel where each spoke represents gradations of heavens and hells, with other realms such as animal realms and human realms. In our lives of samsara, this wheel spins and spins. We goes through ups and downs, heavens and hells, moments when we act like animals, and moments we act like people. All of this is the process of becoming, a process which is self-defeating and self-frustrating. When one attains Nirvana, he is alternately described or pictured as either having halted the wheel or become it's axle hole.

    In Buddhism, neither heavens or hells offer mankind what he is really looking for, and they are both temporary conditions. So why are they described in the first place, then? Well, they are significant because our experience in these realms provides us with intuition that points us towards Nirvana, toward liberation from 'life by the wheel'. They are the hard lessons to be learned first-hand, that teach us the life by the gold or iron chains, so that we might shed them. It is said that Nirvana can only be attained from the 'human realm'. The Gods are too drunk with their fortune, the Demons too angry or wrathful for their misfortune, to care whatsoever. Even though the 'human realm' is just one more stop along the wheel by many accounts, it is the only step that offers the opportunity to liberate one's self from the vicious cycle.
     
  5. Snoopy

    Snoopy Well-Known Member

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    Hi,

    When I have read about Buddhist cosmology I try to see it in the context in which they were delivered, which I think is what Vajradhara is saying. Further, I think to what extent are they meant to be literal or educational? For me, I have not found them that useful a tool, although I do not dismiss them. I consider them with a critical eye, basically. I have found that zen is more in accord with my mind:


    "Zen is entering into things as they are, beyond concept and cosmology, beyond separation and duality, beyond personality, and into the intimacy and richness of this whole moment. It is a radical questioning into whatever arises as our experiences and true entry into the nature of experiencing. Zen is the day to day and moment to moment practice of this moment."



    s.
     
  6. toujour_333

    toujour_333 a simple buddhist

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    namaste everyone and thank you all for your responses...

    seattlegal- that is very true.

    Vaj- im not sure what viewpoint i am reading. ill give u the titles of what exactly i have been reading and that may help: Pancagatidipani (illumination of the five realms), a record of miracles of good and evil karmic retirbution in the kingdom of japan (the part entitled 'circumstances by which a wise person slandered a manifest holy man, went to King Yama's hell, and suffered), Paramatthadani (exposition of the ultimate, with the section i read called lessons from a hungry ghost), Suvarnaprabhasottama (the sutra of golden light, the part about the three kings and the protection they give to kings who proclaim that particular sutra), the eleventh chapter of the Lotus sutra (the part about the buddha Many Jewels coming out of the ground in the stupa), and finally the anthology of essential teachings for deliverance to the pure land. i have read all these sutras and writings in one book called 'buddhist scriptures' from penguin classics publishing. it seems like a rather extensive anthology of writings, not to mention it gives many different approaches to the buddha dharma from many different countries. maybe im not ready to read those things just yet, i dont know. i understand the basic mean behind the teachings, but i just dont understand why they are taught in such a way. like the part about the jeweled stupa rising out of the ground whenever the Lotus sutra is read, why? what is the purpose of that? i understand that the Lotus sutra is supposed to be a very powerful sutra, but i havent heard any first hand accounts of people seeing Buddha Many Jewels stupa rising out of the ground when they heard or read for themselves that particular sutra. im more personally into things that i actually think could happen and things that tend to focus more towards reality, not saying that these things couldnt happen, but i have never seen them, nor any of the people i know. but, i hope that u have read those passages and that u can share ur insight on them for me.

    jiii- i definitely understand the fact that they arent eternal forms of damnation, but i guess when i first learned about the other realms of existance when i first started studiying buddhism, i looked at them as purely psychological realms of existance such as: hell beings being someone born an extremely torturous life like with AIDS, hungry ghosts being someone who is an addict to another substance or thought, animals would be someone acting only on their base desires and no sense of rational thought, humans being someone who is capable of rationalizing and seeing things with compassion, demi-gods being someone born with a good bit of power in the world like maybe the son of an ambassador to a foriegn country, and the gods being someone with an extreme amout of power like donald trump, the president, or someone like that. but i guess they also could be physical realms of existance. but i never really thought about them as 'real' before and now that im reading accounts of people who apparently went there, its just a bit confusing for me. im not someone that is very big on the supernatural and things like that; im more into the things that i know can occur, but not that i close myself off to the possibility of things that i do not believe could happen, happening. but, thats where i am right now.

    however, thank you all for your responses and i apologize if anyone has put anymore responses on here after jiii, but i started this yesterday and im just now finishing it, so i cant see if someone has left another post without loosing all that i wrote, but if someone has, ill try to respond as soon as i can.

    be well in peace
     
  7. jiii

    jiii ...

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    Well, I certainly understand what you mean. I think you will find that different types of Buddhism, as well as individual Buddhists, interpret 'hell realms' and the like in various ways. I, for one, do not believe that 'hell realms' exist in the sense that they are 'places' that are somehow outside of this world where one literally goes for whatever amount of time. That concept is largely based upon one idea of rebirth wherein, loosely speaking, an individual is reborn over multiple lifetimes until they have harmonized their karma. In that line of thinking, an individual might be born into this world one life and reborn into a 'hell realm' in the next.

    You will find that many Buddhist writers of old have questioned this interpretation. For example, a student of Zen once asked his Master," Who was I in my past life?" The Master replied," Who is asking?" In other words, if there is 'no self', then who is it that is reborn into a hell realm? Furthermore, if there is no isolated, seperate self, then who should worry about winding up in a hell realm? After all, there is no self to defend against its sufferings. Buddhism, in its many forms, does not really outright deny that literal 'hell realms' exist, but over the millenia, many Buddhists have raised the question as to why these realms should be considered particularly significant. Ultimately, if these realms are interpreted as metaphysically seperate and distinct places from this 'realm', then they aren't of any concern whatsoever to a Buddhist's practice and understanding. Buddhism is concerned with direct experience above and beyond all else, and so alternate realms of existence which would necessarily be unavailable to a Buddhist until he got around to departing this realm, are really a moot topic.

    A Zen perspective, for instance, might say:

    "Maybe there is a 'hell realm' awaiting you. But strike all thoughts of it from your mind. The situation can be assessed sufficiently when and if it is at hand. If you cannot find peace of mind in this moment, then what makes you think that you aren't already there?"

    It is from this viewpoint that the deep metaphorical significance of the Bhava-chakra and the hell realms becomes apparent. In this moment, there is no time for thinking what direction is up and which is down, for determining if we are in heaven or hell. To be liberated is to be untangled from toiling with such things. This moment, the oft cliche 'here and now', is the prime concern of all forms of Buddhism. Hells or no hells, heavens or no heavens...only in this moment can one be liberated. Therein is the sense in which Buddhist hells aren't really regarded too strictly. When Buddhists refer to any place that seems to be other than 'here and now', you can rest assured that in one way or another, the significance has to do only with 'this'...whatever it is...and not with a netherworld that is genuinely expected to await man.
     
  8. toujour_333

    toujour_333 a simple buddhist

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    wow, jiii, that really makes a lot of sense. i guess i was letting myself get too wrapped up in worrying about the point of the realms, that i lost myself in the present. thanks for explaining that to me. im finally able to relax about the whole issue. i dont know how i can thank u enough. :)

    be well in peace
     

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