Showing posts with label BUDDHIST COSMOLOGY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BUDDHIST COSMOLOGY. Show all posts

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Samsara is suffering - description and contemplation of the suffering of the six realms of samsaric existence

This article is the 4th part of the teaching series
The Four Profound Thoughts that Turn the Mind Toward the Dharma

The Wheel of Life representing all
the Six Realms of Samsaric Existence
 Tannisho, "it is hard for us to abandon this old home of pain, where we have been transmigrating for innumerable kalpas down to the present". Our minds are conditioned by our habitual karma from beginingless time to think that we can find hapiness and fulfilement in the samsaric states of existence, and so we continue to project false images of beauty to various objects of desire and make ourselves dependent on them. However, if we look more deeply at samsaric existence with eyes influenced by the Buddha Dharma we come to realize that everything, from the worlds of the gods, to the hell realms, is nothing but an ocean of suffering and insatisfaction. This awareness, as well as the previous three profound thoughts, will naturaly lead us to the only wish that worths something - to go out, to escape samsara and to attain the state of Buddhahood for us and all beings, including our dear ones.
As Shinran said in

In order to help us become aware of the painful reality of the samsaric existence and to make us desire to escape from it, Shakyamuni Buddha and all the Masters of our lineage and other lineages put great efforts in describing the six planes of existence:

Concluding thoughts on the suffering of samsaric existence

Article connected to this collection of teachings:
of the suffering of the six realms of samsaric existence 


As we have seen in the description of the six realms, there is absolutely no place in samsara without suffering. Everything is a cause for suffering, everything is multyplying suffering, and everything, even the intoxicating pleasures of the gods, contain the seed of suffering.

"Beings in hell suffer from hell-fire,
Pretas suffer from hunger and thirst,
Animals suffer from being eaten by each other,
Humans suffer from having a short life,
Asuras suffer from wars and quarrels,
And the gods suffer from their own mindlessness.
In samsara there is never a pinpoint of happiness."[1]

Concluding thoughts on the suffering of the lower realms


Article connected to first three parts of this collection of teachings:

The hells, preta and animal realms are called the three lower realms, where suffering is more intense than in the rest of the six planes of existence. We must not only read about the various pain and suffering in the lower realms, but deeply contemplate on them until we become fully aware of their reality and that we too have a great chance to be reborn there. A master of the past once said:

 "At present it is difficult to endure sitting for merely a single day with my hand stuck in burning coals, or to remain naked for that long in a cave of ice during the winter winds, or to go for a few days without food and drink, or for my body to be stung by a bee and the like. If even these are difficult to endure, how will I bear the sufferings of the hot hells, the cold hells, the hungry ghosts, or the animals devouring each other alive?"[1]

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Contemplating the suffering of the gods


   
Six heavens of the World of Desire from the Wheel of Life
The gods (devas) experience the most pleasure, health and comfort among all the beings of samsara. Also, the higher their plane of existence, the longer is their lifespan and the happiness they enjoy. However, they also meet with some specific types of suffering which I will explain after I describe in short, each deva realm.

In the World of Desire (Kamadhatu), there are six classes of gods with their specific realms.

The first realm is the Heaven of the Four Kings (Caturmaharaja), which are located on four cardinal points of the Mount Sumeru: 1) East: Dhrtarastra, 2) South: Virudhaka, 3) West: Virūpāksa, 4) North: Vaisravana. Each of these divine rulers has their own following of  Caturmaharajakayika gods.
As Master Genshin explained, “one day and night in the realm of the Four Kings is as long as fifty years of human life, and life in the realm of the Four Kings lasts five hundred years”.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Contemplating the suffering of human beings


           
the Human Realm from the Wheel of Life
As I previously explained in the first section, life in human form is most desirable and does not contain the extreme pain of hells, pretas and animal realms. However, humans have their own difficulties and specific sufferings. Generaly speaking, these are called the Eight Sufferings, namely, birth, old age, disease, death, encountering what is unpleasant, separation from what is pleasant, not getting what one wants and the suffering associated with the five aggregates (skandas). Some of these appear in other realms of existence too, but here I will explain them in relation with the human realm.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Contemplating the suffering of asuras (demi-gods)

           
Realm of Asuras from the Wheel of Life
As Master Genshin explained, the realm of Asuras is divided into two parts: 1. “the creatures of this realm which are fundamentally superior live at the bottom of the great sea north of Mount Sumeru”, and 2. “the inferior creatures of this realm dwell among the rocks of the high mountains which lie between the four great continents”.      

Although they experience various pleasures and abundance which are far superior to those of humans, and even rival those of the gods, they are constantly tormented by anger, jealousy, quarreling and fighting. Beings in the human realm who are more spiritually advanced than others, but who strongly manifest these characteristics will be born among the Asuras.

In their own realm, Asuras divide themselves in various groups and territories and fight never ending wars, while also, because they envy the pleasures of the lower realms of the gods, start useless conflicts with them, which they eventually lose.

Bodhisattva Nagarjuna said:

"Also, the demigods, by their very nature, experience great
mental suffering
Because of their hatred of the splendor of the deities.
Though they are intelligent, they do not see the truth
Because of the mental obscurations characteristic of this realm
of rebirth."[1]

In some texts, the realm of Asuras is counted among the lower gods, because of the pleasures found there, or among the lower realms, together with hells, animals, and pretas, because of the pain they inflict to themselves.

In conclusion, life as an Asura is a pitiful one – filled as it is with joys and pleasures more than a human can imagine, but not being capable to enjoy it due to envy and conflicts.





[1] Letter to a Friend, as quoted in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 292-293

Friday, September 1, 2017

Contemplating the suffering of animals

Animal realm from the Wheel of Life
Bodhisattva Vasubandhu states:

“As for the animals, they have three places, the land, the water, and the air. Their principal place is the Great Ocean; the animals that are elsewhere are the surplus of the animals”[1].

Master Genshin also explains:

“The realm of animals is divided into two parts. The chief place is in the great sea, and branches are interspersed in the realms of humans and heavenly beings” .

a) Animals living in the Great Ocean
In the Buddhist cosmology, the great ocean or sea is the immeasurable extant of salt water which surrounds the four continents inhabited by humans and the Mount Sumeru[2]. In that place there are many type of animals, some of which many times bigger than those living in our human continent of Jambudvipa. Some of them are born between the continents where there is no sunlight and where they cannot see even their own bodies. Their suffering comes mainly from eating each other, the bigger ones swallowing up the little ones, while they themselves are inhabited by tiny little creatures who feed on their flesh.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Contemplating the suffering of hungry ghosts (pretas)

Preta realms from the Wheel of Life
The realms of the pretas are to be found in two places: one is bellow Jambudvipa (our realm of human beings[1]), which is their main place of existence and is ruled by King Yama, and the other is between the realm of humans and the realms of the gods. Master Vasubandhu explains:

“The king of the pretas is called Yama; his residence, which is the principal dwelling of the pretas, is located under Jambudvipa. The pretas that are found elsewhere are the surplus of the pretas. The pretas differ much one from another; certain of them possess supernatural powers and enjoy a glory similar to that of the gods”.[2] 

            There are two kinds of pretas: 1) pretas who live collectively, and 2) pretas who travel through space.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Contemplating the suffering of hell beings

 There are eight hot hells and eight cold hells. According to Shakyamuni, and various Buddhist masters who explained them, these eight hells have their own adjacent or neighboring hells (utsadas[1]): 

“There are eight hells there that I have revealed, difficult to get out of, full of cruel beings, each having sixteen utsadas; they have four walls and four gates; they are as high as they are wide; they are encircled by walls of fire; their ceiling is fire; their sun is burning, sparkling fire; and they are filled with flames hundreds of yojanas  high.”[2]

Saturday, February 11, 2017

On the powerful pretas (hungry spirits) who wish to dominate other beings through religion


“Those who take refuge truly and wholeheartedly, freeing themselves from all delusional attachments and all concern with the propitious or unpropitious, must never take refuge in spirits or non-Buddhist teachings.”[1]

Unenlightened beings are the karmic cause for the existence of unenlightened samsaric realms. Their individual and collective karma actually manifested the realms, worlds and universes in which they live. Contrary to this, Enlightened beings or Buddhas, naturaly and karmically manifest Pure Lands or Enlightened realms. If a so called "supreme being" created a world like ours that means he is not enlightened, because if he was enlightened this world would have been perfect and inhabitted by perfectly enlightened beings. Amida Buddha (and any Buddha!) does not pretend to be the creator of this samsaric world, but only of His enlightened Pure Land, where He vowed to bring all samsaric beings for their final liberation (attainment of Buddhahood/Nirvana).

Friday, November 25, 2016

Some elements of Buddhist cosmology


the wheel of samsara with various realms
of existence
Recent discussions with various readers convinced me that it would be very useful to have a single paper in which to gather my most important articles on Buddhist cosmology. So, I made this pdf format for free distribution -  Some Elements of Buddhist Cosmology.

Most of the articles in this presentation are from the first part of my book, The True Teaching on Amida Buddha and His Pure Land, but some, like number 5 and 6 were published only on this website. 

The presentation contains the following chapters:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A question and answer on samsaric realms and the Pure Land


Question:
If the Pure Land actually exists as real place, that means that the hellish realms and other samsaric places exist literally as well - as a result of our collective karma, as you said in your book. So I would like to know your thoughts about this: if the Pure Land is not symbolic and exists in a specific place (like to the west), does that mean that places such as hells also exist literally in specific places outside of our minds? 

Answer:
Yes, the hells exist specifically as places outside of our minds, too, but they exist because of the minds of those who have a hellish karma. The realm we are living in now exists outside of our minds too, because, as we see, we have these bodies, we have mountains, oceans, forests, etc, I can look to you and you can look to me (there is nothing mythological or symbolic or fictional in this), but in the same time, it exists because of our minds and our karma. My mind, your mind, plus all the other minds of human beings and their karma are the causes for such a human place to exist. The mind streams of beings need their vehicles, and so the worlds and bodies come into existence due to the individual and collective karma of various mind-streams.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Two questions on Buddha nature and Samsara


I received a few questions from my readers in relation to my last articles, “Some Buddhist explanations on the origin and existence of the universe” and “There is no supreme creator god in the Buddha Dharma”. Here are two of them (reformulated) and my short answer:


Question 1: “Where the Buddha nature within us originally came from?”
Question 2: “When the process of self-delusion or suffering started in the first place and why?”

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Some Buddhist explanations on the origin and existence of the universe


Regard this phantom world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud
A flickering lamp — a phantom — and a dream.
Shakyamuni Buddha

( read my previous article in the same category,  “There is no supreme creator god in the Buddha Dharma”)

If Buddhism denies the idea of a creator-god, then how it explains the existence of the various worlds and universes?

First of all, when it refers to worlds and universes, the Buddha Dharma explaines them as places of rebirth, or Samsaric realms. Thus, they are inhabited by unenlightened beings in various stages of spiritual evolution or involution. As far as I know, most of the monotheists give the following argument  in the support of their belief in a supreme creator-god: “if you see a house in a field you ask yourself who built it. In the same way, this complex world is the creation of our god. Anything that exists has a creator”. This is the basis of their belief system, but for Buddhists the matter is wrongly addressed here. Yes, indeed, everything has a creator, but not in the way the monotheists think. I would rather say, every dream has a creator – the dreamer. And who is the dreamer? It is us – the unenlightened beings with our specific individual karma, but also with the collective karma or the karmic connections we create among us.  

Monday, February 9, 2015

There is no supreme creator-god in the Buddha Dharma


           
Buddha (right) preaching the Truth to Baka Brahma (left)
who had the illusion that he is supreme in the world
I am very much worried that nowadays, many people from inside or outside the Sangha spread the idea that Shakyamuni Buddha did not deny nor affirmed the existence of God. Thus, they somehow imply that the World Honored One left the door open for interpretation and that it is ok for a Buddhist disciple to believe in a Creator or supreme God.

Well, this is a great delusion and a falsification of Shakyamuni’s teaching. In fact, the Buddha clearly denied the existence of a supreme being who created the world, rules the world and will one day judge the world. In this short article and others that will soon follow, I do not have the intention to enter into any debate or polemics with followers of other religions on the existence or non-existence of such a supreme being, but just to prove that Shakyamuni Buddha clearly denied this view and considered it a false and dangerous illusion. For me the most important thing is not what monotheistic religions say, or if some chose to believe in a creator god (its their choice), but what the Buddha actually said and preached. So, if we consider ourselves to be His diciples, we ought to know His position on this topic and follow it faithfully.  

It is well known that among the many religious and philosophical traditions that were contemporary with the Buddha, the idea of a supreme being who created and sustains the world was well known and shared by many. This is exactly why, He did not kept silence, but preached against it.