Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/16/2019

Niraya

I don’t know if I always believed in Heaven and Hell but I do know I was disposed to have faith from the time I was very young. My family was both Irish and Italian so, despite the fact that we weren’t practicing, the Church always loomed large in the background. In fact, I recall being my parents to take me to Church on more than just the holidays and I regarded the priests ad if they were B-list celebrities. Even after I finished grad school I recall being a waiter at a restaurant and being excited to serve a priest. So, faith and reverence have been there from the start.

Perhaps that’s why, one I saw that all of the other parts of the Dhamma bore fruit, I really began to believe in rebirth and the different realms of existence. And yet, despite this deep belief, my sila is still imperfect. I’ve been thinking a lot again about the niraya and thought it might be good to share the words of the Lord Buddha that we may all reflect on where we are likely headed if we don’t take control of our lives and direct them beyond the kilesas.

“Then the hell-wardens torture [the evil-doer] with what’s called a five-fold imprisonment. They drive a red-hot iron stake through one hand, they drive a red-hot iron stake through the other hand, they drive a red-hot iron stake through one foot, they drive a red-hot iron stake through the other foot, they drive a red-hot iron stake through the middle of his chest. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Then the hell-wardens lay him down and slice him with axes. Then they hold him feet up & head down and slice him with adzes. Then they harness him to a chariot and drive him back & forth over ground that is burning, blazing, & glowing. Then they make him climb up & down a vast mountain of embers that is burning, blazing, & glowing. Then they hold him feet up & head down and plunge him into a red-hot copper cauldron that is burning, blazing, & glowing. There he boils with bubbles foaming. And as he is boiling there with bubbles foaming, he goes now up, he goes now down, he goes now around. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted. [4]

“Then the hell-wardens throw him into the Great Hell. And as to the Great Hell, monks:

It’s four-cornered & has four gates
set in the middle of each side.
It’s surrounded by an iron fortress wall
and roofed with iron.
Its floor is made of red-hot iron,
heated, fully blazing.
It stands always, spreading 100 leagues all around.

“The flame that leaps from the eastern wall of the Great Hell strikes the western wall. The flame that leaps from the western wall strikes the eastern wall. The flame that leaps from the northern wall strikes the southern wall. The flame that leaps from the southern wall strikes the northern wall. The flame that leaps from the bottom strikes the top. The flame that leaps from the top strikes the bottom. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“There comes a time when, ultimately, with the passing of a long stretch of time, the eastern gate of the Great Hell opens. He runs there, rushing quickly. As he runs there, rushing quickly, his outer skin burns, his inner skin burns, his flesh burns, his tendons burn, even his bones turn to smoke. When [his foot] is lifted, he is the just same. [5] But when he finally arrives, the door slams shut. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“There comes a time when, ultimately, with the passing of a long stretch of time, the western gate of the Great Hell opens… the northern gate… the southern gate of the Great Hell opens. He runs there, rushing quickly. As he runs there, rushing quickly, his outer skin burns, his inner skin burns, his flesh burns, his tendons burn, even his bones turn to smoke. When [his foot] is lifted, he is the just same. But when he finally arrives, the door slams shut. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“There comes a time when, ultimately, with the passing of a long stretch of time, the eastern gate of the Great Hell opens. He runs there, rushing quickly. As he runs there, rushing quickly, his outer skin burns, his inner skin burns, his flesh burns, his tendons burn, even his bones turn to smoke. When [his foot] is lifted, he is the just same. He gets out through the gate. But right next to the Great Hell is a vast Excrement Hell. He falls into that. And in that Excrement Hell needle-mouth beings bore into his outer skin. Having bored into his outer skin, they bore into his inner skin… his flesh… his tendons… the bone. Having bored into the bone, they feed on the marrow. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Right next to the Excrement Hell is the vast Hot Ashes Hell. He falls into that. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Right next to the Hot Ashes Hell is the vast Simbali Forest, [with trees] reaching up a league, covered with thorns sixteen fingerbreadths long — burning, blazing, & glowing. He enters that and is made to climb up & down them. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Right next to the Simbali Forest is the vast Sword-leaf Forest. He enters that. There the leaves, stirred by the wind, cut off his hand, cut off his foot, cut off his hand & foot, cut off his ear, cut off his nose, cut off his ear & nose. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Right next to the Sword-leaf Forest is the vast Lye-water River. He falls into that. There he is swept downstream, he is swept upstream, he is swept downstream & upstream. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Then the hell-wardens pull him out with a hook and, placing him on the ground, say to him, ‘Well, good man, what do you want?’ He replies, ‘I’m hungry, venerable sirs.’ So the hell-wardens pry open his mouth with red-hot iron tongs — burning, blazing, & glowing — and throw into it a copper ball, burning, blazing, & glowing. It burns his lips, it burns his mouth, it burns his stomach and comes out the lower side, carrying along his bowels & intestines. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Then the hell-wardens say to him, ‘Well, good man, what do you want?’ He replies, ‘I’m thirsty, venerable sirs.’ So the hell-wardens pry open his mouth with red-hot iron tongs — burning, blazing, & glowing — and pour into it molten copper, burning, blazing, & glowing. It burns his lips, it burns his mouth, it burns his stomach and comes out the lower side, carrying along his bowels & intestines. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Then the hell-wardens throw him back into the Great Hell once more. [6]

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/15/2019

Happy Uposatha – Recollection of Death

This morning as I was considering what meditation subject I should take up I stumbled across the following:

https://insig.ht/0bEs4ehJaZ

I have listened to it before but, despite the restlessness of the mind, I really felt that it was important for me to get this right now. This body will end in death; it will not go beyond it. And yet, I live and act as if I were immortal.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the more I train this body through exercise, martial arts and fasting, the more fascinated with and attached to it I seem to become. I don’t intend to stop my routine but wisdom is seriously lacking. I hope through maranassati and patikulamanasikara I can get a grip on this craving and grasping after the physical form so that I don’t waste my life cultivating a pile of flesh that will quickly rot away when life departs.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/13/2019

Wake Up!

May we wake up from this fever dream of limitless growth and endless consumption.

May we awaken to the truth of impermanence, inconstancy and death.

May we not squander our lives in pursuit of baubles and trifles.

https://insig.ht/PrRBgiQm7Y

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/10/2019

A Letter to a Friend — Epistle 1

Thanks for meditating with me last night — it’s always better in company than solo. I hope we can make this a regular thing and since you had mentioned pain you may always want to switch up your sitting styles. For years I used the seiza position which is shown here:
I still sometimes switch from half-lotus or burmese (cross legs with right on  floor in front of left) to seiza during longer retreats. Regardless, the form is meant to keep you alert, not as a form of torture (as attractive as that can be sometimes ). Since you asked last night about what I was chanting before the sit, here are what I consider to me the absolute fundamentals:
Namô Tassa Bhagavatô Arahatô Sammâ-Sambuddhassa (3x)
Homage to Him, the Blessed One, the Exalted One, the Fully Enlightened One.

Buddham Saranam Gacchâmi.
Dhammam Saranam Gacchâmi.
Sangham Saranam Gacchâmi.
Dutiyampi Buddham Saranam Gacchâmi.
Dutiyampi Dhammam Saranam Gacchâmi.
Dutiyampi Sangham Saranam Gacchâmi.
Tatiyampi Buddham Saranarn Gacchâmi.
Tatiyampi Dhammam Saranam Gacchâmi.
Tatiyampi Sangham Saranam Gacchâmi.

I go to the Buddha as my refuge.
I go to the Dhamma – The Teachings, as my Refuge.
I go to the Sangha – The Community, as my Refuge.
For the second time I go to the Buddha as my Refuge.
For the second time I go to the Dhamma – The Teachings, as my Refuge.
For the second time I go to the Sangha – The Community, as my Refuge.
For the third time I go to the Buddha as my Refuge.
For the third time I go to the Dhamma – The Teachings, as my Refuge.
For the third time I go to the Sangha – The Community, as my Refuge.

Pânâtipâtâ Veramani Sikkhâpadam Samâdiyâmi.
Adinnâdânâ Veramani Sikkhâpadam Samâdiyâmi.
Kâmesu Micchâcârâ Veramani Sikkhâpadam Samâdiyâmi.
Musâvâdâ Veramani Sikkhâpadam Samâdiyâmi.
Surâ Mêraya Majja Pamâdatthânâ Verami Sikkhâpadam Samâdiyâmi
Imâni Panca Sikkhâpadâni Samâdiyâmi (3x)

I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from destroying living beings.
I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from taking things not given.
I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct.
I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from false speech.
I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from liquor causing intoxication and heedlessness.
I undertake to observe the Five Precepts to the best of my ability.(3x)

Iti pi so Bhagavâ-Araham Sammâ-sambuddho.
Vijjâ-carana sampanno Sugato Lokavidû Anuttarro
Purisa-damma-sârathi Satthâ deva-manussânam
Buddho Bhagavâti

Translation – Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Svâkkhato Bhagavatâ Dhammo Sanditthiko Akâliko Ehi-passiko Opanâyiko Paccattam
veditabbo viññuhiti.

Translation – Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and how; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.

Supati-panno Bhagavato sâvaka sangho, Ujupati-panno Bhagavato sâvaka sangho.
Ñâya-patipanno Bhagavato sâvaka sangho. Sâmici-patipanno Bhagavato sâvaka sangho
Yadidam cattâri purisa yugâni attha-purisa-puggalâ Esa Bhagavato sâvaka sangho.
Âhu-neyyo, pâhu-neyyo, Dakkhi-neyyo,añjalikaraniyo, anuttaram puññakkhetam lokassâti

Translation – Homage to the Disciples of the Buddha
The Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples has entered on the good way; the Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples has entered on the straight way; the Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples has entered on the proper way, that is to say; the Four Pairs of Men, the Eight Types of Persons; the Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples is fit for gifts, fit for hospitality, fit for offerings, and fit for reverential salutation, as the incomparable field of merit for the world.

I’m sorry if that seems long but it’s really quick. Anyway, you can take it or leave it but it has become really valuable and inspiring to me over the years just as the dedication of merit at the end has.

I have to say that I admire your strength and commitment to healing yourself and your family. It is honestly something I’ve never seen before and you should know how inspiring that is (and, yes, I’m sure you don’t feel inspiring). I know you’re going to be fine and, most likely, are going to come out the other side of this mess a more compassionate, wise and absolutely indomitable woman. Let me know if we’re on for tonight and here’s another bhikkhu’s approach to metta if you’re interested:
Mettacittena.
Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/08/2019

Happy Uposatha – Let Me Get That for You

One of the little practices that I try to undertake everyday (with sporadic success) is to pick up and throw out at least five pieces of garbage every day. Why do I do this? To show concern for our shared environment I suppose because I know that it doesn’t really make one iota of difference when I throw something in a can – it will be buried or thrown into a heap somewhere anyways. Still, I do it as an act of love for the place and the beings living here.

With that thought in mind, why is it that I’m so hesitant to clean up the common area of my apartment building? Rather than mutter to myself about how wasteful and irresponsible the packs of NYU kids are who move in and out en masse each semester, why can’t I just pick it up for them or, more precisely, for me? There’s this false sense that somehow I’m allowing an injustice to be committed and I’m abetting those responsible but how silly is that? If I have any desire to help others, let alone myself, why do I let such childish ideas take up space in my mind?

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/07/2019

Why Not?

Why won’t I breathe my last today? Why won’t I never see my children’s faces again? Why won’t I never see another sunset with these eyes? Why is it so easy to believe that this life, this body will go on without limit?

How many people wake up on the morning of their death and contemplate its possibility? How many of us die in car accidents, of strokes, of gunshots without having ever really considered the inescapable fact of death?

Why won’t our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and spouses die today? When thousands die every minute, why do we think we’re immortal? Why do we believe our loved ones are beyond the reach of death? Death may come for any of us today and if you tell me not to be morbid I’ll ask you this: why not?

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/06/2019

What Is Failure?

I failed again, egregiously, but what use is crippling guilt when the kamma I have made will ripen inexorably? There is the feeling of having sullied myself – from that I cannot escape. But once the initial paroxyms of remorse have passed what is the use of propping up this idea of a bad self?

These are actual questions. I am trying to draw the line between owning my actions and not creating a new self based upon them. I see where I stumbled and I intend to act differently although I cannot be certain of the outcome.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/02/2019

Perhaps

My habit of judging others and secretly considering myself as somehow better has come into clearer focus lately. It was recently divulged that one spouse in a married couple with whom my family is good friends had been carrying on an affair. Naturally, all “good” friends have rushed to take the betrayed’s side. And, although I, too, want to offer support to the harmed I have suddenly found myself unable to form a feeling of ill-will towards the cheater.

Perhaps it’s the realization that I have committed the same wrongs in this life and those previous. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have the full context and never will. Perhaps it’s because my judgement and criticism is meaningless to anyone but myself; the only harm or good or will do is ultimately to myself. And, what good is aversion towards our mother beings in any case?

Perhaps I’ve managed to grab hold of a small pearl of wisdom. It’s certain, however, that I should do my best to burnish and polish it while guarding r mettā in my heart as if it were my only child.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/02/2019

A Perfect Partner

May I rejoice in the fact that I have the perfect partner to practice patience and unrequited kindness.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 07/31/2019

Ratthapala

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