The Vows Ksitigarbha Sutra
Translated by Pitt Chin Hui
Appreciation of Emperor Yama and His Followers—The Ruler of Yamadevaloka and Judge of the Dead
At that time, Emperor Yama of the Hells came to Tusita Heaven from Mahachakravala with an innumerable number of his followers, as listed below, to pay respect to the Shakyamuni Buddha—
1. Devil-king who possesses a resolute attitude towards the poisonous group of Evildoers, for evils committed through actions, words and thoughts are classed as poison. This King of devils leads erring beings to abstain from bad deeds and to practise a good life by showing them the poisonous result of committing sins.
2. Devil-king of violent anger. The outer appearance of this King of devils is frightfully fierce, but his thoughts are compassionate. He tries to convert stubborn and erring beings from committing bad deeds by way of being stern although greatly compassionate inwardly. Thus, he leads the erring to righteousness gradually.
3. Devil-king of Quarrels. Love and hatred, greed and jealousy are the sources of quarrels. This King of devils shows the harmful result of quarrels. As a result, he leads the erring to the happy path of harmony.
4. Devil-king who applies the attitude of a roaring tiger. Tigers are fierce and harmful animals. Evil deeds induce people to commit sins as harmful as tigers.
5. Devil-king of Disaster. This King of devils illustrates the misery of being disobedient to elders and the disastrous result that is to follow later. Therefore, he endeavours to lead such beings to righteousness
6. Devil-king who possesses the power to fly. The flying Yaksas are led to the Path of Righteousness by this King of devils.
7. Devil-king who possesses a pair of strikingly electrical-form eyes. This King of devils judges skilfully the right from the wrongs He punishes the wicked with misery, but he bestows upon the meritorious ones with happiness.
8. Devil-king with Fox-like teeth. Foxes are sly animals. This King of devils shows the harmful results of being sly and perseveringly reforms sinful beings to practise good deeds.
9. Devil-king who possesses one thousand Eyes and one thousand Hands. This King of devils seizes every opportunity to convert de-meritorious beings and to bring happiness and benefit upon them.
10. Devil-king who swallows fierce animals which cause harm to people.11. Devil-king who carries stone and sand to fill up seas and rivers, when necessary, to bring benefit to people.l2. Devil-king who brings poverty and suffering to sinners so as to see that they suffer and repent. But he bestows upon the good treasure and happiness as soon as they start to practise benevolent deeds.13. Devil-king who distributes food to the good. Fault for the wicked, he makes them suffer hunger.14. Devil-king who is responsible for punishing all misers who, though rich, never practise benevolence.
15. Devil-king who controls wicked animals.
16. Devil-king who controls births of beings as well as their length of staying alive.
17. Devil-king who brings sickness to sinners.
18. Devil-king who is in charge of all kinds of danger
To bring danger to sinners for punishment.
To relieve the good from danger.
19. Devil-king with three Eyes, four Eyes or five Eyes.20. Devil-king who punishes all devils for criminal acts like theft of property or robbery during their life-time. But for the good, he helps them to accomplish all their wishes.
All the above-named great Kings of Devils, together with numerous inferior Devil kings, arrived at Tusita Heaven with Emperor Yama to worship the Buddha. These Kings of Devils, as well as those of the inferior group, have different duties to perform, either to punish those who commit sins, or to bring happiness and benefit to those who do good deeds.
It is natural through the ubiquitous supernatural powers of the Shakyamuni Buddha, the Honoured of the World, and the Ksitgiarbha Bodhisattva that these Kings could be well received in Tusita Heaven, and they all assembled in a row respectfully.
Just at that time, the Emperor Yama knelt before the Buddha and said, "Honoured of the World, we are immensely indebted to your supernatural powers and valuable assistance of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva to enable all of us to be here to pay homage and respect at this great assembly. We are exceedingly happy to be blessed with this golden opportunity to gather here and to have your valuable advice. May your attention be drawn to a little problem which is puzzling us ? May I have the honour to request you to be kind enough to supply us with a compassionate explanation ?"
The Buddha then told Emperor Yama, "You are at liberty to ask any question freely, and I shall provide you with a proper and detailed answer."
Emperor Yama paid full respect to Shakyamuni Buddha, turned with a look at Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and said, "My Honoured of the World, it is indeed a wonderful gesture by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva to venture unremittingly, through various ways and means, to relieve the beings from the six Directions of reincarnation. But, I wish to know why beings, who have just been relieved from punishment, commit sins again which caused them to be cast into the state of Suffering once more.
Honoured of the World, since the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is so wonderfully compassionate towards erring beings, why must they ignore following his way to lead a virtuous life and gain Salvation forever? If you please, my Buddha, kindly furnish me with the necessary solution."
The Honoured of the World then told Emperor Yama, "It is extremely difficult to control and convert the erring beings of the Samsara world. There is no doubt that the compassionate Bodhisattva is striving his utmost to bring erring beings to Salvation through kalpas and kalpas.
Even though sinful beings have been cast into the great Hells for punishment, the Bodhisattva is trying his best to lead them to live a virtuous life, and to bestow upon them the power of remembering their past deeds. Because erring beings of the Samsara world are prone to commit sins, that is why, shortly after they are relieved from their sufferings, they will commit sins again and thus receive punishment once more. It is, in fact, a great pity for the compassionate Bodhisattva to be working so earnestly through kalpas and kalpas to relieve erring beings from their sufferings. One example of which is:
A man, having lost his way while returning home, found himself in the dangerous situation where the surroundings were full of Yaksas, fierce animals and poisonous insects. By chance, he met a wise man who happened to know the way of calming Yaksas, beasts and insects.
The wise man, upon seeing the danger, asked anxiously, "My man, why do you come this way? Do you have any means of controlling these fierce animals?"
Upon hearing such words, the man realised that he was at that moment walking along a dangerous road. The wise man then caught hold of his hand and led him out of that dangerous road by showing him the way to the path of Peace and happiness. Once again, he addressed the man, "Oh, my man, be wise now and never tread this road again as once you get into this way, it is very difficult for you to get out of it and you will surely perish within."
The erring man was so grateful and rejoiced at being led out of danger. Before his departure, the wise man again said to him, "Whenever you meet any of your friends or strangers, either male or female, tell them that this road is full of danger. If they come to this road by mistake, they will lose their lives. Tell them not to be foolish and not face the danger-unnecessarily."
The compassionate Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva relieved erring beings from their sufferings and directed them either to Heaven or to the human world to enjoy great happiness.
These beings were then made to realise how one must suffer according to one's misdeeds, and how one could enjoy according to one's good actions. Then, they would never again commit sins and be cast into the Hell anymore. It is very similar to one who had lost his way home, and by mistake found himself on the dangerous road, and was finally taken out of danger by a wise man. He too must remember never to tread such a dangerous road again.
Whenever he met a friend or a stranger, he advised them not to tread that dangerous path. When one is free from danger, he should have the wisdom of not touching such a risk again. If one enters such a dangerous path once more by mistake, it reveals that he does not have sufficient understanding, and may lose his or her life therein. It is similar to one being cast into the evil realms for suffering.
The compassionate Bodhisattva tries his best to lead beings out of the Hells and directs them on the way to Salvation, or to be reborn as human beings. They might be ignorant of the results of sins and commit evil again; and according to the Karma, they would be cast into Hell to suffer without any hope of being released."
At that time, the Devil-king of Poison, the Poison of evil actions, words and thoughts, said to the Shakyamuni Buddha respectfully with clasped hands, "Honoured of the World, we innumerable Kings of devils from every corner of the Samsara world are either to bring benefit and happiness to human beings or cause them sufferings according to their deeds. We have travelled to all corners of the Universe, and we are convinced that there are more evil than good human beings. We promise you that whenever or wherever we come across a male or female in any part of the world who, though seen practising only a small fraction of good, or making any kind of offerings to the images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, or be heard chanting a sentence or poem of the Sutras, my followers and I shall treat such persons respectfully, as if we pay homage to the Buddhas of the present, past and the future. We shall instruct our followers and the spirits from different places to protect such virtuous beings. We shall never allow any unhappy occasions, disease or any undesirable events to happen, not only to their homes, but also in places close to their residences."
Shakyamuni Buddha was highly delighted and said, "Well, well, since Emperor Yama and your followers are ready to protect such virtuous beings, I shall also instruct the Ruler of Brahmaloka and the Emperor of the thirty-three Heavens to protect you all."
After the interesting discourse, the Devil-king, who is in charge of the longevity of people's lives, rose up from the assembly and spoke to Shakyamuni Buddha, "My honoured of the World, it is my duty to be in charge of the longevity of human beings in the human world, either during their life-time or after their death. It is my earnest wish to bring benefit and happiness to human beings, but I observe with sadness that many of the human beings do not realise my intention to relieve them. As a result, evil ones are not at peace during their life-time or after their death. When people in this human world are expecting birth of a boy or girl, they should practise meritorious deeds, for such good deeds bring benefit and happiness to the family. My followers and spirits of that place will not only protect both the mother and the newly-born child, but will bestow upon them and their relatives great peace and happiness joyfully. For this reason, when a child is born to a family, it is desirable not to kill any animals as supplement for any tonic to the mother, or to invite friends or relatives in the child's honour by offering or entertaining them with wine, meat and music. Such ways of celebrating the birth of a child will never bring happiness to both the mother and the child. For when a pregnant woman is ready for delivery of her child, there are numerous evil devils seen by the side of the mother to suck her blood.
In order to safeguard the mother, I usually order the spirit of that place to come and protect the mother and child and to bring them peace and happiness. When the mother and child are at peace after birth, they should make offerings to the spirits to express their gratitude for the protection given. If, instead of offering to the spirits, friends and relatives are entertained by the killing of animals, both the mother and the newly-born child will suffer punishment.
When a person in this human world is nearing death, I always try my best to relieve this dying person, irrespective of whether the being is a good or evil person, from being cast into the evil State. If this dying person has been doing good deeds during his or her life-time, my power of relieving him or her will be successful.
Even in the case of a person who has done good deeds throughout his life, there may be innumerable evil spirits in the form of their past parents or relatives to tempt the dying person to the evil State of suffering. If the dying person has done bad deeds during his life, these evil spirits will no doubt be successful in arresting him or her to the State of suffering.
Honoured of the World, if people in the Samsara world, either male or female, be seen unconscious during their moment of death when they cannot distinguish the good from the bad, and at such a moment they will not be able to see or hear, that is the time for the relatives of this dying person to chant the Sutra and to make offerings to the images of the Buddha, as well as the Bodhisattva, for these good deeds will help to drive away the evil spirits. The Buddha and the Bodhisattva will keep the dying person away from the evil State.
Honoured of the World, if all dying persons have an opportunity of hearing only the name of one Buddha or one Bodhisattva, or the chanting of the Sutra, or even the chanting of one sentence or one poem of any Sutra, I can assure you that these dying persons will be kept away from the five Avici Hells. If a dying person has committed only small evil deeds which will cause him to be cast into the evil State for punishment, he will be relieved upon hearing the name of the Buddha or Bodhisattva, or even the chanting of the Sutra."
Shakyamuni Buddha then told the Devil-king who is in charge of Birth and Death by saying, "It is very kind of you to make such a strong vow with your Infinite Loving Kindness to protect human beings, male or female, during their life-time or after death. I earnestly hope that you will try your best to carry out your vow without any retreat, so that you will be able to relieve all these erring beings to Salvation and to bring them everlasting happiness.''
The Devil-king who is in charge of Birth and Death said, "Please do not be worried, for I shall continuously try my utmost to protect the beings in the Samsara world, both at the moment of their birth and at the moment of their death, and thus enabling them to be in peace and happiness. I strongly look forward to the occasion when all human beings will listen to my words so as to achieve real Salvation and to attain great benefit."
At that time, Shakyamuni Buddha told Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, "This Devil king of Birth and Death has been a great King of Devils for many thousands of lives. He. has done his best to protect human beings at their moment of birth and at their moment of death. In fact, he is not a devil, as so supposed to be, but out of compassion and great Infinite Loving Kindness, he transformed himself into the form of a devil. He will attain Buddhahood after one hundred and seventy kalpas by the name of Nirlaksana Buddha. He will live a long life for countless and happy kalpas in a world named Purity.
The story of this great King of Devils is beyond thought or description and persons converted by him are also unaccountable."