Will Non Buddhists go to Hell because they reject that the Buddha had supernatural knowledge?


I’m posting this topic after a reddit topic.

Basically, apparently, in the Pali Canon, it is said that a person who denies the supramundane knowledge of the Buddha, will be reborn in hell

This implies that if Christians or Muslims deny that the Buddha had supernormal knowledge because it is not compatible with their religion, then these Christians and Muslims will be reborn in hell.

What do you think ?

Thanks in advance.

May all beings become arhats.

Suppose that certain Mr. X proclaims that he has supernatural knowledge.

Case 1: Mr. A knows nothing about Mr. X but he still blindly goes ahead and announces that he rejects Mr. X’s proclamation.

Case 2: Mr. A knows nothing about Mr. X but he based on certain bias/ own knowledge/ own belief/ own experience/ own view etc. so he chooses to reject Mr. X’s proclamation.

Case 3: Mr. A knows partially about Mr. X but he based on certain bias/ own knowledge/ own belief/ own experience/ own view etc. so he choose to reject Mr. X’s proclamation.

Case 4: Mr. A knows completely about Mr. X but he mostly based on certain bias/ own knowledge/ own belief/ own experience/ own view etc. so he choose to reject Mr. X’s proclamation.

Case 5: Mr. A knows completely about Mr. X and he based on this knowledge to reject Mr. X’s proclamation.

In my opinion, the sutta you were referring seems to refer to people belongs to case 1-4, not the case 5. And for case 1-4, these are actions come from wrong view. And in the case involving with a great being (the Buddha), the consequence will therefore be great. So, it sounds frightening (hair-raising) but hell is actually a reasonable consequence.


That is a Christian thing.

Buddhism operates on karma, which is an impersonal law without a consciousness behind it to get offended.

Like an impersonal law of physics.

No matter who you are, you will fall at 9.8 meters per second.

While not all of your experiences are the result of karma, most of your experiences will be the result of what you do and your motivations behind it.

There was a similar passage I remember reading where the Buddha was asked what happens to a deva who dies; and his response is that the deva goes to hell. The meaning I took was that due to samsara being cyclic, the deva would eventually end up in hell because the nature of unawakened beings is to bounce around between the realms.

I am inclined to read the issue about supramundane knowledge the same way. People with confidence in the Buddha’s knowledge have either consciously decided to traverse the path to awakening or have awakened. But people who don’t have confidence have not made this decision. Therefore at some point, due to bouncing around in samsara, they will end up in hell.

The difference between the above and a religion like Christianity is that you don’t necessarily go to hell immediately. Rather, you are destined for hell because all conditioned beings will pass through hell at some point or another, if they haven’t attained stream entry or beyond.


Thanks for your message, your idea is interesting.

But honestly, I can’t help thinking that this kind of idea is mostly made to reassure us, to arrange Buddhism to what we would like Buddhism to be. Personally, I am not an expert in Buddhism. But when I read this sutra, for me the message is very clear: just like killing our parents leads to hell, denying the supramundane knowledge of Buddha leads to hell. That is to say that in the same way that the Buddha says that killing our parents leads to hell, denying the supramundane knowledge leads to hell: it is not simply a story of samsara which would necessarily end up making us taste hell, but it is well that compared to someone who remains in samsara, the one who commits these “crimes” will have one more hell compared to the one who has not committed them.

And frankly, it’s true that it’s a little bit weird I think. Hell is something that lasts for an extremely long time with a lot of suffering… Just because a person denies supramundane knowledge, he ends up in hell? Wow.

Finally it’s a bit like monotheistic religions that say that if you deny the existence of God, you can end up in hell, but here it’s not God but the supramundane knowledge of Buddha.

I try to find an explanation that seems reasonably aligned with the rest of the text. The reason I go for the samsara angle is because there should be no reason for a deva to simply appear in hell immediately after they die. Yet the Buddha said their destination is hell.

The Buddha was quite good at motivating people to practice by painting pretty grim pictures (e.g. He says we have shed more tears through the course of samsara than all the waters in all the oceans). So the hell thing could plausibly be another motivator. As far as I know, he didn’t say hell would be the destination in the very next life.

I think even with the hell via killing parents may not be straightforward. The Buddha knew that Angulimala would go to hell if he killed his mother. But whether that is the immediate destination, in the next life, of anyone who kills a parent is unknown to me.

It would be interesting to compare the Pali, and see whether it is specific enough to say that you go to hell in the very next life in all cases.

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The simile of the stick might provide useful context for interpreting suttas about kamma and rebirth. In “The Art of Disappearing” Ajahn Brahm writes:

One of my favourite teachings of the Buddha is the simile of the stick (SN 15:9, 56:33). When I first read it I almost shivered in fear. The simile makes the point that the ripening of kamma at death is as uncertain as which end of a stick will hit the ground first when it is thrown into the air. Everybody has a store of bad kamma. Even if bad kamma doesn’t ripen when you die this time, as long as you remain in samsara, you will eventually experience tremendous suffering in hell, in the animal realm. You are only safe if you become a stream-winner.

This seems to support the idea that what is meant is that the act of rejecting the Buddha in itself leads towards hell, but doesn’t necessarily make you go to hell in your very next birth. If the simile of the stick weren’t true, then you could say for certain that lesser bad deeds like killing an ant or rejecting the Buddha will definitely make you go to hell right away. But if it is true, then you can’t say that because it’s much more uncertain. It appears to also suggest that no belief will save you from hell by itself, which is a big distinction from monotheistic religions.

I can see how this might be unconvincing, but interpretation is also a matter of choice. Those of us who aren’t enlightened can’t know for sure whether the Buddha was right. I choose to operate under the assumption that he was. I could be wrong, but that would also apply if I made a different choice.

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I would put this in the category of unimportant question.

If you are a Buddhist who believes in rebirth, you already believe the Buddha has supramundane knowledge, so the answer doesn’t change your practice.

If you are a Buddhist who does not believe in rebirth, there is no hell, so the answer doesn’t reflect reality, and would not change your practice.

If you are a member of another religion, what Buddhist scripture says would be irrelevant and would not be considered true, so the answer wouldn’t change your practice.
With Metta! :pray: