Life After Death – Continuing to Traverse the Underworld

Following on from a post I wrote two weeks ago, here is the second part that looks at different culture’s beliefs concerning the afterlife. Where you go and what you do in the afterlife, are determined by your actions in this one.


In this Ancient Chinese religion Diyu, the realm of the dead, exists as the means of punishing souls for their perceived sins during their life on earth. Those that follow the religion believe in reincarnation, so their sojourn in Diyu is temporary. The length of time that each soul spends here varies and is determined by the severity of sins that they must atone for.

Described by followers as a subterranean maze, with many different levels referred to as The Ten Courts of Hell or The Eighteen Levels of Hell. The latter includes the cauldron of torture where sinners are fried in cauldrons of oil, the mountain of knives where they are thrown off a mountain unto sharp knives and the removal of body parts including tongues, disembowelment and skinning alive. The souls of the sinners are then restored to relive their punishment, until they have served a sufficient amount for their sins after which they are reincarnated on earth.


Buddhists also belief in reincarnation and their rebirth into the afterlife, Naraka, is said to be as a direct result of their accumulated actions (karma) on earth. Located in the cavernous layers which extend beneath the surface of the earth, the realm is divided into hot and cold narakas, and souls are assigned one based on the karma they need to make amends for. They remain here until they have made up for all their sins, after which they will be reborn into one of the higher worlds.

Cold nakaras include: Arbuda which is a dark, frozen plain where individuals are reborn fully grown and naked. The cold raises painful blisters on their bodies. Nirarbuda which is a higher level of cold which results in the blisters bursting open and freezing blood and pus oozing from them. Mahapadma or the ‘great lotus’ where the body develops large cracks, exposing internal organs to extreme cold causing them to crack as well.

Hot narakas punish using heat and include: Tapana or the ‘heating’ where guards impale beings on a fiery spear until flames are released from their mouths and noses. Raurava or the ‘screaming’ where the ground is blazing and any shelter found encloses those trying to escape, burning the beings within.


In Haitian voodoo, or vodou, the souls of those who have died pass into the spirit world known as Guinee. It is ruled by the loa (deity) Baron Samedi and the spirits of the dead must journey through seven gates to be reunited with others who passed on before. Many of those that follow the religion believe that the gates are in New Orleans.


One of the most popular religions in the western world today, Christianity teaches about the concept of Hell. Even though many followers proclaim that it is a place of eternal flames, Christian leaders teach that everyone’s punishment is different. They all agree, however, that it includes eternal suffering for those that are unrepentant of their earthly sins.

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Wendy Saunders - Author

I am a romantic suspense author based in Hampshire in the UK

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