THE SORROWLESS FLOWERS
41. Birth and Death
42. The Fear of Birth and Death
43. After Death and After This Life
44.Causes of Birth and Death
46. Sentient Beings Are Subject to Illness,Bodhisattvas are Ill As Well
47. Sentient Beings’ Bodies-Buddha’s Body
48. Six Realms of the Samsara and Four Realms of the Saints
49. Hells in Buddhist Point of View
50. Uninterrupted Hells
41. Birth and Death
In Buddhist belief, birth and death are only two points in the cycle of “Birth and Death”. The passing away from one body to be reborn in another body. Where the being will be reborn depends on his accumulated good or bad karma. There is no transmigration of soul or any substance from one body to another. What really happens is that the last active thought (Javana) process of dying man releases certain forces which vary in accordance with the purity of the five thought moments in that series. These forces are called karma vega or karmic energy which attracts itself to a material layer produced by parents in the mother’s womb. The material aggregates in this germinal compound must possess such characteristics as are suitable for the reception of that particular type of karmic energy. Attraction in this manner of various types of physical aggregates produced by parents occurs through the operation of death and gives a favourable rebirth to the dying man. An unwholesome thought gives an unfavourable rebirth. Each and every type of sentient being will have different appearance whether it be beautiful or ugly, superior or inferior. This is determined and is manifested based solely on the various karma sentient beings created while alive with their antecedent bodies. The original word for reincarnation is translated as transmigration. The passing away from one body to be reborn in another body. Where the being will be reborn depends on his accumulated good or bad karma. The belief that living beings, including man, have a series of bodily lives, only ceasing when they no longer base their happiness on any of the objects of the world. This come about when the Buddha-nature is found. This belief is very common to all Buddhists.
Birth and Death or Rebirth is the result of karma. The doctrine of rebirth is upheld by all traditional schools of Buddhism. According to this doctrine, sentient beings (sattva) are caught up in a continuous round of birth, death, and rebirth, and their present state of existence is conditioned by their past volitional actions or karma. In Buddhist belief, there is no transmigration of soul or any substance from one body to another. What really happens is that the last active thought (Javana) process of dying man releases certain forces which vary in accordance with the purity of the five thought moments in that series. These forces are called karma vega or karmic energy which attracts itself to a material layer produced by parents in the mother’s’womb. The material aggregates in this germinal compound must possess such characteristics as are suitable for the reception of that particular type of karmic energy. Attraction in this manner of various types of physical aggregates produced by parents occurs through the operation of death and gives a favourable rebirth to the dying man. An unwholesome thought gives an unfavourable rebirth. Each and every type of sentient being will have different appearance whether it be beautiful or ugly, superior or inferior. This is determined and is manifested based solely on the various karma sentient beings created while alive with their antecedent bodies. Since the cycle inevitably involves suffering and death, Buddhism assumes that escape from it is a desirable goal. This is achieved by engaging in cultivating oneself, and the most important of which is meditation. The doctrine of rebirth has become problematic for many contemporary Buddhists, particularly for converts to Buddhism in Western countries whose culture does not accept the notion of rebirth. However, this doctrine is extremely important in Buddhism, for all sincere attitudes of cultivation originated from the thorough understanding of this doctrine.
Rebirth is the recombination of mind and matter. After passing away of the physical body or the matter, the mental forces or the mind recombine and assume a new combination in a different material form and condition in another existence. Rebirth is the result of karma. In Buddhist belief, there is no transmigration of soul or any substance from one body to another. What really happens is that the last active thought (Javana) process of dying man releases certain forces which vary in accordance with the purity of the five thought moments in that series. These forces are called karma vega or karmic energy which attracts itself to a material layer produced by parents in the mother’s’womb. The material aggregates in this germinal compound must possess such characteristics as are suitable for the reception of that particular type of karmic energy. Attraction in this manner of various types of physical aggregates produced by parents occurs through the operation of death and gives a favourable rebirth to the dying man. An unwholesome thought gives an unfavourable rebirth. Each and every type of sentient being will have different appearance whether it be beautiful or ugly, superior or inferior. This is determined and is manifested based solely on the various karma sentient beings created while alive with their antecedent bodies.
Birth and Death also mean “Reincarnation”, which means going around as the wheel turns around. The state of transmigration or samsara, where beings repeat cycles of birth and death according to the law of karma. What happens to us after death? Buddhism teaches that we remain for some time in the state of intermediate existence in this world after death, and when this time is over, in accordance with the karma that we have accumulated in our previous life, we are reborn in another appropriate world. Buddhism also divides this other world into the following realms: hell, hungry ghosts, animals, demons, human beings, heavens, sravakas, pratyeka-buddhas, bodhisattvas, and buddhas. If we die in an unenlightened state, our minds (consciousnesses) will return to the former state of ignorance, and we will be reborn in the six worlds of illusion and suffering, and will again reach old age and death through the stages mentioned above. And we will repeat this round over and over to an indefinite time. This perpetual repetition of birth and death is called “Transmigration.” But if we purify our minds by hearing the Buddha’s teachings and practicing the Bodhisattva-way, the state of ignorance is annihilated and our minds can be reborn in a better world. So, whether the world is Samsara or Nirvana depends entirely on our state of mind. If our mind is enlightened, then this world is Nirvana; if our mind is unenlightened, then this world is Samsara. Thus the Buddha taught: “For those who strive to cultivate, samsara is Nirvana, Nirvana is samsara.”
Rebirth in hells where beings undergo sufferings at all times. This is one of the eight conditions or circumstances in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma; or eight special types of adversities that prevent the practice of the Dharma. Rebirth as a hungry ghost, or the ghost-world, where beings never feel comfortable with non-stop greed. This is one of the eight conditions or circumstances in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma; or eight special types of adversities that prevent the practice of the Dharma. Rebirth in an animal realm where beings has no ability and knowledge to practice dharma. Rebirth in the men realm includes rebirth with impaired, or deficient faculties such as the blind, the deaf, the dumb and the cripple. This is one of the eight conditions or circumstances in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma; or eight special types of adversities that prevent the practice of the Dharma, or rebirth as a man in the intermediate period between Sakyamuni Buddha and his successor, or life in a realm wherein there is no Tathagata, or in the intermediate period between a Buddha and his successor. During this period of time, people spent all the time to gossip or to argue for or their own views on what they heard about Buddha dharma, but not practicing. This is one of the conditions or circumstances in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma; or eight special types of adversities that prevent the practice of the Dharma. Besides, sentient beings can be reborn among rich and honorable men; or be reborn as worldly philosophers (intelligent and well educated in mundane sense) who think that they know everything and don’t want to study or practise anymore, especially practicing dharmas. This is one of the eight conditions or circumstances in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma; or eight special types of adversities that prevent the practice of the Dharma. Sentient beings can be reborn among men, become monks, and obtain the truth. Sentient beings can be reborn in Uttarakuru (Northern continent) where life is always pleasant and desires that beings have no motivation to practice the dharma. This is one of the eight conditions or circumstances in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma; or eight special types of adversities that prevent the practice of the Dharma. Sentient beings can be reborn in the heavens from the Four Dhyana Heavens to the Four Heavenly Kings, such as the Suyama-heavens, the Indra heavens, the Tusita Heaven, the nirmanarati heaven, the Brahma-heavens, the paranirmita-vasavartin, any long-life gods or heavens, or the heavens of the four deva kings.
According to the Buddhist tradition, on the night of His enlightenment, the Buddha provided us with testimony on the matter of birth, death and rebirth. He acquired three varieties of knowledge and the first of these was the detailed knowledge of His past lives. He was able to recollect the conditions in which He had been born in His past lives. Besides the Buddha’s testimony, His eminent disciples were also able to recollect their past lives. Ananda, for example, acquired the ability to recollect his past life soon after his ordination. Similarly, throughout the history of Buddhism, so many Zen masters and Saints have been able to recollect their past lives. In Buddhism, the process of “birth, death, and rebirth” is part of the continuous process of change. In fact, we are not only reborn at the time of death, we are born, died, and reborn at every moment. This process is no difference from the process of change in our body, for example, the majority of the cells in the human body die and are replaced many times during the course of one’s life. The Buddha observed that disturbing attitudes and karma cause our minds to take one rebirth after another. At the time of death, we ordinary people usually crave for our bodies. We are afraid to lose our bodies and to be separated from everything around us. When it becomes obvious that we are departing from this body and life, we try to grasp for another body. The state of transmigration or samsara, where beings repeat cycles of birth and death according to the law of karma. Living beings are absolutely free to choose their own future. If they wish to be reborn in the Western Pureland, they can make a vow to that effect, then, vigorously recite the name of the Buddhas. If they prefer the hells, they simply do evil deeds and they will fall into the hells for sure. All life, all phenomena have birth and death, beginning and end. The Madhyamika school deny this in the absolute, but recognize it in the relative. The Madhyamika-Sastra believed that all things coming into existence and ceasing to exist, past and future, are merely relative terms and not true in reality. Birth and death is a grove for Enlightening Beings because they do not reject it. This is one of the ten kinds of grove of Great Enlightening Beings. Enlightening Beings who abide by these can achieve the Buddhas’ unexcelled peaceful, happy action, free from sorrow and afflication. Birth-and-death is a weapon of enlightening beings because they continue enlightening practices and teach sentient beings. Enlightening Beings who abide by these can annihilate the afflictions, bondage, and compulsion accumulated by all sentient beings in the long night of ignorance. The birth and death of saints, i.e. without action and transformation, or effortless mortality, or transformation such as that of Bodhisattva. Time flies really fast. The years and months have gone by really fast too. In the same way, people progress from birth to old age and death without being aware of it. Birth, old age, sickness, and death come in quick succession as we pass the years in muddled confusion. If we do not wake up to our own birth and death, then, having been born muddled, we will also die muddled according to the law of karma. What a meaningless life!
42. The Fear of Birth and Death
There is one problem of human life that cannot be solved through human knowledge and endeavor. This is the problem of life and death. Man’s life expectancy has increased considerably with the development of medical science and undoubtedly will be further prolonged in the future. Nevertheless, death invariably comes to us all. We instinctively feel death to be undesirable and frightening. Young people do not feel so horrified by death because they are so full of vitality and strong feelings that they do not think of death as it really is. They are not afraid of death because they do not think about it. If they gave it serious consideration, they would probably tremble with fear. How much more fear must a person who is seriously ill feel! His heart must almost burst with horror and loneliness when he thinks of death, which may come upon him at any moment. Moreover, the pain of his illness will torment him. The thought of death will double his pain during his remaining days. Someone may say that he is not especially afraid of death. But he says this when he is not confronted by death. He will surely not be able to keep his composure when the moment of death actually approaches. Sometimes, though, the suffering of pain actually makes us forget the true pangs of death. When we feel extreme pain our minds are so filled with the desire for freedom from pain that often we are able to forget our terror of death. In a sense, however, all people are just like criminals sentenced to death. The time will come when they will all surely die. When medical science makes further progress, their physical suffering at the time of death may be alleviated. But even so, they will not be free from the terror, anxiety, and suffering of death itself. There is one way to be free from the threat of death. This is a religion through which we can believe in eternal life, that we do not die, our lives only change in form. When we can perfect our consciousness through religion, we will be truly free from the terror and suffering of death.
We are shadowed not only by the pangs of death but also by the suffering of life. We are assaulted day and night by material, physical, spiritual and other sufferings. Among these many sufferings, two, material and physical sufferings, should be alleviated through human knowledge and endeavor. Although these two forms of suffering cannot be entirely abolished in our present state of knowledge, they are being lessened bit by bit with the development and elevation of human knowledge. In fact, these kinds of suffering may almost disappear in time. When people encounter a serious suffering that they cannot resolve however hard they may try, they feel as if they must depend upon something more powerful than themselves, something absolute, and they ask for help. They entrust themselves body and mind to this absolute power, as if to say, “Do as you please. I leave everything up to you.” What should we depend upon? To what should we entrust our body and mind? Primitive people prostrated themselves before the sun, mountains, animals, plants, or other human beings and spirits dwelling within them. But such a behavior is out of the question now. Believers in a more advanced form of religion depend on its absolute power, on a god that is considered to be the almighty being who creates and governs everything in heaven and on earth. They manage to obtain a certain degree of mental peace by praying to this god and asking his help. But even this peace of mind is limited. We cannot obtain absolute assurance and peace from such a god because this god exists externally in some transcendental sphere like heaven. A god who majestically looks down on the world from heaven, a god who mercilessly punishes evil and rewards good. The more absolute the power this god possesses, the more dependent we become and at the same time, the more we fear we feel because we do not know when we may be forsaken by the god or when we may be punished by him. For this reason, we live in a great fear of the god, although we depend upon him with our whole heart. With such mental dependence on an external force, we cannot attain true mental peace or nirvana.
Can we depend upon anything inside ourselves? No, this is also unreliable because our mind is always subject to illusion. Our body is also unreliable, being destined to disintegrate eventually. If we could depend wholly upon something within us, we would have no need of religion and should be able to save ourselves by our own efforts. What then should we depend upon for our salvation? We must here remember the Buddha’s teaching: “Make the self your light, make the Law your light,” the words the Buddha spoke to Ananda, one of his ten great disciples, before dying. Ananda felt anxious, reflecting: “When the World Honored One, who is unparalleled leader and teacher, dies, who on earth should we depend upon in our practice and life?” In response to Ananda’s anxiety, the Buddha taught him as follows: “Ananda! In the future, you should make yourself your light and depend upon your own self. You must not depend upon other people. You should make the Law your light and depend upon the Law. You must not depend upon others. In what way can we gain such consciousness? Needless to say, the way is to study the teachings of the Buddha repeatedly and to root them deeply in our minds by meditating on them. We must keep firmly in mind the realization that our lives should be unified with the universal life or the Buddha. This indeed is meditation from the religious point of view. Through this kind of meditation, we can purify even the mind of which we cannot be conscious ourselves, that is, our subconscious mind, and we can make our thought and conduct harmonize spontaneously with our surroundings. If our thought and conduct are in harmony with our surroundings, sufferings and worries cannot trouble us. This mental state is true peace of mind; it is the state of “nirvana is quiescence,” the absolute quiet state in which we cling to nothing. This state of mind is not limited to a passive mental peace. Our consciousness of being enlivened by this great universal life gives us great hope and courage. Energy springs from this consciousness so that we advance to carry out our daily lives, our work, and our bodhisattva-way for the benefit of others in this world.
43. After Death and After This Life
According to Buddhism, death is not end. After death, the heart ceases to beat, only consciousness generally identified as the soul follows its course determined by the dead’s karmic forces to enter the embryo to be reborn. Such a process is called reincarnation. If we understand the Buddha’s Teachings, before parting, we can remain as calm as possible; we will not fear, knowing that our next rebirth is dedicated by our own karma, not by any external power. They will have a strong faith on “the way you live is exactly the way you die.” In reality, there are so many Buddhists and non-Buddhists who do not thoroughly understand the Buddha’s Teachings. For them, death is the end; thinking of death only makes them tired. They just live for the present. This is the way of living for those who do not know how to live a happy and joyful life in accordance with the Buddha’s Teachings. They do not understand the relationship between cause and effect, linking generations to generations or successive lives. When they are young and strong, they feel comfortable with everything, but when they become sick, or aged, isolated from kinfolk or short of money, they will be agitated, but it is too late for them to regret. Buddhists should always remember the old proverb “You need to dig the well before you are thirsty” to prevent the feeling of late regret. Since earliest time, Buddhism has asserted that all sentient beings are born, die, and are reborn again in dependence on their past actions (karma) in an endless cycle. The question whether or not beings are actually reborn in this way has become a controversial topic among Western Buddhists, many of whom do not accept that the doctrine of rebirth is literally true. The overwhelming majority of Asian Buddhist teachers, however, consider belief in rebirth to be a central tenet of Buddhism, and contending that it accords with the teachings of the Buddha as reported in the Buddhist canon. It is also widely thought that the doctrine of rebirth is very necessary in order for Buddhist karma theory to make sense, since if there were no rebirth there would be no direct recompense for any actions.
44. Causes of Birth and Death
According to the Surangama Sutra, book Nine, in the part of the ten states of formation skandha, the Buddha reminded Ananda: “Ananda, you should know that when the good person has obtained proper knowledge and his practice of samatha, his mind is unmoving, clear, and proper, and it cannot be disturbed by the ten kinds of demons from the heavens. He is now able to intently and thoroughly investigate the origin of all categories of beings. As the origin of each category becomes apparent, he can contemplate the source of the subtle, fleeting and pervasive fluctuation. But if he begins to speculate on that pervasive source, he could fall into error with two theories of the absence of cause.” First, perhaps this person sees no cause for the origin of life. Why? Since he has completely destroyed the mechanism of production, he can, by means of the eight hundred merits of the eye organ, see all beings in the swirling flow of karma during eighty thousand eons, dying in one place and being reborn in another as they undergo transmigration. But he cannot see beyond eighty thousand eons. Therefore, he concluded that for the last eighty thousand eons living beings in the ten directions of this and other worlds have come into being without any cause. Second, perhaps this person sees no cause for the end of life. And why? Since he perceives the origin of life, he believes that people are always born as people and birds are always born as birds; that crows have always been black and swans have always been white; that humans and gods have always stood upright and animals have always walked on four legs; that whiteness does not come from being washed and blackness does not come from being dyed; and that there have never been nor there will be any changes for eighty thousand eons. He says: “As I now examine to the end of this life, I find the same holds true. In fact, I have never seen Bodhi, so how can there be such a thing as the attainment of Bodhi? You should now realize that there is no cause for the existence of any phenomena.” Because of this speculation, he will lose proper and pervasive knowledge, fall into externalism, and become confused about the Bodhi nature.
According to Buddhism, children are born from four causes: First, repaying past kindness which the child incurred a debt of gratitude to the parents in previous lifetime. To repay it, the child has come to be born in the parent’s household and will attend painstakingly to their needs throughout their life. Second, repaying the past wrongs which the parents committed in their previous life. To seek retribution, the children have come to be born in their household. Thus when they are still young, they are so unruly and when grown they will create misfortunes and calamities implicating their parents. In old age the parents will be left in want, and their treatment after the parents’ death will not only dishonor them, but the shame will extend to the ancestors as well. Third, for repaying past debts, the children have come to be reborn in their parents’ household. If it is a great debt, repayment can be for the parents’ entire lifetime. If the debt is small, repayment can cover part of the parents’ lifetime before the children die. Fourth, to claim past debts, the children have come to be reborn in the family. If the debt is small, the parents will merely have to spend money to feed, clothe, education, health and helping them getting married. If the debt is big, the children may sometimes deplete all the parents’ assets.
Death naturally comes to everyone. However, most people feel uncomfortable thinking about death. People fear that if they talk about death, death is coming closer. That’s a mistaken idea. In fact, by very nature our lives are impermanent, and death is inevitable. By natural law, death id one of the four steps of the Law of Impermanence. Thus, death is an irrevocable result of living, it’s good to think about it to make our lives more meaningful. Once we fully recognize that we will inevitably die, all the petty concerns that worry us in our daily life become insignificant compared to the importance of following the path before our lives end. The Buddha taught: “There is no greater realization than awareness of the impermanence of our lives. Such realization will help us understand that at the time of death, our mindstreams and the imprints of the actions we have created go on to future lives. Such realization will also help us understand clearly that if we spend oue precious human lives acting harmfully with bad motivations, the imprints of those actions will come with us. Devout Buddhists should always remember that death definitely comes to everyone, whether we are kings or mandarins, rich or poor, noble or ignoble. There is nowhere we can go to avoid death. Our lifespans can’t be extended and with every passing moment, they’re becoming shorter and shorter. When our lifespans run out, we can’t bargain for more time in order to transform our minds.
In addition, in Buddhism, Marana means the arising and passing away of all mental and physical phenomena. Death is only a physiological erosion of the human body. Death is only a separation of mind and matter. The abandonment of the body. This is the last of the chain of the twelve Nidanas. According to Buddhism, Death is the moment when the alaya consciousness leaves the body, not when the heart has stopped or brain waves can no longer be detected. Death is the separation of mind and matter (body). This separation may take place over several hours or days, as is generally the case in a death from natural causes, or it may happen rather more suddenly, as in an accident. But in either case there are certain definite stages in the dying process. The body does not lose its ability to maintain consciousness all at once, but does so gradually with each element of the body, earth, water, fire, and air, losing its supportive ability in turn. Buddhists believe that though the body dies, the consciousness lives on; thus there exists rebirth. According to other religious concepts in ancient China, death is the dissolution of the body and its other parts, where perceptive organs are discarded. These organs left the material form and bidding farewell to the knowledge. At that time, one becomes one with the great pervader. In the Dharmapada Sutra, the Buddha taught: “Not in the sky, nor in mid-ocean, nor in a mountain cave, nowhere on earth where one can escape from death (Dharmapada 128). Death descends and carries away that man of drowsy mind greedy for children and cattle, just like flood sweeps away a sleeping village (Dharmapada 287). Nothing can be saved, nor sons, nor a father, nor even relatives; there is no help from kinsmen can save a man from death (Dharmapada 288).”
46. Sentient Beings Are Subject to Illness,
Bodhisattvas are Ill As Well
According to the Vimalakirti Sutra, at the time of the Buddha, one day Upasaka Vimalakirti was sick, the Buddha asked his great disciples, one after another, to call on Vimalakirti to enquire after his health, but no one dared to accept. Eventually, Manjusri Bodhisattva accepted the Buddha’s command to call on Vimalakirti to enquire after his health. The Buddha then said to Manjusri: “You call on Vimalakirti to enquire after his health.” Manjusri said: “World Honoured One, he is a man of superior wisdom and it is not easy to match him (in eloquence). For he has reached reality, and is a skillful expounder of the essentials of the Dharma. His power of speech is unhindered and his wisdom is boundless. He is well versed in all matters pertaining to Bodhisattva development for he has entered the mysterious treasury of all Buddhas. He has overcome all demons, has achieved all transcendental powers and has realized wisdom by ingenious devices (upaya). Nevertheless, I will obey the holy command and will call on him to enquire after his health.” The Bodhisattvas, the chief disciples of the Buddha and the rulers of the four heavens who were present, thought to themselves: “As the two Mahasattvas will be meeting, they will certainly discuss the profound Dharma.” So, eight thousand Bodhisattvas, five hundred sravakas and hundreds and thousands of devas wanted to follow Manjusri. So Manjusri, reverently surrounded by the Bodhisattvas, the Buddha’s chief disciples and the devas, made for Vaisali town. Vimalakirti, who knew in advance that Manjusri and his followers would come, used his transcendental powers to empty his house of all attendants and furniture except a sick bed. When entering the house Manjusri saw only Vimalakirti lying on sick bed, and was greeted by the upasaka, who said: “Welcome, Manjusri, you come with no idea of coming and you see with no idea of seeing.” Manjusri replied: “It is so, Venerable Upasaka, coming should not be further tied to (the idea of) coming, and going should not be further linked with (the concept of) going. Why? Because there is neither whence to come nor whither to go, and that which is visible cannot further be (an object of) seeing. Now, let us put all this aside. Venerable Upasaka, is your illness bearable? Will it get worse by wrong treatment? The World Honoured One sends me to enquire after your health, and is anxious to have good news of you. Venerable Upasaka, where does your illness come from; how long has it arisen, and how will it come to an end?” Vimalakirti replied: “Stupidity leads to love which is the origin of my illness. Because all living beings are subject to illness I am ill as well. When all living beings are no longer ill, my illness will come to an end. Why? A Bodhisattva, because of (his vow to save) lining beings, enters the realm of birth and death which is subject to illness; if they are all cured the Bodhisattva will no longer be ill. For instance, when the only son of an elder falls ill, so do his parents, and when he recovers his health, so do they. Likewise, a Bodhisattva loves all living beings as if they were his sons; so when they fall ill, the Bodhisattva is also ill, and when they recover, he is no longer ill.”
47. Sentient Beings’ Bodies-Buddha’s Body
According to the Vimalakirti Sutra, Vimalakirti used expedient means of appearing illness in his body to expound about sentient beings’ bodies and the Buddha’s body to save them. Because of his indisposition, kings, ministers, elders, upasakas, Brahmins, et., as well as princes and other officials numbering many thousands came to enquire after his health. So Vimalakirti appeared in his sick body to receive and expound the Dharma to them, saying: “Virtuous ones, the human body is impermanent; it is neither strong nor durable; it will decay and is, therefore, unreliable. It causes anxieties and sufferings, being subject to all kinds of ailments. Virtuous ones, all wise men do not rely on this body which is like a mass of foam, which is intangible. It is like a bubble and does not last for a long time. It is like a flame and is the product of the thirst of love. It is like a banana tree, the centre of which is hollow. It is like an illusion being produced by inverted thoughts. It is like a dream being formed by fasle views. It is like a shadow and is caused by karma. This body is like an echo for it results from causes and conditions. It is like a floating cloud which disperses any moment. It is like lightning for it does not stay for the time of a thought. It is ownerless for it is like the earth. It is egoless for it is like fire (that kills itself). It is transient like the wind. It is not human for it is like water. It is unreal and depends on the four elements for its existence. It is empty, being neither ego nor its object. It is without knowledge like grass, trees and potsherds. It is not the prime mover, but is moved by the wind (of passions). It is impure and full of filth. It is false, and though washed, bathed, clothed and fed, it will decay and die in the end. It is a calamity being subject to all kinds of illnesses and sufferings. It is like a dry well for it is prusued by death. It is unsettled and will pass away. It is like a poisonous snake, a deadly enemy, a temporary assemblage (without underlying reality), being made of the five aggregates, the twelve entrances (the six organs and their objects) and the eighteen realms of sense (the six organs, their objects and their perceptions). “Virtuous ones, the (human) body being so repulsive, you should seek the Buddha body. Why? Because the Buddha body is called Dharmakaya, the product of boundless merits and wisdom; the outcome of discipline, meditation, wisdom, liberation and perfect knowledge of liberation; the result of kindness, compassion, joy and indifference (to emotions); the consequence of (the six perfections or paramitas) charity, discipline, patience, zeal, meditation and wisdom, and the sequel of expedient teaching (upaya); the six supernatural powers; the three insights; the thirty-seven stages contributory to enlightenment; serenity and insight; the ten transcendental powers (dasabala); the four kinds of fearlessness; the eighteen unsurpassed characteristics of the Buddha; the wiping out of all evils and the performance of all good deeds; truthfulness, and freedom from looseness and unrestraint. So countless kinds of purity and cleanness produce the body of the Tathagata. Virtuous ones, if you want to realize the Buddha body in order to get rid of all the illnesses of a living being, you should set your minds on the quest of supreme enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi)”. Thus the elder Vimalakirti expounded the Dharma to all those who came to enquire after his health, urging countless visitors to seek supreme enlightenment.
48. Six Realms of the Samsara and Four Realms of the Saints
Six stages of rebirth for ordinary people, as contrasted with the four saints. The Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, and Those Enlightened by Conditions are the Four Dharma Realms of Sages. The gods, human beings, asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, and hells make up the Six Dharma Realms of Ordinary Beings. The Six Common Realms are the Three Good Realms of gods, humans, and asuras; and the Three Evil Realms of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. If one plants the causes for the Three Good Realms, one is reborn in these realms. The same applies to the Three Evil realms. This principle of cause and effect is the basic Buddhist theory; it is not a superstition. This principle is always correct and never off by the least bit. According to the T’ien-T’ai Sect, these ten realms are mutually immanent and mutually inclusive, each one having in it the remaining nine realms. For example, the realm of men will include the other nine from Buddha to Hell, and so will any of the ten realms. Even the realm of Buddhas includes the nature of hell and all the rest, because a Buddha, though not hellish himself, intends to save the depraved or hellish beings, and therefore also has hell in his mind. In this sense, the realm of the Buddhas, too, includes the other nine realms. According to Buddhism, all these ten dharma realms originate from the single thought which is existing in our mind. Thus, ancient virtues taught: “All of these ten realms-a single thought, are not apart from your present thought. If you can understand that thought, you immediately reach the other shore.” That is to say, the ten Dharma Realms are not beyond our present thought. If we can understand that thought, we immediately become enlightened. According to the Avatamsaka Sutra, “The myriad dharmas are made from the mind alone.” The Buddha is created by our mind. If our mind cultivates the Buddhahood, then we will accomplish the Buddha Way. If our mind is delighted by Bodhisattvas, then we will practice the Bodhisattva Path and become a Bodhisattva. But if our mind wishes to fall into the hells and we will head in the direction of the hells; eventually we will have to fall into the hells without any doubt. That is why it is said “The Ten Dharma Realms are not beyond a single thought.”
According to the Sangiti Sutta in the Long Discourses of the Buddha, there are six realms of the samsara or the realms of the unenlightened. All creatures in these realms are tied to the ceaseless round of birth-and-death, that is, to the law of causation, according to which existence on any one of these planes are determined by antecedent actions. In Buddhism these planes are depicted as the spokes or segments of the “wheel of life.” This wheel is set in motion by actions stemming from our basic ignorance of the true nature of existence and by karmic propensities from an incalculable past, and kept revolving by our craving for the pleasures of the senses and by our clinging to them, which leads to an unending cycle of births, deaths, and rebirths to which we remain bound. These are six paths, or six ways or conditions of sentient existence, or six miserable states (sentient beings revolve in the cycle of Birth and Death, along the six paths, life after life. These are paths of hell-dwellers, hungry ghosts, animals, titanic demons or asuras, human beings and celestials).
The six realms of the samsara include the three lower gatis, or three evil paths; and the three upper gatis, or three good paths. The three lower gatis include hells, hungry ghosts and animals. First, the realm of hells, the Sanscrit term is “Naraka-gati”. This is the state of being miserable of being in hells. This is the lowest and most miserable condition of existence. Sentient being (alaya-consciousness) is condemned to stay in Hell due to his worse karma. In the hellish path, the sufferings there are so great that no words can describe them. In Buddhism, Naraka-gati symbolizes ignorance, greed and aggression. Depraved men or “hellish beings” who are in the lowest stage. Second, the state of hungry ghosts, the Sanscrit term is “Preta-gati”. This realm of starved ghosts where greedy, selfish and deceitful souls are reborn. In the path of hungry ghosts, beings have ugly, smelly bodies, with bellies as big as drums and throats as small as needles, while flames shoot out of their mouths. They are subject to hunger and thirst for incalculable eons. Hungry ghosts symbolize greed, departed beings, otherwise called “hungry spirits.” Besides, hungry ghosta also include “asura” or fighting spirits, though partially heavenly, they are placed in the lower realm. Third, animality, or the state of animals, the Sanscrit term is Tiryagyoni. The animals’ realm reserved for those souls who are dull-witted, depraved, or have committed fornication. The path of animals, such as buffaloes, cattle, donkeys and horses, is subject to heavy toil. Other domestic animals, such as goats, pigs, chicken and ducks, are subject to be killed to make food for human beings. Still other animals suffer from stupidity, living in filth, and killing one another for food. These beings symbolize ignorance or innocent in nature, including the whole animal kingdom. The three upper gatis, or three good paths. Among the three upper gatis, rebirth in the celestial or human paths is difficult, while descend into Asura path and other three lower gatis is easy and common. First, the Asura, the Sanscrit term is “Asura”. This is the state of angry demons. Asuras’ realm where those who are wicked, hot-tempered, violent or are initiated into paganism (the path of asuras is filled with quarrelling and acrimonious competition). Second, the state of human-beings, the Sanscrit term is “Manusya-gati”. This is our earth, place where those who keep the basic five precepts are reborn. Human beings are neutral in nature, and symbolizing social virtue.Third, Celestials, or the state of gods, the Sanscrit term is “Deva-gati”. The Gods’ realm is reserved to those who observe the five basic commandments and have practiced the Ten Meritorious Action and abstained to do the Ten Evil Deeds. Although the celestial path is blessed with more happiness than our world, it is still marked by the five signs of decay and the things that go against our wishes. Heavenly beings, though superhuman in nature they cannot get perfectly enlightened without the teaching of the Buddha. Celestials symbole meditation abstractions.
The four realms of enlightened existence, sometimes called the “four holy states.” Unlike those in the lower six realms, the enlightened know the joy of inward peace and creative freedom because, having overcome their ignorance and delusion through knowledge, they are freed from enslavement to karmic propensities arising from past delusive actions, and no longer sow seeds which will bar fruit in the form of new karmic bondage. Enlightenment, however, does not suspend the law of cause and effect. When the enlightened man cuts his finger it bleeds, when he eats bad food his stomach aches. He too cannot escape the consequences of his actions. The difference is that because he accepts, that is, he sees into his karma he is no longer bound by it, but moves freely within it. The Four Saints include Sound-Hearers, Pratyeka Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas. A sound-hearer is a direct disciple of the Buddha. A hearer, a Sound-hearer, or a voice-hearer who also undertakes the practice and becomes a Sramanera or a student who seeks personal enlightenment and an attains this only by listening to the teaching and gaining insight into the four noble truths, so that he can cultivate to reach his supreme goal of nirvana without earthly remainder. Vehicle or class of the hearers, the first of the three vehicles that can lead to the attainment of nirnava. Sravakayana generally refers to the Buddhists who don’t belong to the Mahayana. Second, a Pratyeka-Buddha, or a lonely enlightened one, who cultivates and gets enlightenment for himself, not teaching others. A Pratyeka Buddha is the solitary (awakened) sage of Indian life whose ideal was incompatible with that of the Bodhisattva, in that he walked alone, and having attained his Enlightenment, passed into Nirvana, indifferent to the woes of men. He attains enlightenment through the insight of the twelve nidanas by himself (independently of a teacher and attainment of his enlightenment rather than that of others). In summary, Pratyeka-buddha is one who lives in seclusion and obtains emancipation for himself only. Third, a Bodhisattva, a would-be Buddha. According to the Mahaprajnaparamita sastra, Bodhi means the way of all the Buddhas, and Sattva means the essence and character of the good dharma. Bodhisattvas are those who always have the mind to help every being to cross the stream of birth and death. A Bodhisattva is a conscious being of or for the great intelligence, or enlightenment. The Bodhisattva seeks supreme enlightenment not for himself alone but for all sentient beings. Fourth, a Buddha, who is not inside the circle of ten, but as he advents among men to preach his doctrine he is now partially included in it.
49. Hells in Buddhist Point of View
The Sanscrit term for “hell” is “Naraka”. This is the lowest and most miserable condition of existence. Sentient being (alaya-consciousness) is condemned to stay in Hell due to his worse karma. In the hellish path, the sufferings there are so great that no words can describe them. Place of torture and torment and retribution for bad deeds. One of the three negative modes of existence, but existence in hells is finite, after negative karma has been exhausted, rebirth in another better form of existence is possible. Like the Pure Land, hells are more as a state of mind than as places. Buddhist cosmology distinguishes two types of hells: hot and cold, divided into eight main hells; each main hell surrounded by sixteen secondary (subsidiary) ones. The hells are ruled by Yama. According to the Abhidharma, composed by Bhikkhu Bodhi, Hell (Niraya) is the lowest plane of existence, the place of most intense suffering. It is said that beings in the Hell have to suffer the result of their evil deeds in the past. This is not a permanent hell, once these beings pay all retributions for their past unwholesome karmas, they can be reborn in a better and happier plane owing to their past wholesome karmas. According to Buddhis belief, “Naraka ” ia a place of torture and torment and retribution for bad deeds. This is one of the six destinies of beings within cyclic existence or Samsara, and also one of the three negative modes of existence, the others being gods, humans, demi-gods, animals, and hungry ghosts. Hell beings are born into one of a number of hells in which they are subjected to various tortures in accordance with their past evil deeds, but existence in hells is finite, after negative karma has been exhausted, rebirth in another better form of existence is possible. Like the Pure Land, hells are more as a state of mind than as places. Buddhist cosmology distinguishes two types of hells: hot and cold, divided into eight main hells; each main hell surrounded by sixteen secondary (subsidiary) ones. The hells are ruled by Yama. Ancient virtues said: “If you becomes depressed, you are planting a seed for the hells. In contrast, if you smile, you plant a seed for the heavens.” Thus, there is no happiness in the hells; they are melacholy and miserable. According to Buddhism, the hells basically have no doors. We make the doors ourselves, and enter into these doors by our own forces. Why do we end up in the hells? Because of ignorance and lack of understanding, we create evil karma . Sincere Buddhists should always remember that no matter what kind of karma we create, we have to undergo the corresponding retribution, without a slightest bit off. If we plant the hell causes, we have to receive the hell-effects, without any exception!
Buddhist cosmology includes numerous realms in which sentient beings are reborn as a result of their past actions. Hell or earth prison is one of the six gati or ways of transmigration, the downward path to hell. Hell is a place of joyless and suffering. According to the Abhidharma, composed by Bhikkhu Bodhi, Hell (Niraya) is the lowest plane of existence, the place of most intense suffering. It is said that beings in the Hell have to suffer the result of their evil deeds in the past, they are subject to physical and psychological suffering in direct proportion to the negative actions they performed in their past lives. They are subject to a range of tortures, including being played alive, burned, frozen, and tortured by demons. However, this is not a permanent hell, once these beings pay all retributions for their past unwholesome karmas, they can be reborn in a better and happier plane owing to their past wholesome karmas. The best-known hells are the eight hot hells and the eight cold hells, each of which is surrounded by sixteen subsidiary hells. According to Buddhist doctrines, the lowest level of hell is called “Avici,” in which beings have uninterrupted torment. According to traditional Buddhist cosmology, this is one of the six destinies of beings within cyclic existence or Samsara, and also one of the three negative modes of existence, the others being gods, humans, demi-gods, animals, and hungry ghosts. Hell beings are born into one of a number of hells in which they are subjected to various tortures in accordance with their past evil deeds, but existence in hells is finite, after negative karma has been exhausted, rebirth in another better form of existence is possible. Like the Pure Land, hells are more as a state of mind than as places. Buddhist cosmology distinguishes two types of hells: hot and cold, divided into eight main hells; each main hell surrounded by sixteen secondary (subsidiary) ones.
According to Buddhism, hells include central or radical hells, secondary hells, isolate hells, and many other hells. Radical hells include eight hot hells and eight cold hells. The eight hot hells, located under the southern continent of Jambudvipa. Samjiva hells or Sanjiva hells. Rebirth, where after many kinds of suffering, a cold wind blows over the soul and returns it to this life as it was before. The hell in which the denizens are chopped, stabbed, ground, and pounded, but by a cool wind are brought back to life, to undergo renewed torment. Kalasutra hells or Kalasutta hells, where the sufferer is bound with black chains and chopped or sawn asunder. Samghata hells or Sanghata hells, where are multitudes of implements of torture, or the falling of mountains upon the sufferer. Raurava hells or Roruva hells, where prisoners are crying and wailing. Maharaurava hells or Maharoruva hells, where prisoners always have great wailing. Tapana hells, hells of flames and burning. Mahatapana hells, or the hottest hells. These are hells of molten leads. Avici hells, or the hell of no interval. These are the last of the eight great hot hells where whose suffers die and reborn incessantly. Avici hell, the last of the eight hot hells, or unintermitted suffering, where sinners die and are reborn to suffer without interval (in which punishment, pain, birth, death continue without intermission). The eight cold hells include Arbuda hells, where the cold causes blisters. Nirarbuda hells, where colder condition causing the blisters to burst to cause even more painful. Atata hells, where there is the only possible sound from frozen lips. Habava or Apapa hells, where it is so cold that only this sound can be uttered. Ahaha, or Hahadhara, or Hahava, or Huhuva hells, where only this sound can be uttered. This is where the condemned neither stir nor speak, but the cold air passing through their throats produces this sound (ahaha, hahadhara, hahava, or huhuva). This hell is unknown to the Southern Buddhism. Utpala hells, where the skin is frozen like blue lotus buds. Padma hells, where the skin is frozen and bursts open like red lotus buds. Maha-padma hells, where it is very cold that the skin is frozen and bursts open like great red lotus buds. There are sixteen adjacent hells or inferior hells (each hot hell has a door on each of its four sides, opening from each such door are four adjacent hells. There are also isolate hells situated in space, or in mountains, deserts, below and above the earth. Besides, there are many other hells such as hells of intermitted wailing, hells of intermitted scorching, hell of blood drinking, hell of flaying skin, embracing pillar hell, hell of pulling tongues, hell of plowing tongues, Sanghata hell, hell of hunger, hell of sawing teeth, ultimately uniterrupted hell, molten brass hell, much hatred hell, hell of eye pecking, hell of swords (where leaves and grasses are sharp-edged swords), hell of impaling thorns, hell of crushing (the third great hell in which sinners are crushed to death), hell of brazen locks, squeezing mountain hell, hell of fire dog, hell of fire, hell of fire beams, hell of fire horses and oxen, hell of fire rooms, hell of fire beds, hell of fire mountains, hell of fire stones, hell of liquid fire, hell of fiery arrows, hell of fire elephan, hell of fire eagle, hell of wailing, hell of crying out, hell of flowing fire, hell of dung and urine, hell of flying knives, hell of thousand blades, prince of hades, hell of iron-pellets, hell of iron-asses, hell of iron-oxen, hell of iron-beds, hell of iron-ax, hell of iron-carts, hell of iron-clothing, hell of burning feet, hell of burning hands, hell of peircing spears, hell of quarreling, hell of thousand blades, hell of the fire chariot, hell of blood, hell of the forest of swords, and hell without respite.
In the Dharmapada Sutra, the Buddha taught: “The speaker of untruth goes down; also he who denies what he has done, both sinned against truth. After death they go together to hells (Dharmapada 306). A yellow saffron robe does not make him a monk. He who is of evil character and uncontrolled or unrestrained; such an evil-doer, by his evil deeds, is born in a woeful state (Dharmapada 307). It is better to swallow a red-hot iron ball than to be an immoral and uncontrolled monk feeding on the alms offered by good people (Dharmapada 308). Four misfortunes occur to a careless man who commits adultery: acquisition of demerit, restlessness, moral blame and downward path (Dharmapada 309). There is acquisition of demerit as well as evil destiny. No joy of the frightened man. The king imposes a heavy punishment. Therefore, man should never commit adultery (Dharmapada 310). Just as kusa grass cuts the hand of those who wrongly grasped. Even so the monk who wrongly practised ascetism leads to a woeful state (Dharmapada 311). An act carelessly performed, a broken vow, and a wavering obedience to religious discipline, no reward can come from such a life (Dharmapada 312). Thing should be done, let’s strive to do it vigorously, or do it with all your heart. A debauched ascetic only scatters the dust more widely (Dharmapada 313). An evil deed is better not done, a misdeed will bring future suffering. A good deed is better done now, for after doing it one does not grieve (Dharmapada 314). ) Like a frontier fortress is well guarded, so guard yourself, inside and outside. Do not let a second slip away, for each wasted second makes the downward path (Dharmapada 315). Those who embrace the wrong views, are ashamed of what is not shameful, and are not ashamed of what is shameful, will not be able to avoid the hell (Dharmapada 316). Those who fear when they should not fear, and don’t fear in the fearsome, embrace these false views, will not be able to avoid the hell (Dharmapada 317). Those who perceive faults in the faultless, and see no wrong in what is wrong; such men, embracing false doctrines, will not be able to avoid the hell (Dharmapada 318). Those who perceive wrong as wrong and what is right as right, such men, embracing right views and go to the blissful state (Dharmapada 319).
50. Uninterrupted Hells
Uninterrupted hells are the lowest and the worst of the eight hot hells. According to the Buddhist theory, they are hells of no intermission of suffering. Hells of uninterrupted suffering, in which suffering, death, and painful rebirth are continuous until the retribution for the sufferer’s evil karma is exhausted, at which time that being will be reborn in a higher plane of existence. Those who are born in this hell always suffer from the heat of fire. Avici is located under the ground of Jambudvipa. According to the Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra, Chapter 3, Contemplating the Karmic Conditions of Living Beings—Why is it called the Uninterrupted Hell: The Lady Maya further asked Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Why is it called the Uninterrupted Hell?” Earth Store replied: “Holy Mother, the hells are all within the Great Iron Ring Mountains. There are 18 great hells and 500 secondary ones, their names all different. In ddition, there are another hundred thousand, also with distinct names. The wall surrounding the Uninterrupted Hell is over eighty thousand miles in circumference, made entirely of iron . It is thousand miles in height, and topped by mass of fire with few breaks. Inside the wall of that hell are many interconnected hells, each with its own name. There is just one hell which is properly called Uninterrupted. Its circumference is eighteen thousand miles and its solid iron wall is a thousand miles high, surmounted by a fire the plunges toward the base and is met by a fire at the bottom that leaps upward. Iron snakes and dogs spewing fire gallop east and west atop that wall.
According to the Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra, in the midst of the Uninterruped Hell is a bed that extends for ten thousand miles. When one person undergoes punishment, that person sees his or her own body extended across and completely filling the bed; and yet when ten million people undergo punishment, each sees his or her own body completely filling the bed. Such are the retributions for various evil deeds. The offenders undergo sufferings to the utmost. A hundred thousand yakshas, as well as evil ghosts with swordlike teeth and eyes like lightning, drag and pull them with brass-clawed hands. Moreover, there are yakshas who brandish great iron halberds, which they pass through the offenders’ bodies, either through their mouths and noses, or through their belies and backs. They toss them into space, turn them over and pull them back ; or else they place them on the bed. There are also iron eagles that peck at the offenders’ eyes, and iron serpents that encircle their necks. Long nails are driven into all their limbs. Their tongues are pulled out and plowed through. Their guts are pulled out, sawed, and chopped apart. Molten brass is poured into their mouths, and their bodies are bound with hot iron. Such are their karmic retributions throughout ten thousand deaths and as many births. They pass through millions of aeons, seeking for escape in vain. When this world decays, they will be sent to be reborn in another world; and when that world is annihilated, they will pass in turn to those in order directions. As those worlds in other directions, too, decay, they are sent back and forth, so that after this world comes into being again, they return here. Such are the phenomena of uninterrupted retribution for offenses.
According to the Earth-Store Bodhisattva Sutra, Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the Holy Mother, “These are the names of the retributions for offenses in Southern Jambuvipa: If there are living beings who are not filial to their parents, even to extent of harming or killing them, they will fall into the Uninterrupted Hell where, for thousands of ten thousands of millions of kalpas, they will seek escape in vain. If there are living beings who shed the Buddha’s blood, who slander the Triple Jewel, and who do not respect and venerate Sutras, they also will fall into the Uninterrupted Hell where, for thousands of ten thousands of millions of kalpas, they will seek escape in vain. If there are living beings who usurp or damage the property of the permanently dwelling, who defile Bhikshus or Bhikshunis, or who commit sexual acts within the Sangharama, or kill or harm beings there, they and those like them will fall into the Uninterrupted Hell where, for thousands of ten thousands of millions of kalpas, they will escape in vain. If there are living beings who pretend to be Shramanas but whose hearts are not those of Shramanas, who make destructive use of the permanently dwelling, who swindle and deceive the white-robed, and who turn their backs on the precepts, doing all manner of evil acts, they and those like them will fall into the Uninterrupted Hell where, for thousands of ten thousands of millions of kalpas, they will seek escape in vain. If there are living beings who steal the wealth and property of the Permanently Dwelling, its grain, food, drink, and clothing or who take even a single article which has not been given to them, they will fall into the Uninterrupted Hell where, for thousands of ten thousands of millions of kalpas, they will seek escape in vain. Earth Store Bodhisattva continued: “Holy Mother, If living beings commit such offenses, they will fall into the Five Ways Uninterrupted Hell, and although they seek a temporary stopping of their suffering, it will not stop even for the space of a thought.
It is called Uninterrupted due to five retributions for karma. What are they?: Punishment is undergone day and night throughout kalpas, and there is no time of respite. Therefore, it is called Uninterrupted Hell. One person fills it, yet many people also fill it. Therefore, it is called Uninterrupted. The implements of punishment are forks, clubs, eagles, serpents, wolves, and dogs, which pound, grind, saw, drill, chisel, cut and chop; boiling liquids, iron nets, iron robes, iron asses, and iron hoses that flay one alive, bind one’s head in rawhide, and pour hot iron over one’s body, meals of iron pelletss and drinks of iron fluids. Throughout many nayutas of kalpas such suffering continues without interruption. Therefore, it is called Uninterrupted. Whether a man, a woman, a savage, or someone old or young, honorable or lowly, a dragon or a spirit, a god or ghost, everyone must undergo retribution for the offenses he or she has committed. Therefore, it is called Uninterrupted. If one falls into this hell, from the time of entry one undergoes ten thousand deaths and as many rebirths each day and night throughout a hundred thousand kalpas. One may seek relief for the space of a thought, but even such a brief pause does not happen. Only when one’s karma is exhausted can one attain rebirth. Because of this continuity, it is called Uninterrupted.