Anguttara Nikaya


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Aŋguttara-Nikāya
III. Tikanipāta
IV. Devadūta Vagga

The Book of the
Gradual Sayings
or
More-Numbered Suttas

Part III
The Book of the Threes

Chapter IV
Messengers of the Devas

Sutta 35

Devadūta Suttaɱ

The Lord of Death[1]

Translated from the Pali by
F.L. Woodward, M.A.

Copyright The Pali Text Society
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[121]

[1][wrrn][bodh][olds] Thus have I heard:

On a certain occasion the Exalted One addressed the monks, saying:

'Monks.'

'Yes, Lord,' replied those monks to the Exalted One.

The Exalted One said this:

'Monks, there are these three deva-messengers.

What three?

In this connexion
a certain one lives an immoral life
in deed,
word
and thought.

So doing,
when body breaks up after death
he is reborn in the Waste,
the Way of Woe,
the Downfall,
in Purgatory.

Then, monks, the warders of Purgatory
seize him by both arms
and bring him before Yama the lord (of death),[2] saying:

[122] "Sire, this man had no respect for mother[3] and father,
recluses and brahmins.

He showed no deference to the elders of his clan.

Let your majesty inflict due punishment on him."

Then, monks, Yama the lord (of death)
examines him,
closely questions him[4]
and addresses him
concerning the first deva-messenger, saying:

"Now, my good man,
have you never seen the first deva-messenger
manifest among men?"

And he replies,

"I have not seen him, sire."

Then says Yama, lord of death, to him:

"What!

My good man,
have you never seen any human beings,
a woman or a man,
eighty
or ninety
or a hundred years of age,
broken down,
bent inwards like the rafter of a roof,
crooked,
staff-propped,
and trembling as he goes along, -
an ailing (creature) past his prime,
with broken teeth,
grey-haired
or hairless,
bald,
with wrinkled brow
and limbs all blotched and spotted?"[5]

Then the other says,

"Sire, I have seen."

Then says Yama, lord of death, to him:

"My good man,
did it never occur to you
as a man of intelligence
and fully grown:

"I too am subject to old age,
I have not overpassed old age.

Come, let me act nobly in deed,
word
and thought?"

Then the other says,

" No, sire, I could not.
I was negligent."

Then, monks, Yama, lord of death, says to him:

"My good man,
it was through negligence
that you did not act nobly in deed,
word
and thought.

Verily they shall do unto you
in accordance with your negligence.

That evil action of yours
was not done by mother,
father,
brother,
sister,
friends and comrades:
not by kinsmen,
devas,
recluses and brahmins.

By yourself alone was it done.

It is just you
that will experience the fruit thereof."

[123] 2. Then, monks, Yama, lord of death,
having examined him,
closely questioned
and addressed him
concerning the first deva-messenger,
examines him,
closely questions him
and addresses him
concerning the second deva-messenger, saying:

"My good man,
have you never seen the second deva-messenger
manifest among men?"

And he replies,

"I have never seen him, sire."

Then says Yama, lord of death, to him:

"What!

My good man,
have you never seen among human beings
a woman or a man,
sick,
afflicted,
suffering from a sore disease,
lie wallowing in his own filth,
by some lifted up,
by others put to bed?"[6]

"Sire, I have seen."

"Then, my good man,
did it never occur to you
as a man of intelligence
and fully grown:

"I too am subject to disease.

I have not overpassed disease.

Come, let me act nobly in deed,
word
and thought?"

Then says he,

"Sire, I could not.

I was negligent."

Then says Yama, lord of death, to him:

"My good man,
it was through negligence
that you did not act nobly
in deed,
word
and thought.

Verily they shall do unto you
according to your negligence.

That evil action of yours
was not done by mother,
father,
brother,
sister,
friends and comrades:
not by kinsmen,
devas,
recluses and brahmins.

By yourself alone was it done.

It is just you
that will experience the fruit thereof."

3. Thereupon, monks, Yama, lord of death,
having examined[7] him,
closely questioned
and addressed him
concerning the first deva-messenger,
examines him,
closely questions him
and addresses him
concerning the third deva-messenger, saying:

"My good man,
have you never seen the third deva-messenger
manifest among men?"

And he replies,

"I have never seen him, sire."

Then says Yama, lord of death, to him:

"What!

"My good man,
have you never seen among human beings
a woman or a man,
a corpse
one,
two,
three
days dead,
swollen,
black and blue
and festering?"

And he replies,

"Sire, I have seen."

"Then, my good man,
did it never occur to you
as a man of intelligence
and fully grown:

"I too am subject to death.

I have not overpassed death.

Come, let me act nobly in deed, word and thought?" [124]

Then says he,

"Sire, I could not.

I was negligent."

And Yama, lord of death, says to him:

"My good man,
it was through negligence
that you did not act nobly
in deed,
word
and thought.

Verily they shall do unto you
according to your negligence.

That evil action of yours
was not done by mother,
father,
brother,
sister,
friends and comrades:
not by kinsmen,
devas,
recluses and brahmins.

By yourself alone was it done.

It is just you
that will experience the fruit thereof."

4. Then, monks, having examined him,
closely questioned
and addressed him
concerning the third deva-messenger, Yama, lord of death,
is silent.

Thereupon, monks,
the warders of Purgatory
torture him with the fivefold pinion.[8]

They drive a hot iron pin
through each hand and foot
and a fifth through the middle of his breast.

Thereat he suffers grievous,
violent,
sharp
and bitter agonies,
but he makes not an end
until that evil deed of his
has been worked out.

Then the warders of Purgatory
lay him down
and plane him down with adzes.

Thereat he suffers grievous,
violent,
sharp
and bitter agonies,
but he makes not an end
until that evil deed of his
has been worked out.

Next they place him
with feet up
and head down
and plane him with razors.

Thereat he suffers grievous,
violent,
sharp
and bitter agonies,
but he makes not an end
until that evil deed of his
has been worked out.

Then they bind him to a chariot
and drive him up and down
over a blazing ground,
flaming
and all aglow.

Thereat he suffers grievous,
violent,
sharp
and bitter agonies,
but he makes not an end
until that evil deed of his
has been worked out.

Then they push him up and down
a huge burning mountain
of red-hot coal,
blazing,
flaming
and all aglow.

Thereat he suffers grievous,
violent,
sharp
and bitter agonies,
but he makes not an end
until that evil deed of his
has been worked out.

Then they take him,
feet up
and head down,
and plunge him into a burning brazen cauldron,
blazing,
flaming
and all aglow.

There he is cooked,
and rises to the surface
with the scum.

So doing,
once he comes up
and once he goes down
and once he goes across.

Thereat he suffers agonies
grievous,
violent,
sharp
and bitter:
yet he makes not an end
until that evil deed of his
has been worked out.

Thereupon, monks,
the warders of Purgatory
toss him into [125] the Great Hell.

Now, monks, this Great Hell[9] (is thus described):

Four-square the Great Hell standeth, with four gates
Divided and partitioned, with a wall
Of iron girt. Of iron is the roof,
Its floor of iron too, dazzling and hot,
And, flashing all around a hundred leagues,
Stands fast for evermore immovable.[10]

5. Once upon a time, monks,
Yama, lord of death,
thought thus to himself:

True it is, methinks,
that they who in the world
do evil deeds in divers ways
thus suffer retribution.

O that I could win birth
as a human being!

O that a Tāthagata
were born into the world,
an Arahant
who is a Fully Enlightened One!

O that I might sit at the feet
of that Exalted One
and then that Exalted One would teach me Dhamma,
and then I might learn Dhamma
from that Exalted One!

Now, monks, I say this,
not hearing it from some recluse or brahmin;
nay, but what I myself have known
and seen
and heard,
that do I declare unto you.

They who, by deva-messengers tho' warned,
Are proudly[11] careless and indifferent,
Born in a mean estate, must suffer long.
Good men, by deva-messengers when warned,
Are never slothful in the Ariyan Dhamma;
Seeing the risk of clinging to this world,
Knowing it for the cause of birth and death,
By ending birth and death, freed utterly,
They have won calm, those happy ones,
Have won Nibbāna in this very life:
They have passed over all the guilty dread,
All Ill transcended.'

 


[1] Trans, by Warren, Buddhism in Trans., p. 255. Cf. Morris, J.P.T.S., 1885, [pg. 62] for modem versions.

[2] Yama, God of the dead = Pluto. Plato's treatment of this story may be read at Gorgias, 525 ff. He is said to have got it from the Orphic poets. Cf. M. ii, 75; iii, 180 (Dialog. vi, 256)[?], where five messengers are named, the first and fourth being a new-born babe and a guilty robber. Cf. Mrs. Rh. D. in Sakya, p. 77 ff.

[3] Ameetteyya (or matteyya), formed like petteyya.

[4] Samanuyuñjati. Comy. reads samanugahati = anuyoga-vattaɱ āropento pucchati. Cf. Mil. Panh. 10.

[5] Cf. M. i, 88.

[6] Cf. Vin. i, 301; D. ii, 24.

[7] Text omits samanuyuñjitvā, etc.

[8] Cf. Pts. of Contr. 346, where text reads kammaɱ kārenti; Nidd. i, 104.

[9] Avīci, acc. to Comy.

[10] M. iii, 183 [MN 130] has further details of hells.

[11] As at text, 129, I take manava as 'proud,' not 'young brahmins' (māṇavā of text). Childers gives refs, to māṇavā as 'mankind.'


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