Author Topic: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven  (Read 5959 times)

WisdomBeing

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Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« on: October 21, 2011, 06:21:35 AM »
Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven - are these just stick and carrot mechanisms to make us stupid human beings behave ourselves?

As a nascent Buddhist, I am petrified of my karma after death. From my reading of the Lamrim, it tells me that most likely I will end up in a boiling pot of oil for eons... EONS! some people tell me that it's metaphorical, and not to take it too literally. Others tell me it's all REAL.

So what is the truth? Will I end up on the karma roulette wheel? Some friends also tell me that if I take refuge, my refuge vows will protect me from going to hell. Others tell me it doesn't work that way. If i am scared of where i will go in my next life, wouldn't that give me great fear and trauma at the point of death, which is what i hear the exact cause of being born in the lower realms?

As a Christian, you are guaranteed salvation and a ticket into heaven by accepting God. So when you are at the point of death, you're waiting for Jesus to appear and take you into heaven. So your mind is at peace. Will that give you a better rebirth because your mind is at peace? (yes, yes Buddhists don't believe you go to heaven - you are more likely to be just recycled so you will be reborn even though you think you are going to heaven when you're about to die.)

What about the Pureland Buddhists who believe they will go to Amitabha's Pureland if they just chant Amitabha's mantra everyday? Do they really go there or is it just B.S.? Even if it's just B.S., like the Christians, they will die with a peace of mind because they think they are going to go to a lovely place.

Unlike people like me who are frightened to death by the hell stories.

Yes we can try to purify in this lifetime but at the point of death, i would probably be thinking sh*t, i haven't finished purifying (cos i have like eons of negative karma) and i'm gonna rot in hell.

So is Buddhism really about hellfire and brimstone like the Christians too?

Please do share your thoughts - i'm just feeling extra thick today.

Kate Walker - a wannabe wisdom Being

Klein

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Re: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2011, 04:13:27 PM »
Dear WisdomBeing,

My opinion is that Buddhism is very wholesome. It allows us to understand our existence such as the laws of cause and effect, impermanence and so on so forth so that we can make the right choices until we become fully Enlightened. Knowing about the existence of the 6 realms of Samsara helps us understand where we can possibly go after death.

That is why it's very important to have a qualified Guru to guide us so that at the point of our death, we don't panic just because we haven't finished purifying. Furthermore, when we realise that we have so much negative karma to purify, it should motivate us to practise more dharma.

Buddhism is not about instilling fear but empowering us.

dorjedakini

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Re: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2011, 08:09:20 PM »
In Buddhism, you create your own Heaven and Hell. Even during our short life time, Hell and Heaven exist and it just depends on our mind and how we view things.

Same action like cleaning and gardening for a Church, Buddhist temple etc, you can view it as a way to train our awareness, stamina, purify our body karma or you can curse it, and think why should you do all this under the hot sun whereby you can hire workers to do it.

When we are "hurt" by someone, knowing that it is our own created karma returning, we let go and accept it, our mind become calm; refuse to accept it, we will will be affected by the boiling anger.

On the other hand, in Buddhism, even though knowing that our negative karma is so heavy that we will sure go to the 3 lower realms, but by doing many Dharma practice, recite sutra, Lamrin, making offering...we planted many Dharma seeds in our ind stream, so that in future we can continue practice Dharma after coming out from the hell realm, also by doing all the practices, we lessen the negative Karma, and the time we staying in the Hell realm will be shorter too.

There is always hope, it is our choice to go Up or Down.



hope rainbow

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Re: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2011, 04:29:11 AM »
There is something as a "good healthy realistic fear", and Buddhisme does not ignore it.

I am not talking about in-efficacious fears like: fear of height, fear of talking in public, fear of spiders or fear of the monster under the bed, I am talking about a grounded, educated, informed fear of where our karma is taking us (next rebirth, or even this life's experiences).
And indeed, the image of the "Hell fire and brimstone" has, so far, be the most efficacious way to get most people some understanding of what should be feared, for not everyone can understand this "fear" through study and contemplation.

Why is this specific fear important?
Because it is one of the 2 foundations for taking Buddhist refuge.

foundation 1:
a good healthy fear of where our karma is taking us, in an uncontrolled manner.

foundation 2:
a good healthy faith in the methods that we can rely on so as to gain some control over the karma, and even eventually break free from it and help others to do the same = the Dharma.
a good healthy faith in the teacher who is teaching these methods = the Buddha.
a good healthy faith in the people that live their lives totally towards the Dharma and assist the Buddha in teaching the methods = the Sangha

Smokers know that their habit may bring a health challenge, but the fear of that is not real before they actually experience a health problem, then only do they stop (and not even all of them stop).
Education can work on some people and make them stop before they experience a health problem.
For most, we must show very scary documentaries on cancer, blood, tumors, people dying etc... so that they understand -out of primal FEAR- and stop.
Some are so delusional, they don't stop.
And others are plain suicidal while carrying on with their habit, cigarettes being the solution they have faith on...

This example is only relevant to some extend of course, but it demonstrate that we all have different approaches to the understanding of our existence, and for some the primal fear of hell against heaven works better than a complex and detailed explanation of the 12 interdependent links.

Is one method superior to the other?
I don't think so, it's not the method that matters, but the result, and the result is the same.

Is the "intellectual-scholarly" "fearer" superior to the 'hell against heaven' "fearer"?
I don't think so, both need to let go of the way they project this fear at one point:
 -intellectual understanding of things can be a major obstacle to the spiritual path, especially when it comes to following instructions from a Guru that seems to go against our "intellectual understanding",
-non scholarly understanding of faith is a also an obstacle for when faith is weak, it lacks the knowledge and logic to put in the effort to maintain it.

My thoughts.

WisdomBeing

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Re: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2011, 06:10:04 PM »
Dear WisdomBeing,

My opinion is that Buddhism is very wholesome. It allows us to understand our existence such as the laws of cause and effect, impermanence and so on so forth so that we can make the right choices until we become fully Enlightened. Knowing about the existence of the 6 realms of Samsara helps us understand where we can possibly go after death.

That is why it's very important to have a qualified Guru to guide us so that at the point of our death, we don't panic just because we haven't finished purifying. Furthermore, when we realise that we have so much negative karma to purify, it should motivate us to practise more dharma.

Buddhism is not about instilling fear but empowering us.

Hi Klein

Thanks for your response. My worry is that I don't have a Guru right now. I've been looking around my area but so far I haven't found one that I feel that I wish to pursue my spiritual journey with and I don't want to be forced into a Guru-Disciple with a Guru whom I am not comfortable with. Yet from my readings of various books, I am going to be majorly screwed if I do not fix my karma. So if I am run over by a bus tomorrow, my last thought would probably be of major panic!

I know people who say that if you take refuge in the three jewels, you'll be okay.. yet I read that it's not so easy... if it was that easy, it would be like taking refuge in Christ - you'd be 'saved'. Then I wouldn't need to fix my karma etc, right.

Anyway, yes i'm motivated to practise more Dharma but i don't know if i'm on the right track - hence the urgency to find a teacher.

If anyone can recommend someone in London, please do let me know.
Kate Walker - a wannabe wisdom Being

hope rainbow

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Re: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2011, 06:02:56 AM »
My worry is that I don't have a Guru right now.
I've been looking around my area but so far I haven't found one that I feel that I wish to pursue my spiritual journey with and I don't want to be forced into a Guru-Disciple with a Guru whom I am not comfortable with.

Dear Wisdom Being, I wish you find a Guru soon.

Please allow me to share my experience with you on the matter.

A Guru is not like a yoga teacher that we choose because we are "comfortable" with, there is a part of the guru-disciple relationship that must be uncomfortable, or else no progress can be made.

Years ago, before I found my Guru, I heard a teaching from a western Lama about how to get about finding a Guru, and he said that if we do not have a lineage guru available right now, we should first look around and start treating others as our guru, maybe we can treat our yoga teacher as a guru, maybe our children, maybe our parents and take whatever they do as a teaching or a "test."

It does not mean we serve them like disciples, it means we act with them with a Dharma-mind, with compassion, generosity, effort, etc...
It can be that our children need a serious scolding, then we do it out of compassion and with wisdom, trying to think in their interest, not ours.

Then when we dedicate, we make a prayer that we can soon find a Guru from a verified lineage.

Eventually, the Guru will appear, it simply manifests.
And what ensues is not necessarily "comfortable", but for sure "enlightening."

I speak of experience, for this is exactly what I have done, and what happened to me, and I do not live in a country or area where Gurus are plentiful, certainly not. I was very surprised to find my Guru right next door, in fact I had been oblivious to him for years until my karma ripened and we re-connected.

Keep faith.
It is fantastic that you have the aspiration to find a Guru, fantastic! I am very happy.

vajrastorm

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Re: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2011, 08:48:52 AM »
I think the fear factor alone is not enough for us to help us along the path of practice. As has been said, at point of death, we may become so paralyzed by our fears of the uncountable negative karma we have not been able to purify that our minds(or at least the minds of people who suffer from anxiety neurosis)would be in a very negative state  and we would end up falling into the lower realms!

Actually if we stop at fear of our falling into the three lower realms, it is only an egocentric fear. Being egocentric, that fear will drag us down. But if we move beyond that to compassion for other mother beings and fearing for them falling into the lower realms, we will remove ourselves from this downward spiral. Our minds and hearts will stay open.

For fortunate people who have a Spiritual Guide, it will be wonderful if the Guru is there for them at time of their death. Nonetheless, my Guru of great wisdom and compassion has consistently taught that I cultivate a mind that seeks always to benefit others. If I truly develop a mind of Bodhicitta, with the care and guidance of my most precious Guru, I think that at point of death, I will have no paralyzing fear. My mind will stay open in thought of others and all mother beings.

pgdharma

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Re: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2011, 10:03:08 AM »
My Guru also  taught me to cultivate a mind that always benefit others. Dharma has to be integrated into our lives. If we practice having an altruism mind and if we  can gain some control of our karma than we may not fall into the lower realms. Heaven and Hell is the state of existence in our mind. It depends on how we view the situation. If during our lifetime we instill an open mind  to benefit others and purifying our negative karma than at the point of death we will not be so panicky knowing  that  even if we were to fall into the lower  realms the stay there will be shorter or we may not fall to the lower realms at all! At the time of death, it is the state of our mind and our karma that  will take us to the next rebirth!

fruven

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Re: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2012, 05:29:24 PM »
My worry is that I don't have a Guru right now.
I've been looking around my area but so far I haven't found one that I feel that I wish to pursue my spiritual journey with and I don't want to be forced into a Guru-Disciple with a Guru whom I am not comfortable with.

Dear Wisdom Being, I wish you find a Guru soon.

Please allow me to share my experience with you on the matter.

A Guru is not like a yoga teacher that we choose because we are "comfortable" with, there is a part of the guru-disciple relationship that must be uncomfortable, or else no progress can be made.

Years ago, before I found my Guru, I heard a teaching from a western Lama about how to get about finding a Guru, and he said that if we do not have a lineage guru available right now, we should first look around and start treating others as our guru, maybe we can treat our yoga teacher as a guru, maybe our children, maybe our parents and take whatever they do as a teaching or a "test."

It does not mean we serve them like disciples, it means we act with them with a Dharma-mind, with compassion, generosity, effort, etc...
It can be that our children need a serious scolding, then we do it out of compassion and with wisdom, trying to think in their interest, not ours.

Then when we dedicate, we make a prayer that we can soon find a Guru from a verified lineage.

Eventually, the Guru will appear, it simply manifests.
And what ensues is not necessarily "comfortable", but for sure "enlightening."

I speak of experience, for this is exactly what I have done, and what happened to me, and I do not live in a country or area where Gurus are plentiful, certainly not. I was very surprised to find my Guru right next door, in fact I had been oblivious to him for years until my karma ripened and we re-connected.

Keep faith.
It is fantastic that you have the aspiration to find a Guru, fantastic! I am very happy.

You have given good advise to him. My experience with guru is from online. Due to the power youtube, you can learn very much from publicly recorded Dharma talks. It is very informative and enlightening. I feel these are blessings in the video. I felt extremely lucky the guru has disciple and people to record the video for the benefit of others.

The guru and disciple can be physically far apart, but mentally near to each other. Everyday you can push yourself to apply Dharma in your daily lifes. If many can do that we create the causes for a guru to manifest.  :D

Big Uncle

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Re: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2012, 06:14:18 PM »
I think people are right about devoting to a qualified Lama or Guru and following his advice, teachings and instructions. However, for the vast majority of people out there, they do not have have a Guru and so what are they to do when they do realize their situation. Dorje Shugden is a powerful and amazing means from which to hook ourselves to a qualified Guru and practice.

This is especially powerful when we pray to Dorje Shugden. His blessings are incredibly miraculous and swift. There's just so many stories I have heard and how he has helped people by not just overcoming their mundane problems but also overcoming their spiritual problems. Dorje Shugden is amazing because he does this for us and he does it so skillfully because he is Manjushri and whatever blessings we received, it is to propel us towards enlightenment one way or another.

I even read somewhere on this forum that Dorje Shugden is a very powerful means to help us at the time of death so our next life, we do not descend into the 3 lower realms. He is a powerful practice to do for the deceased so the person is taken to a positive rebirth. But that requires one to do Dharma work and maintain samaya with one's Guru.

Positive Change

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Re: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2012, 07:18:57 PM »
I found this article particularly interesting in how it "addresses" this concept of damnation and salvation. It clearly illustrates the need for a greater and clearer interpretation of religious texts. We are living in the degenerate age and therefore the "purity" of blind faith is somewhat lost and perhaps rightfully so. This is by no means to disrespect anybody's faith or believe system... this serves merely to debate on as with any healthy forums so that we may share, discuss, contemplate and learn. Here is the article which I have highlighted to point to some relevant points:

By raining down fire and brimstone upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, God not only demonstrated how He felt about overt sin, but He also launched an enduring metaphor. After the events of Genesis 19:24, the mere mention of fire, brimstone, Sodom or Gomorrah instantly transports a reader into the context of God’s judgment. Such an emotionally potent symbol, however, has trouble escaping its own gravity. This fiery image can impede, rather than advance, its purpose. A symbol should show a similarity between two dissimilar entities. Fire and brimstone describes some of what hell is like—but not all of what hell is.

The word the Bible uses to describe a burning hell, Gehenna, comes from an actual burning place, the valley of Gehenna adjacent to Jerusalem on the south. Gehenna is an English transliteration of the Greek form of an Aramaic word, which is derived from the Hebrew phrase “the Valley of (the son of) Hinnom.” In one of their greatest apostasies, the Jews (especially under kings Ahaz and Manasseh) passed their children through the fires in sacrifice to the god Molech in that very valley (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 32:35). Eventually, the Jews considered that location to be ritually unclean (2 Kings 23:10), and they defiled it all the more by casting the bodies of criminals into its smoldering heaps. In Jesus’ time this was a place of constant fire, but more so, it was a refuse heap, the last stop for all items judged by men to be worthless. When Jesus spoke of Gehenna hell, He was speaking of the city dump of all eternity. Yes, fire was part of it, but the purposeful casting away—the separation and loss—was all of it.

In Mark 9:43, Jesus used another powerful image to illustrate the seriousness of hell. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.” For most readers, this image does escape its own gravity - in spite of the goriness! Few believe that Jesus wants us literally to cut off our own hand. He would rather that we do whatever is necessary to avoid going to hell, and that is the purpose of such language - to polarize, to set up an either/or dynamic, to compare. Since the first part of the passage uses imagery, the second part does also, and therefore should not be understood as an encyclopedic description of hell.

In addition to fire, the New Testament describes hell as a bottomless pit (abyss) (Revelation 20:3), a lake (Revelation 20:14), darkness (Matthew 25:30), death (Revelation 2:11), destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9), everlasting torment (Revelation 20:10), a place of wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30), and a place of gradated punishment (Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 12:47-48; Revelation 20:12-13). The very variety of hell’s descriptors argues against applying a literal interpretation of any particular one. For instance, hell’s literal fire could emit no light, since hell would be literally dark. Its fire could not consume its literal fuel (persons!) since their torment is non-ending. Additionally, the gradation of punishments within hell also confounds literalness. Does hell’s fire burn Hitler more fiercely than an honest pagan? Does he fall more rapidly in the abyss than another? Is it darker for Hitler? Does he wail and gnash more loudly or more continually than the other? The variety and symbolic nature of descriptors do not lessen hell, however, just the opposite, in fact. Their combined effect describes a hell that is worse than death, darker than darkness, and deeper than any abyss. Hell is a place with more wailing and gnashing of teeth than any single descriptor could ever portray. Its symbolic descriptors bring us to a place beyond the limits of our language, to a place far worse than we could ever imagine.


Midakpa

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Re: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2012, 08:32:19 AM »
The good thing about the Buddhist hell is that it is not permanent. After one's sins have been expiated, one is reborn in a higher realm. Thus hell is a temporary place and hell beings do not suffer there forever. Buddhists also believe that we can also create our own hell on earth through ignorance and other delusions. The Buddha said that we are burning from eleven kinds of physical pain and mental agony: lust, hatred, illusion, sickness, decay, death, worry, lamentation, pain (physical and mental), melancholy and grief. From a Buddhist point of view, the definition of hell and heaven is that wherever there is more suffering, either in this world or any other plane, that place is a hell to those who suffer. And where there is more pleasure or happiness, either in this world or any other plane of existence, that place is a heaven to those who enjoy their worldly life in that particular place. Negative karma is not permanent either. It can be changed to good karma through virtuous actions in this life itself. So the main idea in Buddhism is not to frighten people through fire and brimstone but to train their character and mind so that they will lead righteous lives and uphold good qualities and ultimately to end their suffering.

Dorje Pakmo

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Re: Hell fire and brimstone vs Heaven
« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2012, 01:40:35 AM »
Quote
As a Christian, you are guaranteed salvation and a ticket into heaven by accepting God. So when you are at the point of death, you're waiting for Jesus to appear and take you into heaven. So your mind is at peace. Will that give you a better rebirth because your mind is at peace? (yes, yes Buddhists don't believe you go to heaven - you are more likely to be just recycled so you will be reborn even though you think you are going to heaven when you're about to die.)

What about the Pureland Buddhists who believe they will go to Amitabha's Pureland if they just chant Amitabha's mantra everyday? Do they really go there or is it just B.S.? Even if it's just B.S., like the Christians, they will die with a peace of mind because they think they are going to go to a lovely place.

Unlike people like me who are frightened to death by the hell stories.

Yes we can try to purify in this lifetime but at the point of death, i would probably be thinking sh*t, i haven't finished purifying (cos i have like eons of negative karma) and i'm gonna rot in hell.

So is Buddhism really about hellfire and brimstone like the Christians too?
Please do share your thoughts - i'm just feeling extra thick today.


Dear WisdomBeing,
I think the Buddhist teachings of the 6 realms and cyclic existence due to the law of Karma is very much to make us realize that we have the chance to end our sufferings by correcting our motivations and the way we are doing things. If it’s as easy as to just believe and one shall pass on to heaven, then by now the world should have significantly lesser human beings, especially the Christians. No? 
A few days ago while having a coffee with my Dharma sister, she shared with me the story of Angulimala which reinforced and strengthen me in my Dharma practice. I think it will be good for me to share it with you.

A summary of Angulimala’s story:
Due to blindly following a jealous guru’s instruction to collect a thousand little fingers from the right hand of different individuals, Angulimala, became a murderous bandit who kills and take only little fingers of his victims, he did not even spare women and children. But when he is about to commit the most heinous crime of them all, killing his own mother. Buddha appeared before him.  When he heard the teaching of the Buddha, repented and followed the Buddha’s way of living attained aranhant-hood.
 Of course Angulimala repented sincerely and did exactly what the Buddha told him. Angulimala did not fear the Karma that is going to befall him, because he knew he deserves the worst after having done so much killing. He subsequently became a monk repented sincerely and practiced fervently in the Buddha’s teaching. Angulimala died after being attacked by a mob of people who hated him for the crime that he had done. Angulimala at the moment of his death, didn’t blame them and wasn’t angry. Angulimala was compassionate to his attacker and just before drawing his last breath, Angulimala from his lips said, “I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma” and passed on to the pure land.
The Buddha said, as a result of blind obedience to his guru, Angulimala heedlessly committed evil deeds. But ever since he knew the teachings he learned from Lord Buddha, Angulimala transformed himself completely and perfected through meditation practice a life of resolute mindfulness.


From this story I understand that it is not an easy thing to achieve enlightenment but at the same time we cannot let the fear of going to hell bog us down in our everyday life. We must first understand and acknowledge that we cannot run away from our Karma. Like Angulimala, we mustn’t fear our Karma but instead resolute to purify it by collecting merits. I think what is really important is how we set our motivation every day. Do we set out for others? Or is it for our own selfish gains? Each time we do an action, we must practice to do it with a good motivation that is for the benefit of others. Over time, this practice becomes a habit and we will automatically generate merit.

Whether we go to the pure land eventually, nobody knows, but at least we have a good chance now that we have gained some knowledge and as long as we try to do something about it, we’ll create imprints for us to continue on in our next life.  What makes anyone think they’ll end up in hell anyway? There are six realms; one can end up in HELL, or as a HUNGRY GHOST, DEMIGOD, GOD, HUMAN or an ANIMAL depending on our KARMA. The only way to escape from these six realms is by achieving Buddhahood which may take many life times. The Buddha also went through countless of rebirths before achieving enlightenment. Knowing this we should work doubly hard to generate merit and live this life to the fullest.


I’ve include here the link to the version of Angulimala that I personally like very much.
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/angulimala6.pdf
DORJE PAKMO