Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “various utsada annexed to the avici” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Various utsada annexed to the Avīci

Note: Here the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra continues its description of the Avīci by describing its utsadas.

1) They are forcibly pushed into the glowing coals (kukūla)[1] and made to carry the glowing coals.

2) They come out by the river of excrement (kuṇapa) which they are made [176c] to enter. There poisonous iron-beaked insects enter their body through their nose and leave through the soles of their feet; entering by the soles of their feet, they leave through their mouths.

3) There arises before them the path of knives (kṣuramārga or kṣuradhāramārga)[2] and they are made to gallop there by whip-lashes. The soles of their feet are cut into pieces like meat minced for cooking; knives, swords and sharp blades fly through their bodies. Just as leaves falling from a frozen tree are scattered at the mercy of the wind, so the sliced-off hands, feet, noses and limbs of these damned cover the ground and torrents of blood flow.

Two evil dogs, Che mo (Śyāma) and Che p’o lo (Śabala),[3] fierce beasts with iron gullets, tear at the sinews and bones of these damned. These dogs are as strong as tigers and as fierce as lions.

Then there is the forest ]of iron] spines (ayaḥśalmalīvana)[4] where the damned are pushed and forced to climb the trees. When the damned climb up, the spines turn downward; when they come down, the spines turn upward. Huge poisonous snakes (āsiviṣa), scorpions (vṛścika) and poisonous insects come to chew on the damned; big long-beaked birds breaks their heads and feast on their brains.

4) The damned enter the salt river [Khārodakā nadī or Vaitarṇī],[5] which they enter and are swept downstream. When they emerge, they tread on a ground of burning iron (ayomayā lhūmy ādīptā). Walking on iron spines (ayaḥkhaṇṭaka) and sitting on iron spikes (ayaḥstambha)[6] that enter them from behind. The guardians open their mouths with pliers (viṣkambhenena mukhadvāram viṣkambhya) and pour in molten copper (kvathitam tāmramāsye prakṣipanti); they make them swallow flaming balls of iron (ayuguḍān ādiptān āsyeprakṣipanti);[7] these balls enter and burn their mouth (mukha),penetrate into and burn the throat (kaṇṭha); they penetrate into and burn the belly; the five viscera (read tsang, 130 and 18) having been burned, they fall to the ground (adhaḥ pragharanti).

The damned, who see only ugly colors, breathe only fetid air, touch only rough things and undergo all the suffering, are bowed down with sorrow. Sometimes they act like savages, sometimes they run and hide, sometimes they trip and fall.

In previous lives, these unfortunates had committed many great wrongs and perpetrated the five grave sins of immediate retribution (pañcānatarya); they destroyed the roots of good (kuśalamūla); they called the Dharma ‘adharma’ and ‘adharma’ they called ‘Dharma’; they denied cause (hetu) and effect (phala), despised and envied honest people. For all these sins they enter into this hell and undergo such hard punishments.

Footnotes and references:


This brazier of glowing coals is the kukkula of the Pāli sources and the Mahāvastu, I,p. 11., the kukūla of the Kośa, III, p. 151. The damned are pushed into it up to their knees: their feet decompose when pushed into the glowing coals, revive as soon as they leave it.


The path of knives is the kṣuramārga of the Kāraṇḍavyuha, 38, and the khuradhāra of the Pāli Jātaka, V, p. 269.


In Kośa, III, p. 151, these dogs are located in the asipattravana.


The forest of iron spines corresponds to the simbalivana of Majjhima, III, p. 185 and the ayaśalmalīvana of the Kośa, III, p. 151.


This river is the khārodakā nadī of the Majjhima, III, p. 185. the kṣāranaādi of the Saddharmasmṛtyupasthāna, cited in Śikṣasamuccaya, p. 75; the vaitaraṇī, “fordless river” of the Kośa, p. 151 and the Suhṛllekha, v. 73, 79.


The punishment of the iron or copper spikes is listed in Suhṛllekha, v. 79.


On the punishment of molten copper and iron balls, see, among other sources, the detailed descriptions on Mahhjima, III, p. 186; Divyāvadāna, p. 375; Śikṣsamuccaya, p. 73.

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