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...
The earth spirit that is referred to in this chapter is called “Firm and Stable”. What is firm? The earth is firm. What is solid? The earth is solid. Now we are standing on earth like ants on a great boat. The numerous ants would not make the boat rock back and forth, because they do not have enough strength to do so. Earth is hanging in space; the atmosphere and air are holding it in place, so it will not break . I t is like a great boat in the ocean.
There are a great number of earth spirits. When Shakyamuni Buddha was speaking the Agama Sutra, the earth spirit, Firm and Stable, appeared to listen to the Dharma. But this earth spirit was very arrogant and haughty . He said, “In the whole universe, I’m the only earth spirit, and there are no other spirits.” But Shakyamuni Buddha replied, “You are not the only earth spirit. There are also water spirits, fire spirits, and wind spirits.” This earth spirit was not pleased to hear the Buddha’s answer, and said in an arrogant tone, “How come there are other spirits? Everything is supported by earth; they have no right to be called spirits.” Shakyamuni Buddha then talked about water spirits, fire spirits, and wind spirits. Using various means, the Buddha finally persuaded the earth spirit. He took refuge with the Triple Jewels, and lost h is haughtiness. In space, there are four elemental spirits: the earth spirits, the water spirits, the fire spirits, and the wind spirits. Humans are composed of the four elements; each of these four spirits gives every individual a little bit of water, fire, wind, and earth, forming a body.
The word “earth” has two meanings. First, in terms of “phenomenon”: earth is the start of everything; it gives birth to all things, and supports them. In terms of “noumenon”: earth has four virtues -- permanence, happiness, purity, and true self. What is permanence? Systems are the door of earth, which never changes. Permanence, therefore, is a virtuous quality of earth. Earth supports all things; everything exists by the power of earth. Happiness, therefore, is a virtuous quality to earth. Earth can give life to all things. Things growing out of the earth are pure and untainted -- the virtue of purity. The earth is at ease; which is a virtuous quality of the true self. The earth spirits enjoy these four virtues.
The second meaning is in terms of “noumenon”. When the Buddha was speaking the eleventh chapter of the Earth Store Sutra, the earth spirit vowed to protect everyone who recites Earth Store Bodhisattva’s name, who recites the Earth Store Sutra and who enjoys good roots. This is why this chapter is called “the Dharma Protection of the Earth Spirits”.
Today is a very special day, graduation day for the summer session. Time flies by so quickly, in a blink of an eye, six weeks have gone. It is impossible to turn back time and repeat these six weeks. We will have to wait until next year for another summer. Although the time remains the same, it will be a different year. We will be one year older, and yet one year closer to death. The numbers exist, but there seems to be minimal difference between time experienced versus time to come. As our age increases by one year, our remaining years of life decreases by one year. For instance, a 40 year-old is meant to live until 80, so at the age of 39, he has 41 years left to live. One year passes, at the age of 40, he only has 40 years left to live. This is half and half. Is time not meaningless when pondered in this manner? Although some of your time spent this year was very meaningful and worthwhile. Why? You have deposited Buddhist teachings into your brain, planting them into your field of Eighth Consciousness. Once bodhi seeds are planted and bodhi sprouts develop, we bear bodhi fruits in the future, realizing Buddhahood.
At the same time, I need to tell you: something peculiar will happen. Let us take your parents, for example. They do not bother you at all when you learn to be degenerate. They figure they will let you go free. They treat you fine. However, when you want to be good and to study Buddhism, their temper seeps out, criticizing everything about you. They ignored your taking drugs, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes, figuring that you will get over it. Now that you are over it, they are upset. They say, “You want to be good, then you must be filial to your parents. Let me scold you, hit you, or treat you poorly now!” Are troubles headed your way? Actually this is a test to see whether you really want to be good. If so, the more they criticize you or hit you, the more pleased you would be. Just remember not to cry. Seeing how happy you are, their temper will disappear; otherwise you will be in big trouble. Treat everything as a test on whether you know how to apply the Buddhadharma you learned: whether you are patient, keep the precepts, give, are diligent, meditate and are wise? If you pass these tests, you will earn boundless benefits; if you fail, you will have start over. These six weeks are gold. Keep it now that you have it; do not lose it. You will be different from others. How? I don’t mean for you to be arrogant, thinking, “I’m a Buddha, I want others to bow to me.” Don’t put on airs. Be compassionate and patient toward everyone. Be better to someone who is not nice to you. Regardless whether someone is nice to you, watch your own faults and not the faults of others. “Mahasattvas do not care about others; Amitabha takes care of himself.” You take care of yourself, OK!
Today concludes the six week summer session, but not the sutra lectures. I do not know when I will finish the lecture series. It will be done when I stop breathing. Everyday that I breathe is every day that I propagate the Dharma. Dharma propagation resumes every evening. We resume to lecturing on the Earth Store Sutra at 12:30 on Saturdays at Jyushiling, the Great Compassion Dharani Sutra from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and the Earth Store Sutra in the evenings. I will be explaining the Earth Store Sutra tonight. I used to lecture on the Dharma Flower Sutra Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings; however, since I have three chapters, including this chapter, on the Earth Store Sutra left, I would like to finish it before the shramanera and the shramanerika go to Taiwan to request the precepts. Since I would not be able to finish the Dharma Flower Sutra before then, I will rush through the Earth Store Sutra before I get to the Dharma Flower Sutra next. It’s not time for the Avatamsaka Sutra yet; we will need to wait on that. Thursday evenings so and so and others may lecture. In general, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings are times for you to practice lecturing on the sutras and share part of my load. Don’t make me do so much work, wearing me out and turning my hair grey. My hair became black not too long ago. I don’t want it grey again. So let’s resume our former evening lecture schedule.
At that time, the Earth Spirit Firm and Stable addressed the Buddha thus, “World Honored One, since long ago I have personally beheld and bowed to limitless numbers of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas. All of them have inconceivably great spiritual penetrations and wisdom that they use in taking across vast numbers of beings. Among all the Bodhisattvas, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva has made the deepest and weightiest vows. World Honored One, Earth Store Bodhisattva has great affinities with beings in Jambudvipa. Manjushri, Universal Worthy [Samantabhadra], Contemplator of the World’s Sounds [Avalokiteshvara, Guanyin], and Maitreya also manifest hundreds of thousands of transformation bodies to rescue those in the Six Paths, but their vows will ultimately be fulfilled. Earth Store Bodhisattva keeps renewing his vows to teach and transform beings in the Six Paths throughout eons as numerous as the number of sand grains in thousands of billions of Ganges Rivers.
At that time, the Earth Spirit Firm and Stable, the Dharma guardian of this chapter, vowed to protect the Dharma. He addressed the Buddha thus, “World Honored One, since long ago. . . From limitless eons ago until now, I have personally beheld, without removing my gaze, andbowed to limitless numbers of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas… I saw a great number of Bodhisattvas before, and I bowed to a large number of Bodhisattvas. Mahasattvas are all great Bodhisattvas. All of them have inconceivably great spiritual penetrations and wisdom…these great Bodhisattvas all have great wisdom. One must have great wisdom to cultivate the Great Vehicle. What is the Great Vehicle? It is an inconceivable state. Their spiritual penetrations and wisdom are limitless. The unfathomablepowers that they use in taking across vast numbers of beings… they deliver all beings to perfection. Among all the Bodhisattvas, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva… all these great Bodhisattvas deliver all beings to the shore of perfection, one among all Bodhisattvas… is Earth Store Bodhisattva. Among all the great Bodhisattvas, he has made the deepest and weightiest vows . He said, “Unless the hells are emptied, I will not become a Buddha. Until all beings are saved, I will not realize Bodhi.” The power of this vow is particularly profound and substantial. World Honored One, Earth Store Bodhisattva has great affinities with beings in Jambudvipa. Manjushri, Universal Worthy [Samantabhadra] Bodhisattva, Contemplator of the World’s Sounds [Avalokiteshvara, Guanyin] Bodhisattva, and Maitreya Bodhisattva also manifest hundreds of thousands of transformation bodies to rescue those in the Six Paths… They vowed to deliver every being of the Six Path to Buddhahood. But their vows will ultimately be fulfilled… Although the power of their vows is tremendous, it will be depleted one day, the day when their vows are realized. Earth Store Bodhisattva keeps renewing his vows to teach and transform beings in the Six Paths… he vowed to teach the beings in the Six Paths: heavenly beings, human, asuras, beings in the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals throughout eons as numerous as the number of sand grains in thousands of billions of Ganges Rivers… the vows he made and the eons he lived are as numerous as the number of sand grains in trillions of Ganges rivers.
“World Honored One, as I regard beings of the present and future, I see those who make shrines of clay, stone, bamboo, or wood and set them on pure ground in the southern part of their dwellings. They place within the shrines images of Earth Store Bodhisattva, either sculpted or painted, or made of gold, silver, copper, or iron. Then they burn incense, make offerings, behold, worship, and praise him. By doing those things, such people will receive ten kinds of benefits for their dwellings.
“What are those ten? First, their lands will be fertile. Second, their families and homes will always be peaceful. Third, their ancestors will be born in the heavens. Fourth, those of the current generation will enjoy benefits and long lives. Fifth, they will easily obtain what they want. Sixth, they will not encounter disasters of water and fire. Seventh, they will avoid unforeseen calamities. Eighth, they will never have nightmares. Ninth, they will be protected by spirits in their daily comings and goings. Tenth, they will create many causes that lead to sagehood.
The earth spirit, Firm and Stable, said: World Honored One, as I regard beings of the present and future… I see all beings in the present and in the future. I see those who make shrines of clay, stone, bamboo, or wood and set them on pure ground in the southern part of their dwellings. They place within the shrines images of Earth Store Bodhisattva, either sculpted or painted, or made of gold, silver, copper, or iron. Then they burn incense, make offerings, behold, worship, and praise him… Come and gaze in adoration. For instance, Bodhisattva when a man likes a woman, he will look and look, look and look again. Or when a woman likes a man, she will look and look, look and look again. This kind of looking is impure, consisting of lust. Transform thoughts of lust into wisdom. Gaze admiringly at Earth Store Bodhisattva with the purity of wisdom. This is the way to look; do not look the way men and women in love look. Gazing in admiration is a pure and natural force. We say, “Oh! The power of Earth Store Bodhisattva’s vows are huge! We should all believe in Earth Store Bodhisattva. Okay! Let’s all recite the Earth Store Sutra and bow to him!” So, let me send an Earth Store Bodhisattva home with you so that you may look and look, look until you become Buddhas, become Earth Store Bodhisattva. By doing those things, such people will receive ten kinds of benefits for their dwellings.
What are those ten? First, their lands will be fertile… One, the excellent soil is rich and fertile. Anything planted in this piece of land will grow and be big. Land in Alaska is like this, growing extremely long cucumbers. That is fertile.
Second, their families and homes will always be peaceful… Besides owning bountiful lands, they enjoy peace in their residence. What good is fertile land if the dwelling place is not peaceful? For these people, homes built on these lands never have to worry about earthquakes. So-and-so said if I were going to Minnesota, she will come with me. How come she does not bother to ask her husband for his preference? She said if I leave San Francisco, earthquakes might occur, so she wants to follow me to Minnesota. This benefit refers to everlasting peace in these individuals’ families and homes.
Third, their ancestors will be born in the heavens… This means our deceased parents, perhaps as far back as those in seven of our lifetimes, will become reborn in the heavens. How come they will reborn in the heavens? It is due to your worshipping, gazing at, bowing and believing in Earth Store Bodhisattva. Consequently our families and homes are forever peaceful, our lands are fertile, and our ancestors become reborn in the heavens.
Fourth, those of the current generation will enjoy benefits and long lives… Some may doubt this: I will not necessarily see the deceased become reborn in the heavens. This may just be your claim. Do you want to see it? Cultivate! When you acquire the Heavenly Eye, you will be able to see. Now let us not talk about what you cannot see; now let us talk about what you can see. Your parents were meant to live until fifty, but are now eighty years old; or if they were meant to live until eighty, but are now 100. Their lifes are extended. I will tell you a true story. Fortune tellers told a laywoman’s father that he will definitely die by the age of 79. He was afraid and came to take refuge. He took refuge with certain conditions; he wanted me to make him live another ten years. I said, “Fine, ten years! No problem.” I made him that promise so that he lived until the age of 91, another twelve years. I told him then, “I guarantee that you will live twelve more years if you listen to me and conduct yourself according to the teachings.” Who knows whether what I said was true or not, but he did not die at the age of 79. He lived for another twelve years and died at the age of 91. His wife and two daughters also became Buddhists. Everybody knows this story, but there is just a bit of uncertainty: is this real?
Fifth, they will easily obtain what they want… Those in the present may enjoy benefits and longer lives, but that is other people. I do not gain anything by it. Now here is something that is good for you. Your wishes come true. For example, one thing that most people think is most critical may be a man or a woman’s hope for a good spouse. He or she will get their wish. This is an issue for laypeople. What about monastics? They will be good monks and nuns, getting their wish. If you say, “I’m not interested in any of these.” Find something that interests you and the related wishes will come true.
Sixth, they will not encounter disasters of water and fire… They will neither be drowned nor burned; they will not encounter any flood or fire.
Out of t he four great spirits in the sky that I mentioned earlier, I forgot to explain two. What does the spirit of fire look like? Like a red sparrow with only one leg, making it different than others. Although he has a name, he will not come close when he is called; he will run away instead. Unlike us people, we come running over when our names are called. So what is his name? His name is “Fang Mian”. When you say, “Fang Mian,” he runs away. When you do not call on him, he will stay around and never leave. This is how strange this spirit of fire is. Let me explain the spirit of earth next. The earth spirit looks like a child with red eyes and long ears that drag on the ground. Have you seen a child like this? He is the spirit of earth. He also has a name; he is called “Wang Xang”. It is difficult to encounter the spirit of earth. When you do though, catch him, cook him and eat him, then become the next spirit of earth. I am not kidding you; all this is true.
Seventh, they will avoid unforeseen calamities… there are no unforeseen calamities of various kinds. Calamities come as a surprise and are unusual. Here, all kinds of disasters, things that you cannot imagine, disappear.
Eighth, they will never have nightmares… people often have nightmares about being hit, killed, eaten by a tiger or taken to see King Yama by the ghost of impermanence. For instance, someone sleeping saw a kumbhanda ghost sit on top of him. He could not talk, make any sound or move his body. He was stuck there. Make offerings to Earth Store Bodhisattva or recite Earth Store Bodhisattva’s name and nightmares will not occur any more.
Ninth, they will be protected by spirits in their daily comings and goings… For instance, you were hit by a car that threw you more than ten yards away, but you walk away unscathed. You should have broken bones and all, but you get up and walk away from the scene. You do not even need to go to the hospital. Why? It is because spirits are protecting you as you go in and out.
Tenth, they will create many causes that lead to sagehood… What are these causes that lead us to sagehood? Our summer session, for example is a cause for sagehood. These six weeks, we focus on lecturing sutras and speaking dharma. We work hard at cultivation. It is impossible to find around the globe, another summer session as difficult as this one. If you do not want to work yourself that hard, you will not encounter a cause that leads to sagehood. Though this is suffering for you right now, it is a cause for sagehood.
“World Honored One, beings of the present and future who make offerings in their homes in the prescribed manner will attain benefits like those.”
He further said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, good men or women in the future may keep this sutra and an image of the Bodhisattva where they live. Furthermore, they may recite the sutra and make offerings to the Bodhisattva. I shall constantly use my own spiritual powers day and night to guard and protect those who do that from disasters, including floods, fire, robbery and theft, major calamities, and minor accidents. All evil deeds shall disappear.”
Earth Spirit Firm and Stable called out, “World Honored One, beings of the present and future who make offerings in their homes in the prescribed manner, offering up an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva at a clean spot in the southern part of their homes. They will attain benefits like those ten said earlier. He further said to the Buddha, Earth Spirit Firm and Stable told the Buddha again, “World Honored One, good men or women in the future may keep this sutra, the Earth Store Sutra, and an image of the Earth Store Bodhisattva where they live. Furthermore, they may recite the sutra and bow and make offerings to the Bodhisattva. I shall constantly use my own spiritual powers day and night to guard and protect those who do that from disasters, including floods, fire, robbery and theft, major calamities, and minor accidents. We talked about a car crash earlier today. A major calamity refers to death in that accident. A minor accident refers to getting a little scrape from a crash. All evil deeds shall disappear completely.
The times are bad right now. Everywhere you go, lots of problems occur, be it theft or robbery, even robbery in broad daylight. Be careful with thieves. In China, there is a saying, “ Hide your treasures too slowly creates thefts; make yourself too beautiful creates lust.” Hide your treasures because if you were to hide even just a bit too slow, bandits will be greedy at the sight of them and come rob you. Why would they rob you? It is because you hide your gems too slowly; hence inviting robbers to mug you.
This is how it works with our treasures outside; the same goes with out treasures inside. Hide the treasures in our inherent nature; do it too slowly then monsters, demons and ghosts will come and rob you. Rob you of what? Rob you of your most precious treasures. But how can we hide the treasures of our inherent nature? The way to hide is different than hiding some tangible valuables, such as a secret spot or a safe. How do we hide the treasures of our inherent nature? Avoid ignorance. Know that our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind are all major thieves.
Don’t think your eyes help you. The reason that you are not a Buddha right now is because of your eyes. Not only are your eyes thieves, your ears, nose, tongue, and mind are also thieves. Your spiritual nature is a most valuable treasure: when your eyes take a bit, you have less of it; when your ears take a bit, you have even less of it; when your nose takes a bit more, you have even less of it; when your tongue takes a bit, you have even less of it; when your body takes a bit, you have even less of it; when your thoughts take a bit, you have even less of it. Unable to pull in our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind, we indulge them as they roam about bothering with others’ business. The eyes want to see everything a bit more clearly, that is to bother with other people’s business. The ears are affected when they want to hear some useless chatter again. They act like thieves in this way! So do not let the six thieves rob you of your nature’s treasures. If you obey your six senses, then the robbers of your inherent nature are stealing from you. You may not necessarily understand this idea that I am now telling you. When you cultivate for a while, you will know. You will realize how awful your eyes are, how disobedient your ears are. You will know that they are bandits; they are thieves.
“M ake yourself too beautiful creates lust.” Women making themselves up and dressing themselves beautifully creates lust in people. It would be best if women do not make themselves up and just be natural. It is completely meaningless to make your lips all red. Living beings are mixed up in this fashion.
The six senses are said to be thieves because we do not know how to use them. If you know how to use them, they are not thieves, but are Dharma protectors. That is why the Shruangama Sutra says that the six senses are the cause for transmigration in the six realms. However, if you can reflect and purify your mind, then you can realize Buddhahood because of these six senses too. It is not because there are other people helping you. They are Dharma protectors if you know how to employ them; they are thieves if you do not know how to employ them. For example, you remain mindful as you look, then your eyes are Dharma protectors. In contrast, you develop evil thoughts as you look, then your eyes are devils. This illustrates what Great Master Six Patriarch said, “The devil is in the house when evil thoughts occur; the Buddha is in the hall when proper thoughts occur.” Being mindful all the time makes your six senses your Dharma protectors; they help you. However, were the eyes to chase after forms that they see; were the ears to chase after sounds that they hear; were the nose to chase after scents that it smells; were the tongue to chase after flavors that it tastes; were the body to chase after tactile sensations that it comes in contact with, then you have run away with your desire based on preference and wanting. Were the mind encounter dharma and chase after the objects of dharma, then you have no ability to concentrate and are affected by external states. Instead of proper mindfulness, the thoughts are deviant; hence you are affected by states. Conversely, if you maintained proper mindfulness, then you can influence states.
The Buddha told the Earth Spirit Firm and Stable, “There are few spirits who can match your great spiritual power. Why do I say that? All the lands in Jambudvipa receive your protection. All the grasses, woods, sands, stones, paddy fields, hemp, bamboo, reeds, grains, rice, and gems come forth from the earth because of your power. Moreover, your constant praising of the beneficial deeds of Earth Store Bodhisattva makes your meritorious virtue and spiritual penetrations hundreds of thousands of times greater than those of ordinary earth spirits.
“If good men or women in the future make offerings to this Bodhisattva, or recite The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva and rely upon even a single aspect of it in their cultivation, you should use your own spiritual powers to protect them. Do not allow any disasters or unwelcome events even to be heard, much less undergone, by them. Not only will those people be protected by you, but they will also be protected by the followers of Shakra, Brahma, and other gods. Why will they receive protection from sages and worthies such as those? It will be due to their having beheld and worshipped an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva and from having recited this sutra of his past vows. Such people will quite naturally be able to leave the sea of suffering and will ultimately be certified to the bliss of Nirvana. For those reasons, they will receive great protection.”
The Buddha told the Earth Spirit Firm and Stable, “There are few spirits who can match your great spiritual power. Why do I say that? All the lands in Jambudvipa receive your protection. All the grasses, including the tiniest blade of grass, smallest pieces of wood, one grain of sand, or one piece of stone, paddy fields, hemp, bamboo, reeds, grains, rice, and gems come forth from the earth because of your power. Moreover, your constant praising of the beneficial deeds of Earth Store Bodhisattva… you always praise Earth Store Bodhisattva for his helping people and all beings. This makes your meritorious virtue and spiritual penetrations hundreds of thousands of times greater than those of ordinary earth spirits.
If good men or women who have taken the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Deeds in the future make offerings to this Bodhisattva, or recite The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva and rely upon even a single aspect of it in their cultivation… cultivate one thing in the sutra accordingly, you should use your own spiritual powers to protect them. Do not allow any disasters or unwelcom ing events even to be heard…do notlet them hear any sounds coming from unpleasantries and catastrophies, much less undergone by them. If they do not even hear displeasing sounds, how could they come face to face with the adversity? It would be impossible. Not only will those people be protected by you… let me tell you, you are not the only spirit who protects those people, but they will also be protected by the followers of Shakra, Brahma, and other gods. Why will they receive protection from so many sages and worthies, such as those members of the eightfold pantheon? It will be due to their having beheld and worshipped an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva and from having recited this sutra of his past vows. Such people will quite naturally be able to leave the sea of suffering and will ultimately be certified to the bliss of Nirvana. For those reasons, they will receive great protection from all the sages.