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Thread: What is the Purpose of Punishment in Hell?

  1. #1

    What is the Purpose of Punishment in Hell?

    Namo Buddhaya!
    This is my first post. Please forgive me for my questions, I mean no disrespect.
    I am looking for an explanation into 'torturing someone in hell'.
    My reference is in the Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Threes, Sutta 37.

    Someone engages themselves poorly in life and upon dying, is taken before Mara, who questions him before torturing him also.

    Am I correct in believing that what is being tortured is the consciousness of the person, as the other aggregates are impermanent (form, senses, perception and thought)?

    What exactly could be being tortured as 'form' would have died before the person could go to hell in the first place?

    Mara is described as driving hot spikes through the man's hands and feet but how could this be? Would he not be nothing more than conciousness and his senses would have perished at mortal death?

    What, apart from driving out bad kamma, would the torture achieve, as being reborn, the person would have no recollection of the torture their consciousness went through?

    How could this torture take place when (as I have been lead to understand) that when one dies, they are immediately reborn?

    Again, forgive me if I sound in any way disrespectful. It is not intended and I am only asking as I seek the Truth.
    Thankyou to all who can help me with my questions.

    Sukhi hotu!

  2. #2
    Hi Robert,

    I often do find it hard to interpret the suttas or any historical text that uses language and methods of conveying a message so much different to what my mind is used to or conditioned to. What I have learnt though is that it is wise to not take these historical text too literally :-)

    In interpreting the above, my thoughts are that after death, a persons karma will determine how and where they (whatever it is) are reborn. So a person behaving poorly would therefore most likely be reborn in a realm or as a being that is not so favourable :-) Of course, a belief in rebirth is needed for this to have any significance to a person today.

    This is what I take from it, although as I mentioned sometimes these suttas are a bit like riddles to me.

    Namaste
    Eamonn

  3. #3
    Administrator/ 5 Precept Keeper Senior Member Jerrod Lopes's Avatar
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    Hi Robert,

    My view is that hell is not a place of form as we know it here. Since we already know that all suffering is in the mind, that tells us all we need to know about what can be tortured, what can experience suffering. The tortures of hell you will fimd are administered by the one who puts you in hell. Remember the stories of murderers and other evil doers experiencing Nibbana at death, or even before? It is not up to some cosmic being where we go when we die. We are the makers of and inheritors of our own kamma. Be well.

  4. #4
    Hi Robert,

    Old Zen saying - If you seek truth, be ready to sweat white beads, LOL.
    “Here are roots of trees, here are empty huts – practice jhana! Do not be negligent! Do not regret it later!” - Buddha

  5. #5
    Senior Member Mara Pacers's Avatar
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    Hi Robert,
    Ajahn Brahm often speaks of the tortures we inflict on ourselves, through guilt and depression. The mental suffering is indeed just like having hot spikes driven through the body. As Eamon has pointed out, the meanings are not necessarily literal but like a simile.

    As Jerrod said, these tortures are mind made by ourselves based on our conditioned beliefs. As such, there is no 'purpose' to the tortures... It just is. It is just human conditioning. People have to strive to move beyond conditioned responses and delusion, to end suffering. The further along the path - the less you will be torturing yourself.

    With regards to Mara - I sometimes picture him/her as the little devil sitting on one's shoulder whispering in one's ear, this is delusion, non-restraint, conceit, greed, self righteousness etc etc. The tortures come as a result of this, and being unable to show compassion to oneself.

    I have read and heard recently (though I can't pinpoint the place), that it is our own beliefs and desires that contribute to our rebirth... If one believes one deserves to be punished and suffer then that is where one will be directed. if one is still attached and desires things that can only be generated in human form (riches, fame, etc), then one will choose to stay and be reborn in the earthly realm. Of course when one is governed by delusion it does not appear to be a choice, but the result of some external agency, like Mara.

    Hence the exhortation to not waste any time and to seek liberation, to follow the 8 fold path and work towards seeing reality as it really is.

    It is just some strange Khamma that I was given the name of Mara (an earth goddess in my Latvian culture), but it has led me into some interesting contemplations. These days I have a great deal of compassion for Mara

    With Metta and compassion for Robert

    Mara

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Mara Pacers View Post
    I have read and heard recently (though I can't pinpoint the place), that it is our own beliefs and desires that contribute to our rebirth...
    Hi Mara,

    I'm currently going through the sutta study video entitled "Extracts from Samyutta Nikaya Chapter 12 Nidanavagga - The Book of Causation" by Ajahn Brahm. This is at least one example where it's mentioned that it's our desires that lead to future births.

    Kind regrads,

    Ryan

  7. #7
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    King Yama is not the same as Mara

    Hi Mara,
    I have argued that "Mara" is not as "evil" as he was made out to be. From the suttas, "Mara" is a control-freak who hinders other's spiritual growth, and "Baka-Brahma" is an egomaniac who imagines he is the Creator God. Both are basically good guys who accumulated sufficient merits plus deep meditative practices to be reborn in the heavenly realms. But they are still very misguided. Their problems stem from the delusion about the "Self" - the same problem we all share in samsara. Even the Buddha could not "reason" with them and had to resort to supernatural power to tamp down their hubris.

    However, Mara has nothing to do with An 3-37 that Robert Hamilton is reading. I'm afraid Robert mixed up King Yama in this sutta with Mara, two very different characters in Buddhist cosmology. Mara is not even mentioned here. Read Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation : AN 3-37 Kings.

    With regard to how Buddha sometimes employ generally accepted mythology to make a point, such as heaven and hell in this sutta, best not to make a big deal out of it. Recently I read the transcript of Ajahns Bramali and Sujato's interview with Professor Richard Gombrich. Professor Gombrich's explanation about how the Buddha's thinking and teachings were connected to historical context of his time makes sense to me, although I do not completely agree with the professor's views in other topics not covered in the interview.

    The "mind", and more precisely "intention", is responsible for the karmic forces that affect one's future rebirths. Guilt, remorse and negativity from traumatic events are key ingredients for going to hellish realms. The guilty party subconsciously know that they "deserve" punishment for their bad deeds. That's what I heard from Ajahn Brahm's talks.

    Some of the key ideas in An 3-37 point out our failure to read the messages around us: old age, sickness and death are everywhere, yet people don't heed the warning to seek an escape from the cycles of rebirth. Recognizing Impermanence in a profound way is not as simple as it appears.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Mara Pacers's Avatar
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    Thanks Ryan
    I have to laugh, I've been looking at it over the last few weeks as well, and listened to A B's Sutta class on it too! Lol my brain just can't remember the sources... I remember the lessons and implications, but could never say with certainty where it is written.

    With gratitude and Metta

    M

  9. #9
    Senior Member Mara Pacers's Avatar
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    Thanks Franz, I was following your discussion about this interesting topic in "ask a monastic" forum.

    With Metta

    M

  10. #10

    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Rock View Post
    Hi Robert,

    Old Zen saying - If you seek truth, be ready to sweat white beads, LOL.
    Totally agree with you. I'm prepared to sweat in my quest

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