Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
zengen
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Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by zengen » Sun May 29, 2016 12:30 am

(cross-posted from sister DW forum)

The Buddha taught that time passes very slowly in the hell realm, so a living being in hell can suffer for billions and trillions of human years before taking rebirth in higher realms.

The least amount of lifespan in hell that I know is about 10 billion years, and the greatest amount is 3.4×10^18 years [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naraka_(Buddhism)]

The time in hell realms can vary. The more severe the hell, the slower the time, and thus the longer lifespan of the hell beings. I have heard that one day in a normal hell (not the severe hells) is equivalent to about 2700 days in the human realm. The lifespan of the hell being is 10,000 hell years, which converts to 30 x 12 x 2700 x 10,000 = 9.72 billion human years, considering that there are 30 days in a month, 12 months in a year.

According to some youtube videos I watched, the lifespan in a small hell is 13.5 billion years, and the lifespan in the Avici hell is 728 billion years. That's a very long time.

Scientists now tell us that the current age of the universe is about 13.8 billion years. Knowing this, it's very difficult to imagine how long hell beings have to suffer.

Since living beings spend most of their lives in the three lower realms (animal, ghost, hell), do you think that in the infinite stretch of samsara (cyclic existence), living beings spend the majority of their time in the hell realm? It is truly scary if that is the case.

What is your opinion on this?
There is no meaning to cyclic existence.

SarathW
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by SarathW » Sun May 29, 2016 12:36 am

What happens to the beings at the end of the world systems?


http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=26570&hilit" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

santa100
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by santa100 » Sun May 29, 2016 1:12 am

zengen wrote:Scientists now tell us that the current age of the universe is about 13.8 billion years. Knowing this, it's very difficult to imagine how long hell beings have to suffer.
To be more precise, scientists until now can only estimate the current age of the "observable" universe. Other than humans and animals, the hell realm and the others in the six realms of existence still elude the most advanced 21st century scientific instruments. Hopefully we'll know more after we've captured dark matter and dark energy.
Since living beings spend most of their lives in the three lower realms (animal, ghost, hell), do you think that in the infinite stretch of samsara (cyclic existence), living beings spend the majority of their time in the hell realm? It is truly scary if that is the case.
While there's no way to tell for sure until we've attained the wisdom eye of the enlightened being, one thing that's certain is that once one's fallen down to the state of woe, it's exceedingly difficult to go back to the higher realms, as taught in MN 129:
Bhikkhus, a man would throw into the ocean a plough share with a single hole in it. Then with the eastern winds it would be carried west and with the western windscarried east. With the northern winds it would be carried south and with the southern winds carried north. Then there is a blind turtle in the depths of the ocean and it comes up to the surface after the lapse of a hundred years. Bhikkhus this turtle with one eye to see would he put his neck in the plough share and yoke it to the hole to see light?’

‘Venerable sir, it would happen after the lapse of a very long time.’

‘Bhikkhus, it is more likely that the blind turtle would put his neck in the plough share and yoke the eye to the hole to see light rather than the fool once fallen to hell would gain humanity.

zengen
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by zengen » Sun May 29, 2016 1:42 am

santa100 wrote: ...one thing that's certain is that once one's fallen down to the state of woe, it's exceedingly difficult to go back to the higher realms...
But it's very easy to fall into the hells... :weep:
There is no meaning to cyclic existence.

santa100
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by santa100 » Sun May 29, 2016 1:56 am

Like anything else, it's easier to break than to build, to squander than to save, to break the precepts than to adhere to them. That's why the Buddha went in great length reminding His disciples to be heedful and diligently practice what He taught:
SN 35.145 wrote:So, monks, I have taught you new & old kamma, the cessation of kamma, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma. Whatever a teacher should do — seeking the welfare of his disciples, out of sympathy for them — that have I done for you. Over there are the roots of trees; over there, empty dwellings. Practice jhana, monks. Don't be heedless. Don't later fall into regret. This is our message to you."

chownah
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by chownah » Sun May 29, 2016 3:38 am

The Buddha taught that time passes very slowly in the hell realm, so a living being in hell can suffer for billions and trillions of human years before taking rebirth in higher realms.
I think there was a mistake in translating the Pali into english....they translated the pali into "years" when they should have translated into "nanoseconds".
chownah

zengen
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by zengen » Sun May 29, 2016 3:56 am

chownah wrote:I think there was a mistake in translating the Pali into english....they translated the pali into "years" when they should have translated into "nanoseconds".
No, there is no mistake in translation.
There is no meaning to cyclic existence.

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TonyConrad
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by TonyConrad » Sun May 29, 2016 4:50 am

zengen wrote:(cross-posted from sister DW forum)

The Buddha taught that time passes very slowly in the hell realm, so a living being in hell can suffer for billions and trillions of human years before taking rebirth in higher realms.
Hi Zengen,

What sutta is this from?

My understanding of the length one would be in hell comes from this sutta whereby one is killed many times, but doesn't leave the hell realm until one's karma is spent.

There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

Here's the full sutta:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Last edited by TonyConrad on Sun May 29, 2016 4:53 am, edited 2 times in total.
They .. will not listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata ..are being recited. They will not lend ear, will not set their hearts on knowing them, will not regard these teachings as worth grasping or mastering. But they will listen when discourses that are literary works — the works of poets, elegant in sound, elegant in rhetoric, the work of outsiders, words of disciples — are recited. ..Thus from corrupt Dhamma comes corrupt discipline; from corrupt discipline, corrupt Dhamma.

This, monks, is the fourth future danger .. work to get rid of it.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

chownah
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by chownah » Sun May 29, 2016 4:51 am

zengen wrote:
chownah wrote:I think there was a mistake in translating the Pali into english....they translated the pali into "years" when they should have translated into "nanoseconds".
No, there is no mistake in translation.
In that case then, who is it that is reporting these exceedingly long spans of time and how do you think they determined the various lengths of time? Was it the buddha or was it some commentator?
chownah
:EDIT: I just looked at the link in your first post and noticed that it seems to be predominently if not exclusively mahayana buddhist in content. Did you know that this is a theravada forum and as such things which are held to by mahayana followers are quite often not recognized here as being the teachings of the buddha?
chownah

SarathW
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by SarathW » Sun May 29, 2016 10:00 pm

zengen wrote:
santa100 wrote: ...one thing that's certain is that once one's fallen down to the state of woe, it's exceedingly difficult to go back to the higher realms...
But it's very easy to fall into the hells... :weep:
Why are you very sad?
You are already a human and have access to pristine Dhamma. :)
Just practice
================
Perhaps your concern could be due to the random nature of existence.
There are many millions ways you can be reborn.
Say there are million white balls and one red ball, the chance of picking the red ball in random is very minimal.
Many humans live like hell beings. However they have the opportunity to learn Dhamma.
Then also we should consider the opportunity to born when the teaching of Buddha is available to us.
Even if you had this chance only half a billion human are Buddhist from a population of seven billion.
Very few Buddhists understand the true Dhamma.
I consider myself a very lucky man.
:D
Last edited by SarathW on Sun May 29, 2016 11:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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zengen
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by zengen » Sun May 29, 2016 10:18 pm

santa100 wrote: ‘Bhikkhus, it is more likely that the blind turtle would put his neck in the plough share and yoke the eye to the hole to see light rather than the fool once fallen to hell would gain humanity.
Even if no specific time is mentioned in the Pali canon, the Buddha gave an analogy of how long the time a being has to spend in hell, as evident in the above quotation.
There is no meaning to cyclic existence.

santa100
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by santa100 » Mon May 30, 2016 12:08 am

zengen wrote:Even if no specific time is mentioned in the Pali canon, the Buddha gave an analogy of how long the time a being has to spend in hell, as evident in the above quotation.
Don't worry too much about the time length of hell. What really matters now is that you're currently a human being who is among the very lucky few to be able to hear and practice the precious Dhamma. Your future destination is entirely within your control. Practice diligently and avoid evil unwholesome actions and things will be fine.

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Katarzyna
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by Katarzyna » Mon May 30, 2016 2:12 am

Hi zengen,
zengen wrote:The Buddha taught that time passes very slowly in the hell realm, so a living being in hell can suffer for billions and trillions of human years before taking rebirth in higher realms.

Can but not necessarily will. The big figures you quote are maximum life-spans of the beings in hell, not the penal sentences imposed on them. So though some beings like Devadatta may actually get to spend that long in hell, there are others who won't. Queen Mallika, for example, is said to have spent only a week in hell and then emerged and was reborn in a heaven.

zengen wrote:
santa100 wrote: ‘Bhikkhus, it is more likely that the blind turtle would put his neck in the plough share and yoke the eye to the hole to see light rather than the fool once fallen to hell would gain humanity.
Even if no specific time is mentioned in the Pali canon, the Buddha gave an analogy of how long the time a being has to spend in hell, as evident in the above quotation.
I believe the translation's wrong. The blind turtle simile is about the lower realms as a whole, not just hell.

More importantly the simile isn't about how long one will remain there but about the rarity of chances to get out.

And most importantly, it isn't the primary purpose of the simile to convey factual information about the finer points of some Iron Age cosmology, but to impress upon the audience the importance of not wasting their PRESENT human existence.

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zengen
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by zengen » Mon May 30, 2016 2:39 am

Katarzyna wrote: Queen Mallika, for example, is said to have spent only a week in hell and then emerged and was reborn in a heaven.
I'm curious, how did Queen Mallika get out of hell so soon? Did her relatives do merits for her after she passed away?
Katarzyna wrote: I believe the translation's wrong. The blind turtle simile is about the lower realms as a whole, not just hell.
You have a point, but it doesn't deny the fact that living beings spend most of their lives in the lower realms.
Katarzyna wrote:More importantly the simile isn't about how long one will remain there but about the rarity of chances to get out.
Well, the rarity of chances of getting out means spending a very long time in the lower realms.
Katarzyna wrote: And most importantly, it isn't the primary purpose of the simile to convey factual information about the finer points of some Iron Age cosmology, but to impress upon the audience the importance of not wasting their PRESENT human existence.
That's true.
There is no meaning to cyclic existence.

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Katarzyna
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Re: Lifespan of beings in the hell realm

Post by Katarzyna » Mon May 30, 2016 4:28 am

zengen wrote:
Katarzyna wrote: Queen Mallika, for example, is said to have spent only a week in hell and then emerged and was reborn in a heaven.
I'm curious, how did Queen Mallika get out of hell so soon?
As a human Mallika is said to have lived a generally spotless life, both as the king's consort and during many years as an upasika disciple of the Buddha. It was only one misdeed in the course of this life that got her into hell in the first place. The greater weight of her good deeds meant that her stay in hell was short.

zengen wrote:Did her relatives do merits for her after she passed away?
No, I don't think you will find this kind of thing in Theravada texts. Ritualistic practices for relieving beings in hell are a Mahayana development.

zengen wrote:
Katarzyna wrote:More importantly the simile isn't about how long one will remain there but about the rarity of chances to get out.
Well, the rarity of chances of getting out means spending a very long time in the lower realms.
I don't think that logically follows. For example, when people buy lottery tickets the fact that each person's chance of winning the jackpot is small doesn't allow any predictions to be made about whether this or that gambler will take a short time or a long time to win.


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