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Hell is a Karmic Vision

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

Karmic vision is a view of self and world that is shaped by the power of limitation, or “Maya.”

Each person uniquely experiences and expresses Maya due to personal, ancestral, cultural and national history. Being human, as opposed to some other kind of manifest life, is also a form of karmic vision.

Human beings share human karmic vision. This is why, although we may fight over our differences, we can still sit at a table together and agree that we are sitting at a table.

From the perspective of the direct realization traditions, hell is a form of karmic vision grounded in an extreme experience of limitation we call “self-hatred.”

When we are experiencing self-hatred, we are gripped by the feeling of our separation from others. We have little access to the sweet, natural flow of life. We cannot even imagine why anyone would love us or feel compassion for us.

The core emotion of the hell realm is anger, and it is directed outward. Our sense of self-hatred is projected outward and becomes a strong fantasy conviction that we have been victimized and injured by others; others are at fault. Directing our anger outward brings some relief from our relentless self-hatred.

Anger is a strong emotion, and so human beings who suffer from hell-realm vision often have a hard time breaking out of it. Anger creates demons out of other people; it creates our own hell right here on earth.

A person experiencing hell-realm fixation is looking for a savior. I had a student some years ago who was really quite endearing. Each week, depending on whether she felt I was saving her or abandoning and victimizing her, she would come to class and announce “I love you!” or “I hate you!”

So the projection of a savior fantasy is also a feature of the hell realm. But this kind of savior always disappoints, and the anger remains.

When a person encounters a situation that helps them to self-recognize their real situation, the effect can be shocking. An entire fantasy world begins to break down. A person in this situation will nakedly feel their despair, but at least it is an experience at the root. If a person can tolerate this painful place, it is possible to begin to relax.

There are realms of beings who have less of an opportunity to break out of a hell realm fixation than do human beings. Hell realm visions shape their entire existence.

While it is quite difficult for human beings with strong hell realm vision to relax to the degree that they can begin to experience their real situation, it is possible. People suffering with hell-realm visions who are really working on a spiritual path are absolute grace to behold, and one can discover the nature of mercy through these beings.

In Ma’s love,
Shambhavi

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