Buddhism and Meditation

Tibetan Wheel of Life (Week 3)

Hell (detail) by Hellhieronymus-Bosch (1450-1516)

On Tuesday this week the MK Meditation Association met up to practice a Buddhist Meditation called metta bhavana (cultivation of loving kindness) meditation together and to continue our discussions around The Tibetan Wheel of Life. The Wheel of Life is a rich and powerful image containing many Buddhist teachings.

Here are the notes from the class:

Wheel of Life Week 3 – The Hell Realms (Niraya Loka)

Some Key Features


The Experience

  • A many leveled realm of infernal pain.
  • A variety of torments experienced as a result of unskilful actions. Mythologically represented by fire or icy pits manned by demons with a variety of torments to suit the nature of our previous evil actions.

The Upside

  • All experience is impermanent. Buddhism does not believe the hells to be eternal.
  • There is always a way forward – nothing is fixed – change the conditions and the situation will change.

The Downside

  • This is hell – it doesn’t get worse than this.
  • The overbearing experience of suffering makes it very difficult to act in a positive way, making a negative spiral a real possibility unless outside help is obtained.

Expressions in the Human Realm

  • Psychological or physical torment and distress.


This is not to say that all psychological or physical pain is related to past Karma – it may be caused by other conditional factors such as mental or physical trauma, illness, accident and so on.


To unthinkingly blame a persons suffering on their past actions (Karma) is dogmatic, simplistic and lacking in empathy and compassion.


The Buddha of this Realm & His Symbol

  • The smoke coloured Buddha called “Dharma King”.
  • His symbol is a vase of Amrita – a divine nectar, the drink of the devas/gods (like ambrosia).

What Needs to be done to make progress in this Realm

Overcome the cause – Hatred.


  • Hatred is a state of extreme isolation – a psychological and spiritual separation from our true context (other living beings). This feeling of isolation goes against how things really are and so it feels very unnatural and painful.


  • Amrita represents the path to Amritapada (the state of the deathless) e.g. Nirvana/Awakening.


  • Drinking of the Amrita (meaning following the influence of the Dharma)  includes ethical action and developing Metta (loving kindness). This counteracts hatred and provides a respite from our own pain.


  • We need to honestly recognize the situation we are in. This requires mindfulness. Yama (The Judge of the Dead) holds up the Mirror of Knowledge to our past actions. This arouses the inner voice of our conscience and we judge ourselves.


Honest self-appraisal transforms our suffering into a cleansing fire, purifying us so that we can rise to higher less painful realms of existence (mental states).


By making conscious our regrets for past actions we can feel the burning of a healthy shame (not an unhealthy guilt). We have let ourselves and others down and this is a source of regret. We want to make amends and do a better job in the future.


Seeing where we are at and that there is something that can be done about it we recognize that the situation is workable. We can let go of Self Hatred, finding inner forgiveness for our shortcomings.

Positive Seeds, Negative Seeds & Buddha Seeds

Positive Seeds (Red) – Good Karma – None of these

Negative Seeds (Black) – Bad Karma – Lots of these

Buddha Seeds (Gold) – Quite a few of these

  • The Hell Realms offer more potential for spiritual growth than the God Realms.


  • Although extremely painful, they give us an insight into a side of life we would rather ignore and can lead to deeper compassion when we meet that suffering in others.


Pain is a great motivator for spiritual practice and strongly promotes a real inner desire for personal change and growth.