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The Names of the Hells

Chapter 5


At that time, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva Mahasattva said to Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Humane One, for the sake of gods and dragons, those in the Fourfold Assembly, and all other beings of the present and future, please tell us the names of the hells where beings in the Saha world on the continent of Jambudvipa must suffer retributions for offenses they commit. Please also describe what happens during retributions undergone for evil deeds, so that beings in the future Dharma Ending Age will know what those retributions are.”

Earth Store Bodhisattva replied, “Humane One, based on the awesome spiritual power of the Buddha and relying on your strength, great Bodhisattva, I will give a general list of the names of the hells and describe some of what happens during retributions undergone for offenses and evil deeds.

“Humane One, in eastern Jambudvipa there is a mountain range called Iron Ring. That mountain range is pitch black because the light of the sun and moon does not shine on it. A great hell named Ultimately Relentless is located there. Another hell is called Great Avici. There is also a hell called Four Horns, a hell called Flying Knives, a hell called Fiery Arrows, a hell called Squeezing Mountains, a hell called Piercing Spears, a hell called Iron Carts, a hell called Iron Beds, a hell called Iron Oxen, a hell called Iron Clothing, a hell called Thousand Blades, a hell called Iron Asses, a hell called Molten Copper, a hell called Embracing Pillar, a hell called Flowing Fire, a hell called Plowing Tongues, a hell called Hacking Heads, a hell called Burning Feet, a hell called Pecking Eyes, a hell called Iron Pellets, a hell called Quarreling, a hell called Iron Ax, and a hell called Massive Hatred.”

Earth Store Bodhisattva said, “Humane One, within the Iron Ring are endless hells like that. There is also the Hell of Crying Out, the Hell of Pulling Tongues, the Hell of Dung and Urine, the Hell of Copper Locks, the Hell of Fire Elephants, the Hell of Fire Dogs, the Hell of Fire Horses, the Hell of Fire Oxen, the Hell of Fire Mountains, the Hell of Fire Rocks, the Hell of Fire Beds, the Hell of Fire Beams, the Hell of Fire Eagles, the Hell of Sawing Teeth, the Hell of Flaying Skin, the Hell of Drinking Blood, the Hell of Burning Hands, the Hell of Burning Feet, the Hell of Hanging Hooks, the Hell of Fire Rooms, the Hell of Iron Cells, and the Hell of Fire Wolves.

“Each of those hells contains lesser hells numbering from one, two, three, four, to hundreds of thousands. Each of those lesser hells has its own name.”

Earth Store Bodhisattva told Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, “Humane One, such are the karmic responses of beings in Jambudvipa who commit evil deeds. The power of karma is extremely great. It rivals Mount Sumeru in its heights. It surpasses the great oceans in its depths. It obstructs the path leading to sagehood. For that reason, beings should never think that minor bad deeds are unimportant or assume that they do not count as offenses. After death, there will be retributions to undergo that reflect all those details. Fathers and sons have the closest relationship, but their roads diverge and each must go his own way. Even if they met, neither would consent to undergo suffering in the other’s place. Now, based on the awesome spiritual power of the Buddha, I will describe some of the retributions for offenses that take place in the hells. Please, Humane One, listen for a moment to what I am going to say.”

Universal Worthy replied, “I have long known of the retributions that come about in the Three Evil Paths. My hope in asking the Humane One to describe them is that when beings in the future Dharma-Ending Age who are committing evil deeds hear the Humane One’s descriptions, they will be moved to take refuge with the Buddha.”

Earth Store said, “Humane One, this is what happens during retributions in the hells. Offenders may go to a hell in which their tongues are stretched out and plowed through by cattle; or to a hell in which their hearts are pulled out and eaten by yakshas; or to a hell in which their bodies are cooked in cauldrons of boiling oil; or to a hell in which they are forced to embrace red-hot copper pillars; or to a hell in which they are burned by a fire that constantly pursues them; or to a hell in which cold and ice are all-pervasive; or to a hell in which  excrement and urine are endless; or to a hell in which flying maces are unavoidable; or to a hell in which fiery spears stab them repeatedly; or to a hell in which they are constantly beaten on the chests and backs; or to a hell in which their hands and feet are burned; or to a hell in which they are bound by iron snakes that coil around them; or to a hell in which they are pursued by racing iron dogs; or to a hell in which their bodies are stretched by iron mules.

“Humane One, to inflict these retributions in each hell, hundreds of thousands of instruments made of copper, iron, stone, or fire arise from karmic forces. Those four materials come into being in response to the kinds of karma that offenders create. If I were to explain in detail what happens during retributions in the hells, then I would need to tell of the hundreds of thousands of sufferings that must be undergone in each specific hell. How much more would that be the case for the sufferings in all the many hells! Now, having based myself upon the awesome spiritual power of the Buddha, I have given a general answer to the Humane One’s question, for if I were to speak in detail, it would take eons.”

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