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.138f; cp. Makhādeva Jātaka).
The same sutta, with several variations, is given at greater length in the Majjhima Nikāya (M.iii.178ff), 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 preached by Mahādeva to the people of Mahisamandala (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 sotāpannas (Mhv.xiv.63).
The Majjhima version of the sutta is given (E.g., MA.i.135) as an example of a discourse where the Buddha starts the sermon with a simile and then preaches the Doctrine.