Buddhist Hell, Sri Lanka – Gruesome Photos Banned By Facebook, Revealed (WARNING: LOL’s)
Like me, you may have assumed Buddhism was such a happy religion. Until I discovered Buddhist Hell, deep in the South of Sri Lanka, I figured that Buddhist temples were full of kind, enlightened, robe-wearing folks, living out their days on this world performing good deeds and racking up good karma. From a Western perspective brand-Buddhism is pacifism, tranquillity, and paying a hundred bucks to see the Shaolin Monks world tour.Unfortunately, visiting Sri Lanka (one of the most stunning island nations on the entire planet) taught me everything I never wanted to know about Buddhism.
Like all religions, Buddhism has a special dark place where people really don’t want to end up, after their life is over. Buddhists refer to it as “Naraka” or “Niraya”. You may know it as “hell”. In the town named Dikwella, one artists vision of this tormented and gruesome place is on display, inside the Buddhist temple named Wewurukannala Vihara. Note: the Buddhist version of hell probably makes your version of hell seem not so bad.
Buddhists have developed a complex, and rather specific, number of hell’s and punishments. There’s sixteen hells. A small sample includes “Nirarbuda”, a place where miscreant beings roam around a dark, frozen plain surrounded by icy mountains, where bodies blister from the icy cold, and are covered in blood and pus. “Samghata”,is where the residents are continually crushed by huge rocks until they are nothing but bloody jelly. This continues for precisely 10.0368 trillion years, the rocks then move apart, the being is restored, but the brutal process is then repeated for another 10.0368 trillion years.
Lesser-known Buddhist hells are a mixed bag of flesh eating animals, blood, guts, fire, and weaponry of various ingenuity.No matter which one is your favourite Buddhist Hell, down in Dikwella they’re all gruesome, and the wifi sucks. Personally, I liked the stabbing hell, where red-hot-spears are inserted into the body until fire comes out of the nose. Of course, more hells are actively being discussed, by those Buddhists for whom sixteen hells is simply not enough.
Giant Buddha temples in Asia, they’re a dime a dozen. And all of them have a sign that proudly states “this is the largest Buddha in Asia”. But how many temples have kitschy mid-century models of demon like creatures and hundreds of paintings interpreting Buddhist hell? Which is why Wewurukannala Vihara temple is just so god-damn good. However, here in Sri Lanka, a land dominated by Buddhism, writing about the somewhat unknown Wewurukannala Vihara temple comes with a hellish bag of problems.
Mentioning Buddhists and gruesome torture in the same sentence in Sri Lanka can be a dangerous past-time. When I first posted photos of “Buddhist hell” on the Yomadic Facebook page, I was inundated with threats, insults, judgements, rudeness, and incredulity that this temple even existed within Sri Lanka. The photo was reported to Facebook for “violating guidelines”. My account was suspended. Facebook administrators suggested it would just be easier to remove my entire Facebook presence, permanently. This was at the request of Sri Lankan Buddhists, which seems strange, but perhaps a dive into the dark history of the island nation formerly known as Ceylon may help.
Recently, Sri Lanka has suffered through a bloody civil war. Lasting 26 years, taking 100,000 lives, and ending less than five years ago, the war was won by the well equipped Buddhist soldiers. I know that sounds inflammatory, but it’s as true as saying that the American armed forces are Christian soldiers, or the Iraqi soldiers are Muslim soldiers. And nobody would really find that particularly inflammatory. The sad fact is, as with Christians and Muslims, many of the never-harm-an-insect Buddhists are very willing to kill humans of a different religion.
Of course, Buddhists are capable of war, torture, terrorism, and killing. Buddhists hang at malls, and shop for designer labels. They scan the internet looking for information on the newest iPhone. In high-finance business dealings, they will rip you off. They’re violent, judgemental, materialistic, racist, and rotten to the core. Behind your back, they’ll laugh at you. To your face, they will lie.
They’re also beautiful, friendly, warm, welcoming, generous, and honest. They lead live simple lives, respecting and helping others, expecting nothing in return. They’ve got an old Nokia that they use, preferring to give the money they save on the purchase of a new phone to a local orphanage. They never judge, and never engage in violent activity. They have hearts of gold – not because they fear hell, purely because they are naturally good people.
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Buddhist Hell – Closing Thoughts on the Wewurukannala Vihara Temple in Dikwella, Sri Lanka
Buddhist Hell itself may not be a real place, however it is a real tourist attraction. However, it’s kitschy, tacky, decaying, covered with imagery of torture and gore, and this just isn’t what most tourists are into these days. Wewurukannala Vihara was empty, and the town of Dikwella was tourist-free. Perhaps, one day, gruesome artistic visions of Buddhist Hell will be the hot new attraction on the Sri Lankan tourist-circuit. Probably not, but I loved it.
PS, personal update – it’s been almost 600 days on the road, and I’ve finally managed to pull myself away from Europe – just for a couple of months. In the last few weeks I have covered three continents. More soon….
PPS, next week – the mean streets of Colombo – street photography from Sri Lanka’s capital, and largest city. Apart from hellish Buddhist visions, there is a LOT to see in Sri Lanka. Street scenes, beaches, and sunsets…