Happy 2017 Dear Readers!
Posted this on the Youtube channel recently while answering a question about Buddhism and Hell:
One thing I regretfully forgot to mention in the video is the influence of Hell “artwork” in medieval Japanese Buddhism.
A long time ago I visited a museum exhibit in Kamakura, Japan featuring a lot of medieval artwork and tapestries found in nearby monasteries. There lots of images of the Hell realms juxtaposed with the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha.
It had a very Dante’s Inferno feel to it but in a Buddhist context.
While Buddhism teaches many realms of rebirth, I think people naturally fear Hell the most and since people are bound to be reborn there sooner or later depending on their karma. There’s no guarentee they won’t unless they are firmly on the Buddhist path (e.g. a stream-enterer).
So not surprisingly people then and now turn to the compassionate vows of Amitabha Buddha. Even though I have left behind Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, I still believe in the Pure Land myself and the Buddha’s vow to rescue all beings. I just don’t let the Honganji tell me what to think and how to interpret/practice.
Anyhow, Buddhist hells seem silly and weird at first glance, but are an important aspect of understandinh and appreciating Buddhism and Buddhist culture.