Maintaining the Five Precepts and Right View but Still Going to Hell?


OP? What do you mean? Suffering is my reality.


MN136 talks about ascetics and Brahmins who notice that good things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. The Buddha grants that this is so, and proceeds to explain why.

The right view they are talking about is unlikely to be the specific right view of the Dhamma of the Buddha, when considering that the Brahmins and ascetics in question were not followers of the Buddha, and they were the ones making the observation about right view. It would appear to be the lowest common denominator between them and the Buddha. Religions share a few basic principles in common, when it comes to what constitutes good and bad behavior, and what the consequences of acting in this way or that may be.

When it comes to Buddhism, it seems to me that the Buddha had tremendous faith in the efficacy of his Dhamma. At least, that is my impression from reading the suttas. I remember thinking that Sangharakshita of the Triratna Buddhist community was overly optimistic when he told his followers that they should just assume that they were stream enterers if they had practiced the dhamma seriously for 20 years and had made improvements in their ethics and compassion.

As it turns out, the Buddha reportedly said 10 years :slight_smile:

AN 10.46:

But take one of my disciples who lives diligent, keen, and resolute for ten years, practicing in line with my instructions. They can experience perfect happiness for a hundred years, ten thousand years, or a hundred thousand years. And they could become a once-returner or a non-returner, or guaranteed [Bodhi: surely] a stream-enterer.


I apologise. When you were speaking on ultimate reality my mind made a leap towards the ‘original mind’ :sheep:
And brooks, the fear you talked about -I face it every day. Every death is another click of the revolver in samsara (could only be one bullet in the chamber). Don’t be deceived. Right view is not believing you can force your own mind even if the idea makes us feel better. The big picture is nibbana, (which is the last thing anyone wants) vipallasa gets us all.


I don’t understand this final sentence…?


We starve hinderences with sense restraint. We don’t starve the knower of dhamma.


It is a common theme in the suttas that bad morality leads to regret. This in turn becomes an obstacle for your meditation. The more regret you have, the greater the negative impact on your meditation. This sort of regret can manifest in a number of ways, such as a lessening of your mental energy and joy. It may not be a verbalised form of regret.

This is parallel to what happens when you get reborn. If you have lots of regrets, you will not be able to experience those states of mind that lead to a good rebirth, states that are the same as those you experience in meditation.

If you are able to forgive yourself, however, then the blockage to the good states of mind will largely have been removed. This is because the forgiveness counters the regret.

This is not be explicitly stated in the suttas, but this may just be because the Buddha does not always explain things in great detail. I think it is implied, however, in such doctrines are dependent origination, especially in the connection between saṅkhāra and viññāṇa, and the one between bhava and jāti. AN 3.36 also has a message that tends in this direction.


I think the wrong view the Buddha refers to is what is found in AN 3.117. The way I understand MN.136 is that those people the Buddha refers to are not noble disciples. Therefore, even if some of them had ethics - not stealing and sexual misconduct etc - they had wrong views found in AN 3.117 as a result of which they were born in a bad destination.
With Metta


I find that this section at the end of MN136 is also relevant

(iv) “Now there is the person who has abstained from killing living beings here… has had right view. And on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in the states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell. But (perhaps) the evil kamma producing his suffering was done by him earlier, or the evil kamma producing his suffering was done by him later, or wrong view was undertaken and completed by him at the time of his death. And that was why, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappeared in the states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell. But since he has abstained from killing living beings here… has had right view, he will feel the result of that here and now, or in his next rebirth, or in some subsequent existence. MN136

This appears to be saying that one can have right view most of the time, but have wrong view arise at the time of death. This makes perfect sense to me, as a common feature of the dying process is that individuals (not Ariya) often have remorse arising at this time. Hence, in the training, one undertakes death meditations and contemplation in order to prepare for death and dying, so that one can do this skillfully and ensure that there are no hindrances present. I’m not sure if this would “technically” be called wrong view… but it is perfectly logical in light of effects on Kamma.

It is worth noting that the good Kamma from all the rest of the actions will still come into effect, ie it is not wiped out because of a temporary hindrance at the time of death.


I don’t remember which sutta, but I remember the Buddha explaining why a stream enterer cannot have lower rebirth by their inability to worry enough when dying. Even if they were to be stabbed by robbers while riding a coach, fall off, and lie alone bleeding out in a ditch, the events would not be able to ruin the inner peace of the SE to the extent necessary for bad rebirth? Something along those lines.

That certainly suggests a correlation between mental states when dying and rebirth, just like jhana attainment leading to heavenly rebirth does.


Sorry Gillian I don’t really understand it either. I wis in a q & a with a teacher of mine. He pauses, turns to me and says “and I say this to you, nibbana is the last thing anyone wants” maybe you have heard how frightening the disappearing act can be?


I think most gain an approximate understanding of what heaven and hell are like by thinking of mental states they must be in in those realms. However then there’s this sometimes different idea of doing kammically potent deeds to go to heaven. Again I think there’s some overlap in these ideas. The ‘kammic average’ determines where someone will end up and this complicates the picture.


Is your question answered @brooks? MN 136 seems to be the sutta.

Apart from the weird content, it also raises the question: Samanas and Brahmins had the divine eye?? I thought this is the privilege of Buddhists after the fourth Jhana, just before liberation.

Also consider AN 1.312: wrong view --> hell !! :japanese_ogre: :boom:
Which would mean that all cute puppies and kitties (and 95% of humanity) have no other chance than to go to hell (also AN 1.348-377, AN 2.27, etc.).

So, instead of buying into all fear-mongering suttas a little bit (by which I mean a lot) of healthy criticism is at place in order to not to become a ‘catholic’ Buddhist. Do you remember from history classes the medieval ‘letter of indulgence’? You could literally buy your way out of hell by donating to the catholic church… structural similarities in religion…


Hi Gabriel. Yes, my question about which sutta applies has been answered, and it is MN 136. I’m still carefully considering the responses to possible interpretations of this sutta. I like your suggestion to keep a discerning, critical eye to this translation.

One reason I have felt inclined to apply extra skepticism to this sutta because the theme at issue doesn’t seem to occur a lot elsewhere in the EBTs. For example, I often see if a lay person does these good deeds (and sometimes right view is mentioned), then they can expect to be reborn in heaven or if as a human, in good circumstances.

On the other hand, the sutta about how karma is one of the phenomena that can’t be rationalized and understood with thinking comes to mind.

I’m guessing this sutta does come from one of Buddha’s teachings. However, what exactly the Buddha said is a different matter.

An important topic comes to mind: Confirmed confidence in the dhamma is critical. The potential danger of this sutta seems to be that it can cause weakened confidence in the dhamma and its power. That said, perhaps, at worst, it’s simply saying that because of bad, past conduct, one may take a detour to hell on one’s way to the light if one is not a stream-enterer but following the dhamma.

However, as @Vidar mentioned and perhaps others, right view may be a key issue here. Perhaps the sutta is not referring to the Noble Right View of the Four Noble Truths that one really following the dhamma develops.


Interesting discussion, thanks all!

Just to quickly pick up this one:

I don’t think the following stock passage that comes up in the suttas has been mentioned yet:

They have wrong view. Their perspective is distorted: ‘There’s no meaning in giving, sacrifice, or offerings. There’s no fruit or result of good and bad deeds. There’s no afterlife. There’s no obligation to mother and father. No beings are reborn spontaneously. And there’s no ascetic or brahmin who is well attained and practiced, and who describes the afterlife after realizing it with their own insight.’ This is how unprincipled and immoral conduct is threefold by way of mind.

(eg. MN41)

According to Bhikkhu Bodhi’s explanation in his, The Noble Eightfold Path, The Way to the End of Suffering, this speaks to “Mundane right view [which] involves a correct grasp of the law of kamma, the moral efficacy of action.”

And then there is (using Bhikkhu Bodhi’s terminology) “Superior Right View” which concerns understanding of the Four Noble Truths and leads to liberation.


…or how liberating. One grows tired of the effort to restrain. So one seeks seclusion to lessen the effort. And so on and so on. Eventually poof. :eyes:

Then freedom. And after some time…
…the wisdom to know that freedom.

Does that sound less frightening? :smile:

Kamma is a bit like taxes. We often don’t find out for several years if we made a mistake on our taxes. And then, wham, we get a government tax notice with a penalty. It takes years for tax kamma to ripen.

Also note that in MN136 even Ananda, a senior monk, did not have an immediate answer for Potaliputta’s question. So this sutta goes deeper into deeds than the other suttas.


This is how I understand it…

If you have right view in the sense of the four noble truths that makes you a stream-enterer (IIRC), which means you won’t be reborn below the human realm.

The only non-contradictory reading is with the “mundane” form of right view (see @Aminah’s post above).

As far as I can tell, the “mundane” form is the form commonly used in the teachings on kamma, so it is the most likely reading IMO.


This is what I mentioned above - AN 3.117. There may be more discourses with the same wrong view explained.
With metta


Be fair now, the full sentence was:


But anyway, sorry to have missed your reference and thanks so much for sharing it; I was just quickly going through the messages of this thread, not looking up suttas. In any case, good that the point is drawn out explicitly, right?

Metta. :slight_smile: :pray:


Well, I really like what you said here, but that’s exactly what scares me. Tommorow I could be ‘taxed’ for something I did 10000 years ago, correct?


Not so. An ajivaka might go to hell. (throw a spinning disk down the southern edge of the ganges and killing every living being with no bad result).

If the hell realm is something that is annihilated when we all go to the second jhana realm, does it exist or is it mind made?