Hell Realms


Genju, at 108 Zen Books, opened an interesting discussion with her post on sin, which also led to the topic of Hell.

You don’t hear to many things about Hell in Buddhism (probably because if you follow even the 5 basic precepts, Hell shouldn’t be a concern, and it’s not used to scare you into going to a temple on Sunday, and worshiping Buddha…) but it is there if you look. It seems to be presented in a very matter-of-fact way, too.

Traveling through South-East Asia, I saw many murals depicting the tortures of hell, butchers, thieves, murders, and other unfortunates, being strung up and impaled with hot pokers, tied up over fires like a pig on a spit, or dipped in a cauldron over a hot fire.

Just outside of Vientiane, in Laos, there is a Buddha Park with a very interesting dome. Inside, there are three levels, depicting the different realms of Hell.

I haven’t come across images like these in Korea (it’s not to say there aren’t any, but I not aware of them if there are…) but nearly every temple I’ve been to, and all the larger ones, have had an image or statue of JiJang Bosal, the green haired monk who vowed to save all the beings in Hell.

Zen Master Seung Sahn came from a Christian (Mormon, I think) background, and probably dealt with his share of opposition on his path. In one of the compilations of his teachings, I remember reading his response to those who told him he was going to Hell… “I’ll go to Hell, make a Zen Center over there!”

It’s nice to know that if I ever do end up in a Hell realm, there will be JiJang Bosal, Seung Sahn DaeSa, along with a few others, there waiting to get me back out!

6 responses »

  1. Whoa! You folks are really getting into this!

    These are wild pictures, Joseph! But it certainly makes the point (pun intended) that there are consequences lines up in every religion to keep us on the path.

  2. Wow, that is eerie!

    We actually used to have another background carving in our old Dharma hall that depicted all levels of existence, and so included the hell realms as well, with a few people getting boiling, cut up with a giant paper cutter, etc.

    This is actually more typical of Korea, in that all realms are there, from those fallen into hell, to the coniving, to the ordinary, to the exceptional, and the Buddhas.

    One of my Dharma sisters said that when she first came here, she always wound up right in front of the guy getting his tongue pulled out. So she guessed that it might be a warning that she needed to pay attention to Right Speech!

    • I used to dream a lot of having my teeth fall out, I looked it up in a dream book written by a woman who spent decades doing research. She suggested a common meaning is that there is too much harmful speech (gossip).

  3. Great photos, Joseph.

    I’ve always loved the quote from ZM Seung Sahn – because it points out the importance of not attaching to our situation.

    If we find ourselves in heaven, build a Zen center.
    If we find ourselves in hell, build a Zen center.

    That’s correct direction!

    • Thank you, Barry.

      “If we find ourselves in heaven, build a Zen center.
      If we find ourselves in hell, build a Zen center.”

      I was going to try to incorporate that one in somehow, but I ran out of steam (rough week between work and Fina!), I’m glad you added it here!

  4. Pingback: how to get out of hell « Wake Up and Laugh!

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