illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
The pātāla sutta (SN 36.4) seems to be one of the most 'secular' sutta from the Pāḷi canon, where the realms of existence (likely one of the hells in the sutta, but there's no reason the same wouldn't apply to other realms) are actually presented as metaphors of mental states, not as actual physical planes.
Funnily, many monastic translators struggle and avoid presented the realm as one of the realms of existence, or one of the hells, so we get sutta on the "abyss", the "pit", etc.
And, sure enough, there's no pātāla in the traditional (Theravadin) 31 abodes (www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sagga/loka.html).
But then would this suggest the Buddha is talking of some inexistent domain? I doubt the Buddha who here rejects the naïve interpretation of hells as an actual place would be OK with people tip-toeing and going round in circles to avoid saying clearly that the Buddhist cosmology is a metaphor ;-)
Here is Piya's always helpful translation with serious notes: http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/2.25-Patala-S-s36.4.pdf
#Buddhism #Dharma #secular
"not for the sake of popularity" series