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 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.

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