You make your Hell, you are your greatest tormentor, guilt will bury into the very marrow of your being, and will take lifetimes to completely root up. But how did Hell occur? How would one be headed for Hell?
Headed for Hell, according to the Aṅguttara Nikāya (AN4.85) are those that engage in bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, & mental misconduct. In this text, it includes that those people are reborn in the Hell realms upon breakdown of the body. I would add that they may already have been reborn in the Hell realms long before the breakdown of the body, as it’s conventionally understood. Since the body is constantly being broken down. This is where different interpretations of rebirth and realms are exercised, but I don’t dismiss any of the interpretations, mine is based on the Dharma and my experiences of the wholesome effect of using the interpretation (explained earlier in the series) in my daily life, which is what Shakyamuni Buddha empowered us to do (AN3.65):
“It is fitting for you to be perplexed, Kālāmas, fitting for you to be in doubt. Doubt has arisen in you about a perplexing matter. Come, Kālāmas, do not go by oral tradition, by lineage of teaching, by hearsay, by a collection of scriptures, by logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view after pondering it, by the seeming competence of a speaker, or because you think: ‘The ascetic is our guru.’ But when, Kālāmas, you know for yourselves: ‘These things are unwholesome; these things are blameworthy; these things are censured by the wise; these things, if accepted and undertaken, lead to harm and suffering,’ then you should abandon them.”
Further in the Aṅguttara Nikāya (AN10.211-4) the misconducts are detailed and broken into 10 parts (10 parts? I’ve heard that one before):
“1. Here, someone destroys life; (s)he is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings.
2. (S)he takes what is not given; steals the wealth and property of others in the village or forest.”
This is a common theme across ethics and moral codes, but remember the stance is that it’s not the law that is the violator’s worst enemy, it’s the Natural Law, themselves but not as themselves. It’s worth noting that 1. does not distinguish between a human life and other living beings.
“3. (S)he engages in sexual misconduct; has sexual relations with men/women who are protected by their mother, father, mother and father, brother, sister, or relatives; who are protected by their Dhamma; who have a husband/wife; whose violation entails a penalty; or even with one already engaged.”
This more serious than modern life will have you believe. The amount of damage, real damage and suffering caused by all kinds of sexual misconduct cannot easily be undone, and usually affect more than the people immediately involved. It’s a violation of love, and if you don’t live in love, you are prone to live in hate, or worse apathy.
“4.She/He speaks falsehood. If he is summoned to a council, to an assembly, to his relatives’ presence, to his guild, or to the court, and questioned as a witness thus: ‘So, good man, tell what you know,’ then, not knowing, he says, ‘I know,’ or knowing, he says, ‘I do not know’; not seeing, he says, ‘I see,’ or seeing, he says, ‘I do not see.’ Thus he consciously speaks falsehood for his own ends, or for another’s ends, or for some trifling worldly end.
5. She/He speaks divisively. Having heard something here, s/he repeats it elsewhere in order to divide those people from these; or having heard something elsewhere, she/he repeats it to these people in order to divide them from those. Thus s/he is one who divides those who are united, a creator of divisions, one who enjoys factions, rejoices in factions, delights in factions, a speaker of words that create factions.”
Notice the subtlety in 4? It’s not just lieing that is flagged up here, “not knowing he says I know” that could be ignorance? And then in 5. this has been used in Modern times to create Hell, and continues to do so.
“6. She/He speaks harshly, uttering such words as are rough, hard, hurtful to others, offensive to others, bordering on anger unconductive to concentration.
7. She/He indulges in idle chatter. She/He speaks at an improper time, speaks falsely, speaks what is unbeneficial, speaks contrary to the Dhamma and the discipline; at an improper time s(he) speaks words as are worthless, unreasonable, rambling and unbeneficial.”
6 and 7 are arguably the most relative of the 10, because what constitutes a harsh, hurtful or especially offensive word to you is not the same as for me, I guarantee it. Similarly, with idle chatter, how idle does the idle chatter need to be to be idle chatter, and what seems worthless or unbeneficial at one time, to one person, may end up being the phrase that brings them to more mindful state later on. If your whole life, you’re yelling plain abuse at everyone and when you’re not, you’re rambling on (therefore disengaging yourself and the other from the present moment) it would not constitute a life whereby you have alleviated as much suffering in oneself and out oneself that you could have, and knowing this makes it all the worse. That being said, these points require further practice and careful, meditative, observation.
“8. She/He is full of longing. He longs for the wealth of and property of others thus: ‘Oh, may what belongs to another be mine’
9. She/He has a mind of ill will and intentions of hate thus: ‘May these beings be slain, slaughtered, cut off, destroyed, or annihilated!’
10. She/He holds wrong view and has an incorrect perspective thus: ‘There is nothing given, nothing sacrificed, nothing offered; there is no fruit or result of good or bad actions; there is no this world, no other world; no mother, no father; there are no beings spontaneously reborn; there are in the world no ascetics and brahmins of right conduct and right practice who, having realised this world and the other world for themselves by direct knowledge, make them known to others.”
The last three point to the 3 poisons (triviṣa), the very things trapping us in the cycle of samsara, the very things that will at some point in our lives be present and maybe even prominent, quite naturally.
The text goes on:
“One possessing these ten qualities is deposited in hell as if brought there.”
This suggests that one would need to engage, and the word possess also suggests frequently engage, in all the above 10 to find himself in a state of Hell. That may seem like a stretch, an impossibility? But, I think, if we are honest, these 10 actions we may have engaged in, or know others to have engaged in, at some point, especially looking at the words and nuances carefully enough. Sure, there are extreme versions of each which you or I haven’t committed, but there are far more subtle versions that could potentially lead us to be deposited in hell as if brought there.
This is no threat, or punishment, for not conforming; these are a list of unwholesome activities that if one were to indulge in, Hell would surely occur.
Thank you for taking the time to visit and read,
Translation of the Anguttara Nikaya by Bhikku Bodhi from the Numerical Discourses of the Buddha