Sūtra of the Great Vow of Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva

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The Sūtra of the Great Vow of Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva (Kṣitigarbha Sūtra) is a story about the Buddha teaching to his mother in the Palace of Trāyastriṃśa Heaven about the merits of Kṣitigarbha. It was translated into Chinese, assumedly from Sanskrit, by the monk Śiksānanda from Khotan circa 700....

Chapter 8 - The Praise of Yama and his Followers

閻羅王眾讚歎品第八

 爾時,鐵圍山內,有無量鬼王,與閻羅天子,俱詣忉利,來到佛所。所謂惡毒鬼王、多惡鬼王、大諍鬼王、白虎鬼王、血虎鬼王、赤虎鬼王、散殃鬼王、飛身鬼王、電光鬼王、狼牙鬼王、千眼鬼王、噉獸鬼王、負石鬼王、主耗鬼王、主禍鬼王、主食鬼王、主財鬼王、主畜鬼王、主禽鬼王、主獸鬼王、主魅鬼王、主產鬼王、主命鬼王、主疾鬼王、主險鬼王、三目鬼王、四目鬼王、五目鬼王、祁利失王、大祁利失王、祁利叉王、大祁利叉王、阿那吒王、大阿那吒王。如是等大鬼王,各各與百千諸小鬼王,盡居閻浮提,各有所執,各有所主。

At that time, from inside the Iron Wall Mountain Lord Yama and his followers, an immeasurable number of ghost kings entered Trāyastriṃśa Heaven before the Buddha. There was Evil Poison Ghost King, Many Evils Ghost King, Great Quarrel Ghost King, White Tiger Ghost King, Blood Tiger Ghost King, Scarlet Tiger Ghost King, Spreading Calamities Ghost King, Flying Body Ghost King, Lightening Ghost King, Wolf Fang Ghost King, Thousand Eye Ghost King, Feeding Beast Ghost King, Bearing Rocks Ghost King, Lord of Waste Ghost King, Lord of Disasters Ghost King, Lord of Food Ghost King, Lord of Wealth Ghost King, Lord of Domesticated Animals Ghost King, Lord of Birds Ghost King, Lord of Beasts Ghost King, Lord of Magic Ghost King, Lord of Birth Ghost King, Lord of Fate Ghost King, Lord of Disease Ghost King, Lord of Danger Ghost King, Three Eyes Ghost King, Four Eyes Ghost King, Five Eyes Ghost King, Vast Loss of Wealth Ghost King, Great Loss of Wealth Ghost King, Vast Wealth Division Ghost King, Great Wealth Division Ghost King, Anato Ghost King, and Great Anato Ghost King. Such were the great ghost kings, each with hundreds of thousands of lesser ghost kings all living in Jambudvīpa and presiding over a certain domain.

是諸鬼王,與閻羅天子,承佛威神,及地藏菩薩摩訶薩力,俱詣忉利,在一面立。爾時,閻羅天子,胡跪合掌,白佛言:「世尊!我等今者與諸鬼王,承佛威神,及地藏菩薩摩訶薩力,方得詣此忉利大會,亦是我等獲善利故。我今有小疑事,敢問世尊,唯願世尊,慈悲宣說。」

The Lord Yama and all the ghost kings, using the spiritual power of the Buddha and the strength of Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva, all assembled at Trāyastriṃśa Heaven and stood together. At that time, Lord Yama kneeled, joined his palms, and said to the World Honored One, “Today, the ghost kings and I, using the spiritual power of the Buddha and the strength of Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva, have come to assemble here at Trāyastriṃśa Heaven from which we gain great joy and benefit. I have a small doubt that I dare to ask the World Honored One and I only hope that you would have the compassion to explain to us.”

佛告閻羅天子:「恣汝所問,吾為汝說。」

The Buddha said to Lord Yama, “I will answer any question that you ask.”

是時,閻羅天子瞻禮世尊,及迴視地藏菩薩,而白佛言:「世尊!我觀地藏菩薩,在六道中,百千方便,而度罪苦眾生,不辭疲倦。然諸眾生,脫獲罪報,未久之間,又墮惡道。世尊!是地藏菩薩既有如是不可思議神力,云何眾生而不依止善道,永取解脫?唯願世尊,為我解說。」

Then Lord Yama bowed to the World Honored One and looked back at Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I see that Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva uses a hundred thousand skillful means in the Six Realms to save sentient beings from suffering never tiring. He is a great bodhisattva and so we have this due to his inconceivable spiritual powers. Thus numerous sentient beings escape from the retribution that they deserve but before long they degenerate back into an evil rebirth. World Honored One, if Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva has such inconceivable divine powers, why do the sentient beings not rely on him to follow a virtuous path and be liberated for all time? I only wish that the World Honored One would explain that.”

佛告閻羅天子:「南閻浮提眾生,其性剛彊,難調難伏。是大菩薩,於百千劫,頭頭救拔如是眾生,早令解脫。是罪報人,乃至墮大惡趣。菩薩以方便力,拔出根本業緣,而遣悟宿世之事。自是閻浮眾生,結惡習重,旋出旋入。勞斯菩薩,久經劫數,而作度脫。

Buddha told the Lord Yama, “The sentient beings in Jambudvīpa have stubborn natures that are difficult to tame and difficult to subdue. The great bodhisattva has spent hundreds of thousands of kalpas to save these sentient beings leading them to liberation quickly. For those beings that carry karmic retribution and even will experience a very evil rebirth, the bodhisattva uses skillful power to break their karmic connections and help them understand the conditions of their former lives. Because sentient beings in Jambudvīpa are tied to their own vices they keep revolving in and out of the paths but the bodhisattva toils over long kalpas to rescue them.

「譬如有人,迷失本家,誤入險道。其險道中,多諸夜叉,及虎狼師子、蚖蛇蝮蠍。如是迷人,在險道中,須臾之間,即遭諸毒。有一知識,多解大術,善禁是毒,乃及夜叉諸惡毒等。忽逢迷人,欲進險道,而語之言:『咄哉!男子!為何事故,而入此路?有何異術,能製諸毒?』

“For example, like somebody lost and unable to find their home who takes a dangerous road. On this dangerous road there are many yaksas, tigers, wolves, lions, poisonous snakes, and scorpions. So the lost person on the dangerous path will very easily be harmed. But if he meets someone that can guide him to the main road then he can avoid harm, even from yaksas and other vicious beings. Suddenly, by chance, the lost person desiring to travel the dangerous road meets the guide who says to him, 'Hey! You! What purpose brings you to this road? What special skills do you have to overcome these dangers?'

是迷路人,忽聞是語,方知險道,即便退步,求出此路。是善知識,提攜接手,引出險道,免諸惡毒,至於好道,令得安樂,而語之言:『咄哉!迷人!自今已後,勿履是道。此路入者,卒難得出,復損性命。』

“The lost person suddenly wakes up upon hearing this realizing that he is on a dangerous road and turns around looking for a way out. The Dharma friend will lead the person by the hand, away from the dangerous road to avoid harm. They will lead the lost person to the good road so that the lost person can attain peace and happiness saying, “Hey! Lost person! Don't go back to that road after today. Very few people travel that road and it is difficult. It cause you harm or cost you your life.'

是迷路人,亦生感重。臨別之時,知識又言:『若見親知及諸路人,若男若女,言於此路多諸毒惡,喪失性命。無令是眾,自取其死。』

“The lost person feels a deep gratitude. When they part the acquaintance says again, 'If you see close acquaintances or a passers-by, either male or female, please tell them that this road is very dangerous and that travelling along it could cost them their lives. Do not let them bring about their own deaths.'

「是故地藏菩薩具大慈悲,救拔罪苦眾生,生天人中,令受妙樂。是諸罪眾,知業道苦,脫得出離,永不再歷。如迷路人,誤入險道,遇善知識,引接令出,永不復入。逢見他人,復勸莫入,自言:『因是迷故,得解脫竟,更不復入。』若再履踐,猶尚迷誤,不覺舊曾所落險道,或致失命,如墮惡趣。地藏菩薩方便力故,使令解脫,生人天中。旋又再入,若業結重,永處地獄,無解脫時。」

“Consequently, Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva has great compassion, rescuing those beings that suffer because of their own wrongdoing, enabling them to be born in the human and heavenly realms where they can receive great joy. Once the sinners understand the suffering of the path that they were on and they acheive liberation from it they will never return to experience it again. Like the lost person, who has mistakenly taken the dangerous road meets a Dharma friend will lead him out never to take the dangerous road again. When he meets other people he will also advise them not to take the road, saying 'I took that road because I was lost but know I escaped and I will not take it again.' If the person was to walk the road again then he would still get lost and unconsciously fall into the same old evil as before or, otherwise, loose his life, as if falling to an evil rebirth. Thus Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva uses the power of skillful means to lead people and gods to liberation. But if they turn away and enter another path, such as creating karmic conditions with serious consequences, then they may reside in Hell forever with no chance of escape.”

爾時,惡毒鬼王合掌恭敬,白佛言:「世尊!我等諸鬼王,其數無量,在閻浮提,或利益人,或損害人,各各不同。然是業報,使我眷屬,遊行世界,多惡少善。過人家庭,或城邑聚落,莊園房舍。或有男子女人,修毛髮善事,乃至懸一旛一蓋,少香少華,供養佛像及菩薩像,或轉讀尊經,燒香供養一句一偈。我等鬼王,敬禮是人,如過去、現在、未來諸佛。敕諸小鬼,各有大力,及土地分,便令衛護。不令惡事橫事、惡病橫病,乃至不如意事,近於此舍等處,何況入門?」

At that time, Evil Poison Ghost King joined palms, bowed. and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, all the ghost kings, including myself, uncountable in number, either help or harm people in Jambudvīpa, each in a different way. Thus, according to karmic retribution, my dependents and I travel the world doing more harm and less good. When passing people's houses, city dwellings, or country villas if there are either men or women who have cultivated as little as a hair of benevolent deeds, even hanging a single scroll or erecting a single canopy, using a little incense or a few flowers to make offerings to Buddha and bodhisattva images, or mindfully reciting a verse or a sentence of the sutras, or burning incense as an offering, then the ghost kings will respect those people as we would the past, present, or future Buddhas. I instruct smaller ghosts, each with great strength and their own territory to protect those people. To keep them away from accidental deaths, death from disease, even unexpected deaths near to their residences, not to mention entering their home.”

佛讚鬼王:「善哉!善哉!汝等及與閻羅,能如是擁護善男女等,吾亦告梵王帝釋,令衛護汝。」

The Buddha praised the Ghost King, “Excellent! Excellent! You and Yama thus support virtuous men and women. I also tell Brahmā and Śakra to protect you.”

說是語時,會中有一鬼王,名曰主命,白佛言:「世尊!我本業緣,主閻浮人命,生時死時,我皆主之。在我本願,甚欲利益。自是眾生,不會我意,致令生死,俱不得安。

After this was said a ghost king in the assembly called Master of Life said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, my own karmic conditions, as Master of Life in Jambudvīpa, I determine when people are born and when people will die. My own vows are based on a great desire to benefit them but sentient beings misunderstand me, which leads them through life and death in distress.

「何以故?是閻浮提人,初生之時,不問男女,或欲生時,但作善事,增益舍宅。自令土地無量歡喜,擁護子母,得大安樂,利益眷屬。或已生下,慎勿殺害,取諸鮮味,供給產母。及廣聚眷屬,飲酒食肉,歌樂絃管,能令子母,不得安樂。「何以故?是產難時,有無數惡鬼,及魍魎精魅,欲食腥血。是我早令舍宅土地靈祇,荷護子母,使令安樂,而得利益。如是之人,見安樂故,便合設福,答諸土地。翻為殺害,集聚眷屬,以是之故,犯殃自受,子母俱損。

“What is the reason for this? At the time when women in Jambudvīpa give birth, whether to a boy or a girl, or at the time that they want to give birth, then practicing benevolent actions will benefit the household. This will bring immeasurable joy to the community, supporting the mother and son and bring great peace and happiness and benefit to the family. Or, after the birth, do not kill to provide fresh meat for the mother that has just given birth. Also, do not gather the extended family to drink alchohol and eat meat or to enjoy singing, dancing, or music, which will not bring peace and happiness to the mother and son. Why is this? Giving birth is a difficult time. There are innumerable demons and also goblins and phantoms desiring to drink the meat. I quickly order the house and local district spririts to support and protect the mother and son, leading them to peace and happiness and other benefits. When people like this see the receive peace and happiness they should perform virtuous deeds to show their appreciation for the local earth spirit. On the other hand, if they assemble family dependents then they will bear the resulting calamities themselves and the mother and son will also be harmed.

「又閻浮提臨命終人,不問善惡,我欲令是命終之人,不落惡道,何況自修善根,增我力故。是閻浮提行善之人,臨命終時,亦有百千惡道鬼神,或變作父母,乃至諸眷屬,引接亡人,令落惡道,何況本造惡者?

“When people in Jambudvīpa are about to die, whether virtuous or evil, I want to help them from falling into an an evil rebirth afterwards. That is much easier for me to do if people cultivate themselves to develop virtuous roots. When those people in Jambudvīpa who practice good deeds are approaching the ends of their lives hundreds of thousands of spirits from evil realms appear as either their parents or as other family members leading the dying people to evil rebirths. How much worse will it be for those people that committed unwholesome deeds?

「世尊!如是閻浮提男子女人,臨命終時,神識惛昧,不辯善惡,乃至眼耳,更無見聞。是諸眷屬,當須設大供養,轉讀尊經,念佛菩薩名號。如是善緣,能令亡者,離諸惡道,諸魔鬼神,悉皆退散。

“World Honored One, thus at the time when a man and woman of Jambudvīpa is about to die their soul will be confused in the darkness. They cannot differentiate good from evil and their eyes and ears will not work. At that time all of the dying person's family members should make great offerings, continually recite sutras, and chant the names of Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Thus good karma can lead the dying person to stay away from the evil realms and the many devils and spirits will retreat and disperse.

世尊!一切眾生臨命終時,若得聞一佛名、一菩薩名,或大乘經典一句一偈,我觀如是輩人,除五無間殺害之罪,小小惡業,合墮惡趣者,尋即解脫。」

“World Honored One, if any sentient being hears a Buddha's name or a bodhisattva's name when they are approaching death, or hear one sentence or one verse from a Mahayana sutra I understand that such a person, if he or she has committed minor unwholesome acts that would lead them to an evil rebirth, will be liberated. The exception to this is an act of killing that would lead the person to be reborn in Fivefold Avici Hell.”

佛告主命鬼王:「汝大慈故,能發如是大願,於生死中,護諸眾生。若未來世中,有男子女人,至生死時,汝莫退是願,總令解脫,永得安樂。」

The Buddha said to Master of Life Ghost King, “You have great compassion in taking such a great vow to protect many beings in birth and death. If in a future life a man or a woman at the time of birth or death you will not regress from this vow but, instead, lead them to liberation and you will always be peaceful and happy.”

鬼王白佛言:「願不有慮,我畢是形,念念擁護閻浮眾生,生時死時,俱得安樂。但願諸眾生,於生死時,信受我語,無不解脫,獲大利益。」

The ghost king said to the Buddha, “Please rest assured that, until the end of my life I will remember to support the sentient beings of Jambudvīpa at the times of birth and death so that they all attain peace and happiness. I only wish that all sentient beings at the times of birth and death believe what I tell them so that they can be liberated and receive great benefits.”

爾時,佛告地藏菩薩:「是大鬼王主命者,已曾經百千生,作大鬼王,於生死中,擁護眾生。是大士,慈悲願故,現大鬼身,實非鬼也。卻後過一百七十劫,當得成佛,號曰無相如來。劫名安樂,世界名淨住。其佛壽命,不可計劫。地藏!是大鬼王,其事如是,不可思議,所度天人,亦不可限量。」

At that time, the Buddha said to Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva, “The Great Ghost King Master of Life has already lived a hundred thousand lifetimes as a great ghost king protecting sentient beings in birth and death. He is a great being because of his compassionate vow. Although he has the body of a great ghost king at present, he is not truly a ghost. After a hundred and seventy kalpas have passed he will become a Buddha called Animitta Tathāgata. His kalpa will be called Peace and Happiness and the name of his world will be Pure Dwelling. The Buddha's lifetime will be too many kalpas to measure. Kṣitigarbha, the Great Ghost King has saved an inconceivable number of people and devas that cannot be counted.

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