“Aye, there’s the rub! For in the sleep of death, what dreams may come? “asked Hamlet in his monologue. Far beyond dreams, Naraka is a place of torment in the after-life, according to schools of Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. What sort of nightmarish torment awaits us in hell? Pay a visit to Buddha Hell in the Wang Saen Suk Monastery just an hour outside Bangkok for a tour of what nightmares may come.
WANG SAEN SUK MONASTERY
“Welcome to Hell” says a sign beside a statue of a man cutting his hair and a Buddhist saint killing crocodiles. This may seem nothing out of the ordinary at first but keep going and you will see a tapestry of pain that hell is known for.
As you enter the garden, you will be greeted by two gigantic figures of an emaciated man and woman with their tongues hanging out, the symbol of hungry ghosts who have caused misfortunes to others. Below them are sinners being boiled alive in a cauldron. And, around them, you will find some twisted figures that with animal heads in aggressive poses that are meant to intimidate or bully the unfortunate souls that have found themselves in the garden of hell. But, as you look closer, you will realize that even these creatures are in torment.
Among them is a creature with a pig’s head that stands over a plaque that says, “One who makes a corruption is punished in the hell, they are named as the spirits of the pigs.” In this garden, those who were ungrateful became tigers, the jealous ones turned into rabbits, the brawlers turned into ducks, and those who sell drugs turned into cows. Unfortunately, hell doesn’t just end with just the torment of gaining an animal head or being festered with an insatiable hunger.
THE EIGHT PITS OF BUDDHIST HELL
As you journey further into the garden, you will find Phya Yom, the Death King who is seated with his scribes who are busily looking at the list of deeds committed by the two chained souls in front of them. They will then be taken to one of the eight pits of Buddhist Hell where they shall receive their well-deserved punishment. The sexual offenders spend their after-life climbing a thorny tree to avoid the wrath of hell dogs while being pecked in the eye by a raven while a rapist is being penetrated with the use of a long, sharp object. You will also find a promiscuous woman being penetrated by a spear and alcoholics being forced to drink burning hot oil. One sinner was literally being fed alive to the birds and another one is being hacked into pieces. In another corner, you will find a woman with her tongue being pulled by a wrench.
HOW TO GET OUT OF HELL
In the middle of the garden, you will find the words: “If you meet the Devil in this life, don’t postpone merit-making which will help you to defeat him in the next life.” This message gives a means of avoiding hell by doing good deeds that will negate all the bad karma you have incurred from evil deeds. It also emphasizes that with the exception of those who have done the worst deeds of killing monks and their parents, the punishment ends when all bad karma has been cleared and the person is reborn.
HOW TO GET THERE
If you wish to pay a visit to Buddhist hell, then hop on a bus to Pattaya by the Victory Monument and get off at Saen Suk. From the bus stop, you can take a motorbike taxi or taxi to the monastery just make sure that the driver understands that you are going to Wang Saen Suk and not Wat Saen Suk.
CHECK OUT OTHER HELLISH GARDENS IN THAILAND
As Buddhism is a big part of Thai culture, it is not surprising that you will find more Buddhist hells as you travel around Thailand. Outside Chiang Mai, for example, you will find another Buddhist Hell in the garden of Wat Mae Kaet Noi. If you find yourself in hell during your tour around Thailand, send us a postcard (or better yet…don’t) or just comment below.
All images belong to HawkeBackpacking.com