Buddha 7

                                            THE MESSENGERS OF THE GODS

                                                        THE JUDGEMENT OF KING YAMA
                                                        THE PUNISHMENTS IN THE HELLS

                    
                                                        Devadûta Sutta, Majjhima Nikâya

(1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(3)

Thus have I heard. The Blessed Lord was once staying near Sâvatthî

in the Jetavana grove, in Anâthapindika’s park.

The Blessed One said:

Picture a pair of houses with doors: 

a man with eyes to see, standing between them,

could see the people entering a house, leaving it,

going between the houses, and walking back and forth.

That is how I see beings passing away and being reborn.

I see beings that are lowly or exalted,

ill born or well born,

in good destinies or in evil destinies,

according to the deeds they have done.


Truly, those beings with good conduct in body, speech,

and mind, speak no ill of the noble ones;

possessed of right views,

they collect the karma of their right views;

and after their bodies disintegrate, after they die,

they are reborn in a good destiny,

in the world of heaven,

or among humankind.

 

But those beings with evil conduct in body, speech,

and mind, speak ill of the noble ones;

possessed of wrong views,

they collect the karma of their wrong views;

and... they are reborn in an evil destiny,

in the realm of pretas*,         *hungry ghosts

in the womb of an animal,

or in hell.

                            The judgement by Yama

(4)

The guards of hell seize that person by both arms,

and show him to Yama, the king of the dead.

This person, your majesty,

did not honour his father or his mother,

did not honour recluses or brahmans,

did not respect his elders in his family.

Your majesty, decree his punishment.

(5)

Then King Yama questions him closely and carefully,

and asks him about the first messenger of the gods.

Fool, did you not see the first messenger of the gods

who appeared among people?

And he replies:  No, sir, I did not see him.

King Yama says:

Fool, did you never see among people

a baby boy, lying on his back,

wallowing in his own urine and excrement?

And he replies:  Yes, sir, I saw that.

 

King Yama says:

Fool, you were a mature intelligent adult,

did you not think:

I too am subject to birth,I have not passed beyond birth,

I must do what is good, in body, speech, and mind?

And he replies:  Sir, I could not;  I was lazy and careless.

King Yama says:

Fool, it was because you were lazy and careless

that you did not do what is good, in body, speech, and mind.

The evil you have done is yours;

it was not done by your mother or father,

your brother or sister, ... your friends or relations,

recluses or brahmans, or gods.

The evil deeds were done by you,

and it is you who will taste their ripening.

(6)

Then King Yama questions him...

about the second messenger of the gods....

Fool, did you never see among people

an old man, or woman, decrepit and bent,

crooked as a rafter, leaning on a stick,

trembling as he went along, miserable,

his youth gone, his teeth broken, his white hair falling out,

his skin wrinkled, his body spotted?...

Did you not think: I too am subject to decrepitude?

(7)

Then King Yama questions him...

about the third messenger of the gods....

Fool, did you never see among people

a sick man or woman,

suffering and feeling pain, grievously ill,

wallowing in his own urine and excrement,

getting up only with the help of others,

and being put to bed by others?...

Did you not think:  I too am subject to illness?...

(8)

Then King Yama questions him...

about the fourth messenger of the gods....

Fool, did you never see among people

a king who seizes a thief or evildoer and tortures him,

flogging him with whips and sticks,

cutting off his hands or feet or ears or nose,

putting his hands in blazing torches, setting him on fire,

slicing off pieces of flesh with a razor,

driving spikes through his limbs,

breaking his bones with clubs till he was like a pile of straw,

covering him with oil, casting him to the dogs to eat,

impaling him alive,

or cutting off his head with a sword?...

Did you not think:

Truly, those who do evil deeds are thus tortured

in this life, and what about the next life?...

 


(9)

Then King Yama questions him...

about the fifth messenger of the gods....

Fool, did you never see among people

a man or woman dead for one day, or two, or three,

swollen, bloated, purple, and festering?...

Did you not think:

I too am subject to death?...

The evil deeds were done by you,

and it is you who will taste their ripening.

 

And then King Yama falls silent.


                            The punishments in hell

(10)

 

 

 

The guards of hell then subject the person to the torture of the fivefold pinning: 

they drive fiery blazing iron spikes through his hands and feet and his chest,

and he feels pain that is sharp, bitter, and severe. 

But he has not finished his time until he has exhausted his evil deeds*.     *kamma

(11)

The guards of hell lay him down and chop him with axes; 

they turn him upside down and slice him with razors; 

they bind him to a chariot, drag him over a fiery blazing expanse; 

they drive him up and down a great mountain of fiery blazing coals; 

they turn him upside down and hurl him into a fiery blazing cauldron,

and there he boils....

(12)

The guards of hell hurl him into the great hell:

Foursquare and four-gated, divided into equal parts,

with an iron wall around it, an iron roof over it,

its floor of iron flaming and blazing,

extending a hundred leagues on all sides.

The flames leap up and surge....

After a very long period one of the gates of the great hell opens up: 

quickly and hastily he runs towards it,

with his skin, flesh, and sinews all burning, his bones belching smoke; 

but when he gets there the gate closes...

After another very long period one of the gates of the great hell opens up: 

quickly and hastily he runs towards it,...

rushes through the gate,... and falls into the hell of filth.

There needle-mouthed creatures cut away his skin, flesh, and sinews,

cut his bones, and eat his marrow.

Then he falls into the next hell, the hell of hot coals...

Next to that hell is the forest of thorn trees,

which stand a league high, with fiery blazing thorns sixteen fingers long,

and they drive him up and down those trees....

Next to it is the sword leaf forest, where the wind moves the leaves

and they slice off his hands, feet, ears, and nose....

Then he is plunged into the acid river....

(13)

The guards of hell eventually haul him out with a fish-hook,

set him on dry land, and ask him:

Fool, what do you want now?

He replies:  Sirs, I am hungry.

Thereupon they forcibly open his mouth with a fiery blazing iron spike,

and push a fiery blazing metal ball into his mouth; 

and it burns his lips, mouth, throat, and chest,

and comes out below, taking his insides with it....

(14)

The guards of hell then say to him:

Fool, what do you want now?

He replies:  Sirs, I am thirsty.

So they forcibly open his mouth with a fiery blazing metal spike

and pour molten metal into his mouth; 

and it burns his lips, mouth, throat, and chest,

and comes out below, taking his insides with it.

And he feels pain that is sharp, bitter, and severe.

But he has not finished his time until he has exhausted his evil deeds.

(15)

Then the guards of hell hurl him back into the great hell.

                                        The wish of King Yama

(16)

King Yama has long been thinking:

Those who do evil deeds in the world must undergo such punishments. 

How I wish that I could be a human

when a Tathâgata arises in the world, an Arhat, a fully enlightened Buddha.

Then I could pay homage to the Blessed Lord,

and he would teach me the dharma,

and I could thoroughly comprehend his dharma.

                                    The testimony of the Buddha

(17)

Monks, I am not telling you something I have heard from someone else, whether a recluse or a brahman;  I am telling you what I myself know, what I myself have seen, and what I myself have discerned.

Thus spoke the Blessed Lord*.       *Bhagavat

NOTES

This extract is abridged from the Devadûtasutta  (The messengers of the gods discourse) in Majjhima-nikâya (The medium discourses collection), Bhikkhu J. Kashyap, general editor (Bihar, Pali Publication Board, 1958), 3:250-259, Sutta 130.  English translations of parts of this discourse are found in E. Conze, Buddhist Scriptures, 224-226 (‘The torments of the hells’), and Stephen Beyer, The Buddhist Experience, 29-33 (‘A vision of hell’).  For a complete translation see I.B. Horner, The Middle Length Sayings (Pali Text Society 1959) 223-230.

The Buddhist concept of hell involves tortures of infinite variety that are inflicted almost endlessly.  However, this is not eternal damnation, but sojourn in places that are more akin to the Catholic Christian Purgatory.  As in Hinduism, abiding in heavens and hells is temporary and impermanent;  and it is the Hindu god Yama who reigns over the hells and judges the dead.  Here we see King Yama interrogating people whose conduct has not measured up to the standards.  He reminds them of the five messengers of the gods (similar to ‘the four passing sights’ that brought Gotama to his senses and onto the path of enlightement):  an infant, a decrepit person, a diseased person, a dismembered person, a deceased person.  All these act as reminders of mortality and retribution.

Near the end of this text we have an affirmation that the Buddha is superior to gods.

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