THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

Chapter V  

The Names of the Hells

Commentary:

This is the fifth chapter called the Names of the Hells. What are the hells? Who created the hells? Jails exist in the human realm as well as the underworld. In the human realm the government builds prisons for criminals, is it the same with prisons in the hells? No, the jails are not like the ones already built and ready in the human realm so that criminals can simply be locked up. Different labels are given to forms of confinement in the hells, but they do not exist in physical form; the hells are invisible. Only when it is time for you to face your sentence do the hells appear. In other words, depending on your offense, the hells manifest as a certain type of jail. Neither people nor ghosts create this type of prisons, individual karma does. Depending on one’s karma, a certain type of hell exists for one in the underworld. The underworld is always dark; there is no sun or moon. Depending on the offenses created, a certain type of hell occurs in the hells. A hell that is realized by the offenses you accumulate is quite an ingenious and inconceivable situation. This is why hells have names but no tangible substance; a hell appears when it is time for one to face one’s offenses.

Sutra:

At that time, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva Mahasattva said to Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Humane One, for the sake of gods and dragons, those in the Fourfold Assembly, and all other beings of the present and future, please tell us the names of the hells where beings in the Saha world on the continent of Jambudvipa must suffer retributions for offenses they commit. Please also describe what happens during retributions undergone for evil deeds, so that beings in the future Dharma Ending Age will know what those retributions are.”

Commentary:

At that time, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva Mahasattva. . . Everyone knows Universal Worthy Bodhisattva? He rides on a white elephant with six tusks. The power of his conduct is the greatest, so he is also called Great Conduct Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. This great Bodhisattva said to Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Humane One, another name for a Bodhisattva, for the sake of gods and dragons, those in the Fourfold Assembly such as Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas, and all other beings of the present and future, please tell us the names of the hells where beings in the Saha world have to bear suffering, where beings on the southern continent of Jambudvipa must suffer retributions for offenses they commit. Please also describe what happens during retributions undergone for evil deeds, so that beings in the future Dharma Ending Age will know what those serious retributions are in the hells.”

Sutra:

Earth Store Bodhisattva replied, “Humane One, based on the awesome spiritual power of the Buddha and relying on your strength, great Bodhisattva, I will give a general list of the names of the hells and describe some of what happens during retributions undergone for offenses and evil deeds.

“Humane One, in eastern Jambudvipa there is a mountain range called Iron Ring. That mountain range is pitch black because the light of the sun and moon does not shine on it. A great hell named Ultimately Relentless is located there. Another hell is called Great Avici. There is also a hell called Four Horns, a hell called Flying Knives,

Commentary:

Having heard Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s request, Earth Store Bodhisattva replied, “Humane One, the compassionate individual that you are, based on the awesome virtues and spiritual power of the Buddha and relying on your strength, great Bodhisattva, I will briefly give a general list of the names of the hells and describe some of what happens during retributions undergone for offenses and evil deeds. Beings face retribution for offenses that they create. Creating evil in the past, they face evil retribution. Doing good deeds, they face good retribution. The hells are all about undergoing evil retribution.

“Humane One,” Earth Store Bodhisattva calls out again, “in eastern Jambudvipa there is a huge mountain range called Iron Ring. That mountain range is pitch black because the light of the sun and moon does not and cannot shine on it. It is so dark, it is as if one were in a cave. A great hell that is the biggest and tallest named Ultimately Relentless is located there. The Relentless Hell is one of the five types of relentless hells described earlier. Another hell is called Great Avici. Avici is Sanskrit for relentless. The one before is Ultimately Relentless, this one is Relentless.

There is also a hell called Four Horns, Four Corners or Four Directions, which are east and west, north and south. This hell is called Four Horns because it is like there are four bull horns in there, when beings enter this hell, they come in contact with these horns, dying and becoming born, becoming born then dying.

There is also a hell called Flying Knives. In this hell, knives from nowhere will come flying at hell-beings. They may get their heads chopped off, get their arms axed, injure their bodies, bleed a lot, and die from stabs. They are stabbed so that their body hurts, their legs hurt. Just when their pain seems to alleviate, knives come flying and stabbing at them again. They hurt again and again. This is the hell of Flying Knives, which is most miserable.

Sutra:

. . . a hell called Fiery Arrows, a hell called Squeezing Mountains, a hell called Piercing Spears, a hell called Iron Carts, a hell called Iron Beds, a hell called Iron Oxen, a hell called Iron Clothing.

Commentary:

There is also a hell called Fiery Arrows. There are many arrows on fire in this Fiery Arrows hell. The fiery arrows in this hell are similar to the rockets that go the moon. However, the fiery arrows in this hell are extremely harsh; they are retribution for people who committed offenses.

There is also a hell called Squeezing Mountains. In this other kind of hell, people suffer severely. First the gate east of the hell opens so hell-beings start running out as if criminals escaping the penitentiary. They believe they will be free if they just run out. But they do not realize that as soon as they run out of the hells, they see two mountains which they head straight for during their getaway. But these mountains start to move and close in on them from all sides, squeezing them into bloody hamburger paddies. Not only is the eastern gate to this hell this way, the other gates in the west, north, and south are the same. Hell-beings do not realize that their escape through the open door and into the mountains is still within the hells. Why? It is because these beings’ offense karmas are so profound that they have to face their retribution anywhere they go, experiencing intolerable torture. Why would individuals have to experience the consequences of squeezing mountains? They harshly oppressed others with authority, for example, so they face this retribution after death.

There is also a hell called Piercing Spears. Arrows are thinner and smaller than spears. The head of spears are large enough to stab people to death. In this Piercing Spears hell, spears may be coming from the front, back, left or right. People’s bodies are punctured with many holes, as if they have many windows and doors to their body. This is the Piercing Spears hell, which is difficult to bear as well.

Furthermore, there is a hell called Iron Carts. In this kind of hell, iron carts drive over hell-beings. In one of Shakyamuni Buddha’s former lives, he had the power of the heavenly eye, so he saw how harsh beings in this hell suffered as iron carts rode over their bodies. He was moved with compassion and thought, “I will definitely cultivate to become a Buddha so that in the future I will save beings in the hells.” This was one of the earlier compassionate resolves of Shakyamuni Buddha.

There is also a hell called Iron Beds. Sit or sleep on an iron bed and many red-hot knives heated in a fire will grow. Offenders are ordered to lie on these beds.

There is also a hell called Iron Oxen. The iron oxen in this hell all have horns with which they use to butt offenders, causing them pain.

There is also a hell called Iron Clothing. People who received the precepts but broke them will fall into the Iron Clothing hell. What is this hell like? There are lots of knives with hooks in this hell that poke at these hell-beings and rip apart their clothes. Unclothed, a set of metallic attire comes from the sky so that the offenders will wave their hands and say, “Come, come, clothes!” The clothing comes over when they wave them over. When they wave their hands, these clothes arrive. Hell-beings are wrapped with these metal pieces, all of which are scorched red-hot. When they wear these clothes, they burn themselves so that their body is burnt and turn into ash. Once they turn into ash, the clever wind blows over and beings that disappeared appear in physical form again. This is the Iron Clothing hell.

Sutra:

. . . a hell called Thousand Blades, a hell called Iron Asses, a hell called Molten Copper, a hell called Embracing Pillar, a hell called Flowing Fire, a hell called Plowing Tongues, a hell called Hacking Heads, a hell called Burning Feet, a hell called Pecking Eyes, a hell called Iron Pellets. . .

Commentary:

. . . a hell called Thousand Blades occurs because of the numerous amount of offense karmas that took place. People who fall into this hell will have millions and millions of knives rain on them. These knives are like raindrops that chop off offenders’ heads, slice their bodies into pieces, split their bones and flesh into smithereens, and then they die. After death, a type of clever wind blows over and they live again to endure this type of offense.

There is also a hell called Iron Asses where iron asses step on offenders’ bodies, walking back and forth on them.

There is also a hell called Molten Copper that place hell-beings in molten copper. Since copper melts in there, people do too.

There is also a hell called Embracing Pillar. I explained this during my Shurangama Sutra lectures, but people have forgotten I am afraid. The Embracing Pillar hell is where people embrace this fiery hot copper pillar and cannot unglue themselves from it. Why do people fall into this type of hell? It is because they are licentious. Both lustful males and females engage in too many lewd acts in their lifetimes so they fall into this Embracing Pillar hell after death. A man who falls into this hell will see a copper pillar as his most beloved female and will go over and hold her, but the fiery hot copper pillar will burn and kill him. The clever wind blows over though and he lives again. The embrace, burning, and death occur again and again. Males see this pillar as females where as females see this pillar as their favorite man so they cannot help but run over and hug. When they do, they are burned into ash by the fire of this copper pillar. When the clever wind blows over them, they are live again. Then they again run over to embrace the pillar, then die again and then live again to embrace again. What makes them embrace and suffer, suffer then die, die only to live again to suffer? Did someone preplan this? No, this hell is created by their karma of lust. Whether male or female, being in love is not a good thing. If you walk down the wrong path, you will fall into the hell of Embracing Pillar, which is most miserable.

There is a hell called Flowing Fire. This fire flows like water. The fire of living beings’ sexual desire creates this hell of Flowing Fire.

There is also a hell called Plowing Tongues. Some people die to become evil ghosts with tongues that are hooked several yards up in the air so that their tongues are long, large, and swollen. Their tongues are then cut and plows used to loosen soil swing back and forth on their tongues, marking up many grooves. Why do they suffer this kind of retribution? It is because when these people were alive they slandered the Triple Jewel, spoke of their offenses, and wrecked the Triple Jewel. For example, they say that you should not believe in the Buddha because the Buddha is nonexistent and unreal. “The Buddhadharma lies and monks lie with the Buddhadharma. Don’t believe them!” Also for the four evils of the mouth: 1. harsh speech means scolding people. 2. divisive speech means telling A what is wrong with B, then telling B what is wrong with A, so that A and B do not get along and fight all day. 3. frivolous speech means what a man will continue to say about a woman, “Look, isn’t she pretty? How about this one and that one?” They are always talking about women. Women, on the other hand, keep talking about men. That man is not bad, this and that. In general, frivolous speech refers to improper and lewd speech. 4. false speech is about dishonesty, lies. People fall into the Plowing Tongues hell due to the four evils of frivolous speech, false speech, harsh speech, and divisive speech.

There is also a hell called Hacking Heads. These beings’ heads are hacked off because they killed living beings while they were alive. Since they smashed living beings’ heads to pieces, they fall into the Hacking Heads hell after death. For instance, killing bugs, birds or animals with a blow to their head using a stick or something, or smashing centipedes and millipedes as soon as you see such venomous creatures. Having injured too many lives, they fall into the Hacking Heads hell. In general, whatever offense karma you create in your lifetime, you will face its retribution after death.

There is also a hell called Burning Feet. This does not mean that there is a fire that burns your feet, but that anywhere you walk appears fires that burn your feet. Your feet are like wax that act as kindling wherever you go, or like candles that start fires wherever you are. This is why this hell is called Burning Feet.

There is also a hell called Pecking Eyes where there are many vultures that eat impurities in particular. These eagles will fly to the offender and grab them by their shoulders with their iron claws. The victims try to knock off the vultures but cannot do it. The vultures will then turn their heads and peck the victims’ eyes. They injure the eyes, drink the liquid in the eye sockets, then drink the marrow in the offenders’ brains. Once these beings die, the vultures fly off. When the offenders live again, they fly back.

There is also a hell called Iron Pellets that are as large as metal eggs. In this hell, these pellets smack you on the head and body, from all four sides. Once these people are dead, they do not attack; but once they return to life, they recur.

Sutra:

. . . a hell called Quarreling, a hell called Iron Ax, and a hell called Massive Hatred.”

Earth Store Bodhisattva said, “Humane One, within the Iron Ring are endless hells like that. There is also the Hell of Crying Out, the Hell of Pulling Tongues, the Hell of Dung and Urine, the Hell of Copper Locks, the Hell of Fire Elephants, the Hell of Fire Dogs, the Hell of Fire Horses, the Hell of Fire Oxen, the Hell of Fire Mountains, the Hell of Fire Rocks, the Hell of Fire Beds, the Hell of Fire Beams, the Hell of Fire Eagles, the Hell of Sawing Teeth, the Hell of Flaying Skin, the Hell of Drinking Blood, the Hell of Burning Hands, the Hell of Burning Feet, the Hell of Hanging Hooks, the Hell of Fire Rooms, the Hell of Iron Cells, and the Hell of Fire Wolves.

“Each of those hells contains lesser hells numbering from one, two, three, four, to hundreds of thousands. Each of those lesser hells has its own name.”

Commentary:

. . . a hell called Quarreling where many ghosts come and scold you all day long, criticizing you all the time. Why do people fall into this kind of hell? It is because they enjoy arguing with others so they fall into this type of hell.

There is also a hell called Iron Ax where these axes chop off hell-beings’ heads.

And there is also a hell called Massive Hatred.” Everyone in this hell is very angry, so they hit each other and fight each other.

Earth Store Bodhisattva said to Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, “Humane One, within the Iron Ring are endless hells like that described above. Though I have listed so many names to these hells, there is actually an infinite number of them.

There is also the Hell of Crying Out. There are eight cold hells and eight hot hells. The fourth hell out of the eight cold hells is the Hell of Crying Out or the Hell of Loud Crying Out where screaming and yelling occur constantly. The Hell of Pulling Tongues where people’s tongues are pulled out in particular. The Hell of Dung and Urine where beings eat excrement when hungry and drink urine when thirsty. The Hell of Copper Locks where beings seem to be locked inside and cannot get out. The Hell of Fire Elephants, the Hell of Fire Dogs that emit smoke, the Hell of Fire Horses, the horses are on fire, the Hell of Fire Oxen, the Hell of Fire Mountains, the Hell of Fire Rocks that smash you and press you under, the Hell of Fire Beds, the Hell of Fire Beams, the Hell of Fire Eagles that eat people’s eyes then fly away, the Hell of Sawing Teeth, the Hell of Flaying Skin, the Hell of Drinking Blood, the Hell of Burning Hands, the Hell of Burning Feet, the Hell of Hanging Hooks, the Hell of Fire Rooms that trap you inside, the Hell of Iron Cells, and the Hell of Fire Wolves.

“Each of those hells contains lesser hells numbering from one, two, three, four, to hundreds of thousands. There are larger hells and smaller hells. In each large hell, there may be one, two, three or four smaller hells, or hundreds of thousands. Each of those lesser hells has its own distinct name.”

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