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Devadūta Sutta

Deals with the three warning messengers of death — the sight of old age, the sight of illness, and the sight of death. The man who fails to pay heed to these messengers and is guilty of unrighteousness is condemned by Yama to the tortures of the Mahānirayas, which are described in detail (A.i.138 f; cp. Maghādeva Jātaka).

The same sutta, with several variations, is given at greater length in the Majjhimanikāya (M.iii.178 ff), where five messengers are spoken of, the first and fourth being the sight of a new-born babe and the sight of a guilty robber being punished for his offences respectively. The sutta is referred to for a description of Avīci (DhA.i.107; also AA.i.21). It was taught by Mahādeva to the people of Mahisamaṇḍala (Mhv.xii.29; Mbv.114), and by Mahinda at Anurādhapura, on the first day of the latter’s arrival there, when one thousand people became Stream-winners (Mhv.xiv.63).

The Majjhimanikāya version of the sutta is given (e.g., MA.i.135) as an example of a discourse where the Buddha starts the discourse with a simile and then teaches the Doctrine.

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