Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva fundamental vow sutra

by Johnny Yu | 2005 | 21,827 words

The story of Ksitigarbha occurs in the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Purvapranidhana Sutra which is a popular Mahayana Sutra. This sutra is said to have been spoken by the Buddha towards the end of his life. Ksitigarbha is a bodhisattva primarily revered in East Asian Buddhism and usually depicted as a Buddhist monk. Original title of the text: Kᚣitig...

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.

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