Some people think that stringent rules and virtuous deeds are the essence of Buddhism, but these are only a small component of Buddha’s skillful and abundant methods. He knew that not everyone is able to understand ultimate truths right from the start. It is difficult for many of us to process concepts such as ‘hell is merely the perception of your own aggression’, let alone the concept of emptiness. Buddha doesn’t want Jack to be caught in a personal ‘hell’, but he can’t tell Jack to work with his perceptions and aggression either because Jack is an idiot. So for Jack’s sake, Buddha teaches that there is an external hell and that in order to avoid going there and being boiled in molten iron, Jack must stop entertaining his non-virtuous, negative actions and emotions. Such teachings pervade the Buddhist milieu; very often we see hell realms painted on the walls of Buddhist temples, complete with burning bodies and terrifying gorges of frigid water. These images can be taken literally or figuratively, depending on the capacity of the student. Those with superior faculties know that the source of everyday hell, our suffering, stems from our own perceptions. They know that there is no judgment day and there is no judge. Buddha’s final aim is to make Jack understand, like these superior students, that there is no hell realm apart from his own aggression and ignorance. By temporarily minimizing his negative actions, Jack is diverted from becoming more entangled with his perceptions, misgivings, and paranoia.”
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
What Makes You Not a Buddhist?