Chapter 8: The Praises of Yamaraja and Others

At that time, Deva Yamaraja and countless demon kings from within the Cakravada Mountain all journeyed to Trayastrimsas, arriving at the Buddha's place. Among them were Pretarajas Evil-Poison, Much-Evil, Big-Quarrel, White-Tiger, Blood-Tiger, Red-Tiger, Spread-Calamity, Fly-Body, Lightning-Flash, Wolf-Fang, Thousand-Eye, Devour-Animal, Carry-Rock, Master-Exhaust, Master-Disaster, Master-Food, Lord-of-Wealth, Master-of-Beasts, Master-of-Fowls, Master-of-Animals, Master-of-Goblins, Master-of-Birth, Master-of-Lives, Master-of-Diseases, Master-of-Risks, Three-Eyes, Four-Eyes, Five-Eyes, Chislis, Great-Chislis, Chiliksa, Great-Chiliksa, Anato and Great-Anato. These great demon kings-each accompanied by hundreds of thousands of lesser demon kings who dwelt in Jambudvipa and each of whom had his own responsibilities and his own charge-all these demon kings and Deva Yamaraja, by virtue of Buddha's majestic spirit and Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Ksitigarbha's power, arrived at Trayastrimsas and stood to one side.

At that time, Deva Yamaraja, kneeling with palms joined, addressed the Buddha, saying, "O World Honored One, now it is only by virtue of Buddha's majestic spirit and Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Ksitigarbha's powers that we and the demon kings are able to attend this great assembly in Trayastrimsas. This also creates a cause to help us gain good benefits. However, I have some minor concern that I venture to ask you about, O World Honored One. It is only hoped that, in your mercy and compassion, you will answer me."

The Buddha said to Deva Yamaraja, "Whatever you ask about, I shall answer you."

Then Deva Yamaraja made obeisance to the World Honored One, turned to look at Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and addressed the Buddha, saying, "O World Honored One, I see that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha resorts to hundreds of thousands of expediencies on the six paths of existence to deliver all sentient beings who are suffering and bearing punishment and never shies away from this activity due to tiredness or fatigue. This great Bodhisattva has done such inconceivably miraculous things. However, sentient beings, even though liberated from their deserved punishment, will again fall onto evil paths before long. O World Honored One, since this Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha possesses such inconceivably miraculous power, how, then, is it possible that sentient beings fail to hold to good paths and obtain permanent liberation? I only hope that you will explain this to me, O World Honored One!"

The Buddha explained to Deva Yamaraja as follows: "The sentient beings in southern Jambudvipa are stubborn and adamant by nature. They are difficult to tame and control. This great Bodhisattva has, during hundreds of thousands of kalpas, saved and delivered such beings in every way and from all angles and has led them to early liberation. Such people, even if they might fall onto major evil paths of existence as retribution for their sins, will give thanks for this Bodhisattva's power to resort to expediencies, to exonerate them from their fundamental karmic connections and to make them aware of all their actions and circumstances during their previous lives. Naturally, however, since the sentient beings in Jambudvipa, heavily entangled with their evil habits, would just as soon fall into and re-enter their old ways as get out, this Bodhisattva has to take the trouble to work, for long kalpa after kalpa, to effect their deliverance and liberation.

"It is just like someone who, having gone astray from his home, inadvertently finds himself trapped on some dangerous path swarming with yaksas, tigers, wolves, lions, lizards, serpents, vipers and scorpions. Such a straying person would meet with malice in every instant on that dangerous path. However, someone who knows and understands the great mystical power and is well-versed in how to combat, control and wipe out this malice, evil poisons and yaksas and who, also, chances to encounter this straying person about to embark on the dangerous path would address him, saying, `Ugh, man! What causes you to take this path. What magic do you have for controlling all this malice and evil?'

"This straying person, on hearing these words, would suddenly realize that such a path was, indeed, dangerous and would retreat directly, leaving that path. Such a good, learned friend would lend him a hand to lead him away from that dangerous path, avoiding all evil and malice, and show him how to reach the safe path to help him achieve happiness. The good, learned friend might say to him, `My dear straying friend, hereafter please don't take this path ever again! Anyone who takes this path can hardly escape and would surely, at last, lose his life.' This straying person would certainly be much obliged to him.

"His friend might also say to him as they parted, `If you see someone you know or some other traveler, whether male or female, please tell him or her that this path is thronging with evil and malice that can cause loss of life, and let no such traveler, in effect, commit suicide by taking such a path.'

"Thus, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is equipped with great mercy and compassion to deliver and liberate all sinful, miserable beings, helping them to be reborn as human beings or devas in order to enjoy wonderful happiness; he enables those sinful ones to become aware of the suffering that is their lot on the karmic paths so that they may ultimately be exonerated and escape from and never fall onto the karmic paths again. This situation is just like the case wherein one has gone astray and takes the dangerous path but who has a good friend who guides him and leads him out to safety. He would never again knowingly take and would advise others never to take such a path if, upon meeting them, he sees that they are about to do so. He would tell them that, due to his own straying, he himself took the wrong path but that he would not knowingly take it again after being delivered and that if he should ever tread that same path again, due to some error, not realizing that it was the same dangerous one he had taken before, he might, indeed, lose his life. He would compare such an eventuality to the case wherein one is imprisoned, having chosen evil over good, but is, by virtue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha's power of resorting to expediencies, liberated to be reborn among human beings or devas; but if he should, sooner or later, choose to re-enter his prison-cage due to new, heavy karmic entanglement, he would then remain in hell forever with no date for his acquittal."

At that time, Demon King Vicious-Venom reverently joined his palms and addressed the Buddha, saying, "O World Honored One, we, the demon kings of Jambudvipa, incalculable in number, but each one different from the other, are either beneficial to the people or harmful to them. However, it is karmic retribution that makes our retinue continuously travel about the world creating much evil and little virtue. So, to increase our virtue, whenever we pass a city, a town, a marketplace, a plantation, a garden, a household or a family and see a man or a woman who would perform even a slight good act-such as hanging up a banner or a canopy, burning a little incense, arranging a few flowers in honor of the Buddhas' or Bodhisattvas' images or reading and reciting the revered sutras while burning incense and renouncing desire for even one sentence or gatha-we demon kings should make obeisance to such a person, just as we do to the past, present and future Buddhas. And we should order the lesser demons, each having great power and responsibility in his own domain and land, to guard such a person lest any evil or unexpected event or disease or, indeed, any undesirable thing whatsoever might even tarry in the vicinity of his household, far less cross his threshold."

The Buddha commended the demon kings, saying, "Excellent, excellent! You and Yamaraja can support and protect all good men and good women; and I shall order the brahman kings and the sovereign sakras to guard and protect you."

Just then a demon king in the assembly by the name of Master-of-Lives addressed the Buddha, saying, " O World Honored One, I am in charge of human lives in Jambudvipa in relation to karmic associations. I take charge of and make decisions relative to human beings' karma both at the time of their births and at the time of their deaths. In accordance with my fundamental vows, I very much want to benefit them. However, those sentient beings fail to understand my intentions, which causes neither the living nor the dead to have any peace.

"And why not? If those people in Jambudvipa could only perform some virtuous deeds immediately before or during the birth of a child- whether a boy or a girl-to enhance its advantage to the household, it would, naturally, immeasurably delight the divinity in charge of the land so as to cause him to support and protect both the mother and the baby, giving them great happiness and bringing benefits to their relatives. Also, after the birth of the baby, care must be exercised not to kill any animal in order to feed the mother with meaty delicacies and not to assemble many relatives to drink liquor or to eat meat while singing and playing on string or wind instruments; for such indulgences deprive the mother and child of peace and joy. And why? Just because at the difficult time of birth there are innumerable evil demons, monsters and goblins who want to consume the smelly blood, and it is I who have, earlier, commanded the deities and divinities in charge of the household and the land to protect the mother and child, making them safe and happy and gaining benefits for them. However, some people, seeing that the mother and child are safe and happy, then collectively provide some offerings in thanks to the divinities in charge of the local land by ignorantly and adversely resorting to the killing of animals for consumption and by assembling relatives for noisy indulgences; and, thus, they bring down curses upon themselves, which are detrimental to both the mother and the baby.

"Furthermore, I want a dying person in Jambudvipa, whether he is virtuous or evil, not to fall onto the evil paths. Moreover, if he has already cultivated good roots for himself, it would enhance my power. Also, at the time of the deaths of even a person in Jambudvipa who has performed virtuous deeds, there are also hundreds of thousands of spirits and gods of the evil paths of existence, who, feigning either to be parents or other kinds of relatives, try to lead the dying one towards them to receive him on the evil paths. Then how much more precarious even must be the condition of a dying one who is a persistent evil-doer!

"O World Honored One, such a man or woman in Jambudvipa, approaching the end of his life, might be in a coma or an unconscious stupor and, thus, not be able to differentiate the virtuous from the evil; or he might even have lost entirely his faculties of hearing and seeing. So his or her relatives ought to provide major offerings and read and recite the revered sutras and invoke the names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Such virtuous acts could divert the dead one away from evil paths, and all the maras, demons and gods would then withdraw and be dispersed.

"O World Honored One, if sentient beings could, at the end of their lives, hear the name of even one Buddha or of one Bodhisattva, or hear even one sentence of one gatha of the Mahayana Sutras, I see that such people, with the exception of those who have committed the five unpardonable sins, will all be exonerated from their minor evil karma, which otherwise would deserve rebirth on evil paths of existence."

The Buddha told Demon King Master-of-Lives, "Because of your great mercy, you are able to take such a vow of great mercy to protect sentient beings at their births and at their deaths. In the future, at the time of the births and the deaths of men and women, do not shy away from your vow, but always liberate them so they will forever be happy."

The Demon King addressed the Buddha, saying, "Please have no worry. I shall, until the end of my present form, support and protect all sentient beings in Jambudvipa moment by moment, so that at the time of their births and their deaths they will be happy. I only hope that these sentient beings trust and accept my words at the time of their births and deaths, so that none of them will not be liberated and so that all of them may gain enormous benefit thereby."

At that time, the Buddha informed Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, " This great Demon King Master-of-Lives has been a great demon king for hundreds of thousands of lifetimes. He has supported and protected sentient beings at the moment of their births and their deaths. It is because of this Mahasattva's vows of mercy and compassion that he takes the form of a great demon. In reality, however, he is not demonic. He will become a Buddha, after one hundred and seventy kalpas have lapsed, with the title of Nirabhasa Tathagata (Animitta). His kalpa will be named Happiness. His world will be named Suddhavasa (Pure Abode). This Buddha's life span will last for incalculable kalpas. O Ksitigarbha, so inconceivable are all the things about this great Demon King! Also, the number of human beings and devas delivered by him is inexpressible."