25. The Suffering of the Neighboring Hells
Longchen Nyingtik Meditation 25
Take refuge and arouse bodhichitta.
Meditate on the suffering of the Neighboring Hells:
The Neighboring Hells are the sixteen hells surrounding the Hell of Ultimate Torment. Four hells—the ditch of burning embers, the swamp of putrescent corpses, the plain of bristling weapons, and the river of burning ashes—lie in each of the four cardinal directions of the Hell of Ultimate Torment, making sixteen in all.
The ditch of burning embers: After having suffered from the severe pain in the Hell of Ultimate Torment and purged most of their karma connected with this hell, beings see the doors on the four sides of this hell open and they escape from it. They see a shady trench in the distance and rush toward it with delight. But this turns out to be a pit of burning embers that char their flesh and bones, inflicting unbearable torment.
The swamp of putrescent corpses: Having emerged from the pit of hot embers, beings see a river in the far distance. Parched and scorched from the hot hells, they are filled with delight from seeing water and they hurry toward it. But they only fall into a swamp of decomposing corpses and foul-smelling excrement. Their bodies are swamped and gnawed by tiny creatures with iron beaks, bringing continued sufferings.
The plain of bristling weapons: A) Plain: Escaping from this swamp, they see a pleasant green plain. But as they hurry toward it, they find that it is a field of bristling knives. With each step, their feet are slashed and cut into pieces; each foot heals as they lift it, only to be stabbed again as they put it down, causing excruciating pain. B) Forest: On escaping from the plain, they see a lush forest. But when they rush toward it eagerly, it turns out to be a grove of iron trees with leaves made of swords. As the leaves swing in the wind, the razor-sharp swords cut beings’ bodies into countless pieces, which reconstitute themselves only to be lacerated again. Beings suffer immensely from being chopped up incessantly. C) Hill: Having emerged from the previous hells, beings arrive at the foot of a terrifying hill with salmali trees through the effect of karma. There they hear people they once lusted after calling them at the top of the hill. As they climb the hill, sharp leaves point downward and pierce their bodies. When they reach the top, ravens, vultures, and the like gouge out their eyes to suck up the fat. Again they hear their former sexual partners calling them from the foot of the hill. As they rush down excitedly, the leafy swords turn upward and stab their chests through to their backs. Once down on the ground, iron men and women greet them with a burning embrace and bite off their heads alive, inflicting unspeakable sufferings on these hell beings.
The river of burning ashes: Emerging from the earlier hells, now they see cool streams of flowing rivers. As soon as they joyfully leap into them, they sink into hot ashes that reach up to their waists and incinerate their flesh and bones. As they attempt to escape, they only meet the minions of the Lord of Death at the two banks preventing them from running away.
Wherever the hell beings manage to escape in the direction of east, south, west, or north of the Ultimate Hell, they still have to suffer the entire pains of the four Neighboring Hells. Therefore, resolve: I myself must have suffered these kinds of torments many times in the past. To flee from such tortures as well as to liberate the beings who are suffering now, I must train myself in the Dharma assiduously.
Dedicate all the merit of your practice to all sentient beings.