Though I've been studying Tibetan Buddhism for nearly 11 years, I decided to start all over with the primary text, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. For those of you who have encountered any Buddhism here in the West, you know that there are considered to be 3 types of persons . . . 3 types of persons who have 3 different intentions for this lifetime: the Small Scope person; the Medium Scope person; and the Great Scope person (like Buddha).
To start all over as a Small Scope being, one has to, among other learnings, meditate on each of the hell realms (reserved for the nastiest parts of oneself and what becomes of you if you stay that way).
There are many hells. I've been taking them one each day and meditating on being there. The descriptions sound mythological, yet I know from my previous studies not to take it all so literally. I've been surprised though, at how many of the hell realms have the same qualities as what many people living on earth experience today. (The purpose of meditating on the lower realms is to develop a fear/desire NOT to go there, and hence to Take Refuge under the protection of an Omniscient, Wise, Compassionate being).
So the Small Scope being is preparing for her next lifetime and its improved quality (if you accept the idea of reincarnation, which this writer does).
One of the hell realms is called the Hell of the Uncrossable Torrent, for example. The text reads: "The moving water is mixed with fire; it burns and cooks their bodies as boiling water cooks peas. They experience this suffering for a long time."
Immediately, I thought of BP's oil spill: if you lit a match to the surface of the water, you'd have your Uncrossable Torrent.
I also thought of a friend from Michigan whose family uses well water. Throw a match down the well and it catches fire.
I guess we've all been pretty nasty. Hell is not a determined fate. Nothing is. Free Will is our means of reversing our descent. We can do it. We can choose . . . all over the world . . . to be decent, eh?