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The sanghata sutra says that upon death a person that abandons the Holy Dharma will have his dreams broken and go to hell for 8 aeons.

The Blessed One said: “Sarva-shúra, limitless are the migrations of sentient beings who disparage the holy Dharma. Limitless too are their future lives. Sarva-shúra, sentient beings who abandon the holy Dharma will experience feelings for an eon in the sentient beings’ great hell of Lamentation; for an eon in the Crushing Hell, an eon in the Hot Hell, an eon in the Extremely Hot Hell, an eon in the great hell of Black Lines, an eon in the great hell of Avíci, an eon in the great hell called Hair Rising, an eon in the great hell of Calling Out ‘Alas!’ and, Sarva-shúra, they will have to experience the sufferings of these eight great hells for eight eons.”

So if someone converts to another religion he will go to hell?

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This is not an admonition against converting to another religion per se. This has to do with the consequences of knowingly giving up or disparaging something very specific and grave.

I think this Sutra is equating the Holy Dharma with undertaking and committing to the Bodhisattva vows. And not by a lowly being, but by a Great Being. If a truly Great Being has managed the incredible - near miraculous task - of actually generating engaged Bodhicitta - which is very specific and requires a super-heroic herculean effort - and then abandons that Bodhicitta or disparages it, then the consequences are world shatteringly bad for that being and all that depend upon them.

Knowingly giving up and totally abandoning the Bodhisattva vows and/or disparaging Bodhicitta - the noble goal of attaining enlightenment and becoming a Buddha for the sole sake of liberating countless sentient beings - is a karmic action that will result in countless lifetimes in the worst possible hells. Why is this so?

Knowingly giving up or breaking the perfectly accomplished Bodhisattva Vows or disparaging the truly generated and engaged Bodhicitta is among the blackest and heaviest of karmas one could possibly inflict upon oneself. Why? Because it destroys the hopes of countless sentient beings who are relying upon the Bodhisattva to accomplish their goal.

When you take vows there are consequences to breaking them. This is true for all vows. And the Bodhisattva vows are among the most serious vows that could possibly be taken.

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  • The mention of lamentation suggests a being who is far along the path, and possibly a bodhisattva. If a bodhisattva abandons the Dharma then they also abandon other beings. On the other hand, disparaging the Dharma is also pretty bad since it diverts beings away from the Dharma. – Cris Fugate Feb 29 at 1:45
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If someone converts in another religion, he won't go to hell. What matters is karma, not what religious group you declare yourself to belong to.

“Beings are the owners of their deeds (kammaorkarma), heirs to their deeds, their deeds are the womb from which they sprang, they are bound up with their deeds, their deeds are their refuge. Whatever deeds they do—good or evil —of such they will be the heirs. AN 10:205

What decide your fate is the sum of your deeds.

Now if someone abandons the holy dharma, i think the correct interpretation would not be that they specifically give up the buddhist religion, but that they adopt behaviours and value that are opposed to the noble path taught by buddhism, and disparage buddhists teachings which might be a cause of bad karma in itself. As a consequence, they will reinforce their implication in the samsara and experience transmigrations from realm to realm, rebirth in hell being a likely event along this path, as well as innumerable periods of wandering through all the realms.

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