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Dhammapada | 22. Niraya Vagga

22. Niraya Vagga
Hell

Liars Suffer in Hell

1. Abhūtavādī nirayaṁ upeti,
yo v’āpi katvā na karomī c’āha
Ubho’pi te pecca samā bhavanti,
nihīnakammā manujā parattha.

1. The speaker of untruth goes to hell, and also he who, having done something, says, “I did not do it.” Both after death become equal, men of base actions in the other world.

The Female Wanderer Sundarī

At that time the gain and honour lavished on the Buddha and his disciples was like the great flood at the confluence of five great rivers.

The followers of other sects assembled and discussed what they could do to bring discredit to the Buddha, and regain the honour and gains they had lost since the arising of the Buddha in the world.

They conspired with Sundarī, a beautiful female wanderer.

Every evening, when the people were returning from Jetavana after listening to the Dhamma, she set out in the opposite direction wearing flowers and perfumes, saying that she was going to stay with the recluse Gotama in the perfumed chamber.

In the morning, when the people were on their way to Jetavana to offer alms, she returned having spent the night in another place, saying that she had spent a wonderful night with the recluse Gotama.

When this had gone on for a few days, and gossip was starting to spread among the non-believers, the followers of other sects hired some thugs and had Sundarī murdered and her body thrown away on the heap of flowers left by the perfumed chamber.

Saying that she had disappeared, they found her and carried her body through the city telling the people that the Buddha’s disciples had had her murdered to cover up the recluse Gotama’s wrong doing.

The non-believers started to abuse the monks, but the Buddha told them to be patient, and just to recite the above verse in reply.

The king sent his men into the city to investigate, and they overheard the thugs, who had become drunk, arguing about who had murdered Sundarī, and who deserved the most money.

They arrested the thugs, and took them to the king’s court, where they confessed that they had been hired by the followers of other sects.

The ascetics were punished for the crime of murder, and the gain and honour accorded to the Buddha and his disciples increased all the more.

Corrupt Monks Suffer in Hell

2. Kāsāvakaṇṭhā bahavo, pāpadhammā asaññatā
Pāpā pāpehi kammehi, nirayaṁ te upapajjare.

2. Many with a yellow robe on their necks are of evil disposition and uncontrolled. Evil-doers on account of their evil deeds are born in hell.

The Oppression of Evil Deeds

While descending from Vulture’s Peak, the Elder Moggallāna saw skeleton- like ghosts all on fire. When he smiled at this sight, the Elder Lakkaṇa asked him why he smiled. He told him to ask again later, in the presence of the Buddha.

The Buddha confirmed that he had also seen these ghosts, and related how in the time of the Buddha Kassapa they had been corrupt monks, and were now still suffering the consequences of their evil deeds, reciting the above verse.

Do Not Be Immoral

3. Seyyo ayoguḷo bhutto, tatto aggisikhūpamo
Yañce bhuñjeyya dussīlo, raṭṭhapiṇḍaṁ asaññato.

3. Better to swallow a red-hot iron ball (which would consume one) like a flame of fire, than to be an immoral and uncontrolled person feeding on the alms offered by people.

The Vaggumudā Monks

This story is told in the Vinaya Piṭaka, regarding the fourth offence of defeat for making false claims regarding superhuman attainments.

The monks dwelling on the banks of the river Vaggumudā in the country of the Vajjians, made false claims about each other’s attainments during a time of food shortage, in order to obtain more offerings. The devotees offered food to them, even though going hungry themselves.

When the monks came to pay respects to the Buddha after the Rains Retreat, the Buddha inquired how they had fared for alms during the Rains, and the truth came out.

Rebuking the monks severely for telling lies regarding superhuman attainments for the sake of their stomachs, the Buddha laid down the fourth rule of defeat, and uttered the above verse.

Adultery Leads to Hell

4. Cattāri ṭhānāni naro pamatto,
āpajjati paradārūpasevī
Apuññalābhaṁ na nikāmaseyyaṁ,
nindaṁ tatiyaṁ nirayaṁ catutthaṁ.

5. Apuññalābho ca gatī ca pāpikā,
bhītassa bhītāya ratī ca thokikā
Rājā ca daṇḍaṁ garukaṁ paṇeti,
tasmā naro paradāraṁ na seve.

4. Four misfortunes befall a careless man who commits adultery: acquisition of demerit, disturbed sleep, thirdly blame, and fourthly a state of woe.

5. There is acquisition of demerit as well as evil destiny. Brief is the joy of the frightened man and woman. The king imposes a heavy punishment. Hence no man should frequent another’s wife.

Khema the Millionaire’s Son

A nephew of Anāthapiṇḍika, who was a handsome youth, committed adultery as women were unable to resist his charms. Several times he was arrested, and taken before the king, but each time he was released in deference to his wealthy father.

Finally the father took him to the Buddha and asked the Buddha to teach him the Dhamma. The Buddha admonished the young man on the evil consequences of adultery. On the conclusion of the above verse, Khema attain Stream-winning.

In a previous life, he had made a wish to be attractive to women when honouring the shrine of the Buddha Kassapa. As a result, in this life he was irresistible to women.

Corrupt Lives Entail Suffering

6. Kuso yathā duggahito, hattham evānukantati
Sāmaññaṁ dupparāmaṭṭhaṁ, nirayāyupakaḍḍhati.

7. Yaṁ kiñci sithilaṁ kammaṁ, saṅkiliṭṭhañca yaṁ vataṁ
Saṅkassaraṁ brahmacariyaṁ, na taṁ hoti mahapphalaṁ.

8. Kayirā ce kayirāthenaṁ, daḷham enaṁ parakkame
Sithilo hi paribbājo, bhiyyo ākirate rajaṁ.

6. Just as kuśa grass, wrongly grasped, cuts the hand,
even so the monkhood wrongly handled drags one to hell.

7. Any loose act, any corrupt practice, a life of dubious holiness — none of these is of much fruit.
8. If anything should be done, let one do it, and promote it steadily, for slack asceticism scatters dust all the more.

A Stubborn Monk

A certain monk thoughtlessly broke off a single blade of grass. When he spoke about it to another monk to confess his offence, the other monk said it was of no consequence, and deliberately committed a wrong act by pulling up a whole clump of grass. When the Buddha was informed about it, he rebuked the stubborn monk, with the above verses.

An Evil Deed is Better Not Done

9. Akataṁ dukkataṁ seyyo, pacchā tapati dukkataṁ
Katañca sukataṁ seyyo, yaṁ katvā n’ānutappati.

9. An evil deed is better not done: a misdeed torments one hereafter. Better
it is to do a good deed, after doing which one does not grieve.

The Jealous Woman

A certain woman cut off the nose and ears of a maidservant with whom her husband had misconducted himself, and locked her in a store-room. To hide her misdeed, she said to her husband, “Let’s go to the monastery to listen to the Dhamma.”

When relatives came to the house and discovered the maidservant, they released her, and while the husband and wife were listening to a sermon the maid-servant came there and related the whole incident to the assembly.

The Buddha advised them all not to do any evil.

Guard Yourself Like A Fortified City

10. Nagaraṁ yathā paccantaṁ, guttaṁ santarabāhiraṁ
Evaṁ gopetha attānaṁ, khaṇo vo mā upaccagā1
Khaṇātītā hi socanti, nirayamhi samappitā.

10. Like a border city, guarded within and without, so guard yourself.
Do not let slip this opportunity, those who do grieve when reborn in a woeful state.

A Frontier City

Some monks who spent the rains dependent for alms on a frontier city led a life of discomfort after the city was attacked by bandits, because the people were busy fortifying their city to protect themselves.

When the monks reported the matter to the Buddha, he advised them to fortify their minds.

Be Ashamed of What is Shameful

11. Alajjitāye lajjanti, lajjitāye na lajjare
Micchādiṭṭhisamādānā, sattā gacchanti duggatiṁ.
12. Abhaye ca bhayadassino, bhaye cābhayadassino
Micchādiṭṭhisamādānā, sattā gacchanti duggatiṁ.

11. Beings who are ashamed of what is not shameful, and are not ashamed of what is shameful, embrace wrong views and go to a woeful state.

12. Beings who see fear in what is not to be feared, and see no fear in the fearful, embrace false views and go to a woeful state.

The Naked Ascetics

Some monks remarked that the Nigaṇṭhas were better than the Acelaka ascetics, as the former used a cloth in front that covered their private parts, while the latter went entirely naked.

The Nigaṇṭhas explained that they did so to keep dust out of their alms-bowl.

Hearing their discussion, the Buddha uttered the above verses. On the conclusion of the discourse many Nigaṇṭhas asked for the going forth.

Embrace Right Views

13. Avajje vajjamatino, vajje cāvajjadassino
Micchādiṭṭhisamādānā, sattā gacchanti duggatiṁ.
14. Vajjañca vajjato ñatvā, avajjañca avajjato
Sammādiṭṭhisamādānā, sattā gacchanti suggatiṁ.

13. Beings who imagine faults in the faultless, and perceive no fault in the faulty, embrace wrong views and go to a woeful state.

14. Beings knowing faults as faults and what is faultless as faultless, embrace right views and go to a blissful state.

The Disciples of Non-believers

Some disciples who were non-believers, having seen their children playing with the children of believers, called their children into the house, admonished them not to pay respect to the recluse Gotama or his disciples, and made them swear an oath not to visit their monastery.

One day as they were playing with the children of the Buddha’s followers they felt thirsty. So the son of a lay follower was sent to get some water from the monastery. This child mentioned the matter to the Buddha who advised him to bring all the children to the monastery.

After they had quenched their thirst the Buddha preached the Dhamma to them and they became his followers.

On hearing about this the parents were at first displeased, but they were won round by the believing parents, came to the Buddha and also became his followers.