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Contemplating the Karmic Conditions of Beings
At that time, the Buddha’s mother, Lady Maya, placed her palms together respectfully and asked Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Great Sage, could you tell us about the different kinds of karma that beings of Jambudvipa create, and the resulting retributions that they undergo?”
Earth Store replied, “There are millions of worlds and lands that may or may not have women, may or may not have hells, may or may not have the Buddhadharma, and so forth up to having or not having Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas. Since the worlds differ, the retributions in the hells also differ.”
Lady Maya spoke again to the Bodhisattva, “Could you please tell us about the offenses committed by those in Jambudvipa that result in retributions in the evil destinies?”
Earth Store replied, “Worthy Mother, please listen as I speak briefly about that.”
The Buddha’s mother answered, “Great Sage, please do tell us about it.”
Then Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the worthy mother, “Retributions that result from offenses committed in Jambudvipa are described like this:
“Beings who are not filial to their parents, even to the point of harming or killing them, will fall into the Relentless Hell where for thousands of billions of eons they will seek escape in vain.
“Beings who shed the Buddha’s blood, slander the Triple Jewel, and do not venerate Sutras, will fall into the Relentless Hell where for thousands of billions of eons they will seek escape in vain.
“Beings who usurp or damage the property of the Eternally Dwelling, who defile Bhikshus or Bhikshunis, who commit sexual acts within the Sangharama, or who kill or harm beings there, will fall into the Relentless Hell where for thousands of billions of eons they will seek escape in vain.
“Beings who seem to be Shramanas but in their minds are not Shramanas, who destroy the things of the Eternally Dwelling, who deceive lay people, who go against the precepts, and who commit many other evil deeds, will fall into the Relentless Hell where for thousands of billions of eons they will seek escape in vain.
“Beings who steal the wealth and property of the Eternally Dwelling, including its grains, food and drink, and clothing, or who take anything at all that was not given to them, will fall into the Relentless Hell where for thousands of billions of eons they will seek escape in vain.”
Earth Store continued, “Worthy Mother, beings who commit such offenses will fall into the Fivefold Relentless Hell where they will constantly seek temporary relief from their suffering but will never receive even a moment’s relief.”
Lady Maya further asked Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Why is that hell called Relentless?”
Earth Store replied, “Worthy Mother, all the hells are within the Great Iron Ring Mountain. The eighteen great hells and the five hundred subsequent ones each have their own names. There are hundreds of thousands more that also have their own names. The Relentless Hell is found within a city of hells that encompasses more than eighty thousand square miles. That city is made entirely of iron. An unbroken mass of fire extends for ten thousand miles above the city. Within the city are many interconnected hells, each with a different name.
“There is just one hell called Relentless. Its circumference is eighteen thousand miles. The wall of that hell is a thousand miles high, totally made of iron, and covered with a fire burning downward that is met by a fire burning upward. Iron snakes and dogs spewing fire race back and forth along the top of that wall.
“In that hell, there is a bed that extends for ten thousand miles. One person undergoing punishment sees his or her own body covering the entire bed. When hundreds of thousands of people undergo punishment simultaneously, each still sees his or her own body covering the bed. That is how retributions are undergone by those with the same karma.
“What is more, these offenders undergo extreme suffering. Hundreds of thousands of yakshas and other evil ghosts display fangs like swords and eyes like lightning as they pull and drag the offenders with their brass-clawed hands.
Other yakshas wield huge iron halberds that they use to pierce the offenders’ mouths and noses or stab their bellies and backs. They toss the offenders into the air and then catch them by skewering them with the halberds, or they let them drop onto the bed. Iron eagles peck at the offenders’ eyes and iron serpents wrap around their necks. Long nails are driven into all their limbs. Their tongues are pulled out, stretched, and then plowed through. Their internal organs are gouged out, sliced, and minced. Molten copper is poured into their mouths, and their bodies are bound with hot iron. Responses to their karma go on like that throughout hundreds of thousands of deaths and rebirths. They pass through hundreds of millions of eons seeking escape in vain.
“When this world is destroyed, they find themselves in another world. When that world is destroyed, they pass on to another one. When that world, too, is destroyed, they move on to another one. When this world comes into being again, they return here. The situation involving Relentless retribution for offenses is like that.
“Moreover, five karmic responses account for the name Relentless. What are the five? First, it is said to be Relentless because punishment is undergone day and night throughout many eons without ceasing for a moment. Second, it is said to be Relentless because one person fills it in the same way that many people fill it.
“Third, it is said to be Relentless because repeated punishments continue without cease throughout years that stretch into nayutas of eons. Those punishments are inflicted by instruments of torture such as forks and clubs; or by eagles, serpents, wolves, and dogs; or by pounding, grinding, sawing, drilling, chiseling, cutting and chopping; or by boiling liquids, iron nets, iron ropes, iron asses, and iron horses; or by rawhide strips bound around one’s head and molted iron poured over one’s body; or by meals of iron pellets and drinks of molten iron.
“Fourth, it is said to be Relentless because all beings undergo karmic responses based on the offenses that they have committed, whether they be men, women, savages, old, young, honorable, or lowly; whether they be dragons, spirits, gods, or ghosts.
“Fifth, it is said to be Relentless because offenders continually undergo ten thousand deaths and as many rebirths each day and night from the moment they first enter this hell and on through hundreds of thousands of eons. During that time they seek even a moment’s relief but it never comes. Only when their karma is exhausted can they leave the hell and be born elsewhere.”
Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the worthy mother, “That is a brief description of the Relentless Hell. If I were to speak extensively about the names of all the implements of punishment in the hells and all the sufferings there, I could not finish speaking in an entire eon.”
After hearing that, Lady Maya placed her palms together sorrowfully, made obeisance, and withdrew.