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I've posted on this Q&A site before when my grandmother just passed away, and some of the answers here really helped me feel a lot better and eased my fear enough for me to go back to my normal life with a better understanding of the teaching, but man it was really short-lived.

Today, during the 49th day of my grandmother's passing, part of the rites we were carrying out involved sitting down and reciting the Ksitigarbha sutra and again, all the talk about all the different kinds of hells really got me feeling so irrationally scared. It took me back to the whole deal where I feel like if I lived like a normal human being, even if I'm not really hurting anyone intentionally, I'm being imperfect and sinful for wanting nice things, cracking dark jokes and just generally living my best life as a city girl. (I explained my fear in depth in my previous post)

There was this one part that jumped out at me particularly this time--I'm not sure if I intepreted it right but it's something along the lines of, I might think something isn't a big deal (maybe something like a white lie or getting angry/annoyed/impatient in the moment), but I will pay for it in the afterlife or something? And immediately my brain just goes to thoughts of all the hells and damnation I've landed myself into for being well...an imperfect human because that's just how the whole cycle works. And again, I'm tossed into this crippling fear of hell and damnation. I feel so worried and scared I can feel everyone around me getting annoyed with me because I always try to slide the topic into conversations in hopes that someone would call me out for being dumb and tell me I'm completely wrong.

If anyone is familiar with the sutra and teachings, could you please enlighten me? I was born into a culturally Chinese Buddhist family. I'd really, really appreciate it.

I'm really spiralling right now as I do more research on my own, like how having a drink (alcohol) and wanting to let my hair down is being mindless and thus will bring suffering and damnation, how desire is the root of all suffering and will also bring damnation and so on. I really, really want to live my life to the fullest and have no regrets. I want to build a nice career, strive for the stars, own a nice (even fancy) house and have a drink and party now and then but it's scaring me so much right now my hands and feet feel cold and I can't think of anything else.

It feels like everything and anything I want to do for myself is considered an unwholesome/bad/selfish and will cause me to go to hell and so on and it's literally terrifying me so much. I'm only 22 and I used to feel so excited and full of life and hungry for the adventure and love and fun life brings but now I have so much of this fear and thoughts I can't seem to be or love myself. It's gotten me feeling that self-love is bad too and I'm just gravely afraid of everything and I feel so crippled and helpless just being myself.

I really feel like I can't be myself without feeling like I'm going to wander to hell after I've lived out my life. I'm so scared and desperate. I used to never want to settle for the ordinary, always wanting to live my life out to the fullest and working for all the pretty and nice things in life (without intentionally hurting other people) and just living a cosy, carefree and happy life as a vibrant, free-spirited girl but now I have so many reservations and I feel so, so scared.

Please be rational and gentle with me, I'd greatly appreciate it.

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Nothing in what the Buddha taught says that one is not to enjoy righteously earned pleasures. One gives up the world at one's own pace. But the whole world recognizes (if it doesn't practice) the corrupting nature of lies, harm, theft and unrestrained self indulgence. The key idea there is 'righteously earned'. You need to develop a sense of where the line is drawn between activities that create bad kamma and those that create good kamma. One does not go to Hell practicing only good deeds. That is basic training:

Create good kamma: Practice generosity. Find a vihara and make gifts to the bhikkhus.

Avoid bad kamma:

Train yourself to refrain from saying things that are not true. Train yourself to refrain from activities that cause harm to breathing things. Trin yourself to refrain from taking things that are not givin to you.

That is 'train yourself'. You are not expected to reach perfect behavior over night, the important thing is the direction you are headed. Your fear is rational; right now you are headed in the wrong direction. You do a 180 by taking the first step.

If you have a good bank account of good kamma and are cultivating a life that avoids making bad kamma what pleasures come to you can be enjoyed without fear and the bad stuff you have already created or newly create will be experienced in an over-all environment of progress towards the good.

If you want to understand this system more deeply I suggest this over-view, which is based on Ananda's Gradual Course:

http://buddhadust.net/dhammatalk/the_pali_line/course/table_of_contents.htm

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I really feel like I can't be myself without feeling like I'm going to wander to hell after I've lived out my life. I'm so scared and desperate. I used to never want to settle for the ordinary, always wanting to live my life out to the fullest and working for all the pretty and nice things in life (without intentionally hurting other people) and just living a cosy, carefree and happy life as a vibrant, free-spirited girl but now I have so many reservations and I feel so, so scared.

Well according to The Buddha the vast majority of people go to hell, the animal realm, or the realm of ghosts after death....very few ever go to a heavenly world or are reborn as a human (In Pansu Suttas The Buddha compares a small speck of dirt to all the land mass on Earth saying so few are ever reborn as a human or deva after death).

Birth as a human is extremely rare and gives one many opportunities like even achieving arahantship here and now but the majority of people will waste their existence away.

The majority of people are sinners or have done sinful deeds in some past existence.

The Maha arahant Moggollana for instance in some past existence killed his parents and that bad kamma followed him everywhere:

Depending on some evil friends, overpowered by lust and anger, being cruel-minded I slew my mother and my father too.

In whichever womb I’m reborn in hell or else among humans since I possess that bad karma I get murdered, head split open. (Tha Ap 4)

If such a great arahant in the past was a sinner why do you think yourself of such a bad person?

You may think that you yourself are a bad person but seemingly good people who practice things like painful austerities also go to hell (something like a career that causes one to experience painful feelings of stress, agony, boredom is like a painful austerity that one practices on a daily basis).

Very few people generate pleasant feelings or good kamma that leads towards higher worlds.

Since you are living as a lay person don't trouble yourself with speculative thoughts that cause mental agony rather trouble yourself with generating loving-kindness (metta), doing good deeds, avoiding the ten evils.

You can still be yourself, why not. When encountering lay people and householders The Buddha taught differently to instead do merit to achieve desires:

"Householder, the noble disciple who desires fame ought not to pray for fame or delight in it or passively yearn for it. A noble disciple who desires fame should practice the way conducive to fame. For when he practices the way conducive to fame, it leads to obtaining fame, and he gains fame either celestial or human."

"For one desiring long life, beauty, fame, acclaim, heaven, high families, and lofty delights following in succession, the wise praise heedfulness in doing deeds of merit." (AN 5.43)

Therefore you should produce merit, good deeds, generate loving-kindness, easily forgive and forget, in accordance to fulfill your desires.

Based on my reading of the suttas it looks like there's only a few ways to avoid the three lower destinations (hell, the animal realm, or the realm of ghosts):

  • Have a Right View at the time of death
  • Having already generated lots of merit in the past
  • Generating merit (especially metta) here and now
  • Avoiding the ten evils, unwholesome actions, wrong views
  • Association with good company
  • Being favored by higher beings
  • Achieving higher states like the jhanas
  • Developing iddhi

It seems however that many people perceived as good don't really generate pleasant feelings or good kamma thereby being more similar to the ascetics who practice painful austerities and almost never go to heaven after death (in MN 71 it's mentioned that only one ascetic in the past 91 eons went to heaven).

“Bhikkhus, whatever grounds there are for making merit productive of a future birth, all these do not equal a sixteenth part of the mind-release of loving-kindness. The mind-release of loving-kindness surpasses them and shines forth, bright and brilliant." (Iti 27)

Unless willing and capable of achieving the jhanas, developing iddhi, and the six higher knowledges try to practice, concentrate, and meditate on metta (loving-kindness).

An easy mind-exercise is to hold your body still, close your eyes, and imagine loving-kindness filling your body, mind, and the world inside out.

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In the Theravada tradition is a practice 'reflection on the fearfulness of the states of woe'. It is practiced by doing what you are doing and it's result is that the perception of fear is established.

It is a rational fear in that it is right and a natural fear of what is to be feared rightfully. It's purpose is to motivate a yogi tho, not scaring him into despair; to establish fear of wrongdoing and laziness.

You can learn more about the various destinations of the various paths, that is to make sure you aren't having irrationally crippling fear over what is not actually as you imagined it thus not correctly evaluating the circumstances.

You can also balance out the perception of fearfulness by contemplating heavenly realms, good destinations and virtue in the deities and internal virtue as in your own good deeds and qualities.

Reflecting on the merits of having received the inheritance of the Dhamma and the associated virtues is also going to mend what is crooked.

There are things unfit for pursuit and if one realizes that it is unreliable, is going to cause stress, is not to be done and is unbeneficial; one should avoid it like a dangerous road.

If one knows a road is pleasant to look at but is known as dangerous, unprofitable, a road to loss, a dead-end where one will be met with trouble, that fear that there is on that account is not the issue. It becomes an issue if being cruel one is not being compassionate to oneself, intending to travel that route and creating much regret, troubles and worry for oneself.

It is like knowing you have an allergy to your favorite food and it is a cause of all your illness.

Or a smoker dreading cancer...

One should sympathize and take care of oneself, quit smoking, not eat disagreeable food and seek a safe passage.

One should avoid resolving on stress.

One should resolve on doing good; in the morning, in the daytime and in the night; one should bathe in that goodness.

Thus is one purified. Thus all stress vanishes with the cause for fear.

Also don't beat yourself up over it; if you really think about it your mind is not even your own; nor is this body born of mother and father; how then are actions, how then is blame?!

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I might think something isn't a big deal (maybe something like a white lie or getting angry/annoyed/impatient in the moment), but I will pay for it in the afterlife or something?

There's a Pali sutta that might be relevant -- Loṇakapallasutta

It starts ...

“Mendicants, suppose you say: ‘No matter how this person performs a deed, they experience it the same way.’ This being so, the spiritual life could not be lived, and there’d be no chance of making a complete end of suffering.

Suppose you say: ‘No matter how this person performs a deed, they experience the result as it should be experienced.’ This being so, the spiritual life can be lived, and there is a chance of making a complete end of suffering.

Take the case of a person who does a trivial bad deed, but it lands them in hell. Meanwhile, another person does the same trivial bad deed, but experiences it in the present life, without even a bit left over, not to speak of a lot.

What kind of person does a trivial bad deed, but it lands them in hell? A person who hasn’t developed their physical endurance, ethics, mind, or wisdom. They’re small-minded and mean-spirited, living in suffering. That kind of person does a trivial bad deed, but it lands them in hell.

... which I think means, "How you live your life, i.e. holy or not, developed or not, affects how kamma is experienced -- a trifling deed by an 'undeveloped' person may take the individual to hells, whereas the same deed by a 'developed' person is instead experienced in the here-and-now, and only for a moment."

have a drink and party now and then

I don't know you, but in my experience I don't really trust alcohol. Having a drink, and then wanting to have another drink, can lead to alcoholism, inappropriate friendships, missed opportunities -- it can make you sick, stupid, AND depressed -- it's debilitating and habit-forming.

And I think it always has those effects.

But, the amount of its effects will vary from person to person -- i.e. how much effect, how often, and how long it lasts, will vary.

Perhaps it depends on how 'developed' you are. And it's to avoid suffering, to avoid long-lasting ill-effects, that the "threefold training" exists -- i.e. training in virtue, concentration, and wisdom.

just living a cosy, carefree and happy life as a vibrant, free-spirited girl

Let's hope you may.

They say that a purpose and a consequence of "skilful virtue" is "absence of remorse" -- I think that might mean that, if you do good, then you don't regret (have no remorse about) having done it.

Conversely if you do something bad then I think you are supposed to feel remorse about that, and "having seen the disadvantages" of the bad behaviour, resolve not to do it again in future -- and then, not doing it again, feel no more remorse about it after that -- "absence of remorse" (as a result of virtue) may be one of the first steps toward freedom.

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I really feel like I can't be myself without feeling like I'm going to wander to hell after I've lived out my life. I'm so scared and desperate. I used to never want to settle for the ordinary, always wanting to live my life out to the fullest and working for all the pretty and nice things in life (without intentionally hurting other people) and just living a cosy, carefree and happy life as a vibrant, free-spirited girl but now I have so many reservations and I feel so, so scared.

You'll need to be a bit more specific than the above, cuz it really depends on how one implements those meanings of "being oneself", "live out one's life to the fullest", or "living a cozy, carefree, and happy life". Some interprets those as a life dedicated to the service of others, to derive true happiness by bringing joy and happiness, and lessening pain and suffering in other people. They earn their living through decent means and support themselves, their family, and the community to the best of their ability. They see great joy in helping the sick, the elderly, and the destitute, etc. If one lives a life like that, not only s/he's able to live their life "to the fullest", "a cozy, carefree, and happy life", but also enjoy the same benefits for the many lives to come. However, if one interprets those same exact terms to mean that one could simply indulge in a "carefree" life full of drugs, alcohol, intoxicants, sex, all kinds of debauchery, etc. then yes, there's a legit. reason to be concerned about, cuz that lifestyle not only will bring harm and suffering to oneself in the immediate life, but also to the many lives to come, including the possibility of rebirths in woeful realms like hell, afflictive spirits, or animal.

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...working for all the pretty and nice things in life...

When working, we just work for Right Livelihood based on right view, thought, speech, action. To avoid a bad rebirth requires ethics and view:

Furthermore, when an ethical person’s body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm. AN5.213

In other words, it's the working for the delights that entrenches us in hellish craving.

Relishing is the root of suffering MN1

Pretty and nice things show up in life all they time. Just experience them with gratitude instead of greed. Certainly don't work for them! Instead, when working, just work for Right Livelihood.

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Lol you stepped on the frog that was an eggplant. Nothing to worry about right now. Sounds like anxiety and all or nothing thinking. A little mental health service like counciling should get you right rather quickly if you do it. Your smart and self aware. That logic is conflicting with the rest. The drinking and fun is escape from childhood abuse. So is the rest of it. No escape though? Your also at that magical age where your no longer a baby adult. Your changing. So will relationships. A little religion will help you cultivate yourself. Do the mental health check up too for balance. Meditation will relieve guilt and give you more self control. I have lots of students your age and they know cultivation doesn't happen overnight.

As for you asking for someone on here to enlighten you: can I poop for you?

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