The Nature of Hells, Niraya
In the world, every country has prisons or jails to confine offenders and criminals. In the same way there exist various types of hells for those who have committed unwholesome deeds. These hells are utuja-rupa or matter caused by utu conditioned by one’s evil kamma. Hells differ in nature depending on the degree and severity of the evil deeds committed. According to the books, the Lohakumbhi Hell (the hell of hot molten metal) is situated below the earth’s crust in close proximity to the human abode.
Here, only the eight great hells that are commonly described will be explained in detail. They are-
(7) Mahatapana and,
Each great hell is said to be surrounded, as by a wall, by five minor hells: (i) excreta hell, (ii) hot ashes hell, (iii) hell of Bombax trees, (iv) hell of trees with sword-like leaves and (v) hell of molten metal. These five hells are called Ussada Hells.
(1) Sanjiva Hell
Sanjiva means the hell in which the sinners are reborn again and again. In this hell, the wardens cut into pieces the bodies and limbs of the sinners; but the sinners instead of dying there and then are reborn to suffer more because their evil kamma still continues to take effect. They have to suffer the dreadful agony repeatedly. The terror of this hell clearly proves that the evil results of bad kamma (akusala) are really horrible.
(2) Kalasutta Hell
Kalasutta means the measuring string (tape) used by carpenters. In this hell, the wardens chase the fleeing sinners, and when they are caught their bodies are marked off using measuring tapes. Then the wardens hack their bodies according to the markings. Sinners had to go through this torture many times till their evil kamma is exhausted.
(3) Samghata Hell
Samghata Hell is where sinners are crushed to death over and over again. Big iron rollers crush sinners who are planted waist-deep into burning iron sheets nine yojanas thick. The big iron rollers come from four directions and crush them, back and forth. They suffer this repeatedly till their bad kammas are exhausted.
(4) Roruva Hell
Roruva is the hell of wailing sinners. Hellfires burn furiously and enter the sinner’s bodies from the nine openings. The sinners suffer from intense agony and wail loudly. This is also known as Jala-roruva.
(5) Maharoruva Hell
This hell is completely engulfed in very thick smoke. Sinners suffer the agony as described in Roruva, except that hellfire is replaced with hell-smoke. This hell is known as Dhuma-roruva-niraya, the hell of smoke.
(6) Tapana Hell
Tapana is the incinerating hell. Here sinners are pierced with burning red hot iron stakes the size of a palm tree.
(7) Mahatapana Hell
This hell is the greater incinerating hell. It is also called Patapana. Hell wardens drive the sinners up to the top of a burning iron hill. Then they are pushed downhill by a vigorous storm only to fall onto iron stakes planted at the foot of the hill.
(8) Avici Hell
Avici is the hell with no space to spare. Hell fires burn intensely all over with no room between flames. Sinners are packed in this hell like mustard seeds in a bamboo cylinder. There also is no empty space between sinners. Suffering and agony is ceaseless, with no interval in between. Since the hell is overflowing with fire, sinners and agony, it is given the name Avici. (a=no + vici=space in between)
The Agony of Hell
Existence in the eight great hells and the minor hells means limitless and horrid agony. The agonies suffered in hell are too horrid to be described in words. The Buddha Himself said:
“Even if I described the agonies of hell for many years, the descriptions will not be complete. The sufferings in hell are limitless and beyond exposition”.
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Title- Devaduta Sutta