Thursday, September 14, 2017

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]

Another one also said:

"Examine whether or not you have previously created the conditions for being born in these miserable realms, whether or not you are currently creating them, whether or not you would consider creating them in the future. Since you will go there if you have created them, are creating them, or would consider creating them, think, 'If I am bom there, what will I do then; will I be able to do anything?' With your head pounding, or like a man struggling in the desert, consider that there will be absolutely nothing you can do, and develop as much fear and dread as possible."[2]

The more frightened we become when contemplating the three lower realms, the better it is, because that would make us really wish to escape samsara and take refuge in Amida Buddha, our Compassionate Protector:

"Saying, 'Who will protect me
From this great terror?'
I will stare, aghast,
And search all around for a refuge.

Seeing no refuge anywhere,
I will be completely dejected.
If there is no refuge there,
What will I do?

Thus, from today, I go for refuge
To the Conqueror, Protector of living beings,
The one who strives to rescue living beings,
The Mighty One who dispels all fear."[3]

If we do not contemplate on the sufferings of samsara and take refuge in Amida Buddha to stop the causes of being reborn there, while we are still living in this human body, it would be extremely difficult to do that when we fall in the three lower realms where we do not have the capacities and conditions to hear or understand the Dharma. As Bodhisattva Nagarjuna advised:

"Reflect daily on the hells,
Both those extremely hot and cold.
Reflect also on the hungry ghosts
Emaciated by hunger and thirst.
Observe and reflect on the animals
Overcome by the suffering of stupidity.

A human body in this world is difficult to obtain.
Once you have it, diligently stop
The causes of miserable rebirths".



[1] The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 173
[2] Yeshe Bar 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. 174
[3] Bodhisattva - caryavatara by Shantideva, as quoted in 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. 175

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