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: Kṣitig...
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