Why is “Most loved” Kṣitigarbha (Jizo) “Essence of Earth” Bodhisattva revered and beloved in Mahayana Buddhism as the “closest” of all the Enlightened Ones
Of all of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas — and among all the Buddhas — “the Essence of Earth Buddhasattva” Kṣitigarbha is the “closest to us” — the most beloved of the great ones. Why is this? Kṣitigarbha is not only the most “active” of the Bodhisattvas in the time between Shakyamuni Buddha — the last Buddha on Earth — and the Buddha to come, Maitreya, but he also gave four great vows to help all sentient beings. Until Maitreya’s time, we can rely on Ksitigarbha — affectionately known as Jizo or the Earth’s Essence Bodhisattva.
Why is Kṣitigarbha so revered and beloved in Buddhism? What was Ksitigarbha’s great vow to the Buddha? Why is Ksitigarbha revered as the Bodhisattva who saves those suffering in the lower realms? We’ll try to answer these questions, and more, in this special feature on the humble monk Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. What are his mantras in the different traditions?
Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva is one of the most popular and beloved Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism. This is because his great vow to save all beings from suffering resonates with so many people. Kṣitigarbha is also known as the “Bodhisattva of Compassion” because of his boundless compassion for all beings. When we recite Kṣitigarbha’s Fundamental Vow, we are reminded of our own potential to make a difference in the world and to help those who are suffering. He is also associated with rescues and averting dangers; often his mantra is chanted to help avert natural disasters (see the section below on “Natural Disasters.
- Don’t miss the entire Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Fundamental Vow Sutra of this great Bodhisattva translated to English below, along with a full Tibetan Buddhist practice to help avert disasters.
Kṣitigarbha’s great vow reminds us of the interdependent nature of all phenomena and the importance of karma — that our actions, no matter how small, can have a ripple effect throughout the universe.
Previous features on Ksitigarbha:
- Four heroic incarnations of Ksitigarbha, the “Earth Store” Bodhisattva — unfailing, never-tiring compassion>>
- See our previous feature: “Veneration Practice and Devotion According to the Ksitigarbha Sutra: Why Devotion is Not Superstition” by Eddie Sobenes>>
The 8 Great Bodhisattvas represent the 8 Great Qualities of Buddha; why we need these qualities to help heal the world>>
The 30th day of the 7th lunar month — in 2022 on Friday August 26 — is the day we celebrate the anniversary or “birthday” of the great Earth Store Bodhisattva. Of all the great Bodhisattvas, his vow is especially memorable and heroic. He vowed to remain a Bodhisattva until every single soul is emptied from the realms of suffering. His vow is found in the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Fundamental Vow Sutra — reproduced in full in English below. One of the practices recommended for The Earth Treasury Bodhisattva (variously translated as Earth Store, Earth Matrix, Earth Womb) is to recite his sutra out loud. For the formally recommended practices, see the section below.
The Great Earth Matrix Bodhisattvas names
By any name, the great Kṣitigarbha is the ultimate heroic Bodhisattva. His vow is the ultimate expression of the Bodhisattva mission — to rescue all beings from Samsara, and especially those in the lower realms.
Kṣitigarbha (Sanskrit: क्षितिगर्भ, Chinese: 地藏; pinyin: Dìzàng, or Ti Tsang P’usa; Japanese: 地蔵; rōmaji: Jizō; Korean: 지장(地藏); romaja: Jijang; Vietnamese: Địa Tạng, Standard Tibetan: ས་ཡི་སྙིང་པོ་ Wylie: sa yi snying po). His name translates as — more or less — “Earth Treasury”, “Earth Store”, “Earth Matrix”, or “Earth Womb” — or “Essence of Earth”. How do you pronounce his Sanskrit name? His name is more or less pronounced: Kashi-ti-garbha — the ṣ in Sanskrit has an aspirated s-h or sh sound while Sanskrit letters normally have a sound (K sounds like “kah”.)
Kṣiti means “earth” or “land”. Garbha is often translated as “womb”, but it can also mean “matrix”, or even “embryo”. Kṣitigarbhas name then, could translate to: the Womb of Earth, the Matrix of Earth, or the Embryo of Earth.
Ksitigarbha’s origin history
There are several origin stories of Ksitigarbha, since he had many exemplary past lives — once as a Brahmin maiden, later as a monk named Sudhana, and others — but one of the most enduring is the story of Sudhana.
The story of Ksitigarbha:
Kṣitigarbha’s story begins long ago when he was a young prince named Sudhana. Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva is sometimes also known by his former life name Sudhana (Sanskrit: सुधान; Chinese: 蘇梵; pinyin: Sūfān; Japanese: 蘇風雅 Sūfūya; Korean: 소만가 Sobanga, Vietnamese: Từ Phong Nhã). Sudhana was the only child of a wealthy family who ruled over a small kingdom in southern India. His parents were kind and loving, but sadly they both died young when Sudhana was only ten years old. As the sole heir to the throne, Sudhana became king at such a young age.
Sudhana was a wise and compassionate ruler, but he could not help feeling sad and lonely without his parents. One day, Sudhana met a holy man who told him about the sufferings of beings in the lower realms. The thought of all those beings suffering so much filled Sudhana with compassion. He decided then and there to give up his kingdom and become a monk to help alleviate the sufferings of all beings.
Sudhana became a monk and took the name Kṣitigarbha, which means “Womb of Earth” or “Matrix of Earth”. Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva is often depicted holding a jeweled staff. This staff represents his great vow to never rest until all beings are free from suffering. Kṣitigarbha has vowed to go to hell to save all beings who are suffering there. For this reason, he is known as the “Bodhisattva of Hell.”
Kṣitigarbha’s great vow
“If, when I attain Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, the Buddhas of the three periods of time have not appeared in the world, and if sentient beings in the Ten Directions have not yet been liberated, then may I not attain Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi.
“O good man! If there are beings in Avīci who have not yet been liberated, then may I go there to liberate them. O good man! If there are beings in other places who have not yet been liberated, then may I also go there to liberate them.
“O good man! If there are beings in the six destinies who have not yet been liberated, then may I also go there to liberate them. O good man! If there are beings in the Asura realm who have not yet been liberated, then may I also go there to liberate them.”
— Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Fundamental Vow Sutra
Kṣitigarbha is often shown holding a jeweled staff and a lotus flower. The staff represents his great vow to never rest until all beings are free from suffering. The lotus flower represents his pure heart and his ability to rise above the sufferings of the world. Kṣitigarbha is sometimes shown with a black body because he has vowed to go to hell to save all beings who are suffering there. For this reason, Kṣitigarbha is known as the “Bodhisattva of Hell.”
Kṣitigarbha is also known as the “Bodhisattva of Children.” This is because he is believed to protect children from harm. He is also thought to guide children who have died before their parents to the Pure Land. In Japan, Kṣitigarbha is very popular and is often depicted as Jizō Bosatsu (地蔵菩薩), or Dizang Pusa in Chinese. Jizō is a shortened form of Kṣitigarbha’s Japanese name, Jizō Bosatsu.
One version of Ksitigarbha’s mantra (see section below) — Grandmaster JinBodhi chanted The Earth Store Bodhisattva’s Heart Mantra: “Om, hahaha, vismaye, svaha.” :
Ksitigarbha and “averting dangers”
In Tibetan Buddhism, Ksitigarbha is also associated with “averting dangers” including natural disasters. Recently, Lama Zopa Rinpoche recommended to a student to practice Ksitigarbha practice (short practice below) to help avert a dangerous huricane’s devastation for Florida:
“The National Weather Bureau had issued warnings that the hurricane was going to hit Key West, Florida, and the predictions were that it would travel straight up the coast of Florida, hitting all of the cities on the west coast and throughout the middle of Florida.
“I requested your help for the many sentient beings in Florida…
“I did as you instructed, and several times each day I did the practices. I knew, all along, that what I was doing would be of little help to Florida, but what you were doing would save Florida.
“The next day, the path of the hurricane took a 90-degree turn out to sea and completely missed Florida. I continued doing the practice just in case that it decided to come back. The path of the hurricane continued out to sea and finally came on shore in the Louisiana area of the gulf, with a lot less damage than if it had come up the west coast of Florida.
“It was very clear to me that what you had done was to save many sentient beings that were in the path of this bad hurricane. Thank you very much for saving Florida.”
Ksitigarbha’s monk form
Ksitigarbha usually appears as a monk with an iconic staff in a standing or walking posture — as he never rests from his endless mission to save the suffering beings of Samsara.
Ksitigarbha staff symbolizes his connection to the earth and it is also the implement he uses to pound open the gates of Hell. In this form, he carries his tear-shaped cintamani (“wish-fulfilling”) pearl for illuminating all the various realms of hell, to benefit sentient beings trapped there. Sometimes, especially in China, he wears the crown of a Bodhisattva as well.
Video: Benefits of Seeing and Hearing ‘Earth Store Bodhisattva’:
Many mantras of Ksitigarbha
Generally, in Chinese Buddhism and Japanese Shingon Buddhism, the mantra of Kṣitigarbha is chanted from the “Treasury of Mantras” section of the Mahavairocana Tantra:
Namaḥ samantabuddhānāṃ, ha ha ha, sutanu svāhā
There are many other mantras of Ksitigarbha, including:
Mantra of Eliminating Fixed Karma
ॐ प्रमर्दने स्वाहा – Oṃ pramardane svāhā
In Chinese, this mantra is called miè dìngyè zhēnyán in pinyin (灭定业真言; 滅定業真言). It reads:
嗡钵啰末邻陀宁娑婆诃; 嗡鉢囉末鄰陀寧娑婆訶; Ōng bō là mò lín tuó níng suō pó hē
In Chinese Buddhism, the following mantra is associated with Kṣitigarbha:
南无地藏王菩萨; 南無地藏王菩薩; Ná mó Dìzàng wáng pú sà
In Korean Buddhism, the following mantra is associated with Kṣitigarbha:
Namo Jijang Bosal
In Tibetan Buddhism, the following mantra is associated with Kṣitigarbha:
Oṃ kṣitigarbha bodhisattva yaḥ ༀ་ཀྵི་ཏི་གརྦྷ་བོ་དྷི་ས་ཏྭ་ཡཿ
In Shingon Buddhism, a mantra used in public religious services is:
On kakaka bisanmaei sowaka オン カカカ ビサンマエイ ソワカ
ॐ ह ह ह विस्मये स्वाहा Oṃ ha ha ha vismaye svāhā
Om! Ha ha ha! O wondrous one! svāhā!
嗡，哈哈哈，温三摩地梭哈; 嗡，哈哈哈，溫三摩地梭哈; Ōng hā hā hā wēn sān mó dì suō hā
Tibetan form ས་ཡི་སྙིང་པོ་ sa yi snying po
Ksitigarbha may appear more as a princely Bodhisattva — rather than the monk form — in Tibetan visualizations:
“Kshitigarbha is yellow with a yellow upper garment. He has peaceful eyes. On the side of Ksitigarbha, there is red a headdress garland of blue flowers. The right-hand holds fruit and the left a jewel above a lotus.” 
Two of the forms in Tibetan Buddhism are described on the Himalayan Art collection site:
- “…Kshitigarbha is yellow with a yellow upper garment, peaceful eyes, red at the sides, [and] a headdress garland of blue flowers. The right hand holds a fruit and the left a jewel above a lotus [flower].” (Jonang Taranata, yi dam rgya mtsho’i sgrub thabs rin chen ‘byung gnas, folio 506-507).
- “…Arya Kshitigarbha, white in colour, with one face, peaceful in appearance. With two hands the right holds to the heart a precious seed. The left [hand holds] a bell turned up [at the waist], resplendent and seated in a relaxed posture.” (Loter Wangpo, sgrub thabs kun tus, volume 11, folio 71).
- Don’t miss the full practice recommended by Lama Zopa below.
Formally recommended practices on Ksitigarbha’s birthday
As always, it is recommended to make offerings with a sincere and dedicated heart, and to meditate on Ksitigarbha’s magnificent vow.
According to Dharma Drum Mountain’s global site, in answer to the question “How do Buddhist monasteries celebrate Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva’s Birthday? According to the 3rd chapter of Record of the Verified Meaning of the Pure Standards of Pai-chang, during the morning service on July 30th of the lunar calendar, monastics
- Prostrated on each recitation of Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva’s name for 12 times while circumambulating the Buddha status
- Recited the chapter of The Benefits Derived from Seeing and Hearing of The Fundamental Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra
- Chanted Mantra to Loosen the Knots of Oppression “an san tuo la, qie tuo suo po he” for 108 times
- And finally, recited Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Verses
“In addition, monasteries held Earth Store Food Service. This was a tradition used to worship Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva with vegetarian meals, lectures, and praises. Later, Earth Store Food Service was replaced by Earth Store Sutra Chanting Service in China, but remains popular in Japan and is still held in temples there.
In Taiwan, Buddhist monasteries hold Earth Store Sutra Chanting Service and Earth Store Repentance Service in July of the Lunar calendar and some of these events can last up to 49 days. Through these assemblies, practitioners recite The Fundamental Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra to repay kindness with offerings to their parents to pray for the sentient beings in the realm of animals, hungry ghost, hell can be relieved of their suffering.” 
Ksitigarbha Practice recommended by Lama Zopa Rinpoche
It is good to recite daily the Sutra Prayer [after the mantra] praised by Buddha to Ksitigarbha and the Prayer that I have added [below]. Sometimes you may recite the long praise to Ksitigarbha explained by Buddha [yet to be translated into English] along with the Prayer, if you can.
I prostate, go for Refuge, make offerings, please grant blessings. The Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, who has unbearable compassion for me and all sentient beings (whose minds are obscure and who are suffering), who has qualities like the sky and liberates sentient beings from all the sufferings and gives all the happiness. (Recite three times.)
With hands folded in prostration, you can visualize doing the prostrations to all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas; the saying of the word “prostration” becomes prostration. When you say the word “Refuge,” think that you are asking to be free from the two obscurations (to be able to achieve enlightenment). When you say the word “offering,” you think that all the offerings that you have are then offered. When you ask for blessings, you think in your mind that the whole path to enlightenment is the blessing to be received.
This is the mantra that Ksitigarbha heard from Buddhas equaling the number of sand grains of the river Ganga. He made offerings to them and then received this mantra. (This is the story of the mantra, to receive all of the benefits.) This mantra is to be used for any difficulties, problems; it is the best one to do for any problems in any situation. Even reciting four or five times, just a few times, it is very powerful. It is powerful to recite or just to think of the name of the Bodhisattva. It is very, very powerful. (The extensive benefits of this mantra will be translated.)
CHHIM BHO CHHIM BHO CHIM CHHIM BHO / AKASHA CHHIM BHO / VAKARA CHHIM BHO / AMAVARA CHHIM BHO / VARA CHHIM BHO / VACHIRA CHHIM BHO / AROGA CHHIM BHO / DHARMA CHHIM BHO / SATEVA CHHIM BHO / SATENI HALA CHHIM BHO / VIVA ROKA SHAVA CHHIM BHO / UVA SHAMA CHHIM BHO / NAYANA CHHIM BHO / PRAJÑA SAMA MONI RATNA CHHIM BHO / KSHANA CHHIM BHO / VISHEMA VARIYA CHHIM BHO / SHASI TALA MAVA CHHIM BHO / VI AH DRASO TAMA HELE / DAM VE YAM VE / CHAKRASE / CHAKRA VASILE / KSHILI PHILE KARAVA / VARA VARITE / HASERE PRARAVE / PARECHARA BHANDHANE / ARADANE / PHANARA / CHA CHI CHA CHA / HILE MILE AKHATA THAGEKHE / THAGAKHI LO / THHARE THHARE MILE MADHE / NANTE KULE MILE / ANG KU CHITABHE / ARAI GYIRE VARA GYIRE / KUTA SHAMAMALE /TONAGYE TONAGYE / TONAGULE / HURU HURU HURU / KULO STO MILE / MORITO / MIRITA / BHANDHATA / KARA KHAM REM / HURU HURU
OM AH KSHITI GARBHA THALENG HUM
PRAISE BY BUDDHA TO KSITIGARBHA
You have generated stability of thought and pure thought [altruism/bodhicitta] and eliminated the sufferings of immeasurable sentient being. I see [sentient beings] receiving happiness like the wish-granting jewel, and like the vajra you cut the nets of doubt [of others]. You offer the Destroyer, Qualified-Gone-Beyond-Ones holy offerings with great compassionate thought and perseverances. You liberate the sentient beings from the sufferings with oceans of wisdom. Because you have no fear [delusions], you have gone beyond samsara.
This is especially beneficial for those who have heavy problems, serious healthy problems, big projects or financial difficulties. I will suggest that it is extremely powerful to recite every day, at least four or five times or more, depending on how crucial [the problem] is; also, for protection. Even to grow crops well and to protect land and crops. It explains in the Sutra the extensive benefits and qualities, like the sky, of the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha; like skies of benefit to all beings. There have been experiences, similar benefits received by those who practice Ksitigarbha.
This practice was translated, compiled and checked by Lama Zopa Rinpoche and dictated to Ven. Thubten Nyingje on June 30, 1998 in Madison, Wisconsin, and was revised April 5, 1999 in Aptos, California.
The Tibetan version of the Sutra of Ksitigarbha has yet to be translated.
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Fundamental Vow Sutra
Chapter 1: Display of Divine Power in the Palace of the Trayastrimsas Heaven
Thus have I heard. Once [Shakyamuni] Buddha was in [the Palace of] Trayastrimsas Heaven to give a Dharma sermon for his mother.
At that time, all of the innumerable Buddhas and great Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas came from countless worlds of the Ten Directions and assembled there [to receive the sermon]. All of them praised Shakyamuni Buddha for manifesting the power of great wisdom in a world polluted by the five defilements. [They praised him] for taming the hearts of stubborn sentient beings, enabling them to leave suffering and through the Buddha-Dharma, attain true happiness (Enlightenment). All of them sent their attendants to pay respect to the World Honored One.
At that time, the Tathagata smiled and radiated trillions of great bright lights, which like clouds manifested into innumerable forms. Among these were the bright light of great perfection, great mercy and compassion, supreme wisdom, great Prajna, great Samadhi, great Srivatsa, great blissful virtues, great meritorious virtues, great refuge, and great praise.
After radiating these inexpressible bright lights, the Tathagata released all kinds of subtle and wondrous sounds. Among these were the sound of the Dana-Paramita (Alms Giving Paramita), Sila-Paramita (Moral Precepts Paramita), Ksanti-Paramita (Perfect Patience Paramita), Virya-Paramita (Diligence Paramita), Dhyana-Paramita (Meditation Paramita), Prajna-Paramita (Wisdom Paramita), Mercy and Compassion, Rejoicing and Abandonment, Deliverance, Non-Outflow (refers to “non-outflow” of thoughts and other actions), Wisdom, Great Wisdom, Lion’s Roar, Great Lion’s Roar; the sound of the Tathagata’s voice echoing like thunder, and echoing like Great Thunder [audible to all worlds of the Ten Directions].
[The release of these innumerable bright lights and various kinds of subtle and wondrous sounds summoned] countless millions of the eight classes of supernatural beings from the Saha world and other lands to assemble in the Palace of Trayastrimsas Heaven. They came from the Four Directional Devarajas Heavens, Trayastrimsas, Suyama, Tusita, Nirmanarati, Paranirmitavasavarti, Brahmakayika, Brahmapurohita, Mahabrahma (Great Pure Heaven), Parittabhas (Minor Light Heaven), Apramanabha (Infinite-Light Heaven), Abhasvara (Light-Sound Heaven), Parittasubhas (Minor-Purity Heaven), Apramanasubhas (Infinite-Purity Heaven), Subhakirtsna (Universal-Pure Heaven), Punyaprasavas (Blissful-Birth Heaven), Blissful Love Heaven, Brhatphala (Broad-Fruition Heaven), Asanjnisattva (No-Thought Heaven), Avrha (No-Trouble Heaven), Atapa (No-Heat Heaven), Sudarsana (Beautiful Heaven), Sudrsa (Well-Appearing Heaven), Akanistha (End of Form Heaven), Mahamahesvara and the Naivasamjnanasamjnayatana (Neither-Thinking-Nor-Not-Thinking Heaven). All the multitudes of the eight classes of supernatural beings came to assemble [in the Palace of Trayastrimsas Heaven].
Also, deities from other lands and the Saha world came to the gathering, such as the deities of the seas, rivers, trees, mountains, earth, lakes, crops, day, night, space, sky, food, and vegetations. All these and other deities assembled there. There also came from other lands and the Saha world such great ghost kings as the Evil-Eye Ghost King, Blood Drinking Ghost King, Vital-Energy Consuming Ghost King, Ova-fetus Devouring Ghost King, Disease-Spreading Ghost King, Poisons-Halting Ghost King, Compassionate Ghost King, Blessing-Bestowing Ghost King, and Great Love-Respect Bestowing Ghost King. These and other ghost kings also came to assemble.
At that time, Shakyamuni Buddha said to the future Dharma King, Manjushri Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, “Look onto all these Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and eight classes of supernatural beings gathering here at Trayastrimsas from various worlds. Do you know how many of them are here?”
Manjushri replied, “World Honored One, [even] if I use my divine power, I cannot determine the number after thousands of kalpas.”
The Buddha said to Manjushri, “Observing with my Buddha Eye, I also cannot determine the number. [Together], they represent all those beings in these countless kalpas who had been delivered, who are to be delivered, and who are yet to be delivered by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva; and those who had already attained Enlightenment, who are about to attain Enlightenment, and who have yet attained Enlightenment [through the help of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva].”
Manjushri said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, in the past, I have long cultivated virtuous practices and have achieved Unobstructed Wisdom. Upon hearing the Buddha’s truthful words, I immediately believe and accept. However, the beings of the lesser vehicles, eight classes of supernatural beings, as well as sentient beings of the future generations will certainly have doubts. Although they heard the Tathagata’s truthful statement and respectfully accepted it, there would unavoidably arise some slandering. I only hope that the World Honored One will elaborate on what Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva did in the `Causal Grounds’ and what vows did he take, so that he is able to accomplish such inconceivable deeds.”
The Buddha said to Manjushri, “As an analogy, imagine if every grass blade, tree, bush, straw, hemp, bamboo, reed, mountain, stone, dust and every object of three trillion worlds are each a separate Ganges River. Then imagine that each grain of sand of these countless Ganges Rivers represents a world. Additionally, every speck of dust from each and every one of these worlds represents a kalpa. Then convert every speck of dust that accumulates in these worlds in one kalpa time to kalpas. The time since Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva had achieved the Tenth Level of Bodhisattva-hood (highest level Bodhisattva) is thousands of times longer than [the sum of all of the kalpas in] the previous analogy. This is not mentioning the length of time Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva spent in Sravaka-hood and Pratyeka-Buddhahood. Manjushri, this Bodhisattva’s majestic, solemn vow is, indeed, inconceivable!”
“In the future, there may be virtuous men or women who after hearing this Bodhisattva’s name, say praises, pay homage, recite his name, make offerings, or even paint, carve or mold his images. They will have hundreds of consecutive rebirths into the thirty-three heavens and will never fall into the suffering realms (hell, hungry ghosts, animals).”
“Manjushri, an inexpressible numbers of kalpas ago, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva was an old sage. At that time, there was a Buddha bearing the title of Mighty Lion Myriad Deeds All Accomplished Tathagata. The sage encountered the Tathagata and saw this Buddha’s majestic form. Seeing the Buddha’s body was adorned with thousands of blessings, the sage asked this Buddha what virtuous deeds had [this Buddha] performed and what vows had [this Buddha] taken to attain such dignified form.”
“The Mighty Lion Myriad Deeds All Accomplished Tathagata told the sage, `If you want to attain this form, you must rescue all suffering sentient beings for long and extended time.'”
“Manjushri, at that time, the sage vowed, `From now to incalculable kalpas in the future, I will provide extensive expedient means of deliverance to all of the sinful and suffering beings in the six realms of samsara, leading all of them to liberation. Then, I, myself, will realize Buddhahood.’ He took such a great vow in front of that Buddha, and even now, after trillions of inexpressible numbers of kalpas, he still remains a Bodhisattva.”
“Moreover, in the past, an inconceivable asankhyeya numbers of kalpas ago, there was a Buddha bearing the title of Awakened By Flower Meditation Self-Mastery King Tathagata. That Buddha’s life span was four hundred thousand trillion asankhyeya kalpas.”
“During the Semblance Dharma Era of that time, there was a holy Brahman woman. She was profoundly blessed because of the enormous amount of virtuous deeds she performed in her previous lives. Admired and respected by the people, she was also protected by the devas at all times and places. However, her mother had deviant beliefs and would often disrespect the Three Jewels. At the time, the Brahman woman tried many expedient means to persuade and lead her mother to adopt righteous views. Yet, the mother did not completely change her ways. Soon thereafter, the mother passed away, and her soul fell into Avici (Uninterrupted) Hell.”
“The Brahman woman knew that her mother did not believe in the laws of causation [and therefore committed many sins] and would inevitably be reborn into the realms of suffering in accordance to her mother’s karmic sins. [To relieve her mother of this suffering], she sold off her home to purchase vast amounts of incense, flowers and other offering items. She made great offerings to the stupa and temple of the Buddha of that era. [The Brahman woman] saw in a temple the image of the Awakened By Flower Meditation Self-Mastery King Tathagata. The painted statue showed the Tathagata in his magnificent form with perfect dignity. Bowing and admiring this magnificent statue, the Brahman woman was inspired with greater reverence. She whispered to herself: `The Buddha is called the Great Enlightened One, possessing all wisdom. If He were in this world, I would come to Him and inquire about my mother’s whereabouts. He surely would tell me of my mother’s place of rebirth.’ She wept quietly for a long time while piously gazing at the Tathagata.”
“Suddenly she heard a voice from the sky, saying, `Crying holy woman, restrain your sorrow, for I shall reveal your mother’s whereabouts.'”
“The Brahman woman faced skyward with her palms joined and replied, `May I ask who is the holy Virtuous Being? Who is the one to relieve me of my worries? Since losing my mother, she has been in my thoughts constantly both day and night. Yet, there is no place for me to go to find out my mother’s place of rebirth.'”
“The voice from above responded again, saying, `I am the one whom you are worshiping, the Awakened By Flower Meditation Self-Mastery King Tathagata. Seeing that you [had performed numerous virtuous deeds in your previous lives and your current life, and] cherish your mother much more than ordinary beings, I have come to inform you of her place of rebirth.'”
“Upon hearing this, the Brahman woman prostrated herself abruptly onto the ground [to show her gratitude]. She was badly injured and her attendants came to hold her steady for quite a long time as she slowly regained consciousness. She then addressed the sky again, saying, `May the Buddha, in his mercy and compassion, quickly tell me of my mother’s whereabouts, for I feel that my heart and physical body are about to die!'”
“The Awakened By Flower Meditation Self-Mastery King Tathagata replied, `After having completed your offerings, go directly home. Sit reverently and contemplate my title; then you will know your mother’s whereabouts.'”
“The Brahman woman returned to her residence after completing the offerings. Wishing to find out her mother’s whereabouts, she reposed herself in seated meditation and contemplated the title of Awakened By Flower Meditation Self-Mastery King Tathagata.”
“After one day and night [of contemplation, her mind was in a deep meditative state]. She saw herself being transported to the shore of a boiling sea. On that sea, there were many beasts with bodies made of iron, flying over or running upon it, and chasing [people] in all directions. She saw men and women, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, struggling to stay afloat [in that sea].”
“[She saw] the iron beasts competed with each other to snatch up and devour these men and women. There were also yaksas in various forms, some with many arms and numerous eyes, others with many legs and multiple heads, all with teeth as sharp as swords protruding from their mouths. These yaksas chased and herded both men and women into [the claws of] the iron beasts, which seized and snapped at these men and women by either their heads or feet. The various [ensuing gruesome dismemberments] were too horrible and frightening to be looked upon. Yet, the Brahman woman felt no fear in her heart because of the strength generated by her mindfulness of the Buddha.”
“Then, a ghost king named No Poison (Vandana) came and prostrated himself before her. He greeted her, inquiring, `Bodhisattva, for what reason did you come here?'”
“The Brahman woman replied by inquiring the ghost king, `What is this place?'”
“Vandana answered, `This is the first great sea to the west of the Great Cakravada Mountain.'”
“Then, the holy woman asked, `I have heard that hells are in the midst of the Cakravada. Is this true?'”
“Vandana replied, `It is true and hells do exist.'”
“The holy woman asked, `How did I arrive at this place of hell?'”
“Vandana replied, `If not by the use of the divine power, then it must be caused by karmic forces. Other than these two forces, there is no other way to gain entrance [into hell].'”
“The Brahman woman asked again, `What causes this seawater to rise and boil? And why are there so many suffering people and fierce beasts here?'”
“Vandana replied, `Those suffering people are the newly deceased beings from Jambudvipa, who committed evil deeds. For the period of forty-nine days after their deaths, none of their relatives performed virtuous acts on their behalf to ease and deliver them from their suffering. Since they did not perform many virtuous deeds while alive, their negative karma is guiding them into the various hells. Consequently, they must first pass through this Great Sea. One Hundred thousands yojanas to the east of this Great Sea, there is another Great Sea. The suffering in that Great Sea are twice of the suffering here. To the east of that second Great Sea there is yet another Great Sea, where the suffering is doubled yet again. These suffering is the result of the negative karma arisen from these people’ negative speeches, actions and thoughts; and these seas are known collectively as the Karmic Seas.'”
“The holy woman also asked Ghost King Vandana, `Where are these hells?'”
“Vandana replied, `All hells are within these three seas, and they number in the hundreds of thousands. Each one is different from the others. There are eighteen great hells . Then, there are five hundred secondary ones, and within each there is boundless suffering. Additionally, there are hundreds of thousands of hells in the next category, and within each is also immeasurable suffering.'”
“The Brahman woman asked the great ghost king, `My mother died recently. Do you know the whereabouts of her spirit?'”
“The ghost king asked her, `What malicious acts did your mother commit in her lifetime?'”
“The holy woman replied, `My mother held deviant views and slandered the Three Jewels. Sometimes, she half-heartedly believed in the Dharma but then would reject it again. Though she died recently, I do not know her whereabouts.'”
“Vandana asked, `What was your mother’s name?'”
“The holy woman replied, `Both my father and mother were Brahmans. My father’s name was Silo Sardrsa; my mother’s name was Yue Di Li.'”
“Vandana joined his palms and addressed the holy woman, saying, `I wish that you would return to your proper realm without concern, remembrance or sorrow. It has been three days since the sinner, Yue Di Li, ascended to heaven. It is said that her ascension was the result of her dutiful daughter’s offerings, on her behalf, to Awakened By Flower Meditation Self-Mastery King Tathagata’s stupa and temple. Not only was the Bodhisattva’s mother able to leave hell, on that day, all the sinners in Avici Hell with her also benefited and were reborn with her into heaven.'”
“Having said this, the ghost king withdrew with his palms joined. Then, the Brahman woman awoke as if it was a dream and realized this matter had come to a close. [Afterward], in front of the stupa and image of the Awakened By Flower Meditation Self-Mastery King Tathagata, the Brahman woman vowed: `Through all of the future kalpas, for the sake of all suffering sentient beings, I shall provide extensive expedient means for their deliverance and liberation.'”
The Buddha then told Manjushri, “That ghost king, who was named Vandana at that time, is now Foremost in Wealth Bodhisattva, and the Brahman woman is now Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.”
Chapter 2: The Assembly of Innumerable Emanations of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
At that time, from the hells of all of the unthinkable, immeasurable, inexpressible asankhyeya numbers of worlds, all of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s manifestations came to assemble in the Trayastrimsas Palace. Through the Tathagata’s divine power, each emanation was accompanied by trillions of liberated beings who all brought offerings of incense and flowers for [Shakyamuni] Buddha. These companions all had been liberated from the karmic paths. Transformed by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s instructions, they will never regress from [the path of] Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. All of them had, for extended numbers of kalpas, wandered through the cycles of life and death, suffering in the six realms of samsara without a moment of rest. It was the great mercy, compassion and profound vow of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva that enabled them to attain fruitions [in the Buddha-dharma]. Having arrived at the Trayastrimsas Palace, their hearts were full of joy. They looked upon the Tathagata with great admiration and were unwilling to blink their eyes even once.
At that time, the World Honored One reached out his golden-colored arm and simultaneously touched the heads of all of the countless manifestations of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva from all the unthinkable, immeasurable, and inexpressible asankhyeya numbers of worlds.
Then, the Buddha told Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, “In the world polluted by the five kinds of defilements, I have transformed such stubborn sentient beings through my instructions. [My teachings] enabled them to tame their hearts. [My teachings] enabled them to forsake their deviant views and return to the righteous paths. However, for every ten beings, there is still one or two whose evil habits remained. I also have manifested trillions of emanations to provide extensive expedient means [for their deliverance and liberation]. There were some with strong virtuous foundations who would immediately believe and accept [the righteous path] upon hearing [the Dharma]. There were others with virtuous fruitions who would, after some diligent persuasion, achieve the [same] accomplishment [as those with virtuous foundations]. Then, there were those with dull vessels, who would be awakened only after long periods of instructions. Finally, there were still others with heavy karma whose hearts would not even muster respect.”
“For these various sentient beings, each is different from the others [in temperaments, abilities, etc.]. [I have generated numerous] emanations to deliver and liberate them. [In accordance to their capacities], I manifested in the forms of men, women, eight classes of supernatural beings, mountains, rivers, plains, streams, ponds, springs or wells. These forms were the ones that would have benefited those being rescued the most facilitating their deliverance and liberation. [There were times], I manifested myself in the forms of devarajas, brahmarajas or chakravartins; in the form of laities, kings, or ministers; in the form of bhikkhus, a bhikkhunis, upasakas or upasikas; or even in the forms of Sravakas, Arahats, Pratyeka-Buddhas or Bodhisattvas in order to accomplish the conversion and deliverance of these sentient beings. This form of the Buddha is not the only form I have manifested before them.”
“Observe my diligence in this difficult task, for many kalpas, of delivering and liberating such stubborn, sinful and suffering beings. Those beings, whose hearts are not yet tamed, will be guided by their negative karma to the ill fruitions [of their negative actions]. If they fall into the suffering realms experiencing great suffering, remember my instruction to you. Here, in the Trayastrimsas Palace, I earnestly entrust in you [the responsibility for] the deliverance of all sentient beings from now to the advent of Maitreya. [Deliver them] so they will forever leave suffering. [Deliver them] so they shall all meet Buddhas and receive prophecies predicting that they shall become Buddhas themselves.”
At that time, all the separate emanations of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva from all the countless worlds merged into one form. [Deeply moved by the incredible responsibility entrusted to him], shedding tears of compassion, he addressed the Buddha, saying, “For many kalpas, I have received guidance from many Buddhas which allowed me to attain inconceivable divine powers and great wisdom. My emanations cover all worlds, as numerous as all the sands of trillions of Ganges Rivers. In each one of these worlds, I manifest trillions of emanations. Every emanation delivers trillions of beings enabling them to seek refuge in the Three Jewels, forever leaving the cycle of life and death, and delivering [them] until [they] attain the joy of nirvana. If they have performed any virtuous deed in the Buddha-dharma – even if it is as small as a strand of hair, a droplet of water, a grain of sand, a speck of dust or even a bit of hair – I shall gradually deliver and liberate them, enabling them to attain great benefits. I only hope that the World Honored One does not worry about [the deliverance of] those beings of future generations with negative karma.”
He stated this twice more to the Buddha, saying, “I only hope that the World Honored One does not worry about [the deliverance of] those beings of future generations with negative karma.” At that time, the Buddha praised Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, saying, “Excellent, excellent! I shall help you to rejoice. You will be able to fulfill the great vows you took in all these kalpas. The universal deliverance will be soon completed and you shall finally achieve Buddhahood.”
Chapter 3: Contemplation of Karmic Fruitions of Sentient Beings’ Malicious Actions
At that time, Lady Maya, [Shakyamuni] Buddha’s mother, with her palms joined, respectfully asked Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, “Holy One, will you elaborate on the [fruitions of] sentient beings’ various malicious actions in Jambudvipa?”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva replied, “There are [millions upon] millions of worlds and lands–within some there are hells and within others there are not. Within some there are women and within others there are not. Within some there is Buddha-dharma and within others there is not. Likewise, this applies to the presence or absence of Sravakas and Pratyeka-Buddhas in the various worlds. Thus, karmic retributions do not occur in hells alone.”
Lady Maya restated her question, “I wish to hear about the hells that arise from the malicious actions [of sentient beings] in Jambudvipa.”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva replied, “Holy Mother, since that is your wish, I shall briefly address this subject.”
The Buddha’s mother said, “Please do, Holy One.”
At that time, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva said to the Holy Mother, “In Jambudvipa, the karmic retributions for various malicious actions are as follows: If there are beings who disregard their filial duties toward their parents and even harm or kill them, those who do so shall fall into Avici Hell. Even after trillion of kalpas, there is still without a date for their release. If there are beings who sheds the blood of a Buddha, slander the Three Jewels or disrespect the sutras, those who do so also shall fall into Avici Hell. Even after trillion of kalpas, there is still without a date for their release. If there are beings who infringe upon or steal Buddhist organizations’ properties, slander monks or nuns, indulge in carnal lust or harm or kill within a sangharama (monastery), those who do so shall fall into Avici Hell. Even after trillion of kalpas, there is still without a date for their release. There may be beings who pretend to be monks/nuns by taking the monastic vows, but in their hearts do not uphold these vows. Then using their positions, they abuse the monastery and its related properties, cheat the laity [by taking their offerings to true monks/nuns], violate the precepts or commits various other sins. Those who do so shall fall into Avici Hell. Even after trillions of kalpas, there is still without a date for their release. If there are beings who steal any property from Buddhist establishments — whether it is money or food or fabrics — or take any kind of article whatsoever without permission, those who do so shall fall into Avici Hell. Even after trillions of kalpas, there is still without a date for their release.”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva said, “Holy Mother, if there are beings who committed these aforementioned sins, they shall fall into the fivefold Avici Hell, where they cannot receive a moment of reprieve from their ceaseless sufferings.”
Lady Maya addressed Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva again, asking, “[For the sake of all that are present and those in the future], what is this hell known as Avici?”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva replied, “Holy Mother, the various hells are situated inside the Great Cakravada Mountains. Of grand hells, there are eighteen. Also, there are five hundred major hells all with different names. Then, there are hundreds of thousands of hells of a lesser category, all with different names as well. Among all these hells, there is one known as Avici. As for Avici Hell, it is in an iron fortress. This iron fortress’s walls encircle more than twenty-six thousand four hundred miles and are three thousand three hundred miles high. Made entirely out of iron, there are fierce flames everywhere on top of these walls. Within this iron fortress, there are many hells which are all inter-connected and all with different names. Only one of these hells is known as Avici. The walls of this [Avici] Hell encircle five thousand nine hundred forty miles and is three hundred thirty miles high. It is also completely made of iron, and fierce flames shoot out of these walls. The flames from the top of the walls shoot down, covering the walls entirely from top to bottom. Also, the flames from the bottom shoots up, covering the walls entirely from bottom to top. Then, there are iron snakes and iron dogs that breath out fire and run along these walls.”
“Within this hell, there is a torture rack. This rack is so large that it covers three thousand three hundred miles. When the rack is used on only one sinner, this sinner will see his body being stretched out to cover the entire rack. When tens of million of beings are punished together, each will only see his body being stretched out to cover the entire rack. Such is the karmic retributions for their malicious deeds.”
“Furthermore, these sinful beings experience other sufferings. There are hundreds of thousands of yaksas and other wicked demons with sword-like teeth and eyes [that seem] like [it shoot out] lightning flashes. There are those yaksas who have hands like bronze claws dragging sinners on the floor of hells. Then, there are yaksas who thrust great spears into the sinners’ bodies, mouths, noses, abdomens or backs. [Then, using the spears impaled in the sinners’ bodies, these yaksas] hurl sinners up into the air, or hurl sinners onto torture racks. Additionally, there are iron hawks that peck at these sinners’ eyes. Then, there are iron serpents that strangle these sinners by constricting their necks. [Other punishment includes] hundreds of long nails being driven into sinners’ various limbs and joints; their tongues are pulled out and plowed; their intestines are ripped out and chopped to pieces; molten bronze are poured into sinners’ mouths; white-hot iron [bars] are coiled around their bodies. These sinners die [from these punishments] countless thousands of times only to be brought back to life to suffer again. These are the karmic retributions [for their evil acts]. Even after millions of kalpas, there is still not a definite date for their release.”
“When the hell realm disintegrates along with this world [from decays], these sinners will be transported to the hells of another world. When that other world disintegrates as well, they will be transported to yet another world’s hells. This transportation will continue until the world from which they originated reforms [along with its hells]. Then, they will be returned to the hells of their original world [to serve out their sentences]. Such is the karmic retributions in Avici Hell.”
“Furthermore, this hell is known as Avici (uninterrupted) because of five karmic retributions. What are these five?”
“Firstly, the suffering occurs both day and night, kalpa after kalpa without any moment of stoppage (the time of suffering is uninterrupted). Hence, it is called Avici. ”
“Secondly, one person fills it completely, and many people also fill it completely (uninterrupted by forms). Hence, it is called Avici.”
“Thirdly, implements of punishment includes forks, clubs, hawks, snakes, jackals, and dogs. [The bodies of the sinners] are milled, grinded, sawed, drilled, filed, and chopped. [They are] thrown in boiling pots, wrapped in iron nets and ropes [embedded with countless needles which pierce their bodies], and iron mules and horses [which stomp sinners into bits]. The sinners’ bodies are skinned, and the skins are wrapped on their heads, molten iron is poured onto their bodies. When hungry, they are fed iron balls. When thirsty, they are fed molten iron. This continues for year after year and kalpa after kalpa until countless kalpas have passed. These punishments are linked and the sufferings are uninterrupted, hence it is called Avici.”
“Fourthly, regardless whether they are males or females, regardless of their race, regardless whether they are young or old, rich or poor, nagas or gods, devas or ghosts–for all who fall into this hell, the karmic retribution [for their karma] is the same without any difference in punishment (karmic retributions uninterrupted by the sinners’ sex, race, age, etc.). Hence, it is called Avici.”
“Fifthly, if fallen into this hell, from the time these beings enter until the hundred thousands of kalpas in the future, every day and night, they will die many thousands of times and be revived to die yet again. Despite their constant pleadings, they are unable to receive even a moment of reprieve unless their negative karma has been exhausted. Only then will these beings escape and be reborn into another realm. Otherwise, their lives in Avici continue (uninterrupted life span in Avici Hell until their negative karma is exhausted). Hence, it is called Avici.”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva concluded his explanation to the Holy Mother, saying, “This is a brief description of Avici Hell. To speak in detail about this hell, the names of the punishment implements, and the various forms of suffering within, this cannot be done within one kalpa of time.”
Having heard this, Lady Maya joined her palms with sadness and concerns. She paid homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and withdrew.
Chapter 4: The Karmic Retributions to the Sentient Beings’ Actions in Jambudvipa
At that time, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, [only] through the Tathagata’s divine power am I able to manifest my emanations in trillions of worlds to rescue all suffering sentient beings. If it were not for the power of the Tathagata’s great compassion, I would be unable to perform such transformations. Now, I have been entrusted by the Buddha to deliver and liberate all sentient beings in the six realms of samsara until Ajita (Maitreya) achieve Buddhahood. World Honored One, do not worry [about their deliverance, I shall faithfully perform the entrusted task].”
At that time, the Buddha told Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, “The natures and consciousness of all sentient beings who have not yet been liberated are capricious. Their evil habits [lead them to] generate negative karma while their virtuous habits [lead them to] produce good karma. Whether they do good or ill is dependent on the circumstances which they face as they revolve in the five realms without a moment of rest. After countless kalpas as numerous as there are dust, they are still deluded by their karmic obstructions. They are like fishes entering into fishing nets after mistaking these nets for long water streams. [After long struggles], they finally escape temporarily, only to be trapped in the nets again. This [type of] sentient being concerns me the most. Yet, since you faithfully abide by your past vows, the same solemn vow that you have taken over numerous kalpas to deliver all sentient beings, what is there for me to be concern of?”
After that being said, a Bodhisattva-Mahasattva in the assembly named Samadhisvararaja said, “World Honored One, what solemn pledges did Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva take over the kalpas to deserve such earnest praises from the World Honored One? I wish that the World Honored One would briefly describe them.”
At that time, the World Honored One said to Samadhisvararaja Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, “Listen diligently and think carefully, for I will describe them.”
“In the past, countless asankhyeya, nayuta, inexpressible numbers of kalpas ago, there was a Buddha known as Sarvajnasiddharta Tathagata, who had the descriptive title of Arahat, Samyaksambuddha, Vidyacarana- Sampanna, Sugata, Lokavid, Anuttara, Purusa-Damyasarathi, Sastadevamanusyanam, Buddha and Bhagavan. This Buddha had a lifespan of sixty thousand kalpas.”
“Before taking his monastic vows, he was the king of a small country and friends with the king of a neighboring country. Both kings practiced the ten virtues for sentient beings’ benefits. In the neighboring country, the people often committed sinful acts. [To lead these people onto the paths to Enlightenment], these two kings devised to provide numerous expedient means to hasten these people’s deliverance. One king took the pledge to achieve Buddhahood first in order to deliver all these people. The other king pledged to deliver all these people first. If he does not help them to find tranquility and realize Bodhi (great wisdom) first, he pledged he does not resolve to become a Buddha.” The Buddha said to Samadhisvararaja Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, “The king who pledged to become a Buddha first became Sarvajnasiddharta Tathagata. The king who pledged to deliver all the sinful suffering beings and did not resolve to become a Buddha is Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.”
“Additionally, in the past, immeasurable asankhyeya numbers of kalpas ago, another Buddha appeared in the world. His name was Pure-Lotus-Eyes Tathagata. This Buddha had a lifespan of forty kalpas. During the Semblance Dharma Era [of that time], there was an Arahat who delivered sentient beings by bestowing blessings and gradually leading them onto the path to Enlightenment. [One day], this Arahat met a woman named Prabhacaksuh (Bright-Eyes), who gave him food offerings.”
“The Arahat asked her, `What is your wish [for providing such of offering]?'”
“Prabhacaksuh replied, `Since the day of my mother’s passing, I have tried to earn merits on her behalf to rescue her. Yet, I do not know to which realm she has been reborn.'”
“The Arahat took pity on her and entered Samadhi (deep meditative state) to determine her mother’s whereabouts. [In his meditation], he saw that Prabhacaksuh’s mother had fallen into hell experiencing severe suffering. The Arahat asked Prabhacaksuh, `What did your mother do while she was alive? She is currently in hell and in extreme suffering.'”
“Prabhacaksuh replied, `My mother had a habit of eating seafood. She particularly loved to eat fish fingerlings and turtle hatchlings Whether boiled or fried, she devoured them to her heart’s delight. Counting the numbers she had consumed over her lifetime, it must number into the millions. Honored One, please have pity. How do I rescue her?'”
“The Arahat took pity and offered her an expedient mean. He advised Prabhacaksuh, `You should paint the image of the Pure-Lotus-Eyes Tathagata; then, faithfully and diligently recite his name. This will bring benefits for both the living and the dead.'”
“Upon hearing this, Prabhacaksuh immediately sold off her treasured possessions and [used the money to] have Pure-Lotus-Eyes Buddha’s image painted. Then, she made offerings and paid great homage [with most sincere respect] to the painting. All the while, she was often in tears [being concerned over the fate of her mother]. One night not long afterward, that Buddha manifested his glowing golden body and appeared in her dream. He was as tall as Mount Sumeru and radiated great light. He told Prabhacaksuh, `Not long from now, your mother will be reborn into your household. After experiencing the suffering of hunger and cold, the infant will be able to speak.'”
“Days later, a servant woman of Prabhacaksuh’s household gave birth to a son. Two days after his birth, he was able to speak. [Upon seeing Prabhacaksuh], he was in tears. He bowed and said to Prabhacaksuh with great sorrow, `The karmic fruitions of one’s [malicious] deeds in life are endured by him/herself alone. I was your mother. Since our separation, I had fallen into the hell realm and was there for a long time. Now, by the power of your merits, I have been granted this rebirth to be a servant. Yet, my life will be short lasting only thirteen years. Then, I will fall back into the realms of suffering. Do you have some methods of deliverance, so I might escape this fate.'”
“Upon hearing these words, Prabhacaksuh knew this [infant] was her mother. She was in such anguish that she was barely able to speak. [Choking back] her tears, she said to the servant child, `Since you were my mother, do you know what were your sins? What were the malicious deeds that caused you to fall into the realms of suffering?'”
“The servant’s infant replied, `My negative karma arose from the killing [of those animals that I consumed], and slandering. If it were not for your virtuous deeds and merits [performed on my behalf], I would still be in hell and cannot [even temporarily] be liberated from the suffering.'”
“Prabhacaksuh then asked, `[O mother] how painful is the suffering in hell?'”
“The infant said, `I cannot endure to retell the sufferings [for it pains my heart too much]. Even for a hundred or a thousand years, I cannot fully expressed the amount of suffering.'”
“Upon hearing this, [Prabhacaksuh could bear it no more]. She turned skyward and cried aloud, `I wish my mother is forever liberated from hell. After this 13 years of life, I wish my mother does not suffer any more punishment or fall into any of the three suffering realms. O’ Buddhas of the Ten Directions take pity on me. Listen to my solemn pledge taken on my mother behalf. If my mother can forever leave the three realms of suffering, not to be reborn into an impoverish family, and will never even take the form of a woman again, I vow this before the statue of Pure Lotus Eyes Tathagata. From this day forward to all of the trillions of kalpas in the future, I vow I shall liberate all beings in the three realms of sufferings in all of the trillions of worlds. I vow to liberate them all so that all of them leave the agonies of animal, hungry ghost and hell realm. I vow, not until all of them have become Buddhas themselves. will I finally realize the Supreme Wisdom.'”
“Having taken this [solemn] vow, Prabhacaksuh heard Pure-Lotus-Eyes Tathagata says to her, `Prabhacaksuh, your have great compassion. It is extremely virtuous of you to take such a great vow on your mother’s behalf. I contemplated your mother’s future and see that after reaching thirteen years of age, she will forsake this current form and be reborn as a Brahmacari (religious cultivator) with a life span of one hundred years. After the end of that life, your mother will then be reborn into the Asoka (No-Sorrow) Heaven, having a life-span of countless kalpas. Afterward, she will achieve Buddhahood and deliver as many human beings and devas as all the grains of sands in the Ganges River.'”
The Buddha, said to Samadhisvararaja, “The Arahat who delivered Prabhacaksuh [onto the path of Enlightenment] is now Aksayamati (Inexhaustible-Mind) Bodhisattva. Prabhacaksuh’s mother is now Moksa Bodhisattva, and Prabhacaksuh is Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.”
“Through countless kalpas of time, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has demonstrated such profound compassion. He has made the same oath of rendering deliverance to all sentient beings as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River.”
“In the future, there may be men or women who do not perform any virtuous deeds, who only commit malicious deeds, even do not believe in the laws of cause and effect, who lie and indulge in perverted lusts, who always use foul language and speak ill of people behind their backs, or who defame Mahayana practitioners. These people [who commit these various offenses] will certainly fall into hell. If they encounter a virtuous person who persuades them to seek refuge in the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva in the time to snap one’s fingers, then these sinful beings will be liberated from the karmic retributions of their deeds and avoid the realms of suffering. If they would sincerely seek refuge pay homage, praise Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, make offerings of incense, fabrics, various jewels, food and other items, then in the future, they will be reborn into the heavens for trillions of kalpas and enjoy great happiness. Even if they exhausted their blessings in heaven and have to be reborn into the human realm, for hundreds of thousand of kalpas, they will often be reborn as kings and be able to remember the karmic cause and effect of their previous lives.”
“Samadhisvararaja, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva possesses such unimaginable divine power to render extensive benefits to all sentient beings. You and the other Bodhisattvas must memorize this Sutra and help to spread it far and wide.”
Samadhisvararaja addressed the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, please do not worry. Through your divine power, we, the trillions of Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas will certainly be able to extensively expound this Sutra in Jambudvipa for the benefit of all sentient beings.” After concluding his response, Samadhisvararaja respectfully withdrew with his palms joined.
At that time. the Four Directional Devarajas rose from their seats with their palms joined and respectfully asked the Buddha, “World Honored One, since Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva took this great vow countless times over countless kalpas, why has he not completed the deliverance of all sentient beings? Why is he taking this immense vow again? We hope that the World Honored One will explain it to us.”
The Buddha said to the Devarajas of the Four Directions, “Excellent, excellent! For the benefits of you and that of the present and future devas, human, and other beings., I will explain how Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva compassionately delivers all suffering sentient beings through expedient means on the path of life and death in Jambudvipa of the Saha world.”
The Devarajas of the Four Directions said, “Yes, indeed, World Honored One, we will be delighted to listen.”
The Buddha said to the Devarajas of the Four Directions, “From the countless kalpas in the past to now, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has been delivering sentient beings. Yet, he still has not completed his vow. He sees that in the future countless kalpas, the undelivered sentient beings’ karma continue to creep and entangle, [trapping them deeper and deeper into samsara]. It is because of his great compassion for them that he takes this solemn vow again. It is also because of his great compassion that Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva instructs and transforms sentient beings through countless expedient means in Jambudvipa of the Saha world.”
“Four Directional Devarajas, if Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva encounters those who murder and kill, he will teach them the karmic retribution of shortened life span and untimely death. To those who steal, he will explain to them the karmic retribution of poverty and destitution. For those who indulge in lust, he will teach them the karmic retribution of rebirth as pigeons, peacocks and other birds. If he meets those with foul mouths, he will explain to them the karmic retribution of bickering relatives and disruptive quarrels within their families. To those who slander, he will teach them the karmic retribution of being born mute or suffering from tongue sores. For those who has hatred or are vengeful, he will explain to them the karmic retribution of having an ugly hunchback or suffering from other deformities. If he encounters those who are miserly, he will teach them the karmic retribution of things going against their wishes. To those who are gluttonous, he will explain to them the karmic retribution of hunger, thirst and throat disease. For those who indulge in hunting, he will teach them the karmic retribution of dying in fear or in a crazed state. If he encounters those who do not respect their parents, he will teach them the karmic retribution of death by calamity. To those who set fire to forests, he will explain to them the karmic retribution of dying after becoming lost in a state of fright. For those step-parents who are malicious to their step-children, he will teach them that they would suffer the karmic retribution of similar abuse in the future. If he encounters those who trap fledglings, he will explain to them the karmic retribution of separation from their own families. To those who slander the Three Jewels, he will teach them the karmic retribution of becoming blind, deaf, and mute. For those who are disrespectful to the Dharma and the Teachings, he will teach them of the karmic retribution of falling into the three suffering realms. If he meets those who damage temple properties, he will explain to them the karmic retribution of suffering in hell for millions of kalpas. To those who frame and slander the sangha, he will teach them the karmic retribution of being reborn forever into the animal realm. For those who harm lives by actions such as boiling, burning, cutting, or chopping, he will explain to them the karmic retribution of suffering the same fate in the future. If he encounters those who break their monastic vows and precepts, he will teach them of the karmic retribution of suffering starvation after being reborn into the animal realm. To those who destroy things or spend money needlessly, he will teach them the karmic retribution of their wishes not being fulfilled. For those who are arrogant, he would explain to them the karmic retribution of being relegated to low status and being disrespected. If he encounters those who verbally instigate conflicts or endlessly gossip, he will teach them the karmic retribution of being reborn without tongues or being unable to speak intelligibly. To those with deviant views, he tells them the karmic retribution of being reborn in hinterlands.”
“These are the karmic retributions to the malicious actions produce by sentient beings’ body, speech, and mind in Jambudvipa. I have only briefly mentioned [some of the] hundreds of thousands of karmic retributions. The sentient beings in Jambudvipa suffer from various types and levels of karmic retributions. Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva uses hundreds of thousands of expedient methods to instruct and transform them. [For those sinners who do not change their ways and repent], they will first receive these [aforementioned] karmic retributions to their malicious deeds, and then fall into hell. Even after many kalpas, their date of release is still indeterminable in the distant future. Hence, you Devarajas of the Four Directions, who protect humans and their countries, do not let these karmic obstructions delude these sentient beings.”
After hearing this, the Devarajas of the Four Directions were sadden and withdrew with their palms joined.
Chapter 5: The Names Of The Various Hells
At that time, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva-Mahasattva said to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, “Compassionate One, for the sake of the eight classes of supernatural beings, the four groups of Buddha’s followers (monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen), and all of the sentient beings of the present and future, I wish you would address the places which malicious sentient beings receive the fruits of their negative karma. Please address the names of these hells and the types of suffering experienced there, so sentient beings of the future and the Terminal Dharma Era would know the karmic retributions [for malicious deeds].”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva answered, “Compassionate One, through the divine power of the Buddha and [Samantabhadra Bodhisattva] Mahasattva, I will briefly address the names of these hells and the karmic retributions experienced within them.”
“Compassionate One, to the east of Jambudvipa, there are these mountains called the Great Cakravada. These mountains are [so high and so deep] that even the light from the sun and moon cannot pierce its depth. [The hells are located deep inside these mountains]. Of the Great Hells, there is the one named Avici and the one called Mahavici. Then, there these hells named Four Corners, Flying Daggers, Fire Arrows, Crushed between Mountains, Piercing Spears, Iron Carts, Iron Racks, Iron Oxen, Iron Clothings, Thousand Swords, Iron Donkeys, Molten Bronze, Embracing Pillars, Flying Lava Rocks, Plowing Tongues, Chopping Heads, Scorching Feet, Pecking Eyes, Iron Pellets, Angry-Quarrels, Iron Reapers, and Many Hatred.”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva said, “Compassionate One, within the Cakravada Mountains, there are all these and other hells. The numbers of these hells are unlimited. There are also Wailing Hell, Pulling Tongues Hell, Excrement Hell, Bronze Locks Hell, Fire Elephants Hell, Fire Dogs Hell, Fire Horses Hell, Fire Oxen Hell, Fire Mountains Hell, Fire Rocks Hell, Fire Beds Hell, Fire Pillars Hell, Fire Hawks Hell, Teeth Sawing Hell, Skinning Hell, Blood Drinking Hell, Scorching Hands Hell, Scorching Feet Hell, Inverted Thorns Hell, Burning Houses Hell, Iron Houses Hell, and Fire Wolves Hell. Within each one of these hells, there are also minor hells. These minor hells number anywhere from the single digits to hundreds, or thousands. Even each of these minor hells have their own unique names.”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva told Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, “Compassionate One, all these hells are the [manifestation of] karmic retributions for malicious deeds of sentient beings in Jambudvipa. The powers of the sentient beings’ negative karma is truly enormous. It rivals the size of Mount Sumeru. It can encompass the great ocean. It can even obstruct the paths to liberation. Hence, sentient beings of the world must not take small misdeeds lightly, thinking it will make no noticeable impact. All these misdeeds will manifest themselves after sentient beings’ deaths. Sentient beings must bear the negative karma from even the tiniest of their misdeeds. Even the closest family members, be it father and son, will go their separate ways. Even if by chance they meet, no one is willing to assume the burden of another’s negative karma. Through the Buddha’s divine power, I will briefly address these hells and the suffering from karmic retributions within. I only wish the Compassionate One would listen to what I have to say.”
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva responded, “I have long known the agonies resulting from the karmic retributions in the three realms of suffering. I wish that you would describe it for the sentient beings of the present and future, so that in the future and the Terminal Dharma Era, all of them may be awakened upon hearing these truthful words. May they seek refuge in the Buddhas [and the path to Enlightenment].”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva then said, “Compassionate One, the suffering in hells are as follows. There is a hell in which the sinners’ tongues are pulled out and plowed. Then, there is another hell which the yaksas rip out sinners’ hearts and eat them. There is a hell in which sinners are cooked in boiling waters. Then, there is another hell which sinners are forced to embrace burning-hot bronze pillars. There is a hell in which sinners’ bodies are burned in fires. Then, there is another hell which is always freezing; in another, [the sinners are submerged in] unlimited amounts of feces and urine; in another, flying white-hot `morning stars’ [strike the sinners]; in another, fire spears [pierce the sinners’ bodies]; in another, the sinners’ chests and backs are pounded; in another, sinners’ hands and feet are burned; in another, iron snakes suffocate sinners [by coiling around their necks]; in another, iron dogs [tear the sinners into pieces]; in another, iron mules [trample the sinners].”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva concluded by saying, “Compassionate One, these types of suffering number into the hundreds of thousands. Within each hell, the implements of karmic retributions are made of bronze, iron, rock and fire, for these four materials are manifestations of the sinners’ karmic sins. If [I were to] describe in detail the karmic retributions in all the hells, [I must] address all the myriad of sufferings in each hell. In addition, there are many more hells [not even mentioned yet]. By the divine power of the Buddha and [responding to] Mahasattva’s question, I have briefly described them. If to describe it in detail, in all the time of the future, it cannot be completed.”
Chapter 6: Tathagata’s Praises
At that time, the World Honored One’s entire body radiated tremendous amounts of light, illuminating countless Buddhas’ worlds numbering in all the sands in trillions of Ganges Rivers. Then, he proclaimed in a clear voice audible to all Buddhas’ worlds, saying, “All Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, eight classes of supernatural beings, men, and ghosts — hear my praises of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva. In the Worlds of the Ten Directions, he has manifested unimaginable power of majesty and compassion. He has protected and delivered [countless multitudes of sentient beings] in all forms of suffering. After I enter into nirvana, all of you, Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, eight classes of supernatural beings and others must render extensive assistances to protect this Sutra, thereby allowing all sentient beings to achieve nirvana themselves.”
At that time, a Bodhisattva in the assembly named Samantavipula, with his palmed joined, respectfully asked the Buddha, “Today, I witnessed the World Honored One’s sincere praise of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva for having such inconceivable great divine powers and virtues. For the benefits of sentient beings in the future Terminal Dharma Era, I wish the World Honored One would explain how Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva benefits humans, devas and the [associated] causes and fruitions. So, all of the eight classes of supernatural beings and future sentient beings will honor the Buddha’s teachings.”
At that time, the World Honored One told Samantavipula Bodhisattva and the four groups of Buddha’s Followers, saying, “Listen closely, I shall briefly explain how humans and devas [can attain great] merits and blessings through the beneficial [practices provided by] Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.”
Samantavipula responded, “World Honored One, we would be delighted to listen.”
The Buddha told Samantavipula Bodhisattva, “In the worlds of the future, there may be virtuous men or women, who upon hearing the name of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, join their palms to pay respect, say praises, bow in respect, or admire [his deeds, compassion, or other qualities]. Those who do so shall be relieved of sins which would cause them to suffer for thirty kalpas.”
“Samantavipula, there may be virtuous men or women who paint images of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva or use clay, marble, gold, silver, bronze, or iron to make his statues, and then gaze respectfully upon it and pay homage to it. These people shall be reborn into the thirty-three heavens for hundreds of times consecutively and shall never fall into the realms of suffering. Even after exhausting the blessings for rebirth in the heavens, they will be reborn as kings in the human realm and still be able to enjoy great blessings.”
“If there are women who are unhappy with the female form, they should whole-heartedly make offerings to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva paintings or statues daily. Also, they should often make offerings of incense, flowers, food, fabrics, prayer banners, money, and jewels. Then, after the end of these virtuous women’s present lives, for billions of kalpas, they will not even be reborn into worlds that have women, much less be reborn as women themselves. The only exception is if out of their compassion to deliver sentient beings, they choose to take female form again. Otherwise, by the virtue of their sincere offerings to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and its associated meritorious power, for billions of kalpas, they will never be reborn in female form.”
“Moreover, Samantavipula, if there are women who are unhappy with their ugly appearances or are afflicted with many illnesses, they should whole-heartedly gaze upon and pay homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. Even if they only pay sincere respect for about the time it takes to eat a meal, they will always be reborn with dignified appearance, without any deformities, for millions of kalpas. If these ugly women do not dislike the female form, then for millions of kalpas, they will be reborn to as princess, queens, or daughters of honored families. They will also be born with dignified appearance without any physical deformity. These blessings are the result of paying sincere homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.”
“Additionally, Samantavipula, there may be virtuous men or women who pay respect to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva by performing sacred ritual dances, playing sacred ritual music, singing praises and making offerings of flowers and incense. If they can persuade others to do likewise as well, be it one or many, then they will be protected daily by hundreds of devas and virtuous ghosts in their present and future lives. The protection will prevent unfortunate occurrences from reaching their earshot, much less suffer any misfortune themselves.”
“Moreover, Samantavipula, after seeing virtuous men or women paying respect, homage and/or making offerings to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, there may be evil men, demons, or ghosts who slander or ridicule those acts as having no merits or benefits. They may have openly [displayed their insolence by] laughing at them or speaking ill of them behind those virtuous people’s backs. They may have persuade others, be it one or many, to slander and ridicule those virtuous people as well. They may even only have just one thought of slander or ridicule. As karmic retribution for these acts of slander or ridicule, these [evil] beings shall fall into Avici Hell. They shall remain there to suffer for their severe offenses even after the Bhadrakalpa has ended and all the one thousand Buddhas [of Bhadrakalpa] have entered into nirvana. When these evil beings finally leave hell, they shall suffer in the hungry ghost realm for thousands of kalpas. When they finally leave the hungry ghost realm, they shall suffer in the animal realm for thousands of kalpas. When they can finally be reborn as humans, they will be reborn into poverty with physical deformities. Much malicious karma will obscure their hearts, causing them to fall back into the three suffering realms not long after their escape. Samantavipula, the mere act of slandering or ridiculing others’ offerings and homages [to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva] generates such severe karmic retribution; hence, sentient beings must not [do anything that is even worse, such as] having malicious thoughts of harming [Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva].”
“Samantavipula, in the future, there may be men or women who have been ill and bed ridden for a long time. Their pleas to recover or die are not answered. These patients may have nightmares about demons and deceased relatives. They may have nightmares about traveling on dangerous paths. They may have been pressed by unseen forces against their beds or have their vital energy stolen by demons at night. They may have nightmares of being dragged away by ghosts [into suffering realms]. They may often cry out in their sleep and cannot find happiness. These problems persist for years while they wither away. All these [symptoms] are the result of karmic deliberations in which the judgments have not yet been rendered. Therefore, these people do not die, nor can they recover from their afflictions.”
“Mortal men and women’s eyes cannot see the true causes behind these suffering. Hence, [patients’ families or friends] should go before the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas’ images and loudly chant this [Ksitigarbha] Sutra once with sincerity (if the patients are unable to do so themselves). They may also make an offering of these patients’ treasured possessions, clothings, jewelries, or deeds of home or lands to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. They should make the offering before these patients and loudly declare, `We , (names of families/friends), are making an offering of these items to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva on the behalf of this/these patients, (names of patients). These items will be offered to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, and will be used [to finance] the painting of Bodhisattva’s images, printing copies of this Sutra, used to help build temples, to light shrines, or be donated to monasteries.’ Say this declaration three times so the patients can hear it. If these patients have slipped into unconsciousness or even passed away, then for one to seven days immediately afterward, chant this Sutra loudly and earnestly. When these patients’ present lives end, they will be liberated from sins committed in their past lives, even including those five sins which will cause them to fall into Avici Hell. In the places of their rebirths, they will remember their deeds in their past lives.”
“The blessings will be even greater for those virtuous men or women who [provide free] copies of this Sutra or make [Ksitigarbha] Bodhisattva statues themselves. They may also persuade others to [provide free] copies of this Sutra or make Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva statues as well. Those who do so will certainly receive great benefits.”
“Hence, Samantavipula, if you see people chanting this Sutra or paying respect to this Sutra, or even having just one thought of praising this Sutra, you must provide hundreds of types of assistances to these people. You must persuade these people not to regress from their diligence, for they will attain trillions of unimaginable merits in the present and future.”
“Samantavipula, in the future, there may be sentient beings who, in their dreams, see ghosts or apparitions in its various forms crying or sobbing, in great sorrow or lament, in great apprehension or fear. These ghosts or apparitions are the manifestations of their former parents, siblings, spouses or other relatives from their previous one, tens, hundreds or thousands of lives. These former loved-ones have fallen into the realms of suffering and cannot leave. They also do not have places or people that they can turn to for help to rescue them from their current states. [Thus, they have sought out relatives from one to many lifetimes ago, seeking assistance to deliver them.] Those [who have these dreams] should tell these former loved-ones that they will use expedient means to assist these former loved-ones to leave the realms of suffering.”
“Samantavipula, you must use your divine power to motivate these people to earnestly chant this Sutra in front of statues or paintings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, or motivate them to ask others to earnestly chant this Sutra in their place. After this Sutra has been chanted with devotion three or seven times [on the behalf of these ghosts or apparitions], these ghosts or apparitions trapped in the suffering realms will immediately receive deliverance and will never appear in these people’s dreams again.”
“Samantavipula, in the future, there may be people occupying the lowest stations in life, such as servants, maids, or those deprived of their freedoms (prisoners, disabled people, etc). If they realize their present situations are the result of their past karma and feel the need to repent, they should earnestly pay homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva statues or paintings and devotedly chant Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s name ten thousand times in a period of seven days. For those who do so, after the conclusion of their current lives, for tens of millions of lives in the future, they will often be born into nobility and not experience the agonies of the three suffering realms.”
“Samantavipula, in the future, there may be newborn babies that come into the households of Ksatriyas, Brahmans, gentries, laities, common people, or those of other clans in Jambudvipa. Be these newborns male or female, in the first seven days after their birth, the families should chant this inconceivable [Ksitigarbha] Sutra with devotions on these babies’ behalf. In the same seven days, the families should further devotedly chant Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s name ten thousand times on these babies’ behalf as well. For those families that do so, the newborns will be liberated of negative karmic retribution from their previous lives. These newborns will be easy to care for and their life spans will be increased. If these newborns were reborn to receive blessings, then their blessings and life span will both be increased.”
“Furthermore, Samantavipula, on the first, eighth, fourteenth, fifteenth, eighteenth, twenty-third, twenty-fourth, twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth days of the month in lunar calendars (the Ten Days of Abstinence), all of sentient beings’ actions between the days of abstinence are accounted and the associated merits and sins are weighted. For sentient beings in Jambudvipa, their every movement and thought are sources of negative karma and sins. It is even worse for those who willfully steal, harm, kill, indulge in lust, slander, or commit hundreds and thousands of other sins and crimes. Therefore, sentient beings should chant this Sutra before the statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas once on each of these Ten Days of Abstinence. For those who do so, no calamity will come within one hundred yojanas in the four directions of these people’ residences. If there are elderly or youths within these residences, for the present and future hundreds of thousands of years, they will be liberated from the suffering realms. If the practitioners further diligently continue this practice and chant this Sutra on these Ten Days for every lunar month, then for the present lifetime, people in these families will not suffer any serious diseases and have abundance of clothing and food.”
“Hence, Samantavipula, you should know that Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has such indescribable trillions of great divine powers and provide countless benefits. The sentient beings of Jambudvipa and this Mahasattva have great affinity. If they hear this Bodhisattva’s name, see this Bodhisattva statues, and even hear this Sutra, be it only a stanza or a phrase or just three to five words, they can attain tranquility in their present lives. In the future hundreds of thousands of lives, they will attain dignified forms and often be born to noble families.”
At that time, Samantavipula Bodhisattva, after hearing the Tathagata’s sincere praise of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva knelt down on one knee with his palms joined. Then he said, “World Honored One, I have long known that this Mahasattva has such unimaginable divine power and this all-encompassing vow. I only asked my question to the Tathagata for the sake of future sentient beings, so they might know the benefits [of paying respect to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva]. I am happy to receive the teaching. World Honored One, what should be the name of this Sutra and how should we circulate this Sutra?”
The Buddha told Samantavipula, “This Sutra has three names. One is Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s Fundamental Vows. It is also called Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s Deeds, and the Power of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s Oaths. For countless kalpas, this Bodhisattva has taken great oaths to benefit sentient beings. Hence you, Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, should help to circulate this Sutra in accordance with his oaths.” Upon hearing this, Samantavipula paid respect to the Buddha by joining his palms and withdrew.
Chapter 7: Benefiting the Living and the Dead
At that time, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I observe sins arising from every thought of sentient beings in Jambudvipa. For those who gain virtuous benefits, they often regress from their original intentions [to seek enlightenment]. For those who encounter evil influences, their minds are slowly seduced. As an analogy, these sentient beings are like people carrying heavy stones on muddy roads. With each step, it becomes increasingly difficult to move as they sink deeper into the mud. They might meet a virtuous person who would assist them with the stones or completely take over the load because of his great power. After helping them to regain their footings, he will advise them that if they are somehow able to reach solid ground, they should think of their hardships while in the evil paths and not pass through it again.”
“World Honored One, those beings who do evil often start with small acts. Slowly, their acts become more evil, and eventually their evil grows to immense proportions. Hence, when these evil beings are about to die, their families should do virtuous deeds on their behalf as provisions for them in the after-life. The families may put up prayer banners, make offerings of light (candlelight, lamps, etc.) at shrines, chant sutras, or make offerings to statues of Buddhas and other holy beings (e.g., Bodhisattvas, Arahats, etc). The families may also chant the names of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Pratyeka-Buddhas so that these names may be heard by the dying and reach their consciousness. On the account of their malicious deeds, these dying people should fall into the realms of suffering. Their punishments shall be commuted because of the `Causes for Holiness’ (virtuous deeds) accumulated by their relatives on their behalf. If the families further perform numerous charitable deeds on the sinners’ behalf within forty-nine days of their death, then the families shall enable the sinners to forever leave the suffering realms and be reborn into human or heavenly realms to receive greater happiness. The surviving relatives shall also gain immeasurable benefits.”
“Today, in front of the Buddha, eight classes of supernatural beings, humans, ghosts, and others [gathered here], I recommend sentient beings of Jambudvipa to refrain from killing or committing malicious act on the day when their relatives die. Nor should they make offerings to spirits or seek help from demons. Why? These acts cannot benefit the dead in any way. Instead, it will only increase the deceased people’s negative karma. Even if the dead are to be reborn in human or heavenly realms, their trials in front of the hell judges will be extended, delaying their rebirth because of these negative acts committed by their families on their behalf. It will be even worse for those deceased who have few virtuous roots (did very few good deeds) while alive. They would fall into the three suffering realms in accordance to their own sins. Why would their families want to increase their negative karma [by killing or making offerings to ghosts or demons]? This is analogous to people who had carried stones weighing hundreds of pounds on a long journey and were unable to eat for three days. Suddenly, some passerbys add small objects onto their load, which only burdens them even more.”
“World Honored one, I observe that if the sentient beings in Jambudvipa perform any virtuous deed in accordance to the Buddha-dharma, even if it is as small as a strand of hair, droplet of water, pebble of sand or speck of dust, they shall fully attain the resulting benefits.”
After that was said, an elder in the assembly by the name of Mahapratbhana rose with his palms joined. This elder had long achieved no further rebirth. He has been delivering beings in the [worlds of] Ten Directions and chose to manifest himself in the form of an elder. He asked Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, saying, “When sentient beings die in Jambudvipa, if their families perform virtuous deeds or even make offerings of vegetarian meals to the Sangha to generate `Causes for Holiness’ for the dead, will these dead attain great benefits and be liberated from the suffering realms?”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva replied, “Elder, for the sake of the present and future sentient beings and through the power of the Buddha, I shall briefly address this.”
“Elder, if the present and future dying sentient beings hear the name of a Buddha, Bodhisattva, or Pratyeka-Buddha on the day of their passing, regardless whether or not they had committed sins, they shall be liberated. There may be men or women who did not perform virtuous deeds but instead committed many sins while alive. After they die, if their families perform virtuous deeds on the deceased people’s behalf, only one-seventh of the merit will benefit the deceased. Sixth-seventh of the merits will benefit the families. Hence, men and women of the present and future, they should accumulate merit themselves while they are healthy, so they can receive the full benefits.”
“The demon Avidya [Death] often arrives unexpectedly. The spirits of the dead (non-virtuous beings who do not go directly to heaven or Pure Land after their deaths) are uncertain of their fates. In the forty-nine days after their deaths, their consciousness are in states of deafness and delusion while the hell judges debate over their virtuous deeds and evil acts. They shall be reborn in accordance with their karma when the judgments are rendered. During the time of uncertainty [before finding out their fates], they are in deep despair. Their despair will be even greater if they fall into the realms of suffering. Therefore, within this forty-nine days after death and before they are reborn, in every thought, they are hoping that their families would generate blessing power by performing virtuous acts on their behalf to rescue them. After the forty-nine days have passed, they receive their sentences in accordance to their karma. If they are judged to be sinners, for hundreds or thousands of years, there is no deliverance [from the three realms of suffering]. If they had committed the five sins which cause one to fall into Avici Hell, then for thousands and tens of thousands kalpas, they will be forever suffering.”
“Moreover Elder, for these sinners after their deaths, their families may make vegetarian meal offerings to the Buddha and the Sangha. The families should ensure during the preparation that no food are wasted or thrown away, not even small vegetable leaves or the water used to rinse the rice. Also, no one should eat the food before it have been offered to the Buddha and the Sangha. If someone sneaks even a tiny taste of the offerings, then there is a lack of diligence and the dead will not receive any benefit. For those who are diligent and offered clean food to Buddha and the Sangha, the dead shall receive one-seventh of the merit.”
“Hence Elder, after the passing of their parents or other loved-ones, if sentient beings of Jambudvipa devotedly and diligently make offerings of vegetarian meals, those who do so shall benefit themselves and the dead.”
With that being said, in Trayastrimsas Palace, all of the countless deities and ghosts of Jambudvipa resolved to realize boundless Bodhicitta. The Mahapratbhana Elder paid his respect and withdrew.
Chapter 8: The Praises of King Yama and Others
At that time, the Lord of Hell, King Yama, and countless ghost kings from within Cakravada Mountains arrived at Trayastrimsas where the Buddha was [giving the sermon]. Some of these ghost kings’ [names] were Vicious, Many Evils, Great Quarrel, White Tiger, Blood Tiger, Red Tiger, Misfortune Spreading, the Flying, Lightning Flash Eyes, Wolf Fangs, Thousand Eyes, Animal-Devouring, Rock-Carrying, Blessing Removal, Disaster Administering, Harvest Administering, Wealth Administering, Lord of Domesticated Animals, Lord of Fowls, Lord of Beasts, Lord of Demons, Gestation Administering, Life Administering, Illnesses Administering, Accidents Administering, Three Eyes, Four Eyes, Five Eyes, Chislis, Great-Chislis, Chiliksa, Great-Chiliksa, Anato Ghost King and Great-Anato Ghost King. Each of these and other great ghost kings reside in Jambudvipa along with hundreds of thousands of minor ghost kings. All of them have their charges and jurisdictions. Through the divine power of the Buddha and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, they were all able to arrive at Trayastrimsas and assembled themselves on one side.
At that time, with his palms joined, King Yama knelt down on one knee and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, through the divine power of the Buddha and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, these ghosts kings and I are able to participate in this great gathering at Trayastrimsas. It allowed us to [receive your teachings and] gain virtuous benefits. However, I do have a minor question which I ask with trepidation. It is my hope that the World Honored One would compassionately answer it.”
The Buddha told King Yama, “You may ask your question. I shall answer it for you.”
King Yama bowed to the World Honored One, then respectfully gazed upon Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva before asking the Buddha, “World Honored One, I [have] observed that Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva tirelessly [toils away] delivering suffering sentient beings through numerous expedient means in the six realms of samsara. This is [a testament to] the unimaginable divine power of the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva. Yet, many of these sentient beings fall back into suffering realms not long after Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva had rescued them. World Honored One, since Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has such inconceivable divine power, why don’t these sentient beings seek refuge in the virtuous paths and obtain eternal salvation? [Why do they commit sins again, which cause them to fall back into the suffering realms?] I wish the World Honored One would explain this for me.”
The Buddha told King Yama, “The sentient beings of Jambudvipa have stubborn natures which are very difficult to defuse and tame. Thus, [Ksitigarbha] Mahasattva has spent countless kalpas rescuing them one-by-one, including those sinners who fell into hells, therefore enabling them to reach liberation earlier. The Bodhisattva uses expedient methods to liberate them from their fundamental karma. Then, he enables them to realize the events of their past lives. [All these are done to enable them to see the hardships of traveling on the evil paths and to motivate them to seek eternal salvation through Enlightenment]. But, these sentient beings’ evil habits are extremely strong. [After being rescued], it does not take long for many of them to revert back to their previous ways and fall back into the realms of suffering. Therefore, the Bodhisattva still has to deliver them [even] after all these kalpas.”
“This is analogous to people who lost their way and entered into dangerous paths. On these dangerous paths, there are many yaksas, tigers, lions, wolves, venomous snakes, and scorpions. At any instant, the lost people can be killed by these lethal threats. There is a virtuous being who knows about these dangers and how to restrain them. If he encounters these lost people, he would ask them: Why did they enter into these dangerous paths? What methods can they use to restrain these dangers? Upon hearing this, the lost people realize how dangerous their situation is. Immediately, they retreat and plead [for the virtuous person to help them] leave these paths. The virtuous person will lead them out of the dangerous paths and onto safe paths, so they can find peace and tranquility. After reaching the safe paths, the virtuous person will advise the formerly lost people not to travel on the evil paths again. For those who enter evil paths, it is very difficult for them to escape and most lose their lives. [Upon reflecting how dangerous their situations were], the formerly lost are extremely grateful.”
“Before parting ways, the virtuous being will advise the formerly lost people, `If you see people approach evil paths, warn them of the many deadly threats within and warn them that those who enter often lose their lives. Do not let these people go to their deaths.'”
“Such is the great compassion of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. He rescues suffering sentient beings and enables them to be reborn into the human or heavenly realms. Upon enjoying the happiness in the human or heavenly realms, they will realize how agonizing the suffering in the evil paths truly is [and be motivated to seek eternal salvation through Enlightenment]. So, after leaving the realms of suffering, they will never return to the evil paths again. They are like the lost people who mistakenly took the dangerous paths. After being led out by the virtuous person, they will never travel on the dangerous paths again. Upon seeing others going toward these dangerous paths, the formerly lost will tell the others about how they had once been lost and mistakenly entered these evil paths. They will tell how fortunate they were to be liberated from it, and that they will never travel on it again.”
“Should these rescued people mistakenly travel on the evil paths again, they will be deluded and will not realize they had traveled on these evil paths before. If they lose their lives and fall into the realms of suffering, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva will use expedient means to assist them and liberate them again into the human or heavenly realms. Should they yet again become deluded and travel in the evil paths, they may commit such severe offenses that cause them to be confined in hells for indeterminable amount of time.”
At that time, the Vicious Ghost King joined his palms and respectfully said to the Buddha, “In Jambudvipa, my fellow ghost kings are countless in number. Some ghost kings reward people while others punish people. Our responsibilities are all different. [It is the sentient beings’] karma that cause us and our subordinates to roam the world and enforce karmic retributions of punishing the many malicious people and rewarding the few virtuous people. We pass through cities, villages, plantations, and peoples’ homes. [We may find] that there are men or women who perform virtuous deeds, be it as small as hanging prayer banners, offerings of some flowers and incenses to Buddha statues, chanting sutras, or making offerings to just one stanza or phrase of sutras. My fellow ghost kings will respect such people like we would respect the Buddhas of the Three Times. We will also command our subordinates, all of whom possess great power, and the earth deities to protect these people. We will prevent unfortunate incidents, accidents, illnesses, and events contrary to these virtuous people’s wishes from occurring near their homes, much less occurring within their own homes.”
The Buddha praised the great ghost king, “Ah, good, good. If your fellow ghost kings and King Yama can protect virtuous men and women, I shall command the Great Brahma and Sakra (Indra) to protect you and your fellow ghost kings.”
With that being said, the Life Administering Ghost King joined his palms and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, my charge is to oversee the birth and death of sentient beings in Jambudvipa. It is I who decide when they are born and when they die. I have vowed to benefit these sentient beings. Yet, they do not understand my wishes, so many of them are unable to find peace in either birth or death. Why? The humans of Jambudvipa would do good deeds to gain blessings when they wish to conceive children or when their children are born. Delighted by these good deeds, the local deities protect mothers, unborn fetus, and newborn children, enabling them to attain great tranquility. The protection also benefits their relatives. After these children are born, the family should refrain from killing any living creatures, nor should they kill living creatures for the purpose of mothers’ nourishments. Nor should they consume alcohol or meats, nor play loud music nor indulge in excessive dancing during the gatherings to celebrate the birth. [They should refrain from these acts because] these acts will disturb the peace of the mothers and children. Why? During birth, countless evil ghosts and demons gather near the delivery room, desiring to taste fresh blood. Because I have already commanded the residential and local earth deities to protect these mothers and unborn children, they are able to attain tranquility and benefits. After seeing that the birth has gone smoothly, the families should make offerings to thank the deities. Instead, many of them kill living creatures to prepare feasts for celebratory gatherings. As of result, it create sins for themselves and causes the mothers and children to be harmed.”
“Also, for the people who are about to die in Jambudvipa, regardless whether they are virtuous or evil, I wish to help them avoid the realms of suffering. Of course, I wish to help those who cultivate virtuous roots even more because they assist me in my endeavor (of delivering human beings). Even when these virtuous people of Jambudvipa are dying, hundreds to thousands of evil ghosts and demons will try to delude them. These evil ghosts and demons will assume the forms of the dying people’s parents or relatives and lead them into the realms of sufferings. The situations will be much worse for those beings who committed evil acts.”
“World Honored One, when these men and women in Jambudvipa are on the verge of death, their minds are deluded and are unable to distinguish between good and evil; neither can their eyes see nor can their ears hear. Thus, the dying people’s relatives must make great offerings, recite sutras, and chant the names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. These virtuous deeds will enable the dying people to avoid the realms of suffering and disperse the evil ghosts and demons.”
“World Honored One, at the time of their death, if sentient beings are able to hear the name of just one Buddha, Bodhisattva, or hear a stanza or phrase of Mahayana sutra, I observe that these beings will be liberated from minor sins that would have caused them to fall into the realms of suffering with the exception of the five sins causing one to fall into Avici hell.”
The Buddha praised Life Administering Ghost King, saying, “Your great compassion enabled you to make such a great vow of protecting beings at the time of their birth and death. Do not retreat from your oath to protect them at the moment of their birth and assist them to liberate themselves at the moment of their deaths. Enable all of them to liberate themselves and attain peace and tranquility forever.”
The Ghost King replied to the Buddha, “Do not have concern. I shall uphold my vow as long as I exist to protect the sentient beings of Jambudvipa, so at the time of their birth and death, they can attain peace and tranquility. I only wish these sentient beings believe and follow my advise at the time of birth and death. All those who do so will gain liberation and receive great benefits.”
At that time, the Buddha told Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, “This Life Administering Ghost King has been a great ghost king for thousands of lives, protecting sentient beings at the time of their birth and death. This [powerful ghost form] is not his true form. It is because of this Mahasattva’s great compassion that he appears in the form of a powerful ghost. One hundred seventy kalpas from now, he shall become a Buddha with the title, Nirabhasa Tathagata. The kalpa will be called Peace and Tranquility. His world will be named Pure Abode. His Buddha life span will be countless of kalpas. Ksitigarbha, these are the unimaginable deeds of this great ghost king. The devas and humans delivered by him will also be innumerable.”
Chapter 9: Chanting the Buddhas’ Names
At that time, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, for the sake of future sentient beings, I shall now expound on methods which will enable them to gain great benefits in their live. I only hope the World Honored One will be willing to listen.”
The Buddha told Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, “To rescue all of the suffering sentient beings in the six realms of samsara, you compassionately want to expound these unimaginable methods. Now is the right time, for I shall be entering into nirvana soon. You should quickly proceed so you can fulfill your vow early; then, I would not worry about the [deliverance of] present and future sentient beings.”
Ksitigarbha said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, countless asankhyeya numbers of kalpas ago, there was a Buddha in the world with the title of Anantakaya (Boundless Body) Tathagata. After hearing this Buddha’s name, if there are men or women who instantly develop devotions [to this Buddha], then they will be liberated from offenses which would cause them to suffer cycles of life and death for forty kalpas. The blessing will be even greater for those who forge statues of this Tathagata, paint images of him, make offerings to and praise [Him]. Those people will receive boundless blessing.”
“Moreover, as many kalpas as there are sands in the Ganges River in the past, there was a Buddha in the world. His title was Ratnasuabhava (Jewel Nature) Tathagata. After hearing this Buddha’s name, if there are men or women who devotedly seek refuge [in this Buddha] in the time to snap one’s fingers, then they shall never regress from the Path to Enlightenment.”
“Additionally, in the past, there was a Buddha in the world with the name of Supreme Padma (Lotus) Tathagata. If there are men or women who hear this Buddha’s name, they shall be reborn thousands of consecutive time into the Six Heavens of Desire. The blessing will be greater for those who recite his name with devotion.”
“Moreover, in the past, inexpressible asankhyeya numbers of kalpas ago, there was a Buddha in the world by the name of Simhananda (Lion’s Roar) Tathagata. After hearing this Buddha’s name, if there are men or women who have a thought of seeking refuge [in this Buddha], then they shall encounter countless Buddhas who will touch their heads and predict their future Enlightenment.”
“Additionally in the past, there was a Buddha called Krakucchanda Tathagata. After hearing this Buddha’s name, if there are men or women who devotedly pay homage and say praises [to this Buddha], then these people will become the Great Brahma in the Bhadrakalpa Assembly of one thousand Buddhas and receive predictions for becoming Buddhas themselves.”
“Moreover in the past, there was a Buddha named Vipasyin Buddha. If there are men or women who hear this Buddha’s name, they shall never fall into the realms of suffering. They also shall often be reborn in the human or heavenly realms to receive superior subtle blessings.”
“Additionally, in the past, as many kalpas ago as all of the sands in innumerable Ganges Rivers, there was a Buddha in the world named Ratnasambhava Tathagata. If there are men or women who hear this Buddha’s name, they shall ultimately not fall into the realms of suffering. They shall often be born into heaven and receive blessings.”
“Moreover, in the past, there was a Buddha with the title Ratnalaksana Tathagata. After hearing this Buddha’s name, if there are men or women who develop devotion [to this Buddha in their hearts], then they shall soon attain the fruition of Arahat-hood.”
“Additionally, in the past, immeasurable asankhyeya numbers of kalpas ago, there was a Buddha in the world with the title Kasayadhvaja Tathagata. If there are men or women who hear this Buddha’s name, they will be liberated from offenses which cause them to enter cycles of life and death for one hundred kalpas.”
“Moreover, in the past, there was a Buddha with the title of Mahabhijna-Sumeru Tathagata. If there are men or women who hear this Buddha’s title, then they shall encounter as many Buddhas as there are sands in the Ganges River. These Buddhas will give them extensive Dharma teaching. Thus, it is certain they will realize Bodhi.”
“Additionally, in the past, there is Sudhacandra Buddha, Sumeru Buddha, Jnanajina Buddha, Vimalanamanraja Buddha, Jnanasaddhi Buddha, Anuttara Buddha, Sughosa Buddha, Purnacandra Buddha, and `Moon Face’ Buddha. There are these inexpressible numbers of Buddhas. For all of the present and future sentient beings, regardless if they are devas or humans, regardless if they are men or women, if they [devotedly] chant [just] one Buddha’s name, [they can generate] immeasurable amount of merit. The benefits will be even greater if they chant many names. Those sentient beings who do so shall attain great benefits during the time of their birth and death. They shall ultimately not fall into the suffering realms.”
“If just one relative of dying people chants the Buddha’s name on the dying people’s behalf, the dying people shall be liberated from their sins with the exception of the five sins that cause one to fall into Avici Hell. Although the five Avici sins are extremely severe and the [sinners] cannot be released even after millions of kalpas, the karmic retribution will be slowly diminished as the result of someone chanting the Buddha’s name on the sinners’ behalf when the sinners were about to die. It will be [even more beneficial] if the sentient beings chant the Buddha’s name for themselves. They shall receive immeasurable amounts of blessings and be liberated from immeasurable numbers of sins.”
Chapter 10: Comparison of Merits Derived from Giving Alms
At that time, through the Buddha’s divine power, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva rose from his seat, knelt down on one knee with his palms joined, and addressed the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, I observe that the alms given by sentient beings in the karmic paths generate different amounts of benefits. Some acts result in blessings for one lifetime to ten lifetimes. Then, there are acts that generate great blessings for hundreds to thousands of lifetimes. I wish the World Honored One would explain to me the reason for this difference.”
At that time, the Buddha told Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, “Now, at this great gathering in Trayastrimsas Palace, I shall expound the comparable weight of merit generated from alms-giving in Jambudvipa. Listen attentively to my explanation.”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “I will gladly listen to your answers.”
The Buddha told Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, “In Jambudvipa, there are [people with the greatest of earthly blessings, such as] kings, high-ranking government officials, honorable elders, Ksatriyas, Brahmans, and others. They may encounter people [who have the least blessings, such as those] who are the most destitute; or those who are mute, deaf, or blind; or those who have hunchbacks, disabilities, mental retardation, and/or physical deformities. The kings and other [blessed people] may personally give alms to these [least blessed] people with great compassion and smiles with humility. They may motivate others to give alms and console these impoverished or disabled people. For those [aforementioned blessed people] from kings to Brahmans who do so, they shall receive benefits equivalent to that [generated] from giving alms to as many Buddhas as there are sands in hundreds of Ganges Rivers. Why is this so? The reason is [because] these kings and other [with great earthly blessings] have great compassion in their hearts [that they humble themselves from their lofty positions] to help those most impoverished or disabled people. Hence, these kings and other [blessed people] will receive such great blessings in return. For hundred and thousands of lives, they will have ample [amount of the] seven treasures, not to mention food, clothings and other daily necessities.”
“Furthermore, Ksitigarbha, in the future, these [aforementioned blessed people from] kings to Brahmans may come across Buddhist monasteries, stupas, or statues of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arahats, or Pratyeka-Buddhas. If they personally and respectfully make offerings and give alms [to these statues, monasteries, etc], then these kings and other [blessed people] shall [attain the karmic fruitions of] becoming Sakra for three kalpas and receive great blessings. They shall [attain the karmic fruition of] becoming the Great Brahma if they dedicate the merits [from their act of devotion] to the Dharmadhatu (the dharma realm which encompasses everything past, present, and future, including phenomenon undefinable within confines of space and time).
“Additionally, Ksitigarbha, in the future, these [aforementioned blessed people from] kings to Brahmans may encounter old Buddhist monasteries, Buddhist stupas, Buddha statues and sutras that had been severely damaged. These kings and others may resolve to restore these monasteries, stupas, etc. They may personally finance and manage the restoration, or persuade others to make charitable donation to finance or participate in the restoration. [It does not matter] how many people were persuaded to join the effort, be it one or hundreds or thousands who make donations and create karmic affinities. In the future hundreds and thousands of rebirths, everyone who initiated the restoration, from the kings to the Brahmans, shall become Chakravartins (Universal Kings who spread the Buddha-Dharma). Those who are persuaded to participate or make donation shall often be reborn as kings of small countries for hundreds of thousands of lives. If [at the conclusion of repair and restoration,] these kings and other participants of the restoration dedicate these merits to the Dharmadhatu in front of these stupas and monasteries, then these kings and others shall all attain Buddha-hood. The [rewards from the] fruition of these acts are boundless and immeasurable.”
“Moreover, Ksitigarbha, in the future, the [aforementioned blessed people] from kings to Brahmans may encounter [people in need, such as] the old, the sick, or pregnant women. If their hearts are instantly filled with compassion so they provide medicine, food and other necessities which allow these people in need to find peace, the [resulting] benefits and blessings are quite unimaginable. For one hundred kalpas, they shall often be the Lord of Pure Abode Heaven. For two hundred kalpas, they shall be the Lord of the Six Heavens of Desire. Eventually, they shall become Buddhas and shall never fall into realms of suffering. For hundreds and thousands of lives, suffering will not even come near their earshot.”
“Furthermore, Ksitigarbha, in the future, if the [aforementioned blessed people from] kings to Brahmans give alms as outlined in these aforementioned examples, they shall receive immeasurable blessings. If they can further dedicate [these virtuous deeds] to the Dharmadhatu, regardless of how much merits were dedicated, then they shall eventually become Buddhas. There are also the intermediate reward of being Sakra, Great Brahma and Chakravartin. Hence, Ksitigarbha, sentient beings should be persuaded to follow these examples.”
“Moreover, Ksitigarbha, in the future, if virtuous men or women plant some virtuous roots in the Buddha-dharma, be it as light as a hair or dust, the [resulting] benefits will be beyond comparison.”
“Additionally, Ksitigarbha, in the future, there may be virtuous men or women who encounter the statues or images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Pratyeka-Buddhas, or Chakravartins. If they make offerings and give alms to the statues or images, they shall attain immeasurable benefits. They shall often be born in the human and heavenly realm to enjoy great happiness. If they dedicate [these virtuous deeds] to the Dharmadhatu, the benefits [attained by them] will be incomparable.”
“Moreover, Ksitigarbha, in the future, there may be virtuous men or women who come across Mahayana Sutras, or hear only one stanza or phrase of a Sutra. If they devotedly praise, show respect to these sutras, make offerings and give alms with these sutras (provide free copies of these sutras to others), then they shall receive great boundless and immeasurable fruition. If they can dedicate [the resulting merits] to the Dharmadhatu, then the blessings will be incomparable.”
“Furthermore, Ksitigarbha, in the future, there may be virtuous men or women who come across Buddhist monasteries and Mahayana Sutras. If these monasteries and sutras are new, then they make offerings, say praises, and pay respect with their palms joined. If these monasteries and sutras are old or damaged, then they restore it. It does not matter if they do these restorations by themselves or persuade others to assist in the effort. Those who were persuaded to assist shall often be reborn as kings of small nations for thirty lifetimes. Those people who persuade others to repair the damaged [monasteries and sutras] shall be reborn as Chakravartins. In the future, these Chakravartins will instruct these kings of small countries and transform them through the Buddha-dharma.”
“Additionally, Ksitigarbha, in the future, there may be virtuous men or women who plant some virtuous roots in the Buddha-dharma. It may be giving alms, making offerings, or restoring damaged sutras, stupas or monasteries. [These deeds] may even be as small as a strand of hair, speck of dust, grain of sand, or droplet of water. If [they can] dedicate these virtuous deeds to the Dharmadhatu, these people shall gain great merits and receive great happiness in the future hundred of thousands of lifetimes. If they dedicate the virtuous deeds to their relatives or for their own benefits, then they shall only receive happiness for three lifetimes from the fruition of their virtuous deeds. [All these are examples of] giving up one blessing and receiving tens of thousands blessings in return. Hence, Ksitigarbha, these are the causes and effects of giving alms.”
Chapter 11: Earth Deities Protecting the Dharma
At that time, Prithivi (the Supreme Earth Deity) addressed the Buddha, saying, “World Honor One, in the past, I have respectfully gazed upon and paid homage to countless Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas. They all have inconceivable divine power and wisdom [which] provide universal deliverance to all sentient beings. Of all these Bodhisattvas, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva has the greatest vow. World Honored One, this is because Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has great affinity with the [sentient beings of] Jambudvipa. For example, Manjushri, Samantabhadra, Avalokiteshvara, and Maitreya also manifest hundreds of thousands of emanations delivering the sentient beings in the six realms of samsara. Yet, [there is a date which] their vows will be completed. Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva [vows to] deliver all sentient beings in the six realms of samsara. [The length of time to fulfill his] vow [is as indeterminable as] kalpas numbering in all the sands in trillions of Ganges Rivers.”
“World Honored One, I observe that the present and future living beings may construct shrines to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva out of clay, marble, bamboo, or wood at clean locations on the south side of their residences. Place within these shrines either paintings or statues of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva made of gold, silver, bronze or iron; then, perform acts of devotion by burning incense, making offerings, paying homage and reciting praises to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva before these shrines. For those sentient beings who do so, their residences shall be benefited in these ten ways. What are these ten benefits?”
1. The land around the residences will be fertile.
2. The residences will be at peace (undisturbed by spirits or illnesses).
3. The ancestors of these residences’ occupants shall be reborn in heaven.
4. The inhabitants of these residences will have their lives extended.
5. The occupants of these residences will have their wishes fulfilled.
6. Calamities such as flood and fires will not strike these residences.
7. Ghosts and demons who steal away people’s blessings (derived from their merit in previous lives) will be unable to enter these residences.
8. The inhabitants of these residences will not have nightmares.
9. Deities will protect the occupants, both inside and away from these residences.
10. The inhabitants of these residences will often encounter `Causes for Holiness’ [enabling them to gradually reach enlightenment.]
“World Honored One, for the present and future sentient beings, those who perform such offerings at the south side of their residences shall attain these benefits.”
Then, Prithivi again addressed the Buddha, “World Honored One, in the future, there may be virtuous men or women who have both the images and Sutras of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva in their residences. If they further perform acts of devotion by chanting this Sutra and making offerings to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, I shall use my divine power to protect them both day and night. They shall not be harmed by [calamities like] flood or fire; burglars or thieves; or minor or severe accidents. All harmful events shall be avoided.”
The Buddha said to Prithivi, “Few deities can match your great divine power. All the lands of Jambudvipa is under your protection. All of the grasses, trees, sand, rocks, crops, hemp, bamboo, reeds, crops, rice, and gems that comes from the earth, they all come to being by your divine power. You also often praise the benefits provided by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva [to sentient beings]. [Therefore,] your divine powers and merit are hundreds of thousands of times greater than that of average earth deities.”
“In the future, there may be virtuous men or women who make offerings to [Ksitigarbha] Bodhisattva, chant this Sutra, or [perform] any practice described in this Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Fundamental Vow Sutra. You must use your divine power to protect and assist these people. Do not let any disaster or unfortunate event to come within their earshot, much less experiencing it themselves. You will not be alone in protecting them. The subordinates of Devarajas, Sakra, and Great Brahma shall protect them as well. Why are these people protected by so many holy, virtuous beings? [This benefit is] the result of paying homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva statues and chanting the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Fundamental Vow Sutra. These people shall naturally leave samsara in the future and realize the joy of nirvana. For their [devotions to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva], they shall receive great protection.”
Chapter 12: Benefits from Admiring [Ksitigarbha’s Statue] and Hearing [Ksitigarbha’s name]
At that time, the World Honored One radiated trillions rays of light (all as pure and exquisite as the Buddha’s White Curl-Mark light) from the Ushnisha (Crown Protrusion symbolizing Supreme Wisdom). Among these were the light of the white ray, great white ray, auspicious ray, great auspicious ray, jade ray, great jade ray, purple ray, great purple ray, indigo ray, great indigo ray, blue ray, great blue ray, red ray, great red ray, green ray, great green ray, golden ray, great golden ray, celebratory cloud (five colors) ray, great celebratory cloud ray, thousand chakras ray, great thousand chakras ray, jewel chakra ray, great jewel chakra ray, solar disc ray, great solar disc ray, lunar disc ray, great lunar disc ray, palace ray, great palace ray, sea cloud (all encompassing) ray, and great sea cloud ray.
After radiating all these light rays, the Buddha proclaimed in wondrous voice to all those assembled, the eight classes of supernatural beings, men, and ghosts, saying, “Today, in Trayastrimsas Palace, hear my praise of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva for benefiting sentient beings in the human and heavenly realms through expedient means, for all of his inconceivableness (divine power, wisdom, etc), for [guiding sentient beings to] become enlightened, for [guiding sentient beings to] attain the Tenth Level of Bodhisattvahood, for [those who follow the Mahasattva’s teaching] shall never regress from Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi (the Supreme Wisdom).
At the conclusion of those words, a Bodhisattva-Mahasattva in the assembly name Avalokiteshvara rose from his seat, knelt down on one knee with his palms joined, and addressed the Buddha saying, “World Honored One, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva has great compassion and pity for the sinful, suffering sentient beings. In the trillions of worlds, he has manifested trillions of emanations [to deliver them]. The divine power [demonstrated] and merit [gained by the Mahasattva from delivering all these beings] are inconceivable.”
“I have [long] heard the World Honored One and the countless Buddhas of the Ten Directions together all praising Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, saying, ‘Even all of the Buddhas of the Three Times cannot express all of his merits.’ Just now the World Honored One has announced [again] to all present that you desire to praise and proclaim the benefits provided by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. For the sake of all of the present and future sentient beings, I wish the World Honored One would praise and proclaim Ksitigarbha’s inconceivableness leading, the eight classes of supernatural beings to pay homage and receive blessings.”
The Buddha said to Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, “You have great affinity with [the sentient beings in] the Saha World. If the eight classes of supernatural beings, men, women, ghosts, including the suffering beings in the six realms, hear your name, see your images, admire you and praise you, they will not regress from the path to Enlightenment and shall often be born in the human or heavenly realms to receive blessings. When they are nearing the fruition [of achieving Enlightenment], they shall encounter Buddhas and receive predictions for becoming future Buddhas themselves.”
“You have great compassion and pity for sentient beings and the eight classes of supernatural beings. Listen closely to my pronouncement of the great benefits which can be gained from worshipping Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.” Avalokiteshvara replied, “I am glad to receive your teaching, World Honored One.”
The Buddha told Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, “When devas exhibit the fives signs of decay, they have nearly exhausted their heavenly blessings. [They are either on the verge of falling into the human realm] or into the realms of suffering. In the various worlds of present and future, when devas exhibit signs of decay, be they male or female, if they encounter Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s images or hear Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s name, [then these devas can rescue themselves]. By respectfully gazing upon and paying homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s images [just] once, their heavenly blessings shall be increased, enabling them to enjoy great happiness. They will also never fall into the realms of suffering. The blessings will be even greater for those who make offerings of incense, flowers, clothing, food, jewels, or decorative necklaces. The resulting merit and blessings are immeasurable and boundless.”
“Furthermore, Avalokiteshvara, in the various worlds of the present and future, if dying sentient beings in the six realms hear Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s name before their deaths, they will not enter into the realms of suffering. The benefits will be even greater if their parents and relatives use [the value of] their possessions, such as homes, money, jewelries, and/or clothing [to commission] the forging or painting of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva images. [If possible,] let the dying people hear and see that their parents and relatives vowing to offer their belongings to [finance the] forging or painting of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva images on their behalf.”
“If these dying people’s karmic retributions are such that they were only to be extremely ill, then by the merits of the offerings made on their behalf, they would be cured quickly and have their life spans extended. If these people’s karmic retributions are such that they are to die, then by the merits of the offerings made on their behalf, they shall be reborn into heaven and enjoy blessings. All of the sins and negative karma which would cause them to fall into realms of suffering shall be extinguished.”
“Furthermore, Avalokiteshvara, in the present and future, there may be men or women who lost their parents or siblings when they were in their infancy or when they were under the age of three, five or ten. As they grow older, they miss their deceased loved-ones [dearly] and wonder in which realms their loved-ones have been reborn. These people may paint or forge Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s images. Upon seeing Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s images or hearing his name, perform one respectful gaze and homage. For one to seven days, whenever they hear his name or see his images, they should gaze on respectfully, pay homage and make offerings without regressing from original intent. If their deceased loved ones had fallen into suffering realms and [sentenced] to remain there for several kalpas because of negative karma, then these deceased shall be liberated because of the merit from the surviving relatives’ actions of painting or forging Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s images, respectful gazes and homages. The merits will also enable them to be reborn into the human or heavenly realms to enjoy happiness. If the deceased loved-ones had sufficient merits and were already reborn in human or heavenly realms to receive great happiness, then the merits from the surviving relatives’ actions will increase their `Causes or Holiness’ and enable them to receive boundless happiness.”
“If these people can further devotedly pay homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s images and devotedly chant Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s name ten thousand times within twenty one days, then Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva will manifest his immeasurable body to tell them where their deceased loved ones have been reborn, or manifest his great divine power in their dreams and personally lead them to see their loved ones in the various worlds.”
“If they can further [devotedly] chant the Bodhisattva’s name one thousand times per day for one thousand days, then Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva shall send the local earth deities to protect them for the rest of their lives. For their present lives, they shall have abundance of clothing and food. They will not suffer from serious illnesses, nor will accidents occur near their homes. Hence, they certainly will not have accident themselves. [Ksitigarbha] Bodhisattva will eventually touch these people’s heads and predict their Enlightenment.”
“Additionally, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, in the future, there may be virtuous men or women who resolve with great compassion to rescue all sentient beings, resolve to cultivate the highest Bodhi, and/or resolve to leave the [three states of mortal existence in the] Trailokya. Upon seeing Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s images and hearing his name, they should devotedly seek refuge in Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, pay homage, and make offerings of incense, clothing, jewels, and/or food. Then, they shall quickly fulfill their resolution and never be obstructed [from achieving their goals].”
“Furthermore Avalokiteshvara, in the future there may be virtuous men or women who have trillions of wishes and seek trillions of assistances. They should immediate seek refuge in Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. [They should also] pay homage, make offerings to and say praises before Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva statues. Then, all that which they wish and seek shall be attained.”
“Moreover, if they further respectfully request Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva to have great compassion to always protect them, then Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva shall come into their dreams to touch their heads and predict their Enlightenment.”
“Additionally, Avalokiteshvara, in the future, there may be virtuous men or women who have deep appreciation for Mahayana Sutras and, resolve with inconceivable heart, desire to memorize and chant these Sutras. Yet, although they are able to memorize the Sutra studying under the most capable instructors, they quickly forget what they had memorized. Even after many years, they still cannot chant these Sutras. This is caused by these virtuous people’s karmic obstructions from their previous lives that are not yet exhausted. Hence, they are unable to chant these Mahayana Sutras. If such people see Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s images and hear Ksitigarbha’s name, they should respectfully seek assistance from the Mahasattva. Then, make offerings of incense, flowers, clothing, food, and antiques (to dignify the shrine) to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva statues. [Along with these offerings,] place a small cup of clean water before the Bodhisattva’s statues for one day and night. Afterward, join palms to pay homage before taking this cup of water. Drink this water while facing the South (Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s residence is in a Southern Pure Land) with a devoted heart. Afterward, abstain from consuming the five pungent plants, alcohol and meats. Do not engage in sexual misconduct, abstain from lying and killing. After one seven-day period or three seven-day periods, these virtuous men or women shall see Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva manifest his immeasurable body in their dreams to give them empowerment. As soon as they awake, they shall [find that they have] gained great wisdom. Upon hearing any Sutra once, it shall be committed into memory and never be forgotten, not even a stanza or phrase.”
“Furthermore, Avalokiteshvara, in the future, there may be people who do not have enough to eat or cloth themselves, who have their hopes dashed, who suffer from many illnesses, who encounter many unfortunate situations causing their homes not to be at peace and their loved ones dispersed, or who suffer bodily harm from many accidents and often suffer from fright in their sleep and dreams. If such people hear Ksitigarbha’s name and see his images, they should devotedly chant Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s name ten thousands times. Then, the unfortunate situation faced by these people will be gradually eliminated and they shall attain happiness. They shall have abundance of food and clothing, even enjoying tranquility in both sleep and dreams.”
“Moreover, Avalokiteshvara, in the future, there may be virtuous men or women who because of their livelihood, official business, private matters, [need to] flee from disasters, or because of emergencies [need to] cross [dangerous areas such as remote] mountains, [wild] forests, [treacherous] rivers, [angry] sea, over [a great] flood, or travel on roads known to have unrest (e.g., robberies, shootings, etc). Such people should devotedly chant Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s name ten thousand times before embarking. Then, they shall be protected by local ghosts and deities of the routes traveled. They shall be protected at all times on the trip. Even if they should encounter [predatory animals such as] tigers, wolves, or lions and other venomous threats, they will not be harmed.”
The Buddha told Avalokiteshvara, “Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has great affinity with [the sentient beings of] Jambudvipa. To state all the ways that sentient beings can benefit from seeing his images, hearing his name, and worshipping him, it cannot be completed even after hundreds of thousands of kalpas. Hence, Avalokiteshvara, you should use your divine power to circulate this Sutra, enabling sentient beings in the Saha World to receive blessings for tens of billions of kalpas.”
At that time, World Honored One said these verses:
Contemplating Ksitigarbha’s divine power
Indescribable in kalpas as many as all of Ganges’ sands
In an instant of admiring, hearing, and homage
Boundless benefits generated for those in the realm of deva and man
Be it men, women, nagas, or gods
Blessings exhausted and shall fall into suffering realms
Devotedly seek refuge in the Mahasattva
Life span extended and negative karma dissolved
Losing parents or loved-ones in one’s youth
Don’t know their spirits’ where-abouts
Brothers, sisters, or other loved-ones
Never knowing what they looked like
Forge or paint Mahasattva’s images
Diligently admire and pay homage
Chant Mahasattva’s name for twenty one days
Bodhisattva’s immeasurable body will be displayed
Reveal the loved-ones’ places of rebirth
Even in suffering realms they shall find escape
If practitioners do not regress from original intent
Immediately, their heads shall be touched and Enlightenment predicted
Those resolve to cultivate supreme Bodhi
Including those seeking to leave the suffering of Trailokya
Since they already resolved great compassion
Should first pay homage to Mahasattva’s images
All vows shall be expeditiously accomplished
Negative karma shall never obstruct [their aims]
There are those who resolve to chant Sutras
Resolve to deliver those gone astray
Although resolve such inconceivable vow
What has been read are soon forgotten
Much time and effort wasted
Such people are obstructed by past karma
Hence cannot memorize Mahayana Sutras
Make offerings to Ksitigarbha with incense, flower
Cloth, food, or various antiques
Place clean water before Mahasattva
After one day and night devotedly drink
Resolve devotion and avoid five pungent plants,
[avoid] meat, alcohol, sexual misconduct, and lies
Within twenty one days abstain from killing
Devotedly contemplate Mahasattva’s name
Immediately shall see [Ksitigarbha’s] immeasurable body in their dreams
Awaken and acute ear attained
Upon hearing Sutras just once
Never forget in millions of lives.
It is Mahasattva’s inconceivableness
Enable such wisdom to be gained
Those in poverty and illness
Unfortunate events occurred in homes and loved ones dispersed
Cannot find peace neither in sleep nor dreams
Hopes are dashed and nothing goes their way
Devotedly pay homage to Ksitigarbha statues
All misfortune shall be eliminated
Even attaining peace in both dream and sleep
Protected by gods and ghosts, and abundance of clothing and food obtained
Desire to cross [remote] mountains, forests, or [great] sea
Venomous beasts and many evil-doers [obstruct the way]
Evil gods, evil ghosts and ill winds
Many hardships and anguish [lies ahead]
Devotedly pay homage and make offerings to
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Mahasattva’s images
Then, in these [remote] mountains, forests and sea
Aforementioned hazards shall disperse
Avalokiteshvara devotedly listens to my sermon
Ksitigarbha has limitless inconceivableness
Tens of billions of kalpas are not enough
To speak in detail of the Mahasattva’s power
If one should hear Ksitigarbha’s name
Including those who pay homage
Make offerings of incense, flowers, clothing, and food
Offerings result in countless blessings in return
If these merits are dedicated to the Dharmadhatu
One shall ultimately achieve Buddhahood and surpass cycle of life and death
Hence, Avalokiteshvara, you should know
Inform those in the worlds numbering in all of Ganges’s sands
Chapter 13: Entrusting [the Deliverance] of Humans and Devas
At that time, the World Honored One raised his golden colored arm and again touched Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva’s head. The Buddha then said, “Ksitigarbha, Ksitigarbha, your divine power is [so mighty it is] unthinkable. Your compassion is [so great that it is] incomprehensible. Your wisdom is [so profound that it is] unimaginable. Your eloquent speech [is so excellent that it is] inconceivable. Even if all of the Buddhas of the Ten Directions praise and expound your inconceivable qualities, we cannot fully describe them in millions of kalpas. Ksitigarbha, Ksitigarbha, remember that today in this gathering at Trayastrimsas Palace and before all of the inexpressible trillions of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, eight classes of supernatural beings, I again entrust in your care all of the devas, humans and other sentient beings. These sentient beings who have not yet broken away from the Trailokya are like children trapped in a burning house. Do not let them fall into the suffering realms for even one day and night, not to mention Avici Hell, from which they will not be able to leave even after trillions of kalpas.”
“Ksitigarbha, the sentient beings in Jambudvipa have capricious wills and natures. The majority of them have evil tendencies. Even if they resolve to be virtuous, it does not take long for them to regress back to their old ways. If they encounter evil influences, their wickedness increases with each additional thought. Because of this, I had manifested trillions of emanations to deliver them in accordance to their [different] temperaments.”
“Ksitigarbha, today I earnestly entrust in your care all of the devas, humans and other sentient beings. In the future, if there are devas, virtuous men or virtuous women who plant some virtuous roots in the Buddha-dharma, even if these roots are as small as a strand of hair, a speck of dust, a pebble of sand, or even a droplet of water, you must use your Dharma power to support these beings; thus, they will gradually cultivate the Supreme Bodhi. Do not let them regress [from the path to Enlightenment].”
“Moreover, Ksitigarbha, in the future, the karmic retributions of devas or men may cause them to fall into the suffering realms. Some may be on the verge of falling or have already fallen into these realms. If these beings recite the name of [just] one Buddha or Bodhisattva, or recite [just] a stanza or a phrase from a Mahayana Sutra, use your divine power to facilitate their expeditious rescue. Manifest your immeasurable body and deliver them from hells. Enable them to be reborn in heaven to enjoy great blessings.”
At that time, the World Honored One said these verses:
The present and future devas, humans and sentient beings
I earnestly entrust them to you
Use your great divine power to expediently rescue
Do not let them fall into various suffering realms.
At that time, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-Mahasattva knelt down on one knee with his palms joined and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, do not have any concern. In the future, if virtuous men or women have just one thought of respect for the Buddha-dharma, I shall use hundreds of thousands of expedient means to rescue them, so they shall quickly find deliverance from the cycle of life and death. The benefits will be greater for those who, with every thought, diligently cultivate after learning various virtuous practices. These people naturally will not regress from the supreme path of Enlightenment.”
At the conclusion of these words, a Bodhisattva in the assembly named Akasagarbha said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, since my arrival at Trayastrimsas to now, I have heard the Tathagata’s praise of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s unimaginable divine power. For the sake of all of the present and future beings, I wish the World Honored One to briefly explain how many types of benefits can be gained by virtuous men and women, including all eight classes of supernatural beings, who hears this Sutra and Ksitigarbha’s name, or respectfully gaze upon and pay homage to his statues.”
The Buddha told Akasagarbha Bodhisattva, “Listen carefully, I shall explain it for you. In the future, there may be virtuous men or women who see Ksitigarbha’s images or hear this Sutra. If they then chant this Sutra, make offerings of incense, flowers, food, clothings, jewels, say praises and pay homage, they shall attain twenty eight types of benefits.”
1. They shall be protected by eight classes of supernatural beings
2. Their accumulated merits will increase daily
3. They shall gather `Causes for their Enlightenment’
4. They shall not regress from the path to Enlightenment
5. Have abundance of food and clothings
6. Do not suffer from illness
7. Will not encounter flood or conflagration
8. Will not be burglarized or robbed
9. Respected by People
10. Receive assistances from gods and ghosts
11. Those who are female will be reborn as male
12. Those who are reborn as female will be daughters of high-ranking officials
13. Be reborn with good appearances
14. Often reborn in heaven
15. Or be reborn as kings
16. Born with great wisdom and have detailed memories of previous lives
17. Attain what they seek
18. Loved-ones shall enjoy happiness
19. All accidents are avoided
20. Forever avoid the suffering realms
21. Always arrive safely at their destinations
22. Enjoy peace in sleep and dream
23. Deceased relatives [who had fallen into suffering shall] leave suffering [realms]
24. Reborn with great amounts of merit
25. Praised by many holy beings
26. Born with wisdom and sharp minds
27 Have great compassion
28 Ultimately attaining Buddhahood.
“Furthermore, Akasagarbha Bodhisattva, if any of the present and future eight classes of supernatural beings hear Ksitigarbha’s name, pay homage to Ksitigarbha’s images, or hear the Ksitigarbha Fundamental Vow Sutra and follow the instructions within the Sutra to say praise and pay homage, then they shall attain seven kinds of benefits.”
1. Expedient entry into the Four Holy Realms
2. Negative karma is extinguished
3. Often receive protection from many Buddhas
4. Never regress from Bodhi
5. Their endowed powers are amplified
6. Possess knowledge of their past lives
7. Ultimately achieve Buddhahood.
At that time, after hearing Shakyamuni Buddha praising and expounding all of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s unimaginable Divine Powers [and the inconceivable vow to rescue sentient beings], all of the attendees from the Ten Directions, including all of the inexpressible numbers of Buddhas, Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, and eight classes of supernatural beings, exclaimed having never before heard such a sermon. At that time in Trayastrimsas Heaven, immeasurable amounts of incense, flowers, heavenly clothing, and jewels rained down as offerings to Shakyamuni Buddha and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. All of the beings in the gathering again gazed on and paid homage. Then, they joined their palms and withdrew.
Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by Tripitaka Shikshananda
Translated from Chinese into English by Johnny Yu
Dedication: On the behalf of my mother, brother and father, I dedicate all merits generated from this endeavor to the Dharmadhatu. May they expeditiously attain Enlightenment.
Release Date: 11/24/2005
Permission is granted to re-distribute this translation verbatim for non-profit purposes.
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Author | Buddha Weekly
Lee Kane is the editor of Buddha Weekly, since 2007. His main focuses as a writer are mindfulness techniques, meditation, Dharma and Sutra commentaries, Buddhist practices, international perspectives and traditions, Vajrayana, Mahayana, Zen. He also covers various events.
Lee also contributes as a writer to various other online magazines and blogs.