God • Titan • Human • Animal • Hungry ghost • Hell
These are the names of the six realms or lokas in Sanskrit. The realms represent the six styles in which human beings lose touch with their real nature and experience suffering, aka, karma.
When we do sadhana, we begin to step out of the realms. Our clarity, spontaneity, and freedom of expression increase.
Last time, I wrote about hungry ghost realm. Today I conclude the Six Realms series with hell realm and a few pointers for working with this painful pattern.
Hell realm karmic vision is intensely painful, all-encompassing, and full of anger. Life itself, including other people, is experienced as torturing. The best weapon against hell realm is a sense of humor. Unfortunately, a sense of humor is hard to come by when a person is trapped in hell realm visions.
Hell realm karma, as Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche says, causes people to “turn water into fire.” Water is the living symbol of sweetness and nourishment. Someone who gravitates toward hell realm vision will feel that even offerings of love and support burn like fire. Strong projections of being wronged veil clear seeing. Suspicion and paranoia abound. The response to this ‘burning’ is equally intense anger.
The anger of hell realm switches back and forth between being directed outward and inward, from other-hatred to self-hatred. One can purposely try to hurt others, or oneself.
The pain of hell realm karma often causes people to seek out religious traditions that promise salvation or that demand extreme disciplines and austerites.
People who hang out in hell realm rage their way through life. They rage at others and their own inner demons. All that emoting makes for a very uneven experience. Sometimes the magnitude of the drama can strike even a hell realmer as funny. I’ve known a couple of people deep in the hell realm who could laugh at themselves. This is gold. And grace.
Exit from the Hell Realm
- Try to notice when your projections about reality are proved incorrect. It’s probably happening all the time, but you just don’t stop to notice!
- Do ancestor puja and ask for help.
- Practice periods of mauna (silence) to reduce the level of projection outward and relax.
- Meditate by gazing on a beautiful flower in full bloom in order to experience more spaciousness.
- Spend time in nature and reconnect with the pleasure of simple existence.
- Practice moon bathing under a full moon.
- Use sweet, cooling essential oils such as jasmine, rose, neroli and sandalwood.
The essence wisdom of anger is clarity. People who express hell realm karmic vision have incredibly detailed, sharp karmic vision! When the fantasy projection begins to clear, the capacity for clarity also becomes more enlightened.
When the Fire Rages: A Poem About surviving the Hell Realm
When the fire rages
lie down close to the ground.
That’s where you’ll find
the refuge of
space and breath.
I have seen those
who were demons
take human form
and bend in sincere
devotion to kiss
the hands of their
I have seen
sing the names of
God and make
small offerings that
you or me,
but in their hands
Devotion is the
the illness of
feeling tricked and
Practicing humility is
the medicine for
Following without question
is the medicine
that tortures with
skepticism and rage.
Company is the
leads us to reject
Please listen carefully.
Our world is just like this.
If you feel small
get as low as you can and practice
a larger smallness.
Ask for help.
Accept it in any form.
with the ways of the world
and you will discover
there is nothing