Kanji for Muryoko

'Infinite Light'

Journal of Shin Buddhism

Harold Stewart

Autumn Landscape Roll
A Divine Panorama

Personages Represented
Cantos 5 to 8
Cantos 9 to 12
Cantos 13 to 16
Cantos 17 to 20
Cantos 21 to 24
Cantos 25 to 28
Cantos 29 to 32

[ Synopsis and Introduction ]



Reaching the Yellow Springs, Ti Tsang is faced
With Hell's vast crater. In this sterile waste
Of steaming scoria, jaundiced by a crust
Of brimstone where the reeking vents emit
Poisonous smoke jets from the molten pit,
His footsteps sink in black volcanic dust,
Which hides the smothered path, while everywhere
A foul sulphureous smell defiles the air
And the breath chokes on thick mephitic fumes.

To this caldera's slag heap karma dooms
The larval Erh kuei, dull and sluggish ghouls,
Whom after death their old addictions drive
To be reborn where ravenous craving rules
Slaves to the stomach's lusts, as when alive.
Here these emaciated wraiths, who squat
Grubbing up pumice from the ashes, try
To gnaw it, mad with famine, but can not:
Their mouths are minimal as a needle's eye,
Their necks, constricted into scraggy threads,
Can barely hold up balding tufted heads.
Now all that shrunken gullets have to drink
Are acrid springs, boiling up from below
To thwart their thirst, or lava's overflow
In fiery runnels from the crater's brink.
But though their limbs are skeletally thin,
Protruding through a papery shroud of skin,
They bear, distended by a pauper's dearth,
Ponderous abdomens of ant-like girth.

As nothing cool or green survives such heat.
For parched and starving ghosts to drink or eat,
Hordes who desert this arid rim of Hell.
Seeking relief, migrate again to earth,
On which the tenuous dead still long to dwell.
But vainly their invisible swarm infests
The lavish banquet laid out in the hall
Where, unobserved by worldly host and guests,
Erh kuei, like maggots in corruption, crawl
Slobbering over sumptuous dishes all
Perpetually baulked, for should such pests
Dare to partake, ignited by desire
The bowls of food catch instantly on fire.
And if those sots, who never overcame
A lifelong thirst no liquor could fulfil
Although indulged to sickening excess,
Succumb and quaff a cup with weakened will,
Each of them feels, with fiercely searing shame,
That down his throat is thrust a sword of flame
To cauterise compulsive drunkenness.

Lives of debauchery and sloth debased
These spectral parasites, who wait to dine
With gloating red rimmed eyes and avid grin,
Till guests retire to vent their bowels' waste
Or void their bladders. After man or beast
They scramble ready for the fecal feast
Served to them warm. Gourmets at once begin
On delicacies that would disgust a swine,
Swilling them down to their fastidious taste
With menstrual red or urine's yellow wine.

For though their sharp-edged appetite revives,
Blunted discrimination so deprives
Palate and nose that neither sense can tell
Foetid from fresh in savour or in scent,
And hence mistakes for wholesome aliment
The body's filth, despite its nauseous smell.
So vomit, pus, sweat, spittle, snot,and phlegm
Are all lapped up as dainty drinks to them.
They wash in sinks and cesspools, unaware
Of stinking sewage that pollutes the air,
And gulp its slimy slops as clear and clean;
But guzzle as they will, they feel inside
A hollow want that growls, unsatisfied.

Begrudging misers, tightly mouthed and mean
Of purse, who grasped and guarded selfish hoards
While coveting another's earned rewards
With envious resentment, now have been
Reduced to degradation's pit, to this
Posthumous squalor by their avarice.
Grandly imagined riches fade and fray
To rags in their impoverished consciousness,
Remembered wealth, which they no more possess,
Dwindles and dims : the stingy cling in vain
To lives misspent on monetary gain,
Dragged down by habit's gravity, the grey
Niggardly stint that squandered every day.
Exhausted by this spiritual drain,
Their stale obsession forces them to fast
On orts raked up from that penurious past
Whose destitute desires alone remain.

Their males must couple with macabre hags,
Naked and grime ingrained, who take no care
To comb their greasy shags of grizzled hair.
Their breasts have black and wizened skin that sags
With dangling dugs, dried up by childless dearth,
As barren in collapse as leather bags.
Though these bewitching vampires mate and breed
Incontinent still when they revisit earth,
So ruthless is their blood imbibing need
That gruesome mothers, desperately wrung
By drought, will suck to death their newborn young,
On whom their mad devouring mouths can feed
Like tapeworms with a never glutted greed.
Then the repugnant bugbears lurk at night
Around the beds where gravid womenkind,
Dreading their labour's onset, are confined,
And conjure frightful dreams from jealous spite
To scare the cringing womb. Thus they procure
Abortions, stillborn, monstrous, premature,
On which to gorge, while with the afterbirth
They sup maternal blood in grisly mirth.

Some eerie revenants from chthonic caves,
Whom craving for their own dead flesh depraves,
Must haunt the charnel yards where mortals burn
Or bury corpses : for such food they yearn
When death has mottled it with morbid sores
Or wounds turned gangrenous. To lull their maws
They even ransack ruined tombs and graves
And pick the scraps from bones that dogs would spurn.
Other discarnate cannibals return
To prowl the public execution ground
Where severed heads, aghast on stakes, surround
The butchered limbs, flung on a bloody mound,
And sniff out rotting bodies, which they flay
To gobble bloated entrails in decay.
But such cadaverous predators become
Victims in turn and serve as pabulum:
With eager beaks the carrion crows compete
To peck their eyeballs out; from blinded prey
The rival vultures, scavenging for meat,
Attack and tear their phantom flesh away;
And yet their savage thirst is never sated,
Their bestial hunger rages unabated.

Ti Tsang endures the dangerous descent
Till, halting here before the brink, he sees
How wretched Erh kuei, dirty, indigent,
Perpetuate their loathsome miseries.
Compassion moves the pure and selfless saint
To rescue them from this repulsive plight,
For his largesse of holy nourishment
Can solace every pitiful complaint
And soothe the nagging ache of appetite.

Malnourished by their meagre memories
Whose store, withdrawn from life, soon atrophies,
As puny apparitions they attract
Passive suffering, since they cannot act
Without ingesting human energies.
Such influences, wandering bodiless,
Trouble the subtle air, where they diffuse
Fears that forebode some imminent mishap.
For gibbering shadows, after death ensues,
Subsist on psychic dregs and residues
Of lingering disaster, which impress
The atmosphere with violence or distress,
And by suggestion's sorcery entrap
A mind entranced, whose sanity they sap.
To bring new life to these enfeebled ghosts
Who, grovelling at his feet in haggard hosts,
Plead to be fed as poor, infirm, and faint,
His begging bowl provides with wise restraint
The Dharma's seed pearls. For this precious rice,
Harvested from the fields of Paradise,
Can purify the slightest speck or taint
Of porcine greed from those contaminated,
And vivify with light's immortal food
Beings whom sensual darkness dissipated,
So that their Buddha nature is renewed.

Now, as his bronze alarm staff strikes the rock
And sets its six rings jingling, shrill and clear,
A living spring leaps with spontaneous bound
Out of the crevice riven by the shock
And bubbles up with cool delicious sound!
The dry and drooping Erh kuei gathered round
Can safely drink this source : they need not fear
That Ti Tsang's freshet, too, might catch on fire
Or his pure rice be turned to putrid mire,
For all whose famished spirits he can feed
Gain higher birth and finally are freed.


Ti Tsang approaches doom's black precipice,
Scorched by flames upleaping from the abyss,
And steps, undaunted by its fiery well,
Down the volcano's throat that leads to Hell.
While he descends the stairs that wind around,
A shower of human torches underground
Drops headlong at a meteoric pace:
The damned, whom false inverted views compel
During two thousand earthly years to fall
Streaking with flares the smoke's delusive pall.
Deeper he spirals down that craggy tube
Amid the tiers of subterranean space
Through seven cuboid dungeons, each a place
Of gory torment caverned out of stone,
Till he arrives at last, unharmed, alone,
In Wu-chien's cave, a huger bedrock cube
That doubles their dimensions, at the base.
Here, like the foundered sun that from below
The night's horizon still shoots up its glow,
He sees a distant conflagration spread
Against the enormous gloom its glare of red:
Hell's capital, where flames incinerate
Beings on fire with anger, lust, and hate.

At once the River that is Crossed Three Ways
Confronts the newly dead, whom it dismays:
Ordered to strip and hang on naked trees
The clothes that hid their lewd depravities
And then to swim its width, none disobeys.
The wickedest, who wilfully committed
The Five Unpardonably Evil Crimes,
Guilty of which they cannot be acquitted,
Plunge in its deepest horror. Many times
They gasp and sink, struggling against this flood
Which overbrims its banks with all the blood
Spilt in the battles fought through centuries
By man's aggressive lust to slaughter man
Since war's endemic madness first began.
Captives deserving tempered penalties
Wade through midstream, which boils about their knees
Trembling with trepidation, for beneath
Draconic menace bares its rows of teeth.
But Ti Tsang leads the few repentant dead,
For whose misdeeds his merit store atones,
Over a narrow bridge of whitened bones
To reach the bodeful shore that looms ahead.
Here the distracted shades that flee in fright
Are ruthlessly pursued by Yen-lo's legion,
Darting like martial hornets from their nest
To harry human prey, whom they detest,
Dispatched to scour this dreaded nether region
And hunt the lost down Hell's triumphal way.
Demonic archers loose a scattering flight
Of fiery shafts that scarify the night
To shoot reluctant stragglers gone astray
And drive them into nets of wiry mesh
That gash like razors their remembered flesh,
And glowing red hot, tightly wrap them round
Till nothing but a few charred bones is found.

Forged by obdurate karma, black iron chains
Stretch in a grid across this grim domain's
Ultimate darkness, where all hopes expire,
To measure out and mark the just extent
To which the damned inflict self punishment
In eight deep pits of purgatorial fire,
Which blaze beside the road to left and right,
Revealing felons luridly alight,
While sentries,watching vigilantly, toss
Fugitives back into their broiling fosse.

Ti Tsang advances, undismayed, along
This highway, grandiosely broad and straight,
Between the seven files of armoured trees
With swords instead of leaves, which separate
The Six Paths where the disembodied throng
Journeys to meet the same judicial fate.
The libertine must climb up one of these
If his.seductive impulse would embrace
That tempting beauty on the topmost bough.
Allured by her erotic cruelties,
He dares the knife edged leaves that lacerate
His reckless passion for a pretty face,
Till, reaching where she sat, he finds that now
Teasing illusion beckons from the base;
But when, deceived by feminine caprices,
The dupe descends to where her smiles entice,
Sharply the blades reverse their points and slice
His craving, whose frustration never ceases:
Again he climbs, again is cut to pieces.
Down this vainglorious granite avenue
Ti-Tsang can soon command an awesome view
Of Hell's cosmopolis of crime and vice,
The inverted parody of Paradise.
But as he nears its foursquare iron walls
With flames upleaping from the corner towers,
More fiercely their assaulting heat appals;
A cloud of turbulent smoke above them lours,
Whence the smouldering embers fall in showers.
Four gulfs outside each city portal gape
To trap those prisoners, who would escape
While one is open, in a sunken pyre,
Where fiendish passions from the past compel
Burning purgation in its minor hell,
As due amends for shameless lives require.
For though man's grosser flesh is left behind,
His subtle body after death retains
Traces vivider still than living pains
Branded on.conscience. Psychic scars remind
Of unextinguished torment, more intense
Than any suffered by corporeal sense.

Escorting devils prod the craven throng's
Reluctance with a pitchfork's red hot prongs,
Taunting their frailty with vindictive spite:
"Faster, you laggards! Do you freeze with fright?
"Has terror petrified you, now you near
"Our cacotopian city? Do you hear
"Its war of agony-distorted cries
"And see the damned on fire before your eyes?
"Behold and tremble! Soon will come your turn,
"As sere as leaves, as parched as grass, to burn.
"Ha! We shall roast you slowly through the years
"To count a kalpa, long or mean or short,
"And carve you up for diabolic sport,
"Till you repay.your karmic debt's arrears!"
Leading the new arrivals, Ti Tsang marches
To where perdition's paths at last converge
And their six natal races meet and merge
To cross a level causeway's rocky arches
That span the stagnant excremental lake
Coiling around the ramparts like a snake.
There butchers, hunters, fishermen, accursed
For murdering animals, are seen immersed
In scalding ordure which, if they would quench
Their thirst for blood and carnage, they must swallow.
Bitten by iron beaked worms, they writhe and wallow
In that cloacal moat where they were flung,
While heads that rise above the bitter dung,
Constrained to breathe its gorge revolting stench,
Are stormed by clouds of monstrous wasps and stung.

A huge black hound with eight heads, each four-eyed,
And nine pronged tail, alarms the dead outside.
Hell city, as they face its mighty gates,
For after they have passed that sleepless guard
Into its durance, all escape is barred.
The shadowy rabble staggers back, appalled,
But Ti Tsang from his begging bowl placates
Those raging jaws, and they slip by, unmauled.

Rebuffed by scorching blasts, their guide must pause
Before the towering red hot iron doors
And raise his staff to challenge them. Although
Its loosely shaken rings sound faint and frail,
Beaten by his compassion's treble blow,
Even the haughty gates of Hell must fail.
Their hinges split! Their bolts and crossbars start!
The proud invincible portals fall apart!
Released by their momentous overthrow,
Out of them bursts a blinding furnace glow
Belched by the seven rows of ramparts where
Their nest of boxes, square inside of square,
Defends the fortress at their wrathful heart.

Devils,quoting the scriptures, thus berate
The moral derelicts who passed the gate:
Fëng-tu, within its seven walls, subsumes
"Evils and vices that accumulate
"From all the previous hells. Here karma dooms
"You unregenerate dead, who expiate
"The Five Worst Crimes, to recapitulate
"Their round of torments in these blazing tombs.
"As soon as your incarnate lives expire,
"Buried inflammatory passions start
"These seven wards that flare up in the heart
"To punish you with subterranean fire.
"Though water can extinguish flames or drought,
"How could it put your flagrant karma out?
"Compared to Feng-tu's scorifying glow,
"Your fire on earth would feel as cold as snow!"


In this first ward's quadrangular arcades
The citizens of Hell with scolding wives
Have opened shop and ply atrocious trades.
Cooks who have angled from the stinking moat
A human with a fish hook through his throat
And laid him on the block, with kitchen knives
Fillet his skeleton yet he survives!
Killers for sport, who are again committed
To expiate the lifeblood that they spilled,
Like wildfowl that their arrows shot, are spitted
And over glowing logs of charcoal grilled,
While raveners of game like beans must boil
Till tender in a cauldron's bubbling oil.
Slayers of men and animals await
The butcher's hatchet in this market place,
But frenzied by the still-impending fate
Of victims in the shambles or the chase,
Turn cannibal. They rip with tooth and claw
Their fellowmen for meat, like famished beasts
Devouring bloody gobbets, hot and raw,
And gnawing skulls at internecine feasts,
Where carnivore reduces carnivore
To scattered rags of flesh, a broken jaw .....

But furious warders who are standing by,
Beating the ground with black iron tridents, cry:
"Revive, disintegrated dead, revive!"
At once Hell's arctic blasts resuscitate
Dismembered remnants from the offal heap:
Bones in dispersion stir and start to creep
Together till their joints articulate;
Tendons and nerves are strung again to drive
Muscles that knit themselves, as bodies strive
To reassemble. Look: they come alive --
Only to feel tormenting iron enforce
Undying agony without remorse:
Again they must begin that brutal feud
By which their cyclic sufferings are renewed
Till, moved by Ti Tsang's pity, Hell relents
And spares the damned recurring punishments.

Through this defeated gateway, broken doored,
Ti Tsang enters the city's second ward:
Installed in these volcanic colonnades,
The diabolical carpenters of pain
With violent pincers seize the naked shades
Of thieves, whom death has stripped of stolen gain,
And stretch them on the red hot iron floor.
Marking them first with taut inked cords, they saw
Robbers asunder into two or four,
Across or longways, using jagged blades.
Some shave a pirate's nature with a plane
Till they remove its rough and crooked grain;
Or pare a callous bandit, head to feet,
And peel his skin off in a scarlet sheet.
Or hacking with an adze, excoriate
A trapper who, because his snares waylaid
The shy or savage creatures that he flayed
For pelt or leather, earns his quarry's fate,
His cries for help as wordless as the pain
Of those dumb animals whom he has slain.

Where flagpoles on opposing cliffs have been
Tied by a rope to bridge the gap between,
Each of those prisoners deprived of names
Must carry on his back a slab of stone,
His karmic burden, while he crawls alone
Across that cable high above the flames;
But halfway over, weakly toppling, falls
Into the roaring cauldron, up whose walls
Of trap rock he must climb to try again
With slavish efforts, endlessly in vain,
Till Ti Tsang's strong compassion bears instead
His doleful load of shame, despair, and dread.

Ti Tsang beholds an orgiastic horde
Of naked figures, sexually damned
By self-indulgence, who are densely crammed
Into this third hot overcrowded ward,
Whose cacodaemon hoarsely cachinates
At fornicators writhing with their mates:
"Mara the Spider, whom all mortals dread,
Amid the Wheel of Karma merely waits
Until some victim, tangled in its thread,
Struggles so that the sentient web vibrates,
Alerting him. For where his trap has spread
Its silken spokes, it is quite safe for him
To run on nimble legs from hub to rim,
But fatal for you wanton butterflies,
Who on its stickfast spiral have been caught
By clinging toils of action, speech, and thought,
Since everyone ensnared by Mara dies:
His fiendish hunger nothing satisfies."

Husbands and wives, adulterously dead,
Without regard for age or sex are fed
Into a teeming mortar's womb of lead,
Where a priapic pestle's blows can pound
Miscopulating pairs, till all are ground,
As rice to flour, beneath its pecking head.
But in a forge infernal blacksmiths heat
Incestuous couples, whom their hammers beat
Laid on an anvil; then to quench their vice
Plunge them hissing into a bath of ice.

Frustrated male aggression drives insane
Rakes roped in bondage who, released at last.
Cannot unclench the cramps that bind them fast.
Fiends who take pleasure in inflicting pain
Violate willing slaves : those female shades
Whom passive love of suffering still degrades;
Or gleefully insert a fiery worm,
Strong as a bowstring, in the fundament
To burn and burrow in its slow descent
That makes the inverted victim squeal and squirm,
Till through his skull at last it bores a vent.

Lechers stampeding in their panic rush
To pass the mountain cleft of clashing rocks
Before antagonistic giants have rammed
Its jaws together like a vise to crush
The imprisoned, are promiscuously jammed
And pulverised between adjacent blocks.
Flagellants, whom their frantic passion flailed
To desperation for erotic shocks,
Leap from the precipice that they have scaled
Into a pinnacle filled abyss of rocks
And there on icy spikes are self-impaled.

Beside a cataract of swords that slash
Profligates caught beneath its plunging crash,
Where iron branches sprout the heads of spears
As spiteful leafage that the harlot fears,
Roosts the huge erogenous Cock of Hell,
Feathered with flames. This fire tailed sentinel,
Whose grip has scimitars for talons, sears
Rapist and procurer. He crows a shrill
And lustful triumph; then, as sharp as shears
Agape to chasten them, his whetted bill
Pecks off the shameful parts of debauchees
And hangs their entrails from the hastate trees.
In ward the fourth, where maddening din destroys
Sanity's quiet with discordant noise,
Those world besotted fools whose wild excess
Confused and clouded daylight consciousness
By drink or drugs, from wasted lives on earth
Fall laughing into Hell with heartless mirth.
But now they grope through stupefying gloom,
Where smoke confounds the air with nescience
In billowing convolutions, black and dense,
And suffocate inside a deathless tomb.
Merchants of misery, who for profit sold
Ruin to topers, stifle in this hold
Whose inmates cannot see but hear each other
Only as choking voices through the smother,
None caring who cries out for help to whom.

Sunk in narcotic night to depths unknown,
Bewildered spirits wander, lost, alone,
Horrified by the eerie feral howls
From hounds of Hell that hungrily maraud
Or lurk to ambush addicts in this ward.
Cacophonous dogs, a harshly barking pack
Aroused to brutal rage, with surly growls
Savagely snap and snarl, as rivals fight
In raucous brawls to be the first to bite,
When viciously the rabid curs attack
And wrench the doped apart with slavering jowls.

Though stricken by their fleeing screams, the ear
Beg deafness for relief to muffle fears,
The obsessive dogs persist in their insane
Rowdy repeated row, again, again.
But louder than their uproar sound the jeers
From Hell's derisive gaolers, as they shout:
"Even a Lohan, or enlightened monk,
"Forfeits Nirvana's bliss, if he should flout
"His sacred vows, and plunges into doubt.
"Spurning the precepts that the Buddhas teach,
"Did your blind self deception hope to reach
"The Western Paradise while drugged or drunk?"


But Ti Tsang hears, as soon as he has passed
Into the fifth ward through its ruined gate,
A huger multitude, who ululate
With yet more noisy turmoil than the last.
All who implanted falsehoods have been cast
Into this hotbed, whence conflicting cries
From mouths that cropped their rice by sowing lies
And half truths, in anarchic clamour rise.
Mendacious gossips who would long retail
Current inanities to no avail;
Sycophants who kowtowed at court to flatter
Riches and rank by their cajoling chatter;
And false alarmists, whose predictions spread
Anxious suspense and scared with groundless dread,
Feel incandescent grains of sand that sears
And grates their mouths and nostrils, eyes and ears,
As swept by diamond gravel on a wind
Of devastating swiftness, all are skinned.
The tongues that scandalmongers wagged to slander
And slay with rumours character and name,
Insinuating with an actor's candour
Malicious hints and whispers that defame,
Turn to ironic daggers, so that each
Must cut his own mouth by calumnious speech.

A three eyed ogress, helped by grinning crones,
Rotates an iron handmill to and fro
With ropes : they grind to pulp the flesh and bones
Of crafty fabricators, who disguised
By sleight of tongue the stuff they merchandised,
While their dishonest blood runs out below.

Plebian louts, whose habit was to breach
The ears of decency by scurrilous speech,
Would revel verbally in dirt and swear
Obscenic oaths to desecrate the air;
But Yen-lo's censors hammer red-hot nails
Through vulgar lips and tongue, whose foul mouthed tales
Cease in a harsh excruciated screech.
A scathing serpent hatches from the nest
Of grudges fretting in the braggart's breast
And tunnels upward through its angry host,
Corroding him with hatred. Next it slips
Spitting out venomed curses through his lips
To threaten rivals, spoiling for a fight.
As caustic taunt or hyperbolic boast
Strikes a resentful spark, quicker than tinder
Their captious tempers rashly catch alight
And blaze, as dry as brushwood, till a cinder.

Traitors, who by their sordid cunning sold
Friends or their country's trust for power or gold,
Conspiring perjurers and fork tongued spies,
Whose bought disloyalty betrayed with lies,
Receive no respite from the guard who gloats
While pouring molten copper down their throats,
But tear the air to shreds with hideous shrieks,
As tears of anguish boil and scald their cheeks.

Damnable words, the most destructive fire,
Doomed this intolerably mocking liar,
Whose black profanities in vain reviled
The Dharma's purity, left undefiled.
A torturer with red hot tongs has torn
The scoffer's tongue out, silencing his scorn
Of Buddha's mercy. With a lidless stare
His eyeballs start. His scalp is singed of hair
By execrations. When he would blaspheme,
His mouth, agape with shock, spews out a beam
Of blood red light! For horror cannot scream
Until his tongue's raw stump has grown again
To undergo the same immortal pain.

Reaching the sixth ward, Ti Tsang sees the hell
To which idolators of selfhood, whose
Devotion clung to ego serving views
Even in death, like headlong torches fell
And here, enclosed in fiery vases, swell
So that inflated vanity and pride
Compress and scorch the prisoner inside.

"This gulf of liquid fire has expurgated"
One keeper warns his charges, "those deceived
"By bigotry and dogma, who believed
"That some all powerful God or gods created
"The cosmic whirlpool in the primal past;
"Or that its stellar spirals will outlast
"Change and forever be perpetuated;
"Or, at the end of time, that all are cast
"Into the dark and so annihilated."
But Ti Tsang's voice reveals a path of light
To those who grope, misguided, through this night:
Worlds in the spheral vortex come and go,
"Yet none can halt their ever changing flow.
"The Infinite cannot begin or end
"In finite worlds that time and space still bind,
"Or else the Limitless would be confined
"By limitations, which it must transcend.
"If, at each instant, all were not destroyed
"And recreated from that timeless Void,
"Motion and change, for better or for worse,
"Would cease, and vanish with the universe!"

Red handed priests, who sacrificed the life
Of man or animal with fire or knife
To bribe the gods, must suffer in this hell
Vengeance that ritual cannot repel.
No prayer can now revive the ascetic's breath
Who drowned in hope of heaven, starved to death,
Or by a grim combustion immolated
His body not himself, still unnegated.

A specious preacher, who has glimpsed ahead
A simmering mirage, exhorts the dead:
"Come quickly! I have found the lotus lake
"In Ching-tu's paradise, where we can slake
"Our fervent thirst, until at last allayed.
"Hurry, you doubters, do not lag behind!
"In those refreshing waters we can wade
"Or pick the leaves as parasols for shade!"
But when his converts follow him, they find
That they have been deluded : none can cool
His overheated spirit in that pool.
Trapped like the sanctimonious hypocrite
Who used to mouth the Buddha's holy name
In idle repetition, he must sit
Amidst a lotus bud to be calcined
By red enwrapping petals, each a flame
That flares up round him from the coal black pit.

But Ti Tsang's sacred eloquence can rout
Erroneous creeds and questions that misled
Sceptics who blindly put their faith in doubt
And cynics who transmuted gold to lead.
His deeper Insight can correct one eyed
Confucian critics, carping like Han-Yü
Whose social strictures chose to misconstrue
The Buddha's Wisdom, when his screed decried
The Middle Way, which he had never tried.

Ripped from the seventh gateway by a gale,
Its roof tiles, glowing red hot overhead,
Pelt down in showers upon the impious dead
Who, as they flee in random panic, wail
Till all are felled beneath that fiery hail
And their lugubrious tumult quieted.

For here relapsed monastics who, beguiled
By sex's furtive blandishments, defiled
Their vows of chastity, are relegated.
Licentious monks, who would have reconciled
The Dharma with desire, are self frustrated:
The hot erotic image that they chased
Bursts into flame and brands them when embraced;
While meretricious nuns, still set alight
By oestral frenzy never disciplined,
Are turbulently whirled aloft in flight
Like burning leaves upon a wild black wind,
Or firefly battles in the air at night.

The arsonist of irreligious mind
Hotly intolerant, who set on fire
Temples, pagodas, altars that enshrined
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, gods and sages,
Sculptured or painted, which his hate consigned
To ruin on that sacrilegious pyre
With sutra scrolls and commentary's pages,
Provokes the devils' most indignant rages
When roasting him, repeatedly they turn
The iconoclast, so back and front will burn,
While in his utmost agony he moans
To smell the black smoke reeking from his bones.

The walls that frame the eighth ward here immure
The Five Most Heinous Felons, who endure
Hell's hottest conflagration, while they gyre
Swept on an endless red typhoon of fire.
Monstrous progeny, who in cold blood slew
Mother or father, now receive their due,
For parricides are mercilessly scourged
By demons wielding whips with flaming lashes.
But when their psychic corpses, crazed with pain,
Crumble like charcoal pillars into ashes,
Their white hot skeletons are fleshed again
And flogged till such ingratitude is purged.

Nearby,profane fanatics who have killed
A Lohan, or deliberately spilled
A Buddha's blood with murderous intent,
(A futile crime, since none can take his life)
Or caused schismatic factions that foment
Among the order's ranks fraternal strife,
Are dumped into a vat with square iron verge,
Where executioners' rugged truncheons smash
And crunch their bones, till splintered fragments merge
With mangled muscles in a bloody mash.


Personages Represented
Cantos 5 to 8
Cantos 9 to 12
Cantos 13 to 16
Cantos 17 to 20
Cantos 21 to 24
Cantos 25 to 28
Cantos 29 to 32

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