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The Vows Ksitigarbha Sutra
Translated by Pitt Chin Hui
Observations of Retribution of Human Beings Resulting from Previous Karmas
At that time, Queen Maha Maya, mother of the Buddha, asked Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva respectfully with clasped hands, "My divine One, human beings in the Samsara world commit different sins. What retribution do they receive for their Karmas?"
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva replied by saying, "There are millions and millions of worlds. In some of them, you will find Hells as we have in our Samsara world. In some of them, there are no Hells, like the Sukavati (Western Paradise). In some of them, there are females whilst in others there are none.
In some, you will be able to hear the preaching of the Buddha, but in others people are not privileged to listen to the Dharma In some, there are Saravakas, Arahats, Pacceka Buddhas, etc. whilst in others, these do not exist. Consequently, sufferings in different Hells are numerous and cannot be explained in detail."
Queen Maha Maya asked once again, "I only seek to know the types of suffering for beings of the Samsara world."
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva answered, "My Sacred Mother, I will relate to you in brief. The retribution of Karmas of human beings in the human world are innumerable. Beings born disobedient to their parents or associated in bad ways, are cast into the Avici Hell and will continue to suffer from kalpas to kalpas with no means of escape. People who do harm to the Buddha by destroying His images and speak of the Triple Gems disrespectfully or having no respect for the Teaching of the Honoured One, would be cast to the Avici Hell from kalpas to kalpas with no means of escape.
Human beings who do harm to the sacred temples, commit adultery with monks or nuns or kill or harm others in sacred places, are cast into the Avici Hell for eternal suffering. Any being, following the practices of a monk with no pure embrace of the Dharma, bullying others or committing various
kinds of sins, is cast into the Avici Hell for similar punishment. Those who are prone to steal things from temples such as cash, rice, food, clothing or anything would similarly be thrown into the Avici Hell for continuous sufferings."
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva repeated to Queen Maha Maya, "Any of the above named groups of sinners are punished perpetually."
Queen Maha Maya asked Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva once again, "What is the meaning of Avici Hell?"
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva replied, "Sacred Mother, there are different Hells within the Mahachakravala. Besides the eighteen big Hells, there are some five hundred others to be found with different names, and still another thousand Hells. Avici Hells means Hells reinforced with iron surrounded by iron walls, eight millions miles wide and one million miles high. These Hells are fully filled with burning flames and are jointly linked up together with other Hells of different names.
Among them there is one Hell by the name of "Avici". The area of this Avici Hell is eight thousand square miles. The whole of this Hell, with iron walls, is packed with burning flames. Iron snakes and dogs with hot fire in this Hell run from the East to the West. Also, there is an iron bed and when one is cast there, he can see his own body filling it. Therefore, all beings are subjected to punishment according to their sins. Then, there are the Yaksas (Demons) with eyes similar to that of electric bulbs and hands in the shape of steel claws to scratch the sinners Yaksas pierce the sinners' bodies, throw them into the air and the fall kills them. There are also iron eagles which hook the eyes of sinners, and iron snakes which curl round sinners’ necks. Long nails are pierced into the sinners’ limbs, their tongues are pulled out by iron thongs, and their intestines are sawed up. Molten steel is poured into their mouths. Hot iron wires are used to bind their bodies. Sinners suffer according to their evil actions by encountering innumerable births and deaths for kalpas and kalpas without any hope of escape. When this world comes to an end, sinners will be transferred to another world, and in the new world they endure more punishment.
The punishments in the Avici Hell are as mentioned above and those subjected to them undergo the following five orders:
Sinners to be punished throughout the day and night for kalpas after kalpas without any break. This answers to suffering without an end of time.
To be spread over the "Bed of Punishment" in one form or other with no limit of space.
Sufferings without limit as in the use of weapons for punishment, such as iron-fork, iron-sticks, iron-snakes, iron-eagles, iron-foxes, iron-dogs, iron-saws, iron-hammers, iron-pans, iron-wires, iron-ropes, iron-asses, iron-horses, iron-balls, melted-iron, as well as various kinds of iron weapons.
Whether they be males for females, civilised or uncivilised, old or young, rich or poor, devils or spirits, or even devas must suffer for their unforgivable sins committed, according to their karmas without any difference.
To be cast into this Hell for kalpas and kalpas to suffer different kinds of punishment, day and night endlessly, i.e. life without any break, and with no means of escape until their retribution of Karma comes to an end.
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva told Queen Maha Maya, "This is but a brief description of a visit to Hell. To quote the names of Hells, the types of punishment and instruments used will take a period of one kalpa."
After listening to Ksitigarbha’s discourse, Queen Maha Maya retreated respectfully with clasped hands and was seen in great sorrow.