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 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.


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