My original belief used to be that as long as you are a decent good person without any intentions to hurt others, you'll be fine.
Yes it's good -- ethical -- to intend to be harmless.
The last bit, the corollary -- i.e. that "you will be" this or that -- I treat that as being a bit unknowable:
- because the future doesn't exist
- because it may presume a continuous self (e.g. that there is a "you now" and a "you later")
- because it presumes that existence is and remains controllable and as we want it to be, but that kind of thinking might lead to craving and attachment and desire for becoming and ... problems
Perhaps for any action you're supposed to ask,
- Will doing this be skilful or unskilful?
- Is doing this skilful or unskilful?
- Was doing this skilful or unskilful?
But obsessing about what the goal (the future) will look like is maybe less important than paying attention to the path (the present and the vehicle).
Meaning that no matter what religion you follow, no matter how flawed you are as a person (stubborn, short-tempered, basically all the imperfections of a human), you will not be damned to hell.
I think there's two aspects to it.
In order to "have no intention to hurt others" you might want to train yourself to reduce your flaws. If for example you're short-tempered and don't train yourself then you might get into situations or relationships where anger increases and something unpleasant (a metaphorical "hell" if not a literal one) might be a consequence.
So perhaps you shouldn't be telling yourself, "It's OK to be short-tempered -- it's perfectly justified, and especially with him because I don't like him!"
On the other hand I think the proper consequence of a flaw is "remorse", for example telling yourself, "On that occasion I allowed myself to be short-tempered. I see that had consequences, that was unskilful of me, I resolve not to make the same mistake again in future." -- I wouldn't describe this consequence as "hell", instead I think you'd describe it as remorse, training, maybe the beginning of wisdom.
To me, it used to be that there are so many religions and so many hells and heavens that comes with them, but they teach one main thing: to love and to be kind, and that would be all that we had to follow.
Technically, Christianity for example has two commandments (i.e. love God and love your neighbour).
I think that in Buddhism, being kind to your neighbour is very good, but people are also taught to try to emulate the Buddha or to begin to follow the path or training he laid out -- to pacify the mind -- to see dukkha, its origination and cessation -- to let go of hindrances and fetters, and wrong "views", to make right effort and so on.
there were so many things to follow (offering incense, chanting etc.) to ensure she moves on
I think these rites are intended to benefit the living.
Say a Buddhist that doesn't have a family who knows to follow these customs/a Buddhist with no family/a person of any other religion?
In DN 16 the Buddha tells people something like,
Dwell making yourselves your island (support), making yourselves your
refuge, and not anyone else as your refuge.
I don't want to downplay the importance of good friends and so on, but still.
It feels like we're all comforting ourselves that my grandma is resting in peace now, but this huge part of me has this crippling fear that my grandma (as well as the rest of us) will not rest in peace and instead be suffering at the end of our lives for being imperfect humans.
Perhaps I'm wrong, I think that Buddhist doctrine says that the "suffering" for a good but imperfect human is to be reborn -- not in hell but for example to be reborn human.
I start having this intense fear of doing virtually anything as a human
I think you're supposed to distinguish right from wrong. So do things because they're kind, or necessary, wise, good for you -- and don't do things which are motivated by anger and other hindrances.
I'm afraid of wanting to strive for anything
I think that "striving", making an effort, isn't inherently bad -- for example the noble eightfold path includes "right effort". So striving to be kind, for example ...
ranting about any dissatisfaction, feeling upset by things
Maybe "ranting" isn't a good habit -- like if someone insults, your "hitting" them wouldn't be a good habit, a good training.
Instead maybe reflection, "from what cause did this dissatisfaction arise, what now would be a good intention and course of action?"
I feel so crippled by the fear I wake up unhappy and afraid to live and afraid to die as well.
That sounds canonical.
The translation of the four noble truths, as I first learned them, talked about craving -- "the craving to have what you can't have, the craving to keep what you can't keep, the craving to live, even the craving to die" -- all, different forms of craving.
And I think that Buddhists see "lust" and "aversion", and so maybe "craving" and "fear", as two sides of the same coin -- i.e. perhaps you fear something because you crave its opposite.
But craving is suffering -- and it may be associated with a "wrong view" somehow -- a wrong view about whether something is desirable, about the proper way to relate with it, and wrong view about the self perhaps.
I think that the best bits of Buddhist doctrine -- the bits which help me most -- are the "four noble truths" and the doctrine of anatta (though I also like that it's not separate from inter-personal ethics and praises e.g. harmlessness).
there is no forgiveness like there is in Christianity
Perhaps I'm wrong but I do think there is.
In (at least one major school of) Christianity I think that forgiveness follows from "confession of sin", e.g. "I did X, which I now see is wrong, I repent and I resolve not to do it again, so please forgive me, thank you."
I think that Buddhism is the same, except that it's people who do the forgiving -- i.e. people forgive each other and even forgive themselves -- see the first few verses of the Dhammapada, for example -- though perhaps with a bit less "I" and so on than in Christianity).
I think that in Buddhism the "root" of the problem is seen to be "ignorance", so i.e. "I did wrong" or "This or that bad thing happened", "because of ignorance" or "because I was ignorant", and "knowing better now, the cause of that bad thing (i.e. ignorance) no longer exists and that bad thing won't arise again in future".
That just makes me feel the whole religion is so scary like one misstep or one imperfection as a human, and you'll be damned.
There's a sutta -- Lonaphala Sutta: The Salt Crystal (AN 3.99) -- which talks about going to hell for a trifling deed:
"Monks, for anyone who says, 'In whatever way a person makes kamma, that is how it is experienced,' there is no living of the holy life, there is no opportunity for the right ending of stress. But for anyone who says, 'When a person makes kamma to be felt in such & such a way, that is how its result is experienced,' there is the living of the holy life, there is the opportunity for the right ending of stress.
"There is the case where a trifling evil deed done by a certain individual takes him to hell. There is the case where the very same sort of trifling deed done by another individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.
"Now, a trifling evil deed done by what sort of individual takes him to hell? There is the case where a certain individual is undeveloped in [contemplating] the body, undeveloped in virtue, undeveloped in mind, undeveloped in discernment: restricted, small-hearted, dwelling with suffering. A trifling evil deed done by this sort of individual takes him to hell.
"Now, a trifling evil deed done by what sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment? There is the case where a certain individual is developed in [contemplating] the body, developed in virtue, developed in mind, developed in discernment: unrestricted, large-hearted, dwelling with the immeasurable. A trifling evil deed done by this sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.
"Suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into a small amount of water in a cup. What do you think? Would the water in the cup become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?"
"Yes, lord. Why is that? There being only a small amount of water in the cup, it would become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink."
"Now suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into the River Ganges. What do you think? Would the water in the River Ganges become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?"
"No, lord. Why is that? There being a great mass of water in the River Ganges, it would not become salty because of the salt crystal or unfit to drink."
"In the same way, there is the case where a trifling evil deed done by one individual [the first] takes him to hell; and there is the case where the very same sort of trifling deed done by the other individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.
And so on. I think the first paragraph says that if you did go to hell for a trifling deed then there'd be no point in "living the holy life" -- but that's not what happens, if you live the holy life then any trifling bad deed is experience in the moment.
I'm an anxious person. I get fixated on things.
Well I don't know.
Maybe that suggests you should practice non-fixation -- and/or fixate on good things (like being kind -- encouraging your mum to be kind to others too, to be in situations where she can be kind, if you see an opportunity to).
Also the opposite of "fear" might be confidence or faith -- e.g. confidence in the refuge[s], confidence in the three jewels.
Reading about hell and so on might be like reading about diseases -- it can make some people fearful. Instead you might want to read about what's "healthy" and what's good, including what's "praised by the wise" and so on.