Articles

Practical Companion – 15

HOT HELLS

In the scriptures, hot hells are places filled with intense fire and heat. Unlike cold hells, hot hells are characterized by “movements”. A being who is born into this painful existence will immediately recognize his dire situations, then involuntarily he will think, “I hope nothing else comes to harm me.” The moment this thought appears, many fearful tormentor spirits will be conjured and they will start chasing him.”

I find the above commentary in the scripture very insightful. As explained in post 14, we can contemplate this topic literally if we cannot imagine the psychological implications. But in this case, the psychological interpretation can be meaningful. The commentary seems to hint that one’s tormentors are triggered by our inner fear. And that inner fear is triggered by an unpleasant environment. Moreover, this environment is not physical but psychological as well! (hell beings do not have a physical body but only a manifestation body)

Once we understand that hell is a creation of our minds, we should become acutely aware that falling into such a dire state is no longer a fairy tale. Are there times when we imagine ourselves in danger or falsely believe that our environment is hostile? I am not referring to physical life-threatening danger but psychological hostility. A state of mental anxiety that is caused by our unfounded fear that everyone is out to harm us.

If we suffer from such anxiety, then life can be a living hell. We imagine enemies at every turn. Every casual remark or comment made by others seems like a razor-sharp blade cutting at our ego. We are constantly flustered and angry with our external environment. Everything seems to be on fire and we cannot stay in one place for long.

When we understand this topic in this manner, hell may be more relatable. However, the scriptures state that the torment is excruciatingly painful. It is very graphic. For example, the scripture narrates about one being hacked or sawn into halves by one’s tormentor. The ground is like a hot iron plate and the air is burning hot.

Another passage in the scripture that I found relatable is as follows: in this hell, one will see and hear their beloved one calling out to them. Without a second thought, one would rush toward his/her beloved without realizing that the ground is covered by razor blades and hooks. Consequently, one is terribly hurt by the time he reaches his beloved. Unfortunately, his beloved disappear immediately and reappear some distance away. I won’t be explaining this passage but shall leave it to your own interpretation.

In summary, the hot hells are characterized by a state of constant fear and agitation, one’s surrounding is burning hot and one is tormented by tortures of being “cut” up. The purpose of contemplating hell is to inspire a sense of dread in us, the dread of staying in Samsara.

As long as we are in Samsara, there is always a risk of us falling into such a painful existence. Therefore, it is best for us to treasure this impermanent human life and practice the Dharma diligently.

May all be well and happy.

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