The idea of 'wardens/guardians of hell' have presented Buddhist interpreters with a problem. According to Buddhist principles, if they were real beings who continually tortured others, it would seem that this would generate such bad karma as to lead to ever repeated rebirths in hell realms. As life in no rebirth realm is seen as eternal, were such 'beings' to be understood as real, or merely karmically generated phantoms of the prolonged nightmare of life in a hell? The Theravādins argued that the guardians are not unreal (Kathāvatthu XX.3). Vasubandhu in his Abhidharma-kośa-bhāṣya says that they are not real beings, though he also cites the opinion of others that they are (III.59a-b). Do people know of other passages that discuss this issue, other than those cited in the La Vallee Possin/Pruden translation?
Peter Harvey, University of Sunderland