Buddha and Hell


Suppose we ask where the Buddha is, and where hell is. Some sutras state that hell is below the earth, while others state that the Pure Land of Buddhas is in the west. But the explicit truth is that both hell and Buddha exist within five feet of our bodies. It probably can be said that hell exists in one’s mind when he despises his father and neglects his mother. As the seed of the lotus brings forth its root and flower, we have the Buddha in our minds.

(Background : January 5, 1281, 58 years old, at Minobu, Showa Teihon, p. 1856)

Explanatory note

We, Buddhists, sometimes wonder where the Buddha is and where hell is. When we look back upon the past, we have experienced the various states of joy and anger, happiness and sadness from one moment to another. These various states are divided into ten realms of living beings in Buddhism. They are : the realms of hell, hungry spirit, animal, asura (shura), man, heavenly being, sravaka (shomon), Pratyekabuddha (engaku), Bodhisattva, and

Our minds are sometimes calm, and it appears that we are one step closer to the Pure Land of Buddha, but in the next moment, our minds would change to the realm of asura or hungry spirit. In short, we may think that we live peacefully, but we may be at the gate of the terrible hell.

We will find a light of truth when we overcome our suffering and hardship. Our aspiration to attain Buddhahood and fear of falling into hell will force us to find the true meaning of our life.

In other words, hell does not exist anywhere but in our minds. The mind that is so filled with anger, evil desires, and complaints is the same mind with which we aspire for Buddhahood.

Nichiren Daishonin saw suffering people who were trembling with fear and despair. These people thought there was no hope in this world and wished to escape from that reality. They dreamed of going to the Pure Land of the Amida Buddha, a place which they had never seen before. Looking at this, Nichiren taught them that they had the wrong faith and that they should seek the Buddha’s enlightened world in this real Saha-world. This was his compassionate way to lead us to the true teaching of the Buddha Sakyamuni.

We are easily moved by a religion that claims to remove our misfortune or sufferings and to take us to an imaginative heaven. However, Nichiren teaches us that there is no other place if we are not relieved of our suffer ings in this real world. How can we receive Buddha’s compassion and find true peace and happiness? He says that it is only by polishing our minds.

Rev. Matsuda

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