The Buddha taught that there was no hell except the one of this life: all of life is suffering, and the goal of each human life should be to alleviate universal suffering and attain enlightenment.
However, not all forms of Buddhism are united on that count. Some branches of Buddhism (of Indian origin) believe that there are eight additional hells for people having committed specific crimes. These hells serve as waiting rooms in which the soul endures a period of time between death and rebirth.
Needless to say, there are no copies of People magazine or Cat Fancy. Not even really old back issues.
The Eight Hells
- Avici - The Hell of No End: for murderers. Duration of stay: a whole kalpa.
What's a kalpa?
A kalpa lasts the length of time it takes for a bird to sharpen its beak on a granite cube measuring a mile on each side, when the bird only visits the cube once every 10,000 years. When the block as completely worn away, then one kalpa has passed.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
This spiritual manual, revered by some Mahayana Buddhists, holds that Hell (the period between death and rebirth) lasts 49 days. During this time, the soul faces demons and hallucinations. These tests establish the purity of the soul, and its worthiness to either a) go on to Nirvana or b) get a (new) life.
Some of the punishments detailed in the Book of the Dead include:
Yama-Raja, the Lord of Death, does the judging. He counts out a soul's good deeds as white pebbles, and the bad deeds as black pebbles. The soul's punishment in hell will depend on how many excess black pebbles it has.