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....
At that time, Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva mahāsattva used the great spiritual power of the Buddha, kneeled, joined palms, and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I see the karmic acts of sentient beings and compare their practice of dāna. There are some that do little and some that do much. Some attain merit for one life, some for ten lives, some for a hundred, and some receive great merit for a thousand lives. Why is this? I only wish that the World Honored One could explain this.”
At that time, the Buddha said to Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva, “In the Palace of Trāyastriṃśa Heaven today I will I will explain to everybody in the assembly the practice of dāna in Jambudvīpa, comparing the merit of practicing a little and the merit of practicing a lot. Please listen carefully to what I say.”
Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “I have doubts on this issue and will listen with joy.”
The Buddha said to Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva, “Jambudvīpa has many kings, ministers, chancellors, great elders, great Kṣatriyaḥs, and great Brāhmaṇs who may meet one of the most impoverished, even someone with deformed limbs and body or someone who is mute, deaf, or blind or some other kind of disability. If at the time the great king or other important person desires to practice dāna they can have great compassion, smile mindfully, distribute alms with their own hands or ask somebody else to distribute alms, and use a soft, reassuring voice then the merit that this king of other important figure gains will be as great as the dāna of Buddhas a numerous as the grains of sand in a hundred Ganges Rivers. What is the reason for this? The conditions of this king or other important figure showed a great merciful heart to the very poor or disabled person so the merit that they attain will be such that in a hundred thousand lifetimes they will sufficiently attain the Seven Treasures. How could they not have ample food and clothing for their use?
“Furthermore, Kṣitigarbha, if in future lives the king of even a brāhman visits a pagoda or temple or the image of a Buddha or even a bodhisattva, śrāvaka, or Pratyekabuddha image and bows or makes an offering then the king or other important figure will appear for three Asankhyeya Kalpas in the form of Śakra's body and receive wonderful bliss. If they can transfer the merit from this dāna back to the Dharma realm then the king or other great figure will be a Brahma Heaven king for ten kalpas.
“Furthermore, Kṣitigarbha, if there is a king or even a Brahman in a future world first visits the pagoda, temple, or images that are damaged or have deteriorated and they can make up their mind to repair the stūpa or temple then that king or other important figure either undertake the repair by himself, commission someone else, or encourage even a hundred thousand people to make donations and make affinities with them then that king or other important figure will be reborn as a wheel turning king [cakravartin] for a hundred thousand lifetimes. Thus other people who similarly practice dāna will be reborn as kings of smaller states for hundreds of thousands of lifetimes. If they can, in front of a stūpa or temple, resolve to transfer merits then a king or any other person can each follow the path to become a Buddha and attain immeasurable positive karmic results [vipāka].
“Furthermore, Kṣitigarbha, in future there will be kings and Brahmans that when the see the old, sick, and pregnant women and immediately have compassionate thoughts and practice dāna by giving medicine, food and drink, and accommodation so as to lead them to have peace and happiness. They will thus benefit unimaginably: for one hundred kalpas they will reside in the Pure Abodes [śuddhāvāsa or Pure Dwelling Heavens], for two hundred kalpas they will resid in the Six Heavens of the Desire Realm and, in the end, become a Buddha, never to have an evil rebirth, not even for a hundred thousand lifetimes and never hear the sound of suffering.
“Furthermore, Kṣitigarbha, if in future a king or a Brahman can practice dāna in this way then he will attain unlimited merit [puṇya]. If he is able to transfer the merit, no matter how much or how little, then he will, after all, become a Buddha. How much easier would it be for them to attain rebirth as Sakra, Brahma, or a wheel turning king? Therefore, Kṣitigarbha, you should urge all sentient beings to follow this practice.
“Furthermore, Kṣitigarbha, if there are virtuous men or women in the future who have just a few virtuous roots in the Dhárma, perhaps as much as a strand of hair or a grain of sand, then the benefits that they receive will be uncomparable. Furthermore, Kṣitigarbha, in future if there is a virtuous man or a virtuous woman who sees the image of a Buddha, a bodhisattva, a Pratyekabuddha, or a wheel turning king and makes offerings then he or she will attain immeasurable merit, as long lasting as heaven and earth and enjoy wonderful bliss. If that person can transfer the merits then the benefit obtained will be uncomparable.
“Furthermore, Kṣitigarbha, if there are good men and women in future who encounter Mahāyāna sūtras, either hearing one verse or one sentence, and resolve to praise, respect, and practice dāna by making offerings then they will obtain great karmic results, without limit. If they are able to transfer those merits to the Dharma realm then their merit will be incomparable.
“Furthermore, Kṣitigarbha, if there are good men and women in future who encounter a stūpa or a temple, or Mahāyāna sūtras and practice dāna by making offerings, revere and worship, praising, and bowing with joined palms or if they encounter damaged stūpas or temples and repair them, either by themselves or by commissioning others to, then for the next thirty lifetimes they will be a king of a lesser state. The donor [dānapati] will be a wheel turning king [cakravartin] or somebody that teaches a kings of a lesser states.
“Furthermore, Kṣitigarbha, if there are good men and women in the future who plant virtuous roots in the Dhárma by practicing dāna [charity] by making offerings, repairing stūpas and temples, or preserving sūtras even as little as a strand of hair or a grain of sand and if they can transfer [dedicate] the merits to the Dhárma Realm [the entire world] for these benevolent actions then the merit [puṇya] will be such that they will enjoy supreme and wonderful bliss for a hundred thousand lifetimes. However, if the merit is only transferred to their immediate family dependents or only for their own benefit then the karmic results will only result in three lifetimes of bliss. For giving up one they will gain a ten-thousand-fold reward. So, Kṣitigarbha, the causes and conditions for the practice of dāna are such.”