Eighteen hells

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Depiction of the hell realms from a thangka of the Wheel of Life

The hells (Skt. naraka; Tib. དམྱལ་བ་, nyalwa, Wyl. dmyal ba) constitute one of the realms of the six classes of beings, they are characterized by extremely intense suffering. The hell realms are as real or as illusional as the human realm. It is important within our mind training to reflect upon the intense suffering of the hell beings, in order to strengthen our bodhicitta and our renunciation. There are eighteen hells (Skt. aṣṭadaśanaraka):

Chökyi Drakpa writes:

The cause of being born in any of these eighteen hells could be a vast accumulation of harmful actions perpetrated out of desire or delusion. Even so, a single momentary act such as taking life or speaking harsh words to an exceptional being, when carried out with a mind of intense anger, will propel you straight to the hells.[1]


Further Reading

  • Samuel Bercholz and Pema Namdol Thaye, A Guided Tour of Hell—A Graphic Memoir (Boston & London: Shambhala Publications, 2016)
  • Patrul Rinpoche, The Words of My Perfect Teacher (Boston: Shambhala, Revised edition, 1998), pages 63-72, ISBN 978-0300165326

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