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Heaven and Hell (Asian Focus)


While Buddhist heaven is designed for the holy beings and prepared for the virtuous devotees who will live pure and happy lives there upon their deaths, a painful underground hell is imagined as a place to imprison the souls of those who do not behave well in their lifetime. Heaven and hell, therefore, form a system of reward and punishment according to religious and social disciplines. In addition to its primary function as a place for punishment, hell is also one of the six states of existence (e.g., gods, men, monsters, hell, hungry ghosts, and animals). The six states of existence are interchangeable through the process of rebirth, and no state is permanent. The six states of existence are also described as six paths of rebirth and visually represented as a wheel, which is divided into six radiating panels in Buddhist art. Ten courts of justice, supervised by the ten kings of hell, are set up on the way to hell to clarify the sinners' specific evil deeds and to decide the level or type of punishment. The most evil sinner is sent to Avici, the deepest and most painful section of hell. The tortures in hell include hot and cold treatments such as being thrown into fire, dipped into boiling oil, drinking hot liquid copper, or staying in a frozen cave of ice. In some local versions, a specific means of punishment is created to target a certain crime. An old woman who badmouths a neighbor, for instance, might be punished by having her tongue cut off by an executioner in hell as we can see in stone carvings at Dazu, Sichuan province, in southwestern China.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Habit memory: to HeterodontHeaven and Hell (Asian Focus) - Heaven, Hell, Conclusion, Bibliography