Chapter 6: Tathagata's Praises

At that time, the World Honored One emitted from his entire body great, brilliant lights, which shone throughout all the hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of Buddha-Lands-indeed, numbering as many as the number of grains of sand in the Ganges River. With a tremendous, thunderous voice he admonished all the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, devas, nagas, demons, gods, human and nonhuman beings in various Buddha-Lands, saying, "All of you, listen! For today I shall praise the deeds of Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Ksitigarbha, who, by manifesting his great, inconceivable, merciful and compassionate powers, saves and protects all the sinful and suffering beings in all the worlds in the ten directions. After my Nirvana, you Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, devas, nagas, demons and deities should resort to extensive expediencies in order to guard this sutra and to cause all sentient beings themselves to realize Nirvana."

After this was said, a Bodhisattva in the congregation named Samantavipula, with palms joined, reverently addressed the Buddha, saying, "We now see that you, World Honored One, highly praise Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha for possessing such inconceivable, great, majestic, sacred virtues. It is only hoped that you, World Honored One, will describe-for the benefit of those sentient beings living during the final period of Buddhadharma in the future-such things as the causes and the results of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha's deeds that benefit human beings and devas, so that the eight categories of beings, including devas and nagas, as well as other sentient beings in future periods, will accept and adore Buddha's words."

Then the World Honored One responded to Bodhisattva Samantavipula and all the kinds of sentient beings there assembled, saying, "Listen attentively, listen attentively! I am going to talk to you briefly about the blissful and virtuous things which Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has done to benefit human beings and devas."

Samantavipula said, "Yes, indeed, O World Honored One, we shall be delighted to hear."

The Buddha told Samantavipula, "If a good man or a good woman in the future should, on hearing the name of Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Ksitigarbha, join his palms, give praise and pay obeisance or give admiration to him-such a person will be exonerated from all his sins committed and karmic blemishes contracted during thirty kalpas.

"O Samantavipula, if a good man or a good woman should make an image of this Bodhisattva, either by painting or drawing it or by molding it with earth, stone, glue, lacquer, gold, silver, copper or iron, and should then make even only one observance or make only one act of worship to it-such a person will be reborn in the thirty-three heavenly realms one hundred times in succession, never again falling onto any evil path. Even when bliss becomes exhausted, he still will be the king of a country, with no loss of his immense advantages.

"If a woman who hates womanhood should apply her mind to worshipping Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha's painted picture or his image made of earth, stone, glue, lacquer, copper or iron, and if she should often pay homage to it also with such things as flowers, incense, food, drink, clothing, accessories, curtains, banners, money or jewels-such a good woman will not ever be reborn into a world having any woman whatsoever for a duration of hundreds of thousands of myriads of kalpas after she ends her present retributive life in a woman's form, not to mention her having to undergo any further period of womanhood. Unless she should wish, by virtue of her compassionate vow, to assume womanhood in order to deliver and liberate sentient beings, she will not have to assume womanhood for a duration of hundreds of thousands of myriads of kalpas by virtue of her worship of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and because of the meritorious virtues gained from such worship.

"Furthermore, O Samantavipula, if a woman should hate her ugliness and proneness to illness but wholeheartedly pays obeisance to Ksitigarbha in front of his image-such a person, soon after her death, will, in the duration of the time it takes to eat one meal, be reborn during thousands of myriads of kalpas with perfectly admirable looks and forms. If this ugly woman should not loathe womanhood, she will, in hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of future lives, always be born a princess, royal lady or daughter of a high official in a great family clan of a great elder; and she will enjoy a graceful birth and a perfect, admirable form in each lifetime. It is by virtue of her wholehearted worship of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha that such bliss will be obtained.

"Moreover, O Samantavipula, if some good man or good woman should be able to play various kinds of music and sing praises and offer incense and flowers in front of this Bodhisattva's image, or persuade even one person or many people to do likewise-such a person will have the protection and guardianship, day and night, of thousands of demons and deities, in the present as well as in the future, so that no evil will even reach his or her ears, much less that he, personally, should ever encounter any misfortune or evil.

"Furthermore, O Samantavipula, if, in the future, any evil people, together with evil deities or evil demons, should observe that a good man or a good woman takes refuge in worship and praises and pays obeisance to the image of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, and if they should act wrongly to ridicule and slander him or her, asserting such action to have no merit or virtue or benefit, and if these same evil people either laugh with their teeth exposed or object behind his or her back or persuade others to object together, or if there is any objection whatsoever by one person or by many people, or if such a person or people have even just one single thought of ridicule or slander-such scorners shall, as their retribution for this ridicule and slander, fall into Avici Hell and remain there until the Nirvana of one thousand Buddhas in the Bhadrakalpa, constantly receiving extremely severe punishment. In addition, even that kalpa will have to elapse before such scorners will be able to enter even the path of hungry ghosts. Another thousand kalpas will have to elapse before they can enter the path of animals. Finally, still another thousand kalpas will have to elapse before they will be able to enter the path of human beings. However, even as human beings, they are bound to be poor, indigent, low and mean, deficient in some bodily organs and severely knotted mentally by evil karma so that they will surely always continue to fall onto one evil path of existence or another.

"So you see, O Samatavipula, it is bad enough to ridicule and slander others' donations and sincere worship; but it is much worse, indeed, to breed other wicked views that seek to bring about the destruction of the Buddhadharma.

"Furthermore, O Samantavipula, in future worlds some men or women will be totally disabled and bedridden for a long time, neither their prayers for recovery nor their prayers for death being answered. At nighttime they will dream of evil demons or dream that the members of their immediate families or other relatives may visit some dangerous place. Sometimes they will have nightmares about being in the company of demons or deities. As the days, months and years elapse, they will become extremely weak and seriously ill, yelling tragically and pathetically, out of misery in their sleep. Those people represent cases of karma under judgment, the seriousness of which is as yet undecided, and such people either find it difficult to give up their lives or find that it is impossible for them to recover. Such situations are discernible even to the eyes of both laymen and laywomen.

"To help such people it is necessary to recite this Sutra aloud only once in front of the images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Then take something which the patient cherishes-such as clothing, jewels, plantations, gardens or houses-and recite aloud to the patient as follows: `I, so and so, on behalf of this patient, am donating these articles in front of the Sutra and the icons in order to honor the Sutra and icons or to construct Buddhas' and Bodhisattvas' icons or to build stupas and temples or to burn oil lamps or to benefit religious establishments.'

"In such a manner, this pronouncement should be repeated three times to the patient so that he may hear and understand it. If his consciousness has diffused or if his breathing has stopped, just make the pronouncement and recite the Sutra aloud for one day or two, three or four days or even for seven days. From that time forward, that patient will be exonerated, once and for all after his death, from all his previous miseries and serious iniquities as well from any of the five hundred unpardonable sins he may have committed. Furthermore, he will be aware of his previous lives wherever he may have his rebirth. All this is wonderful, but how much more will be the reward gained by those good men and good women who would themselves copy this Sutra or have others copy it for them or who would themselves mold or paint this Buddha's icon or picture or who would even have others carve or paint it for them. They will certainly gain tremendous benefit.

"Consequently, O Samantavipula, if you see anyone reciting this Sutra or even for an instant praising or honoring it, you must resort to hundreds of thousands of expedients to encourage this kind of person to be diligent without retrogression so that he may obtain thousands of myriads of millions of inconceivable meritorious virtues in the future as well as at present.

"Furthermore, O Samantavipula, if, in any future world, any sentient beings should, in their dreams, see some demons or deities or even beings in other forms sobbing and sighing or weeping and frightened, they should understand that these beings were their parents, sisters, brothers, spouses or other relatives in one, ten or one hundred or one thousand lives in the past and that they are presently on evil paths of existence, are not yet acquitted and have no hope whatsoever for any blissful power to deliver them. They can only, in dreams, exhort their former blood relatives to resort to expediencies to help them in their desire to escape from evil paths.

"O Samantavipula, with your miraculous power, you should command people having such dreams to recite this Sutra themselves three or seven times in front of Buddhas' or Bodhisattvas' images or ask others to recite it for them. Then, those relatives on evil paths, who appeared in their dreams, will gain deliverance and liberation at the conclusion of the repeated recitation of this Sutra. Also, these former relatives will never again appear in the dreams of the living.

"Furthermore, O Samantavipula, if, in any future world, some lowly, mean folk-either maids or slaves or some persons deprived of freedom but aware of their previous karma and wishing to repent-should wholeheartedly make obeisance to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha's image and if they should recite, during a seven-day period at the end of their present lifetimes, the Bodhisattva's name about ten thousand times, such people will always be reborn to positions of honor for thousands of myriads of rebirths; and far less will they ever again endure the suffering of the three evil paths of existence.

"Furthermore, O Samantavipula, if, in any future world, to such people as ksatriyas, brahmans, elders or householders or to those in other clans or tribes in Jambudvipa there should arrive a newborn baby-either a boy or a girl-and if the parents early on intone this inconceivable Sutra and invoke the Bodhisattva's name no less than ten thousand times, then this newborn baby-either a boy or a girl-will be exonerated from previous disastrous karmas, if any, and will enjoy deliverance, happiness, a trouble-free existence and a life of great length; and those reborn with blissful karmas shall, in turn, enjoy greatly increased happiness and longevity.

"Furthermore, O Samantavipula, as for the sentient beings in any future world-the first, eighth, fourteenth, fifteenth, eighteenth, twenty-third, twenty-fourth, twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth and thirtieth days of the month are the days when their offenses are to be judged and the degree of severity of their retribution is to be decided. If sentient beings in southern Jambudvipa create karma and commit sins whenever they move, rest or cogitate, then how much worse are the sins committed and the karma created by those who indulge in killing, destroying, stealing, robbery, lust, lying and hundreds of thousands of other such sinful acts! However, should sentient beings be able to recite this Sutra just one time in front of the images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, sages and holy ones on each of these ten days of abstention, then no calamity will come within one hundred yojanas to the east, west, south and north of their households; and the old and the young of their households will never follow evil paths either in the present or in the future for hundreds of thousands of ages. Also, should they be able to read this Sutra just once in those ten days of abstention, then their households will, even at the present time, be free from all unexpected illness and be fully abundant in clothing and food.

"Therefore, O Samantavipula, you should be aware that such inconceivable hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of beneficial things are accomplished by virtue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha's great, majestic, miraculous power. The sentient beings in Jambudvipa have strong primary and secondary causes in relationship to this Mahasattva. Those sentient beings, on hearing this Bodhisattva's name or on seeing his image or even on hearing three words, five words, one sentence or one gatha of this Sutra, will enjoy extraordinarily wonderful happiness at present and will gain dignity and rebirth in honorable and noble families for hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of rebirths in the future."

At that time, Bodhisattva Samantavipula, having heard the Buddha, as well as the Tathagata's praises of and commendations for Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, knelt before the Buddha with palms joined and addressed him, saying, " O World Honored One, I knew from long ago that this Mahasattva possessed such inconceivable miraculous power and great strength for vows. However, for the benefit of all sentient beings in the future, so that they may be aware also-and only for such a purpose-I ask this final question. Yes, indeed, O World Honored One, in order that they may honor and accept it, how shall this Sutra be designated and how shall we circulate it?"

The Buddha told Samantavipula, "There are three names for this Sutra. One is The Sutra of Ksitigarbha's Fundamental Vows. Another is The Sutra of Ksitigarbha's Own Deeds. Still another is The Sutra of Ksitigarbha's Fundamental Vows and Power. Since this Bodhisattva really did take great and profoundly serious vows vast, long kalpas ago for the benefit of all sentient beings, you, therefore, should circulate it in accordance with his wishes."

Having heard this, Samantavipula reverently made obeisance with palms joined and withdrew.