The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva

With Commentary By The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

A.D. 700 | 152,633 words

Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Pūrvapraṇidhāna Sūtra is a Mahāyāna sūtra teaching about the bodhisattva Kṣitigarbha, and is one of the more popular sūtras in Chinese Buddhism. The sutra tells of how Kṣitigarbha became a bodhisattva by making great vows to rescue other sentient beings, and a description of how he followed filial piety in his past lifetimes...

Chapter IV - Karmic Retributions of Beings in Jambudvipa

Commentary:

Jambudvipa is our southern continent of Jambudivipa. All living beings undergo retribution for whatever karma they created. Having sowed good causes, they reap good fruits; having sowed evil causes, they reap evil fruits. These are karmic retributions.

 

Sutra:

At that time Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, because I receive the awesome spiritual strength of the Buddha, Thus Come One, I am able to divide my body and rescue beings who are undergoing karmic retributions everywhere in billions of worlds. If it were not for the great compassionate strength of the Thus Come One, I would be unable to manifest such changes and transformations. Now the World Honored One has entrusted me with rescuing and liberating beings in the Six Paths until Ajita becomes a Buddha. I accept the entrustment, World Honored One. Please have no further concern.”

Commentary:

At that time Earth Store the Great Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, because I receive the awesome spiritual strength of the Buddha, Thus Come One, I am able to divide my body to teach beings and rescue all beings who give rise to delusion, create karma and who are undergoing karmic retributions everywhere in billions of worlds. Earth Store Bodhisattva did not say, “I have great spiritual powers; I have great wisdom; I have unobstructed eloquence.” He says that he is able to pervade billions and billions of worlds by relying on the power of the Buddha’s awesome virtues and spiritual penetrations. If it were not for the great compassionate strength of the Thus Come One, I would be unable to manifest such terrific changes and transformations such as teaching beings in billions and billions of division bodies. He changes roles or identities; he transforms something out of nothing all of a sudden.

Now the World Honored One has entrusted me with rescuing and liberating beings in the Six Paths of gods, humans, hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals and asuras, until Ajita becomes a Buddha. Does anyone know who Ajita is? You may not know Ajita, but you might have heard of Maitreya? Which Bodhisattva is Ajita? He is Maitreya Bodhisattva. Maitreya Bodhisattva’s name means “incomparably victorious”. He can overcome everything; no one can defeat him. His name means something so powerful, it is no wonder no one can defeat him. Since he smiles all day long and never gets angry, he enjoys wisdom that overcomes everything, hence his name “Incomparably Victorious”. Ajita also means “the kind clan”. I accept the entrustment, I agree to do this now, World Honored One. Please have no further concern. Do not worry.

 

Sutra:

Then the Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Beings who have not yet obtained liberation have unfixed natures and consciousnesses. Their bad habits reap bad karma; their good habits bring rewards. Reacting to situations by committing good or evil deeds causes them to turn in the Five Paths without a moment’s rest. Throughout eons as numerous as dust motes they remain confused, deluded, obstructed, and afflicted by difficulties. They are like fish swimming through waters laced with nets. They may slip through and keep their freedom temporarily, but sooner or later they will be caught. I am concerned about such beings. But since you keep making extensive vows repeatedly throughout successive eons to take such offenders across, what further worries need I have?”

Commentary:

Then the Buddha Shakyamuni told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “All beings who are still on the Wheel of Rebirth have not yet obtained liberation. They have unfixed natures and consciousnesses. They may have wanted to study the Buddhadharma originally, but once they do, they change their goal, which means they are unfixed in natures and consciousnesses. Their bad habits reap bad karma; their good habits bring rewards. Reacting to situations by committing good or evil deeds causes them to turn in the Five Paths of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals, asuras, and humans without a moment’s rest. They become born according to their states and as they pursue states. For instance, encountering good friends who speak the Buddhadharma for us, we go and do good deeds. Or we encounter corrupt friends who tell us to indulge in dissipation or to be mean. Hearing them often enough, we will act on it and possibly become like them. For instance, we gradually develop the habits of being diligent and frugal when we are with such people. Diligent and frugal people, after being with lazy people for some time will be affected and become lazy. “One takes on the color of one's company.” Without realizing it, we turn red when we are around rouge. The same with the color black. For example, without realizing it, we make our hands black when we write with dark ink. “Washed with brown dye, we turn brown; we are yellow when we are dyed yellow.” In the words of this sutra, this is called, “reacting to situations by committing good or evil deeds.” People who do not drink will start drinking for some reason when they are always with friends who drink. Draw near druggies and eventually they will turn into druggies. This is why we must be especially careful about making friends. Furthermore, people must listen to friends’ advice. There are good friends and bad friends actually. We must believe everything that good friends tell us; we must dismiss everything that bad friends tell us. “Reacting to situations by committing good or evil deeds” is the same idea.

Throughout eons as numerous as dust motes they remain confused, deluded, obstructed, and afflicted by difficulties. Due to one action, they undergo as many eons as motes of dust in an environment of fraught with confusion and karmic obstructions. What is this like? The Sutra explains it aptly: they are like fish swimming through waters laced with nets. They may slip through and keep their freedom temporarily, but sooner or later they will be caught again by fishermen. I am concerned about such beings, this type of people. I am worried because, you see, Shakyamuni Buddha is sad that we cannot get out of this dangerous and not-at-all fun fishnet. Though this is cause for concern for Shakyamuni Buddha, we should not worry. As long as we concentrate on studying the Buddhadharma, things will work out.

But since youkeep making extensive vows. Shakyamuni Buddha addresses Earth Store Bodhisattva saying, ‘Since you will fulfill the vows you made in the past,’ repeatedly throughout successive eons to take such offenders across, what further worries need I have? What is there for me to be sad about? I do not have anything to be concerned about! I can rest assured. Okay! Go and do it. Shakyamuni Buddha heard Earth Store Bodhisattva tell him this, he responds by declaring that ‘I will not worry anymore.’”

 

Sutra:

After that was said, a Bodhisattva Mahasattva in the assembly named Samadhi Self-Mastery King said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, what vows has Earth Store Bodhisattva made during so many successive eons that now cause him to receive the World Honored One’s special praise? We hope the World Honored One will tell us about this.”

Then the World Honored One replied to Samadhi Self-Mastery King, “Listen attentively, listen attentively, and reflect well on the examples I am about to give you.

Commentary:

After that was said, a Bodhisattva Mahasattva, a great Bodhisattva too, in the assembly named Samadhi Self-Mastery King, who got his name because he reached self-mastery by cultivating Samadhi. Not only did he reach a sense of ease, but the king among different types of ease. He said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, what vows has Earth Store Bodhisattva made during so many successive eons that now cause him to receive the World Honored One’s compassionate, earnest, and special praise? We hope the World Honored One will tell us about this briefly.”

Then the World Honored One, at that time Shakyamuni Buddha, replied to Samadhi Self-Mastery King, “Listen attentively, listen attentively, and reflect well on and remember the examples and detailed explanations I am about to give you.

 

Sutra:

One time, limitless asamkhyeyas of nayutas of inexpressible eons ago, a Buddha named All-Knowledge-Accomplished Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge, One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct, Well-Gone One, Unsurpassed Knight Who Understands the World, Taming and Subduing Hero, Teacher of Gods and People, Buddha, World Honored One, appeared in the world. That Buddha’s life span was sixty thousand eons.

Commentary:

One time. . . how far back in time? Limitless asamkhyeyas of nayutas (these are terms for eons and large figures) of inexpressible eons ago, a Buddha named All-Knowledge-Accomplished Thus Come One appeared in the world. There are three types of knowledge: All Wisdom, Wisdom of Various Dharmas, and All Modes of Wisdom. All Wisdom includes the other two types of wisdom, and is what is realized by the Thus Come One. Thus Come One is one of the ten titles of the Buddha. One layperson asked me, “Are Thus Come One Buddha and Amitabha Buddha different?” Actually, Amitabha Thus Come One, Shakyamuni Thus Come One, Medicine Master Thus Come One, all have Thus Come One as part of their name. Just because one Buddha is named Thus Come One, it does not mean another Buddha cannot have the name Thus Come One.

The Buddha has ten titles. We may have a formal name that our elders call us by, then an informal name that our peers call us by. Lion’s Roar is a title that is heard far and wide as your reputation spreads. It symbolizes a loud sound. Thus Come One is one of the Buddha’s ten titles that are derived from former names of virtuous individuals.

“Thus” refers to not having any specific location. “Come” refers to manifestations when responses and the Way intertwine. These make up the name “Thus Come One”. Also, “Thus Come” also means one comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. “Thus” represents the noumenon in fundamental enlightenment. “Come” is starting of wisdom of enlightenment. The Thus Come One relates the noumenon of fundamental enlightenment to the wisdom of beginning enlightenment. This is roughly what “Thus Come One” means.

One Worthy of Offerings means that he deserves offerings from heavenly beings and people. There is another name for this, and that is “the title of Worthy of Being a Field of Blessings”. There are two types of fields of blessings, one that benefits oneself and another that benefits others. The one that benefits oneself is for one to study that which is true and eliminate delusion. What does that mean? It is beneficial for us when we study the truth and eliminate delusions. Once we understand, we can then go on to teach and change others, so that they also reach the truth and end delusions; hence benefiting others.

Three, One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge. He is omniscient. “Proper” makes it different from the non-Buddhists’ “improper”. “Pervasive” is different from the Two Vehicles’ “non-pervasive”. Adherents of the Two Vehicles have certified to the noumenon of extreme emptiness rather than pervasiveness, which is distinct from the Two Vehicles. “Knowledge” makes it different from ordinary individuals who have no “Knowledge”. Proper and pervasive knowledge is omniscience. There is a title to the One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge, which is “the title of Pervasively Knowing the Dharma Realm.” What does this title mean? As the Shurangama Sutra says, “W hy the pine is straight, why the brambles are twisted, why the goose is white, why the crow is black - I understand the reasons.” The Buddha understands fundamentally why the way these things are the way they are. He even knows the number of raindrops, even just one, beyond the Three Thousand Great Thousand Worlds. The Buddha received this title because he is omniscient, which is “Pervasively Knowing the Dharma Realm”.

One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct. Clarity is also wisdom while cultivation is blessings. Beings replete in both blessings and wisdom make the Buddha One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct. There are three types of clarity embedded in this name, and what are they? Clarity There is Clarity with the Heavenly Eye from acquiring the penetration of the Heavenly Eye . , Clarity of Past Lives—one understands everything that occurred in lives past . , and Clarity in Ending Outflows. There is also a special title to One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct, which is “the title of Results that Show Virtues at the Causal Level”. At the level of consequences, the Buddha manifests the virtuous conducts he cultivated in the past.

Well-Gone One, One Who Understands the World. Another title for this is “Wonderful Proceeding Towards Bodhi”. This title includes Wonderful Proceeding because he is good at going to all the Buddhalands throughout the ten directions. He uses provisional and clever expedients to teach and transform living beings.

Unsurpassed Knight is one of the Buddha’s ten titles too because the Buddha has ended all delusions so that he has no more delusions of view, delusions of thought, delusions of dust motes, and others. If there are delusions left to sever still, then that would be a knight who still has something to surpass. Unsurpassed Knight has an alternate title too, which is “the title of Connecting with the False and Reaching the True”. The Buddha knows that everything inside and outside his body are illusory and false; only the Buddha Vehicle is true and hence “the title of Connecting with the False and Reaching the True.”

Taming and Subduing Hero who metaphorically steers a carriage. In ancient times, carts are drawn by horses with someone whipping the horses and steering the cart. Driving a car nowadays is like steering a carriage. One evening someone said to me, “A driver is a taming and subduing hero.” What does this hero tame and subdue? He tames and subdues beings of the six realms so that they reach the Buddhas’ fruit of Bodhi. This is the greatest hero because he tames and subdues living beings so that they all become liberated from birth and death, transcending the six paths of transmigration. There is also another title to Taming and Subduing Hero, and that is, “the title of Gathering in and Transforming so They Comply with the Way”. He transforms living beings, saving all so that they cultivate according to this path.

Teacher of Gods and People. The Buddha is a role model for gods and people throughout the Triple Realm. He also goes by “the title of Speaking the Dharma According to Potential”.

The ninth name is Buddha. “Buddha” is half of the Sanskrit word, “Buddhaya”. Since the Chinese prefers things simple, the word became “Buddha”. The “Buddha” also goes by “the title of Perfect and Clear in the Three Enlightenments.” The three types of enlightenment are self-enlightenment, enlightenment of others, and perfection in enlightening conducts. When the three types of enlightenment are perfected, one is replete with the myriad virtues; hence one becomes a Buddha.

The last one is the World Honored One. Whether in the world or beyond the world, the Buddha is respected. This name also goes by “the title of Being the Only Honored One in the Triple Realm”. The Triple Realm consists of the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm. The Buddha is alone honored. When Shakyamuni Buddha was born, he pointed at the sky with one hand and pointed down at the earth with another hand, proclaiming, “Above and below, I alone am honored.” This is why the tenth name for the Buddha is the World Honored One and an alias by “the title of Being the Only Honored One in the Triple Realm.” There are six meanings to the name “World Honored One”: 1. Self-mastery. The Buddha is most at ease. 2. Blazes like fire. 3. Proper and adorned. 4. Universally known. Everyone knows the name, “Buddha”. 5. Auspiciousness. The name, “World Honored One” means auspiciousness. 6. Honored. The above explanations are simple explanations of ten titles to the Buddha.

This Buddha appeared in the world. That Buddha’s life span was sixty thousand eons.

 

Sutra:

Before he became a monk, he was the king of a small country and was friendly with the king of a neighboring country. Both kings practiced the Ten Wholesome Deeds and benefited beings. Because the citizens of those two neighboring countries did many bad things, the two kings made a plan using far-reaching expedients. One king vowed to quickly become a Buddha and then rescue absolutely all the other beings.

“The other king vowed, ‘I do not want to become a Buddha until I first rescue all those who are suffering for their offenses, enabling them to find peace and finally to reach Bodhi.’”

The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Samadhi Self-Mastery King, “The king who vowed to quickly become a Buddha is All-Knowledge-Accomplished Thus Come One. The king who vowed to keep saving beings who are suffering for their offenses rather than become a Buddha is Earth Store Bodhisattva.

Commentary:

Before he became a monk. . . Before this All-Knowledge-Accomplished Thus Come left the householder’s life, he was the king of a small country and was friendly with the king of a neighboring country. He was friends with a neighboring king. Both kings practiced the Ten Wholesome Deeds, which are not killing, not stealing, not committing sexual misconduct, not being greedy, not being angry, not being deluded, not speaking harshly, not lying, not speaking frivolously, and not speaking divisively. They did these ten kinds of good deeds and benefited beings. Because all the citizens of those two neighboring countries did many bad things, the two kings held a discussion, thought of some ways and made a plan using far-reaching expedients to help their people.

One king vowed to quickly become a Buddha. One of the kings made a vow that said, “I hope I will become a Buddha soon.” What will he do once he becomes a Buddha soon? On ce he becomes a Buddha, he will then do a good job of rescuing absolutely all the other beings who are creating evil. Without exception, all evil-creating beings will be saved.

“The other king vowed, ‘I do not want to become a Buddha until I first rescue all those who are suffering for their offenses, enabling them to find peace and finally to reach Bodhi. If I do not first save all beings who create evil and bear offenses, so that they leave suffering and reach peace and happiness, and even to Buddhahood, I will never become a Buddha. I must save all beings before I become a Buddha; I will not become a Buddha if there is still one being who is not yet a Buddha.’”

The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Samadhi Self-Mastery King, “The king who vowed to quickly become a Buddha is the Thus Come One we just talked about, All-Knowledge-Accomplished Thus Come One. The king who vowed to keep saving beings who are suffering for their offenses rather than become a Buddha is Earth Store Bodhisattva. Who is the king who refuses to become a Buddha if there is any being not yet a Buddha? He is Earth Store Bodhisattva and that is a vow he made in the past.

 

Sutra:

“Another time, limitless asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One appeared in the world. His life span was forty eons. In his Dharma-Image Age, an Arhat who had accumulated blessings from rescuing beings met a woman named Bright Eyes, who offered a meal to him once while he was teaching and transforming beings.

“‘What is your wish?’ asked the Arhat.

“Bright Eyes replied, ‘On the day of my mother’s death I performed meritorious deeds to rescue her, but I do not know where my mother is now.’

“Sympathizing with her, the Arhat entered samadhi to contemplate and saw that Bright Eyes’ mother had fallen into a bad destiny where she was undergoing extreme suffering. The Arhat asked, ‘Bright Eyes, what unwholesome karma did your mother create while alive that makes her now have to undergo such terrible suffering in a bad destiny?’

“Bright Eyes replied, ‘My mother enjoyed eating fish, turtles, and other sea creatures. She especially liked to fry or broil fish and turtle eggs. Every time she ate those she took thousands of lives. Oh, Venerable One, please be compassionate and tell me how she can be saved!’

“The Arhat took pity on Bright Eyes and used his skillful means. He urged Bright Eyes thus, ‘With sincere resolve, be mindful of Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One and also make carved and painted images of him. When you do so, both the living and the dead will be rewarded.’

Commentary:

“Another time, limitless asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One appeared in the world. His life span was forty eons. In his Dharma-Image Age, the Dharma Image Age after this Buddha entered nirvana, an Arhat who certified to the fruition and who had accumulated blessings to rescue beings met a woman named Bright Eyes, who offered a meal to him once while he was teaching and transforming beings.

“‘What is your wish? What do you wish in return for your offering to me? What advantages are you hoping for?’ asked the Arhat.

“Bright Eyes replied, ‘On the day of my mother’s death I performed meritorious deeds to rescue her, but I do not know where my mother is now. In which realm did my mother become reborn?

“Sympathizing with her, the Arhat meditated, entered samadhi to contemplate and saw that Bright Eyes’ mother had fallen into a bad destiny where she was undergoing extreme suffering. The Arhat saw these states and asked, ‘Bright Eyes, what unwholesome karma did your mother create while alive that makes her now have to undergo such terrible suffering in a bad destiny, in the hells?’

“Bright Eyes replied, ‘My mother enjoyed eating fish, turtles, and other sea creatures. She did not eat only fish and turtles, what else did she eat? She especially liked to fry or broil fish and turtle eggs. She ate with an abandoned indulgence. She forgets everything else, including her life, when she has food like this in front of her. Every time she ate those she took thousands of lives. Were we to count the number of lives she took, there would be as many as billions upon billions. Oh, Venerable One, please be compassionate and tell me how she can be saved! Please think of a way to save my mother.

“The Arhat took pity on Bright Eyes and used his skillful means. He urged Bright Eyes thus, ‘With sincere resolve, be mindful of Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One and also make carved and painted images of him. When you do so, both the living and the dead will be rewarded. This way you and your mother both acquire benefits. Whether those alive or passed away experiences advantages.

 

Sutra:

“Bright Eyes heard that, quickly renounced everything she loved, and swiftly commissioned painted images of the Buddha. Then she made offerings before them. The reverence she felt moved her to tears and she wept in grief as she beheld and bowed to the Buddha. Suddenly near the end of the night, in a dream, she saw that Buddha’s body, dazzling gold in color and as large as Mount Sumeru, emitting great light.

“He said to Bright Eyes, ‘Your mother will be born in your household before long and as soon as that infant can feel hunger and cold, he will speak.’

“Shortly thereafter, a maidservant in the house bore a son who spoke before he was three days old. Lowering his head and weeping, he said to Bright Eyes, ‘The karmic conditions we create during our lives and deaths result in retributions that we ourselves must undergo. I am your mother and have been in darkness for a long time. Since you and I parted, I have repeatedly fallen into the great hells. Upon receiving the power of your blessings, I have been reborn as a servant’s child with a short life span. Thirteen years from now, I will fall into the evil paths again. Do you have some way to free me so that I can avoid them?’

Commentary:

“Bright Eyes heard that Arhat teach her, to pay respects and make offerings to Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One, so she quickly renounced, exchanged or sold everything she loved the way the Brahman woman sold her house, as mentioned earlier. This woman Bright Eyes sold everything she cherished. The most precious valuables and impossible to give up things were given away or sold. And she swiftly commissioned painted images of the Buddha on paper, silk and other fabric. Then she made offerings of incense, flowers, lamps, candles, and fruits, and different kinds of food, clothing, and bedding before them. The most sincere reverence she felt moved her to tears and she wept in grief as she beheld and bowed to the Buddha. Since she knew that her mother fell into one of the evil realms and is enduring the suffering of that evil realm, she sobbed out of sadness. She took a look at the Buddha image then bowed. Suddenly near the end of the night, in a dream, she saw that Buddha’s body. It felt like a dream, though it was not a dream. Since she was extremely sincere, she experienced a state where response and the Way intertwined-- she saw a Buddha in her room. If the sutra were just to say that she saw a vision, it may seem too strange, so the sutra says that she saw a Buddha in a dream. The Buddha, dazzling gold in color and as large as Mount Sumeru, emitting great light. “He said to Bright Eyes, ‘Your mother will be born in your household before long and as soon as that infant can feel hunger and cold, he will speak. Just you wait.

“Shortly thereafter, a maidservant in the house bore a son who spoke before he was three days old. Maidservants are usually of a lower class and has to do what their employers order. So soon, their maid gave birth to a son. Usually children start talking at the age of three or four, but this child was not yet three-days-old and can could speak. What did he say? Lowering his head as if bowing to the Buddha image and weeping, he said to Bright Eyes, ‘The karmic conditions we create during our lives and deaths result in retributions that we ourselves must undergo. We must face positive and negative consequences ourselves. I am your mother and have been in darkness devoid of light from the sun, the moon, or the stars for a long time. Since you and I parted, I have repeatedly fallen into the great hells. Upon receiving the power of your blessings, for which I am very grateful, I have been reborn as a servant’s child with a short life span. Although reincarnated as a human being, I am of a lower class. That is not so critical as I will die an early death. Thirteen years from now, I will fall into the evil paths again. Do you have some way to free me so that I can avoid them? Hurry up and think of a way to liberate me from the suffering in the evil realms!

 

Sutra:

“When Bright Eyes heard those words, she knew without a doubt that they were her mother’s. Choked with sobs, she said to the servant’s child, ‘Since you were my mother, you should know your own past offenses. What unwholesome karma did you create that made you fall into the Evil Paths?’

“The maidservant’s son answered, ‘I am undergoing retribution for two kinds of karma: killing and slandering. Had I not received the blessings you earned to rescue me from difficulty, I would not yet be released from that karma.’

“Bright Eyes asked, ‘What happens in the hells when beings undergo retribution for their offenses?

’“The maidservant’s son answered, ‘I can’t bear to speak of the ways in which beings suffer for their offenses. Even if I were to live for a hundred thousand years, I would find it hard to talk about.”

“When Bright Eyes heard that, she wept bitterly and spoke into the air, saying, ‘I vow that my mother will be released from the hells forever. At the end of these thirteen years, she will be done with her heavy offenses and will not go back to the Evil Paths. O Buddhas of the Ten Directions, with your compassion and sympathy, please listen to the vast and mighty vow that I am making for the sake of my mother. If my mother never again enters the Three Evil Paths, is never again born into low stations, and will never again be female, then here before the image of Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One, I vow that from this day on, throughout millions of billions of eons I will respond to all beings who are undergoing suffering for their offenses in the hells or the Three Evil Paths of any world. I vow to rescue them from the bad destinies of the hells, hungry ghosts, animals, and the like. Only after beings with such retributions have all become Buddhas will I myself achieve Proper Enlightenment.’

“After making that vow, she clearly heard Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One say to her, ‘Bright Eyes, your own great compassion and sympathy will reach your mother through this mighty vow that you are making. My contemplation shows me that after thirteen years your mother will be done with this retribution and will be born as a Brahman with a life span of one hundred years. After that retribution, she will be born in the Land of No Concern with a life span of uncountable eons. Later she will realize the fruition of Buddhahood and save people and gods as numerous as sand grains in the Ganges.’”

Shakyamuni Buddha told Samadhi Self-Mastery King, “The Arhat whose blessings helped Bright Eyes then is now Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva. The mother of Bright Eyes is now Liberation Bodhisattva. Bright Eyes herself is now Earth Store Bodhisattva.

Commentary:

“When Bright Eyes heard those words from her maid’s newborn son, she knew without a doubt that they were her mother’s. She knew without a doubt that the child was formerly her mother. Choked with sobs, she could hardly speak or cry out loud. She cannot seem to laugh or cry even if she wants to. She is all choked up because she is extremely sad. Then she said to the servant’s child, ‘Since you were my mother, you should know your own past offenses. What unwholesome karma did you create that made you fall into the Evil Paths?’

“The maidservant’s son answered, ‘I am undergoing retribution for two kinds of karma: killing and slandering. She killed a lot of fish eggs because she liked boiled or fried fish and turtle eggs. This type of karma from killing is tremendous. She slandered the Triple Jewel and spoke harshly to many beings. Two types of serious offenses led her to face this type of retribution. Had I not received the blessings you earned to rescue me from difficulty, I would not yet be released from that karma. Based on the karma I created, I should not have been released from my suffering yet.

“Bright Eyes asked, ‘What happens in the hells when beings undergo retribution for their offenses? Can you tell me?

’“The maidservant’s son answered Bright Eyes, ‘I can’t bear and find it impossible to speak of the ways in which beings suffer for their offenses. You see, some people are sitting here listening to the sutras and consider it painful; what do you think they would do were they to fall into the hells? In the face of misery, you say, “I do not want to be there to bear punishment!” That is impossible to escape. Without atoning our offenses, it would be impossible to wish out of suffering in the hells. So while undergoing some pain in the human realm, think, “Oh! This is much better than the misery in the hells; suffering in the hells is much more severe.” If you can think that way, then you will be happy wherever you are; there would be no insufferable places. You will not find pains in the legs painful, for example. You see, in the hells, ghosts stick you with a fork and drop you in a pot of oil. Is that miserable? If you say, “Gee, I cannot stand it, please do not put me in that pot of oil.” They will not listen to you; there is no favor to speak of. Is that miserable? In fact, they fry you over and over again so that you suffer more. Even if I were to live for a hundred thousand years, I would find it hard to talk about or to finish talk about such pain at once.”

“When Bright Eyes heard that, she wept bitterly. See how in the past, Earth Store Bodhisattva could do nothing but cry; others do not even have such capabilities. She sobbed and wailed loudly, ‘Oh, what do I do?’ And spoke into the air. Since there was nothing she could do, she could only speak into the air, saying, ‘I vow that my mother will be released from the hells forever. Fortunately Bright Eyes’ mother had such a filial daughter, without whom the mother could not have come out of the hells so easily because she had taken many lives and yelled at many people. These are the reasons why she suffered in the hells. Fortunately, the mother had this filial daughter who made a vow that her mother may forever be released from the suffering in the hells. At the end of these thirteen years when her life ended, she will be done with her heavy offenses and will not go back to the Evil Paths. O Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the Ten Directions, with your compassion and sympathy, please listen to the vast and mighty vow that I am making for the sake of my mother. Be my witness.

If my mother never again enters the Three Evil Paths of the hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals where they experience the pain of knives, blood, and fire. If she is never again born into low stations such as that of a servant’s family, and will never again be female, then here before the image of Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One, I vow that from this day on, throughout millions of billions of eons I will respond to all beings who are undergoing suffering for their offenses in the hells or the Three Evil Paths (the hells, the realm of hungry ghosts, and the realm of animals) of any world. I vow to rescue them from the bad destinies and the sufferings of the hells, hungry ghosts, animals, and the like. You should know, if Earth Store Bodhisattva had not made such great vows, we would probably be suffering in the hells, in the realm of hungry ghosts, or in the realm of animals too. The reason that we can be humans now all comes from this vow that Earth Store Bodhisattva made infinite eons ago; we are consequently rescued from the hells, from the realm of hungry ghosts, or from the realm of animals. Since we do not have the penetration of past lives or the penetration of the heavenly eye, we do not realize how much benefit and compassion we received from Earth Store Bodhisattva before. None of us knows the benefit and kindness he gave us. If Earth Store Bodhisattva had not made such a great vow a long time ago, we would be in tremendous danger. This is why we must be grateful to Earth Store Bodhisattva and maintain the resolve to repay his kindness. Only after beings with such retributions have all become Buddhas will I myself achieve Proper Enlightenment. I will become a Buddha only once these people become Buddhas,

“After making that vow, she clearly heard Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One say to her. . . She did not just hear in a way that was casual, vague, or confusing as if in a dream. She clearly heard Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One tell Bright Eyes, ‘Bright Eyes, your own great compassion and sympathy for making this kind of vow delights me.’ She praises Bright Eyes, ‘You are able to make a vow that will reach your mother through this mighty vow that you are making. Who taught you? Who told you? So that you can make this great filial vow for your mother! I have never heard any being who can make such a great vow at saving all beings in order to rescue her mother. This is truly rare! This is the best. You are the finest girl. My contemplation using my Buddha Eye shows me that after thirteen years your mother will be done with this retribution and will be born as a Brahman. Since you made such a huge vow, your mother in her next life will become a Brahman woman after thirteen years of this life. The Brahmans are the pure clan of generations of individuals who cultivate purity. With a life span of one hundred years as a Brahman, she will be different then. After that retribution, she will be born in the Land of No Concern, the Land of Ultimate Bliss, with a life span of uncountable eons. Later she will realize the fruition of Buddhahood and save people and gods as numerous as sand grains in the Ganges.’”

Shakyamuni Buddha told Samadhi Self-Mastery King, “The Arhat whose blessings helped Bright Eyes then to see where her mother fell is now Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva. He was an arhat at the time Pure-Lotus-Eyes was a Thus Come One and now he is Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva. Do you know who Bright Eyes’ mother is? The mother of Bright Eyes is now Liberation Bodhisattva. Bright Eyes herself is now Earth Store Bodhisattva.

 

Sutra:

He has been extending his compassion and sympathy like that from distant eons onward by making vows as many as Ganges’ sands to rescue vast numbers of beings.

“Men and women in the future may fail to do good deeds and only do evil; may not believe in cause and effect; may indulge in sexual misconduct and false speech; may use divisive and harsh speech; and may slander the Great Vehicle. Beings with karma like that should certainly fall into bad destinies.

Commentary:

He has been extending his compassion and sympathy like that from distant eons onward by making vows as many as Ganges’ sands to rescue vast numbers of beings. During an eon long, long ago, this Earth Store Bodhisattva was extremely compassionate and sympathetic toward living beings as described above, so he made as many vows as the number of sand grains in the Ganges River. The number of vows is not so as small as described in the sutras, it is equivalent to infinity. He universally teaches and transforms all beings, liberating all beings.

“Men and women in the future may fail to do good deeds and only do evil. People should do no evil and devote to doing every kind of good. These people, however, do not do any act of goodness but do every kind of evil. They may not believe in cause and effect.

Yesterday we went to lecture at University of California. After the lecture, one Chinese student asked me outside, “Does Buddhism believe in cause and effect?” I said, “Yes! Not only should we believe in cause and effect but know that it is absolutely accurate. There is cause and effect whether you believe in this law or not. Let me show you an on-the-spot experiment if you do not believe in the law of cause and effect. How do we conduct this experiment? Go find someone and slap him. This person will certainly slap you back. Your slapping him is the cause; his slapping you in return is the result. You hit someone else and someone else hits you. Do you believe in this principle?” He was left speechless. Initially he had a lot of theories with which he planned to argue that there is no cause and effect, but after what I said, he was either afraid that someone will hit him or that he did not want to hit anyone, so he became a believer in cause and effect. I said hitting people is a cause. You are not supposed to hit people, but you did, thus creating a cause; consequently people turn around to hit you, creating a result. Cause and effect refers to other people being mean to you because you are mean to others; were you good to others, they would be good to you too. This is the law of cause and effect. Sow causes of goodness and you will reap fruits of goodness; sow causes of evil and you will reap fruits of evil. For instance, befriend bad people and they will turn you into a bad person; befriend good people and you will become good even if you started out being bad. Everything is about cause and effect. Do not go searching for the answer outside. Quit saying that other people are mean to me; first ask ourselves whether we are good to others. Reflect on everything and search for the answers within. Stop acting like a camera that photographs others all the time but has no idea what itself looks like.

They may indulge in sexual misconduct and false speech all the time; they may use divisive and harsh speech. We must remember not to speak divisively or harshly. What is divisive speech? We reserve one kind of expression for some people and another kind of expression for some other people. For example, we criticize B in front of A and criticize A in front of B. We make mistakes in speaking divisively and harshly. Or we create schisms among an originally harmonious group; a group disperses because of our destructions. Among the different transgressions in speaking divisively and harshly, the most critical is not to break up the harmony of the Sangha. What does that mean? As a layperson, you should not speak of the faults of novices and Bhikshus because they have received at the least, the novice precepts or the Bodhisattva precepts. You learn the Buddhadharma from Bhikshus and novices. You cannot study the Buddhadharma then wreck the Buddhadharma. Do not create disharmony in the Sangha. If you do, then you speak divisively and harshly to break up a harmonious Sangha.

Ruining a Sangha’s harmony is one of the Five Rebellious Offenses, the most serious offenses. The five are: 1. Killing one’s father; 2. Killing one’s mother; 3. Killing an arhat who has certified to the fruition; 4. Destroying a Sangha’s harmony, such as telling one monastic about another monastic’s mistakes, faults, and wrong-doings, then tell the second one about how the first one is mean, wronged you, and is jealous and obstructive. As a result, monastics do not get along. They do not live together; they live apart. This would be wrecking a Sangha’s harmony. 5. Shedding the Buddha’s blood by burning Buddha images or damaging Buddha images. Although the Buddha is not in the world now, ruining Buddha images is also considered shedding the Buddha’s blood. The above are all included in the areas of divisive speech and harsh speech. We must be particularly attentive in avoiding these problems. Making such transgressions, we fall into the hells and will never come out.

And they may slander the Great Vehicle, claiming that there is no Great Vehicle text, only Pali text. Some such crazy man came yesterday, and asked, “Is your sutra translated from Pali?” He did not even know what Pali looks like and he asked whether the text came from a Pali text. He pretends to be an expert who knows; this kind of person is most pathetic. Beings with karma like that should certainly fall into bad destinies. They will definitely fall into the Three Evil Destinies, where things are dangerous.

 

Sutra:

But if they encounter Good and Wise Advisors who exhort them and lead them to quickly take refuge with Earth Store Bodhisattva, then those beings will just as quickly be released from their retributions in the Three Evil Paths. If those beings are determined and respectful, if they behold, bow to, and praise the Bodhisattva, and if they make offerings of flowers, incense, clothing, jewels, food, and drink to him, they will enjoy supremely wonderful bliss in the heavens for millions of billions of eons. When their blessings in the heavens end and they are born as people, throughout hundreds of thousands of eons they will have the potential to be national leaders able to remember all aspects of causes and effects from previous lives. O Samadhi Self-Mastery King, Earth Store Bodhisattva has such inconceivably great awesome spiritual power that he uses expansively for the benefit of beings. All of you Bodhisattvas should remember this sutra, and proclaim and spread it far and wide.”

Samadhi Self-Mastery King Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, please do not be concerned. We thousands of billions of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, based on the Buddha’s awesome spiritual strength, will certainly proclaim this sutra widely throughout Jambudvipa for the benefit of beings.”

Having spoken thus to the World Honored One, Samadhi Self-Mastery King Bodhisattva put his palms together respectfully, bowed, and withdrew.

Commentary:

But if, perhaps and perhaps not, now let us hypothetically assume that they encounter Good and Wise Advisors. What is Good and Wise Advisor? Someone who knows things by their name and by their looks. Good can also mean “capable”. He knows and recognizes things. What things? He knows about the miserable afflictions of this Triple Realm, that the Triple Realm is not peaceful, just like a house on fire.

There are three kinds of Good and Wise Advisors. The first kind is Good and Wise Advisors who protect the Dharma externally. This kind of Good and Wise Advisor helps to take care of everything. What do monastics need? They will protect and support the Triple Jewel and the monastic residents. They provide everything that monastics need. These are Good and Wise Advisors who protect externally. The second kind is companion Good and Wise Advisors. They are companions in that they cultivate with us and encourage us. How do they encourage one another? They beat up their fellow cultivators; you help me look for my problems, and I help you look for your problems. Since people do not know their own faults; whereas other people will detect all of our faults easily. As it is said, “Those who are in the game do not see clearly.” We cannot tell what is right or wrong in our own role. “Those who are bystanders see clearly.” Those on the sidelines can tell my faults and I can see your faults. This is called beating up on your fellow cultivators. Though, this is not about seeing others’ faults and getting angry or you getting angry because I tell you your faults. Instead of getting angry, study our errors, which turn the situation into encouragements and exhortations so that we may strive forward diligently, polishing and chiseling each other. The Great Learning says, “It is like cutting and chiseling; it is like polishing and grinding.” Stonemasons cut and chisel, polish and grind jade so that it becomes beautiful. Two fellow cultivators beat up in this way, looking for each other’s faults. People who really want to cultivate must be companion Good and Wise Advisors in this way. There is also the third kind, the teaching Good and Wise Advisor: Good and Wise Advisors who lecture on the sutras and speak the Dharma, propagate the Dharma and teach living beings. These are all Good and Wise Advisors who teach.

Who exhort them and lead them to quickly take refuge with Earth Store Bodhisattva. As quickly as a finger snap, a very short duration, or in a wink of an eye, which lasts about 20 thoughts. Twenty winks are one kashana. The Prajna Sutra of the Humane King Who Protects the Country says that there are 900 births and deaths in one kashana. In other words, in one kashana, 900 thoughts come and go. Sixty-four kashanas exist in a matter of a finger snap. Here, a finger snap merely means a very short time. There are two interpretations for exhorting and leading them quickly: 1. That they will believe in and take refuge with Earth Store Bodhisattva in as short a duration as a finger snap, then go up to the heavens and attain eternal bliss. 2. After receiving advice from Good and Wise Advisors, they believe in as short a time as a finger snap and develop the faith to take refuge with Earth Store Bodhisattva. Taking refuge is a form of respect in that we hand over our body, mind, and life to Earth Store Bodhisattva. Earth Store Bodhisattva is our compassionate father and we are like his children. Then those beings will just as quickly, in as short a time as a snap of a finger, be released from their retributions for infinity in the Three Evil Paths.

If those beings are determined and respectful, they are furthermore concentrated and sincere, if they behold, bow to, and praise the Bodhisattva, and if they make offerings of flowers, incense, clothing, treasures, jewels, food, and drink to him (consequently this is the reason why monastics should make offerings of food to the Buddha first before we eat), they will enjoy supremely wonderful bliss in the heavens for millions of billions of eons. Those who make offerings of incense, flowers, food, clothing, and various gems to Earth Store Bodhisattva as described above will always go up to the heavens for as long a time as millions of billions of eons throughout the future. When their blessings in the heavens end and they are born as people, throughout hundreds of thousands of eons they will have the potential to be national leaders able to remember all aspects of causes and effects from previous lives. They recall what they did in their lives past or what occurred in their past lives.

O Samadhi Self-Mastery King, Earth Store Bodhisattva has such inconceivably and ineffably great awesome spiritual power that he uses expansively for the benefit of beings. All of you Bodhisattvas should remember this sutra, the Earth Store Sutra, and proclaim and spread it far and wide. All of you should voluntarily circulate this Earth Store Sutra. The fact that we can hear the name, Earth Store Sutra and hear an explanation on the Earth Store Sutra is based on the power of all the Bodhisattvas who vastly proclaim and circulate this sutra. If it were not for the Bodhisattvas who proclaim and circulate this sutra from behind the scenes, we may not be able to encounter such a profound Dharma treasure.

Samadhi Self-Mastery King Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, please do not be concerned. No need to worry about any of these problems. We thousands of billions of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, based on the Buddha’s awesome spiritual strength, will certainly proclaim this sutra widely throughout Southern Jambudvipa for the benefit of beings.”

Having spoken thus to the World Honored One, Samadhi Self-Mastery King Bodhisattva put his palms together respectfully, bowed to Shakyamuni Buddha, and withdrew to sit down on the side.

 

Sutra:

At that time the Four Heavenly Kings rose from their seats, put their palms together respectfully, and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, Earth Store Bodhisattva has been making such great vows from distant eons past until now. Why is it that even now he has not yet finished taking beings across? Why does he continue to renew his vast and mighty vows? Please, World Honored One, explain that for us.”

Commentary:

At that time, whenSamadhi Self-Mastery King Bodhisattva respectfully bowed, withdrew to sit down on the side, the Four Heavenly Kings who live halfway up Mt. Sumeru surrounded by the seven gems of gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, carnelian, red pearls, and agate. The city built with these seven gems is 42,000 yojanas tall, surrounded by seven rows of trees, seven layers of nets, and seven rows of fences in an adorned fashion. The Four Heavenly Kings are the heavenly king of the East, the heavenly king of the South, the heavenly king of the North, and the heavenly king of the West.

The heavenly king of the east is named Dhtra, which means the heavenly king who guards nations. He protects all beings and nations. He has 99 sons all named Indra’s. Some of the ghosts and spirits that he leads are fragrance spirits while some are odor ghosts. Who are the fragrance spirits? They are the gandharvas among the eightfold division of ghosts and spirits. On his head is a horn. He runs towards any place where there is some nice scent because he enjoys fragrances. The Jade Emperor is King Indra who burns a type of chandana incense so that when gandharvas arrive, the Jade Emperor will order him to make music. Since the Jade Emperor is still in the Six Desire Heavens and not yet left the state of the five sense objects, so he makes gandharva play music for him. These music spirits of the Jade Emperor are also fragrance spirits. The heavenly king who upholds nations also leads odor ghosts that have a stench about them. They are called Putanas, who are also in the Shurangama Mantra. His capability or spiritual power is to release a stench so that he smells it wherever he is.

The southern heavenly king’s Sanskrit name is Virdhaka, which means growth. He makes living beings’ good roots grow. He also has 99 sons, all named Indra’s. Each of these four great heavenly kings has 99 sons, all of whom are named Indra’s. All 396 of them are by the same name. Heavenly King Growth of the South also command most ghosts and spirits, among which there is a type called distant ghosts and another type called nearby ghosts. What are distant ghosts? They stay far away from people. What are nearby ghosts? They enjoy being people’s ancestors and go to families to become their ancestors. What are distant ghosts called? They are the kumbhandas in the Shurangama Mantra. What do kumbhandas look like? They look like a large crock with no head or feet. It is thick and round so that you cannot even see its head or feet. Since it stays far away from people, it does not like to be close to people; hence it is called a distant ghost. There is another kind of ghost called Preta, which is also named in the Shurangama Mantra. This type of ghost enjoys going into families with ancestral plaques and being the family’s ancestor. This type of ghost enjoys being close to people, so they are called nearby ghosts.

The heavenly king of the west has a Sanskrit name Virsa, which means various languages. He knows how to speak any language. He also has a title called Vast Eyes Heavenly King. He also leads some ghosts, which ones? They are Pisasas that eat essences. They are also insanity ghosts because they make people insane. This type of ghost eats people’s essences where intercourse occurs. They go to those places to eat this kind of impurities. If Pisasa ghosts make people sick, then people do not know anything, but have to stay in an insane asylum. Actually, victims of these ghosts will not be cured easily of this illness even if they were to stay at an insane asylum. The heavenly king of the west also leads venomous dragons. You are shot with its poison as soon as it looks at you; you are shot with its poison as soon as you hear its sounds; you are shot with its poison if you have any contact with it; and you are shot with its poison as soon as you smell it. The Heavenly King of the West leads these two types of ghosts and spirits; he is in charge of these two.

The heavenly king of the north is the leader among the Four Heavenly Kings. The other three heavenly kings must obey his command. The heavenly king of the north also governs ghosts and spirits, which ghosts? He is in charge of yaksha ghosts and raksasha ghosts. There are many types of yakshas: some walk on land, some travel in air, and some are in the sky. Yakshas are also called speedy ghosts, which means that they run real fast, which is about the same as the speed of light; hence their name, speedy ghosts. Raksasha ghosts are scary ghosts that re very evil.

The Four Heavenly Kings govern these ghosts and spirits of the world. They go to the Heavenly King of the North for meetings. The Heavenly King of the North is called Vaina, which means the Heavenly King of Erudition. Since he knows many things, the other three heavenly kings must listen to his orders; they will do what he tells them to do.

Now these Four Heavenly Kings rose from their seats. Originally everyone was listening to the Earth Store Sutra together, now they all get up from their seats. They put their palms together respectfully, and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, Earth Store Bodhisattva has been making such great vows as described above from distant eons past until now. Why is it that even now he has not yet finished taking beings across? Why does he continue to renew his vast and mighty vows? Please, World Honored One, explain that for those of us in this assembly.”

 

Sutra:

The Buddha told the Four Heavenly Kings, “Excellent, excellent. Now, to benefit you and to extend that benefit to people and gods of the present and future, I will speak about how Earth Store Bodhisattva out of compassion and pity uses expedient devices, within the paths of birth and death in Jambudvipa in the Saha world to rescue, take across, and liberate beings who are undergoing suffering for their offenses.”

The Four Heavenly Kings replied, “Please, World Honored One, we would like to hear about his work.”

Commentary:

The Buddha told the Four Heavenly Kings, “Excellent, excellent requests. Now, to benefit you and to extend that benefit to people and gods, all beings including those in the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals, of the present and future, I, Shakyamuni Buddha, will speak about how Earth Store Bodhisattva out of compassion and pity uses expedient devices, within the paths of birth and death in the six paths of transmigration in Jambudvipa in the Saha world to rescue, take across, and liberate all beings who are undergoing suffering for their offenses. He rescues all suffering beings with offenses.

The Four Heavenly Kings replied upon hearing Shakyamuni Buddha, “Please, World Honored One, we would like to hear about his work. Yes, World Honored One, we would very much enjoy hearing the Buddha’s instructions.

 

Sutra:

The Buddha told the Four Heavenly Kings, “From distant eons past up to the present, Earth Store Bodhisattva has been rescuing and liberating beings. Since his vows are still not fulfilled, he continues with compassion and sympathy to help beings suffering for their offenses in this world. Moreover, he sees the ceaseless tangle of their causes extending on through infinite future eons. Because of that he renews his vows. Thus, in this Saha world, on the continent of Jambudvipa, this Bodhisattva teaches and transforms beings by means of millions of billions of expedient devices.

Commentary:

The Buddha told the Four Heavenly Kings, “From distant eons past up to the present, Earth Store Bodhisattva has been rescuing and liberating beings in the six paths. Since his vows are still not fulfilled, he continues with compassion and sympathy to help beings suffering for their offenses in this world. Moreover, he sees the ceaseless tangle of their causes extending on through infinite future eons. The spreading weeds that grow more and more each year represents our karma that increases in each life the way weeds grow endlessly. Because of that he renews his vows. Thus, in this Saha world, on the continent of Jambudvipa, this Bodhisattva, Earth Store, teaches and transforms beings by means of millions of billions of expedient devices. The ceaseless tangle is like the bit of karma we create in this lifetime, then a bit more karma in the next life. Our karma increases and becomes more serious by the day. Our offense karma is similar to this ceaseless tangle. Since your offense karma becomes heavier each day, your virtuous conduct becomes less each day. We cannot become Buddhas with little or no virtue. We will become ghosts if we have karmic obstructions. How do Buddhas become Buddhas? They are perfected with the myriad virtues. How do ghosts become ghosts? When filled with myriad sorts of evil karma, they become ghosts. Some ignorant individuals claim there are no ghosts, words which are worse than those uttered by children. Children will believe this idea if you explain it. However, people who find ghosts and spirits incredulous claim, “There are no ghosts.” Without ghosts, there are no Buddhas. Ghosts and Buddhas are two sides of the same coin. Turn it over and it is the Buddha; let it alone and it is a ghost. People are between being turned and not turned. Were we average, we would just be people; were our evil karma more serious, we would become ghosts. Nothing here is to be doubted.

 

Sutra:

“O Four Heavenly Kings! To killers, Earth Store Bodhisattva says that short life spans will be the retribution. To robbers, he says that poverty and acute suffering will be the retribution. To those who indulge in improper sex, he says that rebirth as pigeons or as mandarin drakes or ducks will be the retribution. To those who use harsh speech, he says that quarrelling families will be the retribution.

Commentary:

The Buddha called out, “O Four Heavenly Kings! Were he to encounter would-be killers, Earth Store Bodhisattva says to them that short life spans will be the retribution. He explains that those who enjoy killing in this lifetime will experience many illnesses or short lives in future lives. How come their lives will be short? Having taken lives in the past so that the victims live a short life; consequently, the lives of killers will be short.

To robbers and thieves, Earth Store Bodhisattva says that poverty and acute suffering will be the retribution. What does robbing and stealing mean? Stealing means taking without letting anyone see. Robbing means taking someone else’s belongings without their knowing. When Earth Store Bodhisattva encounters people who like to steal and rob things, what does he say to them? He talks about the retribution of poverty and acute suffering. He explains that if you steal people’s valuables now so that they become poor, then you will also become poor in future lives. See all those poor people who do not have anything to eat or wear because they experience retribution from stealing other people’s goods or money in past lives? This is the reason why people are poor now. The more you steal, the poorer you become; the more you are afraid of having nothing, the more likely you will have nothing. Earth Store Bodhisattva tells these people about the retribution of poverty and acute suffering; poverty is one of the worst miseries.

To those who indulge in improper sex, he says that rebirth as pigeons or as mandarin drakes or ducks will be the retribution. If he were to meet people who enjoy sexual misconduct, which refers to wrong and temporary pleasures between non-official couples – not between those officially married couples (although it would be best to reduce sexual activity between officially married couples too). Do not think that one can be casual and that the act is not an offense if it is with one’s official partner; sexual activity deludes people. The more sexual activity, the more deluded we are so that we do not have a light about us. Why is there a light about you? There is a light about you because you do not engage in sexual activity, which leads to real wisdom. Engaging in sexual misconduct, improper sexual activity between men and women, is a transgression of the precepts. What retribution does he tell these people? He explains the retribution of becoming pigeons or mandarin ducks, fowls in future lives. Sparrows and pigeons are very licentious. Pigeons will give birth to a nest full of little pigeons. Most fowls procreate with males on top of females; pigeons are different in that females are on top. They are so licentious that they give birth to a nest full of little pigeons. Mandarin drakes or ducks are very emotional. Males and females are together whether they are on land or in the air; they are inseparable. Although these fowls are considered free, it is still bad because they are animals. People who enjoy sexual misconduct will be reborn as sparrows, pigeons, and mandarin drakes or ducks, or the like.

To those who use harsh speech or who enjoy scolding others, including divisive speech, frivolous speech, and lies, he says that quarrelling families will be the retribution. He tells them that they will not get along and will always quarrel with their future retinues.

 

Sutra:

“To those who slander, he says that being tongueless and having cankerous mouths will be the retribution. To the hateful, he says that being ugly and crippled will be the retribution. To the stingy, he says that not getting what they seek will be the retribution. To gluttons, he says that hunger, thirst and sicknesses of the throat will be the retribution. To hunters, he says that a frightening insanity that destroys one’s life will be the retribution. “To those who oppose their parents, he says that being killed in natural disasters will be the retribution. To arsonists who burn mountains and forests, he says that trying to take their own lives in the confusion of insanity will be the retribution.

Commentary:

“To those who slander the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, he, Earth Store Bodhisattva, says that being tongueless and having cankerous mouths will be the retribution. He says you only speak nonsense in this lifetime, slander individuals and the Triple Jewel, ruining the Triple Jewel, in your future life, you will have no tongue and be unable to speak. In your future life, you will always have sores on your mouth. You will face the retribution of incurable sores. Why are people mutes? It is because they slandered the Triple Jewel. How come that person has a lot of canker sores on his mouth that never quite heal? The reason why miracle doctors cannot heal him is because he slandered the Triple Jewel in past lives; hence he faces the retribution of no tongue and canker sores on the mouth.

To the hateful who have the biggest temper, who get angry easily, and replete with qualities typical of asuras, he says that being ugly and crippled will be the retribution. When people get angry, they get red in the face, thick in the neck, and glare with their eyes, then they do not look too good. If they were that way, they will be very ugly in future lives. Why? Since they enjoy being that way in past lives, they will look especially ugly in this lifetime. They may be disabled, such as experiencing inconveniences in urination or crippled. This is a type of illness. If you get upset often, you will be ugly, disabled, and entangled by numerous illnesses in future lives.

To the stingy who are not willing to give even a coin, turning and twisting that coin so that it becomes liquid, they are still unwilling to let it out of their hand. Stingy people are miserly and unwilling to give, refusing to let go of the money they grab on to. He, Earth Store Bodhisattva, says that not getting what they seek will be the retribution. They will not have any of their wish come true.

To gluttons who want to eat nonstop, eating repeatedly without restraint, to people who eat without constraint, they do nothing but think about food all day; they eat then sleep, sleep then eat. Earth Store Bodhisattva tells people who do not restrain their food intake, he says that hunger, thirst and sicknesses of the throat will be the retribution. Eat repeatedly now and in future lives, you will never be full. You may not even get a drink of water when you want it, why? It is because your throat will develop some sickness so that it cannot swallow. You may want to eat, but you cannot swallow it, including water. This is the retribution of hunger, thirst and sickness of the throat.

To hunters, he says that a frightening insanity that destroys one’s life will be the retribution. Why do hunters hunt? They think it is fun. Here comes a deer, so “bang!” They shoot it and the deer lies there dead. They only think, “Oh, see how my shot is so precise! I shot it dead with one bullet.” They are pleased with themselves for being so indulgent, unruly, unrestrained, and can do whatever they want. What should be said to hunters who indulge in their desires? Explain to them that since you killed, in the future, they will experience frightening insanity in some accidental death, such as a car accident, plane crash, train wreck, bus accident and others. If you kill someone now, you will be killed by a car in the future. Explain this kind of cause and effect to them and they may think, “Oh, that is very dangerous.” They will quit hunting. Earth Store Bodhisattva explains the appropriate Dharma for people. If you remember the retributions for these cause and effect, you will be able to explain the Dharma for anyone you encounter. You are then a transformation of Earth Store Bodhisattva; Earth Store Bodhisattva is your partner to your firm. So after listening to the Earth Store Sutra, we understand the retribution in cause and effect and should avoid doing anything wrong.

“To those who oppose their parents by being unfilial, beating, and scolding, he says that being killed in natural disasters will be the retribution. You cannot be unfilial to your parents because the universe will destroy you, such as death by a thunderbolt, by a falling tree knocked down in a wind storm, or by a collapsing house. These are retributions of death due to natural disasters. People who are not filial face the retribution of being hit by a thunderbolt, wind storm, or rain that washes down your house and crushes you. To arsonists who burn mountains and forests because they enjoy setting wild fires, he says that trying to take their own lives in the confusion of insanity will be the retribution. Do not set fire to burn down any mountain because in future lives you will go insane and die. Explain these different retributions to him. Earth Store Bodhisattva teaches living beings everywhere, explaining the principle of cause and effect.

 

Sutra:

“To cruel parents or step-parents, he says that being flogged in future lives will be the retribution. To those who net and trap young animals, he says that being separated from one’s own children will be the retribution. To those who slander the Triple Jewel, he says that being blind, deaf, or mute will be the retribution. To those who slight the Dharma and regard the teachings with arrogance, he says that remaining in the bad paths forever will be the retribution. To those who destroy or misuse possessions of the Eternally Dwelling, he says that revolving in the hells for hundreds of millions of eons will be the retribution. To those who defile the pure conduct of others and bear false witness against members of the Sangha, he says that remaining in the animal realm forever will be the retribution. To those who scald, burn, behead, maim, or otherwise harm beings, he says that undergoing the very same suffering will be the retribution.

Commentary:

“To cruel parents or step-parents, either real dad and step mom, real mom and step dad, step dad and mom, or real dad and mom who have favorites. Dashun of China, for example, had his real father and a step mother.

There are also real mother’s and step father’s. Someone’s father dies and the mother remarries someone who becomes the stepfather. The step dad may have favorites, preferring this child and hating that child. Ming Zician of China, for instance, is one of Confucius’ students. His father was an official who remarried. The stepmother abused Ming Zician. In cold places during the winter, she put reed puffs in Ming Zician’s padded jacket. For her real sons, she padded their jackets with cotton. Reed is fluffy and not warm enough; only cotton can isolate chills and prevent cold. One day, Official Ming, the father of Ming Zician, was going somewhere and told Ming Zician to steer the carriage. He was so cold that he trembled. Official Ming got upset, “What is the matter with you? The weather is not even too cold, how can you be freezing the way you are?” He picks up a whip and smacks him, which ripped his jacket. He took a look and saw that the padding was made entirely of reed puffs. The father started crying, saying, “I have so wronged my son. He is so cold because his stepmother treats him like this.” He swore that he will get rid of this wife. When he got home, he was going to divorce his wife, but Ming Zician knelt down before his father. He said, “Please do not get rid of my stepmother.” The father asked, “Why?” He said, “One son alone bears the cold when the mother is around; but two sons have the chills with the mother gone.” He says that he is the only one who bears the cold when his stepmother is around; but if his stepmother were to leave and remarry another, then two sons (step-brothers) will both suffer the cold. His father thought it over and did not ask his wife to leave. The stepmother was moved by Ming Zician’s words and thought, “My son is so considerate.” She treated him impartially, without discriminating against him in the future.

Why are there people with step parents? Perhaps their father passed away and their mother remarried. Perhaps their real mother dies and their stepfather remarries. Children in this situation usually suffer a great deal. I do not know whether this occurs in America or not? This occurs frequently in China. In general, parents usually do not love children who are not related to them by blood; they may be extremely vicious toward them. This is some of what it means by cruel parents or step-parents. He, Earth Store Bodhisattva, says that being flogged in future lives will be the retribution. What kind of cause and effect does he say to these people? He tells them in future lives, they will face the retribution of being whipped and beaten.

To those who net and trap young animals, such as newborn or baby fish, sparrows, and other creatures. He says that being separated from one’s own children will be the retribution. Do things like this and in future lives you will separate from your family. You encounter situations where you cannot be together. You may have to go far away from your hometown so that not everyone can see each other. This is the retribution of being apart from your children.

To those who formally slander the Triple Jewel of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, he says that being blind, deaf, or mute will be the retribution. You do not need to ask and yet you can tell that blind, deaf, and mute individuals slandered the Triple Jewel in their past lives since limitless eons ago. You will fall into the hells if you slandered the Triple Jewel. Once you fall into the hells, you will not be able to get out of it until billions and billions of eons later. Once you leave the hells and before you become a human being, who knows how many lifetimes you would have to be an animal? How many years you would have to be a horse, a cow, a sheep, a chicken, a dog, or a pig? As a human being, you will be poor, of a low class, blind, deaf, or mute as a result of having slandered the Triple Jewel.

To those who slight the Dharma and regard the teachings with arrogance, those who look down on the Buddhadharma and are conceited toward Buddhism, he says that remaining in the bad paths forever will be the retribution.

To those who destroy or misuse possessions of the Eternally Dwelling, of the temple. Perhaps you ruin a piece of paper or a piece of wood for no reason. In general, to those who damage the temple’s communal goods, he says that revolving in the hells for hundreds of millions of eons will be the retribution.

To those who defile the pure conduct of others and bear false witness against members of the Sangha refers to those who ruin others’ Brahma conduct, the purity in cultivation and those who commit libel. This monk did not steal, but they say, “I saw him steal.” This monk did not kill and they say, “I saw him kill!” Or “I saw him eat meat! I saw him drink somewhere! I saw him fooling around with women somewhere. . .” They badmouth this monk for no good reason. To those who slander with false accusations, he says that remaining in the animal realm forever will be the retribution. This kind of people will fall into the hells in the future and be an animal forever after they leave the hells.

Shakyamuni Buddha told the Four Heavenly Kings that to those who scald, burn, behead, maim, or otherwise harm beings, he, Earth Store Bodhisattva, says that undergoing the very same suffering will be the retribution. Scald people with hot water and in future lives you will be scalded with hot water too; burn people with fire and people will burn you in the future too; cut people with a knife and others will cut you with a knife in the future too. These are paybacks where the debts are handed over back and forth. You kill someone, someone kills you; someone kills you and you kill someone. He explains this kind of retribution that is delivered back and forth.

 

Sutra:

“To those who violate precepts and the regulations of pure eating, he says that being born as birds or beasts that must suffer from hunger and thirst will be the retribution. To those who make unprincipled and destructive use of things, he says that being unable to ever obtain what they seek will be the retribution. To the arrogant and haughty, he says that being servile and of low station will be the retribution. To those who use backbiting to cause discord among others, he says that being tongueless or having speech impediments will be the retribution. To those with deviant views, he says that being reborn in backward regions will be the retribution.

Commentary:

“To those who violate precepts and the regulations of pure eating. . . People who receive the precepts should not break the precepts; they should observe the precepts. What does it mean by breaking the precepts? You transgress on purpose. It is okay if you did not know before and made mistakes. If you know and still make mistakes, then your offenses are even more serious. You take another’s life though you received the precept against killing, so you break this precept. You steal though you received the precept against stealing, so you break this precept. You engage in sexual conduct though you received the precept against committing sexual misconduct, so you break this precept. You lie though you received the precept against lying, so you break this precept. You take intoxicants though you received the precept against taking intoxicants, so you break this precept. These are obvious transgressions that everyone knows; but transgressions also occur when people do not know about them. You appear not to make any transgressions when you did. Transgressions can be apparent to most people; transgressions can also be unbeknownst to most people, nevertheless they are transgressions according to the Buddhadharma.

The following are four scenarios of transgressions that do not appear to be transgressions. 1. A Bhikshu can adhere to the precepts completely, except that he is egoistic about keeping the precepts. There is still an “I” about who receives the precepts, an “I” who upholds the precepts, and an “I” who keeps the precepts. There is always a self, which is an attachment. Although he did not violate the precepts, he is not really keeping the precepts. Keeping the precepts means that you do not feel you are better than other people because you keep the precepts. 2. He can recite and apply the sutras and vinaya, keeping the precepts completely. Obviously he is inseparable from “the view of his body”. He does not talk about “I”, but talks about his body because he is attached to it. How is he attached to the body? He refuses to change his body. He refuses to change his old ways, such as being lax and lazy. He always works hard to make plans for his body. This is the view of the body. This is the second type of transgression that looks as if he is keeping the precepts and making no transgressions. 3. He practices the Twelve Dhutanga practices. Dhutanga is a Sanskrit word that means upbeat and energetic. One is not sleepy or hungry. He strikes up his spirit to fight off laziness. Sleepy? I am going to sit here and meditate. Hungry? I am going to avoid even water. This is how we practice the Twelve Dhutanga practices. But he does not know about the emptiness of people and the emptiness of Dharma; he feels that all dharmas are existent. He has not reached the state of all dharmas are empty of characteristics, but thinks that all dharmas are existent. This appears to be keeping the precepts, but his skills at keeping the precepts are imperfect. 4. He is compassionate towards all beings; however, if he were to hear that all dharmas, all marks of Dharma are fundamentally uncreated, that nothing comes into being and nothing ceases, then he is frightened at the prospect of seeing this type of Dharma.

The above four scenarios describe what appears to be no violation of precepts, but they are not adherences to the precepts either.

Violate the regulations of pure eating, such as being a vegetarian, means eating meat. Not only is eating meat a violation of the regulations of pure eating, but eating at the inappropriate times also violates the regulations of pure eating. What does it mean by eating at the inappropriate times? Eating after noon when you made a vow not to eat past noon is to eat at an inappropriate time. Eating at the inappropriate time is also a theft because you said that you would not eat after noon and you do. Having violated the precept of not eating beyond noon and the precept against stealing, when people ask you if you ate anything, you answer, “Oh, I did not!” This violates the precept against lying. Altogether you violated three precepts. If someone gave you any food, this person also violates the same precept and commits the same offenses. This is why the Buddha said they are not the Buddha’s disciples, they are not my disciples. What are people who break these precepts like? They are like fish hawks that make strange sounds or hungry ghosts that eat excrement because they have nothing to eat. People who break the precepts and the regulations of pure eating show themselves to be people of the lowest class. In the future they will experience the retribution of being animals. If Earth Store Bodhisattva encounters those who break the precepts and the regulations of pure eating, he says that being born as birds or beasts that must suffer from hunger and thirst will be the retribution. They will not have any food to eat.

To those who make unprincipled and destructive use of things, he says that being unable to ever obtain what they seek will be the retribution. To those who do unreasonable damage to implements such as a bowl or a cup by picking it up and smashing it for no reason at all. Actually, not just a cup, but all goods belonging to the temple, including personal goods, cannot be destroyed. If these things are damaged, then in future lives you will not get anything you want. You often experience the suffering of not getting what you wish. As a retribution, you will always lack or want what you seek in future lives.

To the arrogant and haughty who have a strong view of a self, who are so egoistical that they consider themselves bigger than Mt. Sumeru. Arrogant individuals think highly of themselves and are quite pompous. For them, he says that being servile and of low station will be the retribution. Not aware of how arrogant and pompous you are in this lifetime, you will be servants to others or those of the lowest class or ignoble background in future lives.

To those who use backbiting to cause divisions, gossip, contention, and discord among others, he says that being tongueless or having speech impediments or being sparrows will be the retribution.

To those with deviant views, for which they do not observe the rules because they have the wrong kind of understanding, he says that being reborn in the most impoverished and backward regions will be the retribution.

 

Sutra:

“The bad habits involving body, mouth, and mind karma that beings of Jambudvipa perpetuate, result in hundreds of thousands of retributions like those. I have only listed a few examples here. Since the varying karma created by beings of Jambudvipa brings about different responses, Earth Store Bodhisattva uses hundreds of thousands of expedient means to teach and transform beings. Those beings must first undergo retributions such as those, and then fall into the hells, where they pass through eons without being able to escape. You should therefore protect people and nations. Do not allow the accumulation of karma to confuse beings.”

Upon hearing that, the Four Heavenly Kings wept in sorrow, placed their palms together, and withdrew.

Commentary:

The above problems on the causes and conditions of retribution, the bad habits involving body (killing, stealing, committing sexual misconduct and others), mouth (the four evil karma of frivolous speech, lies, harsh speech, and divisive speech), and mind (the evil karma of greed, hatred, and delusion), which create the ten types of evil karma that beings of Southern Jambudvipa perpetuate, result in hundreds of thousands of retributions like those. Consequently they will experience different evil retributions in the future. I have only explained in brief, rather than in detail, and listed a few examples here.

Since, as described earlier, the varying evil karma created by all beings of Southern Jambudvipa brings about different responses, Earth Store Bodhisattva uses hundreds of thousands of expedient means to teach and transform all beings. Those beings of Southern Jambudvipamust first undergo many retributions such as those described, and then fall into the hells, where they pass through eons without being able to escape. For this reason, you Four Heavenly Kings should therefore protect people and nations. Do not allow the accumulation of karma to confuse and entangle beings.”

Upon hearing the causes and conditions of retributions that Shakyamuni Buddha explained earlier, the Four Heavenly Kings wept in sorrow. Why did the Four Heavenly Kings hear this and cry out of sadness? On the one hand, they were sympathetic with living beings for having to face this kind of suffering; on the other hand, they were ashamed that they did not live up to their responsibilities in protecting living beings. With thoughts such as these, they wept in sorrow, placed their palms together, and withdrew to the side to sit down.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: