Points of Controversy

20.3. Of the Guards of Purgatory

Controverted Point: That in the purgatories there are no guards.

Theravādin: Do you imply that there are no punishments Inflicted in the purgatories? You maintain the contrary? But you cannot maintain both propositions.

You admit that on earth there are both punishments and executioners? Yet you deny that the latter exist in purgatory… .

Moreover, was it not said by the Exalted One:

“Not Vessabhu nor yet the Petas’ King,
Soma, Yama, or King Vessavaṇa—
The deeds that were his own do punish him
Who goes from here to other worlds.

Hence there are guards in purgatory.

Again, was it not said by the Exalted One:

“Him, bhikkhus, hell’s guards torture with the fivefold punishment; they thrust a hot iron stake through one hand, then another through the other hand, then one through the foot, then another through the other foot; they thrust a hot iron stake through the middle of the chest. And he thereupon feels painful, piercing, intolerable suffering, nor does he die till that evil deed of his is cancelled.”

Again, was it not said further by the Exalted One:

“Him, bhikkhus. Hell’s guards make to lie down and flay him with hatchets… they place him head downwards and flay him with knives… they bind him to a chariot and drive him to and fro over burning, blazing, glowing ground… they lift him up on to a great hill of burning, blazing, white-hot coals and roll him down the fiery slope… they double him up and cast him into a hot brazen jar, burning, blazing, glowing, where he boils, coining up like a bubble of foam, then sinking, going now to this side, now to that. There he suffers fierce and bitter pain, nor does he die till that evil karma is cancelled. Him, bhikkhus, they cast into the Great Purgatory. Now this:

In districts measured out four-square, four-doored,
Iron the ramparts hounding it, with iron roofed,
Iron its soil welded by fiery heat,
Spreading a hundred leagues it stands for ages.”

Hence there surely are guards in purgatory.