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Tipitaka >> Sutta Pitaka >> Anguttara Nikaya >> The Divine Messengers

AN 3:35 The Divine Messengers

Translated from the Pali by Nyanaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi


There are three divine messengers, O monks. What three?

There is a person of bad conduct in body, speech, and mind. Being of such bad conduct, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he is reborn in the plane of misery, in a bad destination, in a lower world, in hell. There the warders of hell seize him by both arms and take him before Yama, the Lord of Death, saying: “This man, your majesty, had no respect for father and mother, nor for ascetics and brahmins, nor did he honour the elders of the family. May your majesty inflict due punishment on him!”

Then, monks, King Yama questions that man, examines and addresses him concerning the first divine messenger: “Didn’t you ever see, my good man, the first divine messenger appearing among humankind?”

And he replies: “No, Lord, I did not see him.”

Then King Yama says to him: “But, my good man, didn’t you ever see a woman or a man, aged eighty, ninety or a hundred years, frail, bent like a roof bracket, crooked, leaning on a stick, shakily going along, ailing, youth and vigour gone, with broken teeth, with grey and scanty hair or none, wrinkled, with blotched limbs?”

And the man replies: “Yes, Lord, I have seen this.”

Then King Yama says to him: “My good man, didn’t it ever occur to you, an intelligent and mature person, ’I too am subject to old age and cannot escape it. Let me now do noble deeds by body, speech, and mind’?”

“No, Lord, I could not do it. I was negligent.”

Then King Yama says: “Through negligence, my good man, you have failed to do noble deeds by body, speech, and mind. Well, you will be treated as befits your negligence. That evil action of yours was not done by mother or father, brothers, sisters, friends or companions, nor by relatives, devas, ascetics or brahmins. But you alone have done that evil deed, and you will have to experience the fruit.”

When, monks, King Yama has questioned, examined and addressed him thus concerning the first divine messenger, he again questions, examines and addresses the man about the second one, saying: “Didn’t you ever see, my good man, the second divine messenger appearing among humankind?”

“No, Lord, I did not see him.”

“But, my good man, didn’t you ever see a woman or a man who was sick and in pain, seriously ill, lying in his own filth, having to be lifted up by some and put to bed by others?”

“Yes, Lord, I have seen this.”

“My good man, didn’t it ever occur to you, an intelligent and mature person, ’I too am subject to illness and cannot escape it. Let me now do noble deeds by body, speech, and mind’?”

“No, Lord, I could not do it. I was negligent.”

“Through negligence, my good man, you have failed to do noble deeds by body, speech, and mind. Well, you will be treated as befits your negligence. That evil action of yours was not done by mother or father, brothers, sisters, friends or companions, nor by relatives, devas, ascetics or brahmins. But you alone have done that evil deed, and you will have to experience the fruit.”

When, monks, King Yama has questioned, examined and addressed him thus concerning the second divine messenger, he again questions, examines and addresses the man about the third one, saying: “Didn’t you ever see, my good man, the third divine messenger appearing among humankind?”

“No, Lord, I did not see him.”

“But, my good man, didn’t you ever see a woman or a man one, two or three days dead, the corpse swollen, discoloured and festering?”

“Yes, Lord, I have seen this.”

“Then, my good man, didn’t it ever occur to you, an intelligent and mature person, ’I too am subject to death and cannot escape it. Let me now do noble deeds by body, speech, and mind’?”

“No, Lord, I could not do it. I was negligent.”

“Through negligence, my good man, you have failed to do noble deeds by body, speech, and mind. Well, you will be treated as befits your negligence. That evil action of yours was not done by mother or father, brothers, sisters, friends, or companions, nor by relatives, devas, ascetics, or brahmins. But you alone have done that evil deed, and you will have to experience the fruit.”

Then, having questioned, examined, and addressed the man concerning the third divine messenger, King Yama becomes silent.

Thereupon the warders of hell inflict many kinds of torment on him on account of which he suffers grievous, severe, sharp, and bitter pain. Yet he does not die until that evil deed of his has been worked out.

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