Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva fundamental vow sutra

by Johnny Yu | 2005 | 21,827 words

The story of Ksitigarbha occurs in the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Purvapranidhana Sutra which is a popular Mahayana Sutra. This sutra is said to have been spoken by the Buddha towards the end of his life. Ksitigarbha is a bodhisattva primarily revered in East Asian Buddhism and usually depicted as a Buddhist monk. Original title of the text: Kᚣitig...

Chapter 5 - The Names of the Various Hells

At that time, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva-Mahasattva said to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, "Compassionate One, for the sake of the eight classes of supernatural beings, the four groups of Buddha's followers (monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen), and all of the sentient beings of the present and future, I wish you would address the places which malicious sentient beings receive the fruits of their negative karma.  Please address the names of these hells and the types of suffering experienced there, so sentient beings of the future and the Terminal Dharma Era would know the karmic retributions [for malicious deeds]." 

Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva answered, "Compassionate One, through the divine power of the Buddha and [Samantabhadra Bodhisattva] Mahasattva, I will briefly address the names of these hells and the karmic retributions experienced within them."

"Compassionate One, to the east of Jambudvipa, there are these mountains called the Great Cakravada.  These mountains are [so high and so deep] that even the light from the sun and moon cannot pierce its depth.  [The hells are located deep inside these mountains].  Of the Great Hells, there is the one named Avici and the one called Mahavici.  Then, there these hells named Four Corners, Flying Daggers, Fire Arrows, Crushed between Mountains, Piercing Spears, Iron Carts, Iron Racks, Iron Oxen, Iron Clothings, Thousand Swords, Iron Donkeys, Molten Bronze, Embracing Pillars, Flying Lava Rocks, Plowing Tongues, Chopping Heads, Scorching Feet, Pecking Eyes, Iron Pellets, Angry-Quarrels, Iron Reapers, and Many Hatred."

Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva said, "Compassionate One, within the Cakravada Mountains, there are all these and other hells.  The numbers of these hells are unlimited.  There are also Wailing Hell, Pulling Tongues Hell, Excrement Hell,  Bronze Locks Hell, Fire Elephants Hell, Fire Dogs Hell, Fire Horses Hell, Fire Oxen Hell, Fire Mountains Hell, Fire Rocks Hell, Fire Beds Hell, Fire Pillars Hell, Fire Hawks Hell, Teeth Sawing Hell, Skinning Hell, Blood Drinking Hell, Scorching Hands Hell, Scorching Feet Hell, Inverted Thorns Hell, Burning Houses Hell, Iron Houses Hell, and Fire Wolves Hell.  Within each one of these hells, there are also minor hells.  These minor hells number anywhere from the single digits to hundreds, or thousands.  Even each of these minor hells have their own unique names."

Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva told Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, "Compassionate One, all these hells are the [manifestation of] karmic retributions for malicious deeds of sentient beings in Jambudvipa.  The powers of the sentient beings' negative karma is truly enormous.  It rivals the size of Mount Sumeru.  It can encompass the great ocean.  It can even obstruct the paths to liberation.  Hence, sentient beings of the world must not take small misdeeds lightly, thinking it will make no noticeable impact.  All these misdeeds will manifest themselves after sentient beings' deaths.   Sentient beings must bear the negative karma from even the tiniest of their misdeeds.  Even the closest family members, be it father and son, will go their separate ways.  Even if by chance they meet, no one is willing to assume the burden of another's negative karma.  Through the Buddha's divine power, I will briefly address these hells and the suffering from karmic retributions within.  I only wish the Compassionate One would listen to what I have to say."

Samantabhadra Bodhisattva responded, "I have long known the agonies resulting from the karmic retributions in the three realms of suffering.  I wish that you would describe it for the sentient beings of the present and future, so that in the future and the Terminal Dharma Era, all of them may be awakened upon hearing these truthful words.  May they seek refuge in the Buddhas [and the path to Enlightenment]."

Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva then said, "Compassionate One, the suffering in hells are as follows.  There is a hell in which the sinners' tongues are pulled out and plowed.  Then, there is another hell which the yaksas rip out sinners' hearts and eat them.  There is a hell in which sinners are cooked in boiling waters.  Then, there is another hell which sinners are forced to embrace burning-hot bronze pillars.  There is a hell in which sinners' bodies are burned in fires.  Then, there is another hell which is always freezing; in another, [the sinners are submerged in] unlimited amounts of feces and urine; in another, flying white-hot `morning stars' [strike the sinners]; in another, fire spears [pierce the sinners' bodies]; in another, the sinners' chests and backs are pounded; in another, sinners' hands and feet are burned; in another, iron snakes suffocate sinners [by coiling around their necks]; in another, iron dogs [tear the sinners into pieces]; in another, iron mules [trample the sinners]."

Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva concluded by saying, "Compassionate One, these types of suffering number into the hundreds of thousands.  Within each hell, the implements of karmic retributions are made of bronze, iron, rock and fire, for these four materials are manifestations of the sinners' karmic sins.  If [I were to] describe in detail the karmic retributions in all the hells, [I must] address all the myriad of sufferings in each hell.  In addition, there are many more hells [not even mentioned yet].  By the divine power of the Buddha and [responding to] Mahasattva's question, I have briefly described them.  If to describe it in detail, in all the time of the future, it cannot be completed."

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