The Vows Ksitigarbha Sutra
Translated by Pitt Chin Hui
The Benefit through Sight and Hearing
At that time, Shakyamuni Buddha, the Honoured of the World, was radiating various kinds of great, blazing, perfectly coloured lights from the crown of His head. The head controls the whole body and the crown of the head is the superior of the whole. The Buddha radiated light from the crown of His head to show to the gathering that He himself also has the highest respect for the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and his Sutra.
After radiating different kinds of lights, the Buddha also produced wonderful sounds. His intention of showing light and producing sounds was to communicate to the gathering that excellent benefit can be obtained from sight and hearing.
The different colours of light revealed to the gathering that sentient beings of different types might be ignorant in committing sins and be cast into the Hells for punishment, yet they would have every opportunity and pleasure of being relieved by the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva out of their sufferings and also be guided to the Path of Righteousness and finally attain Buddhahood. For light represents transcendental wisdom, which enlightens beings in every corner of all universes without any exception.
The Honoured of the World addressed all those who were present at the thirty-three Heavens, praising the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva for bringing inconceivable benefit to devas and human beings, and telling them how Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva practised meritorious deeds during his career of following the ten stages leading to Buddhahood —never retreating, but forging ahead to Nirvana. After what Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva had said there was one Maha Bodhisattva named Avalokitesvara who rose from the seat, kneeling down before the Shakyamuni Buddha with clasped hands, and spoke to Shakyamuni Buddha respectfully, "Honoured of the World, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has great compassion on sentient beings and practises Infinite Loving Kindness by having incalculable transformations to lead sentient beings out of their sufferings. The meritorious deeds and the Infinite powers of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva are beyond description. I heard you, the Honoured of the World, and innumerable Buddhas of the ten quarters of space all praising Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva saying that the merits of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva are so great that even Buddhas of the past, present and the future cannot give the fullest account of them.
You, Honoured of the World, have been so kind as to promise to tell all who are present here the profound activities of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. We earnestly hope that you will be kind enough, for the benefit of the sentient beings of the present and the future, to describe the inexpressible benefits and blessings he has conferred on sentient beings, and thus let every one in the eight categories know how to pay respect to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva in order to attain happiness."
The Shakyamuni Buddha told the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, "You have a close relationship with the sentient beings of the Samsara world whether they be devas, dragons, males, females, spirits, devils, and all the erring beings of the six categories of beings who hear your name, see your image, admire your dignity, praise your profound kindness, all of them will proceed straight to the attainment of Buddhahood without retreat. Before they attain Buddhahood, they will always be reborn as devas or as human beings enjoying great bliss. When they have earned enough merits of good deeds then they will meet Buddhas who will predict their attainment of Buddhahood. Now, through having a great compassion for the erring beings of the sentient worlds, you request me to tell you the inconceivable benefit Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva confers on sentient beings. I will certainly do this and hope that you will listen attentively." Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva replied, " Please do so, Honoured of the World."
Shakyamuni Buddha told Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, "When the happiness of devas in the ten quarters of space in the future or past comes to an end, they have five signs of decay, and are to be cast into the evil realms. If these devas, when the five signs of decay are approaching them, will have the opportunity of seeing the image once, or paying homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva only once, such devas will have increased happiness and will never be cast into the three evil realms forever. If these devas make offerings to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva such as scented flowers, clothing, food and drink, precious jewels, etc., they will receive innumerable happinesses and benefits in return. If sentient beings of the six categories of beings of the present and the future in different worlds, hear the name of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva at their dying stage, they will never be reborn to the three evil realms forever. If parents or relatives of the dying person sell all of his belongings, riches, properties, and use the money to make images of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, then the dying person comes to know the meritorious deeds done on his behalf, although the person should suffer a severe disease according to his own Karma, but instead he fully recovers very soon and has longevity. If the dying person loses his life accordingly to his Karma and should be cast into the evil realms, due to the meritorious deeds done on his behalf, all of his punishments will be extinguished, and he will be born as a deva or human being, enjoying great bliss. If sentient beings of the present or the future who have lost their parents, sisters or brothers during their early childhood and think of their deceased relatives when they are fully grown, and long to know where they have been reborn, such grown up persons can make images of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, hearing then his name, admiring his image or paying homage to him from one day to seven days continuously without any retreat although the deceased relatives may merit being cast into the evil realms for kalpas, but due to the meritorious deeds practised on their behalf, they are free from their punishment, and will be reborn either as devas or humans receiving great bliss. If the deceased relatives of such meritorious persons have already been reborn as devas or human beings, according to their Karma, with great happiness, on account of what their relatives have practised on their behalf, they shall receive even greater happiness and infinite bliss. If such grown up persons can continue to pay respect to the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s images continuously, chanting his name for innumerable times for twenty-one days whole-heartedly, then Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva will appear before them and tell them the exact places were their deceased relatives have been reborn. Or, through the supernatural powers of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, they will be taken by him to the various realms personally, to see where their former relatives are. If they can chant the name of the Bodhisattva for a thousand times every day, and continue to do so for one thousand days, the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva will send forth earthly spirits to protect them throughout their lives, and they will enjoy happiness, prosperity and longevity, and will not experience suffering or sorrow. Neither will they come across unhappiness, nor shall evil enter their homes. Finally, they will attain Buddhahood. If there are people, either male or female, in the future who desire to relieve sentient beings, to practise compassionate deeds, to convert sentient beings and to possess great wisdom in order to get out of their suffering of the Trilokas, such persons, if they see the image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, chant the name of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, taking refuge in Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, making offerings or paying homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, all their wishes will be achieved without any obstacle forever. If the sentient beings of the present and future have innumerable wishes, or they have the desire of doing innumerable good deeds, they will be successful in all of their aspirations if they pay respect to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, praising him, taking him as their refuge or paying homage to his image. If such persons long for Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva to protect them forever, they will see Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva in their dreams, to predict that they will be able to attain Buddhahood. Even if males and females in the future have great faith in the Mahayana Sutra, and aspire to read and recite this Sutra, though they are taught by clever teachers, they may forget it due to their ignorance brought about by previous bad Karma; but, when they hear the name of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva or see his image or likeness and make various offerings to him and place a cup of pure water in front of him for one day and one night, then with clasped hands and with deepest reverence, facing South, they may drink the water with great faith. After drinking the water, they must abstain from all evil deeds and observe the precepts piously for seven days or twenty-one days. By so doing, these persons will see the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva in various manifestations in the dream state, showing the Bodhisattva pouring water of wisdom on their heads. Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva will endow these persons with wisdom. Upon awakening, they will then have sufficient wisdom to understand the Sutra, remembering every sentence and stanza forever.
If people in the future suffer from insufficient food and clothing, unsuccessful in whatever they wish to do, always attacked by sickness or disastrous happenings, and no peace in their family life, separated from their beloved ones, see only dreadful things in their dreams, or are met by other calamities that befall them, if such sorrowful beings hear the name of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, or see his images, or chant his name for ten thousands times with deepest reverence, their unhappiness will disappear gradually. They will live in peace and happiness. If virtuous people in the future, due to their personal business or public affairs, or any other important functions, have to travel through deep forests, to cross rivers or seas with strong rapids, or to walk on dangerous paths, such people, if they chant the name of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva for ten thousand times, then wherever they go or whatever they do, they will always be protected by spirits and devas and will have happiness and peace forever. Even if they come across dangerous animals such as tigers, wolves or lions, they can never do harm to such virtuous persons.
Shakyamuni Buddha then told Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, "The Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has a close relationship with the sentient beings of Jambudvipa. If we want to speak about the happiness and benefits which Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva confers upon sentient beings, it will take hundreds of thousands of kalpas and still we would not be able to cover the full account. That is why you, Avalokitesvara, through your supernatural powers, should do your utmost to propagate the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra, so that sentient beings in the Samsara world will have the opportunity to enjoy happiness and peace for millions of kalpas."
At that time, the Shakyamuni Buddha spoke again in stanzas, "Even if we spoke for kalpas, we could not describe in detail Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s supernatural powers, which are as many as the grains of sands in the Ganges River. Seeing, hearing, or paying homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, even for a moment of thought, will bring innumerable benefits to human beings as well as devas. If human beings, dragons or spirits are cast into the evil realms according to their Karma, they will be exonerated from punishment if they take their refuge in Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. If people who have lost their parents or beloved ones during their infancy, and wish to know where their deceased relatives have been reborn, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva will transform himself into various manifestations and personally show them the places where their relatives are, providing they make images of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, pay homage to him and continue to chant his name a thousand times a day for twenty-one days continuously. Even though the deceased relatives have been cast into evil realms, they will be relieved of suffering by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. If they continue to chant and do such virtuous activities, these persons will receive the opportunity of attaining Buddhahood.
If people wish to practise the Bodhisattva career and get out of the three worlds of suffering, they should first pay homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s image, and all their aspirations will be achieved, and they will never come across any obstacles. Secondly, if people make a vow to chant Sutras and lead erring beings to Salvation, although they make a very good vow, but owing to their previous Karma they are very forgetful through bad memory, if such persons make offerings to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva such as scented flowers, clothing. food and drink or by placing a cup of pure water on Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's altar for one day and one night and then drink the water after praying, and if such persons observe the five precepts for twenty-one days, remembering or thinking of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's name with deepest reverence, they will attain wisdom after seeing numerous transformations of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva in their dreams, and remember whatever Sutra that comes to their ears. For hundreds of thousands of births, they will attain such wisdom through the supernatural powers of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. Thirdly, if people suffering from poverty, sickness, misfortune in the family, separated from beloved ones, troubled dreams, unsuccessful in whatever they wish for, if such persons pay homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's image, all their undesirable conditions will disappear. They are protected by spirits and devas, and will enjoy life with sufficiency in everything. If people come across dangerous animals, wicked people, fierce spirits or devils or natural disasters when they travel in the forests or across the seas, if they pay homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and make offerings to him, all of the forenamed disasters will be removed."
Shakyamuni Buddha said to Avalokitesvara, "Listen to me. To describe the supernatural powers of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva would take endless kalpas and still I could not be able to enumerate them all"
"People receive great bliss if they hear Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's name and pay homage to his image and make offerings to him. If they transfer their merit to the beings of the ten quarters of space, they will be relieved out of the sufferings of birth and death and finally attain Buddhahood. That is why, Avalokitesvara, you must familiarise people in as many countries as the grains of sands in the Ganges River with the incalculable attributes of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva."