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 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.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: