Chapter 5: The Names Of The Various Hells
At that time, Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Samantabhadra addressed Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, saying, “Will you, sir, kindly speak for the benefit of devas, nagas and the four-fold assembly of Buddhists, as well as for all sentient beings of the present and of future times, about the places where retribution is to be meted out to the poor sinful beings in the Saha World and Jambudvipa, noting, as well, designations of the various hells and the different sorts of retribution for evil acts, so that those sentient beings in the decaying period of Buddhadharma in the future will know about such retribution.”
Ksitigarbha replied, “Sir, fully respecting Buddha’s majestic spirit and the Mahasattva’s power, I shall now give you a brief account of the designations of various hells as well as the different sorts of retribution for different kinds of sins and evil actions. Sir, in the east of Jambudvipa there is a mountain known as Cakravada (Iron-Enclosed). This mountain is dark and deep and receives no light from the sun or the moon. Here there is a major hell named Avici and another hell named Mahavici. There is another hell named Four-Cornered. There is another hell named Flying-Sword. There is another hell named Fire-Arrows. There is another hell named Pitching-Mountains. There is another hell named Piercing-Spears. There is another hell named Iron-Cart. There is another hell named Iron-Rack. There is another hell named Iron-Cattle. There is another hell named Thousand-Knives. There is another hell named Iron-Mule. There is another hell named Molten-Copper. There is another hell named Embrace-Pillar. There is another hell named Flowing-Fire. There is another hell named Cultivating-Tongue. There is another hell named File-Heads. There is another hell named Scorch-Feet. There is another hell named Peck-Eyes. There is another hell named Iron-Shots. There is another hell named Fight-Quarrel. There is another hell named Iron-Axe. There another hell named Much-Hate.”
Ksitigarbha continued, saying, “Sir, inside the Cakravada Mountain there exist such hells, infinite in number. In addition to the hells I have already mentioned, there are Yell-Shout Hell, Strip-Tough Hell, Excretion Hell, Copper-Lock Hell, Fire-Elephant Hell, Fire-Hound Hell, Fire-Horse Hell, Fire-Ox Hell, Fire-Hill Hell, Fire-Rock Hell, Fire-Bed Hell, Fire-Beam Hell, Fire-Hawk Hell, Saw-Teeth Hell, Peel-Skin Hell, Drink-Blood Hell, Scorch-Hand Hell, Burn-Foot Hell, Inverted-Thorn Hell, Fire-Abode Hell, Iron-Abode Hell and Fire-Wolf Hell. Within each one of these hells there are, in turn, some lesser hells-one or two in some, three or four in others or even hundreds or thousands in some cases-each one having its own designation.”
Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, explaining further, said to Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, ” Sir, these are the places and manners in which sentient beings in South Jambudvipa who create bad karma by leading evil lives receive their retribution. Karma is tremendously powerful. It is capable of covering Mount Sumeru, is capable of plumbing the vast ocean depths and is even capable of obstructing the holy doctrines. Therefore, sentient beings should not neglect lesser evils as being not sinful; for retribution will be meted out to them after their deaths for every bad intention or violation, even though it be as small or insignificant as an iota. Even beings as closely related as fathers and sons will part their respective ways, and one will not take the punishment of the other even if they chance to cross paths.
“Now, by virtue of Buddha’s majestic powers, I shall give a brief account of the various kinds of retribution for different sins in the hells that I have mentioned. I hope only that you will carefully listen to my words.”
Samantabhadra replied, “I have always known, from long ago, the various kinds of retribution meted out on the three evil paths of existence. Sir, will you please speak about them so that all the evil-doers hereafter, in the decaying period of Buddhadharma, may hear you and, thereupon, take refuge in the Buddha.”
Ksitigarbha said, “Sir, some of the different sorts of retribution meted out in the various hells are as follows: In some hells, the tongues of punished beings are plucked out to be plowed under by oxen or cows; in others, the hearts of punished beings are ripped out to be devoured by yaksas; in others, the bodies of punished beings are boiled in huge pots full of sizzling water; in others, punished beings are forced to embrace red-hot, scorching copper pillars; in others, punished beings are chased and caught by bursts of fire; in others, it is always ice cold; in others, there is limitless filthy excretion; in others, darts and pellets are whizzing and shooting about; in others, many fiery spears are continually stabbing out; in others, only the breasts and backs of punished beings are pounded; in others, only their hands and feet are burned; in others, there are iron serpents winding and twisting about punished beings; in others, there are iron hounds chasing them; and in still others, there are iron mules riding them.
“Sir, for such kinds of retribution there are hundreds of thousands of sorts of instruments for torture and punishment in each one of the hells; these instruments are made only of copper, iron, rock or fire. These four kinds of conditions-as well as the instruments of torture and punishment they are formed into-are caused by the various karmic sinful deeds.
“Now, thanks to Buddha’s majestic spirit and your inquiry, I have just completed a brief account of the different sorts of retribution in the various kinds of hell. However, to give an exhaustive description of every kind of retribution for every sort of sin in each and every type of hell-with the hundreds of thousands of miserable tortures in each one of the innumerable hells-would not be possible even though I were to continue for innumerable kalpas.”
— ” Translated from Chinese into English by Upasaka Tao-Tsi Shih”