WARREN: BUDDHISM IN TRANSLATIONS

253

 

 


 

 

Ī 50. How Existence in Hell Is Possible

Translated from the Milindapañha (67.4)

Said the king, "Bhante Nāgasena, you priests say that hell-fire is much hotter than ordinary fire. Also, that if a small stone be thrown into an ordinary fire, though it lie smoking there for a whole day, it is not consumed; but that if a stone as large as a pagoda be cast into hell-fire it is consumed in an instant. This I cannot believe. And again, you say that all those beings that come into existence in hell are not consumed, though they are cooked in hell-fire for many thousands of years. This, also, I cannot believe."

Said the elder, "What do you say to this, your majesty? Do the females of sea-monsters, and of crocodiles, turtles, pea-fowl, and pigeons eat hard stones and gravel?"

"Yes, bhante. They do."

"But when the hard stones and gravel have arrived in the stomach-cavity of the belly, are they consumed?"

"Yes, bhante. They are."

"But the embryo that is likewise in the belly, is that also consumed?"

"Nay, verily, bhante."

"And why not?"

"I suppose, bhante, that it is through the superior potency of its former deeds."

"In exactly the same way, your majesty, the inhabitants of hell, through the superior potency of their former deeds, are not consumed, though they are cooked in hell-fire for many thousands of years. Moreover, your majesty, The Blessed One has spoken as follows: 'He does not die so long as that wickedness is unexhausted.'"

"Give another illustration."

[254] "What do you say to this, your majesty? Do the females of lions, tigers, panthers, and dogs eat hard bones and meat?"

"Yes, bhante. They do."

"But when these hard bones and meat have arrived in the stomach-cavity of the belly, are they consumed?"

"Yes, bhante. They are."

"But the embryo that is likewise in the belly, is that also consumed?"

"Nay, verily, bhante."

"And why not?"

"I suppose, bhante, that it is through the superior potency of its former deeds."

"In exactly the same way, your majesty, the inhabitants of hell, through the superior potency of their former deeds, are not consumed, though they are cooked in hell-fire for many thousands of years."

"Give another illustration."

"What do you say to this, your majesty? Do delicate women of the Yonakas, or of the warrior caste, of the Brahman caste, of the householder caste eat hard food and meat?"

"Yes, bhante. They do."

"But when the hard food and meat have arrived in the stomach-cavity of the belly, are they consumed?"

"Yes, bhante. They are."

"But the embryo that is likewise in the belly, is that also consumed?"

"Nay, verily, bhante."

"And why not?"

"I suppose, bhante, that it is through the superior potency of its former deeds."

"In exactly the same way, your majesty, the inhabitants of hell, through the superior potency of their former deeds, are not consumed, though they are cooked in bell-fire for many thousands of years. Moreover, your majesty, The Blessed One has spoken as follows: 'He does not die so long as that wickedness is unexhausted.'"

"You are an able man, bhante Nāgasena."

 


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