The Vows Ksitigarbha Sutra
Translated by Pitt Chin Hui
Shakyamuni Buddha Praising Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
Shakyamuni Buddha radiated great brilliant light to all the Buddha-Worlds, as many as the grains of sand on the shores of the Ganges River. He sent His great voice to all the Maha Bodhisattvas, devas, dragon-kings, spirits and human beings, as well as the other sentient beings in the Buddha-Worlds.
"Listen to me today. I am praising the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva on how he converted, and will continue to convert, all erring beings in the ten quarters of space by incalculable Infinite powers and Infinite love and compassion. I hope you will endeavour in your utmost to protect and propagate the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra, so as to lead all beings to attain Enlightenment after I enter Nirvana."
After Shakyamuni Buddha had spoken, Universal Bodhisattva spoke to the Shakyamuni Buddha with clasped hands, respectfully, "I have just heard your Honoured Self praising the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva for his incalculable Infinite powers in relieving sentient beings, and hope that you, the Honoured of the World, will tell us in more detail the ways and means by which Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva brings happiness and benefit to sentient beings, so that the future generations may understand and practice the Teachings."
At that time, Shakyamuni Buddha told the Universal Bodhisattva, and all those who were present, "Please listen to me carefully; I will tell you all briefly how Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva converted sentient beings, and brought them happiness and good merit."
Universal Bodhisattva replied, "Please speak, Honoured of the World, and we shall all listen to you carefully."
Shakyamuni Buddha told the Universal Bodhisattva, "If both males and females in the future will chant the name of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva with clasped hands, praising him, paying homage to him, or admiring him, all those people will be exonerated from the sins that they have committed even thirty kalpas ago. Universal Bodhisattva, if both males and females draw the image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva with colours, or make images of him in earth, stone, wood, gold, silver, brass or iron, and pay homage to him only once, or look at the image of his likeness only once, all of these sentient beings will be reborn in the thirty-three Heavens for a hundred births, and will never pass into the evil realms forever. When their happiness in the Heavens comes to an end, they shall be reborn in the human world as kings of countries. If females do not wish to be reborn as females, they must do their very best to make offerings to the images of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva in any likeness continuously without any retreat. If they always continue to make offerings with scented flowers, drinks, food, clothing, embroidered scrolls, money, jewels, etc., such women will never be reborn as females for thousands of kalpas after this life. If they desire through compassion to be reborn as females again in order to convert sentient beings, they may do so. [if they do not wish to be reborn as females, then through the Infinite powers of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, for millions of kalpas, they will not be reborn as females.] Again, Universal Bodhisattva, if there are females who are born with ugly faces or ill health they may simply pay homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva by looking at his image for a short time with full respect, and such females will be reborn with beautiful faces for millions of kalpas in the future. If such ugly females do wish to be reborn as females again through their merit of paying homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva earnestly, they will receive the happiness of being reborn as queens of countries or daughters of nobles for millions of rebirths and they will have beautiful appearances.
Again, Universal Bodhisattva, if there are males and females who play music or chant mantra in praise of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva or offering scented flowers to him themselves, or if they encourage one or more persons to follow them by doing the same thing, then all of these beings will have thousands of spirits and devas protecting them day and night in the present life and in the lives to come. They will see no evil, nor encounter any evil or even hear any evil at all forever."
Shakyamuni Buddha said to Universal Bodhisattva again, "If there are wicked sentient beings jeering and laughing at people and those who make offerings, praising, paying homage to the image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, saying that they will get no benefit or merit out of this, or by turning their faces away from them or trying to encourage one person or more persons to stop doing such good acts or deeds or by even a single thought against these people paying tribute to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, then they will be born into the Avici Hell for kalpas and kalpas and receive heavy punishment even after many Buddhas enter Nirvana. After their punishment, they will be reborn as pretas for thousands of kalpas After that, they will be born as animals for kalpas and kalpas. They may be reborn as human beings after that, but will suffer great poverty, low births and be handicapped in one way or the other. Their previous karma will cast them into the evil realms again very soon."
Shakyamuni Buddha again addressed Universal Bodhisattva, "To ridicule others for paying respect and making offerings to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva will receive such heavy punishment that it will be more dangerous by far than to have erroneous view on the transformations of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and to destroy his images and belittle his Teachings."
Shakyamuni Buddha continued, "If there are those who are long in the beds of suffering, whose illnesses are very great, continuing for years and years, having bad dreams, dreams of fierce devils, seeing their dead relatives in those dreams or dreaming of travelling in dangerous paths, or with devils, and, perchance they shout aloud in those disturbing dreams, all those sufferings are the result of evil deeds done before in their last lives and their retribution is as yet undecided in its severity. Even though the ill persons are sick unto death but cannot die, the karmic reason therefore not being visible to the human eye, if someone will chant loudly the Ksitigarbha Sutra before images of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and will take the cherished belongings of the ill person—jewels, raiment or other properties, saying, "On behalf of the sick person we are making these offerings and paying homage." If they venerate Buddha images, or make likenesses of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, or shall construct pagodas or temples, or endow oil lamps, or if they shall bestow charity on temples, repeating the verbal part of the offering in front of the sick person and within his hearing distance for three times, even though the sick person has already passed away, such information as mentioned above should be continuous for seven days loudly. The Ksitigarbha Sutra should also be chanted loudly during this period. Such benefited persons will be free forever from being cast into the five Avici Hells for severe punishment. They will also have recollection of their previous lives in their rebirths."
"If males and females write or copy the Ksitigarbha Sutra, or teach others to write it, or to make his images, or teach others to do so, this will produce benefits greater than by the above described way."
Shakyamuni Buddha continued speaking to Universal Bodhisattva, "If you find persons who chant the Ksitigarbha Sutra, or who have even one thought of praise of this Sutra, or showing respect for him, pray persuade them by all means to persevere unremittingly in such work, never looking back. Tell them they will achieve inconceivable merits — in the present and in future.
If sentient beings in the future should see visions of devils, spirits or other forms, crying, sighing or frightening them, they are their families in previous lives. All are in evil realms from which they are unable to emerge and are begging for benevolent acts to be done on their behalf in order that they may be relieved of their sufferings."
Shakyamuni Buddha told Universal Bodhisattva, "Please tell those who have frightening visions to chant the Ksitigarbha Sutra before images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and, if they cannot do this themselves, they ask someone else to act for them, for three or seven times. When the deceased relatives have heard the Ksitigarbha Sutra for a few times, these deceased ones will find relief and he led to Salvation. Thereafter, the living ones will not again dream of the deceased relatives.
If there are people of low birth, being servants of others and without freedom, please afford them to understand that they are reaping the results of bad karma from their previous existences. Tell them to repent and to pay homage to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva for from one to seven days, chanting the Bodhisattva's name for ten thousand times. The resultant good merit of these people of low birth will bring them into high births for innumerable births and they shall never again fall into the evil realms.
If inhabitants of Jambudvipa in future times shall, at the advent of newly born children, cause the parents to chant the Ksitigarbha Sutra and his name for ten thousand times, then the newly-born children, whether male or female, will achieve expiation of the sins of their previous lives and will live long and happy lives. If all those about to be born into this life have done meritorious deeds in their previous existences, their lives here will be even longer and happier.
Dwellers in the Jambudvipa world who are guilty of such sins in their daily life as killing, stealing, adultery, lying etc., are advised to chant the Ksitigarbha Sutra before images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for ten days within a month, such as the first day, the eighth, fourteenth, fifteenth, eighteenth, twenty-third, twenty-fourth, twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth and thirtieth days, once a day, there will be no suffering to yojanas of distance, east, west, north and south. Within the family, everyone, whether young or old, will not again be born into evil realms for thousands of years.
If people can chant the Ksitigarbha Sutra all the above ten "fasting" days of the month, they will not suffer from sickness and will enjoy every comfort in life. That is why, Universal Bodhisattva, you ought to know that Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has such vividly great power and has accomplished so much to bring benefit to sentient beings. Beings in the Jambudvipa world are closely linked to the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, and that is why when those people hear his name or see his likeness, or hear even so much as three words, five words, one stanza or one sentence of his Teaching, will live happily and contentedly in the present birth, and will be reborn into noble families with pleasant complexion in the future for millions of rebirths."
At that time, the Universal Bodhisattva, having heard Shakyamuni Buddha praising Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, knelt with clasped hands reverently and spoke to the Buddha, saying, "Honoured of the World, I have long noted the inconceivable Infinite powers of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and his great vows to bring benefits and happiness to sentient beings. That is why I inquire about his wonderful powers and his activities in following and spreading the Teachings, which I promise to follow and spread by my own efforts. Will the Honoured of the World graciously tell us the name of this Sutra and indicate to me the ways and means of propagating this noble teaching?"
Shakyamuni Buddha replied, "This Sutra has three names as follows:
Ksitigarbha's Fundamental Vows.
Ksitigarbha's Fundamental Practices.
Ksitigarbha's Fundamental Determination.
Since Ksitigarbha made such great vows kalpas ago to bring happiness and benefits to sentient beings, it is the duty of all of you to harmonise yourselves with those vows and to propagate them."
After Universal Bodhisattva heard what Shakyamuni Buddha had said, he withdrew with clasped hands reverently.