Voyages to Hell

translated by

Nguyen Khang & Bui H.Huu



Buddha Tse Kong who manifested on the 9th day of the second 8th month. Leap year of the Dragon (1976) 

Men strain to peruse their books in dim light
Religious men struggle to complete their lessons
Money matters muffled their gongs and bells
So now, in hell they grieve their own fate.

Buddha Tse Kong:     We’re going for a tour to hell, Yang Ts’ien. Come on the dais. Be calm in your spirit. 

Yang Ts’ien:               I will, Master. But for the moment, I’m not yet in a mood to witness those dismal scenes of hell. 

TK:      I know you feel disturbed. But look, all those souls are heavy with sins, Yang Ts’ien. You must not pity them. Now, come on. Let’s be on our way. We have arrived! Get down. 

YT:      These rooms are quite dark. I hear sobbing and moaning from inside. 

TK:      This is the Center for Complementary Teaching of Canonical Books. Let’s go in. 

YT:      After you, Master. On the door, I read this inscription: “Center for Complementary Teaching of Canonical Books”. Two officers are coming to the door. Who are they? 

TK:      They are official guards. 

The General:  You are welcome, Buddha Tse Kong and Mr. Yang Ts’ien of the Temple of the Sages in Tai Chu. 

TK:      Our greetings, General. Today, I take the saint-scribe Yang Ts’ien to the Center for Complementary Teaching of Canonical Books. Would you be so kind as to help him with his visit? 

The General:  It’s a pleasure for me. Would you follow? You can come in by the side-door. The main door is open on the 1st and 15th days of the lunar month. On these two days the Bodhidharma, the Master of the Tao, and the Immortals and Saints come down from the Western Paradise to preach in this hall, and give lessons on practical methods of spiritual perfection to the religious and priests. 

YT:      It’s a great favor for me to have come. The main door matters little. This auditorium looks quite dreary and dark. I’d rather stay outside and look in. No use entering. 

The General:  Take it easy. I’ll show you the way in. 

YT:      So much the better! The hall is made of wood. It must have been constructed a long time ago, for its partitions are all insect-eaten and filled with holes. In the hall, thousands of religious persons clothed in their respective gowns, are leafing through their prayer books and chanting psalms under a dying light. One and all, they look miserable. 

TK:     While living, these priests and the religious people made their living by reciting prayers in requiem masses in order to salvage the defuncts’ souls from unhappy incidents. Nevertheless, out of greed for gain and lack of conscience, they intentionally left out part of the prayers, or pronounced them incorrectly. After they died, they were condemned to the Center for Complementary Teaching of Canonical Books to learn the prayers again. Every night, under the light of oil-lamps as weak as a glow worm’s, they have to recite the prayers. For each word skipped, they are forced to re-read it a hundred times. They will go on like this until they have finished the Complementary Course. Then, they will be judged according to their pains and merits. 

YT:      If what you said is true, I’m afraid nobody dares recite the prayer-books edited by our Temple, such as the “Saint Scriptures of the Celestial Emperor for Salvation of Humans” and the “Saint Bible of the Supreme Master of Chaotic Times”. A great number of believers have recited them in good faith; but it is probable they can’t pronounce the words quite correctly. Will they be forced to attend a Complementary Course at your Center? 

The General:  They certainly won’t. Only the people who practice cultic rites as a means of living have to come to this center. If they receive money from other people with the purpose of warding off the latter’s ills, but don’t recite the entire contents of the prayer book, they have to come here. As for the people who recite prayers for others, or for themselves disinterestedly, without any attempt to cheat for money, they may commit a few mistakes in pronunciation, but divine laws tolerate them. 

YT:      The dying glimmer of the lamps, which is no brighter than a glow-worm’s, flickers and threatens to die out at every gust of wind. The aged religious people and priests, with weakened eyes, decipher with great difficulty characters the size of a fly’s head. They all seem exhausted, miserable, and pitiful to look upon. 

The General:  When a merchant receives money from a buyer, he must sell him good merchandise. These men pocketed their clients’ money without trying to do, as they should. They have to bear the burden of a bad karma. 

TK:     The religious and priests have the mission of converting the people to virtue. They recite prayers to illuminate humans with religious faith. Those who practice cultic rites by praying or reciting prayers must be careful. In no case should they skip a word, shorten a sentence, or falsify the pronunciation. If they are incapable of diverting calamities for other people because of their deceit, they have to suffer the consequences in their clients’ place. 

The General:  On the 1st and 15th days of every lunar month, two Pontiffs of Buddhism and Taoism come down to this center to check the study of canonical books, and to teach the correct pronunciation of the prayer words. Immortals and Buddhas are morally responsible for the acts of humans. Consequently, they have to come to hell in person for the sake of salvaging the souls. They are truly merciful. Humans must be conscious of everything they do, even the most trifling acts. The author of bad acts can never be exempt from the laws of hell. 

YT:      I understand thoroughly, General. And thank you for your information. 

TK:     Yang Ts’ien, go ask that priest the reason for his being sent to this center. 

YT:      (to the priest) Would you mind telling me, Reverend, the reason why you have to come here? 

The priest:      Don’t address me as Reverend, I pray you. In my lifetime, I was named: “The red-capped priest”. I took charge of cultic rites and requiem masses for the salvation of souls of the dead. Unfortunately, my knowledge of prayers was as limited as it was groundless. I feigned to mumble the prayers with the accompaniment of bell-tolling and gong ringing. The masters of the households knew nothing of what I recited. Worse still, I used to gain time by reciting one page of prayers instead of two, only thinking of pocketing money as quickly as I could. I cared very little whether the deceased’s’ souls came to Nirvana or not. Upon my death, my soul was first escorted by the infernal guards to the 1st palace of hell, then to the Center for Complementary Teaching of Canonical Books where I have stayed for over a year. Since I was negligent in my duty and anxious to shorten the prayers, I knew nearly nothing of the canonical books. Now, I have to extend myself in an all-out attempt to learn them again, from start to end. Still, I find it hard to complete my complementary course. My eyes are swollen and red, causing me almost unbearable pain. When my complementary studies are finished, I will be probably be sent to the 2nd palace for judgment on an even more grave crime. For I also used charmed philters to harm other people. Now it is too late for me to repent. I aspire sincerely to amend, and hope my wish would be communicated to other priests in the living world. They should never forget their professional conscience, if they want to avoid my fate. For this moment, all I desire is to see other people granted salvation. 

YT:       This priest really deserves some mercy. I pray you, Master; do something to help him overcome this situation. 

TK:      His sin tallies with the law of retribution and sanction on man’s acts. He is reaping what he has sown. The happier he was when on earth, the more miserable he is now in hell. Don’t meddle with other people’s business. We are mere visitors. All this is beyond our province. After all, his case will be determined by the laws of hell. It’s growing late. Get ready for our return. My sincere appreciation, General. 

YT:       Mine too, General. It’s really heart-warming to see all the religious people and priests exerting great effort to study what they need most. 

TK:     On the dais, Yang Ts’ien... Here is the Temple. Run to your body, son.

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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55
Chapter 56
Chapter 57
Chapter 58
Chapter 59
Chapter 60
Chapter 61
Celestial Edict