When Avalokitesvara Broke Hell

There is a story of Quan Yin from the sutra known as Kāraṇḍavyūha or The Basket’s Display, that I enjoy very much. Its the story of the time that the Bodhisattva entered what is known as Avici, one of the most horrible hell-realms in Buddhism and what happened to that realm upon their arrival.

According to the sutra, Avici is a described in the following way:

In the great Avīci hell a wall encloses a ground made of burning iron, which has become one raging flame in the shape of a reed basket. Within this Avīci hell there is a pot from which comes the sound of wailing. Many hundreds of thousands of tens of millions of hundreds of millions of beings have been thrown into that pot. Just as green or black mung beans are massed together in a water-filled vessel, rising and sinking as they are cooked, that is how the beings in the great Avīci hell undergo physical suffering.

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Avici is not and ideal place to say the least. However, these rather inhospitable conditions did not phase Quan Yin. When the bodhisattva entered the realm all hell quite literally broke loose.

As Quan Yin traveled closer Avici, the environment did something highly unusual, it began to cool.

The Buddha stated:

…Bodhisattva Mahāsattva Avalokiteśvara entered the great Avīci hell just as a cakravartin king enters a grove made of divine jewels.

The Bodhisattva’s presence caused lotus flowers to bloom, the large pot suddenly burst, and the raging inferno turned into a pool. Needless, to say, the guardians of Avici were a bit taken aback.

Gathering their weapons, they reported to Yamaraja, the chief deity of the underworld. They told him that a “handsome being” entered Avici and transformed it. Wondering what kind of being could manifest such power, Yamaraja located the Bodhisattva and, upon meeting Quan Yin, praised the Mahasattva with quite a long list of complements before walking around them three times and departing.

I find some inspiration in this story. How one, without batting an eye, can enter even the most horrible of places with such a strength of spirit that they can utterly destroy the fires of suffering and bring peace to those who need it most.

Much like the heroes we find in comics, anime, manga, and in everyday life.

May we be inspired to emulate the Bodisattva of Compassion and do what we can to disrupt the hells we find in our world.

Namo Quan Shi Yin Bosat

Image from https://sanaakosirickylee.wordpress.com.

Read the Kāraṇḍavyūha here.

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