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Naraka in Buddhism

By Devik Balami at
Naraka in Buddhism

Naraka is a term in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology which is referred to hell in English. The Naraka of Buddhism is closely related to diyo, the hell in Chinese mythology. It is believed that a being is born into a Naraka due to the result of his/ her karma. They are believed to live there for the finite period of time until that karma has achieved its full result. After that s/he will again reborn in one of the higher worlds.

Therefore, people more focus on developing good karma by doing good deeds and as well as practicing the Buddhism. They do rituals, meditate and other things in front of Buddha statues placed in their house. They also pay homage to Buddha statues by visiting different pilgrimage sites over a period of time.

It is also believed that the Narakas are a series of cavernous layers which extend below Jambudvipa, the ordinary human world. There has been developed several schemes for the Narakas and their torments have been described as well. The Abhidharma-Kosa (Treasure House for Higher Knowledge) is the root text that describes the most common scheme of the Narakas- Eight Cold Narakas and Eight Hot Narakas.

Eight Cold Narakas in Buddhism

The Eight Cold Narakas in Buddhism as explained in the Abhidharma-kosa are Arbuda, Nirarbuda, Atata, Hahava, Huhuva, Utpala, Padma, and Mahapadma.

Arbuda Naraka is a dark, frozen plain which is surrounded by icy mountains. This place is continually swept away by the blizzards and hence is also called Blister Naraka. The inhabitants are lifelong naked and alone in this world. It is believed that the average lifespan is the time it would take to empty a barrel of sesame seeds if one only took out a single seed every hundred years.

Nirabuda Naraka is even colder than Arbuda. It is said that the blister bursts and then it leaves the being's body covered with frozen blood and pus. Therefore this Naraka is also called Burst Blister Naraka.

Atata Naraka is the Shivering Naraka. In this place, the beings shiver in the cold and they continuously make an at-at-at sound by their mouth.

Hahava Naraka is the Lamentation Naraka. In this place, the beings lament in the cold and they continuously go haa, haa in pain.

Huhuva Naraka is also called Chattering teeth Naraka. In this place, the beings shiver as their teeth chatter and thus makes the sound hu, hu.

Utpala Naraka is also called Blue Lotus Naraka. In this place, the intense cold makes the being's skin turn blue which resembles the color of an Utpala waterlily.

Padma Naraka is also called Lotus Naraka. This place has blizzards that crack and open the frozen skin of the being which makes them raw and bloody.

Mahapadma Naraka is also called Great Lotus Naraka. In this place, the being's entire body cracks into pieces and their internal organs are exposed to the cold.

It is assumed that the lifespan of the each of these Narakas is twenty times the length of the preceding ones.

Eight Hot Narakas in Buddhism

The Eight Hot Narakas in Buddhism as explained in the Abidharma-Kosa are Sanjiva, Kalasutra, Samghata, Raurava, Maharaurava, Tapana, Pratapana, and Avici.

Sanjiva Naraka is also known as the Reviving Naraka. This Naraka has a ground made up of hot iron heated by an immense fire. The beings appear to be fully grown and are in the state of fear and misery. The tortures experienced in this Naraka are continuous fighting till unconscious state among the other beings, having molten metal dropped upon the beings, being sliced into pieces, and suffering from the heat of the iron ground. The average lifespan of the being in 1.62*1012 years long.

Kalasutra Naraka is also known as Black Thread Naraka which includes the torments of Sanjiva along with other tortures like drawing the black lines upon the body which is used as the guides to slice the beings with fiery saws and sharp axes. The lifespan of the being in this Naraka is 1.296*1013 years long.

Samghata Naraka is also known as Crushing Naraka which is surrounded by the huge masses of rocks. These rocks smash together and crush the beings to a bloody jelly. When the rocks move apart, the life of the being is again restored and the process starts repeatedly. The life span in this Naraka is 1.0368*1014 years long.

Raurava Naraka is also known as Screaming Naraka. In this place the beings run wildly, searching for refuge from the burning ground. When they find the shelter, they escape to the shelter but are locked inside the shelter where the beings scream aloud continuously. The life span in this Naraka is 8.2944*1014 years long.

Maharaurava Naraka is also known as Great Screaming Naraka. This Naraka is similar to the Raurava Naraka. In this place, the beings are punished in such a way that they have to maintain their own body but have to hurt other fellows. Another torture is animals known as Kravyada torment them and eat their flesh. The life span in this Naraka is 6.63552*1015 years long.

Tapana Naraka is also known as the heating Naraka. In this Naraka, hell guards impale beings on a fiery spear until flames issue from their noses and mouths. The life span in this Naraka is 5.308416*1016 years long

Pratapana Naraka is also known as the Great Heating Naraka. The tortures here are similar to the Tapana Naraka, but the beings are pierced more bloodily with a trident. The life span in this Naraka is 4.2467328*107 years long.

Avici Naraka is the Uninterrupted Naraka where the beings are roasted in an immense blazing oven. The life span in this Naraka is 3.39738624*1018 years long.