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By Charles S. Prebish, Damien Keown

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The second difference is that the Buddhist hell is more varied, and is thought to have cold as well as hot areas in which the departed spirits suffer until their evil karma is purged. The world of the ghosts is a realm of suffering of a special kind. The denizens of this realm are pictured as beings who were selfish and greedy in their previous life and who are now suffering the consequences by being denied the ability to enjoy the pleasures they crave. In popular art they are depicted with swollen stomachs and tiny mouths through which they can never pass enough food to satisfy their constant hunger.

Good deeds result in an upward movement and bad deeds in a downward one. In popular usage in the West karma is thought of simply as the good and bad things that happen to a person, like good and bad luck. However, this oversimplifies what for Buddhists is a complex of interrelated ideas which embraces Contents | Chapter 1: ↑start | ↓end both ethics and belief in rebirth, and which is summed up in the word saṃsāra, (“flowing on”). The doctrine of karma is concerned with the ethical implications of Dharma, or the Buddha’s teachings.

Berkely: University of California Press, 2002. O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980. Reichenbach, Bruce R. The Law Of Karma: A Philosophical Study. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990. Reynolds, Frank and Mani B. Reynolds. Three Worlds according to King Ruang: a Thai Buddhist Cosmology. Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1982. Sadakata, Akira. Buddhist Cosmology: Philosophy and Origins. 1st English ed. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing Company, 1997.

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