Hell And Nibbana – Nirayavagga – Dhammapada 22


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For a complete understanding of this sutta in the context intended by an awakened human being please read the linked suttas at the end of this article. ([x])

The Dhammapada is a twenty-six chapter volume in the fifth book of the Sutta Pitaka known as the Khuddaka Nikaya. The Khuddaka Nikaya is a fifteen-book collection of short texts difficult to classify within the other volumes. The Dhammapada is a collection of sayings of the Buddha in verse that can be read as a concise and thorough presentation of an awakened human being’s teachings. [1] Pali Canon

The Dhammapada is loosely formatted by topic. The individual topic(s) presented in each chapter mostly stand on their own with the understanding that everything the Buddha taught can only be understood and developed skillfully within the context of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths. [2,3]   Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta  | Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

The Nirayavagga is the twenty-second chapter of the Dhammapada. It describes the living hell that follows ignorance of Four Noble Truths and the release from greed, aversion, and deluded thinking develop through the Heartwood Of The Dhamma. Nibbana means that the “fires of passion” (hell) rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths have been extinguished through the development of the Eightfold Path. Nibbana describes the release from stress and suffering developed through the Eightfold Path. [4]  Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta  

My comments below are in italics.


Nirayavagga: Hell And Nibbana

Dhammapada 22


Liars and wrongdoers always suffer now and in the future.

Many uncontrolled and evil people wear saffron robes. By their deeds, they will continue the living death of ignorance.

A powerful statement by the Buddha from 2,600 years ago even more relevant today with many wearing “Buiddhist| robes while practicing and teaching false dharmas and causing great suffering for others.  [5] Teaching An Authentic Dhamma   

It is better to swallow a red-hot iron ball than to accept alms while living mindlessly and hurtfully.

The mindless, consorting with another’s spouse, continuing ignorance, whose sleep is disturbed, who is of ill-repute, will give birth to ongoing stress and suffering.

Such a person suffers now and in the future. The pleasure is brief for those ruled by passion and kings impose harsh punishments. The wise restrain themselves.

This is an important reference to Karma and Rebirth as the Buddha teaches Karma and Rebirth. [6]  Karma And Rebirth.

Just as kusa grass cuts the mindless handler, so to a contemplative’s life wrongly lived brings confusion, delusion, and suffering.

Again the Buddha is cautioning that just donning Buddhist robes – fabricating the mere appearance of practicing the Dhamma – will only continue a confused and deluded mind and continue the stress and suffering of a mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Any mindless act or fabricated view, any corrupt act will bear much (disappointing) fruit.

Another reference to Karama and Rebirth.

Engage with the Dhamma with joyful enthusiasm and mindful diligence. Lazy practitioners constantly stir the dust of passion.

Abandon evil as evil continue to torment the wrongdoer. Cultivate the Dhamma and abandon torment.

Always guard yourself within and without just as a border city is well-guarded. The opportunity to develop my Dhamma is fleeting. Ignore the opportunity and regret will follow.

The Buddha’s Dhamma is practiced by developing Wise Restraint at the point of contact with phenomena arising and passing away.  [7] Wisdom Of Restraint

The fool who maintains and defends false views is ashamed at what is skillful and is not ashamed at what is unskillful, they are always in a state of confusion, deluded thinking, and stress.

A clear example of a confused mind lacking the concentration and refined mindfulness developed through the Eightfold Path.

The fool maintains and defends false views who fear the truth and embraces ignorance, they are always in a state of confusion, deluded thinking, and stress.

The fool maintains and defends false views who see the truth as evil and does not see evil, they are always in a state of confusion, deluded thinking, and stress.

The wise Dhamma practitioner knowing what is right and what is wrong upholds Right View and maintain a calm and peaceful mind.

It is by developing profound Right View an authentic Dhamma Practitioner is able to establish jhana – unwavering concentration – that supports the refined mindfulness necessary to hold in mind the Eightfold Path as the framework and guidance for Dhamma practice.

End Of Chapter


  1. Pali Canon
  2. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  3. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  4. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta  
  5. Teaching An Authentic Dhamma   
  6. Karma And Rebirth  
  7. Wisdom Of Restraint

For All Who Reside In The Dhamma - Agantuka Sutta

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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

Becoming-Buddha.com and Dhamma articles and recordings by John Haspel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


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