Friday, August 21, 2009

HELL (History Channel)

There are unfortunate destinations -- planes one may be reborn in if one's opportunistic karma comes to fruition in the next or some future life. It may surprise students of the Dharma to think of such possibilities. Unhappy abodes are cramped and crowded, whereas fortunate destinations are spacious and uncrowded. There are many worlds. And in each world, one may say there are as many experiences of it as there are individuals. The human world, for example, is not one place. It's 6.5+ billion places and constantly changing.

So, too, are planes of existence regarded as the Downfall, the Great Waste, Niraya. For once having fallen, there is often no clear cut way out. Eventually, it is one's skillful, wholesome, and profitable (kusala) karma coming to fruition that one is released. Negative influences may, however, not yet be exhausted and could continue to play themselves out. The human world is a mixed realm, where one experiences the fruit of both moderately skillful and unskillful actions willed and carried out in the past.

The Christian conception is an amalgamation and should be understood as grossly oversimplified. But it is this oversimplification of things that makes this religious tradition so compelling and popular. Few people want the details; we are satisfied with outlines writ large. Christianity (particularly as it became an offshoot of Judaism and as it morphed into an official Church in Roman Catholicism) has borrowed a great deal from Mahayana Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Egyptian tradition, and of course Paganism (pre-Christian European beliefs). "Hell" is not unique to any one of these traditions.