At that time, Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, Mahasattva, said to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, “Merciful One, would you please explain for the gods, dragons and the Four Heavenly Kings and all beings living in the future and in the present: where all those beings of the Saha World are suffering from their criminal pain, the names of the hells, and the conditions? These answers will let those beings in the future time of the Dharma-Ending Age know of the retributions undergone by the beings of the Saha World.”
Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha answered, “Merciful One, now, receiving Buddha’s divine power and the Mahasattva’s power, I will explain in general the names of the hells and situations of the retributions. Merciful One, east of this world there is a dark Iron-Fence Mountain. This mountain is black and deep and has neither sunlight nor moonlight.
Within the mountain there is a large hell called Infinite Hell. In this Infinite Hell is another hell named Great Arbi. In this Great Arbi Hell, there are many small hells as follows:
“Four-Cornered Hell, Flying Knife Hell, Flaming Arrow Hell, Crushing Mountains Hell, Piercing Spear Hell, Iron Cart Hell, Iron Bed Hell, Iron Ox Hell, Iron Clothing Hell, Thousand Blades Hell, Iron Donkey Hell, Molten Copper Hell, Holding-Pillar Hell, Flying Fire Hell, Ploughing Tongue Hell, Chopping Head Hell, Burning Leg Hell, Pecking Eye Hell, Iron Pellet Hell, Fighting Hell, Iron Axe Hell, Much Anger Hell.”
Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha said, “Merciful One, such is the unlimited number of hells within the Iron-Fence. In addition, there is the Screaming Hell, Pulling Tongue Hell, Excrement and Urine Hell, Copper Lock Hell, Fire Elephant Hell, Fire Dog Hell, Fire Horse Hell, Fire Ox Hell, Fire Mountain Hell, Fire Stone Hell, Fire Bed Hell, Fire Beam Hell, Fire Eagle Hell, Sawing Teeth Hell, Stripping Skin Hell, Drinking Blood Hell, Burning Hand Hell, Burning Leg Hell, Hanging Thorns Hell, Fire House Hell, Iron House Hell and Fire Wolf Hell.” Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha said, “Merciful One, in the Iron-Fence Mountain, there are infinite hells as such.
In these hells, there are many small hells with many more different names. One, two, three, four hundred or thousand small hells, and they also have different name.”
Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha told Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, ‘Merciful One, these hells are created by the people themselves who commit these malefactions in all the worlds. The power of karma is so great as to be compared with Mount Sumeru and as deep as the immense ocean. The power of karma can block the way of Buddhadharma. Therefore, do not ignore a minor evil and think that it is guiltless. There is retribution after one dies, even as small as a hair or fibre, and this must be taken. Even the closest relatives, like father and son, have different road. Even meeting, they cannot substitute their retribution for each other. Now relying on Buddha’s divine power, I will give a general explanation of the situation in hell. Please Merciful One listen to me.”
Bodhisattva Samantabhadra answered, “For a long time, I have known of the retributions of the three evil levels. I hope the Merciful One speaks so that all beings who do evil acts in the future of the Dharma-Ending Age rely on and take refuge in the Buddha.”
Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha said, “Merciful One, the following are the retributions of hells:
There is a hell which pulls out a criminal person’s tongue and ploughs it with an ox. There is a hell where a mean devil takes out the criminal person’s heart and eats it. There is a hell where they cook criminal peoples’ bodies in a big cauldron. There is a hell which burns copper pillars and makes criminal persons hold them. There is a hell which uses fire to burn criminal people. There is a hell which is always frozen and icy. There is a hell of endless excrement and urine. There is a hell of flying maces. There is a hell that is full of fire spears. There is a hell in which one’s chest or back are beaten. There is a hell where only hands or legs are burned. There is a hell where iron snakes twist and coil around one. There is a hell where iron dogs chase. There is a hell where all ride on iron donkeys.”
“Merciful One, such retributions in every hell use hundreds of thousands of instruments of Karma’s Way. Those instruments are made of copper, iron, stone or fire. The four materials are caused by the heavy karma of beings. It is nearly impossible to explain all the situations in all hells, because there are hundreds or thousands of sufferings in each and every hell. Now, relying on the divine power of Buddha, I have replied to the request from the Merciful One, and I have only explained in general. Even to the end of aeons, there is no end to explaining all the hells in detail.”
May the merits and virtues accrued from this work adorn the Buddha’s Pure Land, repay the Four Kindness above and relieve the sufferings of those in the Three Realms below. May those who see, hear and read this sutra bring forth the Bodhi mind and live the teachings for the rest of this life, then be born together in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.