Saṃyutta Nikāya 56

Connected Discourses on the Truths

43. The Great Conflagration

“Bhikkhus, there exists a hell named the Great Conflagration. There, whatever form one sees with the eye is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable. Whatever sound one hears with the ear … Whatever odour one smells with the nose … Whatever taste one savours with the tongue … Whatever tactile object one feels with the body … Whatever mental phenomenon one cognizes with the mind is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable.”

When this was said, a certain bhikkhu said to the Blessed One: “That conflagration, venerable sir, is indeed terrible; that conflagration is indeed very terrible. But is there, venerable sir, any other conflagration more terrible and frightful than that one?”

“There is, bhikkhu.”

“But what, venerable sir, is that conflagration more terrible and frightful than that one?”

“Those ascetics or brahmins, bhikkhu, who do not understand as it really is: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering’—they delight in volitional formations that lead to birth, in volitional formations that lead to aging, in volitional formations that lead to death, in volitional formations that lead to sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair. Delighting in such volitional formations, they generate volitional formations that lead to birth, generate volitional formations that lead to aging, generate volitional formations that lead to death, generate volitional formations that lead to sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair. Having generated such volitional formations, they are burnt by the conflagration of birth, burnt by the conflagration of aging, burnt by the conflagration of death, burnt by the conflagration of sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair. They are not freed from birth, aging, and death; not freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair; not freed from suffering, I say.

“But, bhikkhu, those ascetics and brahmins who understand as it really is: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering’—they do not delight in volitional formations that lead to birth, nor in volitional formations that lead to aging, nor in volitional formations that lead to death, nor in volitional formations that lead to sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair. Not delighting in such volitional formations, they do not generate volitional formations that lead to birth, nor generate volitional formations that lead to aging, nor generate volitional formations that lead to death, nor generate volitional formations that lead to sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair. Not having generated such volitional formations, they are not burnt by the conflagration of birth, nor burnt by the conflagration of aging, nor burnt by the conflagration of death, nor burnt by the conflagration of sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair. They are freed from birth, aging, and death; freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair; freed from suffering, I say.

“Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”