Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
III. Upari Paṇṇāsa
3. Suññata Vagga

The Middle Length Sayings
III. The Final Fifty Discourses
3. The Division on Emptiness

Sutta 130

Devadūta Suttaɱ

Discourse on the Deva-Messengers[1]

Translated from the Pali by I.B. Horner, M.A.
Associate of Newham College, Cambridge
First Published in 1954

Copyright The Pali Text Society
Commercial Rights Reserved
Creative Commons Licence
For details see Terms of Use.

 


 

[1][chlm][ntbb][than][upal] THUS HAVE I HEARD:

At one time the Lord was staying near Sāvatthī
in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery.

While he was there the Lord addressed the monks, saying:

"Monks."

"Revered One," these monks answered the Lord in assent.

The Lord spoke thus:

"Monks, it is as if there were two houses with doors[2]
and a man with vision
standing there between them
might see people entering a house
and leaving it
and going back and forth
and walking across.

Even so do I, monks,
with the purified deva-vision
surpassing that of men
see beings as they are passing hence,
as they are coming to be,
and see[3] that beings are mean,
excellent,
comely,
ugly,
well-going,
ill-going
according to the consequences of deeds,
(and I think):

'Indeed these worthy beings,
who are endowed with right conduct in body,
speech
and thought,
who are not scoffers at the ariyans,
are of right view,
incurring kamma consequent on right view,
at the breaking up of the body after dying
are arising in a good bourn,
a heaven world.

Or these worthy beings,
who are endowed with right conduct in body,
speech
and thought,
who are not scoffers at the ariyans,
are of right view,
incurring kamma consequent on right view,
at the breaking up of the body after dying
are arising among men.

Indeed these worthy beings,
who arc endowed with [224] wrong conduct in body,
speech
and thought,
who are scoffers at the ariyans,
are of false view,
incurring kamma consequent on wrong view,
at the breaking up of the body after dying
are arising in the realm of the departed.

Or these worthy beings,
who are endowed with wrong conduct in body,
speech
and thought,
who are scoffers at the ariyans,
are of false view,
incurring kamma consequent on wrong view,
at the breaking up of the body after dying
are arising in an animal womb.

Or these worthy beings, endowed with wrong in body,
speech
and thought,
who are scoffers at the ariyans,
are of false view,
incurring kamma consequent on wrong view,
at the breaking up of the body after dying
are arising in the sorrowful ways,
the bad bourn,
the Downfall,
Niraya Hell.'

Monks,[4] the guardians of Niraya Hell,
having seized that person by both arms,
present him to King Yama,
saying:

'This man, sire,
has no respect for his mother,
no respect for his father,[5]
he does not honour recluses,
he does not honour brahmans,
he does not pay due respect
to the elders of the family.

Let your majesty decree a punishment for him.'

Then, monks, King Yama cross-questions him,
questions him closely
and speaks to him
concerning the first deva-messenger,
saying:

'My good man,
did you not see the first deva-messenger
who appeared among men?

He speaks thus:

'I did not see him, revered sir.'

So, monks, King Yama speaks to him thus:

'My good man,
did you not see among men
a young baby boy
lying on his back,
fallen prostrate among his own excrements?

He speaks thus:

'I saw him, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks thus to him:

'My good man,
although you are sensible
and grown up,
did it not occur to you:

'I too am liable to birth,
I have not outstripped birth;
come, I (shall) do what is lovely in body,
speech
and thought'?

He speaks thus:

'I was not able to, revered sir,
I was indolent,[6] revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks to him thus:

'If it was because of indolence,
my good man,
that you did not do what was lovely in body,
speech
and thought,
they will undoubtedly do unto you,
my good man,
in accordance with that indolence.

For this that is an evil deed is yours;
it was not done by mother,
it was not done by father,
it was not done by brother,
it was not done by sister,
it was not done by friends and acquaintances,
it was not done by kith and kin,
it was not done by recluses and brahmans,
it was not done by dvatās.

This evil deed was done by you;
it is you yourself
that will experience its ripening.'

[225] King Yama, monks,
having cross-questioned him,
questioned him closely
and spoken to him concerning the first dewa-messenger,
then cross-questions him,
questions him closely
and speaks to him concerning the second deva-messenger,
saying:

'My good man,
did you not see the second deva-messenger
who appeared among men?

He speaks thus:

'I did not sce him, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks thus to him:

'My good man, did you not see among men
a woman or a man
eighty
or ninety
or a hundred years old,
aged,
crooked as a rafter,
bent,
leaning on a stick,
going along palsied,
miserable,
youth gone,
teeth broken,
hair thinned,
skin wrinkled,
stumbling along,
the limbs discoloured?

He speaks thus:

'I saw this, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks thus:

'My good man,
although you are sensible
and grown up,
did it not occur to you:

'I too am liable to old age,
I have not outstripped old age;
come, I (shall) do what is lovely in body,
speech
and thought'?

He speaks thus:

'I was not able to, revered sir,
I was indolent, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks to him thus:

'If it was because of indolence,
my good man,
that you did not do what was lovely in body,
speech
and thought,
they will undoubtedly do unto you,
my good man,
in accordance with that indolence.

For this that is an evil deed is yours;
it was not done by mother,
it was not done by father,
it was not done by brother,
it was not done by sister,
it was not done by friends and acquaintances,
it was not done by kith and kin,
it was not done by recluses and brahmans,
it was not done by dvatās.

This evil deed was done by you;
it is you yourself
that will experience its ripening.'

King Yama, monks,
having cross-questioned him,
questioned him closely
and spoken to him concerning the second dewa-messenger,
then cross-questions him,
questions him closely
and speaks to him concerning the third deva-messenger,
saying:

'My good man,
did you not see the third deva-messenger
who appeared among men?

He speaks thus:

'I did not see him, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks to him thus:

'My good man, did you not see among men
a woman or a man
afflicted with illness,
suffering,
grievously ill,
fallen prostrate among his own excrements,
(only) rising with (the help of) others,
(only) getting to bed with (the help of) others?

He speaks thus:

'I saw this, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks thus:

'My good man,
although you are sensible
and grown up,
did it not occur to you:

'I too am liable to sickness,
I have not outstripped sickness;
come, I (shall) do what is lovely in body,
speech
and thought'?

He speaks thus:

'I was not able to, revered sir,
I was indolent, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks to him thus:

'If it was because of indolence,
my good man,
that you did not do what was lovely in body,
speech
and thought,
they will undoubtedly do unto you,
my good man,
in accordance with that indolence.

For this that is an evil deed is yours;
it was not done by mother,
it was not done by father,
it was not done by brother,
it was not done by sister,
it was not done by friends and acquaintances,
it was not done by kith and kin,
it was not done by recluses and brahmans,
it was not done by dvatās.

This evil deed was done by you;
it is you yourself
that will experience its ripening.'

King Yama, monks,
having cross-questioned him,
questioned him [226] closely
and spoken to him concerning the third dewa-messenger,
then cross-questions him,
questions him closely
and speaks to him concerning the fourth deva-messenger,
saying:

'My good man,
did you not see the fourth deva-messenger
who appeared among men?

He speaks thus:

'I did not see him, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks to him thus:

'My good man,
did you not see among men
kings who, having arrested a thief,
an evil-doer,
were subjecting him to various punishments:
they lash him with whips,
and they lash him with canes,
and they lash him with (birch) rods,
and they cut off his hand,
and they cut off his foot,
and they cut off his hand and foot,
and they cut off his his ear,
and they cut off his his nose,
and they cut off his his ear and nose,
and they give him the 'gruel-pot' punishment,
and they give him the 'shell-tonsure' punishment,
and they give him the 'Rāhu's mouth' punishment,
and they give him the 'fire-garland' punishment,
and they give him the 'flaming hand' punishment,
and they give him the 'hay-twist' punishment,
and they give him the 'bark-dress' punishment,
and they give him the 'antelope' punishment,
and they give him the 'flesh-hooking' punishment,
and they give him the 'disc-slice' punishment,
and they give him the 'pickling process' punishment,
and they give him the 'circling the pin' punishment,
and they give him the 'straw-mattress,'
and they spray him with burning oil,
give him as food to the dogs,
impale him alive on stakes,
and they decapitate him with a sword?

He speaks thus:

'I saw this, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks to him thus:

'My good man,
although you are sensible
and grown up,
did it not occur to you:

'Indeed those who do evil deeds
are subjected to various punishments like these
here and now,
and what about hereafter?

Come, I (shall) do what is lovely in body, speech and thought'?

He speaks thus:

'I was not able to, revered sir,
I was indolent, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks to him thus:

'If it was because of indolence, my good man,
that you did not do what was lovely in body,
speech
and thought,
they will undoubtedly do unto you,
my good man,
in accordance with that indolence.

For this that is an evil deed is yours;
it was not done by mother,
it was not done by father,
it was not done by brother,
it was not done by sister,
it was not done by friends and acquaintances,
it was not done by kith and kin,
it was not done by recluses and brahmans,
it was not done by dvatās.

This evil deed was done by you;
it is you yourself
that will experience its ripening.'

King Yama, monks,
having cross-questioned him,
questioned him closely
and spoken to him concerning the fourth deva-messenger,
then cross-questions him,
questions him closely
and speaks to him concerning the fifth deva-messenger,
saying:

'My good man,
did you not see the fifth deva-messenger
who appeared among men?'

He speaks thus:

'I did not see him, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks to him thus:

'My good man,
did you not see among men
a woman or a man
dead for one,
two
or three days,
swollen,
discoloured,
decomposing?

He speaks thus:

'I saw this, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks to him thus:

'My good man, although you are sensible
and grown up,
did it not occur to you:

'I too am liable to death,
I have not outstripped death;
come, I (shall) do what is lovely in body,
speech
and thought'?:

'I was not able to, revered sir,
I was indolent, revered sir.'

King Yama, monks, speaks to him thus:

'If it was because of indolence, my good man,
that you did not do what was lovely in body,
speech
and thought,
they will undoubtedly do unto you,
my good man,
in accordance with that indolence.

For this that is an evil deed is yours;
it was not done by mother,
it was not done by father,
it was not done by brother,
it was not done by sister,
it was not done by friends and acquaintances,
it was not done by kith and kin,
it was not done by [227] recluses and brahmans,
it was not done by dvatās.

This evil deed was done by you;
it is you yourself
that will experience its ripening.'

King Yama, monks,
having cross-questioned him,
questioned him closely
and spoken to him concerning the fifth deva-messenger,
was silent.

Monks, the guardians of Niraya Hell
subject him to what is called the fivefold pinion.[7]

They drive a red-hot iron stake
through each hand
and each foot
and a red-hot iron stake
through the middle of his breast.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Then the guardians of Niraya Hell
lay him down
and plane him with adzes.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Then, monks, the guardians of Niraya Hell
place him feet up
and head down
and plane him with razors.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Then, monks, the guardians of Niraya Hell
bind him to a chariot
and drive him up and down
over ground that is burning,
aflame,
ablaze.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Then, monks, the guardians of Niraya Hell
push him up and down
a great mountain slope
of glowing cinders,
burning,
aflame,
ablaze.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Then, monks, the guardians of Niraya Hell
take him,
feet up and head down,
and plunge him into a glowing brazen cauldron,
burning,
aflame,
ablaze.

There he is boiled
and rises to the surface with the scum.

Boiling there
and rising to the surface with the scum,
he comes up once
and goes down once
and once he goes across.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Then, monks, the guardians of Niraya Hell
toss him into the Great Niraya Hell.

Now, monks, this Great Niraya Hell
(is so described):

Four-cornered and with four gates,
It is divided into equal portions,
Encircled by an iron wall, with a roof of iron above;
Its incandescent floor is made of glowing iron;
All round it stands a hundred yojanas square.

The flames that leap up by the eastern wall of this Great Niraya Hell, monks,
are hurled against the western wall;
the flames that leap up by the western wall
are hurled against the eastern wall;
the flames that leap up by the northern wall
are hurled against the southern wall;
the flames that leap up by the southern wall
are hurled against the northern wall;
the flames that leap up from below
are hurled above;
the flames that leap up from above
are hurled below.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.[8]

Monks, there comes a time
once in a very long while
when the eastern gateway of this Great Niraya Hell is opened.

He rushes there swiftly and speedily;
while he is rushing swiftly and speedily
his skin burns
and his hide burns
and his flesh burns
and his tendons burn
and his eyes[9] are filled with smoke -
such is his plight.[10]

And though he has attained much,[11]
the gateway is nevertheless closed [228] against him.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Monks, there comes a time
once in a very long while
when the western gateway of this Great Niraya Hell is opened.

He rushes there swiftly and speedily;
while he is rushing swiftly and speedily
his skin burns
and his hide burns
and his flesh burns
and his tendons burn
and his eyes are filled with smoke -
such is his plight.

And though he has attained much,
the gateway is nevertheless closed against him.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Monks, there comes a time
once in a very long while
when the northern gateway of this Great Niraya Hell is opened.

He rushes there swiftly and speedily;
while he is rushing swiftly and speedily
his skin burns
and his hide burns
and his flesh burns
and his tendons burn
and his eyes are filled with smoke -
such is his plight.

And though he has attained much,
the gateway is nevertheless closed against him.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Monks, there comes a time
once in a very long while
when the southern gateway of this Great Niraya Hell is opened.

He rushes there swiftly and speedily;
while he is rushing swiftly and speedily
his skin burns
and his hide burns
and his flesh burns
and his tendons burn
and his eyes are filled with smoke -
such is his plight.

And though he has attained much,
the gateway is nevertheless closed against him.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Monks, there comes a time
once in a very long while
when the eastern gateway of this Great Niraya Hell is opened.

He rushes there swiftly and speedily;
while he is rushing swiftly and speedily
his skin burns
and his hide burns
and his flesh burns
and his tendons burn
and his eyes are filled with smoke -
such is his plight.

He issues forth by this gateway.

But, monks, adjacent to this Great Niraya Hell
is the Great Filth Hell.[12]

He falls into it.

And, monks, in that Filth Hell
needle-mouthed creatures cut away his skin;
having cut away his skin
they cut away his hide;
having cut away his hide
they cut away his flesh;
having cut away his flesh
they cut away his tendons;
having cut away his tendons
they cut away his bones;
having cut away his bones
they devour the marrow of the bones.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

And, monks, adjacent to this Filth Hell
is the great Ember Hell.[13]

He falls into it.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

And, monks, adjacent to that Ember Hell
is the great Forest of Silk-Cotton Trees[14]
towering a yojana high
with prickles a finger-breadth long,
burning,
aflame,
ablaze.

They make him climb up
and they make him climb down.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

And, monks, adjacent to that Forest of Silk-Cotton Trees
is the great Sword-leafed Forest.[15]

He enters it.

Its leaves,
stirred by the wind,
cut off his hands
and cut off his feet
and cut off his hands and feet and cut off his his ear,
and cut off his his nose,
and cut off his his ears and nose.

Thereat [229] he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

And, monks, adjacent to that Sword-leafed Forest
is the great River of Caustic Water.[16]

He falls into it.

There he is carried with the steam
and he is carried against the stream
and he is carried with and against the stream.[17]

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Monks, the guardians of Niraya Hell haul him out[18] with a fish-hook,
set him on dry ground
and speak thus to him:

'My good man,
what do you want?'

He speaks thus:

'I am hungry, revered sirs.'

Monks, the guardians of Niraya Hell,
opening his mouth with a glowing iron spike,
burning,
aflame,
ablaze,
then push into his mouth
a glowing copper pellet,
burning,
aflame,
ablaze.

It burns his lips
and it burns his mouth
and it burns his throat
and it burns his chest
and it passes out below
taking with it his bowels and intestines.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Then, monks, the guardians of Niraya Hell
speak thus to him:

'My good man, what do you want?

He speaks thus:

'I am thirsty, revered sirs.'

Monks, the guardians of Niraya Hell,
opening his mouth with a glowing iron spike,
burning,
aflame,
ablaze,
sprinkle glowing copper and bronze into his mouth,
burning,
aflame,
ablaze.

It burns his lips
and it burns his mouth
and it burns his throat
and it burns his chest
and it passes out below
taking with it his bowels and intestines.

Thereat he feels feelings that are painful,
sharp,
severe.

But he does not do his time
until he makes an end of that evil deed.

Then, monks, the guardians of Niraya Hell
push him back again
into the Great Niraya Hell.

Once upon a time, monks,
it occurred to King Yama:

'Those that do evil deeds in the world
are subjected to a variety of punishments like these.

0 that I might acquire human status
and that a [230] Tathāāgata might arise in the world,
a perfected one,
a fully Self-Awakened One,
and that I might wait on that Lord,
and that that Lord might teach me dhamma,
and that I might understand that Lord's dhamma'

What I am talking about, monks,
I have heard from no other recluse or brahman;
and moreover
what I am talking about
is known only by me myself,
seen by myself,
discerned by myself."

Thus spoke the Lord.

When the Well-farer had said this,
the Teacher further spoke thus:

"If young men, warned by deva-messengers, are indolent,
For a long time they grieve - men going to lowly assemblies.
But those who here are truly men, when warned by deva-messengers
Are never indolent in the ariyan dhamma;
Seeing peril in grasping, in the origin of birth and dying,
They are freed without grasping through the destruction of birth and dying.
These, attaining security, happy, here and now perfectly allayed,[19]
Outstripping all hatred and fear, pass beyond all anguish."

Discourse on the Deva-Messengers:
The Tenth

Division on Emptiness:
The Third

 


[1] Referred to at MA. ii. 422 with special reference to the explanation of Niraya.

[2] Simile as at M. i. 279, ii. 21.

[3] Again passāmi, but other contexts mostly read pajānāmi.

[4] From here onwards cf. A. i. 138 ff., where however there are only three deva-messengers.

[5] Omitted in Chalmers' M. text, but found at A. i. 138, D. iii. 72.

[6] Or heedless.

[7] This description of Niraya Hell, down to the end of the verse, occurs also at M. iii. 100-167.

[8] See above, p. 212, n. [16].

[9] I propose reading akkhīni instead of text's aṭṭhīni; cf. DhA. i. 425, akkhīni me dhūmāyanti.

[10] ubbhataṁ tādisaṁ eva hoti, such is his pulling out (or pulling back). But as yet he is unable to pull out quickly enough. The next time the eastern gateway is opened he goes out by it.

[11] bahusampatta. MA. iv. 235, after saying that he has attained many hundred thousand years in Avīci but that it takes him all this time to work off the ripening of his evil deed, then describes the crucifixion of Devadatta in the midst of the six fires of Avīci, a name that appears to mean there is no interval in (or suspension of) anguish.

[12] Gūthaniraya, mentioned also at VvA. 226. See D.P.P.N. for all these Hells.

[13] Kukkuḷaniraya. At Mhvu. i. 6 it is said that the people here run about in flames.

[14] Simbalavana.

[15] Asipattavana.

[16] Khārodakā nadī. Called at MA. iv. 237 the river Vetaraṇī. Mhvu. i. 7 also implies that this river, Vetaraṇī, is near the Sword-leafed Forest, Asipatravana, which there is apparently a "secondary hell" (the meaning of which may more properly be Kumbha). For utsada-niraya as meaning "secondary hell" (sixteen attached to each of the eight hells), see Mhvu. Trans., vol. i, p. 6, n. 1.

[17] He does not get across-to the safety of the Further Shore.

[18] Cf. Mhvu. i. 7-8.

[19] abhinibbutā. This verse also occurs at A. i. 142, and the last four lines at A. iii. 311.


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