Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva // Ghost Kings and karma commentary // Master Hsuan Hun


Commentary on Ghost Kings:
Excerpt from : Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva
The collected lectures of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hun
Translated by American Bhiksu Heng Ching

The great ghost kings mentioned previously are called kings because they lead  the ghosts, and, regardless of whether they seem beneficial or malevolent, they are all transformations of great Bodhisattvas. In the past these ghost kings vowed to use expedient devices to benefit living beings. Some use compassion to protect their followers while others manifest a fierce appearance to subdue them. These two methods , protection and subduing, are the two major divisions in the methodology of teaching beings. Since some resolve their thoughts on enlightenment when they see a ghost of great compassion, the method of compassionate  protection is practiced to teach them; because others will resolve their thoughts on enlightenment only after meeting a terrifying ghost, the method of subduing is also used.

In either case , the method used is not a question of good or evil on the part of the ghosts themselves, because good and evil come only from the karmic responses of living beings. When a living being’s bad karma ripens, it may encounter someone like Great King with Evil Eyes; when its good karma ripens, it may meet the Great Compassionate Ghost King. Any karma may, of course, be changed when it has ripened—bad karma may become good, and sometimes good karma turns bad. Students of the Buddhadharma should learn not to be affected by either good or bad karma, but should strive to turn bad into good and not allow themselves to go down the road which leads to the mountain of knives, the caldron of oil, and the tree of swords(*means wrong path and/or hell and lower realms). They should study Buddhadharma , upset heaven, and smash through earth. Heaven represents good causes, earth bad ones. Turn the bad to good and evil ghost kings will be of no use, while the good ones will be able to retire.

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