The Vows Ksitigarbha Sutra
Translated by Pitt Chin Hui
Evil Actions and Retributions of Human Beings of the Samsara World
At that time, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva told Shakyamuni Buddha, "Honoured of the World, only through your transcendental powers, am I then able to have transformations throughout millions and millions of Universes to enlighten suffering beings to real Salvation. It must be by your great compassion and supernatural power that I am also able to have such innumerable transformations. I solemnly promise to fulfil your instruction to continue to relieve beings from this state of suffering and to lead them to Salvation. I shall strive to work hard until the next Buddha, Maitreya Buddha, comes to this world. Pray, do not despair."
Shakyamuni Buddha then told Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, "The natural powers of perception of all those who have not yet been liberated from the Samsara world are of an unsteady nature. Sometimes they do good deeds, and sometimes they commit sins. They receive their Karma according to their deeds. They have to undergo births and deaths, to be tested continuously at different stages in the ocean of sufferings from kalpas to kalpas. They will always be in one of the following five states.
Sub-humans in Hells
Like fish, they will be caught in nets. They may be set free for some time and be caught again."
I am tremendously worried over these beings, but as you are so resolute to fulfil the strong vows which you have made kalpas ago to work unremittingly to lead the erring beings to Salvation, I therefore feel the relief now."
Just at that moment when Shakyamuni was speaking to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, there was a Maha Bodhisattva by the name of Isvaradeva (King of the Devils) who spoke to the Buddha, "Honoured of the World, you have been most generous to speak in favour of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva for the strong vows made by him to perform kalpas after kalpas so energetically. Kindly relate to me in brief all that is determined by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva."
The Buddha then told the King of the Devils, "Please listen carefully and attentively to what I say---
"When he was a King of a small kingdom"
"Innumerable kalpas ago, there was a Buddha by the name of Sarvajna Buddha, the Accomplishment of Buddha Wisdom. This Buddha lived a very long life of six million kalpas. Before he became a Buddha, he was a king of a small country. He was a great friend of the King in his neighbourhood. Both Kings practised the ten Principles of Righteousness. Unfortunately, the citizens of his neighbouring country always committed sinful deeds. Consequently, the two Kings consulted one another to discover ways and means of leading their citizens to live a virtuous life. The first King made a strong vow that he would do his best to be enlightened as soon as he could, so that he might enlighten his citizens to the path of Salvation. The second King vowed that he would never become a Buddha unless he could bring about the moral progress of sinful citizens when they would be able to achieve Enlightenment. The King who vowed to become a Buddha is Sarvajna Buddha—the Accomplishment of Buddha Wisdom. The other King who made a vow that he would never accept Buddhahood unless he could bring all erring beings to Enlightenment is Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.
"When he was the daughter of a Brahman"
Again, innumerable kalpas ago, there was a Buddha by the name of Pure Lotus Eyes. He lived a long life of forty kalpas. During the semblance of the period of the Buddha, there was an Arahat who worked strenuously to convert beings by propagating the Noble Teachings of the Buddha. There was a girl by the name of Kong Mok—the girl with bright eyes. She made offerings to the Arahat, who asked her what her wish was. The girl replied, "I did some good work on the day of my mother’s death in order to relieve her out of her sufferings. I long to know in what state my mother is at present." The Arahat pitied her and started to meditate. He came to know that the mother of the girl had been cast into the Hell of great Sufferings. The Arahat asked the girl what her mother did during her lifetime, so as to be cast into the Hell and to receive such severe punishment. The girl replied, "My mother used to be very fond of eating tortoises, especially their eggs, and fishes fried or cooked. She therefore killed countless lives for food. Compassionate One, kindly let me know how to relieve my mother." Out of great compassion, the Arahat told the girl to chant the name of the Buddha of Pure Lotus Eyes earnestly and respectfully, and that she should carve images of the above Buddha so that both the mother and herself could benefit from it.
After being told by the Arahat, the girl disposed of her precious belongings, and with the money she had an image of the Exalted Buddha drawn and paid homage to it. Again, she begged to know where her mother was. Suddenly, one night, she saw the Buddha in the midst of a bright golden light as big as Mount Sumeru, telling her thus, "Your mother will be born to your family as a son of a servant, and will be able to speak as soon as she can feel cold and hunger." Before long, the servant in her family gave birth to a son. The newly-born child spoke to the girl three days after his birth. This newly-born infant said to the girl who was weeping bitterly, "Whatever evil deeds one has done, one will receive punishment without exception. I am your mother! After my departure from you, I have been cast into a dreadful Hell to suffer severe punishment. It was on account of the good deeds offered by you that I am now born as a son of your servant. But, owing to the evil deeds which I committed during my life, I can only live to the age of thirteen, and will again be cast into the Hell. My child, what ways and means can you find to relieve me from my sufferings?" Upon hearing this, the girl was certain that the newly-born infant was her mother.
The girl then asked the newly-born child, "Since you were my mother in your last life, you ought to know what sins were committed by you, so that you were cast into Hell." The child answered, "I have committed two sins, both by killing lives and speaking evil as well as scolding others. Without your help, by practising good deeds, I can never be relieved from my sufferings." The girl then asked the infant, "What kind of suffering were you subjected to in Hell?" The mother replied, "The sufferings were so numerous that I can not fully relate them, even if given a thousand years to do so." Upon hearing this, the girl then wept bitterly again, "May my mother be relieved from Hell forever after?" Later, the child died at the age of thirteen.
Meanwhile, the girl was seen calling, "Oh, Buddha of the ten directions of Space, please be compassionate and listen to me. If my mother can be relieved from the three States of Suffering or be born into an superior family, or will never be born a female again, I now make a strong vow in front of the image of the Buddha of Pure Lotus Eyes—I shall continue to forge ahead unremittingly to relieve all suffering beings from Hells, as well as in any state of suffering from every Universe and lead them to real Salvation. I shall accept Buddhahood only when I have completed the relief of all beings from their sufferings."
After making such a firm declaration, the Buddha of the Pure Lotus Eyes then told the girl, "You are really a filial daughter to make such a strong vow for the benefit of your mother. May your mother be born as a Brahmacarin, a young Brahman, after living for thirteen years. She will then live for a hundred years. After that, she will be reborn in the Universe, where she will not suffer anymore, and there she will enjoy life for kalpas and kalpas, until she finally achieves Buddhahood. Then, she will be able to convert as many humans as the grains of sand in the Ganges River."
Shakyamuni Buddha told the King of Devils, "The Arahat, who helped the girl with bright eyes to relieve her mother, is Aksayamati Bodhisattva. The mother of the girl with bright eyes is, at present, the Bodhisattva of Emancipation. The girl with bright eyes is at present the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva."
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva was noted for his compassion and sympathy through kalpa after kalpa by making innumerable vows to lead the erring world to Salvation. If any male or female of the future, through ignorance, does not practise good deeds, but commits sin through actions, words and thoughts, or ignores the law of Cause and Effect, they will always suffer in any one of the States of Suffering.
But, after the chance of meeting a person with wisdom who persuades them to pay respect to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, even if only for a short length of time, they will certainly be relieved from the States of Sufferings.
Anyone who relies on Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, pays homage to him, or sincerely praises his meritorious acts, makes offerings of scented flowers and robes, jewels and various foods and beverages, will be reborn in the realms of celestial happiness for innumerable kalpas. When the effect of these meritorious deeds comes to an end, they will be reborn as kings of countries for hundreds of kalpas. These rulers will remember the links of causation in their previous lives.
Then Shakyamuni Buddha told Isavaradevaraja "Because the Infinite powers of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva prove to be so great and the benefits he bestows on beings are so inconceivably boundless, that is why you Bodhisattvas must remember his Sutra and endeavour to propagate it far and wide.
"Isavaradevaraja then addressed Shakyamuni Buddha, "Honoured of the World, be not apprehensive; we, millions and millions of Maha Bodhisattvas, will surely carry out your instructions and, by the grace of your Infinite powers, we shall propagate the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra far and wide and bring happiness and benefit to the beings of the Samsara world." After this promise Isavaradevaraja returned to his seat with hands clasped in adoration. The Maharaja Deva Kings of the four quarters rose reverently from their seats and said to Shakyamuni Buddha, "Honoured of the World, since Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has made such great vows kalpas and kalpas ago, why are there still unconverted beings and why was it necessary for Ksitigarbha to renew his vows?" Shakyamuni Buddha told the four Deva Kings, "Very well, your question is very good. For the welfare of the four Deva Kings, devas and beings of the Heavens or the worlds, at this time and for the future, I shall tell you how Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva with great compassion, relieved erring beings of the Samsara world from the ocean of birth and death, leading them to emancipation." The four Deva Kings replied, "We will listen most attentively to your words." Shakyamuni Buddha continued, "Although Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has converted erring beings through the kalpas, he is still not satisfied. He has great pity for those who wander in sin, knowing that no matter how hard they try, they will fall back into erring actions again and again. They are like link-grass which spread far and wide. Therefore, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has renewed his vows again and again. He has unceasingly tried to find upaya (devices) suitable for saving the sinful and converting them to the Eternal Truth ."
Then Shakyamuni Buddha spoke again to the four Deva Kings, saying, "If Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva encounters beings who commit sin by killing, he helps them to realise that such sins shorten their lives. If he encounters thieves and robbers, he will lead them to understand that such evil actions will bring suffering and poverty to those who commit them. When he meets adulterers, he tells them that they will be reborn as pigeons which are inseparable. He tells those addicted to harsh language that they will be born into quarrelsome families. If scandalmongers are met, then he warns them of the danger of being born without tongues or with horrible boils in their mouths. He assures those with hot temper that they may risk being reborn with ugly faces and deformed bodies. Misers will not be successful in gaining their wishes, greedy beings will suffer hunger and thirst, and sickness of the throat. When he encounters hunters, he warns them that they are in danger of dying by violence. Those who are guilty of disrespect for their parents will die in warfare. Those who burn forests will die mentally unbalanced. Those who are unkind to step-children will eventually receive the same treatment. Those who catch living things in nets will be separated from their children and families. Those who despise the Triple-gems will be reborn deaf, dumb and blind. Those who have no respect for the Teachings of the Buddha are always reborn in the evil realms of suffering. Those who steal from temples will be reborn in Hells for kalpas and kalpas. Monks and nuns guilty of sexual misconduct will be reborn as animals endlessly. Also the laity will be included in this punishment if they are well instructed in the precepts but violate them. Those beings who harm people with boiling water, fire, cutting or otherwise injuring them will, in their next life, receive the same treatment. Those who encourage others to break the precepts shall be reborn as animals—- always suffering from hunger. Those who are guilty of stupid extravagance will never get their wishes fulfilled. Those who are proud and look down on others will have low births. Gossips and tale-bearers will be reborn without tongues or else with one hundred tongues. Those who cling to wrong views will be reborn in uncivilised places and endure suffering."
"Erring beings who commit sins in actions, words and thoughts are countless, that I can only tell you some of them. Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva knows that erring being are different from one another and he accommodates himself to lead and teach them all, leading them to conversion. Evil beings suffer in this life-time for their evil deeds and upon death will be reborn into the Hells for kalpas and kalpas before they can emerge therefrom. It is the duty of you Deva Kings of the Four Quarters to protect your subjects and countries and lead them away from the countless sins."
After hearing this discourse, the Deva Kings wept and departed sorrowfully, with clasped hands, reverently.