from "Commentaries on the Dhammapada"
Niraya (= Hell): Listening to the inner law
As in all these teachings there are always several ways of understanding
them. The external way is the commonplace. In all moral principles, the
same thing is always said.
This Niraya for example, which some take as a kind of hell
where one is punished for one's sins, has also another sense.
The true sense of Niraya is that particular kind of atmosphere
which one creates around oneself when one acts in contradiction, not with
outer moral rules or social principles, but with the inner law of one's
being, the particular truth of each one which ought to govern all the
movements of our consciousness and all the acts of our body. The inner
law, the truth of the being is the divine Presence in every human being,
which should be the master and guide of our life.
When you acquire the habit of listening to this inner law,
when you obey it, follow it, try more and more to let it guide your life,
you create around you an atmosphere of truth and peace and harmony which
naturally reacts upon circumstances and forms, so to say, the atmosphere
in which you live. When you are a being of justice, truth, harmony, compassion,
understanding, of perfect goodwill, this inner attitude, the more sincere
and total it is, the more it reacts upon the external circumstances; not
that it necessarily diminishes the difficulties of life, but it give these
difficulties a new meaning and that allows you to face them with a new
strength and a new wisdom; whereas the man, the human being who follows
his impulses, who obey his desires, who has no time for scruples, who
comes to live in a complete cynicism, not caring for the effect that his
life has upon others or for the more or less harmful consequences of his
acts, creates for himself an atmosphere of ugliness, selfishness, conflict
and bad will which necessarily acts more and more upon his consciousness
and gives a bitterness to his life that in the end becomes a perpetual
Of course this does not mean that such a man will not succeed
in what he undertakes, that he will not be able to possess what he desires;
these external advantages disappear only when there is within the inmost
being a spark of sincerity which persists and makes him worthy of this
If you see a bad man become unlucky and miserable, you
must immediately respect him. It means that the flame of inner sincerity
is not altogether extinguished and something still reacts to his bad actions.
Finally, that leads us again to the observation that you
must never, never judge on appearances and that all the judgements you
make from outward circumstances are always, necessarily false judgements.
To have a glimpse of the Truth, one must take at least one
step back in one's consciousness, enter a little more deeply into one's
being and try to perceive the play of forces behind the appearances and
the divine Presence behind the play of forces.
25 July 1958