The first stage of existence is that of Pain, symbolized by the Hell Realm. Agonizing as it is, this stage is, in fact, a positive progression from the Non-Existent and proto-existent state which came before it. Pain is an inversion – a violent and uncontrolled implosion of the incoherent wonder that was felt without the awareness that the feeler exists, a forceful realization of the discrete and separate existence of an “inside self” – the individual awareness being born amidst an alien “outside” of other, foreign and alien, entities impressed upon its awareness.
Inevitably, experience of pain leads to a more complex awareness of it, and the crucial lesson that there may be means of avoiding greater pain in favor of lesser pain. This realization constitutes the basis of the realm-stage of the Pretas, or Hungry Ghosts. Tibetan paintings of the Pretas portray them as starving beings with necks that are so thin that they cannot digest very much of the food, which nevertheless sustains them. Like the denizens of Hell, the Hungry Ghosts still exist within a realm of pain, but it is a hierarchical realm in which each desperately strives to lessen the agony.
(c) Copyright 2009 by A. Rogolsky