Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Everything is burning!" (video)

Drrian, Seven, Hamilton, Wisdom Quarterly (Fire Sermon, SN 35.28 abbreviated)
Then there are the hot hells (narakas, nirayas).

What really "burns"
The Buddha said: "Everything is burning! What is the 'everything' that is burning?

"The eye [and other bases of consciousness -- ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind] is burning.

"Visible forms are burning. Consciousness born at the eye [ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind] is burning. Contact born at the eye is burning.

"And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the eye -- whether experienced as pleasure, pain, or neither-pleasure-nor-pain -- that too is burning.

"Burning with what is it burning?

"It is burning with the fire of passion (greed, lust, craving), the fire of aversion (hate, fear, revulsion), the fire of delusion (wrong view, ignorance, confusion).

"It is burning, I tell you, with birth, aging, and death, with sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, distress, and despair!" (The Fire Sermon, SN 35.28)

() In dry years, fires cost billions of dollars and often result in lost lives. QUEST goes inside the California fire season, looking at how the history of human fire suppression is actually feeding today's danger.

Then there are the hot purgatories
  • Sañjīva - the "reviving" hell. where the ground is made of hot iron heated by an immense fire. Beings here appear fully grown, already in a state of fear and misery. As soon as one begins to fear being harmed, others appear and attack with iron claws. Or the attendants of the King of the Dead appear and attack with fiery weapons. Going unconscious as if dead, they are suddenly restored by karma to full health and attacked again. Other tortures experienced here include being splashed with molten metal, being sliced to pieces, and suffering from the oppressive heat. The lifespan here is not "eternal" but may as well be. In human years it can reach 1.62×1012 years. It is said to be 1000 spans beneath Jambudvīpa [likely a reference to the Earth rather than just the subcontinent] and 10,000 spans in each direction.
  • Kālasūtra - the "black thread" purgatory. Here, in addition to the torments mentioned above, black lines are drawn upon the body. And the King of Death's servants cut beings along these lines with fiery saws and sharp axes. Life here is 1.296×1013 years.
  • Saṃghāta - the "crushing" purgatory. Also founded on hot iron, it is surrounded by huge masses of rock that smash together and crush the beings into a bloody jelly. When the rocks part again, karma restores life and the process begins again. The lifespan here is 1.0368×1014 years.
  • Raurava - the "screaming" purgatory. Here beings run wildly about, looking for refuge from the burning ground. When they find any apparent shelter, they are locked inside screaming it as it blazes around them. Life here is 8.2944×1014 years.
  • Mahāraurava - the "piercing" purgatory. The karmic results experienced here are for people who maintain their own body by hurting others. In this hell, ruru animals known as kravyāda torment them and eat their flesh. Lifespans are 6.63552×1015 years.
  • Tapana - the "heating" purgatory. Here the King of Death's servants impale beings on a fiery spear until flames issue from their noses and mouths. Lifespans are 5.308416×1016 years.
  • Pratāpana - the "great heating" purgatory. The torments here are similar to Tapana, but beings are pierced with a bloody trident. Lifespans are 4.2467328×1017 years. It is also said to last for the length of half an indeterminate aeon (antara kalpa).
  • Avīci - the "uninterrupted" purgatory. Beings are roasted in an immense blazing oven. Lifespans here are 3.39738624×1018 years. It is also said to last for the entire length of an indeterminate aeon.

These worlds by no means exhaust the tale of possible places of suffering. Some sources describe 500 or even hundreds of thousands of different worlds. In later Chinese Buddhist texts, the numbers and types of miserable worlds were elaborated in a variety of creative ways. (See Di Yu for examples).

The types of suffering of the denizens here often resemble those of the hungry ghosts (pretas), and the two types of being are easily confused. The simplest distinction is that denizens are confined to their subterranean worlds, whereas ghosts wander.

Are they real?
Wisdom Quarterly (COMMENTARY)

There is no "hell fire and brimstone" Buddhism. But these descriptions suggest that Christianity did not invent these worlds out of thin air. Another theory speculates that just as Christian (Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) monastics and priests wanted to scare adherents into behaving, so too Buddhist monks, nuns, and scholars may have been similarly motivated. No doubt such worlds exist at least as metaphors, attempts to describe the grief, hopelessness, and suffering humans think is tantamount to the suffering they experience at the hands of others. There are definitely subterranean caverns, Deep Underground Military Bases (DUMBs), inhabited by reptoids (nagas), giants (titans, "demons," asuras), and ogres (yakkhas). But even with tangible evidence and first hand reports, we dismiss the entire idea out of hand. From at least the time of the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Sumerians, the worlds "mythologies" have included version of this exact same thing. Maybe the Buddha inherited Indus Valley Civilization and Vedic lore and simply utilized it as skillful means to teach. Perhaps a better question for commentators is, Do we believe these worlds exist? We do. They are not eternal, they are not accidental, and although they are exponentially worse than the karmic "courses of conduct" that lead to them by rebirth, they are not "unfair." Our teacher Bhikkhu Bodhi, on the other hand, reasonably suggests that they, along with the remaining 31 Planes of Existence, are metaphorical.

The devas or Greek "gods" imprisoned the titans ("demons") underground in a mountain. Should they ever be unleashed or break free, it would mean human devestation.

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