The Hell Pot – Devaduta Sutta: The Deva Messengers

How did Buddha achieve the state to remember his past lives?
September 10, 2020
Life Contemplation
September 13, 2020

The Hell Pot – Devaduta Sutta: The Deva Messengers

The Hell Pot
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Devaduta Sutta: The Deva Messengers

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. There the Blessed One addressed the monks, “Monks.”

“Yes, lord,” the monks responded to him.

The Blessed One said, “Monks, it’s as if there were two households with doors, and a man of good eyesight, standing there between them, would see people entering & leaving a house, wandering out & about. In the same way, I — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — see beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discern how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their actions: ‘O, how these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, & mind, who did not revile noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in a good destination, the heavenly world. Or how these beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the realm of the hungry ghosts. Or how these beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the animal womb. Or how these beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell.’

“Then the hell-wardens, seizing (such a being) by the arms, present him to King Yama: ‘This is a man, your majesty, with no respect for mother, no respect for father, no reverence for contemplatives, no reverence for brahmans, no honor for the leaders of his clan. Let your majesty decree his punishment.’

“Then King Yama interrogates & interpellates & castigates the man regarding the first deva messenger: ‘My good man, didn’t you see the first deva messenger that has appeared among human beings?’

“‘I didn’t, lord,’ he says.

Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t you see among human beings a tender baby boy lying prone in its own urine & excrement?’

“‘I did, lord,’ he says.

Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t the thought occur to you — observant & mature: “I, too, am subject to birth, have not gone beyond birth. I’d better do good with body, speech, & mind”?’

“‘I couldn’t, lord. I was heedless, lord.’

Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, through heedlessness you did not do what is good with body, speech, & mind. And of course, my good man, they will deal with you in accordance with your heedlessness. For that evil kamma of yours was neither done by your mother, nor done by your father, nor done by your brother, nor done by your sister, nor done by your friends & companions, nor done by your kinsmen & relatives, nor done by the devas. That evil kamma was done by you yourself, and you yourself will experience its result.’

“Then, having interrogated & interpellated & castigated the man regarding the first deva messenger, King Yama interrogates & interpellates & castigates him regarding the second: ‘My good man, didn’t you see the second deva messenger that has appeared among human beings?’

“‘I didn’t, lord,’ he says.

“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t you see among human beings a woman or man eighty, ninety, one hundred years old: aged, roof-rafter crooked, bent-over, supported by a cane, palsied, miserable, broken-toothed, gray-haired, scanty-haired, bald, wrinkled, with limbs all blotchy?’

“‘I did, lord,’ he says.

“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t the thought occur to you — observant & mature: “I, too, am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging. I’d better do good with body, speech, & mind”?’

“‘I couldn’t, lord. I was heedless, lord.’

“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, through heedlessness you did not do what is good with body, speech, & mind. And of course, my good man, they will deal with you in accordance with your heedlessness. For that evil kamma of yours was neither done by your mother, nor done by your father, nor done by your brother, nor done by your sister, nor done by your friends & companions, nor done by your kinsmen & relatives, nor done by the devas. That evil kamma was done by you yourself, and you yourself will experience its result.’

“Then, having interrogated & interpellated & castigated the man regarding the second deva messenger, King Yama interrogates & interpellates & castigates him regarding the third: ‘My good man, didn’t you see the third deva messenger that has appeared among human beings?’

“‘I didn’t, lord,’ he says.

“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t you see among human beings a woman or man diseased, in pain, severely ill, lying in her/his own urine & excrement, lifted up by others, laid down by others?’

“‘I did, lord,’ he says.

“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t the thought occur to you — observant & mature: “I, too, am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness. I’d better do good with body, speech, & mind”?’

“‘I couldn’t, lord. I was heedless, lord.’

“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, through heedlessness you did not do what is good with body, speech, & mind. And of course, my good man, they will deal with you in accordance with your heedlessness. For that evil kamma of yours was neither done by your mother, nor done by your father, nor done by your brother, nor done by your sister, nor done by your friends & companions, nor done by your kinsmen & relatives, nor done by the devas. That evil kamma was done by you yourself, and you yourself will experience its result.’

“Then, having interrogated & interpellated & castigated the man regarding the third deva messenger, King Yama interrogates & interpellates & castigates him regarding the fourth: ‘My good man, didn’t you see the fourth deva messenger that has appeared among human beings?’

“‘I didn’t, lord,’ he says.

“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t you see among human beings kings — catching a thief, a criminal — having him tortured in many ways: flogging him with whips, beating him with canes, beating him with clubs; cutting off his hands, cutting off his feet, cut off his hands & feet; cutting off his ears, cutting off his nose, cutting off his ears & nose; subjecting him to the ‘porridge pot,’ the ‘polished-shell shave,’ the ‘Rāhu’s mouth,’ the ‘flaming garland,’ the ‘blazing hand,’ the ‘grass-duty (ascetic),’ the ‘bark-dress (ascetic),’ the ‘burning antelope,’ the ‘meat hooks,’ the ‘coin-gouging,’ the ‘lye pickling,’ the ‘pivot on a stake,’ the ‘rolled-up bed’; having him splashed with boiling oil, devoured by dogs, impaled alive on a stake; cutting off his head with a sword?’

“‘I did, lord,’ he says.

“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t the thought occur to you — observant & mature: “It seems that those who do evil actions are tortured in these many ways in the here-&-now. And how much more in the hereafter? I’d better do good with body, speech, & mind”?’

“‘I couldn’t, lord. I was heedless, lord.’

“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, through heedlessness you did not do what is good with body, speech, & mind. And of course, my good man, they will deal with you in accordance with your heedlessness. For that evil kamma of yours was neither done by your mother, nor done by your father, nor done by your brother, nor done by your sister, nor done by your friends & companions, nor done by your kinsmen & relatives, nor done by the devas. That evil kamma was done by you yourself, and you yourself will experience its result.’

“Then, having interrogated & interpellated & castigated the man regarding the fourth deva messenger, King Yama interrogates & interpellates & castigates him regarding the fifth: ‘My good man, didn’t you see the fifth deva messenger that has appeared among human beings?’

“‘I didn’t, lord,’ he says.

“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t you see among human beings a woman or man, one day, two days, or three days dead: bloated, livid, oozing with lymph?’

“‘I did, lord,’ he says.

“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t the thought occur to you — observant & mature: “I, too, am subject to death, have not gone beyond death. I’d better do good with body, speech, & mind”?’

“‘I couldn’t, lord. I was heedless, lord.’

“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, through heedlessness you did not do what is good with body, speech, & mind. And of course, my good man, they will deal with you in accordance with your heedlessness. For that evil kamma of yours was neither done by your mother, nor done by your father, nor done by your brother, nor done by your sister, nor done by your friends & companions, nor done by your kinsmen & relatives, nor done by the devas. That evil kamma was done by you yourself, and you yourself will experience its result.’

“Then, having interrogated & interpellated & castigated the man regarding the fifth deva messenger, King Yama falls silent.

“Then the hell-wardens torture [the evil-doer] with what’s called a five-fold imprisonment. They drive a red-hot iron stake through one hand, they drive a red-hot iron stake through the other hand, they drive a red-hot iron stake through one foot, they drive a red-hot iron stake through the other foot, they drive a red-hot iron stake through the middle of his chest. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Then the hell-wardens lay him down and slice him with axes. Then they hold him feet up & head down and slice him with adzes. Then they harness him to a chariot and drive him back & forth over ground that is burning, blazing, & glowing. Then they make him climb up & down a vast mountain of embers that is burning, blazing, & glowing. Then they hold him feet up & head down and plunge him into a red-hot copper cauldron that is burning, blazing, & glowing. There he boils with bubbles foaming. And as he is boiling there with bubbles foaming, he goes now up, he goes now down, he goes now around. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Then the hell-wardens throw him into the Great Hell. And as to the Great Hell, monks:

It’s four-cornered & has four gates
set in the middle of each side.
It’s surrounded by an iron fortress wall
and roofed with iron.
Its floor is made of red-hot iron,
heated, fully blazing.
It stands always, spreading 100 leagues all around.
“The flame that leaps from the eastern wall of the Great Hell strikes the western wall. The flame that leaps from the western wall strikes the eastern wall. The flame that leaps from the northern wall strikes the southern wall. The flame that leaps from the southern wall strikes the northern wall. The flame that leaps from the bottom strikes the top. The flame that leaps from the top strikes the bottom. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“There comes a time when, ultimately, with the passing of a long stretch of time, the eastern gate of the Great Hell opens. He runs there, rushing quickly. As he runs there, rushing quickly, his outer skin burns, his inner skin burns, his flesh burns, his tendons burn, even his bones turn to smoke. When [his foot] is lifted, he is the just same. But when he finally arrives, the door slams shut. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“There comes a time when, ultimately, with the passing of a long stretch of time, the western gate of the Great Hell opens… the northern gate… the southern gate of the Great Hell opens. He runs there, rushing quickly. As he runs there, rushing quickly, his outer skin burns, his inner skin burns, his flesh burns, his tendons burn, even his bones turn to smoke. When [his foot] is lifted, he is the just same. But when he finally arrives, the door slams shut. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“There comes a time when, ultimately, with the passing of a long stretch of time, the eastern gate of the Great Hell opens. He runs there, rushing quickly. As he runs there, rushing quickly, his outer skin burns, his inner skin burns, his flesh burns, his tendons burn, even his bones turn to smoke. When [his foot] is lifted, he is the just same. He gets out through the gate. But right next to the Great Hell is a vast Excrement Hell. He falls into that. And in that Excrement Hell needle-mouth beings bore into his outer skin. Having bored into his outer skin, they bore into his inner skin… his flesh… his tendons… the bone. Having bored into the bone, they feed on the marrow. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Right next to the Excrement Hell is the vast Hot Ashes Hell. He falls into that. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Right next to the Hot Ashes Hell is the vast Simbali Forest, [with trees] reaching up a league, covered with thorns sixteen fingerbreadths long — burning, blazing, & glowing. He enters that and is made to climb up & down them. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Right next to the Simbali Forest is the vast Sword-leaf Forest. He enters that. There the leaves, stirred by the wind, cut off his hand, cut off his foot, cut off his hand & foot, cut off his ear, cut off his nose, cut off his ear & nose. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Right next to the Sword-leaf Forest is the vast Lye-water River. He falls into that. There he is swept downstream, he is swept upstream, he is swept downstream & upstream. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Then the hell-wardens pull him out with a hook and, placing him on the ground, say to him, ‘Well, good man, what do you want?’ He replies, ‘I’m hungry, venerable sirs.’ So the hell-wardens pry open his mouth with red-hot iron tongs — burning, blazing, & glowing — and throw into it a copper ball, burning, blazing, & glowing. It burns his lips, it burns his mouth, it burns his stomach and comes out the lower side, carrying along his bowels & intestines. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Then the hell-wardens say to him, ‘Well, good man, what do you want?’ He replies, ‘I’m thirsty, venerable sirs.’ So the hell-wardens pry open his mouth with red-hot iron tongs — burning, blazing, & glowing — and pour into it molten copper, burning, blazing, & glowing. It burns his lips, it burns his mouth, it burns his stomach and comes out the lower side, carrying along his bowels & intestines. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.

“Then the hell-wardens throw him back into the Great Hell once more.

“Once, monks, the thought occurred to King Yama: ‘Those who did evil actions in the world are tortured in these many ways. O that I might gain the human state! And that a Tathāgata — worthy & rightly self-awakened — might arise in the world! And that I might attend to that Tathāgata! And that he might teach me the Dhamma! And that I might understand his Dhamma!’

“I tell you this, monks, not from having heard it from another contemplative or brahman. On the contrary, I tell you this just as I have known for myself, seen for myself, understood for myself.”

That is what the Blessed One said. Having said that, the One Well-gone, the Teacher, said further:

Warned by the deva messengers,
those youths who are heedless
grieve for a long, long time —
people entering a lower state.
But those here who are good,
people of integrity,
when warned by the deva messengers
aren’t heedless
of the noble Dhamma — ever.
Seeing danger in clinging,
in the coming-into-play
of birth & death,
they are released from lack of clinging,
in the ending
of birth & death.
They, happy, arriving at safety,
fully unbound in the here-&-now,
having gone beyond
all animosity & danger
have escaped
all suffering & stress.

***
The Hell Pot

In times gone by, when men lived twenty thousand years, appeared the Exalted Kassapa.

As he journeyed from place to place with twenty thousand monks freed from the Depravities, he arrived at Benāres.

The residents of Benāres united by twos and threes and in larger groups and provided food for the visitors.

At that time there were living at Benāres four sons of wealthy merchants. Each of them possessed four hundred millions of treasure, and they were boon companions. One day they took counsel together, saying, “We have much wealth in our houses. What shall we do with it? With a Buddha so great and so good journeying from place to place, shall we give alms, shall we perform works of merit, shall we keep the moral precepts?”

Not one of the four assented to this proposal.

1) One said, “Let us spend our time drinking strong drink and eating savory meat. This would be a profitable way for us to spend our lives.”

2) Another said, “Let us spend our time eating fragrant rice three years old, with all manner of choice flavors.”

3) Another said, “Let us have all manner of hard food cooked and spend our time eating it.”

4) Another said, “Friends, there is only one thing for us to do, and it is this: The woman does not live who will refuse to do your will if you offer her money. Let us offer money to other men’s wives and commit adultery with them.”

“Good, good!” cried all of them, agreeing to his proposal.

From that time on they sent money to beautiful women, one after another, and for twenty thousand years committed adultery. When they died, they were reborn in the Avīci Hell, where they suffered torment during the interval between two Buddhas.

Dying again, because the fruit of their evil deeds was not yet exhausted, they were reborn in the Hell of the Iron Caldron, sixty leagues in measure. After sinking for thirty thousand years, they reached the bottom, and after rising for thirty thousand years, they came again to the brim. Each one of them desired to pronounce a single Stanza, but all they could do was to utter a single syllable apiece. Then they flopped over and sank back again into the Iron Caldron.

—————–

1) “Your majesty, what was the first sound you heard?”

“’Du,’ Reverend Sir.”

The Teacher, completing the Stanza left uncompleted by the evildoer, recited it in full as follows,

Du. An evil life we led, we who gave not what we had.
With all the wealth we had, we made no refuge for ourselves.

2) Having made known the meaning of this Stanza to the king, the Teacher asked him what the other sounds were that he heard. When the king told him, he completed the remainder as follows,

Sa. Sixty thousand years in all have we completed;
We are boiling in Hell. When will the end come?

3) Na. There is no end. Whence comes an end? No end appears; For then both you and I, sir, committed sin.

4) So. Be sure that when I go hence and am reborn as a human being, I shall be bountiful, keep the moral precepts, and do much good.

When the Teacher had pronounced these Stanzas, one after another, and declared their meaning, he said, “Your majesty, those four men desired, each of them, to pronounce a single Stanza, but all they could do was to utter a single syllable apiece.

Then they flopped over and sank back again into the Iron Caldron.”

(Those evildoers, we are told, have been sinking in the Hell Pot ever since King Pasenadi Kosala heard those sounds, but not even yet have a thousand years elapsed.)

The king was profoundly moved by the discourse of the Teacher. Thought he to himself, “A grievous sin indeed is this sin of adultery. Those four adulterers were tormented in Hell during the interval between two Buddhas. Passing from that existence, they were reborn in the Hell of the Iron Caldron, sixty leagues in measure, and there endured torment for sixty thousand years. Even so the time of their release from suffering has not yet come. I also conceived a sinful passion for the wife of another and got no sleep all night long. From this time forth I shall no more set my heart on another man’s wife.”

And he said to the Tathāgata,

“Reverend Sir, today I know how long the night is.”

Now the king’s servant was also seated there; and when he heard this remark, his faith was confirmed, and he said to the Teacher, “Reverend Sir, today the king has come to know how long the night is.

Yesterday I myself came to know how long a league is.”

The Teacher joined the words of both men and said, “For one man the night is long; for another a league is long; for a fool the revolution of being is long.”

So saying, he taught the Law by pronouncing the following Stanza,

“Long is the night to him that watcheth; long is a league to him that is weary; Long is the revolution of being for simpletons that know not the Good Law.”

The king paid obeisance to the Teacher, and then went and released those living beings from their bonds.

Thereupon both men and women, released from their bonds, bathed their heads and went to their own homes, extolling the virtues of Mallikā and saying, “Long live our gracious Queen Mallikā, through whom our lives were spared!”

In the evening the monks assembled in the Hall of Truth and began to discuss the incidents of the day.

“How wise,” said they, “is this Mallikā! By her own wisdom has she saved the lives of all these people.”

The Teacher, seated in his Perfumed Chamber, hearing the talk of the monks, came forth from the Perfumed Chamber, entered the Hall of Truth, sat down on the Seat of Wisdom, and asked them, “Monks, what is it that you are sitting here now talking about?”

They told him. “Monks, this is not the first time Mallikā has saved the lives of a large number of people by her own wisdom. She did so in a former existence also.”

***
May each and every one of you meet with progress and happiness.
May the merits of this Gift of Dhamma bring much benefit to all.

Sadhu sadhu sadhu

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