Zac Anger's Blog

Buddhist Hell

2021-01-28

Tags: buddhism


I'm in the middle of translating the Niddesa and came across this fun passage. For anyone who doesn't think Buddhism is a religion with all the things that normally come with a religion, and just treat it as a secular philosophy, you might enjoy this (Nd 1.15 and Nd 2.20):

...he was reborn in the world of suffering, evil, lower world, and hell after death. The jailers imposed five types of punishment on him: they made the red hot iron rod pass through the (first) palm, and they made the red hot iron rod pass through the (second) palm. After the second palm, they passed the red hot iron rod through the (first) sole of the foot, they passed the red hot iron rod through the second sole of the foot, and they passed the red hot iron rod through the chest in the middle. He felt bitter, fierce, violent, pungent feelings there, and he would not die until the evil kamma was eliminated. Where did this terror, suffering, and sorrow arise? ....

After the jailers lay him down, they cut him with an axe... (omitted) after the jailers grabbed him under their feet, they cut him with a small axe... the jailers harnessed him on the cart and set him on fire, so he was ignited in a burning, glorious fire, ... the jailers made him climb up and down the burning, shining charcoal volcano... after the jailers caught him up and down, they threw them into the hot, blazing, burning, red-glowing copper pot; he was boiled with foam there, and he rose up once, sunk once, and moved across once. He felt bitter.... Where did this horror, suffering, .... The jailers threw him into the great hell, and in the great hell:

"There are four doors in the four corners, divided into equal parts,
Surrounded by iron walls, and the top is covered by iron.
The earth is made of iron, and it shines with the burning of fire,
All around for a hundred yojanas, always pervading and abiding.
The miserable burning is terrible, the brilliant flames are hard to approach,
Hair visibly standing on end due to the horror of suffering.
From the east wall, a mass of fire originates,
Burning those with evil kamma, striking against the west.
From the west wall, a mass of fire originates,
Burning those with evil kamma, striking against the east.
From the north wall, a mass of fire originates,
Burning those with evil kamma, striking against the south.
From the south wall, a mass of fire originates,
Burning those with evil kamma, striking against the north.
From below, a mass of fire originates,
Burning those with evil kamma, striking against the roof.
From above, a mass of fire originates,
Burning those with evil kamma, striking against the ground.
Blazing iron, sorrow like being burned,
Just so this great hell is seen from above and below.
There beings are very cruel, those who have done great crimes,
Perpetual evildoers, tortured without dying.
The body is like fire, that of the dweller in this hell,
The one with steady kamma, the fire has neither ashes nor soot.
They run to the east, and from there to the west;
The run to the north, and from there to the south;
Everywhere they run, the doors are shut,
The want to go forth, they seek for release.
They can't go forth from there, they obtain this by means of kamma,
For those evildoers, their abundant kamma is not yet fully ripe."