Naraka-Gati: The Realm of Suffering
Naraka is an old Sanskrit word meaning ‘hell’, this is the primary realm of existence. This dominion differs from Christianity’s views of hell in two main aspects: firstly, beings are not sent here by the judgement of a divine creator; secondly, the length that a soul stays in Naraka is not eternal, but generally last for thousands of years.
Naraka consists of many levels based on the karmic disposition of the person. A person that has committed many evil deeds will be sentenced to a longer and painful hell then someone who has done less evil. The souls are purified by the cosmic waters of purgatory, which rages endlessly, saturated with the wicked souls. You receive exact repayment for whatever karma you create, and the retribution is never off by even a hair’s breadth. The beings in these realms often lose consciousness, due to death. Upon death the beings are reborn and sent through torture again; specific to the realm.
This Naraka realm can be further divided into two classes including hot and cold Naraka.
8 Cold Narakas
Arbuda: The “Blister” Naraka
A dark, frozen plain surrounded by icy mountains and is continually swept by blizzards. Inhabitants of this world arise fully grown and live life naked and alone. The icy wind continually hitting the naked bodies produces painful blisters. The length of time an entity spends in this Naraka is said to be the time it would take to empty a barrel of sesame seeds, if one only took out a single seed every hundred years.
Nirarbuda: The “Burst Blister” Naraka
This realm is even colder than Arbuda. Blisters are present in this realm as well, but are cut open by the intense wind and cold. The bodies scattered in this realm are covered in frozen pus and blood.
Aṭaṭa: The “Shivering” Naraka
The victims are cold and are forever making ‘at-at-at’ sounds with their mouths.
Hahava: The “Lamentation” Naraka
The souls in this realm lament and make ‘haa-haa’ sounds in pain.
Huhuva. The “Chattering Teeth” Naraka
The being here are so cold that they chattering their teeth and make “hu-hu” sounds.
Utpala: The “Blue Lotus” Naraka
This realm is so cold that it turns the skin of the beings blue, the skins tone is similar to that of a blue lotus or waterlily.
Padma: The Lotus Naraka
In this realm the skins of the beings erupt open, leaving the wound raw and bloody.
Mahapadma: The Great Lotus Naraka.
In this realm the bodies of the victims shatter like glass, exposing organs, which also shatter in the cold.
8 Hot Narakas
Sanjiva: The “Reviving” Naraka
The exact measurements of this realm is supposedly 7000 (11,265 km) miles deep, and 70,000 (112,654 km) miles every direction. The entities in this realm are born fully mature and are already in a state of fear and misery. This realm is filled with hateful and violent people that attack each other with iron claws. In between the melee the hell guards appear, they attack the beings with fiery weapons. When the beings experience death through unconsciousness, they are suddenly reborn and tortured again. This realm also features other forms of torture, including: being sliced into pieces, having molten metal being dropped on them and suffering endlessly from the heated iron floor. An average lifetime in this Naraka is 1.65 × 1012 years long.
Kalasutra: The “Black Thread” Naraka
This realm has the same tortures as the Sanjiva realm, but with additional methods of torture. Black lines are sewn on individuals, which the hell guards use as a guide to dissect the body with their fiery weapons and saws. The average lifetime in this Naraka is 1.30 × 1013 years.
Samghata: The “Crushing” Naraka.
The area is surrounded by massive boulders which smash into each other, with the beings trapped within the calamity. The beings are crushed into a bloody jell, until the boulders move apart, they are then revived to full health. This process is endless and causes entities to lose consciousness very quickly. The average lifetime in this Naraka is 1.04 × 1014 years.
Raurava: The “Screaming” Naraka
In this realm the beings run about wildly, looking for refuge from fires. When the beings find a apparent shelter, they are locked inside and the building is set ablaze. The beings scream inside the building, as they as slowly burned away.The average lifetime in this Naraka is 8.29 × 1014 years.
Maharaurava: The “Great Screaming” Naraka
This Naraka is similar to Raurava. This realm is inhabited by entities that have hurt others to maintain their own wellbeing. In this Naraka, demonic animals such as, kravyada, torment them and eat their flesh. The average lifetime in this Naraka is 6.64 × 1015 years.
Tapana: The “Heating” Naraka
The hell guards impale the individuals with fiery weapons, the fires from their weapons seep through the nostrils and mouths of the individuals. The average lifetime in this Naraka is 5.32 × 1016 years.
Pratapana: The “Great Heating” Naraka
The tortures here are similar to that of Tapana. The beings are impaled more savagely with fiery weapons, exposing charred internal organs and flesh. It is said to last half a antarakalpa. The average lifetime in this Naraka is 4.25 × 1017 years.
Avici: The “Uninterrupted” Naraka
The beings in this realm are roasted alive in a massive oven, suffer terribly for many years. The souls in this dimension face never ending afflictions for an entire antarakalpa! The average lifetime in this Naraka is 3.40 × 1018 years.
Preta-Gati: The Realm of Hunger
The truly evil souls enter the Naraka, while the not so wicked ones end up in Preta-Gati.Ghost are essentially masses of yin energy, that lack form but has a shadow or vice-versa. The hungry ghosts in this realm are depicted as pitiable beings with huge, but empty, stomaches and pinhole mouths. Their neck and mouth are so thin that it becomes impossible to satisfy their hunger. These entities are associated with addiction, obsession and compulsion. Greed and jealousy lead to birth of these beings.
The ghosts in this realm delight in hate. They lack reasoning behind good and bad, so they treat every situation with uncontrolled rage, regardless if your good to them or bad to them. Lighting a stick of incense is said to call forth ghosts. People generally light incense to pay respects to ghosts. Often before we pay respects to them, they will not bother us. Upon recognizing them, they will become a nuisance, make you sick and create trouble in your life. So you must be careful with lighting incense and paying respects to ghosts, because they can be difficult to get rid of. Confucius once said, “Respect the ghosts and spirits, but keep them at a distance”.
Ghost generally do not understand the law of cause and effect, or law of karma. Essentially, you reap what you sow. Ghost have no comprehension of this law, so they act recklessly and in confusion. Their ignorance grows greater everyday, allowing them to gain a heavy density of negative karma. This is often a endless cycle for most poor souls, as they are stuck in a cycle of collecting massive amounts of negative karma.
The Hungry Ghost is more or less a metaphor of a person that is trying to fulfill their illusory physical desires. What they want, they can never have.
In Japanese Buddhism, their are two different types of Preta, Gaki and Jikininki. Souls in a Gaki are classified as beings that are jealous and greedy, the karmic punishment for this is to be cursed with an insatiable appetite for a particular substance or object. The Jikininki are spirits belonging to greedy, selfish and impious individuals. The punishment for this spirit is to scavenge and eat newly dead bodies. The Jikininki do not like their craving for dead human flesh, but nevertheless are forced to consume it.
The Hungry Ghost Festival is popular amongst Chinese Buddhists. They try to satisfy the roaming spirits by offering food and drinks. According to one myth, the spirits are granted permission to return to world of the living, and take what they want, if they had not been given sufficient offerings by their relatives.
Tiragyoni-Gati: The Realm of Brutality
Animal beings are characterized for their stupidity, prejudice and complacency. They live fragile lives, at the whim of nature and man. As animals, they avoid discomfit and the unfamiliar. Beings that are ignorant and carefree generally end up in this denomination, they display lack of critical thinking and base knowledge to ascend further. The transition between humans, asura and animals are very likely upon death.
Souls become reincarnated into animals due to greed. Animals eagerly try their best to accumulate as much possible of everything, good and bad; to them, more is better. They will never get tried of their greed, which is their ultimate downfall. It often takes animals (and lower level reincarnations) eons to rebirth into a human.
Rebirth in this realm is considered unfavourable because of the amount of suffering that is present. They are attacked and eaten by other animals, constantly living in fear of other entities. They endure extreme and volatile changes in the environment on an on-going basis. Those that live amongst humans are often slaughtered for food, or forcibly taken and worked with many beatings. When their bodies are worn out from the slave labour, they are slaughtered to end their miserable lives. They lack the critical thinking necessary to build a shelter and provide security, hence they are trapped in an endless circle of fear and brutality.
Asura-Gati: The Realm Of Personal Demons
Asura is a Sanskrit word that means “ugly”. Generally there are both male and female asuras; males are depicted as ugly, while the females are beautiful. The very nature of an asura is to initiate conflicts and strife. Males generally like to fight physically using their strength. The female asuras tend to fight in coverts methods, using weapons of the minds such as ignorance, jealousy, obstructiveness and affliction.
The Asuras are immensely strong and powerful beings who are depicted as the arch-nemesis to the Devas. The are renowned for their fierce envy and pride. A being born here are filled with hate and jealousy, hence they are born as an Asura (demon). The Asura are described as, “Always desiring to be superior to others, having no patience for inferiors and belittling strangers; like a hawk, flying high above and looking down on others, and yet outwardly displaying justice, worship, wisdom, and faith — this is raising up the lowest order of good and walking the way of the Asuras.”
Asuras can either be placed in the Three Good Realms (Gods, Humans, Asuras) or the Four Evil Realms (Hell, Hungry Ghost, Animals, Asura). The most concentration of asuras can be found in the Asura-Gati, however they are not limited to just one plane of existence. They exist in the animal, human, hungry ghost and even the God realms. Regardless of the realm they are in, they will pick fights and have bad tempers. They will actively try to control other entities like a supervisor, while not allowing themselves to be controlled.
Asuras in the human realm can include military officials and troops. The especially bad ones can come in the form of bandits, robbers, thieves, thugs and murders.
The asuras in heaven constantly wage war against the heavenly army of Shakra. They scheme and fight morning till night, in order to seize the jeweled throne and become the heavenly king. The downfall of the asura is that they are blessed beyond a doubt, but lack the power to defeat any heavenly beings.
Asuras exist in the animal realm as well. Tigers, lions, snakes, eagles and wolves are examples of asuras that exist in the animal realm. They often bully other animals and kill them for food.
Asuras in the hungry ghost realm exist to bully the ghosts within this realm. The ghosts in this realm are unreasonable to being with, but asuras are even more unreasonable and have huge tempers.
They are given great blessings at birth, but lack heavenly authority. They fight for control of power and advantages, but fail to obtain them because they lack the authority too. The modern world is filled with auras, all fighting and struggling; mostly due to the dog eat dog mentality that the asuras have created. Asuras are so hard-headed that they can fight indefinitely for thousands of years without growing tired.
They are forced to pay retribution wherever the laws of karma desires them too. They will often get dragged to many lower and higher levels to pay off the debt of karma.
If one is to hang around with asuras, you will become closer with them. Getting closer with an asura is a sure way to end up in the realm of asuras.
Manusya-Gati: The Human Realm Of Personality And Duality
The realm of the asura is filled with evil being, what of the human realm ? Humans have a dualistic nature, they can be both good and evil. Harmony or balance is what defines us as a realm. People are naturally harmonious, capable of getting along with anyone and anything thing.
The Human Realm is the only dimension in which a being can escape samsara. Enlightenment is within the cusp of all humans, yet only very few attain the ultimate prize. Birth in this realm belong to those that have passion, doubt and desire.
Sometimes souls are trapped within the human realm because they are karma neutral, so they do not ascend or descend to different realms. Beings in this realm acquire merits and offences, based on their overall life. A being with many merits will often rebirth into a rich and distinguished family, whereas heaving large amount of offences will lead to rebirth into a poor family.
Between the extremes of good (yang) and bad (yin), there are many thousand of distinctions a human can gain. A human with heavy affiliation with yin will ultimately turn into a hungry ghost, whereas a human with lots of collected yang will ascend into a god.
As a human, we have complete control over our destiny. We are not ignorant like the beings in other realms. We know what is good and what is bad. The consequences of our actions lead to our fate.
Deva-Gati: The Realm Of The Gods
The Deva Realm is populated by godlike beings who have great power, wealth and long lives. They live everyday in happiness and splendor. They do however grow old and die, like all of creation. Their privilege and rank makes them blind to suffering of others, so despite their gifts, they have neither wisdom nor compassion. The Devas have mastered samara and will ultimately be reborn in one of of the six heavenly realms. The beings here have cultivated the five precepts and the ten good deeds, they obtain the blessings and rewards of the heavens as a result.
In total there are 3 types of heavens according to Buddhist, these include desire, form and formless realms. The heavens of Deva can be called the Desire Realm Heavens, which can be divided into 6 Heavenly Realms and one Brahma Heaven.
The Six Desire Realms
The Realm Of The Four Heavenly Kings
Our Manusya realm is located under the first of the six heavens within the Desire Realm. The first heaven of the Desire Realm is ruled by the Four Heavenly Kings. The exact location of this heaven was hypothesized to be halfway up Mount Sumeru, meaning that the bottom half of the mountain is within the Manusya Realm. The parts of this heaven located on the North, South, East, and West sides of Mount Sumeru are governed by the Four Heavenly Kings, as are the four continents of our world: Purvavideha to the East, Jambudvipa to the South, Aparagodaniya to the West, and Uttarakuru to the North.
The souls that exist within the Heaven of the Four Heavenly Kings have an average lifespan of 500 years, relative to themselves. An entire day in heaven is equivalent to 50 years on earth. This would mean that the average adult living up to 70 in human years would live 1,277,500 years in this realm.
Trayastrimsha: The “Don’t Know” Heaven
Trayastri is a Sanskrit word, roughly translated to, “Don’t Know Heaven”. Trayastrimsha on the other hand is a Sanskrit word meaning, “thirty-three”; this is the number of heavens present in this heaven. Trayastrimsha Heaven has 4 heavens orbiting around it, within the North, South, East and West quadrants of space. Within each quadrant there is 8 different heavens, making a grand total of 33 heaven within this realm, including itself. Shakra, also know as yin tuo la ye and Indra in the Shurangama Mantra, resides as the king within this realm. He is often depicted as the ‘God’ revered in the Bible, in China he is known as the Jade Emperor. Shu-Jing, The Book of History, refers to him as the Supreme Lord, “Bathe and observe purity in order to worship the Supreme Lord.” Shakra resides in the centre of Trayastrimsha, overlooking the orbiting realms near it.
Yama: The “Time Period” Heaven
Yama is a Sanskrit word meaning, “time period”. In this realm, the gods are so happy that they rejoice and sing of their bliss all day long. They sing, “How happy I am! I’m so happy!” They are joyful throughout all the six periods within a day. This is why the realm is called ‘time period’, because the gods here are happy every time period.
Tushita: The “Happiness And Contentment” Heaven
Tushita is a Sanskrit word meaning, “happiness and contentment”. The gods here are always happy and satisfied with life in every aspect. The gods in this realm do not worry or care about anything because they have no afflictions or worries.
Nirmalarati: The Heaven Of “Transformation Of Bliss”
Nirmalarati is a Sankrit word meaning, “Heaven of the transformation of bliss”. In this realm the gods create happiness through transformations. The realm of “happiness and contentment” stay blissfully unaware and happy in any situation. The beings here are aware of unhappy situations, this leads them to transform themselves, creating happiness and pure love.
Paranirmita-Vavartin: The Heaven Of “Transformation Of Others’ Bliss”
The gods in this heaven do not have any bliss of their own, they do however take bliss from other beings within heavens. This heaven also has many demons living in it, sucking bliss away from the gods within the many realms.
The Brahma Heavens
The Brahma Heavens include the Great Brahma (Mahabrahma) Heaven, the Multitudes of Brahma (Brahmakayika) Heaven, and the Ministers of Brahma (Brahmapurohita) Heaven. Beings of the Six Desire Heavens and the Brahma Heavens practice the five precepts and the ten good deeds.