Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva

CHAPTER 03: 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 hells, may or may not have women, may or may not have Buddhadharma, and so forth to having or not having Sound-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 done 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 tell us about it."

Then Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the Worthy Mother, "Retributions that result from offenses done in Jambudvipa are described like this.

"Beings who are not filial to their parents, even to the extent of harming or killing them, will fall into the Relentless Hell where for 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 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 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 do many other evil deeds will fall into the Relentless Hell where for billions of eons they will seek escape in vain.

"Beings who steal the wealth and property of the Eternally Dwelling including its grains, its food and drink, its clothing, or take anything at all that was not given to them will fall into the Relentless Hell where for 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 for temporary relief from their suffering but will never receive even a moment's respite."

Lady Maya further asked Earth Store Bodhisattva, "Why is that hell called Relentless?"

Earth Store replied, "Worthy Mother, the hells are all 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. Ten thousand miles above the city is an unbroken mass of fire.

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 iron, and covered with a fire burning downward that is joined by a fire burning upward.

Iron snakes and dogs spewing fire race back and forth atop that wall.

"In that hell is a bed that extends for ten thousand miles. One person undergoing punishment sees his or her own body filling the entire bed. When millions of people undergo punishment simultaneously, each still sees his or her own body filling the bed. That is how retributions are undergone by those with the same karma.

"What is more, these offenders undergo extreme suffering. Thousands of Yakshas and other evil ghosts display fangs like swords and eyes like lightning as they pull and drag the offenders using 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 thousands of deaths and rebirths. They pass through 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 to another one. When that world, too, is destroyed, they move on to another. 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 since punishment is undergone day and night throughout many eons without ceasing for a moment.

Second, it is said to be Relentless since one person fills it in the same way that many people fill it.

Third, it is said to be Relentless since 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 raw hide bound around one's head and hot iron poured over one's body; or by meals of iron pellets and drinks of iron fluids.

Fourth, it is said to be Relentless since everyone undergoes karmic responses based on the offenses they 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 since 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 thousands of eons. During that time they seek even a moment's relief but it never happens. Only when their karma is finished can they attain rebirth."

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.

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