with commentary on Sutra by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
FROM ANCIENT TIMES, the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva has been one of the most popular Chinese Buddhist sutras. “Earth Store” is a literal rendering of the bodhisattva’s original Sanskrit name, Ksitigarbha. In the Buddhist pantheon, he is one of the most highly celebrated bodhisattva, along with Manjusri, Avalokitesvara, and Samantabhadra. These four represent the four basic Mahayana qualities: Manjusri represents great wisdom; Avalokitesvara, great compassion; Samantabhadra, great meritorious deeds; and Ksitigarbha, the great vow – the vow to help and to cross over all sentient beings. “If I do not go to hell (to help them there), who else will go?” is the famous pronouncement of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.
In the seventh century A.D., this sutra was translated by Siksananda from the Sanskrit into Chinese, but not until this publication has it ever been translated into English. Dharma Master Heng Ching’s work is not a critical study in the traditional Western scholarly sense. However, it bears special importance, as it is accompanied by the comprehensive commentary of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua. Without such an accompaniment, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for Western readers to understand the significance and applications of this sutra.
One of the aims of the Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions is to make available religious teachings that were previously inaccessible to the English-speaking student of religion. In this light, the Institute is honored to publish this invaluable source of learning and awareness.
The Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions
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.
Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva// Chapter 9 The Names of Buddhas
The Names of Buddhas
At that time, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I want to discuss some practices that will be helpful to beings of the future and will enable them to gain great benefit throughout their lives and deaths. World Honored One, please hear my words.”
The Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Now with your expansive compassion you wish to discuss the inconceivable events involved in rescuing all those in the Six Paths who are suffering for their offenses. This is the right time. Speak now, since my Nirvana is near, so that I may soon help you complete your vows. Then neither of us will need to be concerned about beings of the present or future.”
Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, countless asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Boundless Body Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and have a momentary thought of respect, those people will overstep the heavy offenses involved in birth and death for forty eons. How much more will that be the case for those who sculpt or paint this Buddha’s image or praise and make offerings to him. The merit they obtain will be limitless and boundless.
“Furthermore, in the past, as many eons ago as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River, a Buddha named Jewel Nature Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and instantly decide to take refuge, those people will never retreat from the Unsurpassed Path.
“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Lotus Supreme Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name or if the sound of his name merely passes by their ears, those people will be reborn one thousand times in the Six Desire Heavens. How much more will that be the case if those people sincerely recite the name of that Thus Come One.
“Furthermore, in the past, inexpressibly ineffable asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Lion’s Roar Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and in a single thought take refuge, those people will encounter numberless Buddhas who will rub the crowns of their heads and bestow predictions of enlightenment upon them.
“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Krakucchanda appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and sincerely gaze at, worship, or praise him, those people will become Great Brahma Heaven kings in the assemblies of the Thousand Buddhas of the Worthy Eon and will there receive superior predictions.
“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Vipashin appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will eternally avoid falling into the Evil Paths, will always be born among people or gods, and will abide in supremely wonderful bliss.
“Furthermore, in the past, as many eons ago as there are grains of sand in limitless and countless Ganges Rivers, a Buddha named Jeweled Victory Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will never fall into the Evil Paths and will always abide in the heavens, experiencing supremely wonderful bliss.
“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Jeweled Appearance Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and give rise to a thought of respect, those people will soon attain the fruitions of Arhatship.
“Furthermore, limitless asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Kashaya Banner Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will overcome the offenses created throughout one hundred great eons of births and deaths.
“Furthermore, in the past a Buddha named Great Penetration Mountain King Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will encounter as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in the Ganges. Those Buddhas will speak Dharma extensively for them, making certain that they realize Bodhi.
“Furthermore, in the past there were Buddhas named Pure Moon Buddha, Mountain King Buddha, Wise Victory Buddha, Pure Name King Buddha, Accomplished Wisdom Buddha, Unsurpassed Buddha, Wonderful Sound Buddha, Full Moon Buddha, Moon-Face Buddha, and indescribably many other Buddhas. World Honored One, beings of the present and future, both gods and humans, both male and female, can amass such limitless merit and virtue by reciting only one Buddha’s name. How much more merit will they amass by reciting many names. Those beings will personally obtain benefits in their lives and deaths significant enough to keep them from ever falling into the Evil Paths.
“When people are on the brink of death, a group of their relatives, or even just one of them, should recite a Buddha’s name aloud for the people who are ailing. If they do, the karmic retributions of those people who are about to die will be dissolved, even offenses deserving Fivefold Relentless Retribution. Offenses warranting Fivefold Relentless Retribution are so extremely heavy that those who commit them should not escape retribution for millions of eons. If, however, at the time of such offenders’ deaths, someone recites the names of Buddhas on their behalf, then their offenses can gradually be dissolved. How much more will that be the case for beings who recite those names themselves. The merit they create will be limitless and will eradicate measureless offenses.”
At that time the World Honored One emitted a great bright light from his entire body, totally illuminating Buddhalands as many as grains of sand in millions of billions of Ganges Rivers. His strong voice reached all the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas in those Buddhalands, as well as the gods, dragons, ghosts and spirits, humans, non-humans, and others, as he said, “Listen today, as I praise Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva, who displays inconceivable awesome spiritual strength and compassionate power throughout the ten directions in rescuing and protecting beings who are suffering for offenses they have committed. After I pass into tranquility, all of you Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas and all of you gods, dragons, ghosts, spirits, and others should use vast numbers of expedient means to protect this sutra and to cause all beings to attain the bliss of Nirvana.”
After that was said, a Bodhisattva named Universally Expansive rose in the assembly, placed his palms together respectfully, and said to the Buddha, “We are now about to witness the World Honored One praising Earth Store Bodhisattva’s inconceivably great awesome spiritual virtue. We hope that the World Honored One will also aid beings in the future Dharma-Ending Age by telling us about how Earth Store Bodhisattva benefits people and gods and about the workings of cause and effect. That will help the gods, dragons, and the rest of the eightfold division, along with beings of the future, to receive the Buddha’s teaching respectfully.”
Chapter six, the Thus Come One’s Praises. Like we said many times before, the Thus Come One is the Buddha. Praises include compliments. This is chapter six. The Earth Store Sutra contains 13 chapters. This is an explanation of chapter six, there are seven more chapters.
At that time the World Honored One emitted a great bright light from his entire body , an indication of the profound importance of the Earth Store Sutra. Totally illuminating Buddhalands as many as grains of sand in millions of billions of Ganges Rivers is this light. His strong voiceisas loud as thunder or a lion’s roar. Most people are delighted with and respectful because of the Buddha’s voice. For example, some people lecture on the sutras with a voice that is not very loud and clear so that listeners get drowsy and do not wish to listen to any more. A Lecturer’s voice must be crystal clear like a copper bell, even if audience members are sleepy, they will wake up because of such strong and clear voice. People are happy with the Buddha’s voice so they do not fall asleep; the more they listen the happier they are. They hear one line and want to hear the next line, as if they are eating something delicious and do not wish to let go. Although the Buddha’s voice is loud, it is not the same as when we yell so that our voice sounds scratchy, volatile, or fuzzy. People hear the Buddha’s strong and clear voice and enter the Samadhi of Hearing the Dharma. Unfortunately we were not born during the time of the Buddha and do not get to hear the Buddha’s voice. So sorry, it is too bad!
. . . reached all the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas in those Buddhalands, as well as the gods, dragons, ghosts and spirits, humans, non-humans, and others, as he said, “Listen today, as I praise Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva, who displays inconceivable awesome spiritual strength and compassionate power throughout the worlds in the ten directions in rescuing and protecting beings who are suffering for offenses they have committed. Why do I praise Earth Store Bodhisattva? It is because Earth Store Bodhisattva’s compassion is inconceivable; his wisdom is inconceivable; his awesome might is inconceivable; and the wonderful uses of his spiritual powers are all inconceivable. He vows to save beings who have committed offenses in particular. He believes that people who do not commit offenses do not suffer so much. People who commit offenses suffer too much; they suffer the worst suffering among all types of sufferings.
The Buddha said, “After I pass into tranquility, all of you Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas and all of you gods, dragons, ghosts, spirits, and others should use vast numbers of expedient means to protect this Earth Store Sutra. See, while we are explaining the Earth Store Sutra, the eightfold pantheon of gods, dragons, etc., as well as great Bodhisattvas are all here providing protection! And to cause all beings to attain the bliss of Nirvana: permanence, bliss, true self, and purity.”
After that was said, a Bodhisattva named Universally Expansive rose in the assembly, placed his palms together respectfully, and said to the Buddha, “We are now about to witness the World Honored One praising Earth Store Bodhisattva’s inconceivably great awesome spiritual virtue. I see now that the World Honored One is about to praise Earth Store Bodhisattva for his many inconceivable, mighty spiritual virtues like those mentioned earlier. We hope that the World Honored One will also aid beings in the future Dharma-Ending Age by telling us about how Earth Store Bodhisattva benefits people and gods and about the workings of cause and effect. That will help the gods, dragons, and the rest of the eightfold division, along with beings of the future, to receive the Buddha’s teaching respectfully.”
At that time, the World Honored One said to the Bodhisattva Universally Expansive, and to all those in the fourfold assembly, “Listen attentively, listen attentively. I will briefly describe to you how Earth Store Bodhisattva’s virtuous deeds keep benefiting people and gods.”
At that time, the World Honored One said to the Bodhisattva Universally Expansive, and to all those in the fourfold assembly of Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas and others such as the eightfold division of gods, dragons, and others: “Listen attentively, listen attentively. Think it over carefully and listen! Pay attention! Do not be casual but listen especially attentively. I will briefly describe to you how Earth Store Bodhisattva’s virtuous deeds keep benefiting people and gods. I will now briefly describe Earth Store Bodhisattva for all of you in the great assembly about the blessed and virtuous deeds he does to help humans and celestial beings.”
What are blessed and virtuous deeds? According to one article called “Great Standards” in the Book of History that contains nine sections that explains five types of blessings: the first type of blessing is called blessings and longevity. What are blessings? Blessings means being very much at ease with everything. Longevity means a long life and not a short life. One is shone upon by the stars of blessings, prosperity, and longevity. Blessings are natural so that you are very much at ease. Prosperity could be one’s monthly income from being a government official. Lord Longevity, or Son of the South Pole in China, is mostly bald and wears a long, white beard. He is said to be the Immortal Man of South Pole in Taoism. His head contains three volumes of celestial texts, so he knows everything. He is the elderly Prosperity star.
The second type of blessing is affluence and nobility. The third type refers to a healthy and safe body. The fourth type means enjoying cultivating virtues and doing good deeds. With this type of blessings, one is willing to do what is virtuous. The fifth type of blessing is a peaceful passing.
There are also five kinds of virtues: mild-mannered, kind, respectful, frugal, and yielding. Who has these five kinds of virtues? Confucius. What are the five? The first is mild-mannered, neither too cold nor too hot. Too cold, one is like the silent and stoic Lord Guan all the time. The second virtue is kindness. The third type of virtue is respect, always respectful toward others without slighting others. The fourth type is frugality and simplicity. One does not waste any material resources. For example, one usually eats five bowls of rice but reduces one’s intake to three bowls, leaving the other two bowls for those who are starving. One maintains a simple lifestyle. “One serves oneself a simple and restricted diet; one treats guests without letting the meal linger on.” We must try to save on what we use, what we wear, what we eat, what we live in so that none of it is excessive. The most important thing is frugality. The fifth type of virtue is yielding. Do not rush forward to fight for anything. Yield means letting other people be number one. Let other people enjoy the good things and pick up bad things ourselves. This is yielding. Politely yield. These are the five virtues.
Speaking of yielding, Kong Rong at the age of four knew to yield his pear. Kong Rong was someone before the Three Kingdoms period in China. He was in a real high political office. When he was four years old, some guests brought a gift basket (made out of bamboo) of pears for his family. The adults told him to get a pear and what does he do? He picks the smallest one. The guests ask, “Why don’t you pick a big one? Why do you pick such a small pear for yourself?” He said, “I am the youngest, I should eat a small one. My older brothers are older than I am, so they should eat the big ones.” He yielded the bigger pears for his brothers and took the smallest one for himself. Later he reached a very high office. During the Han Dynasty, Huang Xiang at the age of nine knew to warm his parents’ bed. Every night at bedtime, he would go and sleep on his parents’ bed so that it is warm before he goes to sleep on his own bed. He shows his filiality by warming up the bed, which is a type of virtuous conduct. The Five Virtues are about being mild-mannered, kind, respectful, frugal, and yielding.
Universally Expansive replied, “Excellent, World-Honored One. We will be happy to listen.”
The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Universally Expansive, “If, in the future, good men or women, upon hearing Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva’s name, place their palms together, praise him, bow to him, or gaze at him in worship, they will overcome thirty eons’ worth of offenses. Universally Expansive, if good men or women gaze upon and bow but once to painted or drawn images of the Bodhisattva or images made of clay, stone, lacquer, gold, silver or bronze, they will be reborn one hundred times in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and will eternally avoid falling into the Evil Destinies. If their blessings in the heavens come to an end and they are born in the human realm, they will become national leaders who will suffer no loss of benefits.
“There may be women who dislike having female bodies. Suppose they wholeheartedly make offerings to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva, such as paintings or images made of clay, stone, lacquer, brass, iron or other materials. If they continually make offerings day after day without fail, of flowers, incense, food, drink, clothing, colored silks, banners, money, jewels, and other items, then when those good women finish their current female retributions, throughout thousands of millions of eons they will never again be born in worlds where there are women, much less be one, unless they choose to through the strength of their compassionate vows, in order to liberate beings. Based on the strength of their offerings to Earth Store Bodhisattva and the power of their meritorious virtues, they will not be born with female bodies for hundreds of thousands of eons.
Universally Expansive Bodhisattva replied, “Excellent, World-Honored One. We will be happy to listen.”
The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Universally Expansive, “If, in the future, good men or women who received the Five Precepts and practice the Ten Good Deeds, upon hearing Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva’s name, place their palms together when they see an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva, praise him saying that Earth Store Bodhisattva is a real great Bodhisattva who is truly compassionate, uses his spiritual powers in wonderful ways. He is really incredible. Or theybow to him, or gaze at him in worship. They may not wish to leave the image of Earth Store Bodhisattva that they see. They stay in place to look, forgetting to eat or anything else. This is similar to someone being infatuated with something and forgets everything else. They will overcome thirty eons’ worth of offenses. Universally Expansive, if good men or women who received the Five Precepts and practice the Ten Good Deeds gaze upon and bow but once to painted or drawn images of the Bodhisattva Earth Store or images made of clay, stone, lacquer, gold, silver or bronze, they will be reborn one hundred times in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and will eternally avoid falling into the Evil Destinies. With the merit of bowing to Earth Store Bodhisattva, they will never fall into the evil destinies. If their blessings in the heavens come to an end and they are born in the human realm, they will become national leaders who will suffer no loss of such major benefits. People who are kings now bowed to Earth Store Bodhisattva before; presidents of nations had some merit from the past too.
“There may be women who dislike having female bodies. Do not be satisfied with having a female body because the female body is full of trouble. First guest-like objects come, then host-like objects come a few days later. Isn’t that so much trouble? Women may cry for no reason all of a sudden, smile for no reason all of a sudden, get angry for no reason all of a sudden, and then become distressed for no reason all of a sudden. Isn’t that so much trouble? Why is a female body so troublesome? I am not saying this to make you hate the female body so that you will leave the householder’s life and become a Bhikshu or Bhikshuni. The female body is really so much trouble, that is why some women do not want to be women. Why be a woman? Let us study this, it is because female habits such as envy, obstructionism, greed for petty gain, and vanity etc. are so ingrained. They become women in future lives as a result. However, if you were to respect Earth Store Bodhisattva, then all these problems dissolve. If you do not resolve these issues, then women’s five obstructive tendencies and ten evils are no fun.
What are the females’ five obstructive tendencies? The first obstruction is that women cannot become a Great Brahma Heaven King in this lifetime. Why? Great Brahma Heaven Kings become accomplished in their cultivation through pure conduct. The female body is mostly impure, so they cannot become Great Brahman Heaven Kings. The second obstruction: women cannot become Lord Shakra, the lord of the heavens. You wonder, “Didn’t a woman become the lord of the Thirty-Three Heavens?” Actually, she went from a woman to a man. Lord Shakra does not have very much desire. Women tend to have more lust, so they cannot become gods. The third obstruction for women is that they cannot become demon kings, which is best. The reason for this is that demon kings are tough and firm while women are very weak. Sometimes they cannot take care of themselves so that when certain things happen, they have to look for help. The fourth obstruction for women is that women cannot be Wheel Turning Sage Kings. There are Gold Wheel Sage Kings, Silver Wheel Sage Kings, Iron Wheel Sage Kings, and Copper Wheel Sage Kings. Why cannot one become a Wheel Sage King in the body of a woman? It is became Wheel Turning Sage Kings are most compassionate and kind. They teach people to practice the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Deeds. Women tend to be less compassionate and more envious; consequently they cannot become Wheel Turning Sage Kings. The fifth obstruction for women is that they cannot become Buddhas. Since the body of Buddhas comes with the myriad virtues while the female body is full of evil, such as jealousy, obstructive tendencies, and pettiness, a heart the size of sesame. This is why women in their bodies cannot become Buddhas.
Although women experience these five obstructions, if they can be free of jealousy, lust, and weakness, all the evils and tainted thoughts, then there is still hope for women to turn into men. Shariputra, for example, said that Dragon Girl cannot become a Buddha, so she took here favorite pearl that she cannot possibly give up and gave it to the Buddha. The Buddha accepted her pearl. She explained, “I can become a Buddha now. The Buddha accepted the pearl I offered him. Is this fast?” Shariputra responded, “It is very fast.” She said, “The speed at which I become a Buddha is as fast as the speed at which I offered this pearl to the Buddha.” After saying this, she became a Buddha immediately indeed. Women should not give up on themselves and lose hope because of these Five Obstructions. They should only be afraid that they are not bold enough in their resolves. Were they to bring forth their resolves boldly, they can become Buddhas too. For instance, the Dragon Girl offered her favorite pearl and became a Buddha immediately.
Now let me briefly explain women’s Ten Evils. I will not explain them in too much detail because of the time constraint. The first evil is that parents are unhappy that the newborn is a female; they would be happy if the baby were a male. Although not all parents are like this, most countries share this same attitude of favoring males over females. Girls leave a poor impression on their parents as soon as they are born. The second is that parents are not so interested in raising daughters. The third is that women are often afraid and shy. Conversely, men are not afraid of being embarrassed. The fourth is that parents worry about their daughter’s marriage. Americans are different though, they do not care. You do whatever you want. The trends in countries such as China, for example, are that Chinese parents worry about what kind of husband their daughter will have. The fifth is that daughters will definitely leave their parents. The sixth is that women are afraid of their husbands; they are very cautious about their husbands’ emotions. A wife is happy if her husband is happy; a wife trembles in fear if her husband gets angry. The seventh is that giving birth is difficult and scary. The eighth is that people will blame and criticize a girl’s parents for her meanness and debauchery. If a daughter does fine, okay, but if she goes awry then her parents are affected. The ninth is that a woman’s husband may order her about and restrain her with many rules. If she does not observe such rules, he may divorce her. Is that a hassle? This is when she is young, when she is older, she faces the tenth evil of being slighted by her children and grandchildren. Her offspring may think, “Why does she not die, she is already so old!” At that stage, even her children yell at her. Isn’t that sad? So women are replete with trouble. The above are the ten kinds of evils. There are actually twenty more, but we cannot finish telling them.
What should women who detest their impure female bodies do? Suppose they wholeheartedly make offerings to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva such as paintings. The reason why I requested a drawing of Earth Store Bodhisattva here is that this helps women who do not wish to have a female body anymore. Or images made of clay, stone, lacquer, brass, iron or other materials. If they continually make offerings day after day without fail, of flowers, incense, food, drink, clothing, colored silks, banners, money, jewels, and other items, then when those good women finish their current female retributions, throughout thousands of millions of eons they will never again be born in worlds where there are women. What kind of a world is a world without women? It is the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. Much less be one, unless they choose to through the strength of their compassionate vows, in order to liberate beings. The only exception would be if they make the vow that “I would be willing to be a woman to teach and transform living beings.” Perhaps there some among you who made vows of being a woman to save living beings. Although as women now you do not wish to be women, but you became women because of the power of some compassionate vows. One example of this is the Buddha’s mother, Lady Maya. She plays about the human realm in the Great Illusion Samadhi. She vowed that she will be the mother to every Buddha who is born in this world. Among the one thousand Buddhas, Shakyamuni Buddha is the fourth. Lady Maya is the mother of all one thousand Buddhas; this is her vow. Another example is Guanyin Bodhisattva, who is originally neither man or woman, but he knows that everybody likes beautiful women so he appears as a very beautiful woman to save living beings in the Saha World. All of you should emulate Guanyin Bodhisattva and save beings and not be converted by living beings. How do I mean? Saving living beings means making living beings leave suffering and attain bliss. Avoid running into the sea of suffering and be turned by the tides because you have no Samadhi; instead of living beings you are involved in romance and infatuated with love. Although Guanyin Bodhisattva appears as woman, she does not dwell on love. He wants to save living beings because he wants to save living beings out of the genuine wish to protect and rescue. She wanted to be a woman to save and liberate beings. Otherwise,based on the strength of their offerings to Earth Store Bodhisattva and the power of their meritorious virtues, they will not be born with female bodies for hundreds of thousands of eons.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, some women may have imperfect features or be prone to sickness. Disliking those problems, they can sincerely gaze at and bow to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva with sincere resolve for even just a few minutes, and consequently, throughout millions of future eons of rebirth, they will continually be endowed with full and perfect features. If those women whose features are currently imperfect do not dislike having female bodies, then throughout millions of billions of lives they will always be born as women of royal lineage, or will marry into royalty, or will become daughters of prime ministers, or women in prominent families, or daughters of great elders. They will be of upright birth and full-featured. They will receive such blessings from having sincerely beheld and worshipped Earth Store Bodhisattva.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, let me repeat, some women may have imperfect features or be prone to sickness. How come some women are really beautiful and some are really ugly? How come some are very healthy and some are often ill? Ten kinds of evil karma make people ugly, and what are these ten type of evil karma? 1. They get angry easily. They enjoy getting angry, one of the twenty afflictions. Most women get angry easily, though there are exceptions. Some get angry over a needle or a thread; some especially love getting angry. 2. They enjoy being skeptical and resentful. She doubts everything and resents everyone for not doing her right. 3. They like to lie and delude people so that they do not know what to do. 4. They enjoy disturbing living beings. 5. They do not truly love and respect her parents. Some may, but most do not.
6. They are not respectful at places with sages, worthy ones, and good spirits. Sages would be, for example, arhats who cultivated the Buddhadharma and certified to the fruition. 7. They, not all women, but some women, rob sages and worthy ones for the land, assets, and property that they need. 8. They may extinguish the lights before the Buddhas in Buddhist stupas and temples. Very few women probably actually do this. But this is one action that leads to being ugly. 9. They slander and look down on ugly people, saying, “Hey, that person is so ugly!” They are condescending so they end up being ugly themselves. We do not realize that there is a mirror in our inherent nature that reflects our condescension toward someone’s ugly looks; we become even ugly than that person in another life. 10. They enjoy learning all evil conducts and improper behavior. The above ten types of evil karma are the reasons for experiencing the retribution of ugliness.
There are also ten reasons for frequent illnesses. What are these ten types? 1. They enjoy beating all beings or any being they see. This is the first cause of the retribution of many illnesses. 2. They encouraged others to beat people, or even dogs, cats, or rats. Encouraging others to beat children or any being will result in illnesses. 3. They praise the means if hurting living beings, which led to the retribution of their many illnesses. 4. What do you say? They are delighted when they see beating occur. It is fun for them to watch; they are happier with this than movies. 5. They are happy when they see sick people. “Ha, excellent, they are sick.” Not only are they not sympathetic, they are very happy when they see people sick. 6. They are unhappy when they see people recover from their illness. As a result, they experience the retribution of facing many illnesses in future lives. 7. They give medicine to sick persons, but what kind of medicine? They do not give medicine that cures that particular sickness. For instance, they give someone with a headache a cure for stomach aches. They even try to earn a good reputation, saying, “See! I gave them medicine”, even though it is not the cure for the patient’s illnesses. 8. They grow jealous at the sight of a patient being treated by a doctor. 9. They are happy to see sick individuals and wish that these people will always be tortured by illness. 10. They enjoy eating. Before they even digest their food, they eat more. They enjoy eating nonstop. Due to these ten kinds of evil karma, they face the retribution of many illnesses.
Ugliness and sicknesses result from these twenty kinds of evil karma. Without committing these twenty kinds of evil karma, they will not be ugly or sick. What should they do? Disliking those problems, they can sincerely gaze at and bow to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva with sincere resolve for even just a few minutes, in a matter of a meal’s time, and consequently, throughout millions of future eons of rebirth, they will continually be endowed with full and perfect features. What are full and perfect features? Eyes look like eyes; ears look like ears. You say, “How can eyes not look like eyes?” For instance, most people have longer-looking eyes, but someone has square eyes; most ordinary people’s ears are long and look like shoe-shaped gold, but someone has ears like knives; also someone’s nostrils are turned out. In terms of physiognomy, someone with upturned nostrils does not have much blessings. Do not be friends with people with eyes that are triangular shaped like apricots; you will not experience too many advantages being friends with them. A certain Dharma Master, for example, openly sabotaged me after I helped him out a lot in Hong Kong. I do not blame him, but he later died of cancer. Before he passed away, he could not let go of his face and asked to sit in a crock pot like Dharma Master Cihang (Kind Boat). He said to open the crock three years later, if the body is still intact, then paste gold on it. However, before the next day, his head already sank. Someone told me that people with skills will sit upright no matter how long it has been since their death. His head lowered down the next day and he had wanted to earn reputation and asked his students to open up his crock pot three years later. His students never dared to because they know what this man with upturned nostrils is unreliable.
Also, it is good for men to have large mouths but not good for women. This is a difference between men and women. We can tell when someone will enjoy good fortune by looking at their features. We can tell someone who succeeds in everything at a young age, in their prime, and in their old age. With knowledge that has existed in China, one can tell whether someone will be accomplished in the future by looking at him. Someone with full and perfect features is successful in everything. Archbishop Yu Bin, for example, has very fine features where he enjoys the best luck in his later years. You might notice how his features, be it eyes, nose, or mouth, are very much symmetrical. His physiognomy is about blessings and virtue. He went astray though; had he been a Buddhist, he would have been an incredible Dharma Master. The retribution of full and perfect features come from bowing to the Buddhas, reciting the Buddha’s name, or bowing to a certain Bodhisattva.
If those ugly women whose features are currently imperfect do not dislike having female bodies, although they are ugly, they still enjoy being women, then throughout millions of billions of lives they will always be born as women of royal lineage. They may become daughters to national leaders; furthermore, their features are perfect and beautiful from bowing to some image of Earth Store Bodhisattva. Or they will marry into royalty, such becoming queen or first lady, or will become daughters of prime ministers or high ranking politicians, or women in prominent families, or daughters of great and affluent elders. They will be of upright birth and full-featured. Just as I said earlier, it is imperfect when the eyes are very beautiful while the nose is not so nice; it is imperfect when the nose is beautiful but the eyes are not so nice; it is imperfect when both the eyes and nose are nice but the ears are not so nice, they do not match; it is imperfect where one ear is bigger than the other, one ear is smaller than the other, the nose is on the side of the face, or the mouth is connected to the nose so that you cannot tell the nose and the mouth apart. Perfect features means they eyes are nice, the ears are nice, the nose is nice, the mouth is nice, and the face is nice too. They are really beautiful, why? They receive such blessings from having sincerely beheld and worshipped Earth Store Bodhisattva.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, there may be good men or women who are able to play music, sing, or chant praises and make offerings of incense and flowers before images of the Bodhisattva, or who are able to exhort one or more others to do likewise. Now and in the future, such people will be surrounded day and night by hundreds of thousands of ghosts and spirits who will even prevent bad news from reaching their ears, much less allow them to be personally involved in any accidents.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive Bodhisattva, let me repeat, there may be good men or women who are able to play music, sing, or chant praises and make offerings of incense and flowers before images of the Bodhisattva Earth Store, or who are able to exhort one or more others to do likewise. They transform themselves and others; they save themselves and others. Now and in the future, such people will be surrounded day and night by hundreds of thousands of ghosts and spirits who will protect them and even prevent bad news, inauspicious sounds, and awful things from reaching their ears, much less allow them to be personally involved in any accidents such as car accidents, drownings, fires, plane crashes, train derailments, bus driving into the cliff. They do not experience those problems because many Dharma-protecting good spirits protect them all the time. Yesterday someone said that he was scared of taking a flight for fear that the plane will crash. Do not be scared, as long as you recite the Great Compassion Mantra and Shurangama Mantra, then many gods, dragons, Dharma-protecting good spirits of the eightfold pantheon all support you. As long as you do not have false thoughts and constantly believe in the Bodhisattva, he will protect you. Buddhists need not be afraid. Do not be afraid of ghosts because they will bow to you due to your merit and virtue. If you have none because you do not know about doing good deeds, then bad things will occur. Maintain good intentions and do good deeds, then none of the bad things will happen.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, in the future, evil people, evil spirits, or evil ghosts may see good men or women taking refuge with, respectfully making offerings to, praising, beholding, and bowing to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva. Those beings may make the mistake of ridiculing such acts of worship, saying that they are of no merit. They may sneer at those good people, condemn them behind their backs, or as a group or even alone as one person have even as little as one thought of condemnation. Such beings will fall into the Avici Hell, and the extreme misery they will undergo as retribution for their slander will not end even after the Thousand Buddhas of the Worthy Eon have passed into tranquility. Only after that eon will they be reborn among the hungry ghosts, where they will spend a thousand more eons before being reborn as animals. Only after another thousand eons will they obtain human bodies, but they will be poor and lowly with incomplete faculties, and their evil karma will cause them to suffer mental afflictions. Before long, they will fall into the Evil Paths again.
“Moreover, again the Buddha talked to Bodhisattva Universally Expansive, in the future, evil people who commit the Five Rebellious Acts and the Ten Evils, and evil spirits who are deviant spirits because they do not observe the rules criticize good men and good women. Some deviant spirits also go to temples such as temples where offerings are made to Lord Guan. Lord Guan is not always there; on the occasions when Lord Guan is absent, he goes to the temple, pretending to be Lord Guan to enjoy bloody flesh. People may offer him swine, lamb, or cow, all of which are food with blood that he enjoys. There are big evil ghosts such as kumbhanda ghosts that look like a winter melon. These ghosts are also called ghosts that press on people while these people are sleeping. These big evil ghosts make such sleeping individuals mute and immobile. There are also small evil ghosts who may possess plants to display their spiritual powers so that people will believe them. For example, Nanhua Monastery had a camphor tree go and receive the precepts. Before it even received the precepts, it wielded its spiritual powers. For instance, anyone who goes there to light incense will receive a response such as recovery from some illness. Or someone recovers his lost items after lighting incense before this tree. There was a variety of others. That person thinks that this is true miracles from a Bodhisattva, so he may go and show his appreciation with offerings of sacrificial chickens, pigs, or other animals. With these items, he has food to eat. These are small evil ghosts. There are innumerable things in this world, so if you do not understand the Buddhadharma, you may very easily think that this type of evil spirits and evil ghosts are truly efficacious Bodhisattvas. People who study the Buddhadharma ought not to think that the Buddhadharma is something to do with miracles. No. Understand the principles in the Buddhadharma to avoid such deceptions.
Or evil people, evil spirits, or evil ghosts may see good men or women taking refuge with, respectfully making offerings to, praising, beholding, and bowing to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva. Those beings may make the mistake of ridiculing such acts of worship, saying that they are of no merit. Evil people may then say, “Hey, you are too superstitious. What is the use of bowing to clay or wooden images? Doing these things is completely without merit. Do not believe this stuff.” They ask you what the use of bowing to idol images? Some non-Buddhists, for example, believe there is no merit to bowing to pagan idols. They may sneer at those good people who are bowing. They sneer with their teeth showing to show that they look down on all of you who are too superstitious. Or they condemn them behind their backs. They do not say anything in front of your face, but after you leave, they say, “That group of people at Buddhist Lecture Hall is really superstitious. I do not know what they are doing as they wear that robe and sash bowing to the Buddhas then getting up, getting up then bowing. I do not know how it is meaningful for them to recite sutras and to bow to the Buddhas all day.” They sabotage, slander, and criticize people behind their backs. Why should a cultivator bow to the Buddhas? How is bowing to the Buddhas useful? I might as well sleep with that time. Or they get a group together or alone as only one person have even as little as one thought of condemnationor tease.Perhaps they do not criticize others personally, but they abet others in avoiding sutra recitations, “What is good about reciting sutras? Do not bow to the Buddhas or listen to the sutras! The time you spend on listening to the sutras might as well be spent on taking some drugs so that you feel like you are in the Land of Ultimate Bliss! Why believe in that stuff?” Encouraging others to be like him, he may find a companion who will defy the rules in a certain situation or a Buddhist group because he knows that he will not be tolerated alone. With a companion, he seems to have some excuse. If you criticize him, then he will say, “Other people are this way too!” With companions, his power grows. They do not have to be doing sabotage all the time, but just for one thought, tease and speak sarcastically to slander such individuals.
Such beings who sneer or criticize others behind their backs, alone or with a group will fall into the Avici Hell, and the extreme misery they will undergo as retribution for their slander will not end even after the Thousand Buddhas of the Worthy Eon have passed into tranquility. Our present eon is the Worthy Eon. How is this eon Worthy? Many sages and worthy individuals appear at this time, including one thousand Buddhas, among which Shakyamuni Buddha is the fourth. There are 996 more Buddhas who will emerge. The time between one Buddha and the next is a long time. So the length of time during which one thousand Buddhas come into being is a long time to endure in the Avici Hell, the very serious retribution of having destroyed the Buddhadharma.
We should know that one day and one night in our world is 60 small eons in the Avici Hell. Fifty years in our human realm is one day and a night in the Heaven of the Four Heavenly Kings. One hundred years in the human realm is one day and a night in the Tryastrimsha Heaven. One day and a night in the human realm is 60 small eons in the Avici Hell. Why? Someone who is happy may feel that the day was very short and went by very quickly. When someone is very sad and finds things to be very unpleasant, such as when you are waiting for someone or for some occurrence, then one will feel that the day is extremely long. From this we know why one day and one night in the human realm is 60 small eons in the hells. It is too miserable in the hells. While beings are suffering, they find the time to be too long; while beings are enjoying themselves, they do not find the time to be long at all.
Only after that one thousand Buddhas come into being during the Worthy Eon will these hell beingsbe reborn among the hungry ghosts, where they will spend a thousand more eons before being reborn as animals. Only after another thousand eons of birth and death will they obtain human bodies, but they will be poor and lowly. America has this ‘give to the poor’ movement. I criticize this because giving to the poor is useless. People’s poverty is derived not in this lifetime, but comes because of karma from endless offenses in endless eons. Your help is only temporary and not constant. To really help the poor requires promoting various charity events, encouraging people to do good deeds, and encouraging others to change for the better and be good. This would be the way to really help the poor. Also, do not tell people to slander the Triple Jewel; promote the Buddhadharma everywhere you go so that the Triple Jewel of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha will abide in the world for people to plant blessings. People who make offerings to the Triple Jewel enjoy retributions of blessings so that they will not be poor in the future; that is to truly help the poor. People who slander the Triple Jewel will be in the hells for one thousand eons after as long a time as one thousand Buddhas appearing in the Worthy Eon, then among the hungry ghosts for one thousand eons, among the animals for one thousand eons, then become human beings. As human beings, they are extremely poor and low-class.
With incomplete faculties such as no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, hands, feet, body and mind. What happens to someone without a tongue? They cannot talk without a tongue. People have two eyes and they only have one eye. Is this attractive? Perhaps they only have one ear. This makes their six sense organs incomplete. And their evil karma will cause them to suffer mental afflictions. In general, everything goes against their wishes; they are either without food, clothes, or lodging. Otherwise, they encounter accidents such as the various accidents described earlier. Before long, they will fall into the Evil Paths again. Not long after being a human being, he falls into the Three Evil Paths again. Bright Eyes’ mother that we talked about earlier, for example, was born in her daughter’s household, but then dies at the age of thirteen and falls into the evil paths.
Universally Expansive, such are the retributions that those who ridicule and slander others’ acts of worship will undergo. How much worse will the retributions be if, besides their slandering, they have other evil views?
Therefore, Universally Expansive, you should know, such are the retributions that those who ridicule and slander others’ acts of worship in making offerings to Earth Store Bodhisattva will undergo. For this type of evil retribution, they would even have to be in the hells for one thousand eons, among the hungry ghosts for another one thousand eons, among the animals for another thousand eons, then become human beings with the retribution of being poor, lowly and disabled. Someone wonders, “Must they endure one thousand eons to become human beings? Is this definite? Right, that is for sure. Shakyamuni Buddha personally established the laws for the hells. However, there is an exception that is not for certain. What is this special scenario? During the one thousand eons they must endure, hungry ghosts, for example, became compassionate and want to protect people and other cultivators, to bow along with people who are bowing to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and protect such cultivators. Having established merits such as these, they do not have to complete one thousand eons to be humans or animals.
Or as animals, they draw close to Buddhists so they live in the temples or Buddhist families so that they practice and cultivate imperceptibly so that they believe in the Buddhas. Believing in the Buddhas, their offense karma is reduced so that they do not have to be in the animal realm for one thousand eons; they become reborn as human beings. While Elder Master Hsu Yun was at Yunnan, for example, a chicken was brought to the temple. The chicken cultivated along with the temple residents; when the monks recite the Buddha’s name in the ceremonies, it also followed along in circumambulating and reciting the Buddha’s name. After three years, it passed away standing before the Buddhas. All these are a special set of circumstances that exempts it from enduring one thousand eons before becoming a human being. Were poor, lowly, and disabled individuals to know the reasons for their retribution, they would know that it is because they slandered the Triple Jewel, refused to listen to the Buddhadharma, and were not respectful to Earth Store King Bodhisattva. Now that they changed, they are bold and diligent; perhaps they are vegetarians who recite the Buddha’s name or cultivate, even leaving the homelife to become Bhikshus. In reforming and renewing themselves, they will avoid falling into the evil paths soon.
In general, depending on each living being’s special set of circumstances, one may not have to go through such a long time of retribution. The Buddhadharma is flexible and principled. You do not have to spend a long time suffering after repenting. The Chapter on Universal Worthy’s Conduct and Vows says that people’s offense karma are invisible; were it to be material, then each individual’s karmic obstruction would fill space to the brim and crack it open. Fortunately, karmic obstruction is invisible, so there is no need to prepare a place to preserve it, so it does not matter how much there is of it. If you can repent, then however much offense karma can be eliminated, that is why it says, “Bowing once to the Buddhas eliminates offenses as many as grains of sand.” Truly repentant while bowing to the Buddhas, then offense karma as many as grains of sand in the rivers will disappear. “Give away one penny and add infinite blessings.” Donate to the Triple Jewel to the best of your ability, giving away however much you have, then you will enjoy infinite blessings as retribution, so long as you are sincere while you make your offerings. Everything is uncertain because the Dharma is not fixed. People’s karmic obstructions are not fixed either.
How much worse will the retributions be if, besides their slandering, they have other evil views. Not to mention if you develop some evil view to wreck the Triple Jewel in particular, then your offense karma will be even greater.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, in the future, men or women may be bedridden for a long time and, in spite of their wishes, be unable either to get well or to die. At night they may dream of evil ghosts, or of family and relatives, or of wandering on dangerous paths. In numerous nightmares they may roam with ghosts and spirits.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive . Shakyamuni Buddha told Universally Expansive again: Let me elaborate a bit more for you, Universally Expansive! In the future, men or women who receive and cultivate the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Deeds may be bedridden for a long time. Why are they bedridden? No need to ask, it is obviously because of some illness so that they are paralyzed and cannot get up. Why would someone become paralyzed? The source of the sickness is heavy lust because when paralyzed, one’s legs are unusable. Legs are connected to the kidneys. Too much lust and the legs cannot walk. For instance, many people on the streets are disabled because of their swollen legs. To walk, they require the help of a cane. Their legs were not injured or amputated in a battle. They are disabled though they have not incurred any injury or accident. This type of individual has too much lust. There are many Americans with this problem. Why? They do not know the harm in this and fail to realize why their legs are this way even at the time of death. Consequently, they frequently remain immobile in their beds. And, in spite of their wishes, be unable either to get well or to die.They cannot live well or die well. Is that painful? They cannot do so either way.
At night they may dream of evil ghosts . Some people dream of evil ghosts and follow them in doing all kinds of bad things; the more they do these things, the worse their illnesses get. Some examples of bad things that occur when they dream of evil ghosts, and they are clear that these are evil ghosts, and yet they follow them and eat bad things, do bad things, or even engage in sexual activity in their dreams.Or they dream of family and relatives such as their deceased father or mother. These are negative occurrences because these relatives, any relative who knows you in fact, brings ghosts to the patient with the awful sickness then leaves. The ghosts then use their various corrupt powers to make the patient’s sickness worse by the day. Or they dream of wandering on dangerous paths, such as falling off a mountain top and being terrified. Various inauspicious things occur in the dreams that scare these patients so that they are awfully afraid. In their dreams, tigers, wolves, or monsters may come along as they stroll along. In general, all kinds of frightful things occur.
In numerous nightmares they may roam with ghosts and spirits. Kumbhandas may appear in their dreams often, perhaps three times or five times a night. They keep appearing because they feel their affinities with you are not done yet. You are pressed upon so that you cannot utter any sound. You cannot breath, and you cannot move, while your eyes are open as if in some demonic state of concentration. This would be a demonic state of concentration, not a proper state of concentration. There are different states of concentration and we should not enter this type of deviant concentration. These patients befriend ghosts and spirits in their dreams when they clearly know that they are ghosts. They go places with these ghosts. They do not know to be afraid of these ghosts in their dreams; they only become afraid when they wake up.
As days, months and years go by, such people may become weak and emaciated, cry out in pain in their sleep, and become progressively more depressed and melancholy. Those things happen when the force of their karma has not yet been determined, making it difficult for them to die and impossible for them to be cured. The ordinary eyes of men and women cannot perceive such phenomena.
“In that situation, other people should recite this sutra out loud once before images of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on behalf of any such sick person. Or they could offer to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas possessions that the sick person cherishes, such as clothing, jewels, gardens, or houses. They should speak distinctly to the sick person, saying, “Now before this sutra or these images, we are offering these items on behalf of this sick person.” They may offer sutras or images, or commission images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, or build stupas or monasteries, or light oil lamps, or give to the Eternally Dwelling. They should tell the sick persons three times about the offerings that are being made, making sure that they both hear and understand what is being done.
“If the sick people’s consciousnesses are already scattered and their breathing has stopped, then for one, two, three, four, and on through seven days, the other people should continue to inform them clearly of the offerings and to read this sutra out loud. When those sick people’s lives end, they will gain liberation from all their heavy and disastrous offenses committed in previous lives, even offenses warranting Fivefold Relentless Retribution. They will be born in places where they will always know past lives, so how much greater will the karmic rewards be if good men or women can write out this sutra themselves or commission others to do so, or if they can carve or paint images themselves or commission others to do so. The benefits they receive will be great indeed!
“Therefore, Universally Expansive, if you see people reading and reciting this sutra or even having a single thought of praise for it, or if you meet someone who reveres it, you should employ hundreds of thousands of expedients to exhort such people to be diligent and not retreat. In both the present and the future, they will be able to obtain thousands of billions of inconceivable meritorious benefits.
As days, months and years go by, such people may become weak and emaciated . For a long time, not just one or two days, these people were very weak and emaciated. There are five types of phtisis and seven types of injuries. All five types of phtisis are incurable.They cry out in pain in their sleep. They wake up screaming because they were being pursued by ghosts, hit by ghosts, or caught by ghosts. And they become progressively more depressed and melancholy. They always wear a miserable look on their face, as if they’re about to cry. They are never happy. Those things happen when the force of their karma has not yet been determined. Why is this? Their offense karma is being evaluated in the hells. Their offense karma is being discussed as to whether it is slight or heavy. Although they have not died yet and the question is being discussed in the hells, they are unhappy while alive. They are miserable because they committed offenses and they know they will go to the hells in the future. Making it difficult for them to die and impossible for them to be cured. They may want to die but cannot, or not so soon. Or their illnesses do not heal so quickly. The ordinary eyes of men and women cannot perceive such phenomena. Men and women do not know about this because they do not have the power of the heavenly eye and the power of knowing past lives.
What can they do considering that they do not understand? There is a way! “In that situation, other people should recite this sutra out loud once before images of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on behalf of any such sick person. Before any of the Buddha or Bodhisattva image, whether it is before an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva or other Bodhisattva images if you do not have an Earth Store Bodhisattva image, recite the Earth Store Sutra very loudly. Or they could offer to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas possessions that the sick person cherishes, such as clothing, jewels, properties, gardens, or houses. They should speak distinctly or loud enough to the sick person, saying, “Now before this Earth Store Sutra or these images of Earth Store Bodhisattva and others, we, say our names, are offering these items that the patient values the most, such as gardens, dwellings, clothing, and other material goods on behalf of this sick person.” They state the patient’s name. They may offer sutras or images, or commission images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, the greatest merit, or build jeweled stupas or monasteries, or light oil lamps before the Buddhas, or give to the Eternally Dwelling in the temples.
They should tell the sick persons three times so that the sick hear it each time about the offerings that are being made, making sure that they both hear and understand what is being done. “If the sick people’s consciousnesses (the eye consciousness, the ear consciousness, the nose consciousness, the tongue consciousness, the body consciousness, the sixth consciousness, the seventh consciousness, and the eighth consciousness are already scattered and their breathing has stopped, then for one, two, three, four, and on through seven days, the other people should continue to inform them clearly of the offerings and to read this sutra out loud and loudly. When those sick people’s lives end, they will gain liberation from all their heavy and disastrous offenses committed in previous lives, even grave offenses warranting Fivefold Relentless Retribution. They will be born in places where they will always know past lives, so how much greater will the karmic rewards be if good men or women can write out this sutra themselves or commission others to do so, or if they can carve or paint images themselves or commission others to do so. The benefits they receive will be great indeed!
“Therefore, Universally Expansive, if you see people reading and reciting this Earth StoreSutra or even having a single thought of praise for it, or if you meet someone who reveres it, you should employ hundreds of thousands of expedients to exhort such people to be diligent and not retreat. In both the present and the future, they will be able to obtain thousands of billions of inconceivable meritorious benefits.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, beings in the future, while dreaming or drowsy, may see ghosts, spirits, and other forms that are either sad, weeping, worried, fearful, or terrified. Those are all fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and other relatives from one, ten, a hundred, or a thousand lives past who have not yet been able to leave the bad destinies. They have nowhere to turn for the powerful blessings needed to rescue them, and so they try to communicate with their closest descendants, hoping that those relatives will use some skillful means to help them get out of the Evil Paths. Universally Expansive, using your spiritual power, exhort those descendants to recite this sutra with sincere resolve before the images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas or to request others to recite it, either three or seven times. When the Sutra has been read aloud the proper number of times, relatives in the Evil Paths will obtain liberation and never again appear to those who are dreaming or drowsy.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, Shakyamuni Buddha says: Let me explain it again for you in detail. If beings in the future, while dreaming or drowsy, while asleep or not quite in deep sleep. . .
There are dreams due to ignorant habits. Individuals with muddled habits that come from ignorance have these dreams so they do not remember anything when they wake up from their dream. There are dreams of premonition. Their dreams foretell some fortunate or unfortunate occurrence. For instance, Elder Master Hsu Yun dreamt of the Sixth Patriarch saying, “You’re going back! You’re going to go there to do some work!” Elder Master Hsu Yun thought returning meant that he was about to die; but it was actually telling him to go to Nanhua Monastery to repair the temple. This is an auspicious omen that foretold an event through a dream. Some people dream about being careful, otherwise they would die in a car accident. They do not believe it and indeed crashed the next day. They do not believe it and die in a car accident the next day. This is a dream that foretells events. There are also dreams due to imbalanced four elements. The four elements are earth, water, fire, and wind. According to medical texts, there are 404 human diseases and 808 antidotes. Actually there are 84,000 forms of human illnesses; that is why the Buddhadharma says there are 84,000 practices that cure 84,000 illnesses. When the four elements are not in balance; such as an excess of earth, being an antidote for water, makes one sick; an excess of fire, being an antidote for water, makes one sick; or an excess of wind, being an antidote for earth, makes one sick. These are illnesses from an imbalance of the four elements. There are so dreams about old time, long lost friends. What kind of dreams are these? For instance, I have not seen someone that I knew for a long time. I was happy to see him appear in my dream. I wake up though and realize that it is not real. These are dreams about long lost friends. There are as many dreams as described above.
In their sleep or before dozing off, all beings may see ghosts, spirits with green faces, red hair, huge mouths, and sharp teeth the length of elephant tusks, and other strange and scary forms that are either sad, weeping, tearing or dripping snot, worried, fearful, or terrified. They may see scenes of their relatives who are very sad, miserable, and sigh. Those are all fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and other relatives from one, ten, a hundred, or a thousand lives past who have fallen into and have not yet been able to leave the bad destiniesof the hells, evil ghosts, and animals. This is why we should see all beings as our parents from the past and Buddhas in the future. If we consider living beings our parents in the past, then we should be filial and not cause problems for living beings. If we consider living beings future Buddhas, then we should be filial and not cause problems for living beings. Hopeless, they have nowhere to turn for the powerful blessings needed to rescue them, such as through reciting the sutras and doing some meritorious deeds. According to the Buddhist teachings, as said in the Earth Store Sutra, sutra recitations are done for the deceased and those not yet deceased. The power of blessings comes from reciting the sutras. And so they try to communicate with their closest descendants in their former lives, hoping that those relatives will use some skillful means to help them get out of the Evil Paths.
Universally Expansive, Shakyamuni Buddha called out again, using your spiritual power, exhort those descendants to recite this Earth Store Sutra with sincere resolve before the images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas or to request or employ others to recite it, either three or seven times. These odd numbers are yang numbers; the even numbers are yin numbers. Yang numbers are symbols of breaking through the offense karmas of the hells. When the Earth Store Sutra has been read aloud the proper number of times, relatives in the Evil Paths will obtain liberation and never again appear to those who are dreaming or drowsy.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, people of low station, and those who are slaves, or bonded, or deprived of their freedom in other ways, may be aware of their past deeds and wish to repent of them and reform. If, while beholding and bowing to Earth Store Bodhisattva’s image with sincere resolve for seven days, they are able to recite his name a full ten thousand times, then when their current retribution ends, those people will always be born into wealth and honor for hundreds of thousands of lives. How much the more will they avoid any of the sufferings of the Three Evil Paths.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, Shakyamuni Buddha says to him again: people of low station. We are all people, so how come there are people who belong to high class society and people who are lowly? There are five paths that lead people to the retribution of belong to the lowest class. One is arrogance. Most people are arrogant to outsiders; but this kind of arrogance refers to being conceited with regard to and disrespectful toward one’s parents. The second reason is obstinacy. They do not respect teachers and elders. These obstinate beings refuse to obey teachers’ and elders’ teachings. The third reason is laxness, which is about not adhering to the rules. That does not matter so much; they are not even respectful toward the Triple Jewel. These three reasons make them become low-class individuals, including the poor. The affluent do not belong to the lowest class, whereas the poor do. The fourth kind is because they like to steal in lives past. Penniless, they steal things, money, or jewelry that is sold in turn. Sustaining themselves for a period of time with what they stole, they do nothing but eat, drink, whore, gamble, and do drugs (such as opium) meanwhile. They do not need to work because of what they have stolen. When they finish up the money, they steal again, and they do nothing again for some time. They sustain themselves by stealing like this. This is the fourth reason why they are poor and of the lowest-class. What do you think the fifth reason is? The fifth is evading their debts. People cannot be unaccountable for even one penny, not to mention more than that. Though money is fake, you cannot use it casually. Though money is fake, it is necessary for doing real work. We cannot be casual about this at all. For example, you may think it is a bargain to borrow money then abscond with it. Actually, it is no bargain because by evading debts, you will be poor and lowly in future lives; that will be the retribution. Above are the five reasons for becoming someone of low station.
And those who are slaves, servants, or bonded, or deprived of their freedom in other wayshave to listen to their master’s orders and cannot go anywhere as they please, may be aware of their past deeds and wish to repent of them and reform. If they know that they must have incurred grave offenses and accumulated heavy karma from lives past, they must repent now. They bow the Great Compassion Repentance, the Pureland Repentance or other repentances. Why do we bow the Great Compassion Repentance? We do this because we repent of offenses, though we do not know about our offenses in lives past. If, while beholding and bowing to Earth Store Bodhisattva’s image with sincere resolve for seven days, they are able to recite his name a full ten thousand times, then when their current retribution ends, those people will always be born into wealth and honor for hundreds of thousands of lives. How much the more will they avoid any of the sufferings of the Three Evil Paths. They will always be born in elite families and never endure the pain of the Three Evil Paths.
There are five reasons for poverty and several reasons for nobility too. First is vastly giving and benefiting, being greatly compassionate with everyone. Second is being respectful toward parents, teachers, and elders. We ought not to hate our father for bringing us into the world, yelling at him, “Why did you have to have me? You jerk!” Or think about our master in this way: “You do not let me have any freedom. I have to listen to you on everything. This is too unfair.” We are dissatisfied with our master in various ways. We bow to our master but criticize our master behind his back. This is about not being respectful to our parents, teachers, and elders, one of the reasons why we are not born in an elite family. Is that harsh? Do not bother with whether I am a good master or not. You cannot criticize me because there is offense in that and you will not become born in an elite family. Second, respect parents, teachers, and elders. Earlier we talked about not being respectful; now we have to be respectful toward our parents, teachers, and elders. Third, being respectful and bow to the Triple Jewel. Earlier we talked about not being respectful and not bowing to the Triple Jewel. This here is about being respectful and bowing to the Triple Jewel and all elders. Fourth, we must be patient, not angry, but gentle and humble. You must be happy and not at all afflicted no matter who scolds you. Be patient when someone yells at you; be even more patient when someone beats you. Cultivate patience so that you are free of hatred, anger, and temper. It is not easy to acquire good retribution. Furthermore, you have to be gentle and humble. Be polite and courteous to everyone. What is the fifth? It is erudition through listening to more sutras, encountering more Dharmas, and studying more precepts. These five reasons cause people to become elites who are rich and powerful. But it is not enough just to be rich and powerful due to causes in lives past. It would be best to be replete with these five conditions; though just one condition will prevent someone from becoming born in a poor and lowly family. How come someone is so fine? So noble? It is through their past deeds. We do not acquire this kind of blessings so simply in this one lifetime. People who fulfill any or all of these five criteria do not need to face the three evil destinies of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals; they can become born in elite families directly.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, in the future in Jambudvipa when the wives of Kshatriyas, Brahmans, Elders, and Upasakas of the various families and clans are about to give birth to sons or daughters, the family members should recite this inconceivable sutra and the Bodhisattva’s name a full ten thousand times during the seven days before the birth of those children. If those infants, whether male or female, had been destined to undergo a terrible retribution for things done in past lives, they will be liberated from those retributions. They will be peaceful, happy, easily raised, and will have long er lives. If those children were due to receive blessings, then their peace and happiness will increase, as will their lifespans.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive. Shakyamuni Buddha again explained to Universally Expansive that in the future in Jambudvipa. . . Beings in Northern Uttarakuru of the Four Great Continents are born under trees. Labor is very easy and not at all painful; babies come right out as if chickens laying eggs. Females giving birth do not undergo so much pain like those do in Southern Jambudvipa. Very few births occur in Eastern Purvavideha, and Western Aparagodaniya because beings there have very little sexual desire, so they do not have so many children. Only beings in Southern Jambudvipa believe the more births there are, the better. Women endure tremendous pain in labor. So now we only talk about Southern Jambudvipa. When the wives of India’s nobility, the Kshatriyas, the noble clan of purity who are the Brahmans, the wealthy Elders, and Upasakas. . . The elders and upasakas have money but not official posts, while the Brahmans and the Kshatriyas enjoy nobility and affluence too. When the wives of all the various families and clans of different nationalities or race are about to give birth to sons or daughters. . . Some difficult labor situations include newborns in a horizontal or reverse position. Some newborns have difficulty coming out because it sticks out one of its legs first. Some difficult labor situations involve the baby dragging out the mother’s intestines. No matter how difficult the labor though, the family members should recite this inconceivable sutra of Earth Storeand the Bodhisattva Earth Store’s name a full ten thousand times during the seven days before the birth of those children. If those infants, whether male or female, had been destined to undergo a terrible retribution for things done in past lives, they will be liberated from those retributions. They will be peaceful, happy, easily raised, and will have long er lives. If those children did not commit any offenses and were due to receive blessings, then their peace and happiness will increase, as will their lifespans.
There is nothing certain about people’s suffering and bliss; there is nothing certain about people’s lifespans either. Fortune tellers may tell some people that they will live until thirty but they reach 40 and are still alive. What is the reason for that? The length of people’s lives is flexible rather than rigid. Do good deeds and you will extend your life; do bad deeds and your lifespan will decrease. Nothing is fixed. For instance, one baby is meant to endure a lot of suffering due to his offense karma, but recite the Earth Store Sutra or the name of Earth Store Bodhisattva for him, and his pain disappears. He will be happy, easy to raise, and live longer. You may deduce from this that nothing in life is fixed, it merely depends on how you act.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, on the first, eighth, fourteenth, fifteenth, eighteenth, twenty-third, twenty-fourth, twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth days of the lunar month, the offenses of beings are tabulated and their gravity assessed. Every single movement or stirring of thought on the part of beings of Jambudvipa creates karma and offenses. How much more is that the case when they blatantly indulge in killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech and hundreds of thousands of other kinds of offenses. If they are able to recite this Sutra once on those ten vegetarian days, before the images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, or worthy ones and sages, then no disasters will occur within a radius of one hundred yojanasaround them. The relatives of those who recite, both old and young, now and in the future, will be apart from the evil paths throughout hundreds of thousands of years. If they can recite this sutra once on each of these ten vegetarian days, then there will be no accidents or illnesses in the family, and they will have food and clothing in abundance.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, on the first, eighth, fourteenth, fifteenth, eighteenth, twenty-third, twenty-fourth, twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth days of the lunar month, the offenses of all beings are tabulated and their gravity assessed. Living beings are observed and evaluated for their karma during these ten days. All the ghosts and spirits gather to check to see how much offense someone has accrued. These ten days are when beings are being investigated. Their offenses are then collected, counted and judged to see how heavy or slight each individual’s offenses are. Sentences are given accordingly.
Every single movement or stirring of thought on the part of beings of Southern Jambudvipa creates karma and offenses. Every thought that occurs during movement or stillness is offense karma. How much more is that the case when they blatantly indulge in killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech and hundreds of thousands of other kinds of offenses. Even if you do not kill or hurt others, you create offense karma just by entertaining a thought, not to mention wantonly indulging in killing and hurting living beings. Or they do improper things such as stealing and engaging in sexual misconduct. Promiscuity is not a problem in the West; but Buddhist sutras already make it very clear that all beings habitually commit grave offenses in this area. Among all evils, sexual misconduct is the most egregious. Or they brag. We are only mentioning some offenses in brief; were we to talk about offenses in more detail, we can list millions upon millions of them.
If they are able to recite this Sutra once on those ten vegetarian days. They eat pure foods rather than meat or pungent foods. They recite the Earth Store Sutra before the images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, or worthy ones and sages, then no disasters will occur within a radius of one hundred yojanas around them. A large yojana is 80 li; a medium yojana is 60 li; and a small yojanais 40 li. The relatives of those who recite, both old and young, now and in the future, will be apart from the retribution of being in the evil paths of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals and asurasthroughout hundreds of thousands of years. If they can recite this Earth Store Sutra once on each of these ten vegetarian days, then there will be no accidents or illnesses in the family, and they will have food and clothing in abundance.
“Universally Expansive, you should know of the beneficial deeds done by Earth Store Bodhisattva as he makes use of his indescribably millions of billions of great awesome spiritual powers. The beings of Jambudvipa have strong affinities with this Bodhisattva. If they hear the Bodhisattva’s name, see the Bodhisattva’s image, or hear but a few words, a verse, or a sentence of this Sutra, they will enjoy particularly wonderful peace and happiness in this present life. Through thousands of millions of future lives, they will always be handsome or beautiful, and they will be born into honorable and wealthy families.”
Having heard the Buddha, Thus Come One, praise Earth Store Bodhisattva in that way, Universally Expansive Bodhisattva knelt, placed his palms together, and again addressed the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, I have long known that this Bodhisattva has both inconceivable spiritual powers and mighty vows. I have questioned the Thus Come One so that beings in the future could know of these benefits. I now receive your answer most respectfully. World Honored One, what should the title of this sutra be, and how should we propagate it?”
The Buddha said to Universally Expansive, “This Sutra has three titles: the first is The Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva; it is also called Earth Store’s Past Conduct; and also Sutra of the Power of Earth Store’s Past Vows. Because this Bodhisattva repeatedly makes such great and mighty vows throughout long eons to benefit beings, you should all propagate this Sutra in accordance with them.”
After Universally Expansive had heard that, he placed his palms together respectfully, made obeisance, and withdrew.
“Universally Expansive, you should know of the beneficial deeds done by Earth Store Bodhisattva as he makes use of his indescribably millions of billions of great awesome spiritual powers. Therefore, Universally Expansive, you should know that Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva has the various ineffable awesome spiritual powers numbering millions and billions like those described above. The beings of Jambudvipa have strong affinities with this Bodhisattva,the Buddha says. You see, as Chinese Buddhism comes to the United States, Earth Store Bodhisattva came too. He is with a lot of laypeople right now and helping you to cultivate. This indicates tremendous affinities not merely for the present, but strong affinities developed since many lives and many eons ago. If they hear the Bodhisattva Earth Store’s name, see the Bodhisattva Earth Store’s image, or hear but a few words. . . Listening even to these words “Earth Store Sutra” eliminates three types of delusions.
What are the three types of delusions? They are crude delusions, subtle delusions, and delusions like dust motes; they are also delusions in view, delusions in thought, and ignorance. Delusions in view are crude delusions; delusions in thought are subtle delusions; and ignorance is delusion like dust motes. You can shatter these three types of delusions, eliminating your karmic obstructions, obstructions due to retribution, and obstructions in the form of afflictions. You say, “I have been listening to the sutra for so long but I still have not eliminated any obstruction. I still have so many afflictions and a huge temper like I had before I started listening to the sutras.” With regard to obstructions in retribution, you say, “I feel that I have not eliminated any obstructions.” Your feeling indicates that you wish to eliminate them. If you did not want to, you would not even realize that you have karmic obstructions, obstructions due to retribution, and obstructions in the form of afflictions. Originally you felt that your afflictions were like your treasure and did not want to toss them. Now you feel that you have not lost them, which means you are starting to be free of afflictions. Consequently, you can eliminate your Three Obstructions, realize your Three Wisdoms: the Wisdom of Various Dharmas, All Wisdom and All Modes of Wisdom. You can certify to the Three Virtues too, which are the Virtue of the Dharma Body, the Virtue of Prajna, and the Virtue of Liberation.
Hearing just five words in this sutra, you can shatter your afflictions due to the Five Dwellings. What are the Afflictions of the Five Dwellings? They are Affliction From Dwelling in Views and Love, Affliction From Dwelling in Desire and Love, Affliction From Dwelling in Form and Love, Affliction From Dwelling in No Form and Love, and Affliction From Dwelling in Ignorance.
Loving something from seeing it and being attached to it is Affliction From Dwelling in Views and Love. Affliction From Dwelling in Desire and Love means where there is desire, there is affliction; where there is love, there is affliction. Without love, there is no hatred, which means no afflictions. No love, no hatred, and no afflictions. Affliction From Dwelling in Form and Love means attachment to objects of form. Affliction From Dwelling in No Form and Love occurs in the Formless Realm. These along with Affliction From Dwelling in Ignorance make up the Afflictions of the Five Dwellings. Encountering the Earth Store Sutra, you can eliminate the Afflictions of the Five Dwellings and transcend transmigration in the five destinies. There are actually six types of beings, but asuras are scattered among the various destinies, so we say the five destinies. This sutra can also plant and develop your Five Roots, which grow the Five Powers. The Five Roots are the roots of faith, diligence, mindfulness, Samadhi, and wisdom. The Five Powers are the powers of faith, diligence, mindfulness, Samadhi, and wisdom. These also develop the Five Aspects of the Dharma Body, which are: precepts, Samadhi, wisdom, plus liberation, and liberated knowledge and views. One can acquire the Five Aspects of the Dharma Body since one is liberated even from one’s knowledge and views.
They may transcend through one gate and enter a wonderful and adorned path by hearing the principles contained in a verse or a sentence of this Sutra. They will then acquire the perfectly bright nature that is one or the perfectly bright sea of nature. There are many principles contained herein; but I am just saying some of these terms for you. We will talk about it when we have the opportunity in time.
As a result, they will enjoy particularly wonderful peace and happiness in this present life. Through thousands of millions of future lives, they will always be handsome or beautiful.Some people do not look right. For instance, they are born with a monkey head, the face of a horse, or eyes like a rat’s. The Chinese describe someone ugly with terms like a rabbit head, snake eyes, rat ears, and eagle cheeks. Someone does not look good when they have the features of many animals on them. Now you, however, have upright features. And they will be born into honorable and wealthy families. Those who are rich and noble have virtue. People without virtue are poor and lowly because they had slandered the Triple Jewel. Those who are born in respectable and elite families are virtuous individuals.”
Having heard the Buddha, Thus Come One, praise Earth Store Bodhisattva in that way, Universally Expansive Bodhisattva knelt, placed his palms together. Some sutras say they kneel to each other. Kneeling here means genuflecting the right knee only and not the left knee. The way we kneel with both knees on the ground while we recite the sutra is not as difficult as kneeling with one knee on the ground. The Buddha allowed women to kneel with both knees on the ground but men may only genuflect with one knee. Newly ordained Bhikshus in the Sri Lankan and Burmese traditions see the more senior Bhikshus and kneel with their right knee. Novices cannot look at Bhikshus, they lower their heads, even if they are kneeling. Neither men nor women can look at elders casually. Universally Expansive put his palms together and again addressed the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, I have long known that this Bodhisattva has both inconceivable spiritual powers and mighty vows. I have questioned the Thus Come One so that beings in the future could allknow of these benefits from Earth Store King Bodhisattva. I now receive your answer most respectfully. World Honored One, what should the title of this sutra be, and how should we propagate it? How do I, Universally Expansive and other Bodhisattvas circulate and distribute thisEarth Store Sutra? We may print more of this sutra so that everyone knows about it.”
The Buddha Shakyamuni said to Universally Expansive, “This Sutra has three titles: the first isThe Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva; it is also called Earth Store’s Past Conduct; and also Sutra of the Power of Earth Store’s Past Vows. Because this Bodhisattva repeatedly makes such great and mighty vows throughout long eons to benefit beings. He wants to benefit all beings. I tell you, the way to practice the Bodhisattva path is to do whatever benefits living beings and avoid anything that harms living beings. If it is helpful, I am willing to give away even my head to someone; if it is harmful, I refuse to give away even one hair of mine. Act according to this kind of vow.You should all propagate this Sutra in accordance with them. Circulate the Earth Store Sutra according to the vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva. Circulate and distribute the Earth Store Sutra according to each of your Bodhisattva’s vows.” After Universally Expansive Bodhisattva had heard that, he placed his palms together respectfully, gazed up at Shakyamuni Buddha,respectfullymade obeisance, and withdrew to the side.
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva vowed that as long as there was still one suffering soul in hell, he would not attain buddhahood. Since there are always many souls in hell, Ksitigarbha has a lot of work to do! However, because of his great compassion, the bodhisattva still vowed to save them all. He does not want to see people being punished in hell and then committing still more crimes in their next lives. In addition to suffering souls in hell, the bodhisattva also helps living beings in other realms: humans, celestial beings, asuras, hungry ghosts, and animals and insects. He hopes that by teaching all these creatures, he will be able to stop them from committing more crimes, and thus help them to end their constant suffering.
The standing posture of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is particularly popular in Japan where he is known as Jizo Bosatsu. It represents the readiness of Jizo to respond immediately to the calls of help made by those who have faith in his saving powers. He is usually portrayed holding a lotus flower in his left hand and forming a gesture of courage with his right hand. Other well-known images show his left hand holding a precious jewel while the right hand either forms a gesture of granting wishes or holds a Buddhist staff. In these cases, the jewel symbolizes the treasure of another world. He is ever ready to force open the gates of Hell with the staff and to dispel the darkness of the infernal realm with his luminous gem. In addition, another popular depiction of him is in this standing with his left hand holding an alms bowl against his navel, while his right hand forms the mudra (hand-sign) of “giving consolation and peace to all living beings”.
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is one of the four principal bodhisattvas in Oriental Mahayana Buddhism. The others are Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, Manjusri Bodhisattva, and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. He is also known as Earth Store Bodhisattva or Ti Tsang Bodhisattva in China, Ksitigarbha in Sanskrit, and Jizo Bosatsu in Japan.
Ksitigarbha is an extremely popular Bodhisattva among the Chinese and Japanese Buddhists. ‘Ti Tsang’, meaning ‘Earth-Store’ is a direct translation of the Bodhisattva’s name KSITIGARBHA in Sanskrit. Among the countless Bodhisattvas in the universe, he and three others have firmly captured the hearts of the Mahayanists. In Japan, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, known as Jizo, or Ojizo-sama as he is respectfully known, is one of the most loved of all Japanese divinities. His statues are a common sight, especially by roadsides and in graveyards. Traditionally, he is seen as the guardian of children, particularly children who died before their parents. Since the 1980s, the tendency developed in which he was worshipped as the guardian of the souls of mizuko, the souls of stillborn, miscarried or aborted fetuses.
In some areas, the admixture of traditional religions has led to Ksitigarbha being also regarded as a Taoist deity. For example, in Taiwan, followers of Buddhism, Taoism or folk religion can be found venerating Ksitigarbha, where he is often appealed to for protection against earthquakes. There, and in Hong Kong and among Overseas Chinese communities, his images are usually found in the memorial halls of Buddhist and Taoist temples.
In one of his incarnation, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva was the ruler of a small kingdom. He and the king of a neighboring realm were good friends, as well as good and righteous kings. However, some of their citizens still committed all kinds of crimes. So one day, these two kings got together and decided to help their people. One vowed to attain buddhahood as soon as possible so that he could save these poor people. The other king vowed to save these poor people first, and then he would be willing to attain buddhahood only after all his people had done so. The latter king was the one we know today as Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.
There are two places seen as the Pure Lands of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. The one in India is called as Kharadiya Mountain which is situated near the ancient city of Gaya, ninety-six kilometers southwest of modern Patna. The other one is at Chiuhua Mountain, one of the four most famous mountains in China. It is situated in Anhui Province of eastern China. It is one of the four great Buddhist mountains of China and at one time housed more than 300 temples. Today, 95 of these are open to the public. The mountain is a popular destination for pilgrims offering dedications to Ksitigabha.
The Buddha once gave a lecture about Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva on this mountain. Just before he began to speak, all sorts of astounding things happened – clouds made fantastic formations around the mountain, and the people in the audience saw themselves decorated with flowers, jewels, and other ornaments. The radiance of the jewels shone in every direction to the Pure Lands of other buddhas. Then, the Buddha told the people why all this was happening.
A Korean monk named Chin Chao-chueh once lived there with his white dog. It is said that during the day Chin gave lectures on Buddhism to his disciples and lay followers, but at night he also taught ghosts and suffering souls in hell. Therefore, people believed that Chin was a transformation of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, and they built a temple on the mountain to commemorate him after he died. Chiuhua Mountain thus became this bodhisattva’s Pure Land in China.
Whenever you have the urge to pray to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva for any help, focus at his picture intently for a few seconds as you silently recite, “NAMO TI TSANG WANG PUSA, NAMO TI TSANG WANG PUSA” before closing your eyes to visualise him. He is very responsive to sincere prayers of faith and he may yet grant you your wish, if it is not too unselfish or unreasonable. All may pray to him with this simple invocation and, who knows, your past karmic links with him may yet make you into another ardent Ksitigarbha devotee again in this lifetime.