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Avīci hell, 13th century, collected in Japan

In Buddhism, Avīci (Sanskrit and Pali for "without waves" – Chinese and Japanese: 無間地獄, Wújiàn dìyù and 阿鼻地獄, Ābí dìyù) or Avichi is the lowest level of the Naraka or "hell" realm, with the most suffering, into which the dead who have committed grave misdeeds may be reborn.[1] It is said to be a cube 20,000 yojanas (120,000 to 300,000 kilometres) to a side, buried deep underneath the divine (nonvisible) earth.[2] Avīci is often translated into English as "interminable" or "incessant", referring to suffering without periods of respite, although it is believed to be ultimately impermanent.[3]

Avīci-punishable offenses/transgressions[edit]

There are various evil acts which can lead one to be committed to the torments of the Avīci Hell. People reborn in Avīci generally have committed one or more of the Five Grave Offenses:[3][4]

  • Intentionally killing one's father.
  • Intentionally killing one's mother.
  • Killing an Arhat (enlightened being).
  • Shedding the blood of a Buddha.
  • Creating a schism within the Sangha, the community of Buddhist monks, nuns and laypersons who try to attain enlightenment.

Details about Avīci[edit]

Buddhism teaches that rebirth into Naraka is temporary, while the offenders work off the karma they garnered in life. Avīci is sometimes cited as lasting 3.39738624×1018 or 339,738,624×1010 years long[5], about 3.4 billion billion years.

The Lotus Sutra provides an example of humans who have to endure long-term suffering in Avīci.[6][7] Some sutras state that rebirth in Avīci will be for innumerable kalpas (aeons). When the offender passes away after one kalpa, it is reborn in the same place, suffering for another kalpa, and on and on until it has exhausted its bad karma.[8] For this reason, Avīci hell is also known as the "non-stop way" (無間道).

Nichiren famously wrote that Buddhist monks who ignored the passages in the Lotus Sutra, which claimed its superiority over other sutras, would fall into the Avīci hell.[9] Outside of Nichiren, it is extremely rare for a Buddhist monk to condemn anyone to Avīci hell, although the Lotus Sutra itself states of those who slander it, "when his life comes to an end, he will enter the Avichi Hell."

Some believe rebirth in Avīci (or any lower realm for that matter) should be seen as a process of purification. If anyone correctly follows the teachings of Buddha, he will be able to attain enlightenment without going to any hell even if he has accumulated vast negative Karma (excluding Anantarika-Karma). There are many stories of those who have accumulated negative Karma but refrain from a hell because they attained enlightenment before their Karma ripened. If one has Anantarika-Karma he will not be able to attain enlightenment in this life because this negative Karma will ripen immediately. There is no supernatural being that determines anyone's fate of its own will[10] and everyone is responsible for their own actions and their consequences: "[...] beings are owners of kamma, heir to kamma, born of kamma, related through kamma, and have kamma as their arbitrator. Kamma is what creates distinctions among beings in terms of coarseness & refinement."[11] Thus, being reborn in Avīci is purely the inevitable result of one's evil deeds and not the decision of a deity.


  1. ^ Gray, David B. (2007). "Compassionate Violence? On the Ethical Implications of Tantric Buddhist Ritual". Journal of Buddhist Ethics. 14: 238–271.
  2. ^ Sadakata, Akira (1997). Buddhist cosmology: philosophy and origins, Tokyo: Kōsei Pub., p. 47
  3. ^ a b Buswell, Robert E. (2003). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 86.
  4. ^ Singh, N.K.; Mishra, A.P. (2010). Global Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophy. Global Vision Publishing House. p. 50. ISBN 8182202949.
  5. ^ Akhtar Malik (2007). A Survey of Buddhist Temples and Monasteries. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD. p. 50. ISBN 978-81-261-3259-1.
  6. ^ Phyllis Granoff; Koichi Shinohara (2012). Sins and Sinners: Perspectives from Asian Religions. BRILL. p. 139. ISBN 978-90-04-22946-4. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  7. ^ Kubo Tsugunari, Yuyama Akira (tr.). The Lotus Sutra. Revised 2nd ed. Berkeley, Calif. : Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2007. ISBN 978-1-886439-39-9, p. 268
  8. ^ Shengyan (2002). The Sword of Wisdom: Commentaries on the Song of Enlightenment, Elmhurst, N.Y. : Dharma Drum Publications, p.159
  9. ^ Mujū Ichien (30 August 1985). Sand and Pebbles: The Tales of Muju Ichien, A Voice for Pluralism in Kamakura Buddhism. SUNY Press. pp. 19–20. ISBN 978-0-88706-060-1. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  10. ^ Itivuttaka: This Was Said by the Buddha
  11. ^ Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta: The Shorter Analysis of Action